The following was written by Mitchel Cohen in 2012 and printed in his book, What Is Direct Action? Lessons from (and to) Occupy Wall Street (intro by Prof. Richard Wolff)

Gravesend Bay, Brooklyn, looking northwest towards the Verrazano Bridge and Staten Island. October 29, 2012. Todd Maisel, New York Daily News

November, 2012   Ten Years ago

Southern Brooklyn ‘Sandy’ Diary
by Mitchel Cohen

I live on the 7th floor of a 160-household apartment building on the southern edge of Bensonhurst, right next to (but not included in) the mandatory Evacuation Zone. There is a large park between my building and Gravesend Bay. SuperStorm Sandy’s winds whipped the Bay into a frenzy; the waters smashed repeatedly into the pilings, esplanade, boat pier just across the Belt Parkway from my apartment.

The parkway had eerily emptied of traffic hours earlier. Suddenly, along with Coney Island, Brighton and Manhattan Beaches, it’s under water and mostly dark. Emmons Ave. in Sheepshead Bay was reported to have been flooded by a wave 10-feet high, carrying away a number of cars as well as pouring into houses and local restaurants.

The waters came within 5 feet of my building, flooded the parking lot when the sewers on Cropsey Avenue backed up with scathingly polluted water … and then stopped!

One woman in the next building screamed as she observed bodies floating down Cropsey Avenue. Fortunately, the “bodies” turned out to be mannequins freed as the storm washed through Kohl’s department store jutting out on pilings into Gravesend Bay at the end of Bay Parkway.

Dreier-Offerman / Calvert Vaux park across the highway would have absorbed much of the water from the bay had New York City, in its infinite wisdom, left the area wild and not flattened the hills and replaced the natural soil and trees with artificial turf a year ago. The water rolled over the synthetic turf like marbles of mercury on Teflon without being absorbed and came cascading across the Belt Parkway, even though there was hardly any rain with this storm.

As I walked the next day in Brighton Beach, there were long lines at the public pay telephones — if you could find one! My favorite scene: Into the mountain of sand that the storm deposited on the Coney Island Boardwalk, someone carved a heart with the name ‘Sandy’ in the center. ‘I Heart Sandy!’ Made me smile. Brooklynites maintain their sarcasm at all costs.

Four Days Later
Ida Sanoff had been trapped in her apartment in Brighton Beach. Like so many others, she and her husband Jeff have difficulty trudging the 8 flights of pitch black hallways and stairs a few times a day. ‘We have no water and our apartment is freezing. Both of our cars have been totaled, so getting around is next to impossible. Many people in our building have no flashlights & are feeling their way up & down the stairs in the dark. 311 is the biggest joke of all  either the line is busy & you can’t get through, or you finally do get through & you wait & wait & wait & no one ever picks up.

‘On Brighton Beach Ave., the mud line is half way up the facade of the stores. The building around the corner from me started pumping water out of their basement today.

‘On top of everything else, we had to put our almost 22 year old cat down today. Our truck driver took us in his car. We could not get out to her regular vet, the cat specialist in Queens so we went to the emergency vet on Flatbush Ave. & Ave. R. They had no power either and were functioning on an emergency generator. We met people from Gerritsen Beach who had only the clothes on their back, their home had been flooded & they lost everything.’

The Red Cross? FEMA? Nowhere to be found.

I was about to walk the 2′ miles to Brighton with a bag of groceries for Ida when I finally hear from her. She writes:

omg omg omg

Finally got to go up on the Boardwalk today & walk around my block. Looks like half of Breezy is on my beach. Chairs, tables, wooden steps, huge sections of piers, a blue rowboat stenciled RPYC or BPYC. can’t tell. All sorts of metal, a refrigerator. Toys. A rocking chair facing the shoreline.

Warbasse houses will not have power for weeks. Coney Island Creek which is loaded with hideous sediments, including coal tars, flooded it. Loads of seniors 20+ floors up in the cold & dark & with no water.

Two buildings of the Oceana/Millennium luxury condos at Coney Island Ave. have had major damage to their mechanicals and have been evacuated.

