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Working to Stop New Nukes: DC Days with the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability

GA Women's Action for New Directions with Arjun Makhijani

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability’s valuable “DC Days.” Representing the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and the Southern Energy Network (SEN), I was joined by Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions to talk with our Southeastern U.S. Representatives and determine where they stand on the issues.

We met with the offices of Rep. John Barrow, Senator Johnny Isakson, and Rep. Sanford Bishop to specifically address Southern Company’s two new proposed reactors at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Georgia. Although both Reps. Barrow’s and Isakson’s staff at least agreed that monitoring of radiological contaminants should be restored in Georgia, there was little else to be excited about. It seems they all support nuclear power all the way, despite their supposed fiscally conservative philosophies. Plant Vogtle is in Congressman Barrow’s district so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that he has fully adopted the talking points of the nuclear industry.

At the Capitol with GA WAND's Amanda Hill

The point I reiterated at each of the meetings is this: offering up $54 billion in taxpayer-financed conditional loan guarantees as proposed by President Obama for risky, expensive new nuclear reactors is not a fiscally conservative maneuver and is not going to create jobs for Georgians.  I have sent each of them the 2003 Congressional Budget Office Report that estimates the nuclear industry will have a 50% default rate. That’s a 50% chance that the industry will borrow our tax money, not pay it back, and be forgiven their debt: another taxpayer funded bailout for another wealthy and well-connected industry! It will be interesting to see how their supposed “fiscally conservative” approach can be defended if they back the loan guarantees despite this compelling information.

We also met with Charles Lee, Director of the Office of Environmental Justice of the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss the burden that the two new reactors at Plant Vogtle will place on the local Shell Bluff community. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit the community and hear their concerns. So last week it was very inspiring to hear them express their concerns directly to their decision makers and administrators. They spoke of the heavy economic burden their community faces, even after they were promised a new life when the first two reactors were built. They talked about high cancer rates, contaminated water, and rampant poverty. The stories were all too common:  their community was left behind, even as others were relocated out of the immediate impact area of the nuclear reactors that are literally across the river from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) massive Savannah River Site nuclear complex. Mr. Lee promised to follow up in the DOE’s promise to reinstate radiological testing of the water and soil on the Georgia side of the river.

These issues are complex and multi-faceted. The bottom line is this: nuclear power is a problem. It’s not a solution to global warming or achieving energy independence. It only creates more problems in the form of dangerous, highly radioactive waste. It squanders our precious water resources and diverts limited financial resources from truly clean, renewable energies that can create good, safe jobs for local Southeastern communities. It is time for sustainable solutions, not more false solutions.
Now do your part – please sign this petition today to urge your decision makers in Congress to oppose gambling away your tax dollars on risky new nuclear reactors!


March 26, 2010 at 6:40 pm 1 comment

Georgians Raise Concerns Over New Nuclear Reactors – Taking the Message Direct to Obama

The fight to prevent new nuclear reactors from being built in the Southeast was in Georgia this week with lots of excitement around President Obama’s tour of Savannah Technical College where he discussed jobs, economic recovery, and the $8.3 billion in conditional loan guarantees he has allocated to Southern Company for the expansion at Plant Vogtle.  I joined Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), Friends of the Earth (FoE), Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) colleagues and local activists to advocate for a carbon free and nuclear free future and against a taxpayer-financed future riddled with more radioactive nuclear waste.

Can I get my future Carbon Free and Nuclear Free, please?

I was energized for the rally, having just spent time with members of the Shell Bluff Community in Waynesboro (where Plant Vogtle is located) to hear their concerns, answer their questions, and discuss real solutions for their impoverished rural community. Their main concerns centered around jobs, health, and their lack of faith in the industry to provide the former or protect the latter. It was so inspirational to meet a few of the folks who remain strong in their faith and sense of community, despite hard economic times and experiencing a high incidence of recent cancer deaths in their families.

Southern Company wants to add another 2 reactors to this site.

I joined members of groups like Savannah River Keepers, WAND, FoE, SACE and others who are involved in the legal interventions to the proposals for two new reactors at the existing Plant Vogtle site. President Obama justifies the $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for this plant with promises of jobs, but the community has heard this before. They cite stories of a boon and bust that surrounded the construction of the first two reactors in 1980’s, pointing to closed businesses and rotting trailer homes scattered about the county. These folks need real, lasting, sustainable solutions and their skepticism of the nuclear industry’s role is well founded by their experience.

No Nuclear Pork! Without our money, nukes don't stand a chance...

