As the Fukushima nuclear power plant threatens to meltdown, too many otherwise sane people are ignoring the very real dangers that accompany nuclear power use. You think Fukushima, and other power plant's are safe? Well say that to my face. Because I almost died of childhood metastatic cancer that probably came from radioactive fallout. And there wasn't a single explosion to show for it.
In the early through mid 1980's, I lived within walking distance of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in NY. Attended my very first protest ever there, with my mother, when a group of she and our neighbors marched up there and stood around the big, smooth silos that loomed over Highway 9. I think we held hands in a circle or something. I was eight years old.
Almost every day, after school, I'd hike for miles through the woods behind my house. The woods were exquisite, high cathedrals of gnarled trees dotted with postage stamp ponds choked with skunk cabbage and giant red spathes of some sort, underneath, patches of shy violets, tiny wild strawberries, impossibly green ferns and moss trimming the forest floor leading out into white carpets of lily of the valley and bleeding hearts; a wild, funky trillium here, a bottle rocket of a tiger lily there, tendrils from an unknown plant spilling out through sassafras, nightshade, hairy red sumac, and white winter berries. I'd trot down the horse paths, and when the horse paths ended, I'd tumble onward through deer paths seeking fiddle head ferns and the headless horseman, for this was the legendary region of his nightly rides.
When Winter came, icicles and snow and dusk would turn the forest into blazing cobalt.
In Spring, crocuses would rise up like Lazarus from the snow, accompanied by puffball mushrooms the size of my small skull.
A year passed. I was watching some game show with my grandparents, who had come to visit, when suddenly I couldn't breathe. I couldn't breathe at all and went limp. They loaded me quickly into the car, took me to the ER, and I was dispatched, at the age of nine, with a diagnosis of anxiety attacks.
My diligent mother sent me to therapy for three years to help with these anxiety attacks, which became increasingly frequent, and which caused me to grow a large, extremely visible lump somewhere in my neck that was dismissed as "hormones." Every adolescent girl grows an Adam's Apple, doesn't she? The so-called anxiety attacks seemed to worsen when I ran, and twice, I passed out in PE and was taken by ambulance home and given sedatives to "calm me down." They had me on a lot of sedatives for a while. Didn't help my breathing much.
About four years later, my physician started thinking my constellation of symptoms was, well, a bit curious. Three weeks later, I was being prepped for emergency cancer surgery, since it was noted that I had perhaps another month or two to live. Lumps had begun cropping up all over my body...
...The metastatic body grows much like the forest floor in Spring.
When I awoke, there I was, a twelve-year old mummy wrapped up and strapped down, tubes going in and out of me to pump and drain. A Frankenstein's monster with a line of airplane glue running over the eight-inch scar on my neck, swaddled in pillow-thick cotton, itching, sutured up with giant metal staples. I couldn't really hear. I couldn't really see. Thinking was a bit of a chore. Vomiting came pretty naturally, however, through the wrenching, raw pain of my throat. It was summer in NYC and the AC was broken. I recall nurse's wiping the sweat from my immobilized body.
The doctors came clucking in like some busy white ducks one morning or another, with manila folders flying, a phalanx of grave-faced doctors, and told my mother and I that the cancer was Stage IV, it was not the "good" kind (there's a good kind; who knew?) but a mixed kind, and that they had removed about seventy tumors, many lymphatic, one on my carotid artery, a dangerous spot for it, one on my voice box, one the size of a plum, one the size of an orange, and another -- that was compressing my windpipe -- that one was the size of a grapefruit. They had also removed much of the muscles in my neck, a good deal of my vascular system, assuring me I'd never miss it, and several vital glands without which one cannot live, but no matter, they have fine pills for that these days.
And I'd need to have radiation treatment as well.
"Why has this happened?" cried my mother.
They told her it was because the woods where we lived, this was an area that was then a well-known cancer cluster. They couldn't be sure of course, since mainly it was just a few million fish that were dying. But still, they'd noticed that most of their young patients with this sort of cancer were coming from there. This was characteristic of certain kinds of radiation exposure, they said. And it's true that the children of Chernobyl seemed to be afflicted mainly with the same forms of cancer that I did. Pure post hoc ergo propter hoc, of course. Speculative. Nothing to see here. Move along please.
And they had to take films of my brain to be sure it hadn't gotten in there, as well as my lungs, my intestines, and so forth. They wanted to be sure I didn't need any more of my stuffing removed.
Drinking radioactive iodine is really an acquired taste. It tastes like molten plastic with a sort of rubbing alcohol aftertaste. It's thick and viscous and has a toxic flavor.
For a few years, intermittently, they carted me in and out of that hospital. They'd take one thing or another thing out until I felt like something out of the Wizard of Oz. Some of my experiences in the operating room were outright nightmarish. Like waking up on the operating table and being quickly knocked out again, but not before getting a face full of blood. Having some dimwit night nurse try to change my lymphatic tube catch bulb thing, fucking it up, and drenching me in about a cup of my own lymphatic fluids, thinking I was asleep and just leaving me there inert and soaked. If these things don't give you a black sense of humor, really I don't know what will. It's important to be able to laugh at yourself. Especially when they keep telling you you're going to probably die.
My mother hired a lawyer to sue, but needless to say, that didn't go far.
The Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, built in the mid 1970's, has been in and out of the news for as long as I can remember now, for various leaks, scandals, and controversies. It's still up and functioning. I was declared in "remission" finally, over twenty years later. So now I'm up and functioning as well.
If you want to tell me that nuclear power is safe, that Fukushima is fine and well, that there's nothing to be concerned about, then say it to my face. I dare you. Because I've stared down nuclear power and lost. The families who live near that plant, the children in particular, have no idea what they are handling. TEPCO, the company that owns Fukushima, has 29 violations on record. The Japanese Government has been long condemned for downplaying the risks of their plants. Fukushima is not a new plant. It was built before Indian Point, in fact. Whether or not it has an actual meltdown, which it's reported to still be at risk for, Japanese people, Japanese children, are very much at risk for suffering from the consequences of this plant that we have yet to see, and in many cases, may not see for years and years.
Go ahead. Tell me nuclear power is safe.
Chernobyl may have been a weapons plant, but Indian Point wasn't. It was an energy plant. It didn't explode. It didn't send out plumes. It just felt evil. You'd have to be dead inside to not feel the strange and curious evil coming off of that place, it's weirdly smooth, sky-high walls, it's deathly silence, it's overgrowth.
They said the headless horseman rode those woods. Perhaps he did. A long, pink scar runs from one side of my neck to the other like a scythe wound. I suppose he only nicked me.
Others won't be so lucky.
Fuck nuclear power!
Say it loud and proud!
Fukushima is an important reminder of why nuclear power is out-and-out dangerous, grade-A unadulterated bullshit, nothing more than a bunch of money-grubbers dabbling in what amounts to modern necromancy spun by oligarchs and flim-flam men.
Reacting to reports that radioactive materials including the isotope Cesium-137 have been released from the Fukushima power plant, and that increased levels of radiation have been detected in the immediate vicinity, Jan Beranek, Head of Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaign said:
“Our thoughts continue to be with the Japanese people as they face the threat of a nuclear disaster, following already devastating earthquake and tsunami. The authorities must focus on keeping people safe, and avoiding any further releases of radioactivity."
“The evolving situation at Fukushima remains far from clear, but what we do know is that contamination from the release of Cesium-137 poses a significant health risk to anyone exposed. Cesium-137 has been one if the isotopes causing the greatest health impacts following the Chernobyl disaster, because it can remain in the environment and food chain for 300 years.”
“Fukushima remains under threat of a serious reactor meltdown; this would potentially create an iodine cloud, which could spread high radiation levels to both the environment and population over many tens of kilometres. By simply communicating to local populations the importance of staying indoors, the government could limit potential radiation doses from this cloud by a factor 2 to 5.”
“How many more warnings do we before we finally grasp that nuclear reactors are inherently hazardous? The nuclear industry always tells us that situation like this cannot happen with modern reactors, yet Japan is currently in the middle of a potentially devastating nuclear crisis. Once again, we are reminded of the inherent risks of nuclear power, which will always be vulnerable to the potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure and natural disaster.”
“Greenpeace is calling for the phase out of existing reactors, and no construction of new commercial nuclear reactors. Governments should invest in renewable energy resources that are not only environmentally sound but also affordable and reliable."
Whether or not it melts down, how many warnings indeed?
I've already had one too many.
Nuclear's power's safe? Say it to my face. I'm living proof... it's not.
h/t to kck for the excellent 1997 NYT article on long-term nuclear fallout studies, hey 40 years isn't so long to wait for these figures right?:
The National Cancer Institute today released information from a study of radiation doses from atomic bomb tests in the 1950's that was long, long-awaited and mostly inconclusive: 115,000 pages produced over 14 years that predict an increase in thyroid cancer of 2 percent to 20 percent above normal.
For those questioning the causality of cancer and nuclear power, numerous comments to sources ranging from WHO to various cancer research institutions have been provided throughout the diary. When I wrote this, my intention was to tell my story. I do not consider questioning my oncologist and his team, in that they are cancer researchers themselves, whereas neither myself, nor likely yourself, are. But since many have decided to take umbrage with this concept -- that radiation from nuclear plants may be related to cancer -- please find links provided for your edification throughout the diary. Thus said, it is not my intention to "prove" anything, which is why all of the language in my diary clearly states that it is qualified based on probable opinions from experts -- I hear some of the folks making noise here were also "experts" on the BP oil spill last year, in strong support of that. At any rate, my point has been simply to share my story, at a crucial moment that feels personal for me in terms of feeling empathetic cultural pain.
CNN is now reporting an increased risk of Fukushima's possible meltdown despite earlier assurances. Time will tell and it's not my job to prognosticate. 160 people are now reported, by Tokyo Reuters, to be treated for radiation exposure. However, 130,000 have been evacuated and the American Embassy itself has issued strong warnings. TEPCO, the company which owns Fukushima, presently has 29 previous violations on file and does not seem to have a reputation for credible presentation of facts about their plant. Moreover, we should consider the lessons learned in the US, ranging from big tobacco, to BP, to PG&E and on and on about how corporations tend to skew the truth when widespread health problems are reported, or when disaster strikes.
Also, check out boatsie's diary that explains the direction that Fukushima is headed to.
My first paying job after college in 1982 was working on the Indian Point Project with NYPIRG. Our goal was to shut the plant down, since -- aside from believing that nuclear power was dangerous anywhere -- the emergency plans that were instituted quickly after the feds required them after TMI were woefully inadequate. We sued Con Edison over those plans and lost, of course. Indian Point is located 25 miles north of New York City. There are 17 million people living within its 50-mile radius. If there were a serious accident there (there have been lots of releases that "cause no danger to the public" according to Con Edison and now Entergy, its current owner), those plans called for evacuating south through New Jersey. Not possible. Period.
mo, your story isn't unusual, although it is terrible. My roommate when I worked at NYPIRG was from Buchanan, a town you certainly know. Many of her friends were ill with all kinds of weird stuff as kids -- tumors, rashes, fatigue, all sorts of symptoms.
I hope your recovery is permanent, and thank you for telling your story. It's important.
Remember. Bring them home.
by edsbrooklyn on Sat Mar 12, 2011 at 08:29:03 P
Give ed some love for telling it.
And one more thing ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This diary, and many subsequent conversations, made me realize how badly I wanted to start a Nuclear Free DK Group -- If anyone wants to join, click the heart and follow it. If you want to write essays for it, message me and I'll make you an account. Cool. Thanks!
here, so I did. Please click the link and follow if you are interested, or email me to join if you wish to write for it. You may be the first member! Also, if you see a diary that would be appropriate for the group, please p/m me to let me know.