Saturday, December 01, 2007

TWiN 50 - The Anti-Nuclear Andrew Twins - Spano and Cuomo

Listen to the Podcast Here


  • Andrew Cuomo continues father's anti-nuclear legacy.
  • Spano Boycotts Emergency Drills - does it really matter when they rarely participate anyway?

A story hit the news wires this week that REALLY caused my blood pressure to go up! Actually there were two stories like that this week - both in my home state of New York. New York politics have always been pretty cut throat, and some elected officials have chosen to play to the anti-nuclear fears of the uninformed in order to win votes. You've heard me talk about former governor Mario Cuomo, and how he succeeded in shutting down the then new Shoreham nuclear power plant and paid off billions of dollars in construction debt by passing it on to tax-payers.

Andrew Cuomo continues father's anti-nuclear legacy.

Well, it looks like his son Andrew is following in dad's footsteps. Andrew used his father's name to get elected to the position of New York Attorney General and now he's using his new position to carry on the anti-nuclear legacy left unfinished by dear old dad. On November 15, Cuomo led an effort by five other state attorney generals to demand the NRC change the way the review and approval license extensions for nuclear plants. The letter was also signed by Attorneys General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Beau Biden III of Delaware, Lisa Madigan of Illinois, Gregory B. Stumbo of Kentucky and William H. Sorrell of Vermont, according to a statement from Cuomo's office. Funny - neither Kentucky nor Delaware have nuclear plants, and Kentucky's state laws, designed to protect the coal industry, are some of the toughest in the nations when it comes to licensing nuclear plants.

In his letter and in the press release that accompanied it Cuomo regurgitated the anti's battle cry that the potential for terrorist acts and earthquakes be specifically evaluated in license extension requests. This is the same request that's argued by anti-nuclear groups in California, New Jersey, and elsewhere. It's also one the NRC has answered multiple times: the potential threat from terrorist acts and earthquakes is a matter of on-going regulation and is NOT unique to plants undergoing a license renewal. Since all the US nuclear plants are already being evaluated and regulated against these threats, it makes no sense to include them in the license renewal process.

Cuomo, of course, knows this, but Indian Point Nuclear Plant in his state is undergoing the license renewal process, so there's political gain to be had. He want to run for Governor and he's doing everything to keep his name in the news as someone who is fighting for the safety of his voters.

The other thing Cuomo said that really agitated me: “The NRC should have learned a lesson from this summer’s earthquake in Japan, which forced the emergency shutdown of the world’s largest nuclear plant and resulted in the release of radioactive material into the air and water. Our letter illustrates the concern states across the nation have about nuclear power plant safety.” Hey Andrew, didn't you get the word? The Kashiwazaki nuclear plant weathered that massive earthquake "better than expected" and there was absolutely zero safety impact to the plant workers or the public. What do you expect? There's no reason to let the truth stand in the way of a good story, right Andrew?

In researching this story I came across another fact worth mentioning; Cuomo has appointed Katherine Kennedy to the post of Special Deputy Attorney General of NY and she is in change of this issue for him. Ms Kennedy is the former General Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a group that is working to rid the earth of the plague of nuclear power plants. If you go to the NRDC web site you'll find they place nuclear plants in the same risk category as nuclear weapons. Cuomo is surrounding himself with people who have the same anti-nuclear bias as he does.

I'm no expert in the Kennedy family genealogy, but there's another interesting twist. Andrew Cuomo was married to Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, and they have three children. I wonder if Katherine Kennedy is any relation? Oh the tangled web we weave!

If that first story didn't get my heart rate going, the next one sure did…

Spano Boycotts Emergency Drills - does it really matter when they rarely participate anyway?

Andrew Spano, the county executive for Westchester County NY released a statement on Thursday November 29 that the county would "boycott" participation in emergency drills with the Indian Point nuclear plant because he was "tired of Entergy's lack of commitment and appalling lack of preparation during practice drills." This one really ticked me off, because I have relevant personal experience.

Up until recently I was a member of the emergency response organization for Indian Point. In fact, it was my job to interface with state and county representatives in one of the emergency facilities. Spano's charge that Entergy doesn't take emergency drills seriously is ludicrous. I've participated in at least a dozen practice emergency drills at Indian Point, plus three or four evaluated exercises. I've also been there for real events, for example during the northeast electrical blackout a few years ago. The plant staff has always taken emergency preparation very seriously, and has gone out of their way to do an exemplary job. In fact, I wonder how Spano made his assessment since at much of the time the Westchester County representatives don't show up for the training drills! There have been times when the plant staff has to designate employees to "act" as county representatives because the state and counties decide not to participate! Going back to the night of the NE blackout, to my recollection the county representatives choose not to participate then either!

So Andrew Spano - tell me again how you came to your conclusion? The people who were there know better, and thanks to the Internet we can call your bluff.


John Wheeler

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