Behind my building, there was a lovely older co-op building. Lobby was a lovingly preserved time capsule of high-end design, circa 1960. Several steps up to the lobby so I thought they’d be OK. Went in with my friend who lives there. Everything had already been ripped out because it was soaked, walls, floors, everything. The high water mark was over my head. My friend said that on the first floor, people barely escaped the rising water in their apartments. In the condo building next door which is adjacent to the Boardwalk, the cars on the first floor garage level are buried several feet in sand. The windows on the first floor blew out & the whole place flooded. Sand piles 6 feet high on Ocean Parkway, a BobCat trying to at least clear the sidewalk. Mountains of sand on sidewalks that should be put back onto the beach & no way or no one to do it. Anyone have some dump trucks?

Several trees down in Seaside Park. Both synagogues on Sea Breeze Ave have several feet of sand in their lobbies.

Several stores open on Brighton Beach Ave. but no one is clear on whether or not the food they are selling is fresh, has defrosted or was soaked by flood waters. My friend bought some anyway. Rocco’s pizza being made by the light of a generator. I was so hungry, but again, not sure if the food had been compromised. Rocco’s deli said that they will get fresh cold cuts & cheese tomorrow. Hope they don’t sell out by the time I get there.

People waiting on lines for food.

The handball players shoveled the courts at West 5th and are having a grand time!

No one, but no one, here has a car. Rumor is that insurance companies are not even sending adjusters, they are just assuming that the cars are totaled. Need to see a doctor for the stitches in my finger & no way to get to one. Some folks I know nearby have cars, but don’t have gas. My truck driver got on a gas line in East NY at 4:30 AM & was told that gas was on the way. He gave up around 5 PM & found a station nearby that has gas and he is on the line & praying they don’t run out.

No subway service until Kings Hwy. Buses are packed & don’t stop. No way to get to Waldbaum’s on Ocean Ave & Voorhies which reportedly has reopened.

My block is ‘No Standing Fire Zone’ & everyone is parked here with no one to give tickets. If there is a fire we will fry. Tried calling 311  WHAT A JOKE!!!!!

But a few blocks north of here, everything is perfectly normal. People can’t understand why we are so upset.

Copenhagen, Denmark, 2009.











Election Day & after
A few days ago I attended a very moving and huge memorial service in Park Slope for Jessie Streich-Kest, the young animal rights and ACORN activist who was killed along with her friend Jacob Vogelman by a falling tree, as they walked outside with her dog Max.

I’m heading down to Coney Island after I vote to see what more I can do to help. So many people whose homes, boats, and lives are in ruins. This is a very great tragedy, just as it has been for decades for poorer people, homeless or near-homeless. Many large houses in the gated community of Sea Gate, on Coney’s tip, are gone. Can they continue to work together, these wealthy and these poor, in this great spirit of cooperation that sweeps over New York and everywhere else in responding to tragedy?

I talk to a man re-charging his cellphone on a generator set up on the edge of the Coney Island projects. He is wondering about all the birds  where do they go? Did they survive the vicious winds? He’s brought some nuts and crumbs for the birds, but  I hadn’t noticed this until he mentioned it — like the Red Cross and FEMA, there are few birds to be seen. He’s extremely concerned. They’ve disappeared!

I ask an electrician working on replacing equipment in the projects why is it that the private apartment building right next door had power restored a week ago? He just looks at me quizically, maybe bemused, more likely ‘is this guy (me) really so clueless?,’ and says: ‘If you have to ask, you already know the answer.’

Howard Brandstein — one of those who certainly knows that answer and is trying to do something about it — reports from the Sixth Street Community Center on the Lower East Side (built, over the decades, in the shell of a century-old abandoned synagogue that still retains some of the beautiful marble tablets inside), that they had hundreds of volunteers over the weekend making sandwiches and distributing them door-to-door in nearby public housing projects. The basement had been flooded, but Citlalic Jeffers, the young Coordinator of the Community Supported Agriculture project that runs out of the Center, is organizing emergency daily food distributions for the neighborhood in conjunction with Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES).

