Breaking Green

Greenwashing Nuclear Energy with Environmental Attorney Susan Shapiro

July 31, 2022 Global Justice Ecology Project / Host Steve Taylor Season 2 Episode 6
Breaking Green
Greenwashing Nuclear Energy with Environmental Attorney Susan Shapiro
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

With the catastrophic failures at Chernobyl and Fukushima, nuclear power has been the cause of some the worst environmental disasters in history.

But, the realities of global warming have created an opportunity for this flagging industry to attempt a comeback by rebranding as a green alternative to fossil fuels.

This rebranding concerns those who have worked to reign in the troubled nuclear industry for decades as they now face one of the most ambitious examples of disaster capitalism that threatens to resuscitate nuclear power and its unique set of environmental hazards as a false solution to climate change.

In this episode of Breaking Green, we will talk with Susan Shapiro.

Susan Shapiro is a New York State environmental attorney..

As co-counsel she brought ground-breaking litigation against Indian Point’s violation of the Clean Water Act for thermal and radiation pollution of the Hudson River. 

She also was the lead attorney on an Article 78 action against the New York’s Public Service Commission for diverting $7.6 billion dollars of ratepayers money to keep aging upstate nuclear reactors open instead of funding renewables.

Shapiro  is a member of Leadership Council of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition),  a board member of Radiation and Public Health Project and GRIP (Gender and Radiation Impact Project.

She is also in the process of writing a book about why nuclear energy is not "zero emissions” and why it is not a solution to climate change.

Shapiro is also an award winning filmmaker and artist. Her paintings can be viewed at

Radiation and Public Heath Project can be found at The Radiation Public Health Project.

To learn more about Cold War era nuclear contamination in St. Louis you can listen to this previous episode of Breaking Green, St. Louis Radiation Fire with Dawn Chapman.

This podcast is produced by Global Justice Ecology Project.

Breaking Green is made possible by donations from people like you. 

Please help us lift up the voices of those working to protect forests, defend human rights and expose false solutions.  Simply click here to send a donation or text GIVE to 1 716 257 4187.

Steve Taylor  0:00  
Welcome to breaking green, a podcast by global justice ecology project. On breaking green, we will talk with activists and experts to examine the intertwined issues of social, ecological, and economic injustice. And we'll also explore some of the more outrageous proposals to address climate and environmental crises that are falsely being sold as green. I am your host, Steve Taylor. With a history of catastrophic failures of Chernobyl and Fukushima, nuclear power has been the cause of some of the worst environmental disasters in history. But the realities of global warming have created a dubious opportunity for this flagging industry to attempt a comeback by rebranding as a green alternative to fossil fuels. This rebranding concerns those who have worked to reign in the troubled nuclear industry for decades, as they now face one of the most ambitious examples of disaster capitalism that threatens to resuscitate nuclear power and its unique set of environmental hazards as all solution to climate change. In this episode of Breaking Green, we will talk with Susan Shapiro. Susan Shapiro is a New York state environmental attorney. As co counsel, she brought groundbreaking litigation against Indian Point's violation of the Clean Water Act for thermal and radiation pollution of the Hudson River. She was also the lead attorney on an article 78 action against the New York Public Service Commission for diverting $7.6 billion dollars of ratepayers money to keep aging upstate nuclear reactors open instead of funding renewable energy. She is a member of the Leadership Council at the Indian Point safe Energy Coalition, a board member of radiation and public health project, and GRIP, gender and radiation impact project. She is also an award winning filmmaker and artist. Her paintings can be viewed at Susan Shapiro, welcome to breaking green.

Susan Shapiro  1:58  
So nice to be here. Thank you for asking me.

Steve Taylor  2:01  
As we heard in your intro, you're a person of many talents, an environmentalist, attorney and filmmaker, I was interested in your filmmaking. I've learned that you had a part in the making of Studio 54.

