The Daily Gamecock

Green Quad speakers discuss nuclear power's harmful effects

No Nukes Tour visits campus

All across the South, nuclear power companies are setting up shop, causing tax increases and endangering the environment and human lives, according to Howie Hawkins.

“Nuclear energy is the most unsuccessful and destructive industry in history,” Hawkins said Tuesday during a lecture sponsored by Sustainable Carolina.

Hawkins, the green candidate in New York’s 2010 gubernatorial election, is traveling the Southeast to expose the negatives of nuclear energy with the No Nukes Tour, organized by the Southern Anti-Racism Network.

According to Hawkins and Southern Anti-Racism Network founder, Theresa El-Amin, nuclear energy is causing serious environmental damage across the country, particularly the Southeast.

“Nuclear companies receive huge government subsidies to build a plant,” Hawkins said. “This causes citizens to pay more in taxes for a plant that they don’t even know will work. Half the time the project goes bankrupt and taxpayers never see any of their money again.”

The speakers said this process of raising taxes before the project has been completed or even started is known as Construction Work in Progress, meaning that regular Americans, who have to act as investors, are paying for something that does not and may not ever exist.

“That’s how we appeal to the Republicans and the folks who just may not care about nuclear energy,” El-Amin said. “We make them realize they are paying for nothing.”

The Savannah River Site in Aiken is upping the nuclear ante for protestors and advocates alike.

SRS is to become the “temporary” holding place of nuclear waste across the country. The waste will have to be shipped to South Carolina, a dangerous venture within itself, and stored in specialized containers that are cooled with water from the river.

Tegan Plock, executive board member of Students Advocating a Greener Environment, said that there are a few main issues with the SRS plan.

“One problem is that the waste containers require massive amounts of water for cooling processes,” Plock said. “South Carolina is in a drought and people have a problem with good drinking water being spoiled on nuclear waste. Plus, once this waste is there, it will probably be there forever.”

The second point of debate is over safety.

In 1986 the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine suffered an explosion and released large amounts of radioactive contaminates into the environment.

“If South Carolina was to be hit by a strong earthquake, it is possible that the waste containers could be compromised and contaminants would leak into the Savannah River,” said Scott West, a first-year librarian information science graduate student. “It could destroy the ecosystem and endanger human lives for hundreds of miles around.”

El-Amin said that the first step of putting a stop to the 36 nuclear energy plants proposed for construction in the southeast is for students to get involved with organizations around campus.

“Young people bring energy to the cause and will not accept the government’s lack of action,” El-Amin said.

South Carolina is home to six major nuclear plants, not including the Savannah River Site. Three of these plants are operated by Duke Energy, who recently joined with USC and Sustainable Carolina to work towards a more environmentally friendly campus and world.