German Greens Surge Ahead In State Elections

Thanks to Die Grüne Washington for the link:

German Greens have surged to second place in state elections in southern Germany.  Green Party leader Winfried Kretschmann will likely become the first minister (equivalent of Governor) in coalition with the third place Social Democratic Party.

The success of the Greens is due to a dissatisfaction with politics as usual and a reaction against nuclear power after the disasters in Japan.   Germany gets 28% of its power from nuclear reactors; the U.S. only 20%.

Yet people in Germany enjoy a more open democratic system than here in the U.S.  Dissatisfaction with the current government – and in particular with nuclear power – put new representatives into the state government.    Germany is going to have the opportunity to try Green policies at the state level.  We expect and wish them the best over the next few years.


Read more:

Confronting Nuclear Apologists: Tom Clements vs Lindsey Graham

2010 SC Green Party candidate for Senate Tom Clements confronted pro-nuclear Senator Graham at a press conference on Saturday. Graham has taken more than $40,000 in campaign contributions from the nuclear industry.

Clements is Southeast Nuclear Policy Coordinator for Friends of the Earth.  He and the organization do excellent work in South Carolina’s environmental movement.  Graham was touring Duke Power’s Oconee Nuclear Station in support of plans to build 6 new nuclear reactors in and around South Carolina.

The Oconee nuclear plant has serious safety issues, which were discussed in a recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.  Friends of the Earth and Clements want to keep these safety issues in the public eye.

On his campaign’s Facebook page, Clements described the interaction as follows:

…on Tuesday, I faced off against a panicked Senator Lindsey Graham who was touting for the nuclear industry at the Oconee nuclear plant – at a “secret” news conference in the visitor center. I couldn’t resist crashing it. I showed FEC reports about how much Lindsey got from the nuclear industry in 2009-2010 – about $45,000, more than 1/3 of his PAC donations. Like DeMint, we’ve got another South Carolina snake amongst us, who is exploiting government to benefit special interests.

The State quotes Graham responding to Clements:

The senator faced criticism Tuesday from anti-nuclear activist Tom Clements, who disputed that all of the problems were resolved. Clements also said the press event was little more than an attempt to advance an industry on which Graham relies for campaign funds.

Clements gave reporters data showing that Graham has received in the past two years about $40,000 in campaign contributions from those sympathetic to the nuclear industry, such as major power companies. Clements, who is with Friends of the Earth, raised those questions during a press briefing after the tour.

“The reason people in the nuclear power industry support me is because I believe in what they do,” Graham told Clements. “I don’t get any money from your organization because I disagree with you.”

The nuclear industry is scrambling to fill the pages of The State with enough public relations twaddle to cover up the radioactive disaster in Japan.   Graham is a long-time advocate for nuclear power, as is his colleague in the Senate, Jim DeMint.

Both Senators from South Carolina favor reprocessing nuclear waste at the Savannah River Site.  Reprocessing will mean storing spent nuclear rods in SC.   The exposure of the spent rods in spent fuel pools at the Fukushima plant in Japan are a part of the ongoing disaster there.

In addition to the used fuel stored on site at reactors in and around the state, hundreds of thousands of gallons of irradiated liquid waste and sludge are stored at the Savannah River Site.  Graham and DeMint have proposed bringing nuclear waste to SRS from around the country for reprocessing.   Without a permanent waste storage facility, that reprocessed waste will likely stay in SC.

Graham is correct that the nuclear industry supports him because of his support for nuclear power.   It is also accurate to say that the tens of thousands of dollars he’s received from the nuclear industry interest have swamped the tens and twenties from nuclear power opponents.  When political donations determine the discourse, then only the interests of the rich and powerful are heard.

Further Reading:

Rep. Tim Scott of Charleston Would Send Workers Begging

Here in South Carolina we are used to public officials who despise the freedom of working people to associate in unions.   An elected official can always work to make the situation worse.    Tim Scott, the new Representative from Charleston and the Grand Strand, is not wasting time to side against working people in labor disputes.

h/t to for noticing this:

All around the country, right-wing legislators are asking middle class Americans to pay for budget deficits caused mainly by a recession caused by Wall Street; they are attacking workers’ collective bargaining rights, which has provoked a huge Main Street Movement to fight back.

Now, a group of House Republicans is launching a new stealth attack against union workers. GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (OH), Tim Scott (SC), Scott Garrett (NJ), Dan Burton (IN), and Louie Gohmert (TX) have introduced H.R. 1135, which states that it is designed to “provide information on total spending on means-tested welfare programs, to provide additional work requirements, and to provide an overall spending limit on means-tested welfare programs.”

Much of the bill is based upon verifying that those who receive food stamps benefits are meeting the federal requirements for doing so. However, one section buried deep within the bill adds a startling new requirement. The bill, if passed, would actually cut off all food stamp benefits to any family where one adult member is engaging in a strike against an employer:

The bill also includes a provision that would exempt households from losing eligibility, “if the household was eligible immediately prior to such strike, however, such family unit shall not receive an increased allotment as the result of a decrease in the income of the striking member or members of the household.”

Yet removing entire families from eligibility while a single adult family member is striking would have a chilling effect on workers who are considering going on strike for better wages, benefits, or working conditions — something that is especially alarming in light of the fact that unions are one of the fundamental building blocks of the middle class that allow people to earn wages that keep them off food stamps.

With a record 42 million Americans on food stamps during these poor economic times, it appears that the right is simply looking for more ways to hurt working class.

The article goes on to point out that numerous sanctions already exist against workers in the current law.

