Sunday, April 12, 2009

Activist: Claim of 'Green' Nuclear Power is False

By DAVE GRAM , 04.10.09


An internationally known writer and anti-nuclear activist got a warm reception from Vermont lawmakers as she heaped criticism on the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant and the atomic power industry.

But one thing Dr. Helen Caldicott didn't get during a visit to the Statehouse was the meeting she was hoping for with Gov. Jim Douglas. "He needs to be educated," she said.

In Thursday's morning talk to the House and Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, Caldicott, an Australian-born pediatrician, took aim at several aspects of nuclear power, including claims that it helps to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.

She spoke of the ill health effects of radiation and long-lasting nature of radioactive materials that are byproducts of nuclear power. And she sharply criticized Vermont Yankee and the nuclear industry for promoting themselves as "green" alternatives to energy sources that use fossil fuels and are heavy emitters of carbon dioxide, a gas blamed for global climate change.

"A nuclear power plant doesn't stand alone. It has to be fueled," Caldicott said in an interview after her legislative testimony. "And there's a huge industrial infrastructure behind a nuclear power plant."

She pointed to a section of her 2006 book, "Nuclear Power Is Not The Answer," which takes aim at a nuclear fuel processing plant in Paducah, Ky., that processes uranium fuel for the U.S. nuclear industry.

She said the Paducah plant, owned by United States Enrichment Corp., uses power equivalent to that produced by two 1,000-megawatt, coal-fired power plants. She said it also uses CFC 114 - a gas used widely in refrigeration until it was banned under an international treaty in 1989 over concerns it was damaging the earth's ozone layer.

Caldicott said the nuclear processing industry was "grandfathered" under that treaty, meaning not subject to the ban, and wrote that the gas "leaks unabated from the hundreds of miles of cooling pipes used in the uranium enrichment operation at Paducah, Kentucky, and its sister facility in Ohio."

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