NRDC funding squeeze eliminates its mission as a public watchdog on nuclear pollution
The New York Times reports that major non-profit funders are cutting their financial support to once effective environmental organizations that have led the fight against toxic chemicals, nuclear contamination, the destruction of wildlife and desecration of their habitat in lieu of redirecting those resources to combating out-of-control climate crisis. This includes financially undermining those organizations’ whose missions included challenging the ruse that the nuclear industry is “climate friendly”. The Times cites the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as having one of its core missions affected by financial cuts. The NRDC, one of the nation’s largest environmental law, legislative lobbying and science-based organizations, just shut down its entire nuclear mission that had worked to defend the public safety and the natural environment from atomic power’s unmitigated toxic/radioactive contamination. That contamination starts literally with mountains of abandoned toxic uranium mine tailings and builds with the decades old unaddressed questions of what to do with mismanaged high-level radwaste in the form of irradiated spent fuel at reactor sites. That high-level nuclear waste has never been environmentally qualified to be indefinitely stored on reactor sites on coast lines and alongside freshwater rivers and lakes. Nor is there a scientifically accepted, environmentally qualified, long term high-level commercial nuclear waste management facility in the United States.
The NYT story notes that,
“The growing concern over climate change has touched off a slightly different debate in the environmental community: how to approach the issue of nuclear power.
“There is increasing support among some environmental groups for commercial atomic power plants as an alternative to fossil fuels — which often comes with hefty donations from those concerned about climate change.”
Yet the nuclear power industry’s success at rebranding itself goes unnoticed with sloganeering as the “peaceful atom” then “too cheap to meter” onto “inherently safe” and now the “climate solution” despite repeatedly proven false and even a fraud to deliver on the promise of energy on time or even close to on budget as necessary to meet now critical climate crisis goals.
In response to Congress’ Energy Policy Act of 2005, supposedly to kick start a “Nuclear Renaissance” with billions of dollars of federally financed incentives, the nuclear industry envisioned filing federal applications to build and operate 34 new “advanced” reactors units in short order. Now 18 years later, only one, Vogtle Unit 3 of the two Westinghouse reactors that broke ground in Georgia is commercially operating, far behind scheduled completion and the original combined project cost of $14 billion now well over $35 billion and climbing with the still unfinished Unit 4. The remaining 32 units have all been suspended, cancelled and the only other two-unit Westinghouse nuclear project to break ground at V.C. Summer in South Carolina abandoned mid-construction in 2017 with $9 billion in sunk costs. Three of that utility’s (SCANA) senior executives were arrested by the FBI, pleaded guilty and sentenced in court to federal prison for defrauding the State of South Carolina and its ratepayers.
Now, Congress’ Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is diverting tens of billions more of taxpayer dollars to jump start an apparent “nuclear resurrection” of more promises that are no more likely to reliably deliver unproven reactor designs on time and on budget amidst an accelerating climate crisis.
In our view, independent civil society oversight in a democracy is a vital check and balance on this industry that should be bolstered not diminished or eliminated. Moreover, federal and market driven resources can instead be directed beyond nuclear to legitimately accelerate climate mitigation with the deployment of more reliable, more cost effective and greater carbon reductions through energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy generation with storage, now.
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