Happy Undead Nuclear Halloween

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

…a Zombie nightmare rides again.


Photo: Jonathan Lee. Me, Bob Del Tredici, Steve Wing and my hubby casing the FedEx Global Education Center lecture hall at UNC-CH, where all buildings and all departments are now owned by Big Business and Corporate sponsors, much to the dismay of the research faculty.

There are a great many important issues on our plates these days. Health Care (or merely insurance) Reform, two wars of invasion and occupation that show no signs of ending any time soon, an overstretched and vastly underappreciated military, a serious economic collapse and ever-lengthening Great Recession, home foreclosures, unemployment, torture as government policy, war crimes of the last administration stubbornly ignored, and the never-ending assault on the Constitution our erstwhile leaders swore to protect and defend. We who like to think of ourselves as Progressives and are keeping up with issues and actions via the ‘net and blogosphere do what we can on all of the issues, even if not all of them are The Most Important Issue we are personally engaging in our real life spheres. I am adding one more, which probably won’t be at the top of the list for most, but which has been around long enough that it does deserve a place in the lineup of things progressives should keep track of.

This week my husband and I were invited to attend and participate in a lunchtime seminar and evening lecture presentation by Robert Del Tredici of Vanier College in Quebec, Canada. “Looking Into the Nuclear Age: On Life, Art and the Bomb” was stunning. We’d been invited by epidemiologist (and friend) Steve Wing of UNC Chapel Hill, who hosted the event along with artist Elin O’Hara Slavick. Steve had conducted an independent epidemiological study of cancers in the area of Three Mile Island back in the early 1990s, and came to conclusions that directly contradicted those of previous studies and the U.S. government, which has insisted to this very day that no one was harmed by the meltdown.

Steve’s study was to have been evidence in a class action lawsuit in the 1990s with more than 2,000 plaintiffs who had developed cancer after the accident at TMI in 1979. My husband and I were to have been the backup evidence to support his study in that lawsuit, having been the designated “reporting agents” under provisions of 10CFR.21 for the health physics contractor at Three Mile Island immediately following the accident. Neither we nor Steve ever made it to court, as the lawsuit was finally dismissed for “lack of evidence” when the defendants convinced Judge Rambo that the only evidence admissible must be the coverup the guilty parties themselves provided. Duh.

Our job at TMI was to document the nature and severity of the accident as well as the ongoing releases of radiation and contamination to the environment, hiding of doses to workers and the public, and other aspects of the active coverup that began just hours after the accident began, and to report that information. Ostensibly to the NRC, but we found them on-site and actively involved in the coverup when we got there. Second choice was Congress, and we happened to have an old friend who was then chair of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. But he flaked out on us in the end as well. Finally, to the people who were harmed in South Central Pennsylvania and seriously at-risk all over the country from this technology and its potential for death and destruction. Unfortunately, we never got any help toward doing that from the press, so after our report to Congress in 1981 and testimony to the NRC in 1985, we did something quite else with our lives.

30 years later we were suddenly on the radar screen again, as Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies covered the events in Harrisburg and wrote an article about us for ISS that was picked up by a number of other sources. We also got to meet Sue in person at the Chapel Hill events, despite her coming off a nasty bout of Swine Flu. She’s delightful, and every bit as brilliant and dedicated a reporter on environmental and social justice causes affecting our region as we knew she must be.

At the lunchtime seminar we got to meet principals and activists with our state’s environmental watchdog group NC Warn, and discuss with them some of the issues they’re having to deal with as Duke and Progress Energy push hard for new nukes they don’t need and can’t run properly anyway. North Carolina’s got way more than its share of nukes already, some of them notorious for leaking and being forever afoul of regulations the NRC can’t manage to enforce. One of those, the Shearon Harris plant near Chapel Hill, boasts the greatest accumulation of spent fuel in the nation, providing background for some possibilities that are ripe for a Halloween Tale of dreadful proportions given the numerous citations for security violations they’ve managed to rack up over the years.

Seems nuclear apologists are pushing big for a “Nuclear Renaissance” using the global climate crisis as an ‘in’ for more of their lies and deceptions about their deadly beasts. Three Mile Island proved to be the death knell of nuclear power in this country, development ground to a complete stop even though there was a compromise that allowed most on-line plants to keep operating. Even though the 17% of base load they COULD provide if all of them were on line all the time (and they never are) is just half of the capacity we wouldn’t need if we just rebuilt the wasteful grid. Duke ordered two new units for Shearon Harris, and has been trying hard to convince the Utilities Commission that it should begin charging ratepayers right now for the insane costs. So far that hasn’t happened here (it has in Georgia, though), and they’ve recently run into problems with the fact that the super ‘New’ reactors they ordered from Westinghouse have been judged by the NRC to be as badly designed and prone to accidents as the ‘Old’ reactors that can never be operated safely.

