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Officials Are "Underestimating the Seriousness of the Problem" with Japan's Nuclear Reactors

Japan raised the nuclear alert level from a four to a five, on par with Three Mile Island. This decision has shocked many nuclear experts who thought it should be higher.

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Why are we playing Russian roulette with the American people for nuclear plants whose principal objective is simply to boil water and produce steam? This is technological insanity. It presents national security problems, for every nuclear plant is a prime target. It affects our civil liberties. It endangers our workers. It is an industry that cannot be financed by Wall Street because it’s too risky. Wall Street demands 100 percent taxpayer guarantees for any nuclear plant.

So I suggest that people listening and watching this program to pick up the phone and dial the White House comment number, which is (202) 456-1111, (202) 456-1111, and demand the following: that there be public hearings in every area where there’s a nuclear plant, so the people can see for themselves what the hazards are, what the risks are, how farcical the evacuation plans are, how costly nuclear power is, and how it can be replaced by energy efficiency, by solar energy, different kinds of solar energy, by cogeneration, as Amory Lovins and many others, Peter Bradford, have pointed out.

We must no longer license any new nuclear plants. We should shut down the ones like Indian Point. How many people know that Hillary Clinton, as senator, and Andrew Cuomo, as attorney general, demanded that Indian Point be shut down? That doesn’t matter to the monetized minds in Washington, D.C. We also should prepare a plan where, apart from the aging plants, which should be shut down, and apart from the earthquake-risk plants—should be shut down—for the phase-out of the entire industry. We’re going to be left with radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years, for which there is no permanent repository. This is institutional insanity, and I urge the people in this country to wake up before they experience what is now going on in northern Japan: uninhabitable territory, thousands dead, hundreds of thousands at risk of cancer, enormous economic loss. And for what?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Ira Helfand, this statement by President Obama, of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that they’re going to do a comprehensive review of the safety of U.S. nuclear plants, do you have much expectation for that review?

IRA HELFAND: I don’t, unfortunately. I’m most troubled in this regard, by President Obama’s rush to defend nuclear power last Sunday, even as this crisis was just beginning to unfold. I think the mindset is strongly in support of nuclear power within the administration. And obviously the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has functioned primarily as a cheerleader for the industry since its inception, which is really, you know, a tragic situation.

But I would agree exactly with what Ralph Nader just said. What we need to do instead is to have a real review of our energy policy here and to figure out how we can move as quickly as we possibly can away from nuclear, and away coal, for that matter, which also has huge health risks associated with it, and to seriously begin to build a green energy system based on energy efficiency, conservation and the development of renewable sources of power generation like wind and solar. This is an urgent national security task for the United States, and it’s something we have been ignoring and failing to address for decades at this point. The events in Japan have clearly shown that nuclear power is not reliable and contrary to the claims of the industry and the administration, and we need to move away from it.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Philip White, your group, Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, have been especially involved in efforts to prevent the development of a new plant in South Texas that the Japanese are directly involved in. Could you talk about that?

 
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