WASHINGTON – Rock musicians Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Graham Nash are putting a new millennium twist on their 1970s anti-nuclear message, urging Congress not to approve federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants.
"Thirty years ago, we felt that this monster was dead," Nash said. "It's trying to raise its ugly head."
Nearly three decades ago, the three were prominent in the anti-nuke movement, helping organize the "No Nukes" concerts at Madison Square Garden that stirred public opposition to nuclear power.
Tuesday, they were on Capitol Hill warning that a Senate version of a new energy bill contains a provision, backed by the nuclear industry, for loan guarantees that could serve as a "virtual blank check from taxpayers" to help build more nuclear plants.
The loan guarantee provision, they said, mars an otherwise attractive bill that supports renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency standards.
The musicians have launched a petition drive and YouTube music video. They have backing from environmental groups and dozens of artists such as R.E.M., Ben Harper, Maroon 5, Pearl Jam, Patti Smith and Wynton Marsalis. They said they have collected more than 120,000 signatures to present to Congress.
"We're going to encourage our lawmakers to know that the American people are paying attention," said Browne.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's trade group, scoffed at the objections, saying nuclear energy is on the brink of a revival partly due to increased energy demands and concerns over global warming.
"It's a debate they're going to lose because nuclear energy over the last quarter-century has proven its value to our country," said institute spokesman Steve Kerekes. "It's almost as if they're in a time capsule and they've been transported forward."
Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a leading Democrat on energy issues, and Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., said the musicians will provide more lobbying muscle on the energy bill. Hall, once part of the group Orleans, helped organize the 1979 "No Nukes" concerts.