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Sierra Club Conservation Policies

Nuclear Power

The Sierra Club opposes the licensing, construction and operation of new nuclear reactors utilizing the fission process, pending:

  1. Development of adequate national and global policies to curb energy over-use and unnecessary economic growth.
  2. Resolution of the significant safety problems inherent in reactor operation, disposal of spent fuels, and possible diversion of nuclear materials capable of use in weapons manufacture.
  3. Establishment of adequate regulatory machinery to guarantee adherence to the foregoing conditions. The above resolution does not apply to research reactors.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, December 12-13, 1974


Events at Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant reaffirm the validity of the Sierra Club policy on the lack of safety in nuclear plants and in the nuclear fuel cycle. These problems can lead to adverse health and environmental effects. The possibility of human failure dooms the nuclear fuel cycle to unacceptable risks. The Sierra Club continues to oppose construction of any new commercial nuclear fission power plants. Further, the Sierra Club supports the systematic reduction of society's dependence on nuclear fission as a source of electric power and recommends a phased closure and decommissioning of operating commercial nuclear fission electric power reactors.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 5-6. 1979


Consistent with its prior nuclear policy, the Sierra Club advocates the following measures to provide greater protection for public health and safety:

  1. Federal legislation to require Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing of both military and nonmilitary radioactive waste management facilities, including research and development facilities.
  2. Federal legislation to require Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulation and control of all shipments of radioactive waste, whether of military or nonmilitary origin, and all commercial radioactive materials. The Sierra Club also supports state and local efforts to provide greater protection in the transportation of radioactive waste and commercial radioactive materials.
  3. Presidential appointment of a special citizens' advisory group to advise the president, Congress, and the NRC on the implementation of reforms recommended by the Kemeny Commission and such additional reforms as may be recommended by other studies now underway of the events leading to the Three Mile Island accident.
  4. The making of appointments to this advisory group, to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and to staff positions in the NRC from a pool of individuals not committed by past experience to the nuclear industry. Such appointment should have a demonstrated commitment to public health and safety.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, February 2-3, 1980


Safety Margins for Water-Cooled Nuclear Plants

The Sierra Club is concerned that the safety margins in some water-cooled reactors operating, under construction, or planned, are not sufficient to avoid accidental release of radioactive material in all plausibly foreseeable circumstances. We believe that the maximum allowable power, fuel temperature, and heat transfer rates should be reduced to significantly less than the original design specification limits in order to increase the safety margin until adequate safety research has been completed.

Price-Anderson Act

As a means of internalizing the cost incident to the use of nuclear power, the Sierra Club favors the repeal of the limited liability provisions of the Price-Anderson Act.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, October 21-22, 1972


Breeder Reactors

The Sierra Club reaffirms its opposition to the funding of breeder reactor research and ancillary projects. This includes monitored retrievable storage for spent fuel except at reactor sites, reprocessing, the liquid metal converter, the water-cooled breeder, and the fusion/breeder programs.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, November 15, 1986


Fusion Reactors

The dangers posed by the probable releases of tritium used by fusion plants, the problems with decommissioning these plants, and their high costs lead the Sierra Club to believe that the development of fusion reactors to generate electricity should not be pursued at this time. We are not opposed to safe and proper research as long as it is not at the expense of more benign "soft energy path" technology.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, November 15, 1986


More about nuclear power


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