National and Local Citizen Organizations Call for Major Changes in Nuclear Power Security and for Replacing Inherently Vulnerable Reactors With Sustainable Options
Washington, D.C. More than 130 national, regional and local environmental, consumer, energy, health and public interest organizations today petitioned President Bush, Congressional leaders and other authorities to make specific and significant security upgrades at U.S. nuclear power reactors to ensure that reactors can withstand a broad range of potential terrorist attacks. Recognizing that the "sobering reality is that security of nuclear power facilities can be neither completely guaranteed nor perfectly realized," the signatories called for a shift from reliance on nuclear power to reliance on abundant and affordable energy efficiency and renewable energy resources. The joint statement and complete list of signatories is available at www.safeenergy.org and www.nirs.org.
"U.S. nuclear reactors pose an unacceptable level of vulnerability and risk to our society and environment," said Scott Denman, executive director of the Safe Energy Communication Council. "Even the director of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) mock terrorist assault program found that security flaws at nearly one-half (47%) of U.S. commercial reactors could have resulted in 'core damage and a radiological release, i.e., an American Chernobyl,' had the attacks been real. Now, more than ever, we must shift to sustainable energy sources," he said.
"Structurally, no commercial nuclear reactor is designed to withstand the impact that destroyed the World Trade Center buildings, according to the NRC and the International Atomic Energy Commission," said Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "Indeed, a 1981 study by Argonne National Laboratory determined that the impact of a large commercial jet crashing into a nuclear power plant would likely penetrate the containment. An attack on these facilities by truck bomb or aerial assault, or any number of other scenarios could spread lethal radiation, rendering uninhabitable an area the size of Pennsylvania, according to an analysis by the Atomic Energy Commission (now the NRC) in 1964," Mariotte observed.
"Since the September 11 attacks, some special interests are pushing for swift passage of legislation that would spend hard-earned tax dollars to promote still more dangerous nuclear reactors," said Anna Aurilio, Legislative Director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). "Instead Congress should increase energy security by promoting aggressive energy efficiency programs and a shift to clean renewable energy such as solar and wind," she added. "As terrible as the terrorist attack was, it could have been far worse if one of the hijacked jets had hit one of the 103 operating reactors in the U.S.," said Dr. Brent Blackwelder, President of Friends of the Earth. "In order to adequately safeguard our country, we must phase out existing reactors and establish a fast-track program to exploit our vast efficiency and renewable energy resources," he remarked.
"These reactors need to shut, now," said Harvey Wasserman of the Columbus-based Citizens Protecting Ohio. "Who pays for all this extra security and why can't the industry get private insurance? We can get cheaper, cleaner, safer and more reliable energy from other sources. But for just 18 percent of our most
expensive electricity, just 8 percent of our energy, we put our entire nation at risk merely to satisfy the financial needs of an obsolete industry. Why?" asked Wasserman.
"In light of the tragic events of September 11, federal regulators, industry representatives and consumer advocates alike have publicly acknowledged that the safety of nuclear power facilities cannot be guaranteed," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "We must therefore stop subsidizing this risky industry and instead begin the transition to real energy security by investing in conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy options," she concluded.
Specifically, the organizations call for the following actions to be taken by the appropriate authorities:
#1. All NRC licensees must demonstrate that their nuclear facilities are protected against radiological sabotage by meeting a significantly more comprehensive Design Basis Threat (DBT). A revised DBT must both encompass currently analyzed threats from ground-based assault, and be broadened to include truck bombs and aerial and waterborne attacks. All permanent and temporary radioactive waste storage, disposal, treatment and transfer sites must meet the strengthened DBT to protect against such attacks that could have disastrous consequences.
#2. Congress must reject reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act, which limits the liability of the commercial nuclear industry.
#3. Congress must indefinitely extend the moratorium on nuclear transport and expand it to cover all highly radioactive and radiotoxic waste and materials, including commercial shipments.
#4. Congress must indefinitely shelve current proposals for centralized storage of nuclear waste. Such storage would establish additional nuclear targets without meaningfully reducing the risk at operating nuclear power plants.
#5. Congress must mandate that utility-funded security operations be increased at existing nuclear reactors and maintained throughout plant life and the on-site storage of irradiated nuclear fuel.
#6. Potassium iodide must be immediately stockpiled with state and local health departments within a 50-mile radius around all nuclear reactors.
#7. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must require the same or comparable security for general and commercial aviation and determine the practicality of instituting permanent, effective no-fly-zones over commercial nuclear power plants.
#8. All NRC licensees must provide a risk assessment of the survivability from terrorist attack on radiation containment and critical safety systems.
#9. The NRC must take significant federal enforcement action, including the suspension or revocation of operating licenses, when repeated licensee failure of upgraded NRC-led security performance evaluations occurs.
#10. All branches of government must ensure that the terrorist attacks do not result in the erosion of fundamental civil liberties.
#11. The mixed oxide nuclear fuel (MOX) program must be eliminated immediately. Giving the green light to a proposed commercial plutonium fuel fabrication plant in South Carolina fosters the creation of a plutonium economy and increases the likelihood of a terrorist-created catastrophe.
#12. The U.S. must initiate an expedited phase-out of nuclear power, improve energy efficiency in all sectors of our economy and initiate a rapid transition to renewable electricity sources.
In conclusion, the organizations believe that these policy and program steps are imperative and represent the direction our country must now take: "We will either shift from our use of nuclear power to a new era of sustainable electricity production for our country, or we will remain at risk due to vulnerable reactors and, very possibly, pay an unthinkable price. We can and must do better for our families, our country, our freedom and the planet," the co-signed organizations stated.
< Return to Press Release Index