Posted: Monday, July 7, 2014 12:03 am
By IDAHO PRESS-TRIBUNE STAFF
On March 28, 1979, the unit two reactor at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant partially melted. The event is the most serious accident in U.S. nuclear power plant history and lead to changes in nuclear power plant operations, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The event also had an impact over 2,000 miles away in a Boise park, which led to the creation of the Snake River Alliance. The Idaho Press-Tribune found out more about the nonprofit alliance, why it advocates for clean energy and keeps a close eye on all things nuclear.
Idaho Press-Tribune: What is your organization’s mission or goal and how do you accomplish it?
Snake River Alliance: The Snake River Alliance serves as Idaho’s nuclear watchdog and advocate for renewable and nuclear-free energy. We raise community awareness about the dangers of nuclear waste, weapons and power while working to identify and promote sustainable alternatives. We do our work through advocacy, collaboration, education and grassroots organizing.
IPT: What is the history of your organization?
SRA: The Snake River Alliance was founded in 1979 when a few Idahoans met in Boise’s Julia Davis Park because of their concerns about the recent Three Mile Island nuclear accident and about the Idaho National Laboratory’s routine practice of injecting hazardous and radioactive waste into the Snake River Aquifer. We have served as Idaho’s grassroots nuclear watchdog since then and embraced clean energy advocacy in 2006. Over the years, we have helped the people of Idaho end nuclear waste injection into the Snake River Aquifer, stop three nuclear weapons plants and a plutonium waste incinerator from being built and slow the flood of nuclear waste into Idaho. We are one of the strongest advocates for cleanup of nuclear contamination at INL and challenge bringing more nuclear waste to Idaho. In 2011 we launched our “Choose Efficiency, Lose the Coal Campaign” to galvanize public opposition to Idaho’s reliance on dirty coal-fired power imported from out-of-state. We’ve published rigorously researched analyses (“Idaho’s Energy Future” and “Kicking Idaho’s Coal Habit”) and successfully challenged Idaho Power’s attempt to add coal plant retrofit costs to people’s electricity bills. We also helped lead opposition to Idaho Power’s plan to stop buying homeowner-generated solar power.
IPT: Why is it important to be a watchdog on nuclear weapons, waste and power?
SRA: Nuclear materials are inherently dangerous and the wastes from nuclear weapons production and nuclear power research have already harmed Idaho. We give Idahoans an independent view of INL’s pollution and its cleanup and try to ensure that no more damage occurs. Furthermore, (we believe) nuclear power is so slow and so expensive that pursuing it actually impedes efforts to address greenhouse gas emissions.
IPT: Why is it important to be an advocate for clean energy in Idaho?
SRA: Idaho is at a crossroads in planning our energy future. Most Idahoans don’t realize nearly half of our electricity comes from out-of-state coal plants. As we learn more about where our energy comes from, more Idahoans are advocating for cleaner electricity alternatives that are now competitive with or even cheaper than traditional energy resources. These cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy resources won’t burden utility customers with the cost of future environmental regulations. Greenhouse gas emissions will be regulated soon in one way or another, so it’s best to act now to minimize the cost of compliance, and most important, we will not be adding to what we all know is an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
IPT: How do you raise money? How do you use that money?
SRA: Our members pay dues and make larger contributions as well. We receive funding from a number of foundations, most of which have strong links to Idaho. We use nearly all our funds to directly support our nuclear watchdog and clean energy advocacy work. We provide accurate, timely, and cumulative information that helps educate and mobilize individual concern into a broad, credible force in the public arena. We routinely monitor public and internal Department of Energy documents and respond as needed and track Public Utility Commission cases and opportunities for input and influence. We work with state, regional and national allies and gather our members and others for fellowship and activism.
IPT: What can local residents do to help your organization?
SRA: First, they can join the alliance to stay up to date on what’s happening in Idaho’s nuclear and energy world and learn how we as Idahoans can engage in the issues we’re all concerned about. Joining the alliance is also the best way to have your voice heard at the utilities, the legislature, the Public Utilities Commission and by the federal government as well. Any time local residents get involved, their voices are leveraged with the alliance’s policy work, and combined, we can have greater impact. Readers can also come to our website to learn about coming opportunities to participate and be heard in these and other issues.
IPT: Any events coming up?
SRA: A lot of them! The best place to look is on our calendar at snakeriveralliance.org but they include opportunities to participate in Idaho Power’s every-other-year resource planning, which will begin late summer or early fall. Members and supporters can join us for a tour of INL in the fall to see the cleanup progress there. There will also be opportunities to comment to the federal government on its proposed rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants, and on how the Pacific Northwest plans to meet its electricity needs over the next 20 years. We post all events and opportunities to participate in energy and nuclear issues on our website.