Ralph Nader: The Green Hive
In a hive, the seemingly random actions of many individuals take on an order and synergy that no individual within the hive could possibly understand fully nor orchestrate. In nuclear issues, Ralph Nader is the premier hive builder.
If there is a coordinated effort to destroy nuclear energy in this country by subverting the Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office and by influencing certain politicians in the State of Nevada, the national leader of that conspiracy would certainly be Ralph Nader. Nader's web of interconnecting environmental groups and activists, culminating in the Safe Energy Communication Council, is the only guerrilla organization with the commitment, institutional savvy and long range strategic planning to carry out such a plan.
Whether or not Ralph Nader is the grand anti-nuclear conspirator who has personally wreaked havoc on the state of Nevada or whether the protest movement is driven by an independent hive mentality towards a collective anti-nuclear goal is difficult to determine. It appears that Ralph Nader plays the part of Queen Bee within the anti-nuclear community, so that while it may not be true that he directs the war, he still exerts an enormous organizing influence. As explained in The Antinuclear Movement:
The prime mover for the reassessment of nuclear power by environmentalists is Ralph Nader, also a consumer advocate. Nader sponsored a convention of nuclear power critics in Washington D. C. ("Critical Mass '74) in order to coordinate antinuclear activities throughout the nation. Initially, Nader portrayed the emergence of a garrison state to protect plutonium. Only by not using fission power would this possibility be negated. The energy program advocated by Congresswatch, the Nader organization, in fact became federal energy policy during the administration of president Carter. Conservation and the use of coal, with environmental safeguards, were interim solutions, while in the later part of the century solar, geothermal and fusion power would be available. [Price, Jerome; The Antinuclear Movement, 1982, p52]
Nader has been involved in the anti-nuclear movement since at least 1972 when he helped organize the Critical Mass nuclear protests, which repeated in 1974 and 1978. It was from these efforts that Nader's central organization, Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project, grew. Public Citizen is now no longer focused solely on the nuclear issue and under its president (Joan Claybrook, Jimmy Carter's head of transportation) the organization takes on everything from pesticide use to the North American Free Trade Agreement, with enviable success.
In 1979, Nader wrote a book titled The Menace of Atomic Energy in which he presented most of his case against the dangers of nuclear power, bringing up many of the same anti-nuclear arguments that would be tried in Nevada over the following decade. Of special note are some of the people Nader chose to quote in The Menace of Atomic Energy, especially four people who a decade later come to play a role in Nevada's anti-nuclear circus:
Amory Lovins (Friends of the Earth, Rocky Mountain Institute), Marvin Resnikoff (NYPIRG, Sierra Club Radioactive Waste Campaign and later the Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office), Helen Caldicott (founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility) and Robert D. Pollard (Union of Concerned Scientists) are links that tie the Naderite past to the Nevada present. The reemergence of these actors on the Nevada stage hints that the Yucca Mountain protest has at its core a small but dedicated kernel of true believers, who have now professionally opposed nuclear energy for more than twenty years.
Marvin Resnikoff's work for Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office, Helen Caldicott's speech in Nevada October 1991 sponsored by Judy Treichel's Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, Amory Lovins' support and advocacy for Senator Bryan's CAFE bill and Pollard's testimony in Casper, Wyoming against an MRS facility at which he played advocate for Marvin Resnikoff, subtly link all these actors to the Yucca Mountain debate. This is the core of the professional anti-nuclear elite whose entire careers and purposes in life has been to fight nuclear energy to the death. The interesting question is how such a small number of dedicated protestors came to have such an inordinately large impact on our nation's energy future.
The answer to that question lies in part in Ralph Nader's seemingly unstoppable formula for creating interlocking organizations both in the environmental and consumer spheres. Most of these groups alone are seemingly innocuous consumer-oriented dwarfs, but their ability to fuse and gang tackle their opposition makes them a dangerous amoeboid killer of technology. The span of Nader organizations is truly a modern wonder of the Washington D.C. based environmental movement.
