Skip to content
Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > VEPCO Police Force

It was done so quietly a few days ago in Richmond, Va. But it may spread to: ether states if citizens are not alert.

House bill 13-19 was drop­ped into the state legislative hopper by delegate L. Ray Ashworth at the request of the Virginia Electric & Power Co. The bill would permit Vepco to establish its own police force with the power to arrest people any­where in the state and ob­tain the same access to confidential citizen records as have state and local po­lice.

All Vepco would have to do, if the bill passes, is ob­tain the approval of any city or county court judge — a relatively easy matter.

WHEN ASKED the pur­pose of the bill, Vepco se­curity chief William Parker said that such authority is needed to meet the Atomic Energy Commission’s se­curity protection standards for nuclear plants. The AEC, in response to an in­quiry, said that its security regulations do not require such sweeping private po­lice authority. Vepco appar­ently believes otherwise.

Well, there you are, all you liberals, conservatives, environmentalists, preser­vationists, consumers, tax- payers and civil libertarians.

First, the utilities build these nuclear power plants with large taxpayer subsi­dies, direct and indirect. When they break down for long periods the consumers pay the bill; when the costs of building new ones sky­rocket , the taxpayers and consumers are asked to fur­ther pay the bill. And now these plants and associated transportation vehicles, containing deadly radioac­tive materials, are so vul­nerable to sabotage or theft that a mini-garrison state has to be built up to safe­guard them.

Of course the utilities all along have known of the catastrophic risks to nearby cities or communities from nuclear power plants.

They’ve known of the risks of accidents or natural occurrences like earth­quakes. They have seen the rash of defects in these plants produced by their suppliers and the problems of managing these plants safely. They have privately sweated over the spills of deadly radioactive materi­al, over the long shutdowns, over the near- misses, over the little-publicized evacua­tion plans for people who may have to escape a radio­active cloud.

THEY KNOW that the federal government, under their insistence in 1956-57, passed a law called the Price-Anderson Act which limited their liability in case an accident occurred that led to tens of thousands of casualties and billions of dollars of property damage.

Despite the utilities’ glib public assurances about the perfect safety of these nu- clear plants (there are now 52 operating on and off with 1,000 more planned by the year 2000), they demand the continuance of the Price-Anderson subsidy. For without limited liability- by law, the utilities could not pay . the full insurance premium required and keep their nuclear plants in business.

Knowing all this, the utili­ties plunge ahead in their own kind of “technological Vietnam” — outwardly optimistic, inwardly trou­bled, but always furtive.

With the introduction of the Vepco bill, the civil liberties issue clearly sur­faces. Some observers be­lieve there will he a million people with direct and back-up assignments to guard the nuclear power industry by the year 2000.

DOSSIERS on hundreds of thousands of people will proliferate along with elaborate security clear­ances, lie detector tests and invasions of privacy. There are no clear limits to such a garrison mentality, once it gets under way. But we don’t need nuclear power in this country.

The most compelling evi­dence of nuclear power’s intolerable risks, unreliability and enormous costs to the taxpayer as well as the consumer has been made public in recent years. Other evidence is available that points to our ability to meet our energy needs by using our ample fossil fuels with minimum pollution and by rapidly developing solar geothermal energy.

Given this evidence, it is not surprising that the nuclear industry’s chief trade organization. the Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc., is doubling its propaganda machine and moving its of­fice from New York to Washington, D.C.

IN A CANDID confiden­tial memo to its board of directors dated Dec. 13, 1974, the AIF’s Lee Everett outlined a detailed program to influence key decision makers and the media. In­cluded was a drive for “di­rect article placement to minimize the filtration fac­tor of the reporters and edi­tors.” Also emphasized was the intention “to ghost write’ and place positive articles on behalf of distin­guished experts,” “to stage-manage news” and to conduct tours for “top-level journalists.”