Is the Era of Nuclear Power Coming to an End in the US?
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Paul Burns dismisses the NRC's claims that nuclear plants are safe, saying the agency "is a cheerleader for the industry and an apologist for the industry when it behaves badly." Nuclear power is cheap only "if you don't consider the externalities," he adds.
"I gave up thinking 'shut it down,'" says Mary Lampert, a Massachusetts activist who has waged a seven-year campaign against renewing the Pilgrim plant's license. "There's a lot more that could be done to make it safer. Safe, no." For example, she says, the pressure-relief vents could be passive, opening automatically in response to high pressure instead of electrically or manually, and have filters.
The NRC has rejected her petitions. Some of those decisions may end up being appealed to federal courts, on the grounds that the agency, which is required to consider new information under the National Environmental Protection Act, did not take Fukushima into account in its relicensing proceedings.
Lampert calls the NRC's cost-benefit analyses, in which the agency weighs the cost of offsite damage from an accident against the cost of fixes needed to prevent accidents and mitigate damage, "baloney." They have failed to consider possibilities such as the effect of contaminated water in Cape Cod Bay would have on Massachusetts' marine industries, she says, and they grossly underestimate both the chances and the severity of accidents.
"If the probability is near zero, no matter how high the consequences are, they're never going to do any mitigation," she says. "This is a fantasy. They fear Fukushima might be the death knell of the industry. They're circling the wagons."