The face is instantly recognizable—it’s stamped over 500 magazine covers worldwide. As an American supermodel for 28 years, Christie Brinkley was the first-ever Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover girl, and the face most inseparably linked to universal product brands like Cover Girl and Breck. But the famed face is a mere part of Christie’s core: She’s an artist, writer, actress, photographer, designer and, perhaps most importantly for her these days, a passionate environmentalist and political activist. Not to mention her choice roles as wife of architect Peter Cook and mother of three: Alexa, 16, (daughter with Billy Joel, Christie’s hubby of nine years), son Jack, 7, and daughter Sailor, 4.
Today, Christie spends much of her time as a champion for STAR—Standing for Truth About Radiation. But she’s also a staunch supporter of animal rights, the Democratic National Committee, and UNICEF. She’s traveled to Bosnia to entertain multinational troops and visit refugee camps, and been the recipient of the March of Dimes humanitarian award, the National Mother’s Day Committee’s Mother of the Year award, and the USO’s Merit Award. The Sheet sat down with Christie at her Bridgehampton digs (designed by Cook) on a perfect Saturday summer afternoon, and let her speak candidly about her life, loves, and burning causes. Whether or not you agree with her strong opinions, one thing’s certain: They come straight from Christie’s core.
One of your great passions is the STAR Foundation. Tell me about it.
The STAR Foundation’s top priorities are three nuclear power plants that ring the greater New York area: the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant—30 miles north of Manhattan; the Tom’s River Oyster Creek reactor—60 miles south of Manhattan; and the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in New London, Connecticut, just 11 miles offshore from Long Island. In between those three power plants are approximately 24 million people. And of course, Manhattan is the heart and soul of America, and we know that New York City has been attacked by terrorists.
Imagine a terrorist attack at one of these reactors where we would never be able to go back to Manhattan. That would be devastating to the world. I’m not saying we can get rid of all nuclear power; you can’t do that right away. We have to incrementally reduce the risks, and have to weigh what are the greatest threats. Right now we perceive these three power plants as being threatening.
"Imagine a terrorist attack at one of these reactors where we would never be able to go back to Manhattan. That would be devastating to the world."
My husband Peter and I had been concerned with these power plants prior to September 11, because of their environmental/health implications. They emit low level radiation on a daily basis. The Millstone Nuclear Power Plant has the largest criminal record of any power plant in the country and has pled guilty to 25 federal criminal counts of violating the Clean Waters Act. These aging nuclear plants are rundown and increasingly having technical problems, and after September 11th, we don’t even have a no-fly zone over them; they don’t have the Coast Guard sitting there in front of them, and Indian point and Millstone are both on the water. What greater symbol of American power than a nuclear power plant for terrorists to attack. They need to be protected immediately.
What do you think should be done?
We want to enact the Nuclear Securities Act, a bill co-sponsored by Senators Clinton, Lieberman, Reid, and Jeffords, among others. The bill would demand a 50-mile evacuation plan. Everyone in the Hamptons and Suffolk County should know there is no nuclear evacuation plan in place right now.
Pro-nuclear supporters talk about the hardened dome surrounding nuclear reactors. But it’s the spent fuel pools where radioactive waste is stored on site that are so potentially dangerous. Many are not in containment vessels and are stored in aboveground pools, with nothing more than a standard shopping center building protecting them. If terrorists were to plow even a small plane into a spent fuel pool, the pool could spontaneously combust. The fire could rage uncontrollably from four days to two weeks, all the while emitting a radioactive plume, depositing radioactive waste over a 300-mile area—contaminating it and rendering it uninhabitable for as much as 300 years.
Many experts think nuclear power is an efficient and more environmentally-friendly alternative to diminishing resources like oil and coal, so what’s an alternative?
Long Island is agressively pursuing solar and wind power which is clean, safe and renewable. Right now they’re building gas-powered plants in New York, which are much safer and cleaner in the sense that they don’t create radioactive waste that nobody knows what to do with. And in case people use the argument that “we’re creating a national repository in Yucca Mountain [Nevada],” the proponents of Yucca Mountain would like you to believe that they’re emptying the 103 reactor sites around America, they would love you to believe that these spent fuel pools are going to be emptied, and all put in one repository so now we only have to worry about one site. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is, we will still have spent fuel being stored in the 103 nuclear reactors around America, but we’ll also have truckloads on the highways going through small towns, going through every part of America on their way to Yucca Mountain, creating mobile nuclear targets. Yucca Mountain is not a solution, because the containment vessels are only good for 250 years.
Are you saying we’re sitting ducks?
My feeling is that we’ve got to start phasing them out in the areas where the populations are the greatest, where we have the most to lose.
One of the reasons people say that nuclear power is cheap is because the government subsidizes the nuclear industry. And if the government were to offer the same kinds of subsidies to other forms of renewable energy, then renewable energy wouldn’t be expensive either! Every single American should know there’s not one single private insurance company that will insure your home, your business, or your life if you live near a nuclear power plant.
Bobby Kennedy, Jr., and Riverkeeper commissioned a study that proved that there’s enough electricity on the grid so if they turned off Indian Point today, we’d have enough to make it through the entire summer, even with people running their air conditioners. The STAR Foundation is working with LIPA on an offshore wind program that’s proving to be very successful and these technologies make so much more sense than nuclear power, nobody would attack a windmill, but if they attacked a reactor the consequences would be profound.