MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The recent White House announcement of executive branch-mandated carbon cuts has evoked much debate about whether the incremental step is going to have any significant impact on rolling back the global warming juggernaut.
According to Environmental Protection Agency Chief Gina McCarthy, however, a key objective of the federal regulation to cut back on coal power plant emissions is not in question. McCarthy, in a meeting with Chicago corporate executives, revealed that the White House's primary aim in implementation of moderately increased carbon cutback requirements is to kick-start the US nuclear power industry.
In a June 18 business section article of The Chicago Tribune, Julie Wernau reports:
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said Tuesday that the federal agency's proposed carbon rules are designed to boost nuclear plants that are struggling to compete.
“There are a handful of nuclear facilities that because they are having trouble remaining competitive, they haven't yet looked at re-licensing (to extend their operating lives). We were simply highlighting that fact,” McCarthy said at a round-table discussion with business leaders in Chicago.
The comments by the highest-ranking official charged with carrying out the Obama administration's environmental policies firmly positions the U.S. as a supporter of nuclear power, which doesn't emit carbon. Those views run counter to Germany, which is phasing out nuclear power over health and environmental concerns after Japan's nuclear disaster in 2011.
The headline of the Tribune story reinforces McCarthy's statement on the White House's public policy goal: "EPA: Carbon rules could ensure nuclear power's survival."
As an Illinois state senator and as a candidate for president in 2008, Obama voiced his support of the nuclear power industry. However, since that time - particularly post-Fukushima - the revival of the nuclear energy has not been prominent in the president's remarks about reducing global warming.
That is why McCarthy's disclosure in Chicago is all the more alarming: The disastrous Fukushima meltdown - of which the true extent of damage and radiation exposure is still not known - should have put have put President Obama's nuclear power obsession on pause. Apparently, however, it has not.
As a state senator and as a presidential candidate, Obama received sizable campaign contributions from Exelon, the parent company that owns nuclear reactors in Illinois. Wernau writes in her Tribune account of McCarthy's remarks in Chicago:
Chicago-based Exelon Corp., which owns six nuclear plants in Illinois, has signaled that as many as three of those plants could close if policies at the state and federal level don't help it increase profitability.
Last month Exelon lobbied Illinois legislators to adopt a resolution in favor of pro-nuclear policies that go beyond the carbon rule. The resolution asks state regulatory bodies to prepare reports that explain the “societal cost” of increased greenhouse gas emissions in the state if nuclear plants close, and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to outline job losses that would come from closing nuclear plants.
Whether or not the president's advocacy of nuclear power stems from his connections to Exelon and other nuclear power companies, the potential impact of his position is disastrous.
Moreover, McCarthy emphasized that the initial focus of the White House push is providing a federal policy incentive for nuclear plant owners to apply for the re-licensing of aged facilities. Although nuclear power plant designs vary, Fukushima was an older General Electric model run by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), a private corporation.
The fact that nuclear power plants for commercial energy use are designed, constructed and run by private corporations is harrowing enough, considering how the motive for profit undercuts safety concerns in far too many industries.
More worrisome is that we have a White House pushing us in the wrong direction.
President Obama should be facilitating the phasing out of nuclear power plants, which pose a threat to public health and safety that should be right up there that should be taken just as seriously as the threat of terrorism (which is spotlighted with a permanent fear campaign). Indeed, if you want to imagine the ultimate nightmare, think of how nuclear power plants could be a prime terrorist target for maximizing death and destruction.
Rather than continuing warfare in the Middle East, shouldn't we be moving toward closing down power plants in the Midwest (and elsewhere in the United States)?
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