Nuclear Report: Impact on Minority Communities

Krystal High | 1/29/2012, 11:11 p.m.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out his vision for a "future where we're in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren't so tied to unstable parts of the world." On the heels of this declaration, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future released its final report "detailing comprehensive recommendations for creating a safe, long-term solution for managing and disposing of the nation's spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste." Nuclear waste management appears to be a vital part of the Obama Administration's effort to harness America's domestic energy potential.

Black elected officials from across the country agree that nuclear energy is a key component of our country's energy equation. In late 2009, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators ("NBCSL"), an organization of more than 600 state legislators, adopted a resolution encouraging the Administration to be more assertive in its pursuit of a nuclear energy agenda. What's more, the organization expressly supported the "creation of a National Blue Ribbon Commission to provide long term policy guidance for used fuel recycling and eventual disposal."

According to Georgia State Rep. Calvin Smyre, Chair of NBCSL's Foundation, "nuclear energy can benefit our communities in a variety of ways. It can improve health outcomes by being a clean energy source, reduce consumers' energy bills, and serve as the kind of job creator we so desperately need right now."

Of the recommendations included in the Blue Ribbon Commission report, several have special significance to minority communities:

o Greater protections for the underserved

o The Commission proposed the creation of a new government agency to administer and oversee nuclear waste management programs, thus providing extra protection from accidents and a voice for underserved communities.

o For low-income people, who pay a disproportionate part of their income each month on energy services, the agency would offer new levels of transparency and accountability to ensure that the money consumers pay toward nuclear waste disposal goes toward that purpose.

o Keen focus on geographic disposal and consolidated storage facilitates

o The Commission recommended that nuclear waste siting be merit-based and included a combination of communities volunteering to host new storage or disposal sites. The waste management organization would identify prime siting locations.

o Because the government will not allow nuclear waste sites to be imposed on a community without its informed consent, minority communities will not be arbitrarily selected for storage and disposal.

o Workforce development opportunities

o The Commission supports continued innovation and workforce development in the nuclear sector, which provides some of the highest paying jobs in the country, creates opportunities for more job growth and provides substantial economic benefits for minorities.