Tonya Kleuskens Interview, Part 1 of 2

  • DT: My name is David Todd. It's October 15th, 2002. We're in a small community called Dawn, Texas, which is a little bit east of Hereford and we have the nice opportunity to visit with Tonya Kleusken who's been involved in a number of environmental efforts here in the Panhandle, particularly one involving a high level radio active waste site and also a domestic municipal waste site that was proposed more recently. As well she's been involved in some of the Pantex struggles as well. I wanted to take this chance to thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
  • TK: Oh, thank you for asking.
  • DT: I thought I'd start this interview like we start many of them and that's by asking if there was any experience in your childhood or early days that might have first introduced you to an interest in conservation.
  • TK: The-the earliest thing I remember is-is a gardening experience that I had. I-I planted some Zenya's in a flowerbed by the front door. And they-they grew and they bloomed and they were gorgeous. I was six years old and I was so proud of them. My mother's friend came over and brought her daughter and she picked every single one of them and I was horrified. I cried for days. Outside of that, I didn't garden much after that until I married.
  • My mother and father were not really interested in-in outdoor activities. My father was a welder and World War II veteran and-and they-it-you know, it just wasn't their-their habit. So I don't know exactly where my interest came from, but whenever I married then, you know, we certainly had a common interest in outdoor activities.
  • My husband's a farmer. When-when we married, we married in May and as soon as I moved to the farm, we got all my stuff situated and he said, oh yeah, by the way, I planted a garden in the field and it's-it's yours and you need to water it and hoe it and-and pick it and do something with the vegetables. So, that was my introduction, that first year I tried, but I didn't get the water at the right time, the green beans were too stringy, so, you know, we-we weren't able to eat them. After that, I've had a-a garden each year since and I got a little better at it.
  • DT: Can you just describe what sort of vegetables and other produce you grow?
  • TK: Yes-green beans, black-eyed peas, okra, tomatoes, some leaf lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, a few carrots, radishes, whatever I can think of. And if-I'm always so eager in the spring to get that, you know, that first vegetable, I'm very hungry for it.
  • DT: You also raised flowers?
  • TK: Yes I do. That-that first experience was it, it was just very satisfying to me and I thought that-I always thought that my garden was so much cheaper than a psychologist, that there was no reason not to-to use it to its full extent. So I spent as much time as I could gardening and-and doing the yard work.
  • DT: How does it make you happy to do that?
  • TK: Well, it's-it's just-it's very peaceful. Whenever I'm out there on my hands and knees pulling weeds in the middle of the flowers in June, it just seems that all is right with the world. So I can't think of a better thing to do.
  • But when my youngest daughter went to college in 90'-in the fall of 95', she was in Amarillo, she was going to school in Clarendon, and she was in Amarillo and walked into a-a small florist shop on Sixth Streetand said, oh, you would just love my mother's flowers. And the-the young florist said, well, ask her to bring me a sample, so I did. And she bought everything I could bring her that first summer and the second and then her designers quit and went to work for another shop and-and then they started calling me. So very quickly in the summertime I had a-a nice little business going. And it-it's-but it's as much as I can do by myself. So I-I suspect it won't get much larger.
  • DT: Well I understand you've also been busy with a number of volunteer efforts on behalf of protecting the aquifer around here from some high level radioactive waste proposal that were started back in the-the late 70's, early 80's, is that correct?
  • TK: Yes. One of the really fortunate things about the Texas Panhandle in the depth of the Ogallala Aquifer, is that with the-the strong farming activity that the-the depth of the Aquifer has protected it from run off contamination and-and quick-quick contamination from water sources. So, we've just been so protected that it hasn't been something that the people in this area have had to-to give a lot of thought to.
  • In 1978 was my first experience of seeing the-the seismographic crew. We had had a few in the area prior to that, but this time there were five or six rigs coming in a row and they came down the county road that you see here south of the house and they started quite a bit further west and we were looking out after lunch one day watching them come and it was-I remember it being a-a really strange thought. You know, this is-is so unusual for them to come in such a group. It seems like there's something more. And it wasn't very long then until we started hearing that the Department of Energy had dug a couple test wells. A neighbor to our northeast had allowed them to dig one.
  • And then there were a couple of others in-in the area for them to-to look at the geology of the area. It wasn't until 1982 that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was passed giving nine sites around the nation as potential geologic disposal sites for high-level radioactive waste. This is the waste that originally was to come just from nuclear power reactors. There was a-quite a bit of concern from Jimmy Carter that to reprocess or to do anything other than the government take control of this could cause proliferation around the world. And there-that fly. So-he endorsed the-the aspect of geologic disposal and it seemed quite reasonable that salt-bedded salt domes would be a very good storage place because they would absorb and dissipate the-the heat from the-the radioactive cast.
