Fight the Nuclear Energy Institute’s New Ad Campaign

The National Energy Institute (NEI) is launching a massive pro-nuke campaign. The false claims that nuclear energy is clean, safe and green will be made yet again.
Please contact your local public radio station and ask them to run this PSA. If they are unaware of the problems with nuclear power direct them to, or to your other favorite sites.


Here is the great new 30 second PSA file which is free to broadcast:

MP3 File

Indian Point Now: A Post-Fukushima Plea

By Heidi Hutner; posted by the Planet Sphere

…And it was from what the mothers told us of these children that it became recognized that the children who died of cancer-let’s say an early death from cancer, before the age of ten as it happened—had been twice as often x-rayed before they were born as the live children…. If single, non-repeated exposure to a small dose of ionizing radiation before you were born is sufficient to increase the risk of early cancer death, and that the sooner this event happens after conception…the more dangerous it is …[then], [p]robably every childhood cancer, except man-made ones from x-rays, could be due to background radiation. Are you going to play with a ball of fire and say it’s safe?… Are you going to be happier by adding to the population loads of defective genes for future generations?  –Dr. Alice Stewart.

[R]adiation is now the unnatural creation of man’s tampering with the atom. It’s the genetic damage, the possibility of sowing bad seeds in the gene pool from which future generations are drawn.  There will be a build up of defective genes into the population. It won’t be noticed until it is too late. Then, we’ll never root it out, never get ride of it.  It will be totally irrevocable.  –Rachel Carson.

Why We Must Shut Down Indian Point Now: A Post-Fukushima Plea

Rachel Carson and Alice Stewart sent out red flags of warning a half-century ago.  Why did their words go unheeded?

Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now – Fukushima.

When will we ever learn?  I say, now.

If we weren’t focused on it before, if we had any doubts about the perils of nuclear power plants and the grave threats they pose, if we hadn’t taken the time to read the studies about the thousands and, possibly, one million people sickened and killed by Chernobyl, then Fukushima, melting down before our eyes, should now bring it all into clear and alarming focus.  Indian Point is right in our own backyard, looming with potential catastrophe for the entire Greater New York region.  Yet we have a Governor who sees the wisdom of shutting it down.  We must support him.  Now.  Now is the time for us all to rally and join the effort to shut it down.

I dreamt we were trying to get out—quickly.  Sirens. I packed the car, quickly—bottled water, cans of food, a few dishes.  A few last things.  Would we ever come back?  My daughter opened the birdcage in the back yard and set our parrots free. Their unclipped wings allowed them to fly high, but where would they go?

Right before Fukushima blew on 3/11/11, I was at work on a cultural memoir about my mother’s anti-nuclear activism and U.S. nuclear history.  The more I read and learned about the dangers of nuclear power and weapons, the more I scratched my head and agreed with Daniel Ellsberg: “we are asleep at the wheel.”

The disaster at Fukushima came as no surprise to me.

America likes reality shows, supposedly, but what reality are they watching?  Hysterical mothers and wives competing with each other for something or other, dancing and singing contests, nannies teaching parents how to love.

Perhaps it is easy to remain asleep for some, but I believe that if we don’t protect ourselves, who will protect us?

Night after night, day after day, over the past year since 3/11, I have scoured the internet for information about Japan.  I made online friendships with folks in Japan and anti-nuclear activists worldwide.  I joined in marches in New York, delivered a petition to stop burning radioactive rubble and to shut down nuclear power plants permanently in Japan to the Japanese Consulate in New York, attended lectures, watched films on nuclear issues, and read endlessly on the subject.

Meeting with Fukushima activists in person was the most powerful wake up call of all.  Last September, I listened to the green activist Aileen Myoko Smith, and the organic farmer Sachiko Sako and her children at the Ethical Culture Society.  They and other activists spoke about the situation in Fukushima and their concerns about the dangers of nuclear power at large and at Indian Point, in particular.

Their words were chilling.

At this event, speakers such as Harvey Wasserman, Karl Grossman, Greg Palast, Vandana Shiva, and Kevin Kamps explained that for the people in New York City and its environs, Indian Point is an accident waiting to happen.

