This Week’s Featured Interviews:
Activists getting active on multple fronts!
- Linda Seeley is a veteran member of the group San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace. Here, she fills us in on how the New York article, The Activists who Embrace Nuclear (GAK!) was not researched with anyone connected with the group – meaning due diligence was not done on the article. She has more as well.
Mothers for Peace is asking for letters to be sent to the New Yorker:
- Letters to the New Yorker editor: [email protected], and per their guidelines, include your postal address and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium. All letters become the property of The New Yorker.
- Robbie Leppzer is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker with over forty years experience who directed POWER STRUGGLE (86 minutes, 2019), which portrays a heated political battle to close down the problem-plagued Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Filmed over five years, the film follows the unfolding drama as citizen activists and elected state officials—alarmed at increasing safety violations—take on the federal government and one of the biggest power companies in the United States and eventually win. Robbie talks about POWER STRUGGLE, as well as his long filmmaking career which started at age 18 filming the birth of the antinuclear power direct action movement with his film, SEABROOK 1977 (www.turningtide.com/seabrook-1977). He also talks about his 1980 radio documentary, VOICES FROM THREE MILE ISLAND (https://www.powerstrugglemovie.com/voices-from-three-mile-island) and his 1982 nuclear disarmament film, CHOOSE LIFE.
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Numnutz of the Week (for Outstanding Nuclear Boneheadedness):
Ford wanted to build a nuclear-powered car and decided against it in 1957. So why are they now building a model for their museum?
You do NOT want to be rear-ended in this nuclear reactor-powered car!
Nuclear propaganda. It manipulates hoodwinks brainwashes, or just generally misinforms good people to take advantage of their naivete and lack of information. And it seems to have limitless funds to support it. So when you hear about a pro-nuclear so called activist group headed by two employees of the soon to be shuttered, Diablo canyon, nuclear power station, and then you learn from a veteran anti-nuclear activist that in order to form the group, the ultimate pro nuclear shill, Michael Shellenberger, the shill Berger himself was flown into address the employees of Diablo canyon. And she says
He came to rally the troops to get the employees together, to protest the shutting down of the nuclear power plant. And he stood up on stage and said, if any of you are willing to start an activist group to stop this plant from being shut down, we will pay all your expenses. And we will bring you to meet with us and give you the training that you need with the PR and all that stuff. And by golly, a couple of these young women took him up on it. When,
When you hear how, what is actually an unregistered lobbying group was established with the caring feeding of the nuclear industry under the guise of being a so-called activist organization, and then how they duped the new Yorker magazine into doing some heavy PR lifting for them. You begin to realize that there is no limit to the depth to which the nuclear industry will go to make certain, we are all stuck forever in that awful seat that everyone on this planet, even nuclear Scheels must share
Clear hot seat. What are those people thinking? Nuclear hot seat. What have those boys been braking clear, hot? See the Ms. Sinking our time to act is shrinking, but nuclear Hotsy it’s the bomb.
Welcome to nuclear hot seat, the weekly international news magazine, keeping you up to date on all things nuclear from a different perspective. My name is Leiby Halevi. I am the producer and host as well as a survivor of the nuclear accident at three mile island from just one mile away. So I know what can happen when those nuclear so-called experts get it wrong. This week, we speak with Linda Seely of the San Louis mothers for peace, who provides a rebuttal to an enormous and enormously biased article in the new Yorker that could have been written by the nuclear industries, PR factory. And then we walked through anti-nuclear memory lane with filmmaker, Robbie, who has been documenting and filming and audio taping, the truths actions and winds of this movement. For more than 40 years, we hear brief snippets from several of his films, and then learn how you at home can view his latest film power struggle about the successful shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor, not only having a great film to watch, but also helping to support the future of nuclear hot seat.
We will also have nuclear news from around the world numnuts of the week for outstanding nuclear bone headedness, and more honest nuclear information than we would ever hope to get out of a fiberglass. Golden cath, all of it coming up in just a few moments today is Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021. And here is this week’s nuclear news from a different perspective. Last week we shared with you outrage over a shoddily researched new Yorker magazine article on the so-called mothers for nuclear, a nuclear lobbying group, cleverly disguised as an activist group. This big sloppy wet kiss to the nuclear industries, unmentionables earned numnuts of the week, but the damage potentially done by this article is far more serious than that to find out the, on the ground reaction to it by those most directly and negatively impacted by it. I spoke with Linda Seely of San Louis Obispo, mothers for peace. She is a nearly 50 year veteran of the fight against the Diablo canyon nuclear reactors. We spoke with Linda Seely on Sunday, February 28th, 2021, Linda Seely. So good of you to be able to join us here on nuclear hot seat on such short notice.
Thanks Leb. I’m so glad to be here to talk about this article in the new Yorker with you.
