Locus Focus
program date: 
Mon, 07/26/2010

Restarting America's nuclear power industry is frequently suggested as a means of curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But advocates of this back to the future scenario should study Robert Alvarez's recent report showing that the amount of plutonium buried at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is nearly three times what the federal government previously reported. This means that a cleanup to protect future generations will be far more challenging than planners had assumed. And that's before any more nuclear waste is added to the toxic legacy of Hanford's forty years of Plutonium production.

This week on Locus Focus our guests are Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. He discusses the ramifications of his study's findings. He's joined by Gerry Pollett, co-founder and executive director of Heart of America Northwest, a regional non-profit public interest organization that has spent over twenty years advocating for the timely cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

ROBERT ALVAREZ is a Senior Scholar at IPS, where he is currently focused on nuclear disarmament, environmental, and energy policies. Between 1993 and 1999, Mr. Alvarez served as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment. While at DOE, he coordinated the effort to enact nuclear worker compensation legislation. In 1994 and 1995, Bob led teams in North Korea to establish control of nuclear weapons materials. He coordinated nuclear material strategic planning for the department and established the department’s first asset management program. Bob was awarded two Secretarial Gold Medals, the highest awards given by the department.

Prior to joining the DOE, Mr. Alvarez served for five years as a Senior Investigator for the U. S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, chaired by Senator John Glenn, and as one of the Senate’s primary staff experts on the U.S. nuclear weapons program. While serving for Senator Glenn, Bob worked to help establish the environmental cleanup program in the Department of Energy, strengthened the Clean Air Act, uncovered several serious nuclear safety and health problems, improved medical radiation regulations, and created a transition program for communities and workers affected by the closure of nuclear weapons facilities. In 1975 Bob helped found and direct the Environmental Policy Institute (EPI), a respected national public interest organization. He helped enact several federal environmental laws, wrote several influential studies and organized successful political coalitions. He helped organize a successful lawsuit on behalf of the family of Karen Silkwood, a nuclear worker and active union member who was killed under mysterious circumstances in 1974.

GERALD POLLETT is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Heart of America Northwest. He brings 25 years of organizing experience on Hanford, environmental and peace issues, and political campaigns in Washington, as well as tremendous institutional memory and technical expertise to the organization. Gerry is frequently called on by regional and national media, and for guest lectures at universities and Continuing Legal Education seminars. Gerry has lobbied, written major legislation at federal and state level, and testified to Congress.

Gerry chairs the Hanford Advisory Board’s committee overseeing USDOE’s Hanford budgets, management and contracts. He has testified by invitation to U.S. Senate and U.S. House Committees, is frequently quoted in national and regional media. He also serves as general counsel for Legal Advocates for Washington, which provides legal advice on non-profit, electoral and hazardous waste law.

Gerry also has been serving on the board of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, and the Washington Coalition for Open Government. His work on Hanford and prior work on economics of electric utility forecasting has led to frequent requests that he lecture about the lessons of Hanford and the role of nuclear power in fighting global warming.


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