Interviews

Ralph Nader - A consumer advocate and founder of Public Citizen, a consumer rights advocacy group in Washington.
nader Q: In the early 1970s, you became active in your opposition to nuclear power. Why was that?

A: Well, it became clear that nuclear power was too hazardous, too costly, and unnecessary to provide electricity for our country.

This was a time of maximum energy waste in the early '70s before the so-called oil embargo. And we thought the mere investment in energy efficiency would replace far more than the megawatts that could be supplied by risky nuclear power.

Q: Back then, the early '70s, public perceptions of nuclear power were fairly positive. How did you go about it from the strategic point of view?

A: Well, first of all we raised the issues that weren't resolved. Where do you put the radioactive waste? The industry and the government said, well, we don't know where.

And then we said, why do you have to have evacuation plans for miles around. Well, it could be, there's a real problem. And why do you have to have limited liability protecting the nuclear power plants in case of disaster from having to pay full compensation. Well, because there might be a risk.

So this began to generate a public debate and flush out more information.

 

Q: And you started to get a reasonable amount of exposure from the '70s. Why do you think the media responded to this as an issue?

A: In part, because some critical scientists put out reports saying that the risks of nuclear disasters were not as improbably as the official line was.

And two of these scientists worked for the Atomic Energy Commission, and they were out in one of the national laboratories in California: Dr. Goffman and Dr. Taplin.

And that gave real credibility to the emerging critique. And it wasn't long after that when several General Electric nuclear engineers quit in protest over the lack of safeguards.

And as more and more plants began to be built, the question was where do you put the waste, how do you transport the waste, how do you develop the security around the plant, why does it cost so much?

Q: Now, the nuclear industry, the DOE, the NRC, what kind of a job did they do in trying to reassure the public? What were they like as adversaries?

A: Well, the Atomic Energy Commission, which regulated the nuclear industry, was secretive. It was as if they were engaged in a national defense subject.

The utilities were relying on this government research that was given to them free about nuclear plants, the kind of research that was done at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. They didn't have to worry about unlimited liability. So that let their guard down even more.

And the vendors, the sellers of the nuclear plants, were very, very reassuring: Westinghouse, General Electric. And it was only when the Union of Concerned Scientists, a new scientific group, formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, began to really dig into this that we started to get more information.

 

Q: Why didn't they do a better job? You think they were caught sort of on the hook.... explaining their case and sort of putting their point of view forward?

A: Well, it's really very simple. You had three players here. You had the government regulatory agency, whose job was to promote nuclear power and get more nuclear plants, using the taxpayers' money.

You had the electric utilities, who were originally reluctant, but they were given limited liability and free government research for their plants.

And then you had the vendors, General Electric and Westinghouse, who were selling. And there was no one else. The press wasn't critical. The Congress bought into the Atomic Energy Commission party line. There was a huge tax payer funded propaganda for how good nuclear power was, going right into the high schools and elementary schools in our country, with traveling road shows.

The scientific community was part of the industry itself. And there was no outside critique, there was no government critique, and there was secrecy above it all. So it was a tailor-made precondition for technological suppression of the truth.

 

Q: How important were TMI and Chernobyl in solidifying opposition when you look back on it?

A: Well, Three Mile Island, because it was in this country. It was highly publicized. And although it was not a nuclear disaster, it came very close. Indeed, direct and indirect costs made it the worst disaster in American history in terms of economics.

Nine billion dollars to retrofit the plants around the country and also to deal with the Three Mile Island situation. But the very closeness of a catastrophic meltdown sobered up a lot of people. And it made the press believers that there was a real problem here.

Q: Is there a sentiment that you haven't really achieved your goals? There is more generation capacity now than when you started, isn't there, as a percentage?

A: Yes, but remember that when we came out against nuclear power in the early '70s, the government had predicted that there would be 1,000 nuclear plants by the year 2000 in the United States, and there's 109 and shrinking, as more and more get shut down.

So in the sense that nuclear power had been stopped, it's beginning to be closed down, and the big problems now are what do you do with the radioactive waste, how do you close down these plants that are radioactively very hot, and how the industry can make the taxpayer and Uncle Sam pay for it.

 

Q: Let's talk about the waste issue. This has been said that this is the Achilles' heel of the industry. Why is that so?

A: Well, first of all, because it is a technological problem that cannot be concentrated under superior skill and management. You've got trucks, you've got railroad cars carrying radioactive waste, diffusing throughout the country.

