Book: NUCLEAR NEBRASKA (the fight to stop a LLW dump)

New AMACOM Book Chronicles the Story of One Community’s 18-Year Struggle with Big Government and Big Business

NEW YORK, NY, November 2, 2007 –/WORLD-WIRE/ AMACOM, a division of the American Management Association, has released a new book, NUCLEAR NEBRASKA: The Remarkable Story of the Little County That Couldn’t Be Bought, that chronicles the struggle between the residents of Boyd County, Nebraska and five states and two multinational corporations over a “low level” nuclear waste dump. Author Susan Cragin was a story editor for a documentary film company when she was asked to write the book by Dr. Gregory Hayden, a former representative of the committee charged with siting the dump and a vocal critic of the project.

In 1989, the states in the Central Compact, US Ecology, and Bechtel International schemed to locate a dump in tiny, isolated, Boyd County by offering $3 million a year for 40 years. This seemingly idyllic county was also poor, so the town of Butte agreed to host the site, anticipating jobs that would be an economic benefit to a community where families often struggle to make a livelihood from farming alone.

The developers selected an abandoned farm, believing that there’d be no opposition to their plans to transform farmland into a nuclear waste dump site. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The residents of this largely uneducated farming community chose to fight back, resisting the government’s attempt to buy off a small, seemingly forgotten town and igniting a political powder keg that rocked the state of Nebraska for almost two decades.

Another important consideration in the struggle was the dump’s proximity to the Ogallala aquifer, which covers portions of eight states and is the primary water source for “America’s breadbasket.” Contaminating this vast source of water would have been catastrophic.

From their initial revolt to their hard-won victory, this powerful tale traces the community’s transformation from a small group of isolated farmers to a defiant band of environmentalists. The farmers had to train themselves to be environmental experts and provide the kind of evidence that would trump that of the US Ecology’s team of highly-skilled engineers. The farmers triumphed, and the license to build was denied after a long, drawn-out battle.

A cast of many characters played a key part in the long fight, but chief among them: Phyllis Weakly, the chain-smoking “Momma Nuke” who put in 16-hour days in front of her computer–which only had access to a slow dial-up modem–searching for technical information to refute Bechtel’s highly-paid engineers; Paulette Blair, the fourth-grade teacher whose caricatures decorated demonstrators signs and t-shirts (most notably with then Governor Kay “Pinocchiorr” Orr), and Lowell Fisher, a local rancher, who went on a hunger strike to protest the dump.

Through the incredible stories of these seemingly ordinary but courageous people who were deceived by their own government, we begin to understand how one small group of forgotten Americans found the inner resources to stop a site they knew would cost them both their livelihoods and their health. At once harrowing and inspiring, NUCLEAR NEBRASKA is an unforgettable tribute to the power of the ordinary citizen.

AMACOM is the book-publishing division of the American Management Association, New York, NY. For more information, visit

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