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Advocates to State: No Nuclear Power in Clean Energy Standard


Opponents of nuclear power are asking Central New Yorkers to register their opinions at hearings Wednesday as the state prepares to include nuclear energy as part of its “clean energy standard.”  Some are worried too many exceptions are being made for a struggling industry that should not be defined as “clean.”

  Tommy Rock is a Navajo doctoral student and researcher at Northern Arizona University who recently joined activists in Albany to shed light on a part of the nuclear cycle that might get forgotten; generations of harm from the mining of uranium on indigenous lands across the southwest.

"Nobody talks about how the communities are impacted from those areas that have had uranium ore or mining in the past," Rock said.  "Many of my relatives are former miners, and a lot of them died.  It's still going on today.  My uncle actually has cancer, and some of my friends died of cancer."

Rock says studies are trying to determine if other long term health effects of uranium could be linked to cognitive difficulties.  Then there’s the impact on the environment, including soil and water contamination from abandoned mines.  Rock says there are more than 500 on the Navajo nation itself, and 15,000 across the west that could be affecting livestock and pregnant women and their babies.

"For those mines and mills to be cleaned up, it's going to cost a lot more than what they're making," Rock said.  "I've noticed a lot of people file for bankruptcy, and they don't clean up the mine.  There needs to responsibility for those clean-ups."

That’s part of the reason why Jessica Maxwell with the Alliance for a Green Economy wonders how responsible it is to include nuclear power as part of the state’s clean energy standard.  She says the current proposal essentially bails out an energy that is no longer economically viable.

"If we really look honestly at what goes into nuclear power, from the mining and milling to processing to the operation to the waste at the end...they want to create a tier for nuclear subsidize that and force the rate payers into paying for this industry that cannot survive on its own."

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
Opponents of nuclear power gathered back in March to urge the state not to include nuclear power in its clean energy standard, and instead support renewable sources.

Maxwell says instead, the money should be used to support a transition to renewable sources like solar and wind.  Researcher Tommy Tock says to say nuclear energy has zero emissions is misleading.

"If you look at the big picture, there's greenhouse gases being emitted from the beginning," Rock said.  "It's not feasible in the long run.  Those who are talking about no carbon emissions, they need to educate themselves and understand the whole nuclear cycle and the communities that are being impacted."

The state Department of Public Service will hold two public hearings Wednesday at 2 and 6 p.m. at the Liverpool Public Library 310 Tulip Street.  

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at