And then second, you've got a durability problem to nuclear waste, 250,000 years, and there's no set geological substructure that is assuring geologists of that kind of protective depository.

And then third, it's extremely vulnerable to accident and sabotage, because it's coursing its way through our civilian economy and our roads. And it isn't concentrated under very severe surveillance, the way a nuclear installation would be.

 

Q: If you take radiological effects, is it your position that emissions from normally operating nuclear power stations pose any risk to radiation for the general public.

A: Yes, they do pose a risk. The question of how much is yet to be researched. There hasn't been enough research on this. There have been some claims, that are minority scientific opinion, that there is a higher level of cancer specially to children in the vicinity of nuclear plants, but there needs to be better studies about this.

The second point is that we don't know whether there are sudden leaks at what time. The alarm systems, which were so inadequate at Three Mile Island, are still inadequate.

 

Q: What percentage of radiation might come from the normally operating nuclear power station as opposed to other sources, like radar. Is this a big fraction or a tiny one?

A: How do we know? I mean, we're not given weather reports, so to speak, about how many levels of radiological hazard are emitted by a nuclear plant in X state or Y region.

 

Q: Radiation biologists would rank exposure from radar, medical X-rays, geological rocks very much larger than anything likely to come from a power station.

A: Well, the largest exposure are medical and dental X-rays. That's for sure. We can't do much about background radiation. The radon seems to have been exaggerated, given recent studies.

But the real problem of nuclear power is an accident.

 

Q: Radon is two-thirds of the exposure. And on an average, it would be 200 millirems a year. That would be EPA.

A: That's already being downgraded.

 

Q: But these would be EPA figures, right?

A: Yeah, but that's now in a controversial turmoil.

 

Q: Even if it was half that, it's a very large quantity compared with what comes out of a nuclear power plant.

A: If it reaches the people on the first and second and third and fourth floors. And that's the point. You see, they know how much is emitted from measuring it in someone's cellar. The question is how much actually gets transferred. We know more about how much gets transferred through medical and dental X-rays.

Q: If, for instance, if you believe the APA* figures, the area around Three Mile Island has a four times higher than average radon, then citizens are as likely to be exposed to that as they are from the current TMI plant. In which case, if low levels of radiation are dangerous, they'd be dangerous for radon, too, wouldn't they?

A: Yes. The main concern overwhelmingly is of a catastrophic accident and a spill.

 

 

Q: Right, so it's not of a normally operating reactor?

A: No, it's just that they've got to be fully candid about reporting to the vicinity of a neighborhood of a nuclear plant how much is emitted.

 

Q: Now commercial reactors have pretty much a 100% safety record, and nobody's died of radiation exposure at an American reactor. You couldn't say that for aviation, chemical industries or other power generation. Why isn't that a positive aspect?

A: Because it's an industry that's basically mortgaging 250,000 years of environmental safety through its radioactive waste. Number one.

Number two. How would they know whether anybody has died in a nuclear power plant? The monitoring has shown, for example, that the so-called jumpers, the part time help that they bring in, it's a rush into a nuclear power plant and get the maximum exposure to fix something. They're not monitoring those workers as they leave their plant and go to another one in a kind of migrant nuclear worker pattern.

But we know the exposures they get are very high by the admission of the plant managers themselves. That's why they only keep them in for a few minutes, until they reach quote "their radioactive quota." When you're dealing with a silent accumulative type of violence, and it's very difficult to trace cause and effect as easy as it is in a petrochemical plant explosion or an aviation crash.

But I wouldn't be automatically saying that the burden of proof should be on the potential victims. The burden of proof is on who runs those nuclear plants and who generates that radioactivity.

 

Q: I'm sorry, I thought it was the accidents rather than the emissions that were the issue. You're now saying it's the possible emissions which might kill?

A: And I'm just saying that there are literally thousands of these jumpers, they're called, which almost everybody ignores. They're basically guys in their late '20s, early '30s. They don't have a full time job. They're not really given the full level of informed consent. They're given very high pay for the few minutes of work that they do. And they're human guinea pigs. And nobody has traced them. Nobody really has an index of where they are. And ten or fifteen years later, how their health has survived.

 

Q: You're saying they don't know how much they've been exposed to? There are regulations that say you can't have more than five rem a year, right?

A: Well, the regulations are hardly observed in this industry. Especially since they write them themselves. Vis-a-vis the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that they own lock, stock, and barrel.

The point is that who follows up on these jumpers, as they go from one plant to another, and then they leave that kind of job. There's no inventory of their exposure. Their cumulative exposure.

