when the dust clears

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Archive for the ‘Nuclear’ Category

Class War, not Nuclear [Power] War!

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Last week I attended what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calls a “public meeting, open house” about its annual assessment of the Indian Point nuclear power plant—Indian Point Energy Center to its owner, Entergy.

Entergy supporter wearing the company colors before NRC “public meeting” on Indian Point, May 17, 2012

The NRC, which concluded in its report (pdf) that Indian Point operated safely during 2011, is not required to take any action based on feedback from citizens at these meetings. All that the six inspectors and administrators behind a table at the front of the packed ballroom had to do was weather two-plus hours of withering invective, quirky performance, and, straight, often impassioned, comment—some of it quite surprising. One gentleman who said he worked at the plant offered highly technical and damning testimony, complete with photos, about what he said was an ongoing “operating leak” at Indian Point. (He refused to tell me his name.) “We did write a violation,” an NRCer responded meekly. Apparently, writing violations doesn’t fix (alleged) leaks.

Man speaks about ongoing safety problems at Indian Point, May 17, 2012

I went because I smelled the potential for a second installment of my Colorlines story on Entergy’s astroturfing, the practice by major corporations of creating, funding, and controlling “community organizations” to push an agenda while hiding their parentage. A young antinuclear activist had contacted me to tell me she had met a group of people of color affiliated with an Entergy front group called SHARE at a hearing a few months before. The woman leading the SHARE entourage told members not to speak to her, the activist told me.

Marilyn Elie, cofounder of Westchester Citizens Awareness Network, hammers NRC administrators for granting excessive safety exemptions to Entergy—and for not doing business transparently, May 17, 2012

No such luck this time. There were very few folks of color assembled at the DoubleTree in Tarrytown, NY, for the May 17 meeting. One African American labor union member spoke in support of Indian Point, touching on the core argument of all pro-planters: Indian Point equals jobs. An African American antiplanter spoke in the cadences of a Baptist preacher to stress the dire safety issues associated with Indian Point. Yuko Tonohira, dressed in a white Tyvek hazmat suit with the Japanese character for death pinned to it, spoke of Fukushima, as did others, like Yuki Endo, who stepped up to the mic.

NRC’s Bill Dean responds to a question/accusation, May 17, 2012

Immediately, nakedly apparent was the class divide. Supporters of Indian Point, similarly clad in neat polo or t-shirts, some with labor union logos, and slacks or jeans, filled a pocket of seats on the left side of the hotel ballroom. The more diversely, even wackily, attired antiplanters sat to the right—and everywhere else. (There were also contingents of business suit-wearing local government officials and legislators who fell on both sides of the divide.) There was ample heckling, with the antis winning out because of their numbers and vehemence. But there was also listening, particularly to the sober presentations delivered by folks like Clearwater’s Manna Jo Green and New York state assemblyman Tom Abinanti (both anti) and many of the union workers.

WestCAN member and Clearwater board member Susan Shapiro addresses the meeting, May 17, 2012

Entergy’s spirit was invoked, to praise and damn, but Entergy as a corporate entity did not present itself. Odd, given that Jerry Nappi, Manager of Communications at Entergy/Indian Point Energy Center, attended the meeting. Instead, Entergy let their working-class proxies duke out with the lefties in what amounted to a largely pointless, in terms of impact, though cathartic event. Who needs to worry about astroturf when you aren’t even compelled to step onto the field?