One woman’s odyssey after surviving the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster
By Karl Grossman
Libbe HaLevy has written a brilliant book about the deadly dangers of nuclear power.
It’s titled “Yes, I Glow In The Dark!” with a subtitle, “One Mile From Three Mile Island To Fukushima And Nuclear Hotseat.”
It combines the personal with clear facts about why nuclear power is lethal.
Its title stems from Ms. HaLevy being just a mile from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, Unit 2, when it underwent a meltdown.
“CLOSE ALL YOUR DOORS AND WINDOWS AND STAY AWAY FROM THEM. STAY INSIDE AND DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOMES UNLESS IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY,” begins the book’s introduction, referring to what people in the area were told in 1979 when TMI went wild.
“This was not the vacation I had intended,” she relates. “Not a drill, not a false alarm. This was really happening. A nuclear reactor malfunctioning only one mile away…”
“This is the story of what happens when someone who is just a person—no privileged standing in the world, no family fortune, old school ties, corporate or political connections to call upon—finds herself caught next to something that we were told could never happen, a malfunctioning, radiation-leaking, out-of-control nuclear reactor.”
“Whatever it is that speaks to you in what follows,” she tells readers, “may it provide clarity, perspective, and food for thought….”
The book is easy to read, takes us on the journey of Ms. HaLevy’s life, and, so importantly, she presents the facts about nuclear power that those involved with it would have us believe are so complicated only they can understand.
She shines a light on plutonium, created in atom-splitting or fission, and quotes Dr. Helen Caldicott, a founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, as noting that a pound of it released as airborne dust has the potential to cause fatal lung cancer in nine billion people. It only takes a millionth of a gram to cause lung cancer. An average nuclear power plant “produces between 400 and 500 pounds of plutonium-239 a year….So every nuclear reactor’s on-site waste can accurately be considered a repository for a potential planetary dose of lethal plutonium.”
“Another characteristic of radioactive material is what’s sometimes called the ‘Nuclear Midas Touch.’ In the Greek myth, everything King Midas touches became gold….In the same way, everything a radioactive substance touches inevitably becomes radioactive itself,” Ms. HaLevy relates. “If radwaste is held away from the containment in a containment, that containment eventually becomes radioactive itself. If radwaste is held away from the environment in a container,” it “eventually becomes radioactive and has to be contained in another container…etc. That’s why the Chernobyl disaster site required a second containment structure after the first emergency sarcophagus, predicted to last only 30 years, started decaying right on schedule. The new one, optimistically called the New Safe Containment, cost $1.6 billion and will only be good for about 100 years. Then it, too, will need another larger containment structure, turning the disaster into the nuclear version of Russian nesting matryoshka dolls.”
Ms. HaLevy notes how there is “a big difference between the health impacts of internal and external radiation exposure. The nuclear industry relies on external exposure models for the assurances of ‘no danger,’ but this doesn’t address the problem of ionizing radiation from nuclear facilities, uranium mining, or any other source getting into our food and/or water and, from there, inside our bodies. In the ocean, radiation gets taken up by plankton and seaweed, which are eaten by small fish, which are eaten by larger fish, on up the food chain into the species we humans eat, with the radiation dose bioaccumulating every step of the way.”
Consider how Ms. HaLevy clearly explains the cumulative effects of radiation. “All radidation exposure is cumulative,’ she relates. “That means that though the nuclear industry and government downplay radiation releases and contamination risks as ‘small,’ ‘insignificant,’ and ‘not a danger to human health,’ every exposure contributes to an accumulating risk that can, indeed, prove ‘significant’ to one’s health.”
Or, as she notes, “no insurance company will indemnify you from damages resulting from a nuclear anything. The nuclear industry isn’t dumb; they knew an unwilling game when they saw one and opted out early. Check the nuclear clause in your homeowner’s insurance policy.”
Ms. HaLevy goes on with these accurate, well-written, chilling explanations and says, “There was much more….And why does the public not know about what’s happening? The answer,” she relates, involves “money, lobbyists, money, campaign contributions, money, on-demand PR hacks, money, blatant lies, and, oh yes, money.”
Ms. HaLevy describes the baloney of the nuclear proponents as “a linguistic shill game to hide their ugly troubles in plain sight…I call it Nuclear Spin-Speak, deliberate wording, choices intended to make us so confused that we don’t or can’t discern difficult nuclear truths.”
She skewers an especially popular lie of those involved in nuclear technology, the line after a radioactive release about there being no immediate dangers. “Immediate,” Ms. HaLevy writes, “as in, ‘No immediate danger to health or safety. Literaly speaking, that is correct. Unless one is exposed to a catastrophic level of radiation, the effects take time to show up—years, even decades, or generations.”
“SO WHAT DO WE DO NOW, COACH?” Ms. HaLevy titles the book’s Afterword. “The nuclear issue can seem so overwhelming that even if you want to get involved, it’s hard to know where to start. So let me help….It’s not an in all-inclusive list, just a few toeholds in general categories where you can find basic information and look for more. When in doubt, contact a likely group and ask about whatever it is you’re interested in doing or learning. They’ll be happy to help you.”
As for further information—and recommendations for action—once you finish reading Ms. HaLevy’s superb book, tune in to her weekly podcast, Nuclear Hotseat. She interviews terrific guests and there are always great comments by Ms. HaLevy including her announcing each week the “Numnutz of the Week (for Outstanding Nuclear Boneheadedness).”
Libbe HaLevy’s book can be ordered on line from Amazon and other vendors.
Karl Grossman, a member of the board of Beyond Nuclear, is author of COVER UP: What you ARE NOT Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power.” On TV he has hosted “Enviro Close-Up with Karl Grossman” for 27 years. Visit www.envirovideo.com and see his latest program on atomic energy,“Nuclear Power Today.” He is a full professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury.