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Enviromental Group: US Energy Plan 'Vulnerable' - 2001-11-29

An environmental group is warning that President Bush's energy plan will make the United States more, not less, dependent on foreign oil and on risky nuclear energy.

Speaking Wednesday in Washington, Arjun Makhijani, of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, said the September 11 terror attacks exposed what he called "gaping vulnerabilities" in the Bush administration's energy plan.

Part of that vulnerability, he says, lies in the continued reliance on foreign oil. Despite President Bush's controversial plan to open up the Alaska Wildlife National Refuge to oil drilling, Mr. Makhijani insists oil imports will double over the next 40 years, if the United States sticks to the current course.

In his report, entitled "Securing the Energy Future of the United States," Mr. Makhijani offers an alternative energy plan that calls for energy conservation and large-scale use of wind power, while reducing coal consumption and phasing out nuclear power plants.

One of Mr. Makhijani's main concerns in relying on nuclear power is the added risk of plant exposure to terrorist attacks as well as the dangers involved in transporting and storing spent fuel and plutonium. His plan would phase out the use of nuclear energy by the year 2030.

However, the president of Science and Environmental Policy Project, Fred Singer, says Mr. Makhijani's concerns are misguided. "Nuclear power is the safest option we have for generating electricity. The least polluting and economically superior to any other alternative except coal," says Mr. Singer.

Mr. Singer goes on to say that nuclear reactors are not likely terrorist targets. "They're low targets as compared to the World Trade Center, secondly, they are well protected by this very, very thick cement enclosure. The World Trade Center buildings were not protected at all," he says. "And third, most important, even if it did hit and even if it did breach the container...the worst that could happen is an escape of radioactivity which would be a fraction of that which escaped Chernobyl."

According to Mr. Makhijani, the energy research institute's plan would achieve security and environmental goals, and at the same time, stimulate greater energy efficiency. "We rely on natural gases and wind as the primary sources of the electricity sector and the natural gas is used both in centralized and decentralized modes in very, very efficient plants," he says.

Mr. Makhijani says in the energy sector, greater efficiency, safety and security offer the right response to the September 11 attacks.