"The participants here are first and foremost 'brothers in the faith of science and technology.' Indeed, their unshakeable faith and determination is at times expressed from the podium with a naive candor which is not always in the best of taste. Hans Blix, for example [...] declared unhesitatingly that 'Chernobyl has not caused any more deaths than a notorious football match in Heysel about a year ago.' Blix then proceeded to berate the press for publishing 'provocative headlines' about Chernobyl, and made the claim that the production of a quantity of energy equal to that generated at Chernobyl using a coal-fired power station would give rise to just as many accidental deaths and injuries, whether on-site in the mines or in the form of pollution-related cancers. As he spoke, venerable conferences were somewhat shamefacedly passing around an issue of the Village Voice [translator: that of 13 May 1986] containing a coolheaded but terrifying account of the most serious pre-Chernobyl nuclear accident, that at Three Mile Island (TMI), near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on 28 march 1979. There are two reasons for the considerable impact that this issue of the Village Voice has had here. In the first place, it is very frightening. One article recounts how -- although the TMI accident, unlike that of Chernobyl, claimed no immediate victims -- plants in the vicinity affected by radioactivity have degenerated and mutated over time, while the incidence of adult and childhood cancer has increased amongst people living along the path taken by the escaping radioactivity to a level 700 percent higher than normal. Secondly, it is significant that these 'revelations,' confirmed only after several earlier scientific studies had produced ambiguous results, are the outcome of a collaboration between the local population as a whole, which is by definition ignorant of nuclear matters, and a number of highly qualified scientists who are not afraid to speak in ordinary language. This is what is new -- and not a few of the participants here have been shaken up by it. The chief proponent of such an adjustment is the German Klaus Barthelt, a producer of nuclear electricity with Kraftwerk Union. According to Barthelt, 'The credibility of nuclear experts is on the wane, and our task today is to find new ways of making ourselves understood.'" (La Croix, 5 June 1986.)
Seven years after the accident, the Bechtel Group subsidiary that has the $1.2 million contract (plus cost overruns) for the "cleanup" of the damaged TMI Unit 2 reactor has only managed to remove 36,000 pounds of highly radioactive material. Since the remaining 308,00 pounds that could melt down at any minute, thereby contaminating the entire Eastern seaboard, it is kept in the reactor chamber under twenty feet of chemically-treated coolant water. Over 600 workers involved in the cleanup have suffered contamination, even though they are attired in protective clothing and are not allowed to approach the material [...] In 1984, TMI's owners pleaded guilty or no contest in federal district court to seven criminal charges of falsification of data on leaks of radioactive material. The company has also admitted the falsity of its assurances that there was no meltdown during the accident. In fact, partial meltdown occurred and there is strong evidence that transuranic elements, including plutonium, escaped into the atmosphere. The company also admitted that the temperature during the partial meltdown reached 5,100 degrees Fahrenheit. At the time of the accident, a National Regulatory Commission commissioner stated that if temperatures had approached 2,100 degrees, it would have been mandatory to evacuate Harrisburg. (Anya Mayo, "You Wore A Tulip," The Village Voice, 13 May 1986, p. 29.)
Material liberation is a precondition of the liberation of human history, and it can only be judged by that yardstick. Any conception of a minimum level of development to be reached in one place or another must depend, precisely, upon the nature of the liberatory project chosen, and hence upon who has done the choosing -- the autonomous masses or the specialists in power. Those who accept the definition of some particular group of managers as to what is indispensible may perhaps be freed from want in respect to the things those managers opt to produce, but they will certainly never be freed from those managers themselves. The most modern and unanticipated forms of hierarchy can only be costly remakes of the old world of passivity, impotence and slavery, no matter how great the material force that society possesses in the abstract; such forms can only represent the opposite of mankind's sovereignty over its environment and its history [...] The alternative before us does not consist merely in a choice between real life and a realm of survival that has nothing to lose but its modernized chains: it also appears within the realm of survival itself, in the shape of the ever worsening problems that the masters of mere survival are unable to solve. (Internationale situationniste, No. 8, January 1963.)
