Harvey Wasserman / The Progressive – 2018-03-18 17:32:53
‘Til Death Do Us Part? Democrats Are Still
Pushing Nuclear Power and Weapons
Harvey Wasserman / The Progressive
(March 14, 2018) — Just when you thought the pro-Democrat “Blue Wave” ignited by President Donald Trump might bring real change, including a revolution in green power, some Democrats are rallying around the suicidal, obsolete technologies of atomic power and weapons.
The most recent absurdity comes from three Ohio Congressional Dems — Tim Ryan (Youngstown), Marcy Kaptur (Toledo) and Marcia Fudge (Warrensville Heights). They can claim a radioactive soulmate in New York’s “liberal” Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Rather than embrace the renewable revolution now remaking the global energy supply and the millions of jobs key to the future of a working-class constituency, these Democrats are pursuing the GOP wet-dream of atomic energy.
In particular, the three northern Ohio Democrats want to rescue four crumbling, unprofitable, increasingly dangerous atomic reactors. And in the process, they are defending the connection between nuclear weapons and commercial reactor waste.
At issue are the infamous Davis-Besse reactor near Toledo, a plant at Perry east of Cleveland, and two nukes at Beaver Valley, outside Pittsburgh. They’re all owned by Akron-based FirstEnergy, which is set to leave the nonregulated generating business altogether and focus on transmission. In other words, they want out of the nuke money pit.
For years now, FirstEnergy has been cajoling Ohio legislators and regulators for a bailout. But the reactors have failed in that most sacred Republican space, the “free market.”
Despite objections from environmental groups and economic experts, the Ohio legislature in 1999 “deregulated” the state’s electricity business. It handed FirstEnergy’s predecessor some $9 billion for “stranded costs” lost in deregulation. This astonishing scam was pure corporate chutzpah, based on the fact that the northern Ohio nukes couldn’t compete without a cushion of cash.
In 2002, Davis-Besse suffered a dangerous incident in which boric acid ate nearly all the way through the reactor vessel, threatening the entire region with a Chernobyl-style disaster.
Technical challenges there, as well as at Perry and at Beaver Valley, which FirstEnergy acquired in 2011, have turned the company’s nuke business — as with nearly all other US reactors — into a financial nightmare.
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FirstEnergy’s aging nuclear plants have gotten the usual rubber-stamp license extensions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. All are in need of major capital improvements. Davis-Besse’s containment building is literally crumbling.
Meanwhile, northern Ohio is uniquely suited for wind power. The breezes along the lakeshore are steady and strong. The land is flat, the farmers are eager, the area is criss-crossed with transmission lines, and the sites are near major urban areas, where the power will be consumed. Thousands of jobs and billions in profits stand waiting.
But a single sentence slipped into the Ohio code in 2014 is stopping the whole business. It requires setbacks for sited turbines of nearly a quarter-mile from property lines, a standard far in excess of previous requirements. As a result, some $4 billion in committed capital has been stymied, with thousands of fully funded turbines waiting in the wings.
So far, bipartisan efforts to reduce the requirement and open the floodgates for converting the region to green energy have failed, even though the new projects could create jobs far in excess of those at the dying nukes. One might expect northern Ohio Democrats to jump into that conversion with both feet.
But nooooo . . . .
In an astonishing February 15 letter, Democratic Representatives Ryan, Kaptur, and Fudge joined GOP Congressman Bill Joyce in asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for handouts to keep the dying reactors going. Along with the usual tripe about “saving jobs” and a “balanced” energy supply, the Democrats added a truly earth-shattering argument:
“Our commercial nuclear energy industry and the United States’ nuclear weapons complex complement each other,” they wrote. “Without a commitment to nuclear power, nuclear technology development will decline and the nation’s technical advantage in this sector will rapidly erode.”
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Since the dawn of the atomic age, the commercial reactor industry has practiced every possible contortion to deny any connection to the nuclear weapons complex.
The Peaceful Atom, said President Eisenhower in a 1953 address to the United Nations General Assembly, would be entirely separate from the business of building bombs. He spoke about putting nuclear know-how “into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace.”
For more than sixty years, reactor owners have spun that yarn with religious ferocity. And now these “liberal” Democrats have matter-of-factly crossed the line in a desperate attempt to keep four decrepit, uncompetitive reactors lurching toward disaster.
They are joined by New York’s “liberal” Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo, who last year rammed through his pet regulatory agencies a $7.6 billion bailout for four upstate reactors also scheduled for shutdown by utilities who know better.
The pubic gouging has drawn fierce bipartisan opposition and a set of court challengesthat could derail it. A similar bailout for three reactors in Illinois has come from a Republican governor in league with still more Democrats.
The specter of corporate Democrats pushing both nuclear power and weapons is gut-wrenching. Grassroots organizing must guarantee that it takes something far shy of another Fukushima or Three Mile Island to get them to pull their heads out of the radioactive sand.
Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, is at www.solartopia.org, where his America at the Brink of Rebirth: The Life & Death Spiral of US History, From Deganawidah to the Donald will soon appear. He hosts “California Solartopia” at KPFK-Pacifica in Los Angeles, and the “Green Power & Wellness Show” at prn.fm.