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Necessity for Safe and Clean Energy

March 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 


Nuclear Power Plant

Credit: Stefan Kühn

Nuclear Plants and Safety: A March 17th report by the nuclear engineer David Lochbaum at the Union of Concerned Scientists reviews the performance of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is responsible for safe performance of U.S. nuclear power plants.  “The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010: A Brighter Spotlight Needed” examines 14 “near-misses” at U.S. nuclear plants in 2010. These events exposed a variety of shortcomings:  inadequate training, poor maintenance, faulty design, and failure to thoroughly investigate problems.  NRC’s inspections reveal only a fraction of the problems that exist, and the report reviews examples of the agency’s effective and ineffective responses.

Top Mercury Emitters: A March 16th report by the Environmental Defense Fund identifies the top 25 emitters of mercury in the electric power sector.  Coal-fired power plants are the primary source of mercury air emissions in the U.S., and the 25 plants identified by the study are responsible for nearly a third of all mercury emissions in sector.  Meanwhile, these plants generate only 8% of the total supply.  Twenty of these polluting facilities are located within 50-100 miles of some of the largest metropolitan areas – including Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Louis and Austin. According to “Mercury Alert: Cleaning up Coal Plants for Healthier Lives”, Texas led the nation in mercury air pollution from coal-fired power in 2009.

Pollution and Wildlife: A March 16th report from the National Wildlife Federation highlights effects of climate change, mercury, acid rain, and smog on 10 U.S. wildlife species important to hunters and anglers.  According to “Air Pollution, a Warming Climate, and the Troubled Future for America’s Hunting and Fishing Heritage”, more regions are witnessing strict warnings about mercury-laced favorites like brown trout, walleye, and largemouth bass.  Remote forests, lakes, and streams are being degraded by acid rain.  Ozone now makes some sensitive plants more prone to disease and less able to produce and store food.  Climate change is resulting in a massive loss of fish spawning sites and higher summertime temperatures disrupt wildlife patterns and ecological balance.

Budget and the Environment: A report released on March 7th by 35 environmental organizations outlines this year’s recommendations for priority funding to support most critical U.S. environment and natural resource protection programs.  “The Green Budget 2012” highlights the areas where even a small amount of investment will bring huge dividends.  It also details how to eliminate the subsidies from polluting industries to fund protection for land and natural resources.  Key elements of the proposal include a diversion of $900 million from offshore drilling to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as an aggressive expansion of funding for clean energy.  Maintaining current funding for national parks, ocean programs, and national refuges will sustain their contribution of 153 billion for the U.S. economy and 294,000 jobs for the U.S. private sector.

Green Infrastructure: Two February 28th reports by the Center for Clean Air Policy document approaches by innovative cities and counties throughout the U.S. to plan and adapt to emerging effects of climate change.  “The Value of Green Infrastructure for Urban Climate Adaptation” and “Lessons Learned on Local Climate Adaptation from the Urban Leaders Adaptation Initiative” document compelling benefits of green infrastructure like green roofs, urban forestry, and water conservation.  The multiples positive effects of these pioneering initiatives include improvements in community resilience, human health, air quality, energy demand, and economic prosperity.


Toxins and Coal Plants: A March 8th report from the American Lung Association highlights the urgent need for national standards to limit a plethora of hazardous air pollutants emitted from coal-generating power plants.  Coal plants in the U.S. produce more toxic air pollution than any other industrial source – over 386,000 tons each year.  Among the hazardous toxins released are arsenic, lead, mercury, dioxins, formaldehyde, benzene, radioisotopes, and acid gases like hydrogen chloride. These substances are known or suspected causes of cancers, reproductive problems, birth defects, neural damage, heart attacks, and stroke.  Although most coal-fired plants are concentrated in the Midwest and Southeast, these toxins actually hitch-hike to other states on co-emitted particle pollution that kills about 13,000 people a year. The study “Toxic Air: The Case for Cleaning Up Coal-fired Power Plants” details the health effects of these emissions and the technologies available to reduce them.

Energy Efficient Appliances: According to the March 2nd study by the Consumer Federation of America, 95% of the public favors more energy efficient household items like refrigerators, air conditioners, and clothes washers.  Ninety-six percent cited monetary savings as a reason, 92% said they reduce pollution, and 84% favor them because they would curb greenhouse gases.  Seventy-two percent of respondents supported government standards for energy-efficient appliances, and approximately two-thirds of respondents were aware of existing standards.  Respondents aware of current standards were more likely to support them: 74% versus 64%.  Majority of Americans support efficient appliances even if they have to pay more up front.  “Public Attitudes Toward Energy Efficiency and Appliance Efficiency Standards” also notes that average household energy consumption equaled gasoline consumption in 2009.


Nuclear Energy Support: According to a mid-march USA TODAY/Gallup poll of 1,004 adults, 70% of the public has grown more concerned about the safety of nuclear energy since the crisis unfolded at the reactors in Japan.  Thirty nine percent of the surveyed have grown “a lot more concerned”.  The poll’s results also demonstrate that the overall support for nuclear power decreased to 44%, down from 57% about a week before Japan’s earthquake and tsunami created a crisis situation.

Nuclear – Beyond Disapproval: According to a poll of 814 Americans by ORC International on March 15-16, Japan’s nuclear crisis triggered more than decline in support for nuclear energy.  Fifty three percent of Americans would now support a moratorium on new nuclear plants, 73% oppose federal loan guarantees for reactor construction, 73% would favor holding companies liable for damages resulting from nuclear accidents, 74% would support redirecting federal loan guarantees in favor of wind and solar, and 76% are more supportive of clean energy and energy efficiency as alternatives to more nuclear power.  Among other findings, the survey reveals that over half of Americans residing near nuclear reactors do not know what to do in case of emergency.

EPA Budget: A poll of the general public conducted for Bloomberg News by the veteran Iowa firm Selzer & Co. found that 59% of respondents believe major cuts to U.S. EPA would produce “fairly small” or “little difference” with regard to deficit savings.

New Light Bulbs: Re-Run – an oldie, but goodie!  According to a USA TODAY/Gallup poll from February 15th, seventy one percent of U.S. adults have replaced standard light bulbs at home with LEDs.  Eighty four percent say they are “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the alternatives.  Sixty one percent of Americans call the 2007 legislation that requires incandescent light bulbs to be more efficient a “good” law.


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