Let’s start with just a tiny bit of background. What is mothers for peace? How long have you been around and what have you been
Others for? Peace started in 1967 in opposition to the war in Vietnam. And then in 1973, when the war was coming to a close, we turned our sights toward the construction of Diablo canyon, the nuclear power plant. That’s built 11 miles outside of San Louis Obispo on a beautiful coastline. And we have been working on safety issues at that nuclear power plant for the past 48 years, including looking at the 13 earthquake faults that it’s built on.
And mother’s rupees has presented to the, and you also have intervene or status briefly explain what that means.
What that means is whenever there’s an issue of safety at Diablo canyon, that mothers for peace has the opportunity to raise the issue with the nuclear regulatory commission, which is a captive agency, as you know, meaning that they basically work for the industry that they’re supposed to be regulating. And so we have to be the watchdog over that because the NRC itself doesn’t do its job in its regulatory function. And so w we’ve had so many issues at Diablo canyon from the embrittlement reactor vessel of unit one that is just disastrous. I mentioned before the earthquake faults, we’ve had this leak of the hydrogen in unit two, unit two is currently offline. There are all kinds of things that happen weekly, daily at Diablo canyon that we have to keep our eye on.
So this article comes out in the new Yorker, a 5,590 word article, which in a modern publication is unheard of in length entitled the activists who embrace nuclear power, which certainly does not describe you or this group. How did you learn about this article? When did you learn about this article and what was your response once you read it?
I subscribed to the new Yorker and I clicked on it when it came up and lo and behold there, it was, I could not believe my eyes when I first saw it. And I started reading and tearing my hair out while I was reading it. I have never seen such an apologist stick piece of flim-flam journalism in my entire life. It was shocking and I have always respected the new Yorker and considered it to have high editorial standards. And I don’t know what happened here. I don’t know how this got through.
Was there any contact that was done? Any outreach to mothers for peace?
So there was no contact with the standing of record, almost half a century group that has been opposing this and has legal standing on it. Correct. What can you tell us about this so-called activist group? I always think of activists in opposition to power. This is a lobbying group, but what can you tell us about how mothers for nuclear got started?
I was there actually the night it was created in San Louis Obispo, Michael Shellenberger, who is a shill for the nuclear industry.
I call him the shield. Berger
Exactly came to San Louis Obispo to meet with employees. It was shortly after Pacific gas and electric announced that they were going to shut down Diablo canyon and 24 and 25. And he came to rally the troops and it was in 2016 to get the employees together, to protest the shutting down of the nuclear power plant. And he stood up on stage and said, if any of you are willing to start an activist group to stop this plant from being shut down, we will pay all your expenses. And we will bring you to meet with us and give you the training that you need in use of media and public speaking and all that. And a couple of the young women volunteered. Apparently I didn’t see that part, but I have known them ever since we’ve had many encounters with them and they are sincere in their way, but they’re brainwashed.
It’s like the nuclear regulatory commission and the people who work there, they accept nuclear power kind of the way you are. I might accept a religion. They don’t question the fundamental assumptions about splitting the atom about whether or not human beings have the capability of taking care of the radiation. The radioactivity that’s created when you split an atom and it has to be contained for the next 240,000 to 1 million years into the future. And that is not part of the working equation that they use. And that’s what separates them from the rest of us who do think about the future generations.
Let’s get to this article. Give me a couple of highlights of things that made the steam blow out of your ears.
I would say where Heather Hoff describes nuclear power plants are carbon free because if they’re carbon free, then they’re not adding to global warming, right? Well, it’s such a crock because in a nuclear power plant, yeah, it doesn’t produce a lot of CO2 during its operation. What it does produce is heat so much eat. You can’t believe it. The nuclear efficient is extraordinarily hot. So that is putting out so much heat into the air every day. And then you’ve got the water that comes in two and a half billion gallons of water every day that flows through the plant and out the other side. And when it comes out the other side, it’s 20 degrees hotter than it was when it went in from the ocean. Plus it’s killed all the plankton, all the microscopic fish, every single piece of life that’s come in there, it’s dead.
When that water is released back into the ocean, not to mention the fact that during the construction of the nuclear power plant, you have any enormous amount of CO2. That’s put into the atmosphere with the millions and millions of tons of cement and steel and other metals that are put in there and the bulldozers and blah, blah, blah, all that. And then during the decommissioning, you got to do everything backwards that you did in the beginning 40 years before, except now it’s all radioactive. So then you got to figure out what the heck to do with all the radiation that’s out there and they don’t know what to do with it. So this piece in the new Yorker that mentions radioactive waste exactly one time in the entire article and calls it fraught. The discussion about the storage of nuclear waste is kind of the key thing there because nuclear power would be great. We would love nuclear power mothers for peace. If it weren’t for the highly radioactive waste that has to be stored for a million years so that nobody gets contaminated and their DNA doesn’t get messed up and you don’t get cancer and you don’t get leukemia and all those other things and have, by the way, Libby, have you noticed how much the sperm count has been reduced in the past 40 years since we started using nuclear power?
