Page 10


`One big damn subdivision’ Austin In this city, as in others inside and out of Texas, urban “progress” is increasingly becoming a major political and social issue. In this year’s City Council races, a successful candidate, Bob Binder, made “controlled growth” a controversial phrase while an unsuccessful mayoral aspirant, George Olivarri, used “Stop Growth” as his campaign slogan. On a grassroots level, neighborhood organizations have been growing almost as fast as post-rain coliform counts. When there is no specific issue before the public, the wrangling over “growth” tends t o be generalized and semi-philosophical. City officials are accused of ignoring the future, of neglecting the basic questions. Environmentalists are accused of being vague and uninformed. Austin is about to hold its second bond election in 14 months on the issue of buying into the South Texas Nuclear Project, a joint nuclear power operation of the South Texas Interconnected System. \(STIS is essentially the power grid connecting the municipal utilities of Austin and San Antonio, Houston Lighting and Power Co., the Central Power Light Co. of Corpus Christi and the Lower Colorado of life, the encouragement of growth and Austin’s environment will no doubt come into sharper focus as the Nov. 17 election gets closer. LAST SEPTEMBER, the voters turned down their first chance to join the STNP by a margin of 1,340 votes out of 30,122 cast. \(All other bond issues on the opposition campaigning had stressed reservations about the environmental impact and safety of the project, many observers felt that actual voting was strongly influenced by the short time in which voters had to decide. They will not have had much more time this year, and opponents are still emphasizing the possible dangers posed by nuclear power. Dr. Barrie Kitto, an associate professor of chemistry at UT-Austin, discussed his reasons for opposing the proposition with the Observer. Dr. Kitto is co-chairman of formed to fight the bond issue. “Fundamentally, my reservation is this,” he said. “No one expects light water fission to be the major source of power for more than about 30 years. And in return for 30 years of power you are compromising mankind.. . . Is it rational to proceed when there is no satisfactory method of disposal of high-level radioactive wastes that has been found or that is in sight?” In particular, Dr. Kitto mentioned Plutonium-239, “one of the most carcinogenic chemicals known to man” and a substance with a half-life of 24,400 years. “The 20-year tanks have leaked about half of 1 percent of wastes stored in tanks designed to hold them have leaked and we are faced with the problem of storing this for 250,000 years, which is essentially in perpetuity.” Dr. Kitto also talked about the problems of containing radiation from low-level wastes and the uncertainties about whether emergency systems for nuclear core-cooling will actually work to prevent catastrophic release of radiation from the reactors’ fuel \(see Obs., Proponents’ major argument in favor of the bond issue has been that the reactors are going to be built anyway, that Austin is deciding only .on whether to share in the energy proceeds. \(The two 1,250-megawatt units, to be located in Matagorda County, are scheduled to be in operation by 1981. STNP is in the planning and land acquisition stage at the moment. Also on the Austin ballot are a proposal to augment gas and fuel oil generation to provide power until about 1979 and a bond issue to finance a coal or lignite generator, hopefully in cooperation with the LCRA, which could not be in operation before and the four councilmen who are more or less committed to the proposition indicate this attitude. Butler said, on returning from a council visit to a nuclear power plant in Massachusetts, “The plant is going to be built and it’s on schedule, so the question is should we have access to it. I have no trouble answering in the affirmative.” Mayor pro tern Dan Love said, “I don’t think there’s any alternative.” Councilman Berl Handcox said, “I wouldn’t say I’m pro-nuclear. I’m pro-energy.” Bud Dryden indicated he agreed with Butler that economics is the key factor: “I feel nuclear power is just cheaper.” And Lowell Lebermann, the most environmentally-minded of the old guard on the council, said he hadn’t seen “a single environmental issue not solved” at the Massachusetts plant. Opponents rejoin that Austin’s participation represents not only approval in principle of nuclear power, but a significant boost to STNP’s eventual hopes to double its capacity. Not true, say the pro-nukes: other partners in the venture, especially power-short San Antonio, would be happy to pay for and use the share Austin would be turning down. NOR ARE THE catfights remaining even that simple. PCI dropped in another issue by blasting the city’s utilities department. Seems the department is encouraging municipal employees to become knowledgeable about the issue and then volunteer to be speakers before citizens’ groups. Information was provided for them by the department in a Saturday-morning briefing session. Dr. Kitto attended and came away charging it was “blatantly one-sided pro-nuclear information.” The employees saw a film, one of two purchased with city funds, produced by the Electric Companies of New England. \(The film not shown was entitled “Nuclear Reactors Make Good given information packets. They also heard a discussion of “ten minutes or less” \(Dr. nuclear power-generation which “conspicuously minimized the problems.” R. L. Hancock, Austin’s director of city utilities, replied that the department intended “to offer the programs developed by our staff and outside engineering consultants as factually as we can.” But he went on to say yes, the department does feel that nuclear energy is the most acceptable source of power for the future. Another fight is going on between Butler and Councilmen Jeff Friedman and Bob Binder, the two council members most likely to oppose the bond issue. Butler and Friedman have had a personality clash since Friedman took office, and Binder doesn’t seem destined to be bosom buddies with the mayor either. In the council meeting at which the wording for the proposition was approved, Butler repeatedly insisted that Friedman declare for or against. Friedman refused. Butler accused him of “trying to walk both sides of the street,” attempting to avoid antagonizing either proor anti-nukes. Friedman later replied, through the Austin American, that Butler’s attitude was clearly that of a man “entrenched in favor of nuclear power” and that the mayor had November 16, 19 73 3