Bush Speech Highlights Need to Put All Issues on the Table

WASHINGTON (May 24, 2006) -- Amid the rush to embrace nuclear power as a solution to global warming, critical questions about this technology are being overlooked, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

President Bush's remarks today on nuclear power at the Limerick Generating Station in Pennsylvania serves as a reminder that the debate needs to fully address such vital issues as the exorbitant cost of building new nuclear facilities, the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the disposal of radioactive wastes, said Dr. Thomas B. Cochran, director of NRDC's nuclear program.

Until such matters are answered satisfactorily, we need to adopt a realistic view toward the promises -- and the pitfalls -- of nuclear power, Cochran said.

"Nuclear plants are very expensive to build. That is why the industry's K Street lobbyists ran to Capitol Hill to get some $10 billion in taxpayer subsidies to build five or six new nuclear plants. Subsidizing a few new nuclear plants is unlikely to solve nuclear power's economic woes," Cochran said.

A growing reliance on nuclear power globally also will increase the risk of a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, according to Cochran.

"The international regime meant to prevent countries from using civilian nuclear technology and materials for weapons has major unresolved problems. Today Iran is taking advantage of loopholes in the existing safeguards regime to get close to a nuclear weapons capability," Cochran added. "The same reactors and fuel-processing facilities used for energy production can be used to manufacture weapons. Only a few kilograms of this material could destroy an area the size of Lower Manhattan."

"At the same time, we still don't have a safe way to dispose of high-level waste, which remains dangerously radioactive for thousands of years. There simply are no geologic repositories in operation anywhere in the world. And here in the United States, the proposed geologic repository at Yucca Mountain will leak far worse than originally thought. And now the U.S. government is trying to solve this problem by relaxing the disposal regulations instead of searching for a new disposal site," Cochran said.