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CapeCod 24/11/2014 - 04:41PM

Screening Truth to (Nuclear) Power

Diane Turco of the Cape Downwinders

It's been over three years since the earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima Dai’ichi nuclear meltdown. And with the headlines dwindling, few people batted an eyelash at Japan's announcement this month that it would put two nuclear power plants back on line for the first time since that horrific disaster. That is, except for the courageous activists that call themselves the Cape Downwinders.

After Fukushima, people around the world took stock of the role nuclear power plays in their lives, and some took steps to change it. The Cape Downwinders noticed that we Cape Codders are living in the shadow of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant, just over the Sagamore Bridge in Plymouth. As we heard from Downwinder activist Diane Turco, the reactor is based on the same design as the one at Fukushima. A little investigating revealed that the plant (and its 3,000+ spent fuel rods) are located just meters from the ocean. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, this plant experiences more emergency shutdowns than any other in the country.  Yet strangely enough, there is no evacuation plan for people on Cape Cod. In the event of a nuclear meltdown, residents are advised to stay put: the two bridges, which would bring us north, towards the reactor, would be closed. It's literally sink or swim.

But when the plant's licensing permit came up for review, none of that mattered to the NRC. Cape Codders (and millions of visitors) would be collateral damage. Not to mention, as Cape Cod Bay Watch's Karen Vale told us, the plant continues to release low-level radioactive material and hundreds of millions of gallons of heated water into Cape Cod Bay each year. Not only is this 40 year-old power plant far from the "best available technology", its operator, Entergy, doesn't do its due diligence in monitoring these releases and their effects on the environment.

Following the film and presentations, the audience was quick to make the connections between Cape Cod and Fukushima. RADIOACTIVISTS explores the socio-political changes in Japan after the nuclear meltdown, following the build-up of anti-nuclear demonstrations as chinks in the storied Japanese "stoicism" armor. Many in the audience wondered if we Americans don't have something of a cultural aversion to public protest as well. For all their efforts, Downwinders get maybe 100 people at their demonstrations, the last of which led to the arrest of Turco and three other Cape Cod grandmothers, who attempted to plant flowers on Pilgrim property. But by screening truth to (nuclear) power, we might just be able to turn the tide.