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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > A Dose of Atomic Socialism

If you haven’t yet heard of “UPEC,” you soon will. “UP EC” -­uranium producers export cartel —is the informal name which industry insiders give to the foreign countries controlling most of the uranium re­serves needed for nuclear power.

Partly because these countries —France, Canada, South Africa and. Australia are among the leaders —are having informal discussions with a distinctly cartel-forming flavor, the price of uranium is soaring. From a price of $7 per pound of uranium in I973, uranium has gone to more than $90 per pound this year.

Even higher uranium prices —and as a result electricity prices — are forthcoming. In a little publi­cized, 191-page report released earli­er this year by the New York invest­ment consulting firm of Mitchell, Hutchins, Inc., the prediction is made that uranium will rise to $100 per pound by 1977.

The report confidently states:

“Only at a very high price will supply and demand be balanced, and uranium prices will climb at least to the $12-barrel oil BTU breakeven price of $100-pound over the next year, quite possibly rising two to three times this level thereafter be­fore eventually settling down.

“The days of sub-$100-pound uranium will soon go the way of the days of sub-$10-barrel oil.”

Uranium prices, cartels and the likelihood of forced reliance on uranium imports by the 1980s are only a few of the economic problems plaguing the domestic nuclear power industry. These giant corporations —from Westinghouse and General Electric to many electric utilities —now want to transfer the plague to the taxpayer and consumer.

Marching to their corporate drums, Nelson Rockefeller and Frank Zarb went to the Senate a few weeks ago to urge passage of their scheme to bail out the industry with hefty doses of atomic socialism.

With unctuous expediency, these men and their business cohorts shamelessly dropped all free enter­prise slogans in their zeal to make the American taxpayer pay for the atomic industry’s mismanagement under the guise of a new agency to be called the Energy Independence Au­thority (EIA).

EIA would have the authority to extend loans and loan guarantees to the atomic industry, yet not be ac­countable to the congressional budgetary process, environmental impact or freedom of information re­quirements — to describe some of its extraordinary autonomy.

The pro-nuclear witnesses at that Senate hearing did not speak of the serious safety problems gnawing at the atomic industry, ranging from the uranium mines to the power plants and their lethal radioactive garbage.

In contrast, the Mitchell Hutchins report stated unequivocally that “the nuclear industry has broken faith with the public, over and over again, in its presumed technological and managerial competence.”

The report also stated: “The managerial shortcomings are on two levels: competency and honesty . . . ,” and gave examples to support its case.

During the past few months, sharpened concern has grown among a number of scientists and engineers over earthquake risks to atomic power plants.

Five geologists issued a report regarding the potential “for disastrous failure of nuclear power plants in California during an earthquake.”‘ This issue will figure prominently in the California referendum next month on atomic safety.

Other scientists, especially Dr. Robert 0. Pohl of Cornell and Dr. Edward Martell of the National Cen­ter for Atmospheric Research la Boulder, Colo., have pointed to the widespread present health hazards from radioactive mil tailings and other potentially cancer-causing exposures from the nuclear fuel cycle.

For a free copy of a “Critical Mass” report on nuclear radiation hazards, write P. O. Box 1538, Wash­ington, D.C. 20013.

With its technical, environmental and economic positions’ crumbling the atomic industry is resorting to political arm twisting and emotional scare tactics of national economic disaster.

Corporate pressure oh the board of directors of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to issue a blanket endorsement of rapid nuclear development led the IEEE’s Committee on Social Impli­cations of Technology to criticize the board sharply in its March newslet­ter.