  • So our area was named "Deaf Smith County." There was not a specific location, but Deaf Smith County was named in 1982. We knew that it was coming, the newspaper articles had-had talked a little bit about that leading up to the 1982. So I was concerned and wondered if anybody else in the community felt as I did.
  • Well, Governor White at the time had already established a nuclear waste programs office. There was a man named Danny Smith as the director and Steve Frishman worked in there and he came from the-the-what is the word for the-the University of Texas geologic?
  • DT: The Bureau of Economic Geology.
  • TK: Yes, the bureau. He came from the Bureau of Economic Geology when he went to work for Mark White. I never did meet Danny Smith in this area, I did in Austin once or twice. But Steve Frishman became a regular coming to the Department of Energy meetings. But at this particular meeting, this-this first meeting, I asked him if he would come and-and speak to a group of people. I didn't know who would come or who would help with it, but he agreed to come.
  • In February of 1982 I had organized a-a-a community meeting and asked Steve Frishman to come from the nuclear waste programs office to speak with us and tell us what was going on just a-a informative type meeting. This was also my introduction to Georgia Aukerman because whenever it was in the newspaper that this was going to happen, she gave me a call and said, I'm very interested in this subject, what can I do? And I said well, would you make coffee? She doesn't even drink coffee to this day, so this is one of her favorite stories, that she had to-to figure out how to-to fill a twenty-four cup coffee pot and-and how to make it for the public.
  • But we-we worked it out and at that particular meeting all of the people that were-were very concerned came and-and it was our introduction to the group that-that later formed as POWER, People Opposed to Wasted Energy Repositories. But following the meeting, many of them came up to me and said that Steve Frishman, we don't know about him, he doesn't sound like he is on our side, and so we had to-to laugh later on as he became a-a-one of our closest allies. But I don't think at that time that Governor White knew exactly which position he wanted to take.
  • There was-you know, there was such a strong political support for the Department of Energy and their activities around Pantex, and I think that was-was one of the things that made the Texas Panhandle attractive was because they were very much a part of the area and very well accepted. So I don't think that they were really sure exactly what-what kind of a position they wanted to take.
  • But things started to come together very quickly after Deaf Smith County was identified and Swisher County as well. Just prior to this meeting in-in 1982, Swisher County had already started to organize under the insistence of Delbert Devin. Delbert Devin is also a World War II veteran. He was a navigator in some of the air force planes at that time and has some really good stories to tell, but he'll have to tell you those. But he-he was a-very democratically active and was a strong force in-in Swisher County, so they brought together a group called STAND, Serious Texans Against Nuclear Dumping.
  • Wally Bird was very active, he is in the farm implement construction business-very successful man. Then Brian Bocartand Kay Lynn Bocart, cousins, were served as officers over the years. I'm sure that there are many other in Swisher County that I'm not as familiar with because I didn't see them as often and I hope that you'll get the opportunity to-to learn about them. But Delbert was very helpful in-in contacting us right away once he knew that there was someone interested and someone active.
  • And we-we worked together as a coalition starting from that point forward. After the February meeting, the group of people that-that came started to meet in homes and-and discuss what it meant for our community and-and what could be done. There was Georgia and Rick Aukerman-Rick worked for George Water Seed Company at the time, he's an agronomist. Georgia is a teacher. Jim and Carry Styert-Jim is an outdoors writer-does many freelance articles for outdoors magazines, sometimes Texas Parks and Wildlife and Carry is also a writer. And then there was John and Judy Craighouser who have a-an insurance business and Tim and Kathy Rivell, Tim is a physician. He lived in Hereford at the time but has since moved to Amarillo.
  • There were so-so many others that were very active-Chip Formby who was a local newsman and has since manages the local radio station. But very-very many local people that were-were concerned-Randy and-and Margaret Marshall. So we would meet on a semi-regular basis and decide, you know, how we would get the information out to the public.
  • There-we also took a few trips to Austin in cooperation with the Stand from Tulia and started to speak with our legislatures and-and get a feel for what they thought. Jim Hightower was the agriculture commissioner at the time and being such a colorful person he just took the lead and-and talking about the Department of Energy and-and how it didn't mix with the agriculture of the area. It was-it was very fortunate for us that he was so high profile at the time.
  • Also, during the same time frame, STAND of Amarillo began to form. They formed under the charter of STAND of Tulia and were very helpful in disseminating information in the Amarillo area. There was a-a group that called themselves the Amarillo Nuclear Waste Committee, which was the only group that ever came out public in support of the repository during this time frame. I always suspected that they-they always had strong links to the Committee for Energy Awareness, but there was never any specific tie. Just advertising in newspapers, magazines, that-that-that made me think that.
