APP Commentary: Supplying electricity needs isn’t “Us vs. Them”

No Its spin vs more spin!

APP.COM – Supplying electricity needs isn’t “Us vs. Them” . . . | Asbury Park Press Online

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Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 09/9/07

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If I’ve learned anything in a long career that spans 26 years of public office, including serving as president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, it is this: Those who lack facts all too often resort to name-calling.

A case in point is the attack by the Press on the recently formed NJ Affordable, Clean, Reliable Energy Coalition (NJ ACRE). Your Aug. 23 editorial “Exelon enlists spin doctors” makes no attempt to cite scientific fact but resorts instead to faulty premises and poisoned rhetoric. As such, you do a disservice to your readers.

Meeting New Jersey’s rapidly expanding demand for electricity, coupled with the need to cut harmful greenhouse gas emissions, is not an either/or proposition, nor is it a case of Us vs. Them. We all have a stake in successfully balancing those two urgent needs.

Framing the issue as a struggle between those who favor the environment vs. the forces of “big business” is not only a bogus cliche. It’s a dangerous trivialization of a serious problem.

The solutions to our looming energy crisis must be born of consensus, not conflict. The coalition was formed to help build the kind of consensus that leads to workable, common-ground solutions. A key goal is to help achieve the greenhouse-gas reduction goals put forth by Gov. Corzine and approved by the Legislature. And we have made it clear from the outset that we see the license extension of the Oyster Creek nuclear energy plant in Lacey as critical to the success of that goal.

We favor and support the promotion of renewable energy sources — such as wind and solar — and we support increased conservation. But despite all of the tax and other incentives that have been implemented, the windmills and solar panels that have been built in the state over the past 10 years still account for only 2.6 percent of New Jersey’s electricity needs. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, currently supplies 51.8 percent of the electricity used in New Jersey and, most importantly, it does so with zero greenhouse gas emissions and at a low cost.

Critics contend that nuclear energy is unsafe. So, let’s look at the record.

There has not been a single documented case of a fatality resulting from a radiological incident at a U.S. commercial nuclear power plant — ever. The technology for storing nuclear waste on site has been available and in use for years now, storing waste safely across the U.S. daily.

Nuclear plants must be shut down at times for refueling and maintenance. Occasionally, nuclear energy plants have unplanned shutdowns. However, nuclear power plants are designed to shut down at the first hint of a problem. This can give the false impression that nuclear plants are unsafe whenever a plant goes off-line. In fact, it proves the opposite. When a nuclear plant shuts down, it’s doing what it’s designed to do to head off any potential problem.

Since the 9/11 attacks, everyone is concerned with the threat of terrorism and rightly so. But some anti-nuclear activists have exploited that concern by making frightening and irresponsible statements about the ability of a nuclear plant to withstand a terrorist attack.

According to the FBI, nuclear power plants are “among the most secure industrial facilities in the nation.” What’s more, tests have shown that a nuclear power plant can withstand a direct hit from a fully fueled airliner with no release of radiation.

Critics of NJ ACRE have contended, falsely, that the role of Oyster Creek’s owner, Exelon Corp., in establishing the coalition was withheld from the public. That’s nonsense. From the outset, the NJ ACRE Web site identified Exelon as the initial sponsor of the coalition. Subsequent public statements by me and others made it clear that while Exelon provided seed money to establish the coalition, they expected additional financial support to come from a growing membership base.

That is what is happening. Our membership is growing almost daily and, most recently, the 2,000-member New Jersey Chamber of Commerce joined the coalition to support our mission.

I am honored to be part of the coalition and look forward to advancing our mission through the collective efforts of a growing number of diverse and highly respected New Jersey leaders. And no amount of name-calling is going to change that.

Edward H. Salmon is chairman of the Affordable, Clean, Reliable Energy Coalition. He is a former state legislator and president of the state Board of Public Utilities.

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