Skip to content
Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > A Down-Home Review of Power

Big business money is pouring into California to defeat Proposition 1S —the initiative vote designed to make the atomic power industry prove the claimed safety of its emergency and waste disposal systems and drop the limited liability which shields its assets from injured people’s claims after a nuclear catastrophe.

Prom such companies as General Motors, Consolidated Edison, broker­age firms, Westinghouse and General Electric, hundreds of thousands of dollars are blending with the huge amounts that California utilities are giving to a statewide propaganda ef­fort before the June 8 vote. A “yes” vote on Proposition IS initiates a public hearing process and a state presence in establishing safe­ty standards. These objectives are opposed by the atomic power frater­nity composed of the federal regulatory agencies, the atomic reactor manufacturers and the utilities.

For years, policy was made for consumers and taxpayers and for present and future generations behind, closed doors with virtually no public participation. Backed by bil­lions in taxpayer subsidies and limited liability, the atomic power industry has been nourished by an atomic socialism in direct subversion of market economics.

Predictably, the demands for even more gigantic subsidies to bail out the atomic industry are being regis­tered in Washington to the favorable response of Nelson Rockefeller. President Ford has forwarded a Rockefeller-shaped subsidy program to Congress that, if passed, would rescue, in significant part, the cost-plagued industry. Naturally, the industry does not want this relation­ship with Uncle Sugar disturbed,

What the atomic power industry is really worried about in California goes deeper than who wins the June 8 vote. For they know even if the underfunded citizens groups for safer nuclear power lose the vote, they will go for a second round in 1978 after having succeeded in educating mil­lions of Californians about the issue this year.

The industry is worried about the states and the voters securing decision-making power over nuclear technology and economics. The initi­ative instrument takes these ques­tions to the people as Albert Einstein urged a generation ago.

Establishing a precedent in Cali­fornia, to be followed by initiatives this fall on atomic power in Oregon and Colorado, means more democrat­ic control of corporate-government technology. This the industry vigor­ously opposes.

So the issue in the upcoming west­ern states voter initiatives involves a profound assertion of democratic and down-home review of an electric power technology which, whether through accident, sabotage or earth quake, could wipe out hundreds of thousands of people and contaminate with cancer-causing radioactivity hundreds of square miles for many years.

It is not surprising therefore that the atomic power industry and its allies are shifting ground in their advertising blitz through California. Using the advice of pollster Pat Cad­deil, the industry is using what he calls “levers of emotional intensity.” Against fact, experience and logic, the utilities are trumpeting the spectre of Caddell’s phrases — “mas­sive unemployment, no growth, poor living standards, runaway costs and foreign dominance.”

Although the nation has ample fos­sil fuels which can be used under proper environmental controls for decades, California has other alter, natives, including solar, geothermal and, most immediate, conservation.

As several credible studies from Berkeley, the Rand Corporation nod the state’s assembly committee on resources, land use and energy have shown, California wastes enor­mous amounts of electricity. “Waste not, want not” is also good economics and sound public health policy.

Here is what the state assembly committee report said: “This scenar­io of state-sponsored conservation could result in cost savings to con­sumers, no sacrifice in well-being, greater employment and lower elec­tric rates than a scenario of rapid construction of nuclear plants.”

Isn’t it better to achieve prompt energy self-reliance with less pollu­tion and more jobs by improving the energy efficiency of utility plants, factories, office buildings and homes through simple technological im­provements widely used in Western Europe?

Nuclear power plants make utili­ties and other corporations wealthy. These companies are not about to tell people what the costs are to their liberty, taxes, consumer utility rates, employment, health, the nation’s se­curity and the disregarded rights of future generations. Americans have to find out for themselves, and the upcoming initiatives are the first such go-around.