  • DT: Can you analyze what the grounds of opposition were for those people you just mentioned against this waste disposal proposal and what the folks were proposing and supporting this idea, what they were saying?
  • TK: Yes, on the supporting side, the project was claimed to be an eight billion dollar project, which could bring between six and eight hundred million dollars into the area in, you know, salaries, construction, various things. The governors nuclear waste programs office could never really verify that particular amount of money. So that was the-the primary draw.
  • The opposition was our Ogallala Aquifer. The-to get to the bedded salt, they would have to drill through the Ogallala Aquifer. The plan was to freeze the aquifer for drilling purposes and then to cement it off. Cementing it off is done in drilling deeper for other purposes-for wells-oil wells, and we also have a Santa Rosa Aquifer that-which is deeper still than the-the Ogallala.
  • But, there was a great deal of concern and still remains that for the life of the activity that would be going on and the amount of activity that would be going on under ground, there would be very large tunnels and then rooms off of those tunnels and then holes drilled in the floor where each individualcontainer, which would be a fuel rod, the fuel rods from the-from nuclear power industry would be placed.
  • With so much going on and so much potential for cracking, there was a great deal of concern that there would be seepage if it didn't come from the actual shaft going down, which would be much larger than any irrigation well or oil well because it would had to of been huge in diameter to get mining equipment and elevators to bring people back and forth and-and these kinds of things. So the concern was with all of this going on that there would be a potential for cracking and potential for seeping into the-the mine shafts that would allow the water to become contaminated and then either evaporate or seep further back and forth-or even the steam-since the fuel rods would be so hot, if there was water seeping into it, then it would create a steam that could permeate back into the aquifer or back into other layers within the earth.
  • So there was a great deal of concern and-and much of this, you know, because we value our water and because we had to be-have to be so careful to protect the Ogallala, we wanted to-to see to it that-that that was taken care of, but also because of the farming industry in the area. There is a great deal of seed production, grain sorghum for hay forages and other things that are grown right here in Deaf Smith County. I had heard the-the figures and they were between eighty and ninety percent of the world's seed for grain sorghum products is grown here in Deaf Smith County.
  • So there-that industry was very concerned about how even the perception would affect their industry. And on the perception side, Arrowhead Mills is-home is in Hereford, which is in Deaf Smith County and they were very concerned that whether there was ever any contamination of any kind that the-that the association being in the same area would affect their-their sales. So they were-were very concerned. And then we just generally have farming-lots of grains, wheat, treacle ,cattle fed. Also in the area there are, on any given day, two million head of cattle in the county being fed. So they're drinking water from the Ogallala and eating grains that are grown here. So there-there's just a great deal of concern that the-that the two weren't compatible.
  • You know, we may be geographically near Pantex and other department of energy facilities, but-but we're two counties away and the-the type of activity in our economic base, we're just different. So the-the farming community came to the call and said this is-this isn't going to work, you know, there-there are salt-bedded salts in other areas that potentially could work better than this one.
  • There-there is also quite a bit of concern that-that maybe we needed to look at geologic disposal as a possibility, but we didn't need to put all of our money into it right up front-that we needed to look at-at other mediums of storage that we had certainly gone too far in the nuclear industry without a-a resolution to the problem of radioactive waste. I remember in the beginning there was lots of advertising that-that the-that technology was moving so quickly that the problem would be resolved before there was a buildup. Well, it didn't happen.
  • I don't know if it was dollars of research or if it was just that the focus was on energy and not on disposal, but we also had great and vast areas in the United States in that day and time that-that we don't have any longer-where, you know, you can just send your waste out there and-and out of sight, out of mind. We had hoped that through what the work we did here in Deaf Smith County that we would be able to-to participate in a-in a larger national discussion about what the appropriate thing to do with the radioactive waste was.
  • Wherever the radioactive waste goes, even today with Yucca Mountain, it is going to involve miles of highway and transportation and transportation through many communities, potentials for accidents, and even the best container can have flaws. So there-there is still some concern and with the issue for us having been resolved, I thought it was a bit of a shallow victory because-because the radioactive waste is still to be dealt with, there's still no resolution, and here we are in 2002 and it looks as though congress has decided that Yucca Mountain is it, that that's where it will go regardless of geologic concerns and-and concerns with-with storage in general.
  • DT: How did you manage to defeat the proposal for Swisher County and Deaf Smith County?