Susan Shapiro  2:17  
So when I was a film student in at NYU film school, somehow we got permission to be the only film crew ever to shoot inside a studio 54. I was a cinematographer, and I, we were there for a couple of weeks, two or three weeks. That's when we had the equipment. And we just filmed whatever we could basically during that time, and we had free access were the only camera ever to be allowed inside a studio with free access. So any other footage that you've ever seen, might be news footage where they put them in a certain corner. And that's all they were allowed to film. But we sort of roamed around and I kept that footage I went on to have a career in filmmaking. I was a producer and director of feature films in Los Angeles for 20 years. And of all the films I've made, that's the only footage the raw footage that I kept, and I somehow knew that there was something special about it. And so when I moved to California, I took it with me when I moved back, I took it with me. It was first used a few minutes of it was used in a VH1 special many years ago. And then in around 2006 or seven I ran into a woman who worked for Ian Shrager, who was the assistant for Ian Shrager. And I told her I had the footage. So from that time we attempted to get a documentary made. And then in 2019 it was actually made. And the footage inside studio is my footage. So it was very nice after all this time after having, you know, moved away from being a full time filmmaker to get a such a nice credit. And it went on to open at Sundance and it was at Tribeca, and they've had a very nice reception.

Steve Taylor  4:02  
So that must have been quite the experience. 

Susan Shapiro  4:04  
It certainly was. 

Steve Taylor  4:05  
So the reason you're here is you're an environmentalist and an attorney. Let's talk a little bit about Indian Point New York.  They closed down their last nuclear reactor in April of 2021. How did that come about? What type of litigation were you involved with at Indian Point?

