Anti-Trojan activists enjoy tower's implosion -- twice
Celebration - A crowd, sporting T-shirts for the occasion, sees the real event then stages its own
Monday, May 22, 2006
After three decades of struggle, anti-Trojan activist Lloyd Marbet and friends watched the plant's cooling tower crumble -- twice -- on Sunday.
The dust cloud was considerably smaller the second time, when Marbet and friends -- Greg Kafoury, Art Honeyman, Daniel Meek and others -- grabbed ropes to capsize a 25-foot fabric-and-wire model of the tower in the South Park Blocks four hours after the real tower bit the dust. A similar scene was emblazoned on T-shirts they'd made for the day showing a crowd seizing ropes to topple the tower: "Trojan Down," it said, "May 21, 2006."
"Let there be no question that this plant was closed by an enraged citizenry," said attorney Kafoury in his remarks to a small crowd. Several other plants with failing steam generators, like Trojan's, had undergone expensive repairs and kept operating, he said, but Portland General Electric shut down Trojan because it was the target of citizen outrage.
Early Sunday morning, the group of longtime activists joined a crowd of a few hundred spectators along Old Highway 99 about five miles north of Kalama, Wash., and directly across the river from the tower. Several spent Saturday night at a Kalama motel (a reader board at a restaurant next-door promised an implosion breakfast buffet starting at 6 a.m.). The mood was reunion-jovial, with people sporting "Trojan Down" T-shirts.
"Hey, Lloyd, you should've worn your orange jumpsuit," joked attorney Dan Meek, alluding to Marbet's occasional stints in jail during three decades of activism.
"Now there's a good environmentalist," said another in the group as Kafoury gently bent a sapling away from his camera lens in the final minutes before the blast.
"Hey, Dad," yelled his son, Jason Kafoury, 28, who stood behind him on a concrete road barrier, "Whatever you do, don't screw this up."
Cameras of all sizes were aimed at the tower, momentarily bathed in sunlight. "The sun rises on Trojan one last time," said one woman.
The minutes ticked by as observers talked of how a small first blast was supposed to scare away the birds and how peregrine falcons had been removed from the tower.
"They've closed the freeway," someone said, "They're going to do this exactly on time."
"There's nothing but the peaceful moan of helicopters," said economist Jim Lazar of Olympia.
The implosion happened quickly and silently, with the tower crumpling to the south into the billowing dust cloud before the sound rolled across the Columbia as a surprisingly loud string of explosions that reverberated in the chest and died away quickly.
"Do it again," someone yelled.
"Trojan go bye-bye," said Lazar as the smoke plume billowed toward Portland, "We've lost a monument to our collective stupidity."
"There's the future of nuclear energy," said Linda Williams as people watched the smoke billow and some activists high-fived.
"Who'd have ever thought we'd live to see this," Marbet said. "Isn't that beautiful?"
"It's no secret that I don't support the cooling tower coming down," Marbet said in the Park Blocks later. "It's a monument to the failure of that technology and to the arrogance of the people promoting it."
Few suspected that Sunday's victory was final, especially with new, so-called passively safe nuclear plants being proposed as fossil fuel wanes and greenhouse gases wax. But safe storage for spent nuclear fuel remains an unsolved problem 50 years into the nuclear age, said Kafoury, and the industry still accepts only limited liability for accidents.
Attorney Mark McDougal said any nuclear plant is a prime target for terrorists. "If we're so scared of terrorists that we're listening to peoples' phone calls," he told the crowd, "then we shouldn't be building them huge new targets."
But Marbet closed the Park Blocks event on a hopeful note before he led the group to a celebration at a Portland brewpub.
"Margaret Mead once said, 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,' " Marbet said. " 'Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.' "
John Foyston: 503-221-8368; firstname.lastname@example.org