Everywhere, people are trying to help each other. Occupy Wall Street is doing a tremendous amount. They’ve morphed into ‘Occupy Sandy’; the OWS network of committed organizers kicked into high gear immediately, which says a great deal not only about who really gives a shit but about the benefits of lateral organizing. One friend from Occupy lived in Rockaway and her house was burned to the ground. I often see her collecting supplies to distribute. Beauty is everywhere amidst tragedy. Despite the Breezy Point section of Rockaway’s long history of exclusionary and racist housing and access policies, volunteers are nevertheless rallying to its assistance, demonstrating the ability of the human spirit to sweep aside prejudices in times of social crisis, at least temporarily. Perhaps not surprisingly, none of the media have discussed the nature and history of Breezy Point, as Mark Rausher points out:

“As a child, I grew up on the Southern shore of Brooklyn, within sight of the Rockaway Peninsula which juts into the Atlantic Ocean from Jamaica Bay. I frequently took a ferry from Sheepshead Bay to Rockaway, driving my mother crazy with my desire to ride on the water and breathe the sea air. Growing up, I heard about Breezy Point, an early gated community on Rockaway which for decades had discriminated against Jews, Blacks, Italians, Hispanics, Asians and other groups. Unlike the ‘uber-rich gated communities we hear so much about, this was an Irish enclave of small beachfront cottages, private and self-contained with a volunteer fire department and a large private security force, paying limited property taxes and not subject to anti-discrimination laws.

The devastating fires which consumed over 100 of these homes during Hurricane Sandy’s brief visit, in conjunction with a tornado that touched down there earlier this year, seem to me to be classic examples of karmic retribution; it also highlights the hypocrisy which surrounds our new economic reality — despite the fact that Breezy Point residents paid practically no taxes and flouted local laws (and morality), when the fires started, city, state and Federal funds were used to bring first responders to Breezy Point, to fight the fires and try to assist residents who had failed to honor the mandatory evacuation order. These residents, mostly middle-class, took advantage of America’s fierce support for individual/property rights when it suited them, but were more than glad to grab those services (and the public financial support which makes them available) when they needed them.”

Occupy Sandy, as the upcoming stories in this book relate, is spending a great deal of time and effort in the Rockaways, not only at Breezy Point but most especially in the Federal housing projects to the East which are neglected by public services, just as they are elsewhere. Volunteers are going up and down the stairs door-to-door to each and every one of the tens of thousands of apartments there and in Coney Island, just to check on people, provide some relief, water, food, blankets and batteries. In fact, several people have already been discovered dead, apparently for days or even weeks, in their apartments.

Occupy — with so many dedicated participants — has proven in practice that non-hierarchal networking is capable of organizing a very quick volunteer response. But one question especially lingers: Will Occupy be able to mobilize the same desperate people it is now assisting, when it comes to direct action protests, especially as it appears that the City is intentionally denying assistance to poor people in order to drive them out of the projects and confiscate that prime ocean-front real estate for luxury homes, hotels and playgrounds for the rich and famous? That is exactly what occurred in New Orleans, with tens of thousands of people never being able to return to their homes. Can Occupy Sandy switch gears from being a ‘salvation army’ type of activity, crucial though it has been, into a radical or even revolutionary movement with the thousands of people they are helping?

* * *

Since I’ve never ‘upgraded’ my internet connection from my land line ‘dial-up’, I am one of the few in my building whose internet access and phone service remains intact, even though our electricity never went out. So I can get and send email, and watch the News on TV thanks to my ancient indoor rabbit ears antenna, news that I relay to my neighbors when I see them in the elevator, to their astonished exclamations of ‘You’re kidding me!’ I tell them about independent mobilizations providing mutual aid that are occurring all over the place. Check out for info about how to organize assistance in your area.

In Coney Island, FEMA finally opened a center — a full four days after the storm. They ran out of supplies a few days ago. Today there’s a line of around 65 people outside, and soldiers and police, who are all over the FEMA warehouse, are not letting people in. I ask ‘why not?’ A soldier points to his wrist, and says ‘It’s not time, yet.’

On the Democracy Now! radio show, Mike Burke asks Rockaway organizer Catherine Yeager how her efforts with Occupy are different than FEMA’s. Her testy response is emblematic of the best of direct action organizing:

MIKE BURKE: Now, how are the relief efforts that are taking place here different from what we’re seeing with FEMA and the National Guard down the street?

CATHERINE YEAGER: FEMA down the street, from what I understand, is handing out pieces of paper that tell you to call a phone number to get help. Here, you come, and you get help immediately.

