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Commentary: Stealth nuke effort should be stopped

By Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash & Harvey Wasserman
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and Harvey Wasserman are among the co-founders of Musicians United for Safe Energy. They recently recorded a music video that can be seen at NukeFree.org.

Musicians

Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash and Jackson Browne are against expansion of nuclear power in the United States.

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- In 1979, we helped organize five nights of concerts at Madison Square Garden and an anti-nuke rally that drew 200,000 people. These efforts and the ongoing work of many grassroots and national safe energy groups have helped to hold off the building of new nuclear reactors ever since.

But three decades later, we're facing the same nuclear issues. And to counter this threat, we are organizing once again.

One of America's most critical financial and ecological decisions is now before Congress. The atomic energy industry wants at least $50 billion in loan guarantees for a "new generation" of reactors that have already begun to fail, and that Wall Street won't finance. Bonnie Raitt answers your questions

If these subsidies pass, scores of new radioactive terror targets, thousands of tons of radioactive waste and untold billions in bad debt could haunt us and our children for a long time to come.

Yet the sentence allowing all this to happen was slipped into the Senate version of the 2007 energy bill without serious public debate. Without strong public opposition, it could become part of the new energy bill. And with the millions the nuke lobby is spending, defeating this huge taxpayer rip-off will require a maximum effort from everyone committed to a safe energy future.

The push for new nuclear plants is full of irony. The terror attacks of September 11, 2001, made it clear no reactor can be protected from a jet crash. The first plane that hit the World Trade Center flew directly over the Indian Point reactors, 45 miles north of New York City. Had it hit the nuke complex, the death toll would by now be in the hundreds of thousands, based on a study by the environmental group Riverkeeper.

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Federal inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently found significant leaks at Indian Point. Furthermore, the company was recently fined for its flawed siren system, and the owner of the reactor, Entergy, has not sufficiently answered community concerns about safety issues and the inspection process.

Meanwhile, a major earthquake has hit the world's largest reactor facility, at Kashiwazaki, Japan. The quake exceeded the reactors' design safeguards, and caused radiation releases and a significant amount of damage to the reactors. Experts are concerned about much stronger quakes there in the future. At least one U.S. reactor -- at Perry, Ohio -- was affected by an earthquake two decades ago, as well as last year. The nuclear facilities at Indian Point, at Seabrook, New Hampshire, and at Diablo Canyon and San Luis Obispo, California, are also on or near major fault lines.

Meanwhile, a cooling tower at the Vermont Yankee reactor has simply collapsed, spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons of hot water into the Earth. The reactor was recently allowed to upgrade its power level, and the collapse may have been caused by improper supports, rotted wood beams and an "insufficient" inspection program. Twenty-one other towers there are at similar risk.

Reactors like Vermont Yankee are being sold as an answer to global warming. But atomic plants in France and Alabama have been forced to shut because their waste heat has helped drive nearby rivers to 90 degrees and hotter.

This "new generation" of reactors that wants your tax money is also being touted as safer, cleaner and cheaper. But the first European model, being built in Finland, is already eighteen months behind schedule and $900 million over budget. The official cost estimates for these new reactors are in the $4-5 billion range. But if history is any indicator, they will come in far far higher. Their construction time is almost certain to exceed the 4-5 year window being advertised.

All this comes as the renewable energy industry is soaring to new heights of power and profitability. Wind farming has boomed to a $10-15 billion per year industry. Worldwide growth rates are exceeding 25 percent. New forms of amorphous silicon solar cells are taking rooftop photovoltaics to vastly increased levels of efficiency and profitability. Biofuels, tidal, geo and ocean thermal, wave energy and many more rapidly developing forms of green power are soaring, regularly coming in ahead of schedule and under budget.

When we first launched our anti-nukes campaign in the 70s, many of these green technologies were just beginning to take off. But in the nearly 30 years that have followed, green power has become one of the world's great growth industries. It has brought us to the brink of a technological revolution that could hold the key to stopping global warming while bringing us long-term prosperity based on safe, secure energy supplies.

With renewable energy, conservation and efficiency, we can end our dependence on polluting fossil and nuclear fuels and create true energy independence.

But these nuclear industry loan guarantees could make that all but impossible. These "new" reactors are the same as the old ones, with a few bells and whistles, and a proven 50-year track record of catastrophic failure.

On the brink of winning a green-powered planet, we intend to do all we can to avoid another radioactive dead-end. We hope you will join us. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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