Talk by Randy Kehler at the Nipponzan Myohoji Peace Pagoda, 27th Anniversary Celebration, Leverett, Massachusetts, September 29, 2012 (PDF version)
Greetings, friends. It’s wonderful, as always, to be here with all of you, and an honor to have been invited to share some thoughts with you.
The title of my talk (“Personal Reflections on the State of the World”) was meant to be general enough to give me plenty of leeway to talk about almost anything, because, frankly, when I was asked what the title would be, I hadn’t yet had much time to think about what I wanted to say. At this point, having given it more thought, I think I would at least amend the title by adding this subtitle: “Randy’s Ongoing Meditation on Fear.” I think you’ll see what I mean.
But let me start with the state of the world and a brief recap of what appear to me to be 5 of the most serious, most threatening, most daunting crises we face – crises that many of us here have devoted significant portions of our lives attempting to address – and few, if any, with more faithfulness, perseverance, and equanimity than the monks and nuns of Nipponzan Myohoji.
First, the crisis of nuclear power.
This is from The Economist, of March 10, 2012 (one year after Fukushima): “The triple meltdown at Fukushima was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. The damage extends far beyond a lost power station, a stricken operator (the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO), and an intense debate about the future of the nation’s nuclear power plants. It goes beyond the trillions of yen that will be needed for a decade-long effort to decommission the reactors and remove their wrecked cores, if indeed that proves possible, and the even greater sums that may be required for decontamination (which one [Tokyo University expert] thinks could cost as much as 50 trillion yen, or $623 billion). It reaches into the lives of the displaced, and of those further afield who know they have been exposed to the fallout from the disaster….For parallels that do justice to the disaster, the Japanese find themselves reaching back to the second world war, otherwise seldom discussed….And, of course, to Hiroshima.”
There are roughly [400-?] operating operating nuclear power plants in the world today. 104 of them are in the U.S., most of them old and approaching, or already having exceeded, their 40-year design life. Many of them, including the Vermont Yankee nuke, on the Conn. River 20 miles north of here and the Pilgrim nuke in Plymouth, 40 miles south of Boston, have been given permission by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate for an additional 20 years, and at 120% of the power output they were designed to produce. 23 of the U.S. reactors, including both Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim, are of almost the identical make and flawed design (courtesy of General Electric) as the nukes still melting down in Fukushima.