Apparently John Bryson is on Barack Obama's short list for Secretary of Energy (see article by Harvey Wasserman, below, top). And NASA climatologist James Hansen has endorsed nuclear power as a solution to global warming (see letter to him from this author, below, bottom).
With such support, barring a meltdown, the 104 licensed nuclear power plants in this country will still be operating when Obama leaves office. And maybe a few "mini-nukes" will ALSO have been built by then, either for military, or for rich civilian use. And maybe a few new large ones, too, and a score of military propulsion units. Yucca Mountain will keep moving slowly, inexorably forward, unless there is a large earthquake nearby (there are routinely, lots of small ones).
Obama could leave America at least as vulnerable to terrorism, to human error, to unwatched embrittlement, and to unchecked creeping cracks as it is today.
Tritium and a thousand other radioactive isotopes could be pouring into our air, seas, and soil from every reactor that operates today. No change.
All Obama has to do, is do nothing.
And that's not good enough. The world has to undo this mistake; it can't just assume nuclear plants will go away by themselves, run out of raw materials or be shut down for cost reasons. NO. It won't work that way. They'll keep them going with toilet paper and spit and "recycled" military weapons -- thorium, anything -- until something awful happens.
Nuclear reactors employ a lot of union workers. Each of these workers -- every one of them, or they'd quit -- thinks radiation isn't so dangerous. Government and industry wouldn't lie to them to make a buck off their misery, they think. They don't know any better. They believe what they want to believe, to preserve the cocoon of self-confidence, and there's always someone "qualified" (a Health Physics professional, usually) to tell them it's safe -- to tell them it might even be good for them. To tell them everything is dangerous. Crossing the street is dangerous.
So Obama will have no trouble keeping the nuclear power plants open, if that's what he really wants. And there ARE more operating civilian nuclear power plants in his home state than in any other state in the nation.
Nevertheless, by his near-utter silence on the issue during the campaign, Obama practically single-handedly HAS killed the "Nuclear Renaissance," which is withering on the vine these days (but by no means is it dead). Was this just good politics, or what? We'll see.
It's certainly good to watch one multi-billion dollar nuclear project after another around the world falter, as has been happening, but it's not nearly enough, and perhaps is more due to the financial -- pardon the term -- meltdown than to anything else. We need to close the operating nukes -- all of them. Obama can take office with them already closed. Nuclear power produces an unreliable 1/5th of our (U.S.) electricity, about 7% of our total energy needs -- we can close them all and quickly replace them with wind power, peaking power -- ANYTHING.
But of course, it won't happen.
Unless there's a meltdown.
And that's not all that unlikely, when you think about it. With 104 nuclear power plants, most of them many decades old, with the entire NRC focused on trying to issue as many preliminary site licenses as possible before Bush leaves office, with "self-regulation" rampant throughout the nuclear industry, with constant demand for maximum power, with cost pressures forcing fix-on-fail for everything not called a "critical" part according to some arcane NRC regulation, with deadly dry casks popping up all over the country and then being forgotten about while they multiply -- and multiply their dangers -- with spent fuel pools full, even as some of the fuel is being offloaded into the even-more-deadly dry casks, a meltdown -- or something worse -- is not unlikely. It's not too late to impeach George Bush for not shutting the nukes down, for Dick Cheney's secret pro-nuke energy plan, for torture, for the million dead from the War on Truth, or for complacency in the face of imminent threats to the national security.
Finding the right person for Secretary of Energy is certainly one of the most important tasks Obama faces right now. Bryson doesn't fit the bill, but be warned: In a letter to this author, Harvey Wasserman stated, "the rest of the list I've been seeing isn't all that great."
My pick of Secretary of Energy would be Harvey Wasserman:
At 02:06 AM 12/7/2008 -0500, Harvey Wasserman wrote:
>John "Nuke Bailout" Bryson must NOT be Secretary of Energy
>December 6, 2008
By Harvey Wasserman
>Among the names on the apparent short list for Barack Obama's all-important choice as Secretary of Energy is that of John Bryson, former head of Southern California Edison.
>As the embodiment of greenwashed corporate piracy and radioactive public bailouts, Bryson's appointment would send a terrible message.
>Bryson is now being hyped as "an advocate of hybrid cars." No doubt he is reinventing his image. On a personal basis, he may be the finest of individuals.
>But John Bryson will forever epitomize the bailout of the nuke power industry and the horrific catastrophe of electric utility deregulation, including the contrived energy crisis that cost Californians tens of billions of dollars and allowed them to be robbed by the disgraced Enron.
>Early in his career, Bryson helped found the Natural Resources Defense Council. Under Jerry Brown he headed the California Public Utilities Commission, where he played a role in the installation of some 17,000 windmills. He also sold his soul---and much of California's---to the nuke power industry.
>When Bryson left the CPUC to head the huge Southern California Edison utility company, many heralded the switch as an eco-triumph. But in the early 1990s, California's green community proposed a pioneer renewable construction project that would have provided the state with some 600 megawatts of Solartopian power free from fossil and nuclear fuels.
