In 1986, a nuclear reactor exploded in Chernobyl, then part of the Soviet Union. In the years since, thousands of people in the region have died of radiation-related illnesses, but the story was covered up within the former Soviet countries. Harvard historian Serhii Plokhy was a young university professor on a train not far from Chernobyl when the accident happened. In his new book, Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe, Plokhy recounts how the Soviet leaders did not speak about the accident for 18 days after the nuclear meltdown. Drawing on newly released files from the KGB and other sources, Plokhy gives the first detailed account of the Chernobyl accident, and argues that it ultimately contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and could happen again in the US, North Korea, Iran or elsewhere. (June 13, 2018 broadcast)
Serhii Plokhy, Professor of Ukrainian History, director of the Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University, author, Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe
Vermont’s lone nuclear power plant, Vermont Yankee, operated from 1972 until 2014, when the plant shut down for good under intense political and financial pressure. POWER STRUGGLE is a new feature-length documentary by filmmaker Robbie Leppzer about the political battle to close Vermont Yankee. We speak with Leppzer and Arnie & Maggie Gundersen, key figures in the VY battle, about the story of how nuclear power ended in Vermont, the after-effects of the 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, and the future of nuclear power. (October 25, 2017 broadcast)
Robbie Leppzer, award-winning independent documentary filmmaker, Power Struggle
Arnie Gundersen, nuclear engineer and whistleblower
Arnie Gundersen is a nuclear engineer who defended the nuclear industry for 20 years, managing and coordinating projects at 70 nuclear power plants in the US. In 1991, after complaining about lax nuclear safety to his superiors, he was fired, and the industry turned on him. That’s when he and his wife Maggie Gundersen, who worked as a sponsesperson for the nuclear industry, became leading critics of nuclear power, forming FaireWinds Energy Education. Arnie Gundersen now consults on nuclear power issues for the Sierra Club, the State of Vermont, the New England Coalition. This spring Arnie visited Fukushima, Japan, the site of a 2011 nuclear meltdorn. The Gundersens discuss their lives in the nuclear industry, the high personal cost of whistleblowing, the future of nuclear power, and their advice to young people interested in working on energy issues. (August 17, 2016 broadcast)
Arnie Gundersen, nuclear engineer and nuclear industry whistleblower
Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power since 2008, has transformed the company from traditional utility to clean energy pioneer. One of the nation’s few women to lead an electric utility, she was recently named Woman of the Year by an industry trade group. Powell recently confronted a new challenge: cancer. She discusses how undergoing genetic testing and having a double mastectomy earlier this year has changed her outlook on life and work. She also describes Vermont’s energy future beyond “twigs and twine” (electric poles and wires) toward communities powered by small micro-grids, how GMP will be the first utility to offer home batteries made by Tesla Motors, as well as her views on nuclear power, resistance to renewable energy, and her advice to young women entering the work world.
Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power and one of the few female energy company executives in the country, talks about Vermont’s renewable energy initiatives, the controversies over wind and nuclear power, and women and leadership.