  • TK: As we continued past 1982 the Department of Energy did environmental assessment and then they would have to hold public hearings about these environmental assessments and people from Swisher County and Deaf Smith County would-would go and voice their concerns, then they would have to write a response. So all of this took years in-in preparation.
  • But by 1986 the Department of Energy narrowed it down to five suggested sites and three for characterization, which meant that they would go ahead and-and drill the-the test shafts and-and look into the-the formations and-and make some scientific determinations and those sites were narrowed down to Deaf Smith County, Hansford, Washington, and Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
  • DT: Why do you think that most of these sites were west of Mississippi and most of the nuclear power production was east of the Mississippi?
  • TK: Obviously population-you know, and the potential for contamination and problems, the fewer people affected the better. In one of the early Department of Energy environmental assessments, they referred to the population in the Texas Panhandle as virtually uninhabited. So we-we enjoyed being virtual un-inhabitants for quite a long time. So I think just population-I mean, you know, we're talking about something that is not very sterile and you just don't-you don't want to affect a large population if you do have a problem.
  • So in 1986 this was-was narrowed down and so we were able to see a-a specific piece of land during that identification-they said okay, this-this is it, where we would-would drill the test holes. And it was an area of land in northwest Deaf Smith County almost to the Oldham County border, which would be near the Vega community. And the landowners that were identified were Anthony Paschal, who is a long-time family farmer-his family has been in this area a long time.
  • Mildred and Donald Hicks and Wayne Richardson and he has a couple sons that they happen to be in the seed industry. And ironically, since this was one of the concerns, they have their family seed business on the land that the Department of Energy wanted to purchase and were growing seed production grain sorghum in this area. Wayne became very outspoken, it-it was very practical and still is a very practical business person and-and saw this as just one legal matter that needed to be cleared up. So he would approach things from that perspective.
  • Donald Hicks was completely disturbed by his land being identified. His wife was born on the land that they farmed. He had added to it during his time in farming and they inherited this wonderful farmhouse and-and had raised their son Mark there. He had also been past president of the Hereford Chamber of Commerce had served as a county commissioner, and when-when his property was singled out and the community didn't support him, he was so hurt and I can just feel his emotion because he was-he didn't understand why he was forsaken, he was a very active involved person in the United Methodist Church.
  • At that time we had a mayor, Wes Fischer, who was also a member, we had councilmen that were also members, and-and Chamber of Commerce people who were also members, and they abandoned him completely. And whenever Hereford was identified, the Chamber of Commerce and-and business people of the community, formed to go to Columbus, Ohio to say, come on, you're welcome, we want you, we want your money, we think this is wonderful, and completely looked past the-the rule agriculture economy that had grown these businesses and established a community.
  • DT: Why do you think they turned away?
  • TK: I think that-that they were-were somewhat concerned about agriculture fading if, as the aquifer was depleted. And I also think that, you know, the idea of-of no matter how short-lived it is of spending millions of dollars in the community, that that's going to be spread around a little bit. While many of these business people were-were in a farming community, some of them didn't interact directly with farming. Now, Wes Fischer did, he had owned a vegetable shed and grew and marketed onions and potatoes, carrots too I believe. But-but that wasn't-wasn't the way it was.
  • The-the Department of Energy was very smart at this time. In 1986 they started to move people here very quickly. Some people in real estate bought buildings and redid them, leased them out to the Department of Energy. People that moved into the community very quickly started going to-to church and Linda McClain was-was one of the program managers that the department moved to Hereford. Some of those that were at a little higher level lived in Amarillo and in Canyon, but they-they did move in very quickly, set up offices, and-and began to make a presence known.
  • It-it wasn't-it wasn't difficult to-to organize with them present, it-because of the political awareness that had built in the years between 82' and 86'. We had begun the process already of putting together a nuclear waste task force, which was-many of the commodity organizations. There was the Texas Corn Producers and Carl King was their representative, he's from Dimmitt. There-there was the Texas Wheat Growers-Leo Witkowski was their representative. There was the United-Northwest Texas United Methodist Conference-Lois Wells represented them and then the Church Women United. We also had then POWER of Hereford, STAND of Tulia, STAND of Amarillo and with the site being located near Vega, we started another POWER chapter there, which became POWER of Vega.
  • DT: I can understand how some of these agricultural trade groups might have been opposed-sort of a bottom line issue if their crops might have been affected by contamination of the aquifer-I'm curious why the church groups got involved in the fight against this high level radioactive waste proposal.
  • TK: I think that in the mid 80's that the nuclear proliferation question was permeating most of-of the church organizations and-and their church bodies in developing mission statements or purpose statements about how-how their particular organization viewed those things. And the Methodists and the Catholics were certainly very straightforward in-in how-how they viewed them. And-and they were not necessarily supportive and they weren't necessarily supportive of-of the-parts of the industry and the-and the Cold War that-that affected individuals in a negative way. So, I think that was the-the purpose of the Methodists becoming involved.