>Bryson attacked, falsely charging that the power was unnecessary and expensive. In defense of the state's four reactors, all sited near earthquake faults, he used Edison's huge legal and political resources to kill the proposed renewable energy bank.
>With all those windmills and solar panels safely buried, Bryson drafted AB1890, the catastrophic deregulation law that opened the door for Enron.
>AB1890 allowed SoCalEd and Pacific Gas & Electric to recoup billions in nuke construction cost overruns. Rushed through the legislature under intense pressure from Bryson's lobbyists, the bill overrode years of citizen opposition and forced ratepayers to eat the utilities' radioactive mistakes.
>AB 1890's chief public advocate became a Bryson disciple named Ralph Cavanagh, who unfailingly flouted his "green" credentials during radio debates (a few of them with me).
>Cavanagh and SoCalEd paved the way for corporate piracy on a gargantuan scale. They argued that the state's expensive, uncompetitive reactors could not stand in the market place. Their billions in "stranded costs" must therefore be absorbed by the ratepayers to pave the way for "true competition" that would somehow "lower rates."
>Bryson then sat back and watched as Enron selectively withheld power and gamed the de-regulated grid, driving thousands of businesses into bankruptcy and soaking the state's ratepayers for tens of billions of dollars.
>AB1890 passed with Republican Pete Wilson in the governor's mansion. But the crisis broke on Democrat Gray Davis. A close Bryson associate, Davis failed to stand up to SoCalEd and Enron's price gouging. Public outrage opened the door to the recall that led to Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor.
>Bryson's seminal pro-nuclear, anti-ratepayer role at SoCalEd stands as a monument to the power of greenwashing. From California the craze to deregulate electric utilities spread to two dozen states. In many of them, the idea of a marketplace in electricity was merely a cover used to scam billions in cost overruns at uncompetitive nuke plants. (In Ohio alone, the take exceeded $9 billion) These "stranded costs" then disappeared from utility balance sheets, giving the illusion that their bloated, dangerous and inefficient reactors were somehow paying for themselves.
>Some of the same utilities that argued then for these stranded cost handouts on the grounds that their nuke plants could not compete are now demanding loan guarantees to build still more reactors on the grounds that they are somehow "cheap."
>However much he may wish to greenwash his image, John Bryson has never come clean about what he did to delay renewables and bankrupt ratepayers.
>Long gone from Southern California Edison, Bryson's ascent to head the DOE would send a disastrous signal to those who are genuinely committed to a post fossil/nuclear future. It would say that somehow an extremely powerful executive who took very destructive steps to delay the green revolution and support nuke power is now the one to lead us to Solartopia.
>There are other candidates to head the DOE who have long histories of genuine support for the renewables revolution on which the future of this country so thoroughly depends.
>In an age where green-powered self-sufficiency is an absolute necessity, John Bryson is unfit to be Secretary of Energy.
>Harvey Wasserman's SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.solartopia.org. The first Solartopian dance video is now at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2x-0Us8szXE .
Letter to James Hansen, NASA scientists
Sent to: "James Hansen" <email@example.com>
Subject: I saw you speak at the Int't Platform Assoc meeting in DC, approx. 1984
December 6th, 2008
I saw you speak there, and Dr. Heimlich, and Tom Clancy, and many others also, that year.
You sounded reasonable and scientific, you had good graphics to present your data (which always impresses me), and since then, I've noticed global warming has only continued to get worse, just as you predicted. And the pointers to human activity have only gotten stronger, just as you predicted.
But what's this I hear, that you think nuclear power might be a solution?!? For shame! Forsooth, do look at my new book on the subject, called THE CODE KILLERS: AN EXPOSE, available for free download as a pdf or I'll be happy to send you a printed copy at no charge:
Are you the scientist who can refute it? If you think so, please do, but if not, then how do you know that 4th generation nukes (which are really 1st or 2nd generation nukes, reworked) are going to solve anything? Do you have a solution to the waste problem? If so, I'm sure I'd have heard that James Hansen has solved the nuclear waste problem! But that didn't happen, and it won't (see my graphic on page 9, based on a NASA graphic but greatly enhanced, to review why it CAN'T happen -- because no containment is stronger than a radioactive decay). And besides, surely you know too, that there is too much debris in orbit around the earth to allow "deep space" or sun-deposited nuclear waste, even if the cost could be brought down by several orders of magnitude to make it worth it.
And that waste is HOT, Sir, hot. How can that solve global warming? Consider all the heat a reactor puts out. How can that help, when there are alternatives that do not produce so much heat per watt of delivered electricity? Aren't those going to be the best solutions (such as Atmospheric Vortex Engines, which can use waste heat, and in any event, don't actually produce any heat at all)?
I implore you, Sir: Don't support jumping into the fire to escape the frying pan! America can and must do better.
Author, The Code Killers: An Expose
PO Box 1936
Carlsbad, CA 92018