Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Looking for the Union Label

300px-IBEW_Logo The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) represents a great many workers at nuclear energy plants, but has been notably silent on the events in Japan and what it means for American nuclear plants. Until now, that is:

The IBEW believes that our nation’s nuclear energy industry is well-prepared to deal with any events as potentially harmful as earthquakes and tsunamis. We represent more than 15,000 workers at 42 plants across North America in one of the most well-regulated, tightly-run industries in the world. Nuclear operators and workers are professional and highly-trained, and their facilities have a record of standing up to challenges:

  • Reactors are designed to withstand maximum projected earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • Louisiana’s Waterford station maintained safe operation following Hurricane Katrina.
  • Illinois’ IBEW-run Quad Cities station withstood tornados twice in the 1990s.
  • Following 9/11, plant designs and practices were upgraded to resist aircraft impact.
  • All U.S. nuclear plants undergo multiple safety drills overseen by federal agencies.

And it doesn’t forget what this is about:

We admire the plant workers in Japan who are demonstrating courage under enormously difficult conditions to repair their facilities. At the same time, we feel it is necessary to draw a distinction between Japan’s industry and our own, while reminding the public that one unique incident – however dire – does not provide adequate context from which to base sound decisions regarding the future of our clean power generation.

A very good point and one that does seem to be penetrating the minds and opinions of policymakers and commentators.

We’ll have a story about the IBEW and other unions at NEI’s Insight newsletter site soon. I’ll provide a link when it is live.


Justin Pemberton’s film The Nuclear Comeback aims to be a fair, even-handed look at the nuclear energy industry, notably the embrace of it by those who see it as a means to produced a lot of emission-free electricity – which, of course, it is.

In a world living in fear of climate change and global warming, the nuclear industry is now proposing itself as a solution. It claims that nuclear power generation produces zero carbon emissions... and people are listening. [Maybe because it’s true.] The result is the beginning of a global nuclear renaissance, with 27 nuclear power stations under construction, and another 136 to be commenced within the next decade.

I can say the film is better than the write-up for it. Try this:

Despite nuclear power's new environmental benefits, detractors claim that it's producing a 100,000-year legacy of radioactive waste, for which there is not yet any permanent storage, that the power stations are known terrorist targets, and that the industry, in addition to its links to nuclear weapons, has a reputation for accidents and cover-ups.

Plus, they serve stewed kittens in the plant cafeterias.

But don’t let all this put you off – it’s an interesting work that tries to give all sides a voice. You can watch the whole thing for free here.

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