Synthesis/Regeneration 10   (Spring 1996)

Radhealth Ruminations

by Susan Lee, Feminists for a Compassionate Society, Austin Greens

Last year I visited the Trinity Site twice; once in April; once in July, on the 50th anniversary of the test of the plutonium bomb dropped three weeks later on Nagasaki. Both times, our geiger counters registered up to 500 counts (normally the range is 10-22 or so) per minute of ionizing events (radioactive particles striking the detector). I warned the young soldiers stationed there about their radiation exposure. I also made several visits to the South Texas (Nuclear) Project. Recently a doctor informed me I had suspicious lumps that should be biopsied, which was an unwelcome surprise.

My 26-year-old daughter had cervical cancer surgery over a year ago. We lived near the Bethesda Naval Institute's incinerators (which have been buning nuclear medical waste for years) when I was pregnant and nursing her; now she's 60 miles or so from an older nuclear reactor, Arkansas One. Or perhaps her cancer resulted from exposure in tanning salons in her teen years. Perhaps my lumps result from chasing the DDT truck on summer nights in Houston, Texas, in the fifties, or from the zapping of my face by my dermatologist treating acne when I was 17, or from the yearly chest x-rays to screen for TB we got in elementary school, or from leaning over the Buster Brown foot x-ray machines we loved when buying shoes twice a year. Perhaps it's the synthesis of all these exposures that leave us damaged.

I've been immersed in studies and stories about radiation and health the last three years. I've spent time with Sister Rosalie Bertell, who teaches communities how to analyze the radiation hazards they face, and to ameliorate the impact on their health. I've worried over a power plant worker who didn't make it, and strategized with his widow, who's filing suit. I've listened heartsick to residents of Laguna Pueblo tell how the Jackpile mine that operated for 30 years destroyed their ecosystems, their water, their culture and their health.

I've begun automatically to take informal residence and exposure histories from friends with cancers and auto-immune diseases, heart problems, diabetes, asthma. I brake for radiation and health books. I go to the conferences. Sometimes I get very depressed, talking to Congressional aides who tell me their boss wants to "keep the nuclear option." (This sounds especially weird from Southwestern Representatives, with all our sun!)

We are planning Chernobyl Day activities, near the South Texas nuke; and with colleagues at the Foundation for a Compassionate Society, a Three-Mile Island commemoration at the late March gathering we're organizing of 75 anti-nuclear women from this continent, Europe, Russia and the Pacific that arose out of a conversation in Huiarou, China, last fall. The same weekend, Greens will be gathering in St. Louis, hopefully also to strategize on nuclear issues, and to dialogue with us in the process.

April will begin with hundreds of us meeting at an anti-nuke gathering in Las Vegas, followed by another event at the Nevada Test Site. Dr. Bertell will arrive in Vienna to gather her witnesses and scientists to bird-dog the truth about the health impact of the Chernobyl accident, as a counter to the whitewash that will take place the same time, same place, sponsored by the International Agency of Atomic Energy (IAEA). Scientists we listen to, like Bertell and Drs. John Gofman and Ernest Sternglass, believe the agency to be seriously compromlsed by governmental and industry ties. (Bertell needs about $8,000 to pull this off, and any group sending $100 or more will be considered a co-sponsor of this very important event. Her address is 710-264 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON M5J 1B5, Canada.)

My youngest daughter will celebrate her 23rd birthday in Japan's most heavily nuclearized region, Fukui Prefecture, the nuclear "ginza" or shopping mall, with 13 conventional nuclear reactors, one gas-cooled one and the Monju fast breeder, closed since a December accident which according to the government, released no radiation. (Would a two-headed grandchild be twice as loveable?)

Guy Chichester puts this all in perspective by reminding us to deal with these horrors, we need to celebrate what is good with those we love. It's definitely the time for more nuclear comedy! And to recall that citizens have stopped such monstrous projects as Operation Plowshare (wherein nukes were used to blast holes for oil and gas exploration and tunnels and the like.)

We just might win, folks. Join the fun!

Synthesis/Regeneration home page  | Synthesis/Regeneration 10 Contents