Campaign For Safe Energy

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT — America's aging nuclear power plants, like the San Onofre plant in California that sits on a fault line, are unacceptably dangerous and costly.

Nuclear Power: A Risk Not Worth Taking

We shouldn’t be forced to live in the shadow of America’s aging, dangerous nuclear power plants — and certainly shouldn’t spend billions of our tax dollars on overpriced and unproven new plants. 

The history is clear. 2011 saw the catastrophic meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, spreading high levels of radiation into communities up to 50 miles away, and leaking radioactive water into the ocean as recently as August 2013. 

After Fukushima, it was discovered that the San Onofre plant in California had thousands of faulty steam tubes in its generators. San Onofre was also built near fault lines, putting 8 million Californians at risk in the event of an earthquake. 

The Fukushima disaster was just the most recent reminder: Nuclear power is inherently dangerous, potentially catastrophic and ultimately a bad investment for America's energy future. 

Before it’s too late, we need to reduce the risks our aging nuclear power plants pose to public health and safety, responsibly phase out the use of nuclear power and support investments in safe, fairly-priced energy solutions.

The Ongoing Threat of Radiation

For decades, millions of Americans have lived with dangerously radioactive spent fuel rods in their backyards, and more and more radioactive waste is piling up at nuclear plants every year. There is still no safe means of disposing of radioactive waste. Additionally, one out of every four U.S. nuclear reactors has leaked tritium — a cancer-causing radioactive form of hydrogen — into groundwater. 

U.S. PIRG found that 49 million Americans receive their drinking water from sources located within 50 miles of an active nuclear power plant – inside the boundary the Nuclear Regulatory Commission uses to assess risk to food and water supplies. That risk simply hits too close to home.

A Bad Investment

Nuclear power is among the most costly ways to get our energy. Estimates to build a new nuclear plant have tripled since 2005. Construction has already begun on a new nuclear plant in Georgia and the projected building costs have skyrocketed an extra $737 million to nearly $7 billion.

On top of this, nuclear power companies have developed schemes that put ratepayers on the hook for plants that may never be built. In Iowa, MidAmerican Energy proposed increasing ratepayers bills by 10-30% to finance new nuclear power plants that might never actually be built and likely cost consumers even more.

The San Onofre plant proved to be a particularly bad investment. New steam generators were installed in 2009 and 2010 at the cost of $780 million. Those same generators failed in 2012, shortly after the Fukushima disaster. 

Close Down Aging Plants

Despite clear evidence that nuclear plants deteriorate with age, the nuclear industry continues to push forward with license renewals—keeping old plants open for decades longer than their original design. We’re calling for a permanent moratorium on all license renewals.

One good start: Close down the plants with histories of egregious safety and leak violations. That means plants like Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station in Illinois; the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant; Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station in Massachusetts; and the Oyster Creek Generating Station in New Jersey.

No New Nukes

In 2012, construction was approved on the first new nuclear plants in over 30 years, in South Carolina and Georgia. While these approvals were a major setback for consumers, we’re not giving up: U.S. PIRG is building public support across the country to ensure that consumers will not be expected to foot the bill for overpriced, dangerous new plants, and to let decision-makers know nuclear power is simply not worth the risk. 

Issue updates

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Safe Energy

Unacceptable Risk

American nuclear power plants are not immune to the types of natural disasters, mechanical failures, human errors, and losses of critical electric power supplies that have characterized major nuclear accidents such as the one at Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan. Indeed, at several points over the last 20 years, American nuclear power plants have experienced “close calls” that could have led to damage to the reactor core and the subsequent release of large amounts of radiation.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Safe Energy

Nuclear Power, Not Worth the Risk

A new report released today by the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) documents a history of safety problems at nuclear reactors in the United States. These incidents – like the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan – illustrate that nuclear power carries with it risks that are simply not worth taking.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Safe Energy

A Disaster's Eerie Echoes

An unexpected series of events leads to an unimaginable environmental disaster. Government and industry officials minimize the threat, saying initially that matters are under control. As events cascade, engineers and officials are forced to resort to increasingly desperate measures to prevent further harm. It is uncanny how closely the script of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan mimics that of the BP oil spill last spring in the Gulf of Mexico.

> Keep Reading

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