  • As we developed the-the nuclear waste task force, it allowed us a broader base for fundraising and just moving into that and-and full force at this time, we had hired Alice Hector to represent us legally out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Alice has, in recent years, been very high profile in Florida in a child custody case. If you see that in the news you'll remember the connection.
  • And also Don Hancock from the Southwest Research and Information Center near Carlsbad. I think they're office is in Albuquerque. He was-had had quite a bit of experience with the Department of Energy, the style of environmental assessments and the environmental concerns through his involvement with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Project there at Carlsbad. He was very helpful in guiding us and helping us understand documents, helping us think through responses.And Alice filed a few cases for us representing the agriculture aspect and the-and the landowners in particular during this early time.
  • Then as we moved a little bit more into 1986, we were able to hire a lobbyist in Washington D.C. The one we worked with primarily, there was a firm and I-I know that there's one of the gentleman, I cannot remember his name, but the one that worked primarily with us was Sam White.
  • He had gone to Washington during the late 70's on the tractor cades that went to represent the-the farming-he grew up in Stratford, so he-he had roots in the Panhandle and it was a-a personal issue for him. He worked for Kent Hence, while Kent Hence was a congressman, and then went into business with his cousin representing farming issues. So, during 86' and into 87', we had quite a bit of help.
  • DT: Can you describe some of the arguments that your legal counsel made or that the technical support made against the site?
  • TK: Well, primarily with the-with the legal council it was incompatibility and also questions about the right of eminent domain to force these land owners into selling property that was very near and dear to them. So those-those were kind of focuses for the legal representation and the technical was-was whether or not the technology for drilling, sealing off, maintaining a repository was adequate for the short-term as well as the long-term because we were-we were talking two hundred and fifty thousand years into the future. So, for-for being able to seal the radioactive waste away from humanity.
  • The Department of Energy wasn't worried about sealing things off long-term, they-they were planning to put some kind of a Stonehenge type marker up and encrypt it with every language known to man plus some ancient languages that-that they thought would-would let someone know into the future that the radioactive waste was down there.
  • DT: Were there short-term concerns about this radioactive waste site that were distinct from the long-term seepage problems-were there catastrophic issues that you thought were more short-term?
  • TK: Potential water contamination affecting current generations. We-we suspected that if it happened, it wouldn't happen in-in the first ten years, but it would after that. At the time, in the early 80's, there was-was not a strong school of thought on Ogallala recharge. There had been studies since then that have verified that it happens much quicker than we thought, but at that time the school of thought was that the recharge was slow, taking up to a hundred years to bring surface water to the aquifer. But just the fact that the aquifer has not depleted at the rates that were predicted in the early 80's and-and that in some cases it has risen has certainly changed all of the thought about-about how it happens.
  • But those were the primary issues of concern, plus what it would do to the local economy outside of-of the repository activity-the farming and the-the organic vegetables, you know, and grains, those kinds of things-and the seed production. So, there-and-and the-and the idea much of what the farming community was concerned about was the marketability of products that were grown in and near a radioactive waste storage facility, whether or not we ever had any actual contamination.
  • DT: And you also mentioned that you had a lobbyist that was making arguments and making contacts for you, did he work at all with Jim Wright?
  • TK: Yes, yes. Jim Wright was-was very helpful and-and was definitely an ally during that time.
  • DT: What sort of a role do you think Jim Wright played-I guess at the time he was Speaker of the House?
  • TK: Yes he was. Information exchange and-and-you know, when-in 1987 the-the thing that finally changed it was a-a budgetary measure that was proposed by a W. Gray-I'm not sure what his first name was-I don't remember what his-the area he represented, at the time I remember thinking that he was down-state Texas, but you know, I've-I've never read anything or had anything confirm that.
  • He-he proposed that the budget be cut and that the budgetary cuts affect it in such a way that the characterization take place only in Nevada. So with that one budgetary move, it took Deaf Smith County out of the running December 22nd, 1987 and it was over.
  • DT: Why did that happen, other than what Mr. Gray did, I mean what may have triggered Mr. Gray's change in the budget?
  • TK: I always suspected that it was a-a-a favor trade-that-that one of the congressmen-we had Larry Combest as our representative here. He always offered a listening ear, but he was never really very helpful, never really took any activity unless he was-was speaking with people behind the scenes. But we certainly did work to make a presence in Washington, the fall of 1987 I went to Washington five times on trips to educate our legislatures.
