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July 16, 2009

Nukewatch held a symposium, July 1979 in Madison, Wisconsin:

Nukewatch 1979 program cover
Cover of special July 1979 Nukewatch program issue of The Madison Press Connection. The Press Connection was an independent publication of striking newspaper workers, in print from 1978 to 1980.

I have written before in two places about a formative event from my youth. The set of memories it produced are still among those I draw on when confronting issues of war and peace and the realities of the nuclear era that have intersected my entire life. I wrote about this five years ago, HERE, and last spring on the thirtieth anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear partial meltdown, HERE.

Below I quote what I wrote previously about Nukewatch and Three Mile Island, plus I include first the lead newspaper story from the Nukewatch/Press Connection program issue from July 1979, something I found in a box just last week:

Why Nukewatch? Why now?
In March of this year, a remarkable series of events occurred that had the potential to dramatically alter the American public's perception of the nation's nuclear power and weapons programs.

The near meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania made citizens in every corner of the country aware that nuclear power rests precariously on the brink of disaster. [continued below...]
The uncanny, coincidental release of [the 1979 film] The China Syndrome gave lay persons the basic scientific understanding they needed to interpret the Harrisburg crisis, as well as an awareness that the corporate media has not always acted in the public interest in its reporting of these dangers.

Simultaneously, the federal government had taken The Progressive to court and successfully prevented the magazine from printing Howard Morland's manuscript on the secrecy surrounding the nuclear weapons program. The case soon developed into a full-fledged challenge to government secrecy.

As a result of these events, the movement to stop nuclear power and to prevent nuclear war took a quantum leap in its effectiveness and strength. While the government had been unscathed by decades of agitation on these issues, it was now confronted with a challenge that will not go away.

Soon afterwards, an ad hoc group of friends of The Progressive and the Press Connection came together to plan a rally/symposium that would amplify the message contained in the March occurrences: That nuclear power and weapons represent a serious threat to human existence, that the secrecy surrounding the nuclear program inhibits public understanding of the dangers, and that the independent media plays a critical role in exposing these problems.

We hope that the events of this weekend will provide both information and inspiration to all who attend.

--The Nukewatch Planning Group
This is from Deep Blade Journal, my blog from 2003 to 2007:
Venerable Wisconsin-based organization celebrated anniversary last month

One of the formative experiences of my youth was a trip I took with a friend in July 1979. We left Minneapolis on a Friday, reaching Madison, Wisconsin in time for speeches and a concert given by Pete Seeger and other musicians in the UW Stock Pavillion. This concert kicked off a weekend-long Nukewatch Rally & Symposium Against Nuclear Secrecy. The messages from that event 25 years ago reverberate today.

It was there--in the wake of the Iranian revolution, US-Soviet Cold War machinations (soon to be underlined in Afghanistan), a festering energy crisis, the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor incident, and the 1st Amendment/prior restraint case concerning the US government's attempt to stop publication in The Progressive magazine of an article describing the conceptual (not technical) "secrets" of hydrogen fusion weapons--that I received some early political wings.

We heard in person the likes of Nicholas von Hoffman, Barbara Ehrenreich, John Trudell, and the now dearly departed Dave Dellinger, Sidney Lens, Sam Day, and Erwin Knoll.

Knoll was then editor of The Progressive. At the Madison event with Knoll was the author of the H-Bomb Secret article, Howard Morland. I recall being at a session with Morland that was deadly serious--the lawyers had what he could say under strict control and there was a palpable feeling of the national security state in the air--a year-and-a-half before Reagan took office.

Poster for Nukewatch Rally & Symposium, Madison, Wisconsin, July 13-15, 1979

Fast forward to August 2004. While visiting Duluth, Minnesota, I picked up a free newspaper. It was the Summer 2004 issue of Nukewatch Pathfinder [Now called Nukewatch Quarterly]. I was so happy to see that they still exist and to read about their current activities while I filled with memories of that summer 25 years ago.

These days, Nukewatch continues with its mission of opposing the nuclear march towards planetary destruction. For many years running now, Nukewatch activists have stood steadfast in protection of the world from nuclear war planning still underway over a decade after the end of the Cold War. Perhaps their most important project has been to demonstrate for peace at the US Navy ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) communications site in northern Wisconsin, an installation designed to direct Trident submarines during the execution of a nuclear war.

Keep up the good fight, Nukewatch. The people of the world are counting on you.
In March, I recounted the Three Mile Island incident. I also made some comments that may depart slightly from the strongest of anti-nuclear views. Partly that results from having spent several years in grad. school in the low-level environmental radioactivity business.

Three Mile Island
I still object to the use of nuclear power. This is not because I think reactor meltdowns are likely or widely-distributed low-level radioactivity is super dangerous. It is not, at least not compared to a lot of other things. It's rather because of the un-democratic exercise of unaccountable government and corporate power and dominating wealth that the nuclear industry represents.

The story of what happened in Harrisburg, PA thirty years ago gives us important lessons about our over-reliance on arrogant scientific/technical decision-making processes that still harms our society. This comment is not made while failing to place risk in perspective. I'm not saying nuclear power plants cannot be operated somewhat safely. I'm just saying that we should not allow is trusting the vested corporate power structure to make all of our energy decisions. Inevitably if we do, they'll be bad ones.
The nuclear enterprise of the last seven decades forms an underlying web of society-building technology, and world-threatening danger. I think it is fair to say humanity has not yet come to grips with the nuclear age. We have a lot to learn and a lot to fight out. There is a big push to build new nuclear power plants in the face of global warming. There is a big push to re-modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal under the guise of deterrence. These activities largely move under the radar of broad public awareness because the people rightfully become very concerned when the implications of nuclear arms and nuclear waste resonate. I'll try to continue researching and writing more in this area if readers show interest. I have a lot of background and a lot to say on these topics, but I can't afford the time unless I know there will be some community benefit.


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