By establishing these and other organizations in an ever expanding maze, Nader is able to camouflage his activities while creating a protest organism that grows with each court injunction and with each unsuspecting donor contribution.
A political sorepoint in Nevada since 1991 has been the existence of the Nevada Initiative, an admittedly secret plan created by the nuclear industry through the American Nuclear Energy Council, to conduct a political lobbying campaign in Nevada. Much has been made of this plan by NWPO and the Sawyer Commission in an attempt to portray the industry as evil plotters and schemers. What has been missing from this analysis is the fact that the anti-nuclear forces have had equally secretive political campaigns in place since the late seventies. We will later quote from the Nevada Initiative, but it is instructive to cite some of the secret plans of Ralph Nader's groups.
A manuscript called "Shutdown Strategies: Citizen Efforts To Close Nuclear Power Plants" written by Joseph Kriesberg in May 1987 for Nader's Public Citizen Critical Mass Energy Project is not itself secret but is in fact a 60 page compendium of other secret plans. Shutdown Strategies both covers the strategies of a national network of anti-nuclear organizations and lists key contacts among those groups. What this document shows is that the anguish shown by the anti-nuclear establishment over ANEC's Nevada Initiative is really crocodile tears shed because the environmentalists no longer had a monopoly on secret plans in the area of nuclear energy policy. In fact, ANEC's campaign was at least a decade late in coming compared to those of Nader's allied environmental factions.
Historically interesting about "Shutdown Strategies" is that it connects a number of present players in the Yucca Mountain War to Nader's organizations at least seven years ago. Scott Denman (Safe Energy Communications Council), Ken Bossong (previously with Citizen's Energy Project with Denman and now with Public Citizen), Caroline Petti (organizer of the National Nuclear Waste Task Force, parent to Judy Treichel's NNWTF and now with the EPA), Joan Claybrook (now president of Public Citizen) are all listed in the acknowledgments. Marvin Resnikoff (now head of Waste Management and consultant to NWPO), Bob Halstead (now transportation consultant to NWPO) are both listed in Shutdown Strategies as anti-nuclear contacts. Thus, it could be argued that NWPO employs secret planners from the environmental movement on its staff (Halstead, Resnikoff) and is the pot calling the kettle black when it condemns its Nevada Initiative.
To illustrate the goals of Nader's organizations, we quote directly from "Shutdown Strategy":
GOALS OF THIS REPORT
In September 1986, representatives from over 40 local, state and national safe energy groups convened in Washington, DC to develop strategies for phasing out nuclear power. There was a clear consensus that these efforts should focus primarily on the local and state levels. . . .
This report is therefore designed for citizen groups, individual activists, and state and local government officials who are trying to either cancel plants under construction or to close existing plants.
This report has three specific objectives:
It should be noted that this shutdown campaign is absolute, there is no discussion of the possibility that even some minor levels of nuclear technology might be beneficial to humanity. The decision has already been made in many activist's mind that all nuclear technology must be shutdown no matter what technical arguments are brought to bear. The worry at Yucca Mountain is that oversight there is compromised to the extent that NWPO is influenced by the non-thinking environmental lobby.
The close links of others on NWPO's staff to Naderite groups is evidenced by another report from Public Citizen called "Nuclear Legacy: An Overview of the Places, Problems and Politics of Radioactive Waste in the U.S." published in 1989 and written by Scott Saleska (now affiliated with the Institute for Environmental and Energy Research, another anti-nuclear think tank). Again we find acknowledged Bob Halstead (NWPO transportation), Bob Fulkerson (Citizen Alert), Arjun Makhijani (IEER and NWPO consultant), Caroline Petti (National Nuclear Waste Task Force and now a WIPP regulator with the EPA), Marvin Resnikoff (Radioactive Waste Management, Sierra Club, NYPIRG, and NWPO consultant), Bob Loux (executive director NWPO). While a disclaimer is made that the report is not necessarily endorsed by those acknowledged, the associations are clear.
