The Capitol rotunda echoed Tuesday with the sounds of familiar carols reworded to reflect an unconventional Christmas wish: to continue Wisconsin’s moratorium regarding nuclear energy.
A coalition of 13 public interest and consumer groups that oppose lifting Wisconsin’s current nuclear ban and support further development of renewable energy sources gathered at the Capitol to demonstrate their opposition to Senate and Assembly bills that would repeal current Wisconsin law.
As it stands, the statute requires that before a new reactor is built, a company must find a federal disposal site for the nuclear waste and demonstrate nuclear power has economic benefits for the consumers.
The holiday-themed event also featured a performance by the Raging Grannies, a group which rewrites traditional songs to promote social causes.
All speakers stressed safety concerns as the biggest reason to oppose nuclear power. Diane Farsetta, Carbon Free Nuclear Free coordinator for the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, cited the effects of unsafe nuclear energy accidents, such as Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, as the “ghost of bad energy choices past.”
“We would ask Wisconsin to look into how to meet their energy need with 100 percent renewable energy,” said Jennifer Nordstrom, national coordinator of the CFNF campaign.
Jeff Patterson, national president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, voiced his concerns regarding nuclear energy and the health issues related to exposure to radioactivity.
Developing nuclear power in Wisconsin would greatly affect the well being of those living in the region, Patterson said, adding that radiation is the “forever pollution.”
“There is no safe level of radiation,” Patterson said.
Despite such safety arguments, some experts, such as Patrick Moore, chair and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies and an early member of Greenpeace, have faith in the power source.
“Over the past 50 years, nuclear energy has proven itself to be a safe, reliable and cost-effective technology,” Moore said. “It’s far more dangerous to drive a car and people still do that.”
Another reason to oppose nuclear energy is the cost for such technologies, said Charlie Higley, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board.
“Renewable energies will give the real economic benefit to Wisconsin, not nuclear energy,” Higley said.
However, University of Wisconsin engineering and physics professor Michael Corradini, chair of the Wisconsin Institute of Nuclear Systems, disagreed. Corradini said for Wisconsin’s economy to grow, we need to use either coal or nuclear energy and nuclear is the more environmentally friendly choice.
While they may hold different positions on the development of nuclear energy, both proponents and opponents agreed Wisconsin needs to move away from using coal to ensure a better environment in the future.
“Coal power is the dirtiest and produces the most greenhouse gas emissions and the most air pollution of any energy source,” Moore said.
Those for and against nuclear energy also agreed the state needs to continue to develop alternative energy sources.
“This is the direction we need to be moving for our children, our grandchildren and for thousands of generations to come,” Patterson said.