 

Q: Was your group opposed to the utilities being able to put some of their cooling, their fuel rods in dry casks?

A: That is a problem. You see, I don't like to discuss this in a cul de sac. Nuclear power is completely unnecessary to drive our economy. At the same time, you have risks from the uranium mining, the uranium tailings, the transportation of the rods, the management of the plants, the radioactive waste disposal, the national security problems of plutonium diversion, the problems of earth quakes, the problems of evacuation, the problems of government guaranteed limited liability. And after making all these issues, say, all this is necessary just to boil water?

I mean, who needs this kind of technology? It's not necessary. It's too risky, and it's too much of a national security problem.

 

Q: So the waste issue, you're against dry cask storage. You think it's better to leave it in the cooling pond?

A: Temporarily. That's the big conundrum now. The big conundrum is pools are being filled. And they haven't got a permanent depository. And they have temporary depositories.

The question is, do you keep them concentrated where they are, or do you open up new, de-concentrated radioactive waste disposal systems, which will require more transportation, which requires more risk.

 

Q: But you've seen a dry cask. It's unlike a reactor, where you can envisage an accident. It's different. Tell me, what could actually happen with five casks in a concrete bed?

A: It depends on how well built it is.

 

Q: These are used all over the world. They're nineteen inches of steel, very solidly built. What would be a scenario you'd be concerned about?

A: Sabotage. Earthquakes. Some of these plants are not exactly outside of live earth quake zones.

 

Q: You don't think this is singling this out. I mean, we have chemical industries, oil farms, and so forth, all of which exist on the same sort of land, right?

A: Nothing has generational damage as radioactivity.

 

Q: Now, in terms of the plan to deposit the waste in Yucca Mountain, which is the only federal plan at the moment, what is your position on that?

A: Well, again, the Yucca Mountain, which is considered the best repository by the pro-nuclears, has been confronted with contrary scientific evidence that there is an earth quake problem, there is a porous problem, and it's not the best place to put it.

This is, of course, the conundrum that is the conundrum of conundrums. Because while you can stop nuclear power, what do you with waste that's available? Do you keep it next to the reactor? Do you put it in a temporary repository? Or do you put it in a permanent?

Now, once you put it in a permanent repository, it's very difficult to recover in case of new technological findings as to what to do with the waste.

So the ideal is to put it in a temporary, safe depository that maybe fifty, 100 years from now can be recovered and separated in terms of removing the hazards.

 

Q: So you'd support that if a monitored, retrievable site was found, as they wanted to build one, actually, in Yucca Mountain, that would be okay?

A: Well, it would okay, but only if there is an independent core of scientists, geologists, engineers, who would sign off on it, who have no ties, no ambitions, either to join the nuclear industry, to join the government agency.

 

Q: But that would be okay, even if it allowed the nuclear industry to continue, is my point.

A: No. The first step is to stop it from continuing. But then you deal with the garbage.

Q: You don't want this problem solved until the industry--

A: No, because it'll just try to prolong the industry, and expand the second generation of nuclear plants subsidized by the tax payer.

 

Q: Carter's decision in the '70s not to go forward with reprocessing is a fundamental difference between this country and other nuclear nations like France and Japan, and clearly it makes the waste issue more complicated. Were you supportive of that at the time and are you still supportive of it now?

other words, right?

A: Yes. Because of the national security problem. Because it encourages other countries to do it. And then it subjects itself to market exchange, where one country says, well, you want the business. We'll ship it from Japan over to Hanford. You'll deal with it there.

With all the risks attended, the possibility of the ship sinking, the possibility of sabotage. It enhances the multiplier effect of risk, and throws it right out of the civilian area into the military area.

 

Q: What you're talking about is a system to chemically change it so you can burn it and then destroy it. So if you don't reprocess, we still have the plutonium.

A: Yes. But the more hands plutonium changes itself into, the more risk patterns there are.

 

Q: So the anti-proliferation argument was a more fundamental one?

A: Absolutely. Because in the process of trying to get rid of it, you're increasing the risk levels enormously. So they are inextricable. They're on a continuum of risk. They're not either/or.

 

Q: But, in general, if you burn the plutonium in a power reactor, you can get rid of it. You wouldn't even be in favor of that?

A: In general, my position is that the more you change hands with radioactive waste, the more risk you have.

 

Q: The French, Japanese, and British, for example, don't buy the proliferation argument. And because they reprocess, they have now a much more manageable waste problem than we do. How do you respond to that?