What I’d like to find out is what has been the response among mothers for peace and beyond that anywhere into the further community
And people are shocked and people are enraged. We, you know, we’ve written multiple, multiple letters to the new Yorker. I wonder if, if the new Yorker will publish any of them, nobody from the new Yorker has contacted mothers for peace to ask us what our opinion is. And most of us have written back to the new Yorker till tell them what we think of this piece. So we’ll see, I, I have a feeling that nothing is going to happen. Why would they be so irresponsible? Why would they publish this piece? What is going on that would give this incredible publicity to this fringe group of pro-nuclear people? You know, there’s such a push right now by the pro nukes to start with a small modular nuclear reactors and get those up and running. And I just wonder how all of this weaves together. It’s very concerning.
The fact of the matter is that radiation kills. That is a fact is indisputable. And so it’s so important for us to let people know how extraordinarily dangerous the substance is. Especially the highly radioactive waste and nuclear fuel rods that are not well protected from the environment and the we’d have no idea of what to do with, it’s almost suicidal. It’s a cultural suicide that we have so much hubris that we think that we’re allowed to make something that nobody knows what to do with. And that’s going to be killing the plants, the animals, the waters, and the people up through so many generations. And yet, for some reason, we feel we have a right to make it. I will never understand it. And these two young mothers for nuclear, they are in denial. They should be able to look at this and understand what they’re promoting is there to harm these children that they have. And yet, for some reason, they cannot seem to understand that gee, I wish they could.
That was Linda Seely of San Louis Obispo, mothers for peace. We’re not fond of plugging the opposition here, but we will link to the new Yorker articles. So you can read it before you write your thoughts about it, to [email protected]. And they ask that you include your postal address and daytime phone number. If you wish to be considered for publication. In other news here in the U S the grand canyon protection act, a bill that would make permanent the current temporary mining ban on about 1 million acres of public lands near the grand canyon. National park has been introduced in both chambers and passed out of the house. The time is now to contact your senators, to urge support and co-sponsorship of the grand canyon protection act in the Senate from Texas comes word that during the recent Arctic energy crisis, not only was south Texas nuclear offline for three and a half days, but the Comanche peak nuclear power plant outside of Fort worth was three minutes from going completely offline from an emergency shut off during the blackout power was cut from pipeline compressors necessary to transport fuel to the power plants, to run their safety equipment.
You didn’t think nuclear plants generate their own energy. Did you even, their emergency sirens are run by solar panels. And now
The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn. Michigan is building a model of the 1957 Ford nuclear powered car, the nuclear powered by a submarine style uranium vision reactor in the rear problems that stop this lousy idea for moving forward include the weight of shielding required to protect passengers from radiation difficulties. Replacing spent fuel the need to build a chain of service stations with personnel trained in handling radioactive materials. And oh yeah. The potential for a meltdown in the middle of the freeway, in case of a fender bender, that’s why Ford motor company and museum do you really need a model of this thing? Now you are this week’s.
Like in Japan, Tokyo electric power company, still in charge of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant says that during the recent powerful earthquake 7.3, that hit on February 13, two seismometers at one of its three melted nuclear reactors did not collect data because they’d been out of order since last year, the malfunction is blamed partly on heavy rain during July, 2020 in the wake of the quick cooling water and pressure levels fell in the unit one and three reactors indicating additional damage to their primary containment. Chambers 53 tanks storing radioactive wastewater were shifted from their original locations, moving from their original locations by three to 19 centimeters, five sections of piping connecting the tanks shifted more than the limit recommended by the manufacturer. So far, TEPCO says it has found no cracks or abnormalities in the piping, but they have not completed their inspections. TEPCO also laid plans to repair the two seismometers at the reactor building next month.
Great sense of urgency. TEPCO considering there’s already been a 6.0 aftershock and is a recent survey by the Japan consumer affairs agency has shown 8.1% of consumers in Japan still hesitate to buy food products from Fukushima. And here’s a good reason why, because fish contaminated with radioactive cesium five times above permitted levels in Japan has been detected in black rock fish caught in Northeastern Fukushima prefecture. Some 500 becquerels per kilogram of Caesium was found in the fish exceeding the national standard level of 100 barrels per kilogram. That is what’s quote unquote permitted, but note that before Fukushima Japan had no limit on the amount of radiation in food, they didn’t measure for it because they didn’t expect any we’ll have this week’s featured interview in just a moment, but first activist getting active. That’s what this episode is entitled because it contains the history of the fight against nuclear for more than four decades.
