Pilgrim neighbors must be educated

[My View in Cape Cod Times]

June 27, 2012
I thank columnist Sean Gonsalves for continuing the conversation regarding the relicensing of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (“How scared should we be?” June 7). Perhaps the next query would be “How educated should we be?”

A questioning and knowledgeable public is vital to a healthy democracy. One critical question, “Should a corporation profit while putting the public at such serious risk?” is central to our rights as citizens and our responsibility to protect the common good. Do we really have a voice in this republic when the powerful nuclear industry can politically control the decision makers and policy?

Whether one is for or against nuclear power, public safety should be a concern for all. Most citizens have learned the lessons of Fukushima and call upon our government agencies to heed our call to uphold their mandate to provide for the public safety. Without reviewing all contentions, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission relicensed Pilgrim for another 20 years, a violation of its own regulations.

And as stated by David Lochbaum from Union of Concerned Scientists, it is cheaper for Entergy to continue running this aged reactor than to build a new one. Entergy will continue to produce dangerous nuclear waste that will pile up in Plymouth, as the NRC does not consider waste nor realistic emergency planning for an expanding population as part of the relicensing. Profits before people?

The NRC, the federal agency responsible for the protection of the public from nuclear risk, called for an evacuation of American citizens within a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors. Those reactors are the same design as Entergy’s General Electric Mark 1 boiling water reactor here in Plymouth. Three containment structures and vents failed in Japan, the same “safety” backup systems that are in place at Pilgrim.

During an open house in Plymouth this past March, I asked two NRC officials if Fukushima could happen here. With chilling honesty, they both replied yes.
Because we are within a 50-mile radius, there is a secondary radiological emergency preparedness zone, called the ingestion pathway zone, where individuals may incur exposure to radiation by ingesting contaminated water or foods. So what about protection of Cape Codders, who are also within that radius?

Potassium iodide, or KI, is distributed in pill form by the Department of Public Health and paid for by Entergy Co. According to the Centers for Disease Control, this medicine blocks radioactive iodine from entering the thyroid. Individuals can pick up this corporate anti-cancer pill for free at their town health department. Make sure you have enough for your children as they are most susceptible to thyroid cancer from a release of radioactive iodine from a nuclear reactor accident.
Not only are we an identified population at risk, but the CDC describes the use of KI as a secondary protective measure after evacuation and sheltering — plans for which Cape Codders have neither.

The tragedy of Fukushima has blown away the myth that nuclear power is safe. Exposed is the potential for possible nuclear disaster with horrific consequences, as evidenced in Japan. Yes, it can happen here; so do we hide our heads in the sand or be proactive to effect change?

Scared? Yes. Sometimes fear is healthy and legitimate. It moves people to become educated on an issue and take action.

This is about our families, our lives, and our land. We refuse to become radiation refugees and will fight to close this dangerous nuclear reactor to protect present and future generations. We all need to step up and speak out. This is a most serious issue which challenges our health, safety, and democracy.
Diane Turco lives in Harwich.

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