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Before there was any potential for overheating, Brown said there would have to be an impossible scenario.
"Both diesel generators would have to be knocked out. In order to get into the plant to do that, you have to get inside a protective area. It's built like a military base."
Brown went on to describe ring after ring of defensive perimeter that would have to be breached in order to reach the generators.
"It would take a military-style operation," said Brown.
The possibility of it happening inadvertently, according to Brown, was one in ten or twenty million.
Five minutes after Brown hung up the telephone he called back. He'd forgotten to mention one other thing.
"If both generators were out and power was lost to the reactor controls, the system at Palo Verde is built so that the [fuel] rods will separate. That's the other feature the guy [Shackelton] neglected to mention. A nuclear meltdown just wouldn't happen."
Why then would the federal government fan such nuclear hysteria?
The authorities already have enough particulars to guarantee jail time if the indicted are convicted. The Earth First! people have been charged with two destructive attacks at the Fairfield Snowbowl (one of which allegedly caused $100,000 worth in damage), as well as a raid on the power lines at a Grand Canyon uranium mine. Why pump up this list of criminal activity with the thought that a radioactive cloud might engulf Phoenix?
One answer is obvious.
Given enough room for discussion and debate, the public might listen to explanations behind the destruction of private property. This is, after all, a nation whose history began with colonists dumping a fortune in British tea into the Boston harbor.
But tea-leaf terrorism is different from nuclear sabotage.
The image of a meltdown rings with the clarity of a gavel silencing the innocent.
When reached in Washington, D.C., the spokesman for the NRC, Greg Cook, was well aware of the Earth First! court case but refused to discuss the upcoming trial.
"I am familiar with the statement [Shackelton's], but we are not going to get very far along this line . . . I'm going to sidestep the entire topic," said Cook. "I would say we're aware of the issue. One federal agency does tend to communicate with another."
The question is whether or not one federal agency, the NRC, pitched in to help a second federal agency, the FBI, make a case against a federal target, Earth First!, by raising the specter of a radioactive holocaust.
The question recalls a speech given in New York in 1989 by the co-founder of Earth First!, Dave Foreman:
"Back in the '70s, the FBI issued a memo to all their field officers, telling them that when you are trying to break up a dissident group, don't worry if you have any evidence or facts. Just go in, make a big arrest, make wild charges, have a press conference, and that's what the media's going to pick up. That's the news story. The damage to the group is done. You can always drop the charges against them later. That's no problem; it almost invariably gets less attention in the press."
Last week, the prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Roslyn Moore-Silver, declined to comment upon the case. She did say that the Owen Shackelton document would not figure in the upcoming trial.
To be continued
Since the largest nuclear plant in America is run by Arizona Public Service, comfort through logic is no comfort at all.
Why would the federal government fan such nuclear hysteria?