All these circumstantial bits of evidence are not in themselves sinister, but they do point to the fact that the Nader organizations hold as much political leverage over popular politics in Nevada concerning the Yucca Mountain repository as anyone from the nuclear power industry. But we are left with the nagging question of why Ralph Nader and his spinoff environmental organizations feel so compelled to oppose nuclear energy.
We need to return to Nader's philosophical roots. According to an expose published in the American Spectator,Nader's father was a staunch Marxist. Ralph Nader's concern for the oppressed consumer may well have been shaped by this upbringing, but we don't care to make too much of this, other than to comment that this fits the pattern of most of the environmental activists we have traced so far. Obviously, Nader's motives regarding nuclear energy are more complex.
Nader's twenty year overreaction to Alvin Weinberg's suggestion that a technological priesthood would be necessary to watch nuclear waste for manygenerations gives us more clues.
Nader's importance in the battle over nuclear energy stems not only from his ability to organize opposition, but also from what he believes about our future. Comments made by Nader in a debate with James A. McClure, Morris Udall and Carl Walske in 1980 held by the American Enterprise Institute seem consistent with his present views:
MR. EDWARDS: My question is, Mr. Nader, how do you reconcile a total stoppage of nuclear power in light of the facts, in light of what is available today, and also in light of the fact that you said several years ago that we should take care of nuclear first, and then take care of coal?
MR. NADER: Eventually, in the next fifty years, our economy will be solar-powered. That will certainly be the case if we extend the wisdom of present knowledge. Now we have cogeneration and many other sources to avoid nuclear.
As to shutting down nuclear plants, they contribute 12 percent of our electricity. We waste at least half of our electricity. Can we replace the 12 percent of our electricity with the 50% we waste? We have 35% excess generating capacity above peak load. . . .
It can be done. We do have an electric pool, not the best interconnected system that we would like, but we do have one. It is quite important that we lay out the facts on this issue and show that it is much better to shut nuclear plants down now, giving us the initiative to express our efficiency capabilities in electricity production and use. Better that than to wake up some morning and read news about several hundred thousand people being contaminated and several hundred square miles being uninhabitable. . . .
PETER VEREKION, Rhode Island Public Interest Research Group: My question is directed to the panel. Is nuclear power as job intensive as solar? [ Nuclear Energy, A Reassessment, American Enterprise Inst., 1980]
Again we find the presence of "decentralist" thinking and also an almost naive optimism for solar energy. Fourteen years after Nader's comments, the likelihood of a mass conversion to solar are just as distant, for sound engineering reasons. The setup question from Peter Verekion of Rhode Island PIRG, a Nader affiliate, is included to show the pervasive misconception of Nader groups that creating make-work jobs in the solar industry (there would be many in high-tech endeavors like washing mirrors) is more productive than efficient centralized nuclear energy.
What we seem to be observing is a twenty year vendetta against the nuclear industry orchestrated by Ralph Nader using his many spinoff environmental and consumer organizations to bear his torch. Consequently, the view that the nuclear industry is an evil industrial monolith intent on destroying human lives with radiation must be tempered by the knowledge that there exists an opposing anti-nuclear monolith whose own motivations and rules of engagement are quite murky. For example, according to the physicist Bernard Cohen, Nader may at times purposely overestimate the risks of radiation:
When my paper on plutonium toxicity was first published, including its estimate of 2 million cancer deaths per pound of plutonium inhaled, Ralph Nader asked the nuclear Regulatory Commission to evaluate it. Judging from the number of telephone calls I received asking about calculational details, they did a rather thorough job, and in the end they gave it a "clean bill of health." Nevertheless, Nader continued to state, in his speeches and writings, that a pound of plutonium could kill 8 billion people, 4,000 times my estimate. In fact, he accused me of "trying to detoxify plutonium with a pen" [Cohen, Bernard; The Nuclear Energy Option, Plenum, 1992, p250]