Susan Shapiro  4:28  
Well, there has had been a group from the moment that Indian Point was built that was against it and was trying for years to close it down. But I moved back from Los Angeles because my father had gotten very sick. They told us he only had a few months to live. I came back to help him. It was right before 911 happened. 911 happened and I had a daughter in preschool three miles away from Indian Point across the river but three miles away. And that was when I first really started paying attention to Indian Point.  Before that, yeah, I knew it was there but it wasn't like a big thing on my radar. But we've quickly realized that after 911, with all the fighter jets running up and down the river, the terrorists had flown directly over Indian Point. And that, in fact came to pass that there was it was revealed that when they found of information in the caves, Osama bin Laden had convinced al Qaeda not to hit Indian Point. That was the first plan, but instead to hit the World Trade Center. So the initial motivation for many of us in the Hudson Valley to form the organization called the Indian Point safe Energy Coalition was because of the terrorist threat of a nuclear plant in the middle of 20 million people, we felt that there was no protection. I t wasn't being taken care of. It wasn't being seriously protected. They had a no fly zone over Yankee Stadium. But they had no no fly zone over Indian Point, which we thought was ludicrous. So this group really became a group of citizens who became super educated and super, super activated about the issues about Indian Point itself, but also about nuclear energy in general. And so one of the first things I had, as I had said, I was a filmmaker for 20 years. I had passed the New York state bar and immediately moved to California to make films. And so when I came back, I had never really practiced law. So I looked at the law, I looked at what were the rights of New York State, in the a nuclear reactor, and they're very limited. They designed it to be that way. But it turned out that the New York State has the right to protect its waterways, the Hudson River, and the Hudson and Indian Point, and all other nuclear reactors in the world, use them water around them for cooling, and for discharge. And so we started looking into the issue of the thermal pollution of the Hudson River, which had been being discussed for 20 years between environmental groups River Keeper Clearwater Scenic Hudson, and the Department of Environmental Conservation and the owners of Indian point. But nothing had happened. And it was still dumping billions of gallons of superheated water into the river, enough heat enough water that would within a year, they would be the volume of water from New York City to Albany in the river. That's how much water was being heated. And we're talking about heating it 25 to 30 degrees more than it naturally was, it's quite a bit more. Nuclear is the hottest thing human beings do. So I became very interested in what were the rights of New York State. And we realized that Department of Energy of the DEC we call it the department Department of Environmental Conservation was doing nothing. So we actually sued them to myself and Richard Brodsky, who unfortunately has passed away. We are the attorneys on this case, we sue them to enforce the Clean Water Act, because thermal pollution is part of the Clean Water Act. And after many years after, and many appeals, and if going all the way up to the Supreme Court, basically, it was determined that under the Clean Water Act, that their argument was it was too expensive to put in close cycle cooling and it was too expensive. And so they didn't have to do it because it was too expensive, and that they could do some other half, half useless measures. And the DEC turned this, the court said no, the Clean Water Act has to be met. And cost can be considered but it does not preempt the company complying with the act with making sure there's no thermal, there's no dangerous thermal pollution. So the DEC came down with an odor that said that there were three parts of the odor. One is that they had to put in closed cycle cooling, two they had to stop the killing of the fish. Because they were impinging and sucking in billions of fish every year into the reactor and just you know, boiling them to death. And three, they had to stop discharging radioactivity into the Hudson River, which they continue to do. So eventually, many years later, this was litigated back and forth. There were discussions there was relicensing hearings, there was endless amounts of other legal things that happened in between. But ultimately, at the end of the day, that is probably the straw that really was that killed them from continuing and they decided it was too expensive. It wasn't profitable enough to run a nuclear reactor, especially an aging nuclear reactor that was literally falling apart during that 20 year period of time that we were fighting almost 20 years. It turned out at one point, the screws that hold basically the plates together in the reactor shield had vanished. They had literally dissolved and that's what people don't understand that radiation from nuclear is so corrosive. It's so much more corrosive than anything else. but we don't as human beings actually understand. We don't have the depth of knowledge or the years of knowledge of how it impacts steel and concrete. And it really has this high, corrosive level. So that's why nuclear plants can't last 40 years or 60 years. And they're very expensive. And they do not really add a solution to climate change. So that was the first case that we brought, and I think it was a really big case. But then, part of the deal that Cuomo made at the time was, great, we'll close Indian Point. But we're going to give a $7.6 billion windfall profit to Exelon upstate reactor company. And instead of putting that money into the renewable energy program that was identified for. That money was added, that was ratepayers money that was identified to turn New York state into a sustainable energy future and that instead, that money went into keeping old dirty reactors aging reactors open up state, which was really a problem. So we we a group of us brought an action against that. One of the big problems in that action that I had, the biggest problem with is in the PSCs findings, the Public Service Commission's findings, they called nuclear zero emissions. And I had a real problem with that that's not true. So unfortunately, we lost the case, it was an article 78 I believe that if we had appealed it, we probably would have won, but there was no financing, or the interest in the groups to go forward with it. The good part about the case was that the judge did not rule that nuclear was zero admissions. He didn't make a ruling on that at all, he just left it out. So that's not been decided by any court at this time. And I think that's a really important part because nuclear is not zero emissions.

Steve Taylor  12:00  
One of the things that brought you into the Indian Point litigation was was the idea that there were discussions within al Qaeda to to attack India Point, a nuclear reactor. A nd as we know, from the Fukushima, and in the true noble disasters, that that if there is a catastrophic failure, or a terrorist event, at a nuclear reactor, the cost when it comes to the environment, when it comes to actually even trying to clean it up, it's just phenomenal. So nuclear power itself, is inherently dangerous.

