Synthesis/Regeneration 12   (Winter 1997)

Toxic Challenge

Long Island Nuclear Radio Action

by Ron Stanchfield, Peconic Green Party

When not trying to put something together, I'm trying to break it apart. This is the nature of an anarchist. Even though I presently focus on the reactors at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, before it was the Shoreham Nuclear power plant and before that it was either the Vietnamese War or some community project. I do remember an effective organizational building effort which had real great political returns.

While opposing Shoreham I had an idea. Because one of the issues we used to fight Shoreham legally was the evacuation of Long Island it occurred to me that the best way for people to understand the real problems about evacuation was to show them what it was really like. Let them experience it themselves! Any other way was an abstraction.

The Hamptons (the famous Hampton) is hell to get out of on a Sunday evening in the summertime. The traffic is unbearable. That fact appealed to me. So I asked the Southampton College radio station manager for two hours on the local college station, WPBX, on a Sunday afternoon. I told the director I would increase his listenership by 10,000% instantly!


"Great!!! I like that! What are you going to do, anyway?" he asked. "I'm going to blow up the Shoreham nuclear plant of course," I told him with a dead pan face. I then explained we were going have two hours of anti-Shoreham interviews. Karl Grossman, the great investigative reporter, was to be the host.

I went to work with our local group of 20 or 30 activists, the East End Shoreham Opponents Coalition. We met, designed the maneuvers, spent only a day or two preparing for the action and then went out to do our thing.

While Karl was interviewing activists, scientists, local politicians against the plant and local residents, we did the following: On the highway we posted a series of five signs. A sign was placed every 200 feet. The first sign read:

"YOU ARE"-then
"IN A"-then
"TUNE TO WPBX 102.7"

Although the roads were already at a near standstill, we sent our folks with their cars into the loggerjam and created additional traffic problems. Our rationale was simple. If it were to be a nuclear accident the pandemonium would be much worse than a simple fender bender or two.

It turned into a very effective political action. Phone calls came into the studio from people who had no idea what was happening and these calls showed their deep fear-based concern. Our street activists had a ball "acting." Just as an organizational tool it was wonderful because it was just plain fun.

Believe it or not, only one person got really bummed out and that person was the college student deejay who lost his two hour time slot at the radio station which we had shanghaied. Although I don't remember his name he gave me an even greater idea. He was heard mumbling, "What a waste, how stupid, it was almost like 'War of the Worlds' in here."

"Bingo" I thought-that's what was missing.

It occurred to me that people in cars may very well be annoyed enough to tune to WPBX to see what's what and indeed would listen to the arguments we made against Shoreham. They couldn't be angry at us because they already knew they were going to be in a traffic jam; they couldn't avoid it. Indeed, we added a nice little twist from the usual boredom of gridlock. But still after some time I imagined they would tune us out and listen to whatever they ordinarily listen to in traffic jams.

What was missing was something to keep them riveted to that radio.

I called some fairly radical students at the larger state school Stony Brook University. (One of the two students who was at the original meeting and who did the writing and much of the production was Eric Corley who now has his own show on the Pacifica stations.)

"I want you to help me blow up the Shoreham plant by producing a play about the Shoreham plant blowing up-in fact, I'll help write it!"

To make a long story short the Stony Brook University radio station, WUSB decided to simulcast "Shadow Over Long Island" with WPKN (now a Pacifica station) in Connecticut.

I got on my horse and started to contact all the anti-nuke groups. SHAD, as I remember was a primary group who went to the streets and highways with home-made signs, (We learned later that neatly painted signs by the more artistic activists were much more effective because they looked more official.) S.O.C. staged a number of sign postings as did other groups. Similar demonstrations were planned and executed on the Connecticut side.

The radio play itself was great! It had everything: a little girl abandoned by a teenaged baby-sitter, people at the ferry trying to get off the island, collisions of cars, traffic jams, a shooting by someone trying to get back to his home because the police couldn't take the pressure, interviews with government officials, interviews with utility officials, you name it we had it. We even had a reporter who managed (with an implied bribe) a remote hook-up from the reactor control room.

The five different groups of activists in both Connecticut and New York's Long Island found existing busy streets and posted the series of signs. YOU ARE--IN--A--MOCK--NUCLEAR EVACUATION--TUNE TO WUSB 88.3 or WPKN 89.5.


You guessed it. The reaction this time was incredible. The program caused super reactions. Police were called who in turned called the school officials who in turn called the radio station. Similar chain reactions happened on the other side of the sound in Connecticut at WPKN, which was a University of Bridgeport station at the time. This, of course, turned both schools even more radical and ultimately was a big help in the ongoing and successful effort at closing Shoreham. Of course there is the ongoing and continuous effort at stopping the reactors in Connecticut.

There is a little bit more to my story.

I got so psyched from the success of the radio play, I enrolled back into college myself to take a masters in Communication Arts. Why? You guessed it. To create "Shadow Over Long Island," a video play.

But the bittersweet truth is that by the time I finished my masters in '88-'89 the Shoreham fight had been pretty much won and it was already being negotiated to a settlement.

However, right now I have a 45 minute television play about a generic nuclear power plant which melts down right in the viewer's living room.

"How professional is it -- what's it look like?" you ask.

I managed to convince the school I enrolled at to design an entire master's course around the project. I had gone straight A so I used that leverage to get what I wanted. The institute has three professional television studios comparable to most TV stations. We auditioned and hired professional actors.

There is a cast of over 250 people. It is remarkably realistic with no seams. As I write this, I have "in the can" a radio and television docudrama of the news covering a Chernobyl/Fermi/Three Mile Island meltdown situation at a mythical plant call Daedalus.

Any ideas...?

This aricle is an excerpt from the author's "A Bomb in the Room of Change."

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