The new documentary Atomic States of America looks at the community of Shirley, New York on Long Island and how they slowly realized the Brookhaven National Lab was far from a good neighbor. The lab had been conducting atomic experiments and had a number of accidents and leaks. The community discovered the high number of rare cancers clustered around the lab but met with everything from resistance to outright mockery for trying to get answers out of Brookhaven.
Kelly McMasters, a journalist that grew up in Shirley was able to access the library at Brookhaven and found evidence of not just a multitude of accidents and leaks but a carefully orchestrated campaign to lie to the public in Shirley about the lab. As McMasters did her research she found the exact same story in other communities exposed by nuclear laboratories or power plants. The communities exposed have long uphill fights to get answers, acknowledgement or in rare cases, compensation.
People in Vermont are currently fighting their own battle to shut down the ancient Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor, the same design as Fukushima Daiichi. The people, their legislature and the governor want Vermont Yankee shut down. Corporate owners Entergy are refusing to shut down the plant and have used the federal courts to go against the will of Vermont. A federal judge recently sided with Entergy claiming that Vermont’s nuclear safety concerns were the domain of the NRC so the state had no right to shut down the reactor based on fear for their own safety.
The US Federal government was determined to build a large complex of nuclear reactors on Long Island in New York state at Shoreham. The people and the state were having this nuclear plant forced upon them by the federal government. The state of New York created the Long Island Power Act and the Long Island Power Authority and gave it the power to seize all property an assets using the state’s eminent domain law. Those experienced with the Long Island actions to stop an 11 reactor nuclear park on an island with one way off are suggesting Vermont use this same tactic.
Much like people in Japan are now experiencing with METI, US nuclear regulators are largely seen as “for show” to give the illusion of safety but care little about the public’s concerns.
A Florida clean energy group is challenging a Florida law that has been allowing private sector nuclear companies to force consumers to pay for repairs to their reactors and for new nuclear plants they may never build through tax levies. The group says the law is unconstitutional because it gives Florida’s power regulator the ability to write laws as they go without the consent of the legislature to the point of reversing state law through the regulators office. The tax is already being abused as it is relatively sure the proposed new nuclear plant will never be built yet taxpayers are being forced to pay for it along with paying for repairs for a botched DIY repair job the private power company did at the Crystal River nuclear reactor.
There are rare cases of the government having a moment of clarity. The UK nuclear regulator recently said in internal emails that they consider a new reactor claimed to run on plutonium stockpiles as immature and commercially unproven. The reactor by GE Hitachi, called “Prism” (Power Reactor Innovative Small Modular), it is a new design of sodium-cooled fast reactor that is fuelled by plutonium. In a response to GE the UK said this:
” the NDA said it had carried out a “high-level assessment” of Prism. The technology was “still to be demonstrated commercially”, it concluded, and “the technology maturity for the fuel, reactor and recycling plant are considered to all be low“.
In Japan people are struggling with the same issues of power companies with too much control and a government that ignores the public. There are many local level efforts to block nuclear reactor restarts as most prefectures and municipalities have some amount of say in reactors continuing to operate. Since METI rubber stamped the restart of the Oi reactor, local level efforts may be the only way to stop them.
While people worldwide are fighting to prevent unsafe technology from operating in their area, creativity may be key to finding a way to actually stop it.
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