Susan Shapiro  12:33  
 Absolutely. It's not only dangerous for a catastrophic disaster, whether it's a terrorist attack or a horrible accident, like Chernobyl. It's dangerous, just with its daily emissions every single day, a nuclear reactor emits radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere. And we I'm on the board of radiation and public health project, R  PHP, which has done many studies about the cancer rates surrounding nuclear reactors, we engaged them to do one specifically around Indian Point and some years ago, based on the CDC, cancer directories. And it turns out that in the five mile radius surrounding Indian Point, the thyroid cancer rates were something like 86% more than the rest of the nation, and 86% more than the rest of New York State. And thyroid cancer is really important to look at it because though many people say oh, it's thyroid cancer is curable, you take some medicine, blah, blah, blah, it's not a major one. First of all, it's is major and can metastasize and cause lifelong problems. And I've known actually a handful of people who have died from it, who in the Indian Point area, but it's a it's the marker. Thyroid cancer is known to be caused by exposure to radiation. That's what we know. It's a marker. So to see that it's really telling you the other thing is childhood cancer rates are super high around nuclear reactors. And what we found in a lot of the studies is once those are closed once reactors are close, those rates go down pretty pretty significantly. So and one of the questions I think everyone needs to look at is when did all the nuclear reactors come online, most of them came online in the world. We're all together for 100 Plus nuclear reactors, from the 70s Onward. If you look at cancer rates from the 70s Onward, they have exponentially increased. What's the most major difference that we have had on this planet? Since the 1970s? It's nuclear. A nd it moves in the air and moves in the water. It's permeating everything. It so everyone's worried, you know, let's fight cancer. Yeah, let's stop nuclear production and that would be t he best way to fight cancer. That's what I really believe. I think if Biden is so concerned about doing a Space Shot to stop cancer, he needs to stop nuclear.

Steve Taylor  15:09  
Well, that's an interesting point, too. In St. Louis, where I am located and interviewing you from, we have waste sites from the initial Manhattan Project. And we just had some flooding, some major flooding in the area. And there's been waste sitting in a floodplain in this area is just just flooded. So that wasn't for actually from a nuclear reactor, but it was from the refining of uranium. And could you talk a little bit about how messy that is not only mining the fuel, but also storing spent fuel?

Susan Shapiro  15:50  
Well, the whole nuclear process is the dirtiest thing we do dirty ascend the hottest thing we do on the planet. It starts with, you know, you mining uranium, it's very greenhouse gas intensive, that process. So people who say there's no greenhouse gases, they're only they're not looking at the lifecycle of nuclear, but it's very intensive. There's a lot of mining and then the processing. It used to be done with CFC gases. It's a carbon based gas that we know cause the hole in the ozone. So it was basically outlawed for everything but nuclear production, and they were transitioning away from that, but now they're using for nuclear to make nuclear fuel. They're using a thing called uranium hexafluoride, which is even worse. It's known to be at least 38 times more effective as a climate change, activator and more than regular co2, you know, so, but first, let me talk about the dangers of nuclear as it is before we get into the actual greenhouse gases of nuclear. So, first of all, you have the dangers of catastrophic accident because the plants are aging, the like at Indian Point when they shut it down, I started representing whistleblowers with inside the plant, and there was a quality control supervisor I represented and he showed me pictures of the understructure of the plant, which is made of steel and concrete, totally corroded. One of the other law cases that we brought was that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had granted Indian Point exemption after exemption after exemption on safety issues, which they do at all plants around the nation. Indian Point was unique in that they granted exemptions on fire protection. So in a, in a regular commercial building, or business or factory in New York State, you need one hour fire protection. In a nuclear reactor, your supposed to have three hours of fire protection. At Indian Point, we only had 24 minutes of fire protection. It's one of the most crazy things that nobody really realized that between a meltdown at Indian Point was only 24 minutes if there was a fire in one of the cables that was necessary for shutdown. There. They had exempted all the safety rules. And so one of the biggest problems of nuclear reactors in this country and other countries, is there a safe standards by which they're supposed to operate to the best of people's knowledge. But the NRC  is there to really facilitate production of nuclear and not to protect the safety of the public, even though they're their mandate is to protect the public. They act as though they're a part of the profit arm of the corporations. Nuclear is just extraordinarily dangerous. I mean, the people who say that will Chernobyl and Fukushima nobody died. I mean,  the truth is that many many people died. Many people died of horrible deaths, many children ended up with horrible cancers and deformities in short lives. There's a very powerful documentary culture noble heart, that's heartbreaking of the children that were exposed to radiation in either in the womb or as young infants in the Chernobyl area and and they end up with these tumors and deformities and it's just horrifying. What nuclear really does.

