Monday, October 6, 2008
One of the biggest advantages of being an international activist is you get to meet some honest-to-goddess heroes. I call him Lucifer. He looks like a punk version of Rasputin: chain smoking, scraggly hair, a disarming sideways glance. He is one of these rare people who was doing direct action politics in the Soviet Union before it collapsed, locking himself to the top of smokestacks when one could easily be disappeared by the government for this type of work. He navigated that mine field only to find the current democratic illusion in Russia makes Putin's repression more effective than Khrushchev's could ever be.
Unsurprisingly, he calls me goddess. Even with all my immodesty it does not quite sit comfortably, but i take it in the spirit it is jokingly offered. When i landed in the Netherlands i was quick to reconnect with him. He is one of the only highly active international anti-nuclear activists in Russia - if you want to work in the dark empire you need to go thru Lucifer.
He is working on stopping the shipment of uranium tailings to Russia from France, Germany, and the Netherlands. There is an EU and an international agreement on not exporting toxic wastes. The Russians and their western partners get around this by claiming the tailings are a resource - an input into uranium fuel fabrication. It is clear that with over 500K tons of tailings untouched, Russia does not need more.
The interesting thing is that we may well be on the way to winning this fight. Rosatom has said they will stop after 2009, and amazingly attributed this decision in part to public protest. The German giant power utilities RWE and EOn have said they will drop out of the German consortium, which still has other major utilities in it. This is the result of Lucifer and some German allies fine work.
The effect of this is significant. Thru a chemistry i must admit i don't yet fully understand, raw tailings must be treated to be moved IF they are not considered a resource in their untreated form. Pull Russia out and this incredible quantity of Dutch, German, and French waste needs to be handled and processed, skyrocketing the costs. Another break on the nuclear relapse.
Recently, curiously, both Lucifer and Honza are attributing to me something i did not quite say in the 90s. "Besides hard work, the only things you need to stop a reactor is to be brilliant and to be lucky."
But i will take credit for it. As was pointed out repeatedly this year at Burning Man, the truth is not what is ultimately important, but rather it is the compelling story that we seek.