Thanks to the films of our featured interviewee. And as you’ve heard a prime example of taking on the current nuclear lies, even when they come from an revered national publication, we can never let our guard down because the moneyed nuclear industry PR machine is always pushing to get more money, so it can keep pushing to get more money. So it can push for more nukes, no matter who gets cancer as a result, or whose grandkids don’t have a chance to even be born. And to know that’s not an exaggeration radiation exposure leads to fertility issues, reduced sperm, count DNA, damage, birth defect, all part and parcel of what the nuclear industry is selling us. When it tries to trick us into thinking that nuclear reactors are cute and modular, just like Legos or pushes the fear button to make us think we cannot possibly be safe without more nuclear weapons of planetary destruction, mainstream media lacks the staffing focus, or maybe just the hutzpah to report regularly on nuclear issues, let alone with any specificity about exactly what’s wrong with them.
And that is why you need nuclear hot seat. Every week we get into nuclear stories with facts, continuity and context, as well as skepticism with a much deeper and nuanced telling than you would ever expect to find on mainstream media. That’s why the time would be right now to support us with a donation, just go to nuclear, hot seat.com and click on the big red donate button to help us with a donation of any size, or as you’ll hear, you can purchase a ticket to the film, power struggle, and half the purchase price will be donated to the show, whichever you choose to do know that you’re taking an important action, and I’m deeply grateful that you’re listening and that you care now here’s this week’s featured interview. Robbie is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker with over 40 years experience directing over 30 independent film, video and public radio documentaries for national and international distribution, his critically acclaimed feature lump and short documentaries and commissioned television news magazine segments focus on contemporary social issues, grassroots activism, and multicultural themes. They’ve been broadcast by CNN international NHK in Japan, Canadian broadcasting corporation, HBO Cinemax, PBS CNN, national public radio Pacifica radio. This man has serious creds here. We discuss his history of documenting anti-nuclear movements, as well as his generosity and sharing his latest film power struggle as a fundraiser for groups which oppose or simply wish to know more about nuclear issues. We spoke with Robbie on Friday, February 26th, 2021, Robby lept, sir, it is great having you here with us on nuclear hot seat.
I’m really happy to be here with you,
Levy. What is your background and what first attracted you to filming nuclear issues?
I actually got very early start when I was 18. I made my first video documentary chronicling the birth of the anti-nuclear direct action movement that was focused on stopping nuclear power plants and bringing attention to the dangers of operating nuclear power plants. I grew up outside of Boston and in the mid seventies, there was a huge movement to oppose the construction of the Seabrook New Hampshire nuclear power plant, right on the coast. I was 18 at the time when all of this was going on, I had just started as a college student at Hampshire college. So I had access to all of this video equipment. I actually organized a team of over a dozen independent videographers to work with me initially on the first few days of the protest. And this protest was amazing. 2000 people occupied the construction site. It was a sit in a non-violent civil disobedience sit in 1,414 activists were arrested and then held in national guard armories for two weeks.
And I was filming this as it was unfolding. And then over the next year I went back and I interviewed all the major players involved, including not only the major activists, but also the governor of New Hampshire, the head of the state police, the head of the national guard. So it’s quite an interesting documentary looking at how does a protest happen. And in this case, this protest may history. I really put nuclear power on the map of consciousness across the United States, the movement that then grew catalyzed dozens and probably hundreds of direct action, civil disobedience protests at nuclear power plants all across the country. From the late seventies through the eighties, into the nineties,
One of the great joys for me in watching this was seeing some of our senior activists when they were in their early prime. One of these is featured here in a clip from Seabrook, a very young Harvey Wasserman
Put yourself in their position. If you were facing 1800 or 2000 highly organized, dedicated people, committed to non-violence and committed to the idea of getting on this site and stopping the nuclear power plant. I think you’d be real confused and you wouldn’t exactly know how to proceed and, and you would probably follow the line of least resistance, which was allowing us on the site. And that’s what happened. I, if the power in nonviolence is just a whole other level of tactic, and it’s something that, that is totally mind blowing it’s if we came on, if we had approached this thing with any ideas of violence or heavy macho, sort of, we would not, we would not be on the site. There’s no way
That was Harvey Wasserman in his youth, if not his early childhood journalists, broadcaster, ongoing activists who actually came up with the term, no nukes. And he’s now known for his work on solar Topia against the Diablo canyon nuclear reactor in California, and his work with Greg Palast on the issues of systemic election fraud. How has the film Seabrook played into the ongoing fight against nuclear reactors?
It really gave inspiration for people that people could take direct action, put their bodies on the line and really call attention to this issue of the dangers of nuclear power operating plants and the dangers of nuclear waste. All of which we are still dealing with now, you know, decades later and ongoing, and not only around the United States, but around the world. So this shows how citizens grassroots activists can make a difference in calling attention to an issue and raising awareness. I think the history of what happened at Seabrook with the clamshell Alliance, they started a form of organizing of nonviolence that included forming affinity groups that were small groups, that people could have an intimate contact with their friends and neighbors who were part of a, of a large action that model started at Seabrook and now has been used not only across the anti-nuclear movement, but the climate justice movement, occupy wall street, all sorts of movements where how to organize people on a non-violent basis and have autonomy in small groups yet be responsible to a larger collective
Two years after CBiRC 1977 in 1979, you produced the audio documentary voices from three mile island. How did you get involved with this project?