Steve Taylor  19:25  
So Fukushima, it left prime agricultural fishing territory contaminated and and even when they're being optimistic. They're saying it's going to take 60 years to remediate it and and billions of dollars to clean up and Chernobyl is still very, very radioactive. And and the epidemiology surrounding these things have always interested me. There seems to be a reluctance to actually look into track health problems in a meaningful way. But Fukushima and Chernobyl, you know, there's a bit of a revisionist history there that you see sometimes. But those were horrible disasters.

Susan Shapiro  20:07  
Even in this country. We have the Braidwood spill in Illinois where children have were died. And there's one young woman who became very, very deformed and handicapped, who speaks out about it, who's amazing, Cindy Sawyer's daughter and then there's Santa Susana, which is was one of the earliest disasters in the United States. It was a test site out in Simi Valley in Los Angeles and the the families there are still suffering. And then you have all the indigenous lands where the mining's is, and where they want to now put the waste again. So it's it's horrible cycle. And then you have the sailors that were sent in and Fukushima. And they have the there's a enormous lawsuit that's been going on. Because of they all became very ill there was no protection given to them. They just sailed right in, thought they were coming to the rescue and they became exposed. The whole Fukushima issue is really what's happening there is they can't control it. They can't control the end. So they're what's happening. They're allowing the hot radioactive water go into the Pacific, they're releasing it into the Pacific. They find in the fish in California and Washington State in the grapes are finding Fukushima waste. The thing about nuclear waste is you can identify where it comes from. You can identify the isotopes so it's very there's a tracking system to it.

Steve Taylor  21:31  
This is your host, Steve Taylor, and we will be back right after this.

Theresa Church  21:41  
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Steve Taylor  22:40  
Welcome back to Breaking Green, did you tell us a little bit about the storage nuclear waste and the nuclear waste storage problem? 

Susan Shapiro  22:47  
Even the most ardent proponents of nuclear energy can't answer the question of what to do with the waste. And there is no solution to nuclear waste. This is the real quandary of the whole thing. So they so there had been different attempts to figure out a plan for nuclear waste. So here in this country, there are different sites that they identified at one point, they were looking at Yucca Mountain, which is in Nevada. Turns out that though many people think the reason Yucca Mountain was canceled was because of politics. It was actually because of science. It was cancelled because the putting all that waste in an underground cave that still have remember, the waste is still hot, it never stops being hot, even if it's in a cask, it's still hot, it gets less hot, but it's still hot. So you put all that heat together, and it would actually melt the rock, basically. And they found that it would affect the groundwater. And that even in the short test time that they did have Yucca Mountain, they found that the cast they put in corroded it, they rushed it, they corroded it's very, very corrosive nuclear waste. The best thing we can do right now the best knowledge we have today is that the waste tested the stored where it was made. The idea that there's going to be a central repository, first of all, because of the heat and because of the problems of putting it all together is insane. But even more insane is transporting the waste across the country on highways and rail and boat. I mean that who wants to be knowing that nuclear waste is driving past them and God forbid there's an accident? There was not too long ago, there was an accident down South Carolina, where a processing plant where they were supposed to be shipping the waste to a safer repository or to a central repository, and the truck flipped over contaminated entire area and released all this hexa fluorocarbon. One of the interesting things about the nuclear waste is what the promise was made to every state that hosted a nuclear reactor was that the Department of Energy would take the waste after 20 years. That never happened. So that's why there's a waste problem because the Department of Energy, doesn't know what to do with it. They don't have a plan for it. So there used to be a thing called the Waste Confidence rule, which was that, don't worry, we have confidence, we'll deal with the ways and that and then the reactor community actually sued the Department of Energy. The reactor owners, I should say, sued the Department of Energy because they weren't taking the waste. And so they were getting paid money every year for storing the waste. But all that waste should actually be under the Department of Energy's ownership at this point. And it's not and it's gone. It's falling into private hands. So there's a whole other corporate issue here. Nuclear energy went was first created was government controlled, it's become privatized. A lot of it not all of it, but a lot of it. So for example, Indian Point is privatize. So now that waste was owned by Entergy, it is now being transferred to Holtec, which is a private company with a lot of foreign ownership. There's a real real risk of this waste getting into the wrong hands. And that's really a whole other story. 

