EDGECOMB - The reading glasses sit in a small pile in Ray Shadis' cluttered home office, some usable, some too beat up to see through anymore. Shadis buys them cheap at a liquidation store because he's always misplacing them and because, after more than three decades of anti-nuclear activism, his day isn't complete if he doesn't pore over an obscure document or two...
Or two million.
"I have a strong feeling for history," Shadis said Friday when asked why he'd lay claim to a roomful of documents chronicling, beyond
minutia, the rise and fall of the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant. Then, with his trademark wry grin, he added, "And I know how quickly history changes."
Few people noticed in 1999 when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that it was going completely electronic in its record-keeping and would no longer send materials to the public document rooms maintained near nuclear plants throughout the country.
Nor did most Mainers seem to care when the NRC told the Wiscasset Public Library, home of the public records for the now defunct Maine Yankee, that it could dispose of the piles of printed paper and mountains of microfiche as it saw fit.
But Shadis noticed. Earlier this month, under pressure from the library to get this stuff out of here, he and a handful of other veterans from Maine's nuclear wars pulled up in a caravan of three pickups and a van. Forty-five backbreaking minutes later, they drove off with a rapidly fading chapter in Maine history.
"This, taken as a whole, is Maine's experience in the nuclear age," Shadis said. "It keeps speaking to us about the conditions of the plant, the mind-set of the operators, the corporate culture, the relations with the community. All of that is part and parcel of this thing."
And therein lies the problem. Now that Friends of the Coast Opposing Nuclear Pollution, led by Shadis, is the proud owner of the Maine Yankee archives, it has no place to put them.
At the moment, the 20 boxes of papers, some carbon copies on onionskin, and three large cabinets of microfiche with headings like
"General Electric Type SBM Control Switches Defective Cam Followers, March 28, 1980" sit in a barn owned by Roger Sherman, 88. A friend of Friends of the Coast and a onetime Central Maine Power Co. worker, Sherman is concerned at this point only about mice.
"They'll get into anything," he warned Shadis during a visit to the barn on Friday.
Ideally, Shadis envisions a room at a Maine college or university where the records will be permanently accessible to the public. In addition to their historic value, he said, they could still prove useful, should any problems arise with the Maine Yankee site - or if nuclear power someday returns to Maine and folks want to know what happened the first time around.
But first, someone has to go through it all: five statewide referenda - three to close the plant and two on nuclear waste. Countless inspections - some notorious, some obscure. Endless problems - the cracked pipes, the mysteriously cut wires, the faulty valves . . .
Shadis will start with the thousands of microfiches inside what's been marked "Ray's Drawer." It's the one he dropped during the move, spilling the clear plastic cards all over the place.
But hey, he's got plenty of eyeglasses. And while he's still on the road0 many days a month attending this hearing or that meeting (these days, he's a member of the NRC's Initial Implementation Evaluation Panel), Shadis somehow will find the time to catalog how Maine Yankee came . . . and went.
High atop the file cabinets sits a microfiche reading machine. It prints only on silver paper - which these days is hard to come by. But when was this ever easy?
"It's not the best," Shadis said, patting the old contraption. "But it's a start."
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: email@example.com
In addition to the 24 year history documented in the NRC documents, Friends of the Coast holds over 200,000 pages of additional documentation, much of it not public, regarding Maine Yankee operations, technical issues, policy setting, and corporate culture. We also hold several hundred books and numerous official and technicalreports on nuclear subjects, plus documents, correspondence, and clippings from the 24 continuous opposition to nuclear energy in Maine.This part of Maine history must be preserved and made accessible for scholars and for future generations. To that end we are seeking a patron to endow a permanent library collection.
Friends of the Coast -Post Office Box 98, Edgecomb, Maine 04556