The government in Washington has offered to furnish the Soviets with an anti-radiation pill to be tested on a range of more or less contaminated subjects. This pill, whose existence is still classified as a top secret, is the outcome of research begun in the United States in 1981 on behalf of the Pentagon, which wants to find a chemical shield against radioactivity for use in the event of nuclear war. Experiments carried out at the Walter Reed Army Institute in Washington led to the production, in 1985, of a prototype product named WR2721, which could be administered via intramuscular injection. WR2721 was reportedly capable of increasing resistance to the effects of radiation by a factor of 3 or 4. There was one serious contra-indication, however: the destruction of nerve cells. The Pentagon then invested further colossal sums in an attempt to improve the product. In view of the probable difficulty of injecting oneself in the midst of battle, or during nuclear explosions, the Pentagon was especially eager to find a substance that could be administered in some other form, as a capsule, tablet or pill. Since early 1986, in fact, Walter Reed's specialists have been testing a version of WR2721 in pill form, designed for the use of the military and of anyone working in a nuclear plant. The drug is particularly appropriate for the safety personnel at nuclear plants, who are the most at risk of exposure in case of accident. To date, the American scientists have had to restrict their testing to animals, however, because no sufficiently serious accidents have as yet occurred in American nuclear plants. -- VDS, 15-21, March 1986
Leaving Fischer Farm, we drove the length of Valley Road down to historic Goldsboro. The TMI sirens go off frequently, and when there's a problem out on the island, people in Goldsboro can hear the personnel shouting back and forth on loudspeakers. With much of the population either moving away or dying, Goldsboro feels like [a] cluster of hovels [...] at the mercy of inscrutable powers (Mayo, Village Voice, art. cit. p. 30).
According to the IPSN, 'the contaminated land is being covered with a neutralizing film to prevent the radioactive dust from making its way into the soil. Two or three hectares are said to be treated in this way daily.' In the vicinity of the plant, the earth has been frozen by injecting it with liquid nitrogen, so as to obviate any possible contamination of underground water reserves through the filtering down of radioactive water.' The nearby river, meanwhile, 'has had its banks reinforced and raised to prevent its pollution by rainwater running off the contaminated land around the plant.' As for the roofs of buildings, the IPSN believes that they 'will be treated by a special (liquid-gas) method to stop rain from washing radioactivity off them.' All in all, in the estimation of the IPSN's experts, 'it seems probable that the Soviets have succeeded in avoiding any major and rapid pollution of water sources via the subsoil.' And they conclude: 'At all events, one cannot but be very impressed by the scope of the safeguards that have apparently been set up.'" -- Supplement to La Vie Electrique, May 1986.
Isere has just been designated a high-risk department by Alain Carrignon and Haroun Tazieff. Yesterday afternoon, the reception rooms of Grenoble police headquarters witnessed the inauguration of the "Bhopal Group," cornerstone of the policy of the new Minister for the Environment (who is also President of the Isere General Council and Mayor of Grenoble). On the face of it, no more appropriate choice could have been made. The population of this department, just under a million, will by the end of the year be playing host to almost 10 percent of France's nuclear power industry, yet in no other metropolitan area but that of Grenoble can one find 400,000 people overshadowed by such a vast quantity of water: one thousand million cubic meters are contained by the dams closest to the city. Meanwhile, three of France's fifteen most dangerous chemical plants are also to be found on the outskirts of Grenoble. Nor can nature be left out of the picture: to get out of the city, which is only 200 meters above sea level. one must pass through a gorge with walls 3,000 meters high, whole sections of which periodically collapse. Last but not least, a seismic fault runs beneath the most densely populated section of Isere; it extends in an arc from Swizterland to Provence, and produces two major shocks per century on average, although it is now almost a hundred years since any serious seismic activity has occurred -- "yet another reason," as Tazieff points out, "for anticipating a devastating earthquake in the near future." To avert all these potential disasters, the "Bhopal Group" has cosen to work under the banner: "In time of peace, prepare for war." -- Liberation, 31 May-1 June 1986.