To the Editor:
With the Pilgrim nuclear power plant now operating on an extended license and three of the same vintage and design General Electric reactors at Fukushima still dangerously out of control, I think it is worthwhile reviewing just what the Federal government’s rationale for spawning the commercial nuclear power industry was in the first place.
Although President Eisenhower himself had once opposed the use of nuclear weapons, his feelings on the matter changed. Speaking at a press conference on March 16, 1955, he said, “Yes, of course, they would be used. In any combat where these things can be used on strictly military targets and for strictly military purposes, I see no reason why they shouldn’t be used just exactly as you would use a bullet or anything else.”
But the decision to add a major nuclear capability to our conventional military forces had been arrived at years before, posing a problem for the president and his administration: popular sentiment at home and abroad was dead set against the use of these weapons.
The minutes of a March 1953 meeting of the National Security Council are telling: “…the President and Secretary [of State, John Foster] Dulles were in complete agreement that somehow or other the tabu [sic] which surrounds the use of atomic weapons would have to be destroyed. While Secretary Dulles admitted that in the present state of world opinion we could not use an A-bomb, we should make every effort now to dissipate this feeling.”
Concluding that the best way to accomplish this would be to tout nonmilitary uses for atomic energy, Eisenhower enjoined the Psychological Strategy Board to work behind the scenes with the Ad Council to push this message via TV, radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, labor groups, church groups, and others in a massive campaign to change people’s minds (source: White House Office, National Security Council Papers, Psychology Strategy Board Central Files Series, Box 17, PSB 091.4 U.S. 2). On Dec 8, 1953 Eisenhower delivered his “Atoms for Peace” speech at the United Nations, paving the way for the first of many commercial nuclear reactors to come.
The fruit of a poisoned Cold War tree, heavily subsidized and liability shielded, never “safe, clean and economical” as sometimes claimed, our fleet of atomic power plants presents an ongoing threat to public health, safety, and welfare. They should be retired as quickly as possible.