There are many people, mostly from the nearby NYC Housing Authority projects, who still have no electricity more than two weeks after the storm, no running water, no bathroom facilities, no food  and NYCHA (the public housing authority) is still charging them full rent, and was about to proceed with evictions for nonpayment until Occupy and many others raised a stink.

I’m sick of the stagnant, militarized FEMA facility. I decide to walk west on Neptune Avenue to West 29th Street, across from a deserted Kaiser Field, where neighborhood resident Pam Harris has turned her front yard into a relief center with Occupy Sandy. She tells me she didn’t know who the splurge of young people were, but they poured into Coney Island willing and ready to do the work needed to help people dig out from Sandy. Harris said she found the Occupy Relief website by doing a google search once she was able to access the internet. Now she’s filled with nothing but praise for all the young committed folks who’ve poured into Coney Island from all over the City to lend a hand.

In front of her house, a steady stream of people drop off supplies, while others pick up blankets, winter clothing, batteries, flashlights and diapers.

Occupy has set up a generator for people to charge their cellphones and computer batteries. (Several years later, Pam Harris won election to the NY State Assembly representing Coney Island and nearby areas. A few years later, she was indicted for funneling $23,000 raised by a non-profit company she’d set up, pled guilty, resigned from public office, and was sentenced to 6 months in prison.)

And now, every day another team of chefs come from restaurants around the City to serve hot meals for free to whoever wants one, no standing on ceremony, just come and take what you need, eat your fill of great food, and drop off supplies for others. There are no forms to fill out, no one is keeping track … and yet, Pam knows exactly where everything is and how much of this or that is available. ‘We’ll be running out of blankets tomorrow,’ she tells me. ‘If you can get the word out, that would be great.’ We’d just met; already, like a born organizer, she’s giving me an assignment, and I am all too grateful for the chance to help out. Across the street, the church is serving as a depot for clothing and an even bigger daily feeding operation is underway.

Radio station WBAI, which airs an ‘Occupy Wall Street’ show every weeknight at 6:30 pm and which is part of the listener-sponsored noncommercial Pacifica network, is pretty much alone among media in pointing out the racial and class discrepancies in government and Red Cross assistance. But it is on and off the air sporadically during the storm. As Chair of the Local Board for the last four years, I’m involved up to my ears in trying to get the station to remain on the air, not the least reason so that we can use the station to help give voice to the needs of our neighbors and mobilize assistance.

WBAI’s General Manager Berthold Reimers reports that after the NYC transit system was shut down the evening before the storm, a crew of seven WBAI producers and volunteers chose to disregard the mandatory evacuation orders and camped out at the station at its headquarters at 120 Wall Street so that they could provide round-the-clock live coverage of Hurricane Sandy, as Wall Street flooded 10 stories below them.

By Monday evening October 29th — ominously the date of the 1929 stock market crash(!) — the East River decided to race into the building and up the stairs on the ground floor, and then six feet or so higher, filling the lobby of the 34-story building. Generators exploded, and Con Ed — which had been taking shortcuts in protecting its equipment over the last few years and laying off hundreds of workers — had to shut off the power, and along with it WBAI’s ability to broadcast from that location. Announcer Michael G. Haskins was able to continue broadcasting for several hours from a remote location, using Comrex equipment that allows for remote broadcasting.

The WBAI crew, meanwhile, was trapped. While the view from the 10th floor is spectacular, it was not exactly for that reason that they stuck it out until Tuesday morning when the waters receded. Meanwhile, WBAI’s broadcast was interrupted late Monday night and again on Tuesday morning when Verizon lost its connection to the antenna atop the Empire State Building, and WBAI went silent.

WBAI was not able to come back on the air until late Tuesday night, and only with archival recordings. By Wednesday afternoon, the station was again broadcasting live, but sporadically, from the studios of Gary Null‘s internet Progressive Radio Network on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

All day Sunday and Monday, WBAI ran interviews with New Yorkers, and focused on questions that, at the time, were going unasked by the corporate media, Reimers said, proudly. Ken Gale asked: Are the nuclear power plants at Indian Point in jeopardy, and should they be shut down immediately?

Why did New York City shut off electricity, water and elevators more than 24 hours before the storm hit to the tens of thousands of poor and working class people living in public housing?

Was the City trying to drive people out for good?

