‘Schell’ Shocked: Critics Say Nuclear Threat is Great as Ever

Donald Paneth May 12, 2006

Are the criticisms of nuclear power and the warnings about the possible uses of
nuclear weapons just old stuff, or are these questions worthy of consideration today?
Two veterans of the anti-nuclear movement – Dr. Helen Caldicott and Jonathan Schell – addressed these issues at the New School on May 4. Caldicott and Schell have been working on, speaking out and writing about these matters for the past 30 years.

Yet the auditorium in which they appeared was three-quarters empty. Only about 100 persons, mostly middle-aged or aged, attended. At a liberal institution of higher learning, a handful of young people showed up. “We’re in a most dangerous situation,” said Caldicott, author of Nuclear Madness (1979), The New Nuclear Danger (2001), and other
books. And she observed: “There is no moral outrage in this country. We’re all walking
around as if nothing’s going on.”

Schell stressed the “indivisibility of nuclear issues. We have no protection against the dangers of either nuclear power or nuclear weapons. We have not succeeded in illuminating the hazards of nuclear power or the possibilities of nuclear proliferation.” Caldicott declared that the mass media – Fox News, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post – are endangering us all by not discussing the hazards of the nuclear age and the changes required in human behavior.

Schell, whose 1982 classic The Fate of the Earth helped fuel the nuclear freeze movement, said that he had recently taught students at Yale who were “absolutely free of knowledge,” though he had “sensed a desire among them for knowledge” about these matters. “Nuclear power is the only source of electricity that could destroy a city,” Caldicott said. She called for the shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear reactors operating in Buchanan, N.Y., 40 miles from Times Square, 20 miles from the Bronx.

She also noted that the problem of nuclear waste disposal remains unsolved.
Schell recalled that the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s had been “encouraging,”
but that following the collapse of the Soviet Union “nothing happened. Arms control
actually slowed.”

People drifted along without responding.
He said, “impervious to events.” Once again, as they had so often in the past, Caldicott and Schell urged the abolition of nuclear arsenals. “It should be done – abolition,” she said. “Of course, we can get rid of nuclear weapons,” he said. “We need people of sagacity and wisdom.”