What about Nuclear Power?

With the unfolding disaster in Japan, we have been receiving a lot of calls about the Sierra Club’s position on nuclear power as an energy source in Oregon and America. Our hearts go out to the people of Japan in this time of unspeakable tragedy and unimaginable chaos.  And, in the aftermath of a massive earthquake, the debate about nuclear power has been reignited in American and around the world.

The Sierra Club is unequivocally opposed to nuclear power as an energy source because the cold truth is that nuclear power is dirty, unsafe, deadly, and far too costly.  Nuclear energy makes absolutely no sense in our region or our country when there is so much untapped potential in energy efficiency and when there is so much investment opportunity in safe, clean, and renewable technologies like wind and solar.

Government favoritism of nuclear energy by way of subsidies, loan guarantees, and liability caps are not in our nation’s interest and would commit our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and generations to come to storing toxic, highly volatile nuclear waste at their peril for tens of thousands of years.

The Columbia Generating Station at the Hanford nuclear reservation is the northwest's only nuclear power plant. Photo from Seattle Times.

Many are not aware that there are two nuclear reactors in Oregon – they are small educational research facilities at universities in Portland and Corvallis.  These educational facilities have such a small fuel source that they are physically incapable of creating enough heat to generate a nuclear meltdown.  There is a large distinction between these small facilities and the risk posed by a nuclear energy generating facility like the Columbia Generating Station, operated by Energy Northwest on the Hanford nuclear reservation or the facility being proposed by Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc. in Payette County, Idaho.

And, while the level of risk posed by any particular facility at any given time might be debatable, there is certainly no debate about the significance of the potential impacts of a nuclear disaster after something has gone terribly wrong.  We are seeing what that looks like in Japan, and in the past we have seen the impacts at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.  The impacts of a nuclear disaster are long lasting and often come at a terrible cost measured in human lives.

No form of energy should put human lives in danger. Instead, we can meet our energy needs without nuclear power. Clean energy solutions like wind and solar are already transforming our energy system. These solutions are powering economies around the world, and right here in America, right now. We have the technology – the question is whether we can find the political will to make a clean energy future a reality.

Take for example Portugal, which currently receives 45% of its electricity from renewable energy.  Or Iowa, which today is already at 20% wind power, proving that its possible for us to greatly increase the amount of energy we pull from renewable sources.  Texas has more than 10GW of installed wind power already – enough to power 2 million homes.  Here in Oregon, we’re receiving only about 2% of our energy from renewable sources. We can do better.

This is America – when history has demanded it, our country has risen to the occasion.  We’ve put a man on the moon, cured diseases, and created unthinkable technological advances.   We already have the technology to solve our energy problems – we need the political will to think big and implement clean energy solutions on a very large scale.

Click here to learn more about how you can join the Sierra Club’s efforts to lead us toward a clean energy future in the Northwest


6 Responses to What about Nuclear Power?

  1. […] environmental groups like the Sierra Club view the nuclear emergency in Japan as a platform to condemn nuclear power, and call for alternative […]

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  4. […] Sierra Club has a well known aversion to nuclear energy and has not been shy about doing all it can to halt the growth of nuclear energy and to speed the early termination of as many operating nuclear power plants as possible. The […]

  5. Derek C Reed says:

    What about the alternative, standard pressure liquid design of Thorium Fluoride reactors? I’d like to know a bit more about that.

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