I met with Maria Holt in her home in Bath and discussed the work that she and Betty took on decades ago and the story that she and Betty have written in their book. I offer the Q&A below to help people understand a little background about the book.
1. Why did you and Betty King write this book?
We were both worried because we thought emissions from the Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Plant were causing harm to our children, our animals and the world. Nuclear weapons and nuclear power radiation produce toxins that are harmful to all life on the planet. It was after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when I was young (only 16) I knew that man-made radiation was more life-threatening to us. During that time, hardly anyone knew. Now as an old woman I stand in my bedroom and know that right on our shore nuclear waste sits there with nowhere to go. A friend of ours died, and his son was born abnormal. We’ll continue to see these effects for many years. We need to stop creating nuclear radiation for weapons or power generation.
2. What are the key points that you want people to know after reading this book?
I want them understand and to be aware that nuclear power was made to look good and look safe. It is neither. Although at sixteen, I knew man-made nuclear radiation would be a problem—most people still know little about the deadly health effects.
3. Tell me a little about your friend Betty King? How did you meet and how did the two of you interact?
We first met at the Waterfront Park in Bath during a demonstration protesting the Vietnam War. Later, together we created a school for our children and other children who didn’t do well in the public school. When we found out about the plan for Maine Yankee, we were very distressed. We gathered people together to protest and resist the Maine Yankee Nuclear Power plant. It all began when Betty’s son used a Geiger counter on the snow falling on the farm just after the Three-Mile Island accident. The counter increased its beat when outside and reduced inside the buildings.
4. You met Ludmilla Slashkova from Russia when she came to talk with a school group. She visited with you in the state house. Would you tell me a little about that meeting?
Morse High School teachers, Maryli and David Tiemann brought Ludmilla to Maine as a part of increasing cultural understanding by high school students and the people of Bath. Ludmilla visited the Maine state capitol and met me as a state representative known by the Tiemanns. When I met Ludmilla, she was very frank and told me that her government was lying about the harm that was caused by the Chernobyl accident. With tears in her eyes, she told about the effects on the children.
5. Our then governor (now Senator) Angus King was instrumental in causing the independent safety audit to be performed. Can you tell me a little about that?
I was in the legislature while he was governor. He never opposed my work. When our group was demanding an independent safety audit, he called the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chair to lobby for just that. That audit found so much needed repair work and at such a cost that the stockholders eventually voted to close the plant.
6, You pulled out the story of Peter Atherton. Tell me about Peter?
He was an NRC contractor charged with inspecting the plant for wiring problems. His report was mislaid and he and his report were treated with disrespect. When he left, he said the plant would have to change things. Eventually, the independent audit revealed that he was correct in his assessment.
7. Another Whistle Blower was Stanley Kuczinsky, can you tell his story?
I can hardly bear to do that. It was the most awful thing in my life. They ordered him to go into the high-level radiation area without adequate protection. He became ill and eventually lost his job and his own construction company.
8. What do you want people (who read this book) to do?
I want them to understand the danger of man-made radiation whether it’s heavy in bombs or low-level radiation in power plants. People need to be active to prevent the human production of all radiation and its waste products.
9. You’ve worked very hard on this story. Your friend and co-author died, and you were left with this task while ailing. Why was this story so important that you worked to finish it, while housebound and in pain?
Because I look out my window and know the nuclear waste is on our near shore and there is nothing to be done with that. It just sits there. There is no place for it to go.
10. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to say to readers?
Most young people don’t understand. I have seen many children with genetic birth defects. I see nothing on the planet that has more adversely affected people than nuclear radiation. I look out my bedroom window and know that right on our shore here in Maine sits high-level nuclear waste. It will be there for the foreseeable future. I want people to prevent radiation production whether for war or power. I want our world to say, “No more. No more anywhere!”