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The American Lung Association Should Support Nuclear Power

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The American Lung Association (ALA) is the preeminent organization that is dedicated to protecting our lungs.  As such, the ALA should support nuclear power because it is the preeminent emission free electricity generator.  The African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA) decided to support nuclear power in 2000 principally because it does not produce smog forming or greenhouse gases.    AAEA also believes nuclear power represents a tool for achieving environmental justice in vulnerable communities suffering from disproportionate amounts of air pollution.

According to ALA's Policy Principle on Energy:

The American Lung Association strongly supports measures to prevent lung disease, reduce the incidence and exacerbation of lung disease. The American Lung Association believes that protection of lung health and a sound U.S. energy policy are compatible goals that require an emphasis on energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the use of cleaner energy resources, including a transition from coal and oil to cleaner alternatives. Our overarching principles call for the implementation of effective air quality programs and standards, transitioning to a clean energy future, with a commitment to promote environmental justice.

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ALA should include nuclear power in emphasizing technologies that are compatible with protection of lung health and sound U.S. energy policy.   Because nuclear power plants do not emit the nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter, all precursors to ozone production and smog, the technology, by its very nature, is a friend to our lungs.  

According to ALA's policy position for Focusing on Environmental Justice:

The American Lung Association recognizes that energy and transportation sources of air pollution are often located near where many people, especially communities of color or lower income, live and work, which means their exposure to pollutants emitted can be more immediate and disproportionately harmful. The American Lung Association recognizes that, for many reasons, people in those communities also face a greater burden of lung disease, making them even more vulnerable to these pollutants.  The American Lung Association supports the formulation, execution and enforcement of health and environmental laws and policies to address these factors, clean up contributing sources and reduce such exposures.  The American Lung Association will work to reduce the disproportionate health burdens borne by economically disadvantaged and politically disenfranchised communities.

In terms of baseload electricity generation, nuclear power is the best way to power society with the energy it needs while reducing air pollution exposures.  If ALA wants to work to reduce the disproportionate health burdens borne by economically disadvantaged communities, it should aggressively promote the continued operation of our nation's nuclear fleet.

AAEA has a long history of promoting nuclear power to mitigate environmental injustice.  We have promoted environmental justice and nuclear power as complements in California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Mississippi.  We have presented testimony before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), state legislatures, state agencies, and city agencies.  AAEA drafted and led the fight to pass the environmental justice law for New York City.  

In its policy position on Nuclear Electricity, the ALA states:

Before nuclear generating capacity is expanded, the American Lung Association believes that two key thresholds must be met. First, the expansion of capacity must be economically viable without direct government subsidies. Second, the nuclear industry must demonstrate that it can reduce the continuing risks to safety and the environment. The American Lung Association supports measures to improve the health and safety of uranium mine workers, and the communities where they live, including protection from harmful air pollutants.

All energy sectors receive government subsidies and will continue to receive such support.  Nuclear power competes for these subsidies just like the other energy sectors.  Nuclear power has demonstrated its safety because not one person in the United States has died from a radiation accident at a commercial nuclear power plant.  Moreover, considering how much emission free electricity the nuclear industry has produced over the past fifty years, it has to be considered a major benefit to the environment.  Mining safety has improved since the early days when our nation was rushing to utilize uranium for military purposes.  

All of the energy sources produce emissions in the production and transportation of their construction.  Yet none of the other sources spend the rest of their operational lives producing emission free electricity.  (ALA Public Policy Position - Energy