Sunday, February 05, 2012

Nuclear Power in the US: a Rigged System

The nuclear power program in the United States was set up rigged—to allow the federal government to push atomic energy with state and local governments “pre-empted” on most issues.
That’s what the State of Vermont was confronted with last week as a federal judge blocked the state’s attempts to shut down the accident-plagued Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.
But there’s a way around this federal nuclear fix—the use by states of their power of “eminent domain.” That’s a legal principle going back centuries and is how, commonly, states condemn property for a highway right-of-way if the owners refuse to sell.
The application of the state’s power of “eminent domain” to nuclear power was pioneered in New York State in the 1980s—and was how the completed Shoreham nuclear plant was stopped from opening. That ended the scheme of nuclear promoters to turn Long Island into a “nuclear park” with seven to 11 nuclear plants.
The Long Island Power Act was passed by New York State in 1985 creating a Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) with the power to seize the assets and stock of the utility behind this nuclear scheme, the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO).
The federal government was gung-ho for Shoreham. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had approved the start-up of operations at Shoreham, the first of three nuclear plants to be built on that site, and the construction of two more nuclear plants at Jamesport, to be joined by two more there. More plants would go up between the two with all fronting on the Long Island Sound.
But by enacting the Long Island Power Act that utilized the state’s power of “eminent domain,” New York State made clear that if LILCO persisted with nuclear power, the state would eliminate it.
This strategy can be used by the State of Vermont—and other states—faced by the nuclear juggernaut of the federal government and nuclear industry. Indeed, it’s a strategy that needs to be pursued because it is highly unlikely that federal nuclear officials will be sensible or fair—or uphold democracy.

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