The executive director for NC Warn told us his group was encountering some serious resistance from the national environmental organizations that have traditionally been anti-nuclear due to NC Warn’s insistence on keeping the safety issues prominent in their work here against Duke and Progress. The nuclear lobby (no doubt disguising themselves as ‘friendlies’) has managed to convince those other organizations that cost alone is the barrier to renewed nuclear development, and that safety issues must take a far back seat to objections due to cost. My contribution to that was to point out to the assembled citizens that this was the back door the nukes would be most delighted to keep open. We just bailed out a whole lot of crooks in the Wall Street/banking sectors to the tune of multi-trillions (we’re not even allowed to know how much or to whom) of fresh paper minted by the Fed just for that purpose. It’s entirely possible that they might do the same thing for nukes if those in power decide to buy the lobby’s deceptive arguments on how nukes can cure global warming! Then where would we be?

Fact is, there is no possible way that new nuclear capacity could make a dent in greenhouse gases even if we started building the ~400 new plants needed to make such a dent right now, this very minute. First, there are no “second generation” plants approved for deployment now that the AP1000 is a bust. Simply cannot be made safe, and will never be affordable even if they could be made safe. Cannot be done. Those new plants – if they were ordered today and designs were approved – wouldn’t come on line until well after 2025, and we simply do not have that much time. And if we cannot prevent the worst before those nukes start producing electricity, most of them will have to be abandoned anyway due to rising water levels!


Photo: Robert Del Tredici. The amount of

plutonium equivalent to 22 thousand tons

of TNT [Nagasaki].

Which is not to mention the proliferation problems, or the WMD overkill,  the serious waste storage issues or the nasty legacy of death and horror created by our bomb-crazy government ever since the Manhattan Project. All of which was documented graphically by Del Tredici in his presentation – and made most of the audience cry. He offered the most poignantly salient and utterly concise observation I’ve ever encountered about what’s wrong with the very idea of nuclear technology…

For a few seconds of electricity to cook our food, we must babysit the waste for a million years.

In the end, all we’re doing to make electricity is boiling water. Apart from geothermal and concentrated solar, the fuels we use to boil that water are nuclear or fossil – oil, gas, coal. These days we have other choices as well, other ways to generate electricity more directly without raping the planet or killing ourselves in the process. The money it would take to go nuclear again at this point could much better be used to develop those alternatives, to rebuild our grid so it doesn’t lose more than a third of our generating capacity due to inefficiencies, and to cut our demand significantly. Which shouldn’t be too hard, given that the U.S. is no longer a producing nation since we shipped our factories and jobs to other countries.

I don’t expect anyone here to ‘take up the banner’ on nukes over your own issues and areas of activism. It takes all of us doing what we can where we can in order to turn this messed-up world toward where it needs to be. But just as I am trying to keep up with all your issues and sign petitions, write letters, email representatives, etc. to lend my voice when I can, perhaps some of you will keep this issue somewhere in a corner of your minds in case you find that your utility is planning to nuke you just because they can. Nukes are NOT the answer to our problems – they never were and never will be. And if you should ever find that your neighborhood is being turned into a “National Sacrifice Zone” for no good reason, don’t be afraid to go looking for good information about why this must not happen anywhere, at any time. It’s out there and available, all it needs is people to stand firm and say NO!!!

It’s Halloween. Nukes are Zombies, they can’t die because they’re already dead. What they can do is eat your brain and they won’t hesitate to do so. Tin foil won’t help, it doesn’t stop the rain (or those beams and rays). Knowledge is the best weapon, and where it fails sand in gas tanks has been known to work…


Photo: Robert Del Tredici. A field full of ceramic cones representing the 25,000 nuclear

warheads in the U.S. arsenal, 1987.

Pertinent Links:

CRAC-2 Report: Potential Deaths, Injuries, Property Damage

Rasmussen’s ’74 Fantasies


Skip to comment form

    • Joy B. on October 30, 2009 at 21:05

    …for the Zombie Death Squad. It’s a dirty job, somebody’s got to do it… ยง;o)

    • Diane G on November 1, 2009 at 12:18

    Thanks for writing it, Joy.  

  1. is amazing and really surreal. The mind and eyes can hardly register what your looking at. The path through the middle is like a landscape path in a garden. The woman in the foreground seems to be gazing into infinity. Thanks JoyB, nukes are the measure of human insanity.    

Comments have been disabled.