Knowing so much about nuclear power at that young age? When I first got involved with documenting Seabrook, when the accident first happened at three mile island, I was immediately tuned into it. And in fact, I was doing a weekly radio program called undercurrents, a weekly two hour radio program on the UMass Amherst radio station. And so I did a number of reports investigating the coverups that were happening at three mile island. And then nine months after the meltdowns happen, I had an opportunity to travel to the three mile island area in central Pennsylvania with a group of activists from Western mass and Vermont. And we did a series of interviews with people who live within a five mile radius of the plant. Many of them were evacuated during the height of the meltdown that was going on. And so there was just really gripping intimate interviews, oral history interviews with people there.
And one of the more powerful interviews that I did as part of that was with a dairy farmer, Jane Lee, who collated reports from herself and other farmers in the area that showed a dramatic increase of birth defects, stillbirths, and miscarriages among the farm animals, because they’re outside in the environment, this kind of like citizen to citizen reporting is really important. And I was able to produce a two hour public radio special called voices from three mile island that was aired on the one year anniversary of the three mile island meltdown in March of 1980. And then later that year, it was also published as a book by the same name, voices from three mile island by the crossing press.
You have been very generous in sharing audio clips from the three mile island program with me for nuclear hot seat. And I still use them as part of what I put together as my personal documentary on three mile island, which will be up in a few weeks because we are coming up on that anniversary. Now let’s take a moment and hear a clip from dairy farmer, Jane Lee, about what it’s like to have to evacuate from a nuclear accident from voices from three mile island.
It’s like your house is on fire and you only have so many minutes to think, and you don’t know which to grab first and you don’t know what to do, and you don’t know where to go. And you, if you do go, you have to go with the idea that you’re never coming back now is a one hell of a horrible experience to try to pack a car. You lose things. You’re in a state of panic. The keys were stuck in the trunk of the car, and I couldn’t find them anywhere. Go down that road and look back and know you’re never coming back.
That was farmer Jane Lee from Robbie audio documentary voices from three mile island, three mile island is now closed and undergoing the usual nuclear industry money grab for its decommissioning and waste storage funds. How important do you feel it is that voices from three mile island still be heard in light of the fact that the discussion has changed.
People need to know the truth about what happened there. A lot of it really was covered up. It was indeed a meltdown, a large amount of radio activity was released into the environment and people did go through the terror of having to evacuate in a panic. And they were receiving all sorts of conflicting reports from the media and the government about what was really going on there. So people need to know the truth about what happened at three mile island and that history, hearing those stories, hearing those voices is really important. I’ve made this radio documentary available free on my website. If you go to power struggle, movie.com and look under filmmaker, you’ll see the voices from three mile island there. And that full two hour documentary is available.
Of course, quite powerful for me because I was one of those people in the five mile evacuation area, staying with friends accidentally in the middle of an accident. So this has always been a very powerful documentary for me. And I’m grateful that you have allowed the sharing of clips so that I can enrich the story that I tell on my anniversary program.
I’m very happy to share this with you Lee, because I really respect and really appreciate the work that you have done over these last 10 years, reporting on all issues, nuclear, because I would say that we, you, you and I, as as media producers, but also with all of the activists who’ve been working on nuclear issues for decades, we’re actually part of a unique group of people who are cursed with knowing too much about this subject. And yet we are dedicated to continually bringing information about the dangers of nuclear power to the public, because it’s just not on most people’s radar screens. And so this is our challenge, our mission to help educate people about this issue that really needs to be dealt with. And it’s not being dealt with in the ways that, that it needs to
Thank you for that. And yeah, it’s like a train wreck that I can’t look away from because it keeps wrecking and wrecking and wrecking. You have continued with this stream of documenting nuclear activism, fighting back with a documentary about the 1 million people March for nuclear disarmament, which took place in New York on June 12th, 1982. How accurate is that number one?
Well, in fact, I did hear from one of the organizers of the March themselves. This is years later and she told me that the police, the New York city police told her that the actual number was actually 1.2 million or higher. And they said, don’t quote us. We’ll deny it. There was over a million people there.
It astonishes me that that many people could be moved on a nuclear issue. And you documented this you’re part of our history stream here. You documented this with a short film called choose life. Tell us about that film.