  • DT: Can you retell some of your experiences talking to legislature and-and what their response was to some of the arguments that you made?
  • TK: They-they certainly always acted as though they agreed and that they understood completely-were very willing to listen. We did-you know, we didn't find anyone that was really rude to us or-or that had their mind set in-in how this issue should fall. There-there had been so much political activity from the-the more populated areas like Michigan and Ohio that were identified-and Pennsylvania, in the earlier years, that-that there was-there was quite a bit of-of knowledge about the-the radioactive storage program in Washington.
  • We also had begun to meet with groups from around the country that were concerned about this and had developed-by 1987 we had developed the National Nuclear Waste Task Force, which involved groups from Nevada and groups from Washington State as well as groups that had continued concerns from other facilities around the-the nation.
  • One other thing of interest though is that in 1985 President Reagan determined that there was no longer any reason to keep military or radioactive waste and civilian radioactive waste separate, and he authorized the Commingling Act, which would-would make one repository due. There was also a-a track for doing-for characterizing a second repository site knowing that the first repository would-would house only seventy thousand metric tons and that they would-would need eventually a second one.
  • Also in this-in this measure for cutting the budget, the-the search for a second repository was ceased until much later in the game, which was to be, if I remember correctly, some time around 2008 to 2010 if-if the need was still there.
  • DT: When you succeeded in helping to slow down and finally stop the proposal for the Panhandle site and attention drifted elsewhere to Yucca Mountain, did you manage to help some of the folks in Yucca Mountain or did you feel the geological qualities there made that site a better candidate?
  • TK: Personally I never felt that-that the-that the geology made that site any better a candidate. The site was on federally owned property, which made it easier access. But I was never really convinced that we were approaching the radioactive storage properly.
  • You know, reasonable, yes, you know, put it somewhere where it cannot be accessed for nuclear weapons productions, put it somewhere where it cannot contaminate humanity. You know, those things were within reason, but when-when you take that into a global context of-of what it-how it changes the geology when you introduce a new-a new substance, especially one that generates so much heat much closer to the surface than-than the earth's natural heat sources, what you have to do to get it down there.
  • Those kinds of things I-I always felt presented more concern for geologic disposal, plus the fact that it has to transported coast to coast, you know, to-to get it there, and all of the people that the-that the many thousands of-of transport trucks would-many communities it would transport through and-and potential for accidents.
  • DT: Well what do you think the best final outcome would be? Are you an advocate for more on-site storage at the current nuclear utility sites and some of the military sites-what do you think the best outcome would be?
  • TK: Yes, I think I'm an advocate for dry cast on-site storage for short-term. And I think that the money that we have put into the geologic disposal program should be-should be refocused into energy research. I think that-that when we discovered nuclear power, that-that we slowed down on our energy research and if you-and on the energy spectrum, we're just infants here in what we have been able to understand and make use of the energy available in our universe and I-so I really think that there is some answers that we have not yet come to.
  • You know, during this same time frame, there was some discussion about the Super-Conducting Super Collider, and it was essentially killed because of the expense to the nation for building such a research facility. But in-in perfect hindsight, I really don't understand how the physicists could make the next step until they could actually do the next thing they needed to do because it would take one-one more step for them to come to the conclusion of where they needed to go from there. And that was the-the, you know, the next step in the process at the time. While we do have to-to be careful about our national budget.
  • DT: Maybe you can explain a little bit more to me about the Super-Conducting Super Collider, it was a, if I remember, a research tool to look at subatomic particles and how they behave and-but you think that there was also a possible energy source there, is that what you're saying?
  • TK: There-there was a-a possibility of-of discovering the fission as separate from fusion because we-we haven't been able to-to make that next step. And-and we don't know where it might have led. You know, the-the world of the subatomic particles has continued to open up to us a science-has looked at those and discovered quarks and string theories and things that we didn't know about in the-in the early 80's. So, I just personally believe that we're infants in the energy game here on earth.
  • DT: It's interesting you mentioned Ronald Reagan and his decision to commingle civilian nuclear waste and the military (?) in same radioactive waste. Can you talk a little bit about Pantex and some of the weapons related issues in radioactive materials?
  • TK: Well, Pantex had-when Pantex came into the-the Panhandle following the Second World War, they had come in very-in a very similar manner that the Department of-of Energy was looking for a repository site and had taken farm land in a-in a German farming community there north of Amarillo. They had taken it by eminent domain, there-you know, there were little questions asked, especially having gone into a German farming community at that time, people were still a little bit afraid to speak up and they-it was to be a ammunitions plant, which very quickly started to change into nuclear weapons production.
