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October 22, 2007
No Nukes’ rockers renew fight decades later
WASHINGTON Jackson Browne says he thought his group of politically active musicians “really dealt the nuclear industry a blow” with a series of 1979 concerts opposing nuclear power.
Nearly three decades later, Browne and fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Bonnie Raitt and Graham Nash are in Washington to resume the fight. The three, all founders of the Musicians for Safe Energy group that organized the No Nukes concerts, are delivering petitions to Congress today urging lawmakers not to make it easier to finance nuclear reactors.
In a 21st century update on the concert series, the trio created a website, NukeFree.org, featuring a YouTube video. It asks viewers to sign a petition opposing a provision in an energy bill before Congress that would expand federal loan guarantees for nuclear plants. Raitt isn’t ruling out an encore of the concerts which produced an album and a movie but said the Internet got the word out quickly.
The group says it collected more than 120,000 supporters.
The musicians’ effort comes as the industry is enjoying what Nuclear Energy Institute spokesman John Keeley calls “a renaissance.”
Last month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepted its first application to build a nuclear power plant since 1978, the year before an accident at the Three Mile Island reactor in central Pennsylvania. Three or four more applications to build reactors could be filed by year’s end, says Scott Peterson, a vice president at the Nuclear Energy Institute. He credits a 2005 bill that streamlined the licensing process for reactors and provided loan guarantees.
The musicians were galvanized into action by new energy legislation that House and Senate negotiators are trying to hammer out. A provision backed by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., would exponentially increase the amount of federally backed loans.
This year, Congress has provided $4 billion for loan guarantees, which Peterson says is enough for one plant. He says the industry requires about $25 billion for reactors now on the drawing board.
Browne is shocked by nuclear’s comeback. “I thought it was a rotting corpse of an industry,” he says.
The Nuclear Energy Institute says 104 reactors in 31 states provide one-fifth of the USA’s electricity without carbon fuels, which contribute to global warming.
Browne says heightened terrorism concerns bolster the argument for looking other sources of power. “The consequences of blowing up a field of wind generators would not be the same as blowing up a train full of nuclear waste,” he says.
The anti-nukes musicians have at least one friend in the corridors of power: Songwriter and guitarist John Hall, who helped found Musicians for Safe Energy, was elected to Congress last year. Hall, D-N.Y., arrived in Washington just in time to perform with his friends at a VIP reception on Capitol Hill Monday night.
On the proposed playlist: “Plutonium is Forever,” a Hall song about the difficulties of disposing of nuclear waste. Browne described it as “rock music for policy wonks.”
Before the show, Browne said Hall’s lack of practice wasn’t a concern “as good a musician as he is.”