By Christine Legere
Posted Oct. 21, 2015 at 2:00 AMUpdated Oct 21, 2015 at 6:39 AM
NORTH EASTHAM — A new generation of citizen activists will join watchdog groups from across the region at the Statehouse on Thursday for a rally demanding the immediate and safe shutdown of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.
The young protesters are juniors and seniors in Lisa Brown’s Exploring and Respecting Differences honors class at Nauset Regional High School. The class decided to spend this semester delving into issues related to the Pilgrim plant, at Brown’s suggestion, and was already well into the topic when the recent announcement was made regarding the plant’s closure sometime before June 2019.
“Lisa gave us the lowdown on what’s happening at Pilgrim,” senior Trevor Ridley said. “It’s a really important issue all Cape Codders need to know about.”
Trevor and classmates realize there are consequences to shuttering the plant. “There will be a need for alternative energy,” he said. “While there are no quick fixes, shutdown is the best decision.”
Senior Kahla Jusell agreed. “We recognize as the plant gets older, there are more problems and more shutdowns,” she said. ”It’s a danger to homes, the environment and the economy, which is tourism.”
Diane Turco, founder of the anti-Pilgrim group Cape Downwinders, spoke to the Nauset class shortly after Entergy’s closure announcement and fired up the students with warnings that the danger was far from over, since the plant could continue to operate for nearly four years. There is currently no plan in place to evacuate residents and tourists from the Cape in a radioactive incident.
“When we went to the presentation, it became very real,” senior Sarah Barnard said. “We all saw there was nothing we could do to escape.”
Brown said much of the discussion of Pilgrim has focused on economics and power supply. “Diane Turco focuses on the safety issue,” she said. “She talked about the state’s emergency response and how no one had a plan for evacuation of the Cape.”
Trevor Ridley, of Harwich, a senior at Nauset Regional High School, talks about the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station during a class Tuesday. Students in Lisa Brown's honors class will head to the Statehouse on Thursday to take part in a rally urging the immediate shutdown of the plant. Merrily Cassidy/Cape Cod Times
State Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, outlined her bills to expand real-time radiation monitoring and push the emergency planning zone around Pilgrim to 50 miles.
“What’s really scary is how far that 50-mile radius goes,” Trevor said.
Thirteen class members will pile into a van early Thursday, along with Brown and another driver, and head for a long day of activities. On their agenda is a tour of the Statehouse followed by a meeting and lunch with Sen. Daniel Wolf, D-Harwich, a longtime critic of the Plymouth nuclear plant.
“I think the students are most excited about talking to Sen. Wolf,” Brown said.
At 1 p.m., the students will join the rally at the Statehouse stairway. Three of them — Kahla, Patrick Keigans and Matt West — are among the day’s 20 or so speakers.
Brown had the group canvass fellow students on Pilgrim. Matt said he has found most Nauset students are only vaguely aware of the nuclear power station. “Nobody knew of its effects,” he said.
He said adults also need to be educated. “We want to keep a nuclear disaster from happening, by talking to adults about how important this is to them, their children, our children and generations to come.”
Brown has taught social justice classes for about 17 years. The focus comes naturally. “My parents are Quakers and I grew up steeped like a teabag in activism,” she said.
Turco believes the Nauset group will be the only high school students at Thursday’s rally. “It’s very exciting that the next generation is stepping up,” she said. “These students make us proud and give us hope as they take action and speak out as responsible citizens, engaged in a better future.”
In addition to presentations from several speakers, including scientists, legislators and activists, demonstrators at the rally plan to deliver a letter containing their message to close the Pilgrim plant to Gov. Charlie Baker in his Beacon Hill office.
— Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @ChrisLegereCCT.