Lydia Popova was a researcher at Russia’s Ministry of Atomic Power (MINATOM) before, at great personal risk, she turned whistle-blower. What follows are Karl Grossman’s congratulatory remarks at Fuller Lodge, mess hall to the birthplace of the bomb, on 26 September 1999:
Karl Grossman: It’s a great, great privilege to present the 1999 Nuclear-Free Future Award to Lydia Popova, a woman of enormous integrity and conscience.
We are here in the belly of America’s atomic beast: Los Alamos. It is here, encircled ironically by communities with the deepest spiritual values, connected to the earth, committed to life, that a devil’s workshop was established. At the secret Manhattan Project Laboratory here, the first atomic bombs were built and here when World War II ended that those who built the bombs desperately saw to do more with atomic power to perpetuate the establishment that had been set up. As a history of Los Alamos Laboratory, a book called City of Fire relates: “With the war’s end there were now problems of job placement, work continuity, more free-time than work, hardly enough to keep everyone busy without a crash program underway.”
More nuclear weapons were built, thousands more, and yet more deadly, but what else could be done with nuclear technology to perpetuate the nuclear establishment. Out of the web-work of vested interest came schemes like using the heat of fission to boil water to produce electricity, nuclear power plants. Programs for nuclear powered rockets and airplanes, food irradiation, using atomic explosions to alter the face of the planet, and on and on… the nuclear nightmare of our time. It didn’t take long for a parallel situation to develop in the Soviet Union…
Minatom, Lydia Popova has recounted, acquired the privileges of the nuclear weapons program including it’s secrecy and total financial dependence on the taxpayer. Its commitment was to serve the interests of the industry, and a select group of nuclear specialists at the expense of ordinary people. We here in the United States had our Three Mile Island accident, our nuclear establishment is in denial of its’ impacts, still, on the other side of the world there was Chernobyl, “when”, Lydia Popova has written, “the so-called peaceful atom demonstrated its’ furious nature and a nuclear establishment there unrepentant seeking to have Chernobyl forgotten, still, still continuing to push nuclear technology, a nuclear establishment like the atomic mafias in the United States, England, France and elsewhere, working to keep people in the dark” – but, Lydia Popova has shown the light.
“The Russian nuclear establishment, like the atomic mafias elsewhere works to keep people in the dark.”
After receiving her masters of science in physics from Moscow State University, Lydia was employed for seventeen years in the Soviet Nuclear program. She worked at the Institute for Information and Technical and Economic research on nuclear science and technology under Minatom. It was there she became frustrated by how little attention was being paid to problems of radioactive waste and nuclear plant decommissioning and outraged by how the public was being inadequately informed of the environmental and health dangers caused by the nuclear industry.
As Francis Macy, director of the Center for Safe Energy in Berkeley, California, who nominated Lydia Popova for this Award, states, “at great economic and political risk Lydia decided to change her life to become a whistle-blower on the nuclear industry. She resigned from her secure and prestigious position and began volunteering with the environmental movement, she started a new career of educating the public about the dangers of nuclear technologies and the benefits of energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energies. In 1990 she became coordinator of the Alternative Energy Program of the Socio-Ecological Union, an umbrella federation of 250 grassroots environmental organizations, then in 1992 she founded the Center for Nuclear Ecology and Energy Policy of the Socio-Ecologial Union, of which she is director.
As Mr. Macy states, through Lydia’s initiative, leaders and members of environmental organizations throughout Russia and the Ukraine, are communicating and collaborating regularly. They are working around nuclear weapons production sites and areas with nuclear power stations, with Lydia Popova’s office, the hub of the nuclear watchdog network.
Among her extensive writings is the book Plutonium in Russia co-authored with our mutual friend Alexei Yablokov, a distinguished biologist, anti-nuclear activist, former advisor to the Russian President on environmental and health issues, and from Moscow Alexei sends his congratulations to Lydia Popova, ‘she very much,’ he says, ‘deserves this Award.’ Lydia, Fran Macy continued in his nomination, has been in the forefront of informing the public about the dangers of nuclear energy through national and international media. She has published papers in many American and European journals, she also regularly organizes press conferences and briefings for journalists and gives interviews to newspapers and news agencies both in Russia and around the world.
Lydia was very active, he went on, in promoting international cooperation among anti-nuclear activists, she was frequently to represent the Russian anti-nuclear movement at conferences, and meetings around the world. Fran Macy told of, earlier this year, of observing her speak at a meeting with U.S. congressman Edward Markee and officials of the U.S. State and Energy Departments at the White House.
“She spoke, Francis wrote, “with scientific courtesy, persuasive facts, and fine sensitivity. Lydia Popova has stood strong against the horrendous menace of nuclear technology, she has been a tower of proof, a beacon of information – she is a world-class global educator.”