What effect did global climate change have on this storm, and on future ones?

Nowhere else in the media could you hear that kind of questioning, which continues in a long train of searching out the truth in complicated stories. WBAI airs a biweekly show covering the global ecological crisis and climate change in the tradition of the station’s coverage of the protests against the Vietnam War in the ’60s, the Gulf War in the ’90s, and the endless ‘War on Terror’ in 2001 and since. WBAI covered the events of 9/11 live, and stayed at the mic round-the-clock reporting from downtown Manhattan.

Democracy Now!, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, which broadcasts over WBAI in New York City, carried stirring interviews on Monday November 5th, with Occupy Sandy activists; that same night, Mimi Rosenberg and Ken Nash provided the first comprehensive coverage of the situation in Coney Island, which was pretty much being ignored in the mainstream media. And Esther Armah, Ken Gale and Tony Ryan were unrelenting in their coverage of global climate change and especially the threat from the combination of the storm and New York’s nuclear power plants, which no one else was talking about.

In fact in the days leading up to the storm, a number of us were apoplectic over the possibility of radiation releases at NYC’s nuclear power plants. The government shut the subways. They shut the schools. They shut the parks, tunnels, bridges and even the electricity as generators exploded right near WBAI. But the nuclear power generators at Indian Point, just 26 miles north of New York City? Those they kept running.

Are they insane? Should the waters of the Hudson flood into the plant, that would be an unprecedented disaster, on the scale of Fukushima or worse. Should any of the spent fuel rods foolishly stored in pools at Indian Point be washed into the Hudson, we can kiss New York City goodbye. (How’s that for an early morning TV show — ‘Goodbye New York’?)

There were 16 nuclear power plants in the path of hurricane Sandy, as it whipped its way back from the Atlantic and up the coast. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission put additional observers at the sites and claimed they could shut down the nukes on just a few hours notice if they had to, so ‘don’t worry.’

Ken Gale, producer of the show ‘EcoLogic,’ presented the frightening scenario on WBAI. Hundreds of listeners called the governor and the NRC, begging them to shut down the Indian Point nuclear power plant at least for the storm’s duration.

WBAI provided phone numbers to call. And all of that concern had an effect. A spokesperson for the NRC was able to get through to me at home — a first! — and we had a long conversation. She agreed to discuss it live on the radio the next morning, but then WBAI was again knocked off the air.

The Obama-Nukes Connection

The nuclear nightmare is entirely manmade and profit driven. There is nothing ‘natural’ about it. It is the result not just of technology gone ‘inexplicably’ haywire but, predictably, of a certain kind of technology — a centralized, metered and capitalist technology, very expensive and made economically profitable only by a boatload of government subsidies to the nuclear industry.

Note: Just because nuclear power was used by the former Soviet Union and iswidespread in China, etc., does not make it less of a ‘capitalist technology.’ It is true that some leftists argue that nuclear power (like genetic engineering) is only a problem under capitalism and if only workers had control over it in a truly socialist society, it would be safe. Some discussion of that concept can be found in Mitchel Cohen, The Capitalist Infesto: Is Marx’s Critique of Science and Technology Radical Enough?, Red Balloon Pamphlets, 2010; also, by the same author, Big Science,and the Left’s Curious Notion of Progress (2005).

And yet, even amidst the current catastrophe, and even as the government of Venezuela halts its own nuclear program in response to public requests to reconsider the direction for society in light of Fukushima, the U.S. government is dead-set on shoring up the industry and constructing new nuclear power plants.

Note: Venezuela is suspending development of a nuclear power program following the catastrophe at the nuclear complex in Japan, President HugoChavez announced. Reuters, March 16, 2011. Venezuela ‘had hoped that a planned Russian-built nuclear power plant would provide 4,000megawatts (MW) and be ready in about a decade. But Chavez saidevents in Japan showed the risks associated with nuclear power were too great. ‘For now, I have ordered the freezing of the plans we have been developing ‘ for a peaceful nuclear program,’ he said during a televised meeting with Chinese investors.’

Note: $13 billion in cradle-to-grave subsidies and tax breaks, as well as unlimited taxpayer-backed loan guarantees, limited liability in the case of an accident, and other incentives have been approved this year to go to the nuclear industry to build new nuclear reactors. Also, note that the designer of the Fukushima nuclear reactors as well as many herein the U.S., the General Electric Company, paid no taxes at all in 2010 — even though it made billions in profits.