It’s a short film, but it has a cast of a million people that was an incredible day when people of all walks of life, all ages, all races from different parts of the planet earth, not only from New York, but from around the country around the world, because the United nations was meeting on this issue of nuclear disarmament and others at the peak of the organizing that had been going on for a nuclear freeze. And so people came out, I was just there with my camera and the camera crew, and we would just film interviews with people. Why are you here? And people had the most eloquent statements about I’m here to live. I’m here because I want the planet to survive. I want humanity to survive. We had this incredible moment early on in our filming. We started filming and all of a sudden I hear amazing grace being played on the saxophone and it’s Paul winter. And so we’re filming Paul winter playing amazing grace. As he walks past the United nations. It was just an amazing day. There was people from Japan, there, people from Hiroshima, people from all walks of life, people came together as one collective humanity to say, we are one human race here, and we’ve got to get it together. People to survive
One wonders where those days went and how we can bring them back. And I think part of it is by understanding our history and watching it unfold, which one can do with your films and also seeing what we can do to move this forward. Now, this brings us to the current film that we are talking about, which is power struggle. This is your latest film, and it’s about the successful fight to close down Vermont Yankee. How did you get started on this film and how did it evolve for you?
I live in Western Massachusetts, right near 18 miles. In fact, from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which is actually it’s in Southern Vermont, but it’s right on the Connecticut river, right near the border of Massachusetts in New Hampshire. So a lot of people were involved for decades, really since the beginning of when the Vermont Yankee first started operating in 1972, actually people were opposing the plant before it even began operation. So there’ve been decades of people fighting against this plant. But I began hearing in the late 2008, 2009, that the Vermont legislature was in the most unique situation of being the only legislature in the country that had the authority to make a decision about the future operation of a nuclear power plant. They hadn’t this authority because Vermont also is unique because it requires a state license for a nuclear power plant to operate in addition to a federal license.
So the state had some involvement here. And then because of citizen organizing, that happened around 2006 in Vermont, a law was passed that gave the legislature the authority to make this decision about the future of Vermont Yankee. So that gave the citizens a voice through their elected officials. So I thought as a filmmaker, I should make a film about this. And I had no idea how the legislature was going to react, how the power company was going to react, how the federal government was going to react. I didn’t know that I was going to be filming over a five-year period. I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, but I felt like this was an opportunity to make a film about citizens, having a voice in getting involved in something that deeply affects their lives and this case, the future of energy, but even more importantly, the health and safety of our community.
So I heard that the Vermont legislature was going to make a vote at some point, I didn’t know when I was going to begin filming, but then I heard that the activists were going to March from Brattleboro in Southern Vermont to Montpelier, which is where the state Capitol is 126 miles. They were going to walk over 11 days, but this is the clincher. It was in the dead of winter. They started walking on January 2nd, 2010, and I started filming and it was blizzarding and ice and snow. And to me, I thought, wow, this is incredible footage of people’s perseverance, people’s dedication. People will power that can’t be stopped. So I thought, all right, I’ll film this footage of the people walking. And I figured, well, then I’ll put the footage on the shelf and maybe months or years later, I’ll make the film. Well, events had other plans for me because halfway through the walk, they hadn’t even made it to the state Capitol yet was when the news was released, that there was a massive leak of radioactive tritium underneath the Vermont Yankee plant that was contaminated with groundwater.
Not only did this create a big firestorm because of the contamination, but at that moment, energy, the power company that operated Vermont Yankee was now caught in a lie because a year before they had testified under oath that there were no underground pipes carrying radioactivity. And now they had to admit that this leak was from underground pipes. So that created this political firestorm in the legislature and all across Vermont. And I was on fire, filming it nonstop for then weeks and then months, and then years. It’s an amazing, rare victory where anti-nuclear activists, environmental activists, grassroots activists actually made a difference in why that nuclear power plant is now shut down.
I saw the film, I believe in an early cut of it a while ago. And it just bowled me over with the information and the specificity of it, and how many people who I had by that point already interviewed on nuclear hot seat, where I was familiar with their voices. Now I could see and hear them under other dances here. A couple of clips from power street for low president Crow.
I’m Francis Crow. And I live in north Hampton, Massachusetts at 93 years old. And I’ve been involved in trying to say no to the splitting of the atom and all of the consequences of it since 1945. When I heard about Hiroshima on the radio, I am a member of the shut it down, affinity group, a group of women that came together to shut down Vermont. I gay with our bodies and action I’m here because I think this is very dangerous. We’re in facing the end of life on this planet. If we don’t do something about nuclear power, when people asked me, how many times have you been arrested? And I say, not enough,
That was fanciest Crow. One of the most inspiring of the Vermont Yankee activists who passed away in 2019 at the age of 100. Now there’s this clip from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, always consistent with his messaging, speaking at a rally to close Vermont Yankee in 2012.
