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Syracuse-Area Residents Protest Cuomo's Support of Nuclear Power on Fukushima Meltdown Anniversary

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Madison Schleicher
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WAER News

More than a dozen concerned Syracuse-area residents marked the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan by gathering in front of the state office building to criticize Governor Cuomo’s support of the industry.

Clean energy advocate Renee Vogelsang said the Prime Minister of Japan has since become a fierce nuclear critic, saying Japan should eliminate its dependence on nuclear energy.

“In New York, we should heed this warning,” Vogelsang said. “We are here to call on Governor Cuomo to learn the lessons of Fukushima. We need to reduce our reliance on nuclear power here and phase out nuclear power plants a quickly as possible.”  

But the protesters are concerned that Cuomo is going in the other direction, by pushing the Public Service Commission to give what they call a “bailout” to the nuclear power industry. 

Onondaga Nation counsel Joe Heath has a better idea.

“What the governor should be doing with the ratepayers’ money is creating green jobs, just as he did with the Solar City in Buffalo,” Heath said.  “If we invest in the renewable future, then we will have jobs for generations yet to come.”

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Credit Madison Schleicher / WAER News
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WAER News
The protesters pose in front of the state office building on E. Washington St.

Meanwhile, there’s concern that the cost of subsidizing the nuclear power industry could be passed on to electricity ratepayers. 

Syracuse Common Councilor at Large Jean Kessner said that’s not right.

“We have people now who can’t afford to pay their electric costs, but we would subsidize energy and charge the people who live in the city of Syracuse,” Kessner said.

Kessner said she’s also concerned about Syracuse residents who would be vulnerable to any meltdown of the Nile Mile Point plants about 30 miles away.

LESSONS LEARNED?

Program Director of Alliance for a Green Economy Jessica Azulay says  Kessner’s fear is not unfounded. According to an Alliance press release, an investigation published by seven electrical engineers at the Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC) stated there is a “major vulnerability” in all nuclear reactors in the U.S. that could cause loss of power to safety systems, initiating a meltdown.

If a meltdown were to occur at either FitzPatrick or Nine Mile Point 1, contaminants at those plants could breach, exposing the surrounding population to radiation. Azulay said the Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC) invested FitzPatrick after Fukushima, and they found it could be vulnerable to a hydrogen explosion if that vent is used.

 “There’s no real plan to protect the public if a meltdown occurs at that reactor,” Azulay said. “This is why, among many reasons, we are very relieved to hear FitzPatrick is closing down.”

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 srwillis@syr.edu.