Here are ten important reasons why we must shut down Indian Point:

1)   Indian Point sits on two active seismic zones and is the most vulnerable plant in the U.S. to earthquakes.
2)   Columbia University believes the location is vulnerable to a 7.0 earthquake on the Richter scale–which the plant is not designed to withstand.
3)   Over 17 million people live within a 50-mile radius of the plant.
4)   There is no evacuation plan except for those living within a ten-mile radius. In Fukushima, the Nuclear Regulatory Committee recommended an evacuation radius of 50 miles.
5)   The New York Assembly Committee of 2012 determined that New York does not need Indian Point to provide its energy needs and, further, price rates would not  increase as a result of a shut down. There are plenty of safe renewable energy alternatives.
6)   Indian Point’s highly radioactive storage pools are full and there is nowhere to store the materials.
7)   Indian Point’s spent fuel currently leaks into the ground and the Hudson River.
8)   The negative effects of a core meltdown at Indian Point could far exceed that of the Fukushima disaster.
9)   Indian Point threatens the safety of the drinking water of nine million people (nearby reservoir).
10) Nuclear radiation—much of it—remains poisonous for tens of thousands of years. Plutonium ingested even in the tiniest of particles can be lethal.  Strontium and Cesium cause cancer and genetic mutations in present and future generations.

The most startling thing I took away from this list: NO EVACUATION PLAN.

When I spoke to Aileen Myoko Smith directly after the lecture, I told her my family lives in Long Island, less than 40 miles from Indian Point.  Aileen and her cohorts exchanged looks of pity.  She took a breath of air and ch/eerily urged me to save a three-week supply of bottled water in my basement, along with a three- week supply of canned food.  As Aileen explained, “The roads, bridges and tunnels will be un-drivable for a few weeks—too many cars and people. Wait in your basement until things calm down.  Then, pack your car and leave.  Just remember, probably you will never go back.  You should plan your financial life accordingly now.  If you lose your home and job, will you be able to survive?”

Aileen’s words might sound alarmist or something out of a science fiction novel, but for the people of Fukushima, nuclear disaster is reality.  That reality could be mine, and yours, too.

Yet many people I speak with have never heard of Fukushima.  My neighbors and locals in Long Island don’t know much or anything about Indian Point.  I can’t tell you how many times people stare at me blankly when I mention the words “Fukushima” or “Indian Point”.

Here are some more startling facts about nuclear power most people don’t know:

There are 104 old and leaking nuclear power plants in the U.S.  They are due for relicensing soon.  These old plants were meant to run for only 40 years, yet the nuclear industry wants to keep them operative for twenty years or more.  Why?  Profit.  The nuclear industry will tell you ‘nuclear is clean, nuclear is safe, nuclear is cheap, and necessary to our energy needs.’  They won’t tell you about earthquakes, spent radioactive fuel and the lack of safe means of storage, or cancer clusters.  They will tell you low-level radiation is safe, and it is not.

Some other startling news:  23 of the 104 reactors in the U.S. are the same design as those in Fukushima–GE Mark 1. In the 1980s, GE engineer Dale Bridenbaugh, et al, blew the whistle on the design flaws of the GE Mark 1.  Two GE Mark I nuclear plants operate in New York State.  Vermont Yankee is a GE Mark I.

My question is, what happened to anti-nuclear awareness and activism?  Where is the movement today?  When, in addition to the dangers of nuclear power plants, there are still thousands of ready-to-deploy nuclear warheads aimed at and by the U.S.?

How do we wake people up, make them aware and get them involved?

Many environmentalists I know go silent on nuclear issues, or they say we “need” nuclear power to stave off climate change.  Yet important leaders like Bill McKibben, Erin Brockavitch, Vandana Shiva, and Sandra Steingraber strongly oppose nuclear power.  More need to speak out.  There is no time to spare.

The environmental movement at large needs to rally behind this important cause.

How can we breathe life back into the anti-nuclear movement before it’s too late?

