By Karl Grossman
The 1st Congressional District of eastern Long Island has a long record of opposition to nuclear power. It is here that because of citizen and governmental opposition, a completed nuclear power plant, Shoreham, was stopped from going into commercial operation–a first for the United States.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex disaster has, according to polls, increased the negative stance on nuclear power in the U.S. causing a majority to now be against it. In eastern Suffolk, with a majority already against nuclear power, that majority is likely to have grown.
So it is surprising that Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton, in a letter earlier this month to a long-time environmental activist, educator and leader in the fight against the Shoreham plant, would declare his support for nuclear power.
“Nuclear energy is clean burning, offers little in the way of emissions, and creates an abundant supply of energy independent of the influence of foreign governments and their policies,” wrote Congressman Bishop in a September 1 letter to Peter Maniscalco of Manorville. Mr. Bishop went on, “I agree with the [Obama] Administration that it should remain part of our domestic energy portfolio in the short and long term, and therefore merits support from the American people.”
“The recent crisis in Japan,” Mr. Bishop continued, “underscores the significant risk posed by the failure of radiation containment systems at nuclear plants. Drawing lessons learned from the crisis in Japan, we must reevaluate the safety of our existing nuclear facilities and whether effective plans are in place for protecting the public if radiation is released. Security policies must be updated to reflect not only the possibility of natural disasters but also the heightened risk of a terrorist attack on nuclear facilities in the U.S. Specifically for our area, the response plan for a potential release at Millstone must take into account the population density within a twenty mile radius of the plant and the limited routes for evacuation from Long Island.”
“I support robust new standards for proper siting, safety, and community input for new nuclear plants,” said the congressman. “Although it is impossible to guarantee the absolute safety of nuclear facilities, our safety advancements must match our nuclear ambitions.”
The letter was prompted by a letter sent to Mr. Bishop by Mr. Maniscalco stating that “the earthquake and ongoing nuclear catastrophe in Japan must be a wake-up call to us all. New nuclear reactors in the United States are unacceptable. It is impossible to imagine given the images from Japan that anyone could ever again confuse nuclear power with ‘clean’ energy.
Please end — immediately — all taxpayer subsidies for nuclear power. I do not want one more penny of my tax dollars going to this dangerous, dirty, and wholly unnecessary industry.”
Commenting on Mr. Bishop’s reply, Mr. Maniscalco said: “Has Congressman Bishop learned nothing from Fukushima? Didn’t Fukushima prove that nuclear power is neither clean nor safe? … He still believes the arrogant assurances of nuclear scientists — like those at Brookhaven Lab, where a new nuclear division has opened.”
“If Representative Bishop can’t hear the arguments of nuclear opponents, maybe he should listen to Wall Street and its many investment bankers who consider nuclear power an investment that is too risky and too costly,” Mr. Maniscalco went on. “But it appears that Mr. Bishop is unwilling to turn away from nuclear power, so he supports publicly subsidizing the construction of new nuclear plants. Why should taxpayers underwrite the costs of filthy, risky, deadly nuclear power?”
As to Mr. Bishop’s reference to “population density within twenty miles” of the two Millstone nuclear plants across the Long Island Sound and evacuation of the public, Mr. Maniscalco noted that the U.S. government directed U.S. citizens within 50 miles of the Fukushima plants to evacuate. That’s a distance which, if there were a major accident at Millstone, would cover most of eastern Long Island — including all of Sag Harbor and neighboring communities.
If voters in the 1st C.D. don’t like Democrat Bishop’s position on nuclear power, their voting options are likely to be limited in the next Congressional election. Of his leading Republican challengers, Randy Altschuler of St. James declares on his website that he is for “greater use of safe nuclear power,” and George Demos of Ronkonkoma says “nuclear power is essential to our energy independence.”