What we are also talking about is the need to transform our energy system away from nuclear power away from fossil fuel, into energy efficiency and into sustainable energy.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. There is of course, so much more that could be chosen to share with the listeners, because this is a rich film in terms of capturing the outrage, the fact of the matter, the lies of Entergy and how from the ground up, we can respond in effective ways to the incursions of the nuclear industry. And what I really appreciate about your work Robbie is that you always make it understandable to people who don’t necessarily have a background in this. You play out the information so that we can take a ride with it. If we already know it, we’re reminded and we’re refreshed. And if we didn’t know it before we know it by the time the film is over
Exactly, I mean, I feel like as a filmmaker, I need to always be thinking about the audience who doesn’t know that much about nuclear power. So I need to make sure that everything is well explained. And one of the people I had helped me in the task of explaining things that’s prominently featured in the film is nuclear engineer, Arnie Gunderson, who is living in Vermont at the time. And it was actually hired by the Vermont legislature to be their watchdog during the whole Vermont Yankee examination of their license renewal. And so Arnie plays a very prominent role in the film. And he also talks about Fukushima and the film now that we’re, you know, approaching the 10th anniversary of Fukushima. And he talks very specifically about the parallels and the dangers of the mark. One reactors in Fukushima that blew up are the same make and model as Vermont Yankee. And at the time when I was making the film 22 other operating nuclear power plants in the United States, I think that number is a little bit lower now, but there’s at least, I think 20 of these Marc one reactor is still operating in the United States. And they’re all vulnerable to meltdowns because their containment structure is too small. And so they’re vulnerable to meltdowns and to exploding if there is a meltdown and Arnie explains that in power struggle,
Now you have set up, what’s called a virtual screening tour for power struggle. What is that? And how does it work
In this COVID error opportunity is now opened up because of all the theaters, the movie theaters that have closed down this notion of virtual cinema screenings is now becoming the norm. This is an opportunity where independent filmmakers and distributors can partner with both independent theaters and community organizations to sponsor virtual cinema screenings so that people can watch films in their homes. People are now used to that with their local art Hauser, independent theater. Well, the same can be true for independent documentaries and independent documentary filmmakers, working with groups that are concerned about particular issues. So in this case, we’re offering power struggle as a opportunity for both local groups to have an educational outreach, but also a fundraiser for their group. So we split the costs and they do the promotion. The local groups promote it through their normal online emails, newsletters, social media posts, and the platform has already set up for them to tap into them. So all that is explained on the website for power struggle again, which is called power struggle, movie.com. And if you go to the tab, mark screenings, it’s all explained there. And I’m hoping that local community groups, anti-nuclear groups, but also other environmental groups will consider co-hosting a virtual screening. Cause this is the way that you can actually reach more people, but also support your organization.
One of the organizations that you are going to be supporting with this is nuclear hot seat. And we will have a link up on the website under this episode, number 5 0 6, so that people can click on that, read what the material is and make their own determination. But if you want to watch the movie through nuclear hot seat, really going to be a boost, and it’s going to help us keep going into the future.
And I’m really happy that power struggle can help support nuclear hotseat because this is a way that in terms of being media activists, we can support each other. And it’s also a way again, to increase the awareness, cause this is why we’re doing this levy is to help build consciousness. And so a film like power struggle with these stories, inspiring stories of activists, putting their bodies on the line and making a difference, actually winning. I mean, you know, how rare foods victory is for any issue. And it’s particularly in the nuclear realm, we need to savor the stories and because we need to be inspired for the ongoing fights ahead and particularly, I know, you know, the big battles that are going on now to stop the nuclear waste dumps, particularly in New Mexico and Texas, as well. As of course, in, in, in Nevada Yucca mountain, I’m hoping that a film like power struggle can help those struggles and inspire people because it’s a long haul commitment to be part of this movement. And yet we’re called to this because the stakes are that high. I mean the nuclear waste is going to be with us for 250,000 years. And that point is made very clear in power struggle. And so we need to put this issue on people’s radar screens,
Robbie, you’ve been instrumental through your films and the audio documentary on three mile island in giving us a history that we can follow looking to the future. What’s next, you’ve got so many to choose from. What’s your next film going to be about where are you in the planning stages?
Well, actually my next film is already mostly all shots and I’m in the process of editing and it’s the first film to be made in over 20 years about the famed and beloved bread and puppet theater of Vermont. And behind me is a picture of Peter and Elka Schumann who are the founders of the bread and puppet theater. They’re in their mid eighties now. And they’re still going strong for anybody who doesn’t know about the bread and puppet theater. They’ve been going for over 50 years. They first started in New York city during the 1960s, and they’re famous for their giant papier-mache puppets. And they use those puppets in street demonstrations during the Vietnam war to illustrate uncle Sam and the Vietnamese and all sorts of imagery of people, average people. And then in 1970, they moved to Vermont and they’ve been in Vermont ever since.
