At the end of June 2017, a human chain of anti-nuclear activists stretched for over 90 kilometers from Tihange to Lüttich, Masstricht to Aachen. The goal of the living links in this chain was to raise awareness about the dangers posed by the many obsolete nuclear reactors that dot the Benelux/Belgian/ French countryside. Seated in Lüttich at this incredible event’s HQ was longtime anti-nuclear activist Jochen Stay, 51, who has been actively fighting against nuclear energy and weapons since the beginning of the 1980s.
Politically awoken by Mannheim’s Evangelical Youth (“…at that time, I became involved with the anti-nuclear movement more out of a gut feeling, as opposed to really knowing what was actually happening.”), Stay became embroiled in the mid- 1980s controversy surrounding the NATO Double-Track Decision. For two years (1986-1988), he found himself again and again in Mutlangen, the small town in which mid-range atomic missiles were stationed. Around the same time, he supported the opposition against a planned nuclear reprocessing plant in Wackersdorf—a seemingly hopeless battle that was nonetheless won.
Apropos “winning”: doesn’t one need encouragement—at least every now and again? “Yes,” says Jochen Stay, “The late- 80s were encouraging: the end [of the planned plant] in Wackersdorf. Nelson Mandela free. And the fall of the Wall.”
Stay was one of the co-founders and co-designers of the “Xtausendmal quer” initiative—which dealt with the organization of non-violent sit-in blockades of Castor containers—and of the related project “ausgestrahlt” (“Broadcast”): a nation-wide anti-nuclear organization that helped activists transform their ideas into effective protests.
“Over the years, it has been—not exclusively, but again and again — the “radioactive transporters” upon which Jochen Stay has focused his activities. “Currently, [my focus is on] the nuclear power plants that are still operational in Germany,” which too many (and too many critical) contemporaries believe to be harmless echoes of the swan song for German nuclear energy.
Jochen earns a living by giving presentations, writing articles, and working as a newspaper editor. He also receives funding from the BewegungsarbeiterInnen-Projekt (“Social Movement Project”). Nonetheless, he has always found the time and energy to conduct both extensive and difficult planning and coordination work for various activist projects: “the Marathon Man of the anti-nuclear scene,” one of his friends has called him.
“Only one of many,” corrects the Marathon Man