'M cMasters didn't realize what was going on until college, when a roommate asked her, "Why are you always going home to all these funerals? What's going on there?" The answer: Cancer, cancer, and more cancer."
-- Bruce Barcott, OnEarth Blog
Kelly McMasters grew up on Long Island, next to the Brookhaven National Lab and its three nuclear reactors. Brookhaven has long been one of the nation's leading nuclear research laboratories. Thanks to citizen activists and a brave newspaper reporter, the news was revealed and reported on in the film "The Atomic States of America" that the three reactors had been regularly leaking deadly nuclear materials into the local water supply.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center and Left Hand Book Collective will show "The Atomic States of America" on Tuesday evening at 7 at the Left Hand Book Store, close to Broadway and the Pearl Street Mall. The film is, in part, the story of Kelly McMasters, drawn from her book, "Welcome to Shirley," about growing up in Shirley, N.Y., six miles from the Brookhaven reactors and the deadly nuclear history of her home town and other home towns in the U.S.
The directors of the film, Sheena Joyce and Don Argott, expand on her book and look at other communities adjacent to nuclear power plants, and illuminate their painfully similar experiences with radioactive leaks.
But, don't we have people overseeing nuclear power plants? Yes, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The film shows how federal agencies, including this one, have a tendency to become "puppets of the industry they were supposed to oversee."
In April 2012, Rolling Stone reported: "In the years ahead, nuclear experts warn, the consequences of the agency's inaction could be dire. 'The NRC has consistently put industry profits above public safety,' says Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear executive turned whistle-blower. 'Consequently, we have a dozen Fukushimas waiting to happen in America.'"
There is footage in the film of then Secretary of Energy Steven Chu giving in to the chiding of Representative Joe Barton, a republican from Texas who headed the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Barton demanded to hear Secretary Chu declare that the Fukushima disaster didn't change his plans to give government loan guarantees to private companies to build new power plants. Chu gave in and Barton chuckled. And, so it goes...
Unless we stop it.