Thursday, January 27 2011

BRATTLEBORO - There is no room for nuclear power and coal in a clean energy standard, experts say.

During a telephone conference Wednesday, three experts on the effects of non-renewable energy sources said Congress and the Obama Administration need to clearly define what clean energy is.

The definition needs to be based on what the major environmental impacts are going to have in the future, Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research said.

"There's no perfectly clean source," he said.

Wind turbines, for example, can obstruct views and various animals' flight paths, but the structures can be taken apart and the materials recycled down to nearly every bolt and screw, he said. Dr. Alan Lockwood, professor of nuclear medicine and neurology at the University of Buffalo in New York, and past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, called for the closing of all coal-burning plants.

According to Lockwood, closing the coal plants will not only save thousands of lives, it will also save millions of dollars in health care.

"There is no such thing as clean coal. It's a myth that fits nicely on billboards," he said. "Coal is dirty at every stage."

He added that most of the coal used in the United States is transferred via railways, which compounds the problems because of the diesel emissions from the trains.


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Scott Sklar, chairman of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and adjunct professor at George Washington University, said several studies have stated that coal plants put out more radiation than most nuclear power plants.

"The reason it's called clean coal is because carbon is removed, but there are so many other carcinogens left," Sklar said.

Building a smarter, more efficient electric grid, made primarily of renewable energy sources is the only way the United States will be able to stop relying on coal and nuclear power, he added. If the term clean energy isn't clearly defined, any business can use it for their financial gains, Makhijani said.

He warned that if nuclear power is utilized as the main source of energy, other countries will follow and radioactive waste disposal will be an insolvable global problem.

Nuclear power, which is often referred to as a source of clean energy, creates large amounts of radioactive waste that no one knows how to deal with, Makhijani said.

"We're enjoying the benefits now and dumping the consequences on our children," he said.

Josh Stilts can be reached at jstilts@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.