  • So there-it-it was-it was-it was-the time was right in the Texas Panhandle for them to be able to-to-to build that facility without question and then Pantex over those years just became such a-an established part of the community, very large donors to local organizations, United Way, you know, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, many of the local things there. They were wonderful philanthropists, but they had just become very well established.
  • But we-you know, there-there has been-the question during that time frame of how-how many bombs, you know, how many times do-do we need to be able to blow up the earth, you know, is two hundred enough, is five hundred too many? So, many of the pacifists in the area began to question, you know, whether or not we needed to continue in production and there-there was some civil disobedience and the-the Peace Farm formed in the early 80's and there-there-the whole time frame for the repository and for what was going on in Pantex became more known in the public eye than it had in-in times past.
  • DT: Can you talk about the origins of the Peace Farm that you mentioned at one point the group clergy and (inaudible).
  • TK: Yes, in the late 70's, in late 78' or 79', there was a-a clergyman in Amarillo named Steven Schrader and he formed Clergy and Laity Concerned, which was a hope of more interdenominational based membership and my friend Genevieve Miller, who was a Lutheran and a good neighbor, had taken me to one of the meetings and Les Breeding, who was the-was the founder of the Peace Farm, was at those early meetings and-and we talked about the-the nuclear proliferation issue, you know, how-how that theologically affected humanity and how realistically it was affecting world politics. We had some really good discussions.
  • Steven did go in the very early part of the 80's to New York to teach theology and has not been back. But, I think that-that that was a-was the-the beginnings of the idea for developing a Peace Farm.
  • DT: What were some of the theological concerns about proliferation, reliance on nuclear weapons?
  • TK: Whether or not it was-was proper use of-of technology. You know, if-you know, if-if it was spiritually and ethically a thing to do to create weapons of mass destruction that could-could not only kill hundreds of people but many thousands of people. And, you know, just the-the basic question of-of how much is enough and, you know, when do we over state our point of being well protected and begin to look in the world as though we're of a danger ourselves.
  • DT: Can you talk a little bit about how the, I guess, SANE Freeze grew out of some of these early efforts that were localized and maybe sort of isolated?
  • TK: How the what? Would you repeat the question?
  • DT: How the SANE Freeze -the effort to try and freeze the number of nuclear weapons?
  • TK: Well, you know, I'm not familiar with that. That's not something I know about.
  • DT: Maybe you can tell us a little bit more about how efforts at the Peace Farm continued-especially what happened at the end of the Cold War and whether the-the whole sort of calculus changed that?
  • TK: Yes, there was a great deal of discussion among the-the Department of Energy Weapons Complex as to how to downsize and-and what to do with the facilities, whether or not to-to reprocess the plutonian pits, you know, questions of that nature. And the-and the Department of Energy became, at the end of 80's, which would have been 89' to 90' became willing to be cooperative in-in looking for citizen's input.
  • The-the systems groups in Amarillo, STAND and the Peace Farm had been asking for this type of activity for quite some time and they-and they were willing to do it. They brought in a public relations person who was able to work through all the issues that were important to every one from all sides of the issue and-and put that together. And it operated from, I think, around 1990 until recently when it was dissolved for national security reasons.
  • DT: And what were some of the issues you addressed-did they include some of the contamination of the aquifer?
  • TK: Yes, there-there was-early in the 90's, I served on the-the Pantex plant citizens advisory board and there was a great deal of discussion about the Perched Aquifer that was contaminated on the site. At that time, we didn't know about Ogallala contamination off the site, but it was very strongly suspected.
  • Perched Aquifer was believed to be migrating waters that met a-a harder surface that they didn't just go directly down into the aquifer and so that they pooled up. And there was one under a playa lake where some munitions type chemicals had been disposed of for a couple decades, maybe longer, and that water was very definitely contaminated. We did spend a lot of time talking about that and talking about how-how to clean it up and if it were possible to clean it up and where the responsibility was.
  • We-we were not really allowed decision making, but we could offer suggestions to the Department of Energy as a board and we-we worked through consensus. If everyone didn't agree, it didn't happen. And most of our time was spent on coordinating and consensus building. It-it was quite a-a legged animal, you know, it was-it was very, very difficult to-to manage and to work with, but it was also exciting that there was an opportunity for shared information.
  • DT: Maybe you could talk a little bit about the whole issue of getting information out of the Department of Energy, which I guess has sometimes been difficult because they have ties to national security.
  • TK: Yes, it had been very difficult prior to the Freedom of Information Act and-and then even afterwards filing for information could take months, more than a year to-to get information from the Department of Energy.
  • I can certainly understand the need for-for ca-for moving with caution and-and certain kinds of information being shared. But information about individuals who had become ill as a result of their employment at Pantex, that information was very difficult to come by-cancer comparisons and studies that the Department of Energy had-had undertaken.
  • Then, also-also the water contamination that just-getting them to look at and-and realize the potential for the water contamination with the Ogallala. And it was there, I mean, as-I think as-as you've learned that-it took awhile for it to become known, but it was there.
  • DT: Did you manage to get any help from whistle blowers and trying to understand the scope of problems and issues at Pantex?
  • TK: Yes, there-there was-was one gentleman that was-was very vocal. He had-he had become ill as-as a result of twenty years employment and so he began to speak out about it. I-you know, I don't remember too many details about that, so I hope that-that some that were more involved could help fill in the details.
  • DT: And how did the community's dealings with Pantex change after September 11th, 2001?
  • TK: With the-with dissolving the citizens advisory board. That-that was the primary thing and I-I'm sure that the-that we're just now beginning to hear some new rumblings of going back to weapons production, because Pantex had primarily been disassembly over the last decade, at-and-and pit storage.
  • There are some bunkers there where the plutonian pits are stored and guarded closely and I'm sure that the concern about those is-is much greater now and that-that being sure that they're protected and that-that there's no public ac-access to that-those plutonian pits is very important. But there has, you know, there's been little in the news, just very little with exceptions of statements about security concerns.
  • DT: Did you feel that there was a consensus in your citizen's task force, assistance advisory board, about the need to shut down the board and to perhaps restart production of nuclear weapons?
  • TK: My term had finished by that time. I think my term en-finished in 94' or 95', so I had not been on the board for quite some time. And, you know, I'm not sure if-if the board itself was supportive. The newspaper articles didn't sound as though it was.
  • But I would like to go back and talk a little bit about the lives of the people that were affected because that's the part of the story that I always had felt was-was very neglected, you know, there was so much political activity, so many amendments offered, so many lobbying trips made, but-but the way that these kinds of issues affect individuals is very life changing.
  • That-with a group of landowners in particular in the site that was identified in Deaf Smith County, they had, up until that point, had no reason to-to question their leadership in the nation. They had no reason to question the-the nuclear industry and the activities. They were primarily an age of people over fifty and very patriotic, very community-loving and community-minded people.
  • But the-the life-changing events was that it was so intense, you know, for about three years time, it was so intense of having to focus much of-of their day on meetings that needed to be attended, letters that needed to be written, attorney's bills that had to be paid, things of this nature and with so many organizations trying to work in tandem, there were a lot of meetings to attend and what to keep up with.
  • And this-this group of people, you know, shortly after 1987 Donald Hick's health began to fade. I know that age as an issue in itself, that-that this is a natural process, but it seemed to happen very rapidly with the-with the people that were very intensely involved. Georgia Aukerman was diagnosed in 1990 with MS. Carry Styerthas-has been in a wheelchair all of-or most of her adult life, you know, the-the health concerns-she had to just-she had intended to write in-in the early 90's and just couldn't do it because of the strong emotion that it evoked. Wayne Richardson and his wife of thirty years divorced.
  • DT: Is there a way to characterize their feelings toward the government and the Department of Energy in particular? Was it one of just sadness or betrayal?
  • TK: A-a very growing cynicism. I mean it-it grew very quickly that this kind of thing-thing could happen. It could happen in a-in a quiet rural community where no one was making any waves. There was quite a bit of cynicism and definitely a lot of hurt.
  • You know, as I'd mentioned before with Donald Hicks, he is-you know, with his church and-and his community involvements, he-he had very definitely felt betrayed that-that he-that-the community was willing to sacrifice him and his property for the short-term income that the Department of Energy could bring into the community during the, you know, the construction and-and life of the repository.
  • I don't know that-that things would have been any different for these people, but I don't know that they would have-wouldn't have been, you know. I've often wondered if-if people's health might have stayed better or-or, you know, if the quality of life would have been better without these kind of intrusions.
  • DT: Do you think that the process worked for them or was there a failure in the way the democratic due process was supposed...
  • TK: Oh, definitely not. You know, that was the-the beacon of hope is that the-is that the process that we've established works. You'd have to work it really hard at-and you cannot take the process lightly and you cannot take time off, you know, when-when there is a-an issue of this nature, political or environmental. We've established some very good systems in the United States and-and they work.
  • DT: One thing that I've found is very interesting about the whole struggle over the high level site was that it seems like it crossed a lot of political boundaries-from what I understand there are Democrats and Republicans, there were trade groups involved, there were (inaudible), there were rural people, suburban people.
  • TK: Oh yes, yes.
  • DT: Can you talk a little bit about how you formed these bridges and tried to maintain a coalition?