While the media flurry around the Fukushima disaster has subsided, the horrific effects will persist for hundreds, even thousands of years. No one truly knows how devastating this disaster was, how many people were sickened or will become sick, or when the land around Fukushima will ever become safely inhabitable again. Only time will tell.
The reckless nuclear policies in the United States are paving the way for a similar disaster here. The same day a tsunami hit the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a 20-year license extension for the Yankee nuclear power plant in Vermont -- which contain reactors with the same design as Fukushima.
Less than a year after this tragedy, giant corporations have used their influence to get approval for opening a new nuclear power plant right here in the United States. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently signed off on two reactors to be built in Georgia even though their safety mechanisms have never been tested on an active nuclear plant.
Even more worrying is the NRC's continued approval of licenses for aging nuclear reactors -- dozens of outdated facilities continue to receive approval to operate for the next 20 years despite their age and careless placement. The Indian Point Nuclear Plant is located just 38 miles from New York City and sits on a seismic fault. Its license expires in a few years and its operator has applied for a 20 year extension from the NRC.
The thinking that “it won’t happen here” is the exact same kind of thinking that paved the way for both the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters. The truth is it will happen here unless we aggressively take action to stop disaster before it’s too late. It’s a matter of when not if.
Our lawmakers are guilty of irresponsible and short-sighted policy making in regard to nuclear energy.
We should immediately stop the flow of federal cash that the nuclear industry depends on for research and development. For example, the Department of Energy's 2013 budget has $800 million set aside for these projects in addition to the billions the department has already committed to spending as part of its loan-guarantee program to encourage the construction of new nuclear plants.
Please join us in urging our nation’s leaders to immediately stop subsidizing nuclear energy and to curb the reckless management of existing nuclear plants.