Critical Mass - Reflections on the 10th Anniversary of Chernobyl

Recorded on April 26, 1996, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City

Maria Holt
Bath, Maine

This powerful presentation brings together six great voices for a nuclear-free future: Svetlana Alexievich, Russian writer who has spent the last two years in the contaminated zone around Chernobyl collecting memories of survivors; Jay Gould, former member of the EPA Science Advisory Board; Karl Grossman of SUNY, author of "Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power"; Minard Hamilton, Researcher at Radioactive Waste Management Associates, author of "Deadly Defense"; Michio Kaku, Professor of Nuclear Physics at CUNY Graduate Center; and Helen Caldicott, M.D., founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The Reverend James Parks Morton, Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, an international leader in creating programs for social and environmental justice introduced the speakers. There is a bit of special music woven into CRITICAL MASS by David Rothenberg, clarinetist and philosopher; Glen Moore, distinctive jazz bassist and Yevsei Yevsyev, Russian composer-musician. Beautiful, yet mournful.

Every public service medium should make this tape a priority for presentation to the people. It is becoming obvious that we are facing the twenty-first century without more than a meager understanding of what a half century of man-made nuclear contamination of the planet is likely to mean to all life.

I say that as a former Maine state representative who served for eight years on committees dealing with energy, natural resources and public utilities. I live near the old and troubled Maine Yankee Atomic Power Plant. Since 1979 I�ve directed a subcommittee of Safe Power for Maine which keeps track of gamma radiation around the plant and cancer incidence (since 1983) in comparison to the rest of the state. Some of our finding shave made us doubt government assurances that the plant is a safe neighbor: high cancer rates and high readings on our radiation monitors when the plan has released gas.

Radio Free Maine�s tapes have been called "too political" by a Maine Public Radio official. "Political" means having to do with the conduct of government as it pertains to the exercise of the rights and privileges by which the people seek to determine its public policy. If public radio and TV are only timidly committed to this exercise, democracy will get flabbier. Radio Free Maine gives us some needed strengthening medicine.

In this tape, Svetlana Alexievich makes clear why it�s "another world" after Chernobyl. Yes. Even in Maine the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recorded a steep rise in radioactive Iodine in milk. In California, researchers saw a fifty percent decline in bird reproduction during the breeding season after Chernobyl�s radiation came to us from across the world in the spring of 1986. We learn from Ms. Alexievich that at the same time in Russia soldiers were shooting farm animals and pets. Their owners would never return home....and the worst was yet to come.

Dr. Michio Kaku debunks the myth that U.S. reactors are safer than Russia�s because they have stronger containments (they do not). He addresses industry�s push for new nuclear plants in a way that should make us counterpush faster and harder for energy efficiency and safe, renewable energy. We have the sources. We need the political will.

Dr. Grossman gives taxpayers a lesson in nuclear financial reality and tells of a policy that now plans to put more plutonium into outer space where it can inadvertently re-enter our living space. Dr. Gould affirms his and Dr. Ernest Sternglass�s solid statistical research on the effects of Chernobyl here in the U.S. as well as effects on the baby-boomer generation from early atomic bomb testing fallout. His report of a 1996 meeting in Vienna of the International Atomic Energy Agency will stimulate anyone to ponder the future of all life.

Dr. Helen Caldicott and Minard Hamilton are, as always, staunch defenders of life. Here, they continue to speak the truth about nuclear waste and pollution and tell us what we need to know and do. But this video is not depressing. It encourages us to "choose life."

There are many respected sponsors of this program including Physicians for Social Responsibility. I was happy to see that one of the sponsors was The René Dubos Consortium for Sacred Ecology. Many years ago, as a student at Cornell University New York Hospital School of Nursing, I was privileged to meet and learn from Dr. Dubos, a world-renowned scientist. Since then he has had this to say about nuclear power:

"We are now playing with the primal energy of the universe. Any carelessness, any casualness, any calculus based on inward-looking national advantage or on quick profit gained by some smartly-turned commercial deal is utterly unthinkable in this context. People are not making a simple calculus of gain or convenience. They are confronting their own survival and that of their children and grandchildren and the whole race of man." I think he would want us to see this video, the better to pass on his message.

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