For New Yorkers, the time is now.  Indian Point is up for relicensing in 2012.  We must stand up and tell our Governor and President to shut down Indian Point for once and for all.

We are in precarious times—we cannot allow the lust for a “nuclear renaissance” to take hold.  The licensing by the NRC in February, 2012, of the first two nuclear plants since 1973 is shameful. How can they do this less than 12 months after the Fukushima disaster?  Even the Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko of the NRC opposed this decision, saying the disaster of Fukushima needed to be studied first.

Will we allow the nuclear industry to relicense these old plants, invest billions of  taxpayer dollars in building new ones, or will we stand up to corporate interests and demand the safety of our children and the future generations?

Environmentalists and Human Rights Activists need to rally behind this cause to shut down Indian Point and all nuclear power plants worldwide.   More than 17 million lives are at stake in the New York area alone.  Governor Cuomo wants to shut the plant down.  Let’s stand by him, make our voices heard and stop the nuclear madness.

Get involved.  Talk to your friends.  Spread the word.  A number of marches, protests and talks are talking place throughout the NYC area to commemorate the Fukushima disaster and to Shut Down Indian Point.  Join in.  Learn what’s happening and take action.  The time is now.

See the Riverkeeper website for excellent resources, actions and events:

Call and write to:
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
(518) 474-8390

Tell the Governor to shut down Indian Point now.

Also, join Helen Caldicott in Washington DC on March 30th, 2012 for a massive anti-nuclear protest!

We must protect our children and the future generations.

Are [we] going to play with a ball of fire and say it’s safe?… Are you going to be happier by adding to the population loads of defective genes for future generations?

Day 0.5: Friday, March 2nd

Heading South

Today I traveled south to the town of Lakewood in Ocean County, New Jersey with a woman named Judy from Putnam Valley, NY. On our ride down we talked about what brought us together – our curiosity, our apprehension and even our prejudice. I told her about traveling in Japan, WWOOFing around the U.S. and how I passed my time these days. I confessed, without any prompting, that I hoped when I decided to join this walk that I would meet a beautiful activist… after all, I had not been in a relationship for over three years – three years, and during this time I had avoided getting too close to women, had spent a lot of time wondering if I am gay, and let my facial hair grow into a scraggly red and black beard (which I finally shaved in January). I thought, “It’s been a long time since I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable or available around a woman; it’s time I stop agonizing over what-if’s and I-should-have’s.” Judy laughed knowingly when I explained all of this – she said I reminded her of her son, who is the same age, also born under the cancer sign; she described him as moody, mostly easy-going and sweet – words I have often used to describe myself.

When I asked her about how she made a living, Judy said that she did not work – or rather, that she was an actress; then, however, she explained that she also wrote grants and did consulting work to make ends meet. We talked about her experience of working with my father in theater, how he had pulled her out of a seasonal depression when he asked her to play the lead role in “Mother Courage.” I had never heard of the play, so she explained that it was the quintessential anti-war play. Intrigued by her description of the plot, I promised to check it out (someday).

After stopping at the “Athena Diner” in Lakewood, where I ate a greasy corned-beef reuben (a slight disappointment compared to the first one I ever ate, which was served to me at the Birdsall House in Peekskill, NY), we entered the campus of Georgian Court University, where a few local groups, such as, Jersey Shore Nuclear Watch, were holding a presentation and welcoming ceremony for us, the Peace Walkers. As Judy and I walked into the “Little Theater,” a fairly large lecture hall with split-green-pea-colored movie-theater-style seats and a grey-carpeted stage framed by a dark-wooden back drop, we were greeted by a few people organizing fliers on a table next to the entrance. After saying hello and loitering at the table while fussing with some fliers in my backpack, I took a seat in the second row and shortly fell into conversation with two university professors – a doctor of theology and a doctor of holistic health – sitting in the front row. We talked briefly about writing – specifically, we talked about searching for patterns in our surroundings and describing what we see in words, rather than through a camera lens; we also talked briefly about Japan – one of the professors was Japanese and recently returned from visiting her family in Tokyo.