Steve Taylor  26:16  
Well, that's the nuclear proliferation concern. But but we also I mean, I hate to keep coming back to to the St. Louis waste, but there is waste from the Manhattan Project still contaminating our area. It's it's insane, that we have a public which is still being contaminated from nuclear waste from the Manhattan Project. The rebranding of nuclear as a green energy is offensive.

Susan Shapiro  26:50  
It's yeah, and that the waste issue goes on forever, but then you have that they want to transport now the plan is they're going to do these interim storage sites, which is once again transporting the waste somewhere. But so they want to try to put it on Navajo land in above the Onondagan aquifer in New Mexico and in Texas and the New Mexican government, which is not particularly anti nuclear. They have, you know, I'll out Los Alamos there and other things in New Mexico, but they also have Carlsbad and they've seen the accidents. They've opposed it. But the federal government is marching forward, ignoring what the state's wants. So it's a really it's a a states rights issue. It's a human rights issue. It's an environmental justice issue. You know, the whole idea that they want consent from the community where they're going to put the waste that consent is based on how much money they're going to give a poor community. That's what it is. It's a bribe. If there is, but nobody's consented, nobody has consented.

Steve Taylor  27:55  
in 1979, the largest radioactive disaster in North America occurred on the Navajo Nation. When mill tailings dam in in church rock New Mexico burst dumping over 19 million gallons of uranium tailings.

Susan Shapiro  28:14  
And that's what they want to put. That's where they want to put the waste. Now they want to go back to church rock in that area, and bring the country's waste back to the same area.

Steve Taylor  28:24  
And the original spill still isn't cleaned up?

Susan Shapiro  28:27  
Of course not, because they can't.

Steve Taylor  28:29  
It sounds to me like there's been this troubled history to nuclear power in the United States. And it's been poorly regulated by the NRC. But now, there seems to be an uptick in interest because of the climate catastrophe we're facing.

Susan Shapiro  28:56  
And because the nuclear industry is the master of PR, and they spend billions of dollars pushing, helping the anti fossil fuel industry, the anti fossil fuel activists. So you have a lot of anti fossil fuel activists, sadly, who did rightly convince  the public that fossil fuels are the problem or are part of the problem, but they're saying it's the only part of the problem and that's not true.  They're part of the problem. But  together the problem is nuclear and fossil fuels. One is crack and one's heroin. And basically, we need to stop both. We don't need either, you know, fossil fuels trap the heat. Nuclear continues to create the heat and is toxic forever. And if any one of those casks those dry casks with the 1000s of tonnes of waste that are in this country is opened or spills that contaminates and kills massive amounts of people with cancer. It might not be an instant kill. It's a slow, horrible death. And that's what we're looking at. And unfortunately, in this country, this isn't just for nuclear, but for all toxic elements. We don't protect to the most vulnerable we protect to the standard American man, basically a GI, you know, 21 year old, healthy six foot Gi. That's the least susceptible person on our population, we shouldn't be protecting to the most vulnerable, the young, you know, the young child, that's or, you know, or the infant. We're all there's this whole concern about, you know, abortion in this country, but we're not protecting the children at all. We're allowing them to be exposed constantly. Yeah, the problem is that nuclear energy actually is not carbon free. And that's what the nuclear industry has spent a lot of money and time and PR, convincing the public that they are the best thing for climate change, when in fact, the truth is, they are part of the problem of climate change.

Steve Taylor  31:04  
Why do you think nuclear is has been so promoted in certain circles, when it comes to to climate change?

