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4 May 2011 : On 25th Chernobyl anniversary, Arizonans stand together for a nuclear-free future

by Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa

The sun shone brightly and the wind showed its power in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, April 26, the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe. Their prominent presence underlined the abundance of alternative energy resources in the Solar State.

To mark the anniversary, fifty people from Bisbee, Prescott, Tucson and throughout the Phoenix area joined the Stand Together for a Nuclear Free Future demonstration to condemn the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) recent decision to grant a 20 year license extension for Palo Verde, and to call for an end to uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.

Holding colorful signs with a smiling sun proclaiming "Nuclear Power, No Thanks!", we gathered downtown in front of Arizona Public Service (APS) headquarters, owner/operator of the three-reactor Palo Verde nuclear power complex 50 miles west of Phoenix, the country’s largest. Accompanied by a large puppet, Auntie Nuke, whose sign read "Nuclear Power is Dirty, Dangerous and Expensive!", we listened to speakers and songs.

Phoenix activist Barbara Taft spoke about her meeting in 1995 with doctors, nurses and other medical personnel in Kiev, Ukraine, where she learned about the issues they encountered in treating the significant and unusual health problems of Chernobyl victims. Her report was a sobering reminder of the serious and detrimental human health effects of radiation exposure.

Gil Venable, a former environmental law professor at A.S.U. who is a member of the Sierra Club, Palo Verde Group, spoke in support of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s proposal for withdrawal of one million acres of land around the Grand Canyon from uranium and other mining. Long involved in the uranium mining issue, Venable had worked with Stewart Udall to get compensation for Navajo uranium miners.

Phoenix environmentalist Steve Brittle, of Don’t Waste Arizona, recently submitted comments during the NRC’s Palo Verde license renewal process. Brittle, who for ten years served on the Maricopa County Local Emergency Planning Committee, condemned the NRC license extension, telling the demonstrators that an independent nuclear watchdog is needed because the NRC is clearly in the pocket of the nuclear industry.

Tucson no-nukes troubador Ted Warmbrand sang songs about the folly and danger of nuclear power, including these 2 verses from lyrics written by David Bernz to the tune of This Land is Your Land:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From Fukushima, to Three Mile Island
From the great Chernobyl, where the plume went global
This land was made for you and me.

Oh this pollution, It knows no borders
We share the air, we share the water
So don’t you think that, it’s time we oughta
Tell ’em this land was made for you and me.

Remembering the legacy of the nuclear age, protesters took turns reciting the names of sites around the world contaminated by nuclear radiation. The group responded in unison - "We Remember" - as each site was named: Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Rio Puerco, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Bikini Atoll, Nevada Test Site, Windscale, Lop Nor - and the list goes on.

Arizona has its share of this sad legacy. Hundreds of Navajo uranium miners suffered ill health and died after providing the raw material for the Nuclear Age. "Downwinders" residing in northern Arizona are among the documented casualties of American nuclear weapons testing in Nevada. In 2007, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) declared Palo Verde’s nuclear power reactors to be the least safe in the U.S.

Fast forward to April 2011, when in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the NRC granted APS a license extension to operate the 3 Palo Verde reactors for another 20 years. Leaky reactors and more and more radioactive waste piling up onsite until 2047? Uranium mining near the spectacularly beautiful Grand Canyon? Enough! It’s time to demand a different direction for Arizona and the U.S. Join us as we continue to speak out, to protest, to insist upon and create a nuclear-free future for our state, our country, our planet and future generations.

Click here to see some photos of the April 26 Phoenix demonstration.

Attached is the leaflet we handed out at the demonstration, including "Five Things You Can Do Today For a Nuclear-Free Future".

If you would like to receive information about future anti-nuclear activities in Arizona, please send your name and email address to nonukes igc.org.