Along with Wall Street brokerage house Goldman Sachs, nuclear reactor operator Exelon Inc. — one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was Senator (a state that gets approximately half of its electricity from nuclear power, more than any other state)  was a top contributor to Barack Obama’s campaigns, officially donating over $269,000.

The company currently operates 10 reactors at six sites. The Quad-cities Nuclear Power Plant, located on the banks of the Mississippi River, is a GE Mark-1 plant, with the identical design and nearly the same age as the Fukushima reactors. Exelon barely averted disaster at its Braidwood nuke in Joliet, IL last year, caused by several problems that the company had refused to correct  including a poor design that led to repeated floods in buildings housing safety equipment. The company allowed vented steam to rip metal siding off containment walls and used undersized electrical fuses for vital safety equipment, according to the NRC. (Union of Concerned Scientists, ‘The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010,’ March 2011)

As candidate for president, Obama knew about the deadly dangers of nuclear power. ‘I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal and so I am not a nuclear energy proponent,’ Obama said at a campaign stop in Newton, Iowa on December 30, 2007. ‘My general view is that until we can make certain that nuclear power plants are safe. ‘ I don’t think that’s the best option. I am much more interested in solar and wind and bio-diesel and strategies [for] alternative fuels.’ (Karl Grossman, ‘Behind the Hydrogen Explosion at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant,’

As he told the editorial board of the Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire on November 25, 2007: ‘I don’t think there’s anything that we inevitably dislike about nuclear power. We just dislike the fact that it might blow up ‘ and irradiate us ‘ and kill us. That’s the problem.’ But as president, Obama hired a nuclear power proponent out of the national nuclear laboratory system, Steven Chu, as his energy secretary. Chu, who had been director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, minimizes the impacts of radioactivity, as do many of the atomic physicists in the national laboratory system. Obama’s two top White House aides, meanwhile, had been deeply involved with Exelon  the utility operating more nuclear power plants than any other in the U.S. Rahm Emanuel, his former chief of staff and now Mayor of Chicago, was an investment banker central to the $8.2 billion corporate merger in 1999 that produced Exelon. David Axelrod, senior advisor and Obama’s chief political strategist, was an Exelon PR consultant. Frank M. Clark, who runs ComEd, helped advise Obama before he ran for President and is one of Obama’s largest fundraisers. Candidate Obama received sizable contributions from Exelon president and CEO John Rowe, who in 2007 also became chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry’s main trade group. As Forbes magazine wrote, ‘Ties are tight between Exelon and the Obama administration,’ noting Exelon’s political contributions and Emanuel’s and Axelrod’s Exelon links. Upon becoming President, Obama appointed Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Energy Future.

NOTE: Jonathan Fahey, ‘The President’s Utility,’ Forbes, January 18, 2010.Rahm Emanuel ‘was hired by Rowe to help broker the $8.2 billion dealbetween Unicom and Peco when Emanuel was at the investment bankWasserstein Perella (now Dresdner Kleinwort). In his two-year careerthere Emanuel earned $16.2 million, according to congressional disclosures. His biggest deal was the Exelon merger.’

The revolving door between government and industry rotates just as fast in Japan as it does in the U.S. In fact, the former director general of METI left the agency and joined TEPCO as a senior adviser. Another METI board member became executive vice president at TEPCO. (John Bussey, ‘Japan Will Rebuild From Quake But Faces Other Daunting Tests,’ The Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2011.)

Not surprisingly, given who funded his campaigns, as president Obama betrayed his campaign statements and began promoting ‘safe, clean nuclear power.’ He pushed for multi-billion dollar taxpayer subsidies for the construction of new nuclear plants, and made them a central part of his energy policy. He now proposes allocating $36 billion in federal loan guarantees to jump-start the construction of new nuclear reactors. Unfortunately, he has maneuvered some who have argued fervently for the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce or reverse global warming, such as NASA scientist James Hansen, into supporting his pro-nuclear policies by falsely posing coal mining and sequestration, mountaintop removal, deep sea oil drilling, and hydro-fracking for natural gas as the options to nuclear power  all of which the Obama administration is aggressively promoting.