A: Well, they've also dumped a lot of waste. Like in the Irish Sea. And the story in France is covered by an enormous amount of government secrecy. But the chief expert on volcanoes in France, has indicated that there's a mess operating in the French nuclear industry as well in terms of radioactive waste.

So we have a more open society. We have the Freedom of Information Act. We have Environmental Impact statements. And we can do a more informed critique. But I'd never give the French and the British, who have, in effect, an official Secrets Act, any benefit of the doubt to their public allegations.

 

Q: But in France, where 75% of power is nuclear, where more people have been on nuclear power plant tours, the citizens don't fear it. What's the difference?

A: They're not well informed at all. They can't the information from their government. There's the administrative state, that's very, very secretive. And the industry and the government are almost indistinguishable. Number one. Number two, they have no right to go to court to open it up. The courts don't have the influence in France against administrative agencies, the way our courts do. They don't have a tort law system, the way we do. They don' have a Freedom of Information law, the way we do.

And if they have just one nuclear accident, it could be the most disastrous event in the history of the French people, because as our Atomic Energy Commission estimated in the 1960s, a Class 9 meltdown will contaminate an area the size of Pennsylvania, which is about the size of France.

So I wouldn't be too sanguine if I was living France about them getting away with it.

 

Q: But I was talking really about risk perception. More people have actually visited reactors by far than in the U.S.

A: What does visited mean? They visit reactors all the time here. That's just a tourist attraction. That doesn't mean anything. You can go to any anti-nuclear group and get twenty questions out of them that we have information on, and see if you could get it in France. That's how you want to test your thesis.

 

Q: Basically, you're saying, they're not a democratic society.

A: Of course not. Not when it comes to nuclear power. They might as well be a totalitarian society. They're as closed on nuclear power as the Soviet Union was. With the exception of Chernobyl, trying to cover up Chernobyl.

 

Q: Now, it's said, and I've seen data for this, that a coal plant emits more radioactivity a nuclear plant.

A: That's not the contrast. The contrast is energy efficiency and renewable energy displacing nuclear power. Not increasing coal burning as you decrease nuclear power, even though there are much more environmentally benign ways to burn coal, flue dyes, bed combustion, and others, that's not the contrast.

 

Q: So you don't agree, then, that you've given coal an easy ride while concentrating on nuclear?

A: Not at all. We've been opponents of high sulphur coal burning, low sulphur coal mining risks, etc., for years. If you look at the people that have really studied energy efficiency, their estimates are that we waste anywhere from 50% to 75% of our total energy consumption.

And if you look at the number of BTUs that are produced by burning wood in this country, it's almost as much as what energy has contributed by nuclear power.

Q: So you're against continued use of fossil fuels to generate energy.

A: Of course. We have tremendous pilot advances in all kinds of solar energy, including wind power, which is up to 1700 megawatts commercially in California, as well as just being on the frontiers of energy efficiency. Just think how much more efficient our motor vehicles could become.

 

Q: To get it straight, I mean, you see an end in the future where's there's no nuclear, no oil, no coal.

A: Correct, correct.

 

Q: So where do we get our electricity from?

A: We get it from solar. You want me to give you a book that shows how realistic solar is? You've got wind power, you've got biomass, you've got photovoltaic cells, you've got tidal, you've got all kinds of technologies now moving toward commercial viability.

And the projection among people in the energy world now who aren't tied to the fossil fuel and nuclear is the greatest increase in the contribution to our generating electricity in the coming thirty years is going to be wind power.

You've got, for example, the municipal facility in Sacramento, which has closed down its nuclear plant. It's in a growing area and it says in the next 25 years it's going to meet its energy needs not by building a conventional generating plant, but by energy efficiency and solar. And that has to meet a test. That's not some theoretical apologist.

Q: Most people I've talked to see these energy alternatives never being able to contribute more than a few percent.

A: What people have to understand who are pro-nuclear is that their industry has one bite of the apple in this country. If there is just one major nuclear power disaster, it's all over for the industry.

And you never want to posit the energy future of a nation such as ours on one bite of the apple. Twenty years ago, the director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Dr. Alvin Weinberg, who is about pro-nuclear as you can get, told me here in Washington that if solar ever got down to two or three times as expensive as nuclear, he'd go for solar.

Well, that day is here now easily. The most expensive new form of electric generating capacity in our country today is nuclear power.

 

Q: Right, basically he may have said that, but it's hard to get scientists to agree that the notion that tidal energy, wind power and solar power is going to be enough.

A: But they haven't studied what's going on actually underground in the United States. They haven't talked with the solar engineers and the solar scientists, because this is now a powerful industry. It doesn't have connections in Washington. And it doesn't have the kind of subsidies that pour out of Washington to nuclear and fossil fuels.

And it has a threat of displacing these industries rather than just competing with them. Naturally, the established fossils and nuclear industries are going to fight to the end, because they will be displaced by solar energy, not just competed by it.

Q: But there's an argument that basically this kind of anti-everything or anti-mainstream energy sources is fundamentally elitist. It's the reaction of a country which is energy rich, has many energy options. It's an attitude that takes electricity for granted, because we've never been without it.

A: Well, let's see. The solar cooking stoves are spreading over the Third World. Two thousand years ago they had solar architecture in ancient Greece and ancient Persia. We've run all kinds of economic activities through windmills and wind power centuries ago. It's not exactly an elitist technology. Solar architecture, passive architecture alone could revolutionize the utilization of energy for homes and buildings.

In 1952, President Truman set up a Materials Policy Commission, which reported, made up of business, labor, and other blue ribbon people. And it recommended that the country go solar, and that by 1975 three-quarters of all homes would be solarized.

Well, it turns out that two years later, in 1954, Eisenhower went nuclear, and we've been paying for it ever since. In so many ways. Bread and butter in terms of electric bills, all the way to the impact on the global environment.

 

Q: Do you worry about global warming?

A: Of course.

Q: Since nuclear power doesn't increase greenhouse gases, do you think eliminating nuclear power might exacerbate the global warming problem? Think about China's reliance on coal.

A: Can you imagine what a nuclear power plant disaster would do in highly populated China? Or India? Whatever you say about coal, it doesn't render thousands of square miles totally uninhabitable for decades or centuries. But that's not the alternative. We need to continue to persuade the Third World as well as the First World that the wave of the future in energy for both the survival of the global environment and the efficiency of the local economy are the various kinds of solar, passive and active.

 

Q: Do you still stand by some of the things you've said, you know, that plutonium is the most deadly substance in the world and so forth. Have some of those remarks been exaggerated?

A: No, we said that basically plutonium is very deadly, and we said how it would be deadly in terms of its minute exposure in a human lung. That was the context of that statement. Of course, we also said it was deadly, because of the proliferation problem. But there's nothing deadlier than a long lasting, highly toxic ingredient that doesn't challenge your sensory perceptions, because you can't see it, smell it, taste it or otherwise defend yourself against it.

And you can see that around Chernobyl now, where the radioactivity is being recycled with wind and the soil and the plants, and just people can't detect it unless they have an official detector. And you've got all these villages and towns that have been abandoned, with these creaking doors swinging in the wind in abandoned buildings.

This is a kind of devastation that's quite different from fossil fuel devastation.

 

Q: Now, there are designs for new passive reactors which shut themselves down. Do you think the industry will ever get a chance to prove it?

A: No, in the United States nuclear power is finished. In fact, the subsidy for the Advanced Reactor Project is scheduled to end here in Washington in about a year. Both conservative and liberal groups have strenuously opposed it, and they're going to be even stronger in the coming year in Congress. And I think that nuclear power in this country is finished.

The main problem, as I tell nuclear engineering students, is to specialize in what to do about the waste and what to do about closing them down.

 

Q: One of the advances, the Integral Fast Reactor would actually get rid of the plutonium by burning it for power...

A: We've heard that all.

 

Q: It's very attractive.

A: We've heard that all before. Let's see if they can approve it. It's amazing. They hold solar energy to a much higher standard of proof than they hold their own visions of advanced nuclear technology.

That also doesn't deal with the uranium mining, uranium tailings problem. And it doesn't deal with the transportation problem. And we shouldn't forget the kind of emissions that are coming off of those piles and piles of tailings out West.

 

Q: But if the industry got a chance to solve the problem this way, would that be a good thing or a bad thing? Wouldn't you want the waste problem solved?

A: Of course. It's always going to be a national security problem, regardless. For one. It's always going to have an earth quake problem regardless. And it's always going to be less desirable from an economic, from a safety, and from an environmental and generational standpoint than solar energy.

The greatest fusion reactor we'll ever have is called the sun. And it's well shielded.

 

Q: There's an active French program, there's an active Japanese program, and there's a lot of interest in the Far East in nuclear power. What's your reaction to that?

