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Nuclear energy debate comes to Ketchum: Watchdog group promotes renewable energy sources

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Nuclear energy debate comes to Ketchum: Watchdog group promotes renewable energy sources
Idaho Mountain Express
June 16, 2006
By REBECCA MEANY

Nuclear power accounts for nearly 20 percent of the total electricity generated in the United States. The Snake River Alliance, a Boise-based nuclear watchdog group, would like to see renewable energy sources nudge that option aside.

Nuclear energy is seeping into the public debate again in part because of declining oil reserves and global climate change caused by burning fossil fuels, said SRA Executive Director Jeremy Maxand.

“In response to major environmental issues we’re facing now—the end of oil and global warming—we’re seeing a push to revitalize nuclear energy in this country,” he said. “We need to find some kind of replacement fuel. We can meet our future energy needs without fossil fuels or nuclear energy. We can achieve our projected energy needs using cleaner, alternative energy sources.”

Maxand and Vanessa Crossgrove Fry, SRA’s development director, spoke Wednesday to a group of approximately 15 people at Ketchum’s Roosevelt Tavern.

“There are too many unresolved problems for us to be making any decisions about nuclear reactors,” Maxand said. “There is still no acceptable long-term solution to what we do with the waste streams that come out of nuclear reactors.”

A proposed repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from commercial power plants at Yucca Mountain, Nev., is still being debated.

“It’s not clear when it will be built, yet the government wants to build a whole new generation of reactors,” Maxand said. “By the time they open it, it will be already filled with past (nuclear) activities.”

According to estimates provided by the Alliance, Idaho has enough renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal—so far largely untapped—to provide for all of its energy needs, with enough left over to sell on the open market.

Not represented at the gathering were proponents of nuclear energy.

Idaho Power has stated in a long-term assessment that nuclear power is under consideration to meet a growing demand for energy and a diminishing supply of hydropower.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says that oversight and regulatory requirements have been strengthened at nuclear power plants since 9/11. The commission also maintains that spent nuclear fuel is adequately protected and redundant safeguards are in place at nuclear plants.

That’s not enough to quiet the voices coming out of the Snake River Alliance’s membership, especially as legislators this summer are updating the state’s energy plan.

“We’re at a crossroads in the state of Idaho right now,” Maxand said. “(We need to) make sure that plan is put together in a transparent, fair way. This is our opportunity. Idahoans need to be vocal in their calls for clean and renewable energy sources.”

Web sites
More information on nuclear power can be found on the Snake River Alliance’s Web site at www.snakeriveralliance.org or at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy Web site at www.ne.doe.gov

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