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Why is the Biden Administration pushing to re-open the Palisades Nuclear power plant, when nuclear power is dangerous and unsustainable?

May 18, 2023

Editor’s Note: I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and moved to Michigan the exact same day that the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster happened. The public health consequences and environmental contamination of that disaster has had lasting implications for people and eco-systems in Central Pennsylvania. 

On Monday, MLive ran an article entitled, Granholm ‘hopeful’ about $1B in federal loans to restart Palisades nuclear plant.

The article, primarily provides perspectives on why funding the re-opening of the Palisades nuclear plant would be a good thing. There are a total of five different people who are cited in the article, with the first four being people who are supportive of nuclear power, including U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm; Nick Culp, a spokesperson for Holtec International, which owns the Palisades plant; Matt Helm, spokesperson for the Michigan Public Service Commission; and Brian Wheeler, a spokesperson for Consumer’s Energy.

The fifth voice to be cited in the article, which was the only critical voice on nuclear power, was Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist for a group called Beyond Nuclear. The Beyond Nuclear perspective was only provided at the end of the article, with an emphasis on nuclear waste, even though there are numerous reasons to oppose nuclear power. For example, GreenPeace provides 6 main arguments against the use of Nuclear power. There is also an excellent article from Beyond Nuclear, which appeared on the site Truthout, which not only refers to the unsustainable nature of nuclear power, but the author makes it clear that even the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is pushing nuclear power, stating: 

Embracing or remaining agnostic on nuclear power may also delay the transition to renewables, as running these power plants requires subsidies, starving renewables of funding. There are now even efforts to include nuclear power in state Renewable Energy Portfolios — designed to increase a state’s percentage of electricity generation from renewable energy sources — which will divert available funds away from renewables and to a financially failing industry that is far from “renewable.” Renewables will reduce more carbon emissions faster and for less cost than other energy choices, especially nuclear. Propping up unreliable, financially failing nuclear power plants impedes progress on climate change and is counter-productive to the goals of the GND (Green New Deal). 

So why have I not seen any pushback from Climate groups or other Environmental non-profits with this new announcement from Energy Secretary Granholm? I looked at all the major environmental organizations across the state and could find nothing on the plans by the Biden Administration to provide $1 Billion for the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant. Of course, this should not comes as a surprise, since most of these same statewide environmental groups praised Biden’s nomination of Granholm to be the Energy Secretary. GRIID was critical of this choice back in December of 2020, where we provided reasons why Granholm did not have a great track record on major ecological issues while Governor of Michigan. We wrote:

  • As Governor, Granholm worked with the Obama administration on the bailout of the auto industry. This led to forcing auto workers to accept further cuts to benefits and wages, but it also meant that the fossil fuel-dependent auto industry would get public money to continue to produce gas guzzling vehicles, thus normalizing fossil fuel consumption.
  • Granholm was the Governor in Michigan during the Enbridge Kalamazoo River oil crimes. Granholm was critical of the clean up efforts by Granholm, but there was NO call by the Granholm administration to shut down the Enbridge Line 5 in Michigan. Not calling for a shut down of Line 5 after the disastrous oil crime in the Kalamazoo River basin should give us all reason to not blindly celebrate the Biden nomination of Granholm.
  • While some eco-groups are claiming that Granholm opposed the Keystone XL an the Dakota Access pipelines, I am unaware of her actual participation in resisting these pipelines and actively supporting the indigenous-led resistance that continues to this day.

We should also push back against the argument that closing nuclear power plants would necessarily mean bringing on more fossil fuels. For example, New York State is on target to meet its 100 percent zero carbon by 2040 climate goals, despite closing its Indian Point 2 and 3 reactors in 2020 and 2021. This is due to political foresight and planning which saw New York enact “ambitious climate and clean energy legislation” in 2019, which will achieve these goals regardless of a nuclear shutdown, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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