As I was telling her about traveling there last year, a group of mostly young people entered the theater through the side-entrance to the left of the stage (from my perspective). There were three beautiful young Japanese women, two beautiful dirty-blonde, dread-haired young women, Christian, a tall, blonde-haired young man I had met a month ago in Stony Point, NY, a young Asian man with long black hair tied in a pony tail, a young, ethnically-mysterious-looking woman with dark black hair, a soft face and strong eyebrows, and a couple of older adults to whom I did not pay much attention because my eyes focused on two monks and a nun who entered behind the group. One of the monks was a well-built Japanese man with a shaved head and fairly tan skin dressed in orange robes over a white collared shirt and khaki pants; the second was a larger, also bald-headed, slightly darker-skinned man whose ethnicity I could not place – perhaps he is Japanese, I thought, although if he were not wearing the orange robes I would not think so; and lastly, the nun was rosy-cheeked, wore glasses and also had a shaved head and dressed in robes, although hers were yellow.  I recognized her as Jun-san (I had seen her speak to a camera for a few minutes on the No More Fukushimas Peace Walk “tumblr” website. I excused myself from the Japanese professor with whom I’d been speaking, and walked over to Christian to say hello; after shaking hands and exchanging our greetings, I started to walk over to Jun-san to introduce myself, but she was already engaged with several people in conversation, so I decided to wait for a better moment to introduce myself. All the walkers sat down in the first three rows – perhaps twenty people in total – and soon I was surrounded by young folks – I felt excited to be part of such a young group and I felt further convinced that this was going to be a great three weeks.

During the next hour and a half, four presenters spoke about the theme of our event – how the nuclear meltdown of Fukushima Daiichi relates to near-by Oyster Creek Power Plant. Doctor Sachiko Komagata spoke of her experience of visiting her family in Tokyo; she emphasized that the Japanese are divided in their handling of the ongoing disaster – some, she said, are not interested in questioning the official government decrees and really just want things to return to ‘normal;’ others, however, are taking initiative in ensuring their own health and the health of their children by, for example, using their own Geiger counters to measure radioactivity in food, and are convinced that life will never be as it was before the disaster. She gave a great example of the choices a Japanese mother must make today: near to where her family lives in Tokyo is a public pool; wanting to take her children to the pool, but uncertain about the dangers of allowing her children to immerse themselves in the water – where certain radionuclides, such as cesium-137 and iodine-131, tend to concentrate – she faced a dilemma: what should she do? At the pool, along with the time of day and the temperature of the water, a display screen showed the level of radioactivity, which was below official limits; Sachiko did not know whether to trust the pool’s Geiger counters or even the government’s accepted safety limit for radiation. In the end, she said, “It was too hot and humid, so I let my children go swimming – after all many other people were in the water.” She might never be certain that she made the right choice.

Our second speaker, named Sister Mary Paula Cancienne, Ph.D – a fairly short, grey-and-black-haired, sharp-eyed and warmly-cheeked professor at the university – led us in a wonderful reflection of our vision for the future: What does it mean to want “sustainability?” What are we trying to avoid? What are we trying to create? She spoke slowly, de-li-ber-ate-ly, pausing to calm herself when she misread a sentence of her carefully-planned, and beautifully crafted speech. She stepped away from the microphone and asked us all to close our eyes and envision our “worst-case scenario” – how would the world be if everything we feared might go wrong did? I struggled to envision such a scenario on a large scale, so I tried to envision my own death and then the deaths of my yet unborn children – I imagined my son and daughter being trapped in a second-story room of a burning house, screaming out the window for help, and I could do nothing for them – restrained by those around me; I could only fall onto my knees and sob with despair. I felt a weakness in my chest as these thoughts stole my breath. What do you see when you close your eyes and try to envision your own worst-case scenario?

Sister Mary also then called us back and asked us to think of our best-case scenario: what would a “sustainable” world look like? Close your eyes and go to that place… I struggled with this, too. I kept thinking, “But right here, right now is my best-case scenario: I’m in a room full of people who really want to work for what they feel is right – what could be better than this? If my goal is to find and foster inner peace,” I thought, “then this is it.” Some people pointed out that it was harder to envision a positive rather than a negative future – why do you think this is the case? Since I struggled with both worst- and best-case scenarios, I did not see the difference, although perhaps it is because we are better educated to see problems rather than solutions.