March 9, 2010 at 6:51 pm 1 comment

Tell Congress: “We want renewable solutions, not nuclear problems!”

Throwing money at nuclear will not solve our climate crisis!

All of us here at Southern Energy Network are very disappointed by President Obama’s recent announcement to award the Southern Company over $8 billion in a taxpayer-funded federal loan guarantee for the proposed two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia along the Savannah River. But we’re told that more loan guarantees are going to be announced, likely at several reactor sites proposed right here in the Southeast, and the Administration and proponents of building new nuclear reactors are working to get even more money pumped into this controversial program. We are working hard to stop this reckless spending of taxpayer money.

Join Southern Energy Network (SEN), Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and others as we join together in solidarity to tell Congress that we do not want our tax dollars paying for nuclear!

*The American people are tired of corporate bailouts. In this case, taxpayers would provide the loans and take all the risk. The large utilities would take any profits, and taxpayers would pay for all losses. That is fundamentally unfair to the American people.

Here are some talking points from NIRS:
*Congress should wait and see how the current loans to Georgia Power fare before risking even more taxpayer money on nuclear loans.

*Nuclear power remains dirty and dangerous, as demonstrated by the recent toxic tritium leaks at the Vermont Yankee reactor and elsewhere.

*It would be folly to repeat the mistakes of the past and encourage new reactor construction when we still don’t know how to handle the radioactive waste from existing reactors.

*We need to address the climate crisis with the fastest, cheapest, cleanest and safest means possible of reducing carbon emissions. Nuclear power is the slowest, most expensive, dirtiest and most dangerous technology available. And nuclear power is not carbon-free: its carbon footprint is about six times that of wind, 2-3 times greater than solar, and many times greater than energy efficiency.

**Call Your Representatives Now:  202-224-3121. Need to look them up? Here is where you can find your Senators and Representatives.

For more information, click here.

February 25, 2010 at 8:02 pm 1 comment

Florida Public Service Commission Serves the Public

Earlier this month, Florida Power and Light (FPL) was denied the $1.3 Billion rate increase they requested last fall, only getting $75 million. The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously ruled against the huge increase, citing a struggling economy and questioning FPL’s exorbitant corporate spending habits and high profit margins.

This week, the Public Service Commission ruled once again to serve the public, rejecting Progress Energy’s $500 million rate increase. Both utilities were also forced to reduce their profit margins a couple percentage points.

With much of the rate increase slated to fund the utilities’ proposals to build a total of four new nuclear reactors at the Turkey Point plant and in Levy County, many citizens are taking action. Engaging the PSC since last October, thousands commented on Early Cost Recovery and nuclear. Their message is simple, “Don’t nuke Florida, we need solar in the Sunshine State!”

Public opposition is mounting against increasing rates and forced consumer investment into projects that are financially risky and literally create tons of radioactive waste. The AARP and numerous environmental groups have building grassroots  pressure on the Public Service Commission, urging them to protect the customers pocket and the environment.

FPL and Progress Energy now say that they will be “suspending” their risky nuclear plans . Because their main funding mechanism was Early Cost Recovery, the utilities claim they need the rate increases to attain capital investment from their consumers.  Check here for an interesting analysis of how the utilities are crying wolf about job losses when their true interest is protecting their sharholders.

Although the PSC decisions are good news, the utilities are still pursuing permitting for the new reactors, which is an extremely expensive process.  Utility executives are also claiming huge lay-offs will follow the decision to deny the rate increases. This is questionable, to say the least. Even Governor Crist, a supporter of nuclear who opposed the rate increases, thinks the utilities misleading the public about jobs. You can read his statement here.

Check out more info on FPL here, and get more of the backstory of the whole scene here.

Stay tuned for more exciting updates as the nuclear fiasco continues to unfold in Florida. Folks in communities and on campuses all over  Florida are taking on the nuclear industry in 2010!

January 27, 2010 at 9:27 pm 3 comments

SEN and Bonnie Raitt Rock Out Against Nukes

Teaming up with the Guacamole Fund, Southern Energy Network had the awesome opportunity to promote its our anti-nuclear work in Florida, raise some money, and hang out with Bonnie Raitt. And what a great night it was!

SEN’s Field Director, Stephanie Powell and I worked with 3 amazing volunteers from University of West Florida to inform fans about the nuclear issues currently facing Florida. We encountered tons of folks who were already engaged on the issues and a few more that were in process of going off the grid with solar power installations at their homes. During the show, we took turns going in to enjoy the music. Personally, watching Bonnie perform was quite an experience! Her music has been in my life since I was pretty young, and seeing it live was phenomenal.