Lax Safety, Poor Procedures At Darlington Nuke Plant

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a damning report on the nuclear power plant operated in Darlington, SC by Progress Energy, known as HB Robinson. The same company operates the Southport plant near Wilmington, NC.

The entire report is worth reading as it reveals the plethora of problems which exists in operational plants.  None of the problems were disastrous.  However, they manner in which the plant operators and regulators handled these issues does indicate how well they might respond to a serious event.

Progress Energy’s H.B. Robinson Plant sits in Darlington, SC, north of the fault zone responsible for the 1886 Charleston Earthquake.  While the likelihood of such an earthquake is unknown, there is ample geologic evidence of strong quakes occurring along the Charleston fault.   The South Carolina Emergency Management Division maintains an earthquake awareness site here, which links to a 609 page report on the Comprehensive Seismic Risk and Vulnerability Study for the State of South Carolina.  Given the demonstrated ineffectiveness of NRC oversight of the Robinson plant under ordinary conditions, we have to seriously question whether Progress Energy, the NRC or the SC government is equipped to cope with an earthquake.

The state of SC produced a 609 page report on earthquake disaster preparedness in 2001.   What the report has to say on power stations in general is worrisome.

The electric power generating facilities that were visited during this study were braced steel frame structures with tall exhaust stacks. They were determined to be of low seismic design and poor construction. Nuclear facilities were assumed to be of high seismic design with superior construction.

Comprehensive Seismic Risk and Vulnerability Study for the State of South Carolina. South Carolina Emergency Preparedness Division. Page 183.

As The State paper notes the conditions and response at the Darlington plant raise serious questions about the ability of the state’s nuclear operators to cope with emergencies.

Inspectors studying safety questions at more than a dozen U.S. nuclear plants last year found the most serious concerns in South Carolina — at a 40-year-old Darlington County atomic power station that experienced two fires and equipment failures, a new report says.

To say that the fires and the management failures “raise concerns” is an understatement.   The report calls Progress Energy’s handling of the incidents “unbelievably poor“.
The report is also directed at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  The NRC exists to regulate the operations of these nuclear plants. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that in many cases the NRC was effective in stopping plant operators from taking unsafe actions.  In other cases, as at the Darlington Plant, the NRC was ineffective.
For example, at the Oconee nuclear plant, also in SC:

NRC inspectors averted a possible safety problem by refusing to accept plant operators’ rationale for allowing a component in Units 2 and 3 to go untested after a similar component in Unit 1 had failed.

The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010, UCS, p.30.

The report also criticizes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for clouding the problems at plants with a lack of transparency.  Unspecified security concerns at Duke Power prompted NRC action, but almost nothing is known about the problem, the regulation, or the response of Duke.
Security problems prompted the NRC to conduct a special inspection. Details of the problems, their causes, and their fixes are not publicly available…However, the cover letter sent to the plant owner with the SIT report is publicly available, and indicates that the NRC identified one Green violation (NRC 2010r).
Green violations indicate problems of “very low safety significance.”    So, it does seem possible for the NRC to regulate plants that are currently operational under good conditions, although, as the report notes, they are not forthcoming about security concerns, perhaps for good reason.
The UCS report on the Robinson reactor in Darlington, however, shows how “years of programmatic failures” create cumulative problems at nuclear plants.   There were two serious incidents at HB Robinson in six months.  The report is too long to reproduce here, but is very much worth reading.

Fukushima Radioactive Release Should Serve as Warning Greens Urge Obama to Withdraw Loan Guarantees for Nukes

For constantly updated news on the disasters in Japan, we suggest BBC News:


Georgia Green Party

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

For further information, contact:
Bruce Dixon, 678-298-9463 x3
Press Secretary, Georgia Green Party

“We are horrified, but not at all surprised by this latest nuclear accident,” said Denice Traina, a health-care worker residing in Augusta Georgia and former co-chair of the Georgia Green Party. “Fukushima has now joined Chernobyl and Three Mile Island as beacons to the human folly of boiling water with nuclear fission.”

News agencies from around the world are reporting on a Saturday explosion at a nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan which destroyed the containment building housing a nuclear power reactor, triggering a radiation leak. The disaster was set off by an earthquake which hit 8.9 on the Richter scale and the resultant tsunami. The explosion and resulting fire were caught on video and have been published to youtube.

In 2010, the Obama Administration announced tax-payer financed loan guarantees for the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Georgia.

“Greens in Georgia and elsewhere urge the administration to reverse itself on the insanity of using public assets to finance a new round of nuclear construction,” said Adam Shapiro, Co-Chair of the Georgia Green Party, resident of Atlanta and a radio show host. “Private capital has known for years what a poor investment nuclear power is. If not for these taxpayer backed loan guarantees and the immunity from liability provided by the ill-advised Congressional Price-Anderson Act, the nuclear industry would have long ago succumbed to market forces.”

Engineering firms and bond financiers still stand to make tremendous profits from the industry, if public tax dollars can be found to underwrite the failed technology. Heralding a new generation of safe nuclear reactors, fission is being sold as a ‘carbon-free energy’. That can only be said if one ignores the tremendous carbon footprint of the nuclear fuel cycle. Greens urge investments instead in solar, wind and geothermal technologies which would harness the Earth’s solar income, rather than tapping its fossile fuel savings.

“While Fukushima underscores the insanity of the Yucca proposal to store nuclear wastes over a fault line, the 1986 explosion in the Ukraine shows us you don’t have to build a reactor on a fault line to incur these risks,” said Traina, whose kids and grandchild all live within thirty miles of Plant Vogtle. Studies have documented nearly a million radiation-related deaths since the April 26th, 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which led to nuclear fallout and raised background radiation levels throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

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