Sister Mary passed the mic to Sierra Club of New Jersey Directory Jeff Tittel, and as I sat listening to his words I thought of the three men I know who work at Indian Point – how would they feel in this room? Would they know whether the words spoken were true or untrue? As numbers and nerves shook through Jeff Tittel’s body, I wondered what webs of shimmering spit were spun from his mouth, anchored by his moist lips. Yet, everything he said – about corruption in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the “secret” costs of nuclear power (including astronomical taxpayer-funded subsidies), and the inevitable ascendancy of, perhaps, decentralizing solar and wind power – everything made sense to me. Perhaps he was telling the truth and maybe my friends at Indian Point would find what he was saying threatening because it meant that they would soon need to find a new job; or, perhaps they would not or could not listen to a word he said due to their ears being soldered shut with molten lies manufactured in the rhetorical factories of militant industrialists. The only answer, of course is for me look all of this up myself! How much time is required to understand these issues well enough to deflect the spin-doctoring?

Our penultimate speaker, a young, soon-to-be-mother named Rachel Dawn Davis, called us young people to political action – to take this discussion to our municipalities, to vote into office representatives that would support us in our work for environmental justice, to tell our congressmen and congresswomen that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission no longer represents the views of the American people. I thought, “What we need in Cold Spring is a simple non-binding referendum (a political word for a survey) in which residents would answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the following question: Do you want Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant to be decommissioned (shut down)?” (Although, maybe a preliminary survey along the lines of “What do you know about Indian Point?” might be a better first step.) To end her speech, Rachel described her experience in the private sector: she explained that “solar and wind are happening fast, with or without our government.” “Without me, as well,” I thought.

Lastly, one of the three young Japanese women stood up to read a statement in Japanese (translated by the male Japanese monk, named Senji Kanaeda). Megumi-san, from Iwate Prefecture, told us about the devastation wrought by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown disaster; she explained that she is walking here in the United States because she wants to let Americans know about what is happening in Japan; she wants people to learn the truth so that it does not happen here. As she spoke, she giggled with shyness, repeating a few sentences and often pausing for long moments before continuing her message. I felt charmed by her willingness to speak to us, despite her timidness.

To close the ceremony Jun-san stood up, walked in front of the stage, put on a head-lamp and asked for the lights to be turned off; she said, “We not needing so much light to seeing each other, to listening each other.” In the semi-darkness she chanted “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo,” which is known as the “lotus sutra.” Instantly the other Peace Walkers chanted three times in unison with her. Then, Jun-san thanked everyone for coming and explained that we needed to get to bed so we could have energy for tomorrow’s walk. Once the lights were turned back on, people eased out of their seats, walking up to different speakers to thank them and/or ask them further questions. I hung out by the stage for a few minutes, trying to draw a quick sketch of the theater, before Judy called me to say that we were leaving. Through the dark, damp night air, Judy and I followed the two vans carrying my fellow Peace Walkers to a house out on the barrier-island town of Lavalette, where a man named Willy De Camp was hosting most of us (a few others stayed at another house) in his large home for the night. After I spread out my sleeping mat and unfolded my sleeping bag, I sat down to write; as I type these words to you, I feel myself growing distant from the room in which I sit, from the people chatting while cleaning up in the kitchen adjacent to this dining room, from the others whoare getting ready for bed, and even detached from my tired body, which now calls for an end to this writing: “It’s time for bed!” Goodnight – hasta mañana!

Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself (…continued)

You guessed it: Japan!

So, I traveled to Tokyo on April 12th, 2011 and stayed until July 5th. When I arrived the combined earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown was over one month into the past, and yet the latter disaster was only beginning to develop. In consideration of my own health and my parents’ sanity, I decided to travel west from Tokyo, rather than head north towards Fukushima. I wanted to walk to Kyoto via an old road called the Tokaido, which samurai and feudal lords had frequented during the Tokugawa period (1603 – 1868). On the first day that I headed west from Tokyo, after having  finally tired of visiting temples and shrines while camping out in urban parks for two weeks, I discovered that the Tokaido, rather than teeming with samurai, merchants and wood-block artists, had been converted mostly into an highway, some of which was off-limits to pedestrians (damn!)… so, I decided to hitchhike.

After getting a few rides and moving several hundred kilometers towards Kyoto, which happened surprisingly fast since I had no idea when I first stuck out my thumb how comfortable the Japanese would be with picking up a foreign hitchhiker, I changed my mind and decided to skip the old capital and instead head for Hiroshima, and after that Nagasaki. I had the idea of visiting these two cities since watching a film called “The Sacred Run,” which documented the journey of a group of runners from around the world as they ran from Hokkaido – the northernmost island in Japan – to Hiroshima,which is located in the western part of Honshu, Japan’s main island. I wanted to see with my own eyes what I had seen in this film, in the textbooks of my public high school and in the recurring images of “the bomb” in Japanese Animated films, such as “Barefoot Gen.”

At points during my trip, I thought of traveling up to Tohoku, or northern Japan, where the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear meltdown had wreaked the most havoc, but I never went. I suppose I felt obligated to help in some way, periodically aware of developments at Fukushima Daiichi as well as the tireless efforts of volunteer clean-up workers in the coastal areas wrecked by the tsunami, but I chose to remain in western Japan for the duration of my trip. I wondered if I was selfish, scared, or perhaps just trying to hold on to some idea I had about my time in Japan. Even in the west, interestingly enough, I met numerous homeless Japanese, a few of whom had left northern and central Japan in search of a new home.

Looking back, I think I traveled to Hiroshima and Nagasaki as an unknowing pilgrim, that is, in search of an external “holy place,” or rather, in this case, an “unholy place” of tremendous suffering; maybe I was looking for the “gates of hell” – the depths of human depravity – or perhaps I was simply trying to make sense of all the contradictions I had been taught in school – to know the golden rule and yet, to fight a war to end all wars and drop the “big one” to save lives. I think I was looking for an escape from and an explanation of the suffering I felt both responsible for and horrified by, and I thought I could find what I sought in the stopped-pocket-watch-and-burnt-silhouette-pasts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But time does not stand still; rather, its only consistency is its change. As The Dirty Projectors put it, the “stillness is the move.” I did not find what I was seeking in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, despite the nauseating images in each city’s Atomic Bomb Museum; instead, I found two cities whose buildings vibrated with the joyful sounds of children, strangers generous and kind, and tireless, haunted, and passionate survivors who are still telling their stories, the stories of family members who did not live through August 6th or 9th, 1945, and the stories of friends whose own voices have since been silenced by the hushing wind blowing on their ashes’ urns.

After being taken care of and accepted so graciously by my new-found friends, I wondered how these experiences would shape my life over the years to come. Before departing, several of my friends who are members of the Never Again Campaign, or NAC (a group committed to learning and teaching about the horrors of the atomic bomb), upon hearing that I would arrive at my next destination either by walking or hitchhiking, and after trying to convince me through my semi-plugged ears to take a train, recommended that I, once returned from Japan, meet a Japanese Buddhist nun name “Jun-san,” who lives in upstate New York and has spent much of her life walking for a world beyond nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

Seven months passed following my return to these United States, and, restless from the peace and quiet of life back in Cold Spring, I reached out for something tangible into which I could dig my fingernails… and I dug in. Attached to an email from some friends working to decommission Indian Point was a PDF version of the flier of an upcoming event called “No More Fukushimas Peace Walk,” initiated by Nipponzan Myohoji, Grafton Peace Pagoda – Grafton, I thought! That’s where Jun-san lives. Oh man, I bet this is her idea – I have to go on this walk!

So, in a month’s time I found myself passing out fliers to friends and neighbors, spending countless hours on the internet trying to learn everything about nuclear power – subsequently realizing that I know nothing – and, finally, packing my bag, turning down the heat and walking out my door to begin a new adventure.