Bonnie Raitt, along with a number of other artists, founded a group called Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) that opposes nuclear power in favor of safer, renewable options like solar. To help the cause, they build fundraising into their ticket sales, giving fans the choice to purchase special V.I.P. tickets.  At this Pensacola show, there was a small dessert reception afterward. Bonnie was so careful to spend a few moments with each of the folks there, chatting with them and taking a photo. At the end of it all, we had the pleasure of spending a few minutes with her as well. She is such a genuine person and was very knowledgeable about the complex intricacies of nuclear power, as well as the details of Florida’s specific challenges in the face of this risky industry. It’s great to have folks with such public access on our side, spreading real information to folks about issues that affect us all!



No Nukes, We Need Solar in the Sunshine State!



November 4, 2009 at 6:52 pm Leave a comment

Florida is Power Shifting Away from Nukes and Drilling!

Now, more than ever, Floridians need to stand up and show we are ready to usher in a brighter energy future. An energy future that is just and safe for all and uses truly renewable sources. An energy future that neither relies on fossil fuels nor creates a legacy of radioactive waste for tens of thousands of years. Want solar in the Sunshine State? Florida needs a POWER SHIFT!

Right now, Washington is leading us in the wrong direction. Check out what Senators John Kerry and Lindsey Graham have to say in their  NY Times Op Ed yesterday.

The emphasis Kerry and Graham place on expensive risky nuclear, the mythical “clean coal,” and coastal drilling leaves Florida wondering when the sun will shine on our economy? The United States as a whole needs bold action to protect our climate and secure our energy. Drilling does neither–instead it maintains our dependence on dirty oil, and it does little to reduce our need for foreign oil. Nuclear is the ‘thirstiest‘ energy out there, requiring millions of gallons of water per day. These technologies do not bring the jobs we need, but renewables will!

Florida has a lot to lose in the face climate change, but so much to gain from real solutions. We need solutions that are safe, clean, renewable, and create jobs! Join hundreds of other engaged and passionate young people as we demand a Power Shift in Orlando, FL Oct 23-25 at University of Central Florida campus Arena.

Have 15 minutes? Here are 2 things you can do Right Now:

Attend Florida Power Shift! We were 6,000 strong in DC back in 2007. In March of this year, we doubled that number and really showed our legislators that young people in our country are serious about climate change and are here to support strong action toward real solutions. Now, we are bringing it home to Florida to demand safe and renewable energy. Don’t miss the early Registration Friday 10/16!

Contact the Florida Public Service Commission and tell them you won’t pay for their nuclear reactors! Email and Reference Docket # 090009. Progress Energy and Florida Power and Light want to charge you now for reactors that may never be built. Please contact them today! Need talking points? Check this out.

Please contact me with any questions!

Hope to see you next weekend in Orlando!

Mandy Hancock
Florida Organizer, Southern Energy Network

October 15, 2009 at 3:22 pm Leave a comment

Florida Youth Say “YES” to Green Jobs, Solar Energy, and Campus Efficiency!

This past weekend at University of Florida, over 70 young people from 9 universities across the state joined forces with Southern Energy Network at the Florida Youth Energy Sustainability (YES) Summit. It was an action packed day and a half of workshops and strategizing sessions interspersed with great energy and fun!

Oh, YES to solar in the Sunshine State! NOOOO Nukes!

Oh, YES to solar in the Sunshine State! NO Nukes!

The goals of the summit centered around building relationships, increasing communication, and strategizing upcoming campaigns. The Green Fee campaign got a make over. Students from several schools are creating a committee to escalate the campaign and develop a plan to take on the Florida legislature, this time for a win! The anti-nuclear campaign gained more steam and will be one of the networks primary campaigns this year with plans under way to increase pressure at the state and national levels.

Last, but certainly not least, we talked about the Power Shift campaign and how Florida is going to raise their voices to join the chorus of young people demanding bold climate legislation before United Nations Climate Negotiations in December. Florida is ready to have an awesome event in Orlando on October 24th, just in time for the International Day of Action. Our state has a lot to lose in the face of climate change and we are stepping up to the challenge!

Be sure to stay tuned for more exciting news from Florida! Don’t miss out, make sure you register for Florida Power Shift today!

Rachel Walsh (Florida State) and Alicia (Florida A & M) Say No Nukes, Go Solar!

Rachel Walsh (Florida State) and Alicia (Florida A & M) Say No Nukes, Go Solar!

September 30, 2009 at 5:53 pm 3 comments

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