People Can Break Nuclear Fool Cycle

Article excerpt

Byline: Vip Short For The Register-Guard

Ah, lesson learned - until repeated. Here we are again at the next climactic moment of what may someday be called the nuclear fool cycle. While President Obama has recently renewed his call for more nuclear power plants, The Register-Guard wisely points to the many inherent and unsolved dangers in a March 15 editorial, "Nuclear failure in Japan."

That strong feeling of deja vu is due to the fact that we already have been here, 30-plus years ago.

The Register-Guard editorial says, "In the United States, nuclear power development has been stalled not by regulatory or environmental obstacles, but by Wall Street's unwillingness to make the large investments required, even with loan guarantees offered by the U.S government."

While correct in noting that nuclear power is a terrible financial risk, this statement ignores the huge people-power movement that was most responsible (along with "help" from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl) for bringing the nuclear industry to a standstill here. The American public would have fallen for the usual reassurances and outright lies about safety margins and public health effects (and the same type of spin is happening right now in Japan), were it not for the education received via media coverage of hundreds of protests.

Here in Oregon, I was the first person arrested at our first and only live nuke plant, along with hundreds of others as time unfolded. Subsequent court hearings, even when they resulted in trespass convictions, were victorious in the sense that we were able to field numerous expert witnesses as part of our defense.

At my first trial in 1977 (which resulted in acquittal), we heard testimony from a radiation health physicist, a respected cancer researcher and an insurance company executive, among others. Our jury - composed of local citizens living near the Trojan Nuclear Plant near Rainier on the Columbia River - was scandalized and frightened by what they were hearing for the first time.

Society's energy "needs" ("wants" being the more operative word) exist on one side of the scales, and society's concern for preventing the fouling of the only nest we have is on the other. It is up to us, the people, to educate ourselves and ensure rational protections. If we leave it to the money people, the profiteers - well, we've seen what Wall Street's greed can do to our economy. Short-sighted greed and arrogance will also wreck our living planet, if left to run free.

We should demand stringent regulatory structures, but we should also not be so naive as to put all our trust in that. The "experts" are full of reassurances, both pre- and post-disaster. The only truly workable strategy has to be primary prevention: just don't build any more! The nuclear genie may be out of the bottle, but that doesn't mean we should spread potential disaster as far and wide as possible.

And this is where the people-power element comes in. If history has shown us anything, it is that an educated and proactive populace is the best force for prevention. (A great local example was recently covered in Bob Welch's Register-Guard column about the work of the Eugene Future Power Committee in the early 1970s to stop construction plans for a nuke plant in Lane County. …