Considering nation's energy options

Conservation, use of renewable resources, alternative sources all part of the mix

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Editor's Note: The League of Women Voters will periodically be submitting articles describing its positions on relevant topics and rationale for taking them.

The League of Women Voters is political, but nonpartisan. No individual candidates are supported. The League encourages the education and active participation of citizens, but, as one member sighed, "We study an issue to death before arriving at a position." Once consensus has finally been reached on a position, all levels of the League from local to national can take action.

Nuclear Energy

Presently, the need for increased energy has become a political, as well as personal issue. Many of our national leaders are calling for accelerated building of power plants including nuclear facilities. Perhaps we should remind ourselves of the complex problems involved with the latter.

NIMBY (Not In My Backyard): Nuclear plants are aging and many of them are located in highly populated areas. If more are to be built, the League supports local citizen discussion armed with full disclosure of information including economic, social and environmental impacts on a community. When a new site is agreed upon, all levels of government should share in the responsibility to provide whatever technical and financial assistance is needed to maintain, and even improve, the environment. STORAGE: Where is the increased amount of radioactive spent fuel going to be stored? Which neighborhood is going to volunteer? Even though the federal government signed a contract agreeing to send fuel to the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada, political and technical problems have yet to be resolved. Consequently, many plants are storing on their present sites.

Closest to home for us in Alaska is the Hanford Nuclear Facility in Washington state. Of the 177 storage tanks on the site, 70 have already leaked about one million gallons of waste into the soil and groundwater, threatening the nearby Columbia River.

TRANSPORTATION: How many citizens want more radioactive wastes traveling through their communities? Among others, we already have medical, defense and research materials being transported.

The League supports the "use of a variety of energy sources, with emphasis on conserving energy and using energy-efficient technologies." It recognizes nuclear power as a component of the energy mix, but opposes increased reliance on it.

The League's energy position includes not only mandatory conservation and the use of renewable resources, but also the exploration of alternative energy sources that consider the entire cycle of energy production. It supports appropriate levels of government taking action to fund "research and development, financial incentives, rate-setting policies and mandatory standards."

For further information on League's study on nuclear energy, "The Nuclear Waste Primer: A Handbook for Citizens" can be purchased through the local League.

Marge Hays is a retired psychology professor and presently serves as vice president of the Central Peninsula League of Women Voters and as chair of the Governor's Commission on Aging.

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