Susan Shapiro  31:19  
Money, money, these people, I know, for a fact that the anti, some anti fossil fuel industries are financed by the nuclear industry. If you look on their board of directors, you can track that there are nuclear executives on the boards of anti fossil fuel organizations there. And sadly, we have a lot of organizations who will not come out and say they're anti nuclear, they're only anti fossil fuels. And we have people right here in the Hudson Valley, arguing that shutting down Indian Point has caused more fossil fuels to be admitted, y ou know, which is not true. That's not really what happened. But that's the argument. And they're, and they're, they're good, meaning people, they're just uneducated, I don't think they mean wrong, they just only know one part of the story. They're only looking at a very small part of the story. There's not one cause of climate change. There's multiple causes of climate change, and efficiency, not necessarily reduction in consumption efficiencies, we have we're the air energy systems currently are so inefficient.

Steve Taylor  32:21  
That's interesting. Yeah, I've heard it said that, that nuclear power is one of the most expensive and dangerous ways to boil water, which is basically what what power plants do. So this almost seems like you know, they're trying to rebrand an old legacy industry. So what is the state of the nuclear industry when it comes to regulation, the age of plants? You know, there's an attempt to to bring nuclear back, could you give us sort of an idea of as they do this,here is the nuclear power industry? Or how is the nuclear power industry sort of situated right now?

Susan Shapiro  33:05  
Well, there was a point where when Indian plant was closing, where they were realizing that it was inefficient and very costly to operate old nukes, because you had to basically rebuild them, they were falling apart. They're the like I said, the bolts vanish, they evaporated, they that's they dissolved, I should say, in, you know, in the plant because of the radiation. And so they're finding that keeping running old nuclear plants is very expensive. It's not a it's not a easy operation. So but but it's cheaper than building a new one. So they've been trying for years to build a new nuclear in Georgia, and I just read that they pulled the money out again, so that because they realize they keep going over the money it's costing, it's the cost of building a nuclear reactor, and the time is 10 20 30 years to build one. And it's billions of dollars. So financially, it doesn't make any sense. But they're spending a lot of time rebranding it. They're talking about small nukes, like everyone should have one in their backyard. That's a little frightening, as you know, is that what we really want? We want to have everyone have a nuclear reactors, sort of like we want to give everyone you know, a bomb. It's very risky. I mean, there's a reason there has to be security around nuclear waste. The waste can be made into weapons grade materials, it's an another that's why we are so upset with Iran for having a nuclear reactor and processing it into weapons grade materials, all of it can be.

Steve Taylor  34:35  
You know, this is an industry and it has its promoters, but it wasn't in trouble in a sense. When was the last nuclear power plant built in the United States? Could you just give us kind of an overview of of an industry in decline?

Susan Shapiro  34:54  
Well, I think you from the 80s it was really in decline after after Chernobyl and after three miles Island actually, in the United States, Three Mile Island is what really put the, you know, really quashed the nuclear industry. And at that time, different reactor communities were united. And what the industry has been very effective in doing the nuclear industry is separating us into all little separate groups rather than being a united force together. And so everyone's worried about their own little nuclear reactor rather than I shouldn't say little their own reactors rather than the whole nuclear issue. I think the waste issue has become a unifying thing within the anti nuclear movement, because people understand that it's every one coming together. But the nuclear industry is now working really hard to have this renaissance. They're branding themselves as a solution to climate change. But the biggest false statement is that there's zero emissions, they're not

Steve Taylor  35:50  
How successful do you think the nuclear industry will be with this argument? What do you see legislatively or with these initiatives? And then worldwide just Well, I mean, how concerned are you about this rebranding?

