I must confess that I will miss the weird irony of the Trojan nuclear power plant. For those who have never been there, the great, gray cooling tower looms above the wetlands just outside of tiny Rainier, Oregon. It's visible for miles from Highway 30, and from the river into which it's waste waters are no doubt still seeping. But the most bizarre spectacle it offers is close up. Because at the foot of the monstrous tower there is a bucolic little park, complete with duck ponds and picnic tables and rolling green lawns framed under drooping elm and maple and locust trees. The banks of the meandering pond are peppered with scenes from Norman Rockwell paintings. Lone fishermen sit on folding chairs, lazily dangling dubious lines into the murky and questionable water. Children reach hopeful hands full of offerings to gawking geese and the odd nutria swimming along the shore. (Is it only my imagination that the wildlife here seems afflicted with strange maladies? Maybe.) Happy little families gather around picnic baskets on checkered cloths in the strange shade of the dark, silent tower. All of that will be gone on Sunday, though the waste the plant generated will likely still remain. Perhaps for millenia.
Less odd, perhaps, but still noteworthy, I think, is the name. The person who christianed the plant must have had a sense of irony at least as sharp as the person who named Trojan condoms. Do people even know the story? The Trojan horse was the thing that smuggled in Troy's doom. It was how the enemy breached through the city's otherwise impenetrable walls, in the guise of a great gift. Much the same way as the power plant was foisted upon the people of the Columbia: A great tower hiding an ominous "gift," smuggled in with promises of safety, jobs, and something we wanted then but are more careful about now, "development." Think of the cynicism of those who built this plant, knowing that most of the local population (rightly, as it turned out) regarded nuclear energy to be dangerous, frightening, and nonsensical. They built it anyway, surrounded it with a park, and wrapped it up in glowing (pun intended) PR. And then they named it Trojan.
In some ways, I'm happy to see it go. With all the weird talk about raising nuclear power from the dead and bringing it back onto our horizons, it is perhaps good to see them demolish this plant before it could be recommissioned. On the other hand, though, Trojan has been an important and concrete monument to the folly of nuclear power, and to the power of the people of Cascadia. It holds an important place in the history of this community, and it's where many of us cut our teeth as activists. Years ago, it was a hotbed, literally, of anti-nuclear activism, and it was through the hard work and sweat equity of people willing to stomp their feet and take their licks that the plant was finally shut down, less than a decade after it first belched to life on the banks of our river. Thanks to those who walked hand-in-hand, who blew whistles, and who went to jail for the cause, thanks for shutting it down. I guess now it will finally shut down for good.