A: It will increase our global competitiveness with Asia, if Asian countries are foolish enough to expand nuclear power, because they're going to find out that it's very costly. They're going to find out that one or two disasters is going to have a tremendously damaging effect on their economy. And they're going to find out that the United States lessons should have been heeded.

 

Q: This is an industry that whatever they've done, they haven't really killed anyone yet. Is that really fair that they should be shut down before they've done that?

A: You keep repeating that statement, that they haven't killed anybody yet. And we know that an increase in radioactive exposure increases the likelihood of human cancers and genetic damage.

We know there are a number of hot pockets around the United States, like Maxi Flat, which has migrated way beyond its predicted boundaries, that are exposing people to higher levels of radioactive activity.

We know that thousands of the workers called jumpers have been exposed. But the definition of fear is multiple. What these hard boiled market types should fear is the economic costs of nuclear power. What do you say about a technology that wants to persist on the public dole, because it can't meet a market test? Because it can't meet a market test by raising capital. It cannot meet a market test by insuring itself to the limit of its exposure. And it cannot meet a market test in comparison with other new forms of energy, including the conservation of energy and renewables.

I don't know anybody on Wall Street, and I don't anybody in the electric utility industry who wants to build any more nuclear plants. The driving force is coming from the vendors who haven't yet advertised their reckless investments a la General Electric, Westinghouse and others.

 

Q: But they would argue that a substantial part of the reason why they're so expensive is the fear and activism. I mean, if you're building a facility and because of the process, it takes you twenty years to build it, as opposed to in Japan four years, it's going to cost a lot more. It didn't start off being uneconomic. It's uneconomic now.

A: If it was built instantly, it would be uneconomic. Look at Emory Lubbin's figures on it. If it would be built instantly, it would be uneconomic, compared with the omnipresent opportunities for low levels of investment, replacing high amounts of BTU production through energy conservation.

 

Q: But your argument fundamentally is economic.

A: No, I'm saying the reason why nuclear has stopped in this country is number one, it can't meet the economic test. Number two, it's been sloppily managed with a lot of near disasters, Brown's Ferry, the Fermi Reactor, outside of Detroit, Three Mile Island, a lot of less publicized spills. And third, because the alternatives are so compellingly superior, energy conservation and renewable energy.

 

Q: You know if you go and live in certain parts of the United States, if you fly airplanes, etc., you get hundreds of times more radioactivity than you get from a nuclear power plant .

A: So why not have some more?

 

Q: If it's your position that very low levels increased the chance of cancer, there's radon in natural gas, so a very low level in natural gas exposed to billions of people would translate into a substantial number. Wouldn't it make sense to take on all these issues too?

A: But we've recommended all kinds of measures and put out caveats on radon in people's homes. That is a controllable exposure. There are ways to detect it, and there are ways to minimize, and there are ways to distance yourself from it.

When you have a home near a nuclear plant, it's pretty hard to say well, I'm going to close down the home and move 300 miles away. You're much more in control of the radon situation in your home, if you're interested.

 

Q: The argument, that normally operating reactors are killing people, seems to me rather weak, if you're not going to pursue the natural sources to which you're exposed to, which may be much larger.

A: That is by no means the main argument against nuclear power, as I've delineated in the last thirty minutes. But since you inquired about it, I said they haven't met the standard of measurement and disclosure to reassure the public that it's as de minimus as they say it is.

You know, there are some scientists who that think it is not de minimus. So it's incumbent on the perpetrator, the manager of the technology, to dispel those doubts, and they're not doing it.

Q: Finally, do you think anything can save nuclear energy in this country?

A: Nothing. Too many compelling, superior, more efficient, safer ways to generate electricity and to supply the fuel needs of the nation.

 

Q: And what do you think, what's your best guess about what will happen with the high level waste?

A: It will continue on for at least ten years the way we've seen it, with all kinds of false starts, all kinds of NIMBY movements, not in my back yard.

Perhaps there will be a breakthrough, in terms of either a stable geological repository or some other way that might occur in the first quarter of the 21st century, but I don't see any change in the situation as it is now. Pretty unstable in the next ten years.

 

Q: But you're sort of in favor of some kind of policy. You'd have to be. Because there has to be some place to put it.

A: Of course.

 

Q: And one repository?

A: We don't know what's going to happen. We don't know what kinds of technologies will favor stabilizing them where they are. Minimizing the risk. We keep being promised. You know, there's all kinds of work going on, so we'll see.


home | did you know? | maps & charts | interviews | readings | glossary | reactions | faqs | join in
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation
PBS Online
SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Prison StateApril 29th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS