March 18, 2011
“Why Are We Playing Russian Roulette With the American People?”: Longtime Nuclear Critic Ralph Nader Advocates Phasing Out Nuclear Power Industry
Former presidential candidate and longtime consumer advocate and nuclear critic Ralph Nader strongly advocates phasing out nuclear power in the United States by calling for public hearings on the status of every single nuclear power plant. “What we’re seeing here is 110 or so operating nuclear plants in the United States, many of them aging, many of them infected with corrosion, faulty pipes, leaky pumps and combustible materials… Why are we playing Russian roulette with the American people for nuclear plants whose principal objective is simply to boil water and produce steam? … This is institutional insanity, and I urge the people in this country to wake up before they experience what is now going on in northern Japan.” [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re discussing the continuing nuclear crisis in Japan, and we’re joined by Philip White from the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo, Dr. Ira Helfand from Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Ralph Nader joins us from Washington, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate. His latest book is Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ralph.
RALPH NADER: Thank you, Juan.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Your assessment not only what’s happening in Japan, but what the impact will be here in the United States, and especially with the Obama administration and Congress trying to move forward with a renaissance of development of nuclear plants here in the United States?
RALPH NADER: The Japanese disaster has ended whatever nuclear renaissance is being considered here in the United States. The problem is that people have got to get more involved, because the government and the industry will defend nuclear power in the United States to the last mutation. They are representing a closed, monetized mind that does not have options for revision, which true science should provide for. Secretary Chu, Energy Secretary, has refused for two years to meet with the leading critics of nuclear power, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, Friends of the Earth and other groups. He has met with nuclear business interests regularly, and he has written articles touting nuclear power.
What we’re seeing here is 110 or so operating nuclear plants in the United States, many of them aging, many of them infected with corrosion, faulty pipes, leaky pumps and combustible materials. These have been documented by data from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission assembled by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Indian Point, for example, is a plant that presents undue risks, in the opinion of the Union of Concerned Scientists, to millions of people in the New York City greater area. And it is unevacuable if there’s an accident. You’re never going to evacuate a population of millions of people, whether it’s around San Onofre or Diablo Canyon in Southern California or Indian Point or Davis-Besse near Toledo and Detroit or any of the other endangered nuclear plants.
Why are we playing Russian roulette with the American people for nuclear plants whose principal objective is simply to boil water and produce steam? This is technological insanity. It presents national security problems, for every nuclear plant is a prime target. It affects our civil liberties. It endangers our workers. It is an industry that cannot be financed by Wall Street because it’s too risky. Wall Street demands 100 percent taxpayer guarantees for any nuclear plant.
So I suggest that people listening and watching this program to pick up the phone and dial the White House comment number, which is (202) 456-1111, (202) 456-1111, and demand the following: that there be public hearings in every area where there’s a nuclear plant, so the people can see for themselves what the hazards are, what the risks are, how farcical the evacuation plans are, how costly nuclear power is, and how it can be replaced by energy efficiency, by solar energy, different kinds of solar energy, by cogeneration, as Amory Lovins and many others, Peter Bradford, have pointed out.
We must no longer license any new nuclear plants. We should shut down the ones like Indian Point. How many people know that Hillary Clinton, as senator, and Andrew Cuomo, as attorney general, demanded that Indian Point be shut down? That doesn’t matter to the monetized minds in Washington, D.C. We also should prepare a plan where, apart from the aging plants, which should be shut down, and apart from the earthquake-risk plants—should be shut down—for the phase-out of the entire industry. We’re going to be left with radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years, for which there is no permanent repository. This is institutional insanity, and I urge the people in this country to wake up before they experience what is now going on in northern Japan: uninhabitable territory, thousands dead, hundreds of thousands at risk of cancer, enormous economic loss. And for what?