Susan Shapiro  36:04  
I'm very concerned. And I'm also very concerned to save a ton of money. So they throw money at elected officials easily. And so the elected officials are afraid to speak out against nuclear. It's yeah, it's a sad reality, it's a hard reality to accept that unless our legislators open their eyes unless we can educate them, that, that nuclear is not the solution to climate change. But really part of the problem, we're gonna keep having these reactors being built. But I have to say, around the world, Germany, came to their senses, and they're shutting down their reactors, Sweden, actually, because of another woman named Mary Olsen started an organization called Gender and Radiation Impact Project. And she is a very well educated person who put together information about how nuclear impacts women, so much more than any impacts men. And she did a conference at the UN and based on that conference, Sweden stopped nuclear, you know. So I think, countries around the world, New Zealand is nuclear free, mean, countries around the world understand it here, we don't hear we still have, you know, a very militant population, for that wants to continue producing arms. And that's really what nuclear is force producing weaponry. And it's the arms race.

Steve Taylor  37:36  
From from the beginning, nuclear power almost seemed to be a story that we wanted to tell in a way. I mean, we had the Atoms for Peace after after, after the atomic bombs. And there's rightfully all this concern that, you know, mankind might annihilate itself. There was this big, big push for Atoms for Peace. Well, we can use this in a peaceful way. And there's all these stories surrounding nuclear. And and it when you start looking at, you know, reports from particular sites, I mean, the bloom bloom falls from the rows per se.

Susan Shapiro  38:15  
It's almost a religious fervor. That's what I would say, I think I'm agreeing with you that the the nuclear story has become a belief system. It's a religious fervor. And the only thing I've ever found that really sort of stopped somebody who's a pro nuclear advocate in their tracks is you say, well, what do you do with the waste? And they don't have an answer. They don't believe you about anything else. But they cannot answer that question, because there is no solution to nuclear waste.

Steve Taylor  38:42  
And that's just the controlled waste. We have the uncontrolled waste of Chernobyl, that's a whole region, 

Susan Shapiro  38:49  
and Fukushima 

Steve Taylor  38:50  
another region. 

Susan Shapiro  38:51  

And it will continue on, the more climate change happens, the faster the these chemicals are released, the higher we're going to have these these intense weather events, they're going to cause more flooding, they're going to cause more problems like you're experiencing, where areas that are radioactive, are getting flooded, and then that radioactivity moves to another space. And more more of the earth will be contaminated. And we'll be creating dead zones. I mean, that's

Steve Taylor  39:22  
right. We just had a long wet so in St. Louis. I mean, we not only have the landfill, but there's a whole creek a region where radioactive material is in.  That just flooded and into people's homes. We have homes in St. Louis with they've found radiation in the homes.

Susan Shapiro  39:43  
What did they do? Did they condemn the homes?

Steve Taylor  39:46  
No, no.

Susan Shapiro  39:50  
You're letting people live in that. 

Steve Taylor  39:51  

Susan Shapiro  39:53  
Oh my god.

Steve Taylor  39:54  
So, um, when nuclear is proposed as as a green solution, it's It's just It doesn't ring true for those of us living near that,  I know many of us at least. For those who have found radiation in their homes, it's definitely not sellable. But, Susan, thank you so much for joining Breaking Green.

Susan Shapiro  40:23  
Thank you so much for having me on on the show. I really appreciate this opportunity to talk about these issues, and hope people will become educated on them.

Steve Taylor  40:32  
Thank you so much. You have been listening to breaking green, a global justice Ecology Project podcast. To learn more about global justice ecology project, visit global justice Breaking Green is made possible by tax deductible donations by people like you. Please help us lift up the voices of those working to protect forests, defend human rights and expose false solutions. Simply text give g i v e to 1-716-257-4187 That's 1-716-257-4187

Transcribed by

Breaking Green Introduction
Issue Introduction
Introduction to Susan Shapiro
The making of Studio 54
Litigation Against Indian Point Nuclear Reactors
Inherent Dangers of Nuclear Power
The Carbon Footprint and Waste Products of the Nuclear Cycle
A Legacy of Disasters
Break with Theresa Church
Storing Nuclear Waste
Nuclear Waste from Manhattan Project Still Effecting St. Louis
Rebranding a Troubled Industry
Money and Misdirection
Current State of the Nuclear Industry
Will this Rebranding Succeed?
A Future of Dead Zones