Don Michak: No ‘irony’ in opposing nuclear power

Friday, May 19, 2017
No ‘irony’ in opposing nuclear power

The argument that there was “irony in opposing nuclear power” is fallacious (“Sees irony in opposing nuclear power,” May 18).

First and foremost, how can one suggest it wasn’t “smart” to block the government-subsidized nuclear industry given its long history of accidents and incidents, including large-scale meltdowns at the civilian plants at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi?

I was a member of the local Alternative Energy Coalition, an organizer for the Clamshell Alliance in New England, a contributor to “No Nukes” (Anna Gyorgy and Friends, South End Press, 1979), and an editor and information specialist for a national nonprofit organization that provided legal and technical assistance to antinuclear activists. We worked with ranchers in Wyoming, Chicano ratepayers in California, Native American uranium miners in the Southwest, and other diverse groups across the country.

We were united in opposing the nuclear industry and its plans to build hundreds of power stations. But we worked just as hard to encourage the development of safe and renewable alternatives, including solar, wind and energy conservation.

It is not unreasonable to argue that economics doomed the nuclear industry, saddling utilities with debt and ultimately forcing one of the biggest contractors, Westinghouse, into bankruptcy. And the politically fraught question of how and where to store nuclear waste for years and years remains unanswered.

But don’t discount our concern for safety and understanding of human error. When I was working in Washington, D.C., during the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in nearby Pennsylvania, a friend at the Department of Energy kept a rolling airline reservation to escape should the worse occur.

And while many older nuclear plants, particularly on the East Coast, were operated by people trained in the nuclear Navy under the by-the-book Admiral Rickover, plants like Three Mile Island were being run by a new generation of civilian technicians with corporate overseers. Three Mile Island revealed this was a recipe for near-disaster.

Coal may be deadly and climate change real. But thank God there’s no nuke chugging away in Montague.

Don Michak