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Archive for July, 2011

The announced plans by Entergy, the owner of the decrepit Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, to reload the reactor this fall with $60 million worth of fresh nuclear fuel is sure to set off a showdown with local activists determined that the plant’s life should end when its license expires next March.clamshell reunion 2011 030

The company has already received a 20-year license extension from federal regulators, but the state of Vermont insists continued operation cannot go forward without state authority.  And given the radiation and lies that have spewed from the reactor for years, the state is determined to see the plant shut down. 

The New Orleans-based company’s announcement comes a week after a federal judge turned down its bid for an injunction to push aside the state’s objections, meaning a trial will go forward in mid-September to test the company’s claim that federal law pre-empts any state authority.  The case is likely to end up in the US Supreme Court.

clamshell reunion 2011 050 Given a history of court and regulatory deference to nuclear plant operators going back decades, activists are not putting their faith in federal judges.   That’s why the annual Clamshell Alliance Reunion last weekend spent most of its time discussing education and action to make sure the will of the people is respected and the plant shuts down on schedule.

The Clamshell Alliance is known for leadership of small and massive nonviolent demonstrations against construction of the Seabrook nuclear plant and for creative grassroots public education throughout New England.  In its heyday in the late ‘70s, dozens of Clamshell affiliated groups were active throughout the northeast.  With the 35th anniversary of the first Clamshell civil disobedience coming up Aug. 1, the Alliance continues its life through lifetime friendships and social networking that crosses over from No Nukes activism into feminist, labor, peace, anti-death penalty, and other movements.

With background from leaders of groups such as Beyond Nuclear, Safe & Green, and the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, and more than a thousand person-years of anti-nuclear experience among them, the Clams didn’t waste time arguing about the clamshell reunion 2011 027 dangers of radioactive poisons or the extent to which “corporate subversion of democracy” has poisoned our political system as well.  Nor did they need to argue about the power of active nonviolence, especially given the uprisings taking place around the world. 

Instead, time was spent discussing how to use “Into Eternity,” a film about nuclear waste, to arouse public opinion; plans for a tour of German environmentalists to spread the word about how that country plans to shut down its nukes and generate enough electricity from safe alternative sources; and how to make sure old and new activist networks are taking advantage of social media to communicate with each other.

Discussion turned of course to plans for nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience, though no specific scenarios have yet been developed.  But it’s reasonable to assume that if Entergy insists of flouting the will of the people of Vermont, nonviolence training programs and formation of affinity groups will start up soon.  

Here are some photos from Clamshell Reunion

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Mel King is second inductee

When NH Public Radio asked me several years ago which Granite Staters had inspired me, the first person I named was Lionel Johnson. 

Here’s what I said:

As one of the founders of Manchester’s NAACP branch in 1964, Lionel was at the center of local and statewide civil rights activism until his death in 2004.  He understood the sting and oppression of racism, and dedicated his life to practical, sometimes slow steps toward achieving justice.  When the Martin Luther King Coalition gave him a special award in 1988, he told me, “You only have so much time on earth to live.  If you don’t produce something for humanity, what are you here for?” 

It was therefore an honor to be present on Saturday when Lionel was formally inducted as the tenth member of the NAACP’s New England Civil Rights Hall of Fame.  

Rev. Alan MacKillop, who now chairs the Manchester NAACP, described Lionel as the driving force behind the movement for New Hampshire recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and as the unofficial civil rights conscience of the state.  As Alan said, Lionel was especially devoted to the state’s youth, and served on legislative committees dealing with youth issues during his 8 terms in the NH House of Representatives.  

When Lionel and others started the Manchester NAACP in 1964, the organization was a moderate force within the growing civil rights movement at the national level.  For example, at a time of freedom rides and sit-ins, the NAACP shunned civil disobedience in favor of lawsuits to bring about change.  But in Manchester, where Union Leader publisher William Loeb ruled the city from his office on Amherst Street, the NAACP was seen as a dangerously radical outfit.  Inez Bishop, who was also involved at that time, told me Saturday that Lionel was one of the few men in the Black community who was willing to stand out and speak up.  

