I’m leaning Obama, but yesterday’s NYTimes story on his relationship to Exelon has me troubled.
The episode …began on Dec. 1, 2005, when Exelon issued a news release saying it had discovered tritium, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear power, in monitoring wells at its Braidwood plant, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago. A few days later, tritium was detected in a drinking water well at a home near the plant, although the levels did not exceed federal safety standards… Exelon believed the tritium came from millions of gallons of water that had leaked from the plant years earlier but went unreported at the time. Under nuclear commission rules, plants are required to tell state and local authorities only about radioactive discharges that rise to the level of an emergency.
On March 1, Mr. Obama introduced a bill known as the Nuclear Release Notice Act of 2006. It stated flatly that nuclear plants “shall immediately” notify federal, state and local officials of any accidental release of radioactive material that exceeded “allowable limits for normal operation.”…
But eventually, Mr. Obama agreed to rewrite the bill… In interviews over the past two weeks, Obama aides insisted that the revisions did not substantively alter the bill. In fact, it was left drastically different... The revised bill was never taken up in the full Senate … Last October, Mr. Obama reintroduced the bill, in its rewritten form. …turning the whole matter over to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as Mr. Obama’s revised bill would have done, played into the hands of the nuclear power industry, which they say has little to fear from the regulators. Mr. Obama seemed to share those concerns when he told a New Hampshire newspaper last year that the commission “is a moribund agency that needs to be revamped and has become a captive of the industry it regulates.”…
Even more troubling is the pattern of contributions:
Since 2003, executives and employees of Exelon, which is based in Illinois, have contributed at least $227,000 to Mr. Obama’s campaigns for the United States Senate and for president. Two top Exelon officials, Frank M. Clark, executive vice president, and John W. Rogers Jr., a director, are among his largest fund-raisers.
Another Obama donor, John W. Rowe, chairman of Exelon, is also chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear power industry’s lobbying group, based in Washington. Exelon’s support for Mr. Obama far exceeds its support for any other presidential candidate. In addition, Mr. Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, has worked as a consultant to Exelon.
New Jerseyans will remember Exelon’s failed attempted takeover of PSEG and the application for renewal of one of the oldest nuclear power plants in the country, Oyster Creek. From the Star Ledger 1/26:
Critics, including some neighbors and environmentalists, say Oyster Creek’s reactor design is obsolete, its community evacuation plan is flawed, and numerous safety issues remain unanswered, including the reliability of a steel containment shell around the core reactor. In the next few weeks, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to decide whether to grant a 20-year license extension to the nation’s oldest commercial nuclear station, a step even the plant’s most ardent foes expect to happen. After all, the commission has approved 48 of 48 license renewal applications that have come before it.
The NRC’s action will cap a process that began in July 2005, when the plant’s owner, Exelon Corp., submitted a 2,400-page application to renew its license. The public hearings and legal maneuvering that followed marked what has been one of the most heated nuclear relicensing cases the federal government has heard. The fight has focused on the reactor’s containment shell, which protects workers from radiation, and whether corrosion has thinned it to the point where it might buckle if the plant were allowed to operate for another 20 years after the current license expires in 2009. Opponents’ arguments about the safety of the containment shell were persuasive enough to win the first-ever public hearing by the agency’s licensing board, which in the end signed off on the safety of the plant. “I fully expect them to relicense the plant. We’ve always suspected the NRC was a rubber stamp for the industry,” said Janet Tauro, a mother of two teenagers in Brick Township who is a co-founder of one of the groups trying to shut the plant, Grandmothers, Mothers and More for Energy Safety
To be fair, there is no daylight between the candidates on the new licenses that will be issued to nuclear power industry. Both Hillary and Obama do not oppose nuclear power, and I can’t imagine McCain or Romney do. Mother Jones reported on Edwards rhetoric opposing it, but when he was in the Senate, he didn’t vote against it either (Dec issue I think?).
Still, I have to wonder about the Exelon exec’s giving so much to Obama. Don’t have time to research if they also gave to Hillary and McCain…
Not sure what to do. This is the most conflicted I’ve been about a vote since I had to pick an alternative to Arnold for CA governor in 2003.