And they have a farm in Northern Vermont where they have their theater performances outside in this natural amphitheater, in the fields, beautiful rolling farm fields. And they put on their giant spectacular performances with giant puppets. I’ve been inspired by them for decades. I’ve gone up there myself for decades and have long wanted to make a film about them. So I’ve been working on this film now for a few years, I did extensive filming there showing the young people who come from all around the world to put on the shows there. And you know, people need to know that the bread and puppet theater is very much about looking at issues of social justice and peace and multicultural bridge making. And they also had plays about Vermont Yankee and environmentalist and nuclear issues. So it’s a way that they combine the issues with comedy with satire. So this is going to be very uplifting film, and we are actually in the midst of finishing the film and we were, we need help to get the word out about the film. So people can go to, we have a separate website called bread and puppet movie.com and people can go there to find out more information, but all of these links to both power struggle and my previous film Seabrook as well as bread and puppet. If you go to my main website, which is turning tide.com,
Robbie, I’m an admiration of the work you have done. I am a fan. I am heartened by seeing all of those activists across all of those decades so that I realize that I’m not alone. And in truth, anybody who tags in on this issue, you are not alone. And you’re part of an ongoing tradition. You have documented that you have given us pictures, you have given us sound, you have given us support and really the kind of spiritual food that is needed to help us keep going into the future. Well,
Thank you, levy. And I just want to say that, you know, I really dedicated my film career of making documentaries to chronicling people who stick their necks out to take risks for, for social change. And I feel honored to be the chronicler of these amazing activists who have inspired me throughout my entire life for decades. I’ve been chronicling, grassroots, social change activism. And so I make films about people who inspire me with the hope that they will inspire others. And so I guess I’m doing something right. If they’re inspiring, you,
You are, you have, you will continue to, and we will keep being in touch for now. Thank you, Robbie for all of your work and for being my guest this week on nuclear hub.
Thank you so much. Libby
Filmmaker, Robbie LEP, sir, you can read about Robbie and his amazing catalog of films on his website, turning tide.com. We will have that and several other URLs up on the website, nuclear hot seat.com under this episode, number 5 0 6, so that you can explore to your heart’s content. And this is a reminder that you can see power struggle and help support nuclear hotseat and keeping going by going to our website again, episode 5 0 6 and look for a power struggle link. Robbie has very graciously agreed to split the ticket price with nuclear hot seat so that you will be seeing the show and you will be supporting the future of nuclear hot seat, not a bad twofer. Again, episode number 5 0 6, March 2nd, 2020 [email protected]. We’ll have all the information
There’s a terrific short video, celebrating the passage into law of the treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons. It’s a montage of more than 70 demonstrations and public events that took place on January 22nd, 2021. The day the treaty took on force of law. We have it posted under this [email protected] and our thanks to Felice and Jack Cohen, Joppa of the nuclear resistor for sending it to us. We need to celebrate our wins every chance we get. So enjoy watching it. I know I did. And a reminder that next week is the annual nuclear hot seat voices from Japan episode to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, we will have exclusive on the ground stories and interviews from Fukushima prefecture translated from the Japanese by special nuclear hot seat producer, Beverly fin Lincoln. Aiko fresh information direct from the source. And I look forward to you joining us and learning the truth about what’s happening in Fukushima.
This has been nuclear hot seat for Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021 material for this week show has been researched and compiled from nuclear-news.net to own renard.wordpress.com beyond nuclear, the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, nuke resistor.org, grand canyon, trust.org, raw story.com post and courier.com. The central virginia.com San Diego union tribune.com. forbes.com the hill.com. ABC news.geo.com. NHK dot O R dot J P my nietzsche.jp Japan times.co.jp asahi.com simply info.org, Japan dash N p.co.jp Morningstar, online.co.uk national interest.org and the captured and compromised by the industry. They’re supposed to be regulating nuclear regulatory commission. If you want to make certain, you never miss an episode of nuclear hot seat. It’s easy. Go to our website, nuclear hot seat.com and in the big yellow opt in box, put in your first name, put in your email address. We will deliver the information directly to you every week. As soon as the show posts an easy and effective way to get yourself up to date on nuclear news every week.
Now, if you have a story lead, a hot tip or a suggestion of someone to interview, don’t keep it to yourself. Let us know, send it to [email protected]. Truly an email is better than trying to get it to me on Facebook. We take these suggestions seriously and see what we can do to cover the issues that are brought up to us. And don’t forget if you appreciate weekly verifiable news updates about nuclear issues around the world. Take a moment and go to nuclear, hot seat.com and look for that big red button. Click on it. Follow the prompts, help us in any way you can and know that we really appreciate your support. This episode of nuclear hot seat is copyright 2021 Leiby Halena and hardest history communications, all rights reserved, but various allowed as long as proper attribution is provided. And our thanks again to Robbie of turning tide films for permission to use those excerpts from his films. This is Libby Halevi of hardest street communications. The heart of the art of communicating, reminding you that a movement consists of people moving in a consistent direction in order to create an agreed upon change. So if you just listened to the show, congratulations, you’re part of the movement. Now go take an action. That’s it? That is your nuclear wake-up call. So don’t go back to sleep because we are all in the nuclear hot seat,
Clear hot seat. What are those people thinking? Nuclear hot seat. What have those boys been breaking their hot seat? The car Ms. Sinking, our time to act is shrinking, but the visceral linking nuclear Hotsy it’s the bomb.