Mel King, a long-time community activist from Boston’s South end, was also inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday.  Mel gave a good speech, and read a poem he had written which contrasts the “love of power” with the “power of love.”  His statement that there is “no such thing as an illegal person on this earth” was one of the biggest applause lines of the evening.  

Mel and Lionel join a pretty exclusive group.  The New England NAACP initiated its Hall of Fame in 2008.  The only other members so far are Senators Ed Brooke and Teddy Kennedy, Kivie Kaplan, Ermino Lisbon, Thomas Atkins, Gerald Talbot, Moorfield Story, and Dick Gregory. 

Perhaps the New England NAACP will realize by next year that there are also women deserving of recognition.  But as Lionel often said, people who work for social justice over a lifetime do it to support change, not to get awards. 

 

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Yesterday, the US Senate considered a resolution, S. 1323, calling on the richest Americans to do their share for fiscal discipline.  Senate rules being what they are, the actual resolution never had a vote.  Instead, the Senate voted on a motion to end debate (“cloture”), which failed, 51 to 49, or 9 votes short of the 60% margin needed to end debate.

The resolution is commendable in its clarity.  Too bad so many Senators didn’t recognize its wisdom.

 

SECTION 1. SENSE OF THE SENATE ON SHARED SACRIFICE.

(a) Findings- Congress makes the following findings:

(1) The Wall Street Journal reports that median pay for chief financial officers of S&P 500 companies increased 19 percent to $2,900,000 last year.

(2) Over the past 10 years, the median family income has declined by more than $2,500.

(3) Twenty percent of all income earned in the United States is earned by the top 1 percent of individuals.

(4) Over the past quarter century, four-fifths of the income gains accrued to the top 1 percent of individuals.

(b) Sense of the Senate- It is the sense of the Senate that any agreement to reduce the budget deficit should require that those earning $1,000,000 or more per year make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort.

All Republican Senators voted “no.”  In this, they were joined by two Democrats, Sen. Ben Nelson (NE) and David Pryor (AR).

 

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The Associated Press “ignored abundant evidence of the [nuclear power] industry’s strong safety record and outstanding operating performance,” writes Tony Pietrangelo of the Nuclear Energy Institute in a letter to the editor sent to the Concord Monitor and presumably other papers that ran the AP’s two stories, June 20 and 21. 

Over the past decade, he says, federal safety reports on “abnormal occurrences” and “accident sequence precursors” show that the nation’s 104 nukes have had only VT Yankee 3-20-11 006 one “significant event,” and “even that did not result in the release of radiation.” 

Mr. Petrangelo is only doing his job, as a P/R guy for the nuclear industry, but did he even read the two articles?

The first reported that the reason the nation’s aging reactors have good-looking safety records is that officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have a pattern of weakening their standards when the power plants fall below regulatory thresholds. 

The second revealed that three-quarters of the reactors have leaked radioactive tritium into the environment.   “Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard – sometimes at hundreds of times the limit,” the report said. 

The only conclusion I can draw is that the release of radiation is a normal occurrence, not an abnormal one.  And if the nuclear regulators don’t see that as “significant,” that only demonstrates that their standards are inadequate.

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World Fellowship, the family summer camp with a conscience, begins its 71st summer season this weekend on the edge of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. 

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For the Board and staff, months of planning and preparation meet the test of real guests asking about towels, kvetching about the the meals (always excellent, in my opinion), asking for directions, and giving rapt attention to Andy’s morning announcements and weather reports.

For those fortunate enough to be planning to be there a few days or longer, the new season promises opportunities to connect with old friends and meet new ones, while enjoying stimulating presentations, walks to Whitton Pond, and reading under the trees.  

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I’m looking forward to the Clamshell Alliance Reunion Weekend, July 22 to 24, and the week which follows. 

And for those who have not yet made your reservations, it’s not too late.  The buildings may be old, but World Fellowship has an up-to-date (mostly) web-site, enabling you to reserve and pay on-line.  Do it now!

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