Opponents of nuclear power, in contrast, vigorously oppose every one of those Obama proposals and argue instead for funding for development of decentralized sustainable energy alternatives like solar and wind power. Contrary to the claims of nuclear supporters, anti-nuke activists also strongly oppose expansion of oil and coal-burning power plants and support phasing them out, as they are rightly seen as prime contributors to air pollution, asthma and greenhouse gases involved in global climate change. Nuclear power is not the answer.

John Rowe’s Nuclear Energy Institute praises legislation that would facilitate the development of smaller, scalable nuclear reactors. The legislation, sponsored by Democrats as well as Republicans,

“was introduced March 8 2011 in the U.S. Senate. The Nuclear Power 2021 Act (S. 512) was introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), along with Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). The legislation directs the Secretary of Energy to implement programs to develop and demonstrate two reactor designs, one fewer than 300 megawatts of electric generating capacity and the other fewer than 50 megawatts. This public-private, cost-shared program would facilitate the design certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of two small reactor designs by the end of 2017 and the licensing of the reactors by the end of 2020.” (‘NEI Welcomes Senators’ Legislation to Advance Development of SmallReactors,’ Nuclear Energy Institute, March 09, 2011. )

Even as the nuclear nightmare plays out in Japan and the odds in favor of the nightmare scenario happening in New York and at other nukes as global climate change generates stronger and much larger storms that threaten the plants, the President, the nuclear industry and its proponents in Congress bull ahead, disregarding the potential for causing global catastrophic events. Just as one of former President Bush’s first acts in office was to increase allowable arsenic in drinking water when that water was found to already have higher arsenic levels than expected (waters used, now, in the growing of rice which is now said to be replete with high levels of arsenic), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Obama is preparing to dramatically increase permissible radioactive releases in water, food and soil, in preparation for what they are calling ‘radiological incidents.’ (193Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), ‘RadiationExposure Debate Rages Inside EPA,’ April 5, 2011,

This is taking place entirely behind closed doors, warns the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Because this plan is considered ‘guidance’ it does not require public notice as a normal regulation would. The radiation guides (called Protective Action Guides or PAGs) ‘are protocols for responding to radiological events ranging from nuclear power-plant accidents to ‘dirty’ bombs.’ Under the new guides, nuclear energy plants would be allowed to vent much higher levels of radioactive isotopes into the water supply and expose many more people to higher doses of radiation, including

‘A nearly 1000-fold increase in strontium-90;

‘A 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for iodine-131; and

‘An almost 25,000 rise for nickel-63.

The new radiation guidelines would also allow long-term cleanup standards thousands of times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted, permitting doses to the public that EPA itself estimates would cause cancer in as many as every fourth person exposed. (ibid. Also, Brian Moench, MD, ‘Radiation: Nothing to See Here?’ Truthout, March 25, 2011  a popular compilation of the dangers of radiation.) These relaxations of radiation protection requirements are favored by the nuclear industry and allies in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Energy Department.

Fortunately, there are some in the regulatory agencies resisting the proposed increase in allowable radiation guides. The idea that there could be any ‘acceptable level’ of radiation  let alone these drastically ‘enhanced’ levels  is being vigorously opposed by public health professionals inside EPA where a critical debate is now taking place, according to documents PEER obtained by suing the EPA under the Freedom of Information Act. Even Exelon CEO John Rowe said lawmakers shouldn’t expand U.S. guarantees for loans for new reactors, and that he is reassessing a $3.65-billion plan to boost output by upgrading Exelon’s existing reactors —  not for any newfound moral, environmental or health-related concern but as a smokescreen for reducing corporate expenditures. (John McCormick, ‘Nuclear Illinois Helped Shape Obama View on Energyin Dealings With Exelon,’ Bloomberg News, March 23, 2011. )

Meanwhile, as the chaos and destruction generated by Hurricane Sandy make all too clear, we dodged a bullet this time with regard to the Indian Point nuclear power plant. We might not be so ‘lucky’ next year, or the year after that, when the storms of increasing magnitude are likely to strike again.

Reprinted from Mitchel Cohen, “Occupy Sandy” in What Is Direct Action? Lessons from (and to) Occupy Wall Street.



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