Remembering a champion for clean, safe energy: Michael Mariotte

This blog was written by Sara Barczak, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | May 24, 2016 | Energy Policy, Nuclear

This is a difficult blog post to publish given the sadness and loss we are all feeling due to the recent death of a long-time champion of clean, safe energy, Michael Mariotte, who passed away last week from pancreatic cancer. For many decades, Michael led a close ally group of ours, Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS), and here at SACE we are thinking of Michael’s family and friends, the amazing NIRS staff and Board and all of those who worked with him internationally to bring about change – away from a polluting, dangerous energy infrastructure to one that can safely and affordably provide truly clean energy choices that can reduce global warming pollution. I was fortunate enough to work with Michael since I was first hired back in 1999 and he was always available to answer questions, offer advice and support, and develop winning strategies. So many clean energy advocates across the world can point to Michael as their mentor and inspiration. I was fortunate enough to attend the Lifetime Achievement award reception for him in fall 2014, which SACE also supported. With much appreciation to carry his torch, we thank him, his family and NIRS for all the amazing work he did and continues to do through all of us. Excerpts of the extensive obituaries that ran in the New York Times today and previously in the Washington Post, are below. No Nukes Michael! –Sara Barczak

From the New York Times:

Michael Mariotte, a Leading Antinuclear Activist, Dies at 63

Michael Mariotte, a leading national opponent of nuclear power and an advocate for alternative, sustainable sources of energy, died on May 16 at his home in Kensington, Md. He was 63.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, his wife, Tetyana Murza, said.

As executive director and president of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Takoma Park, Md., for three decades, Mr. Mariotte was at the forefront of two successful landmark efforts: to prevent the repeal of a federal ban on interstate shipment of radioactive waste, and to bar the construction of new nuclear plants in Maryland and Louisiana.

He also organized antinuclear campaigns in Eastern Europe after the fatal power plant catastrophe in 1986 at Chernobyl, in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. And his information service acted as a clearinghouse for groups that opposed nuclear power, both in the United States and overseas.

In 2014, Mr. Mariotte (pronounced like the hotel chain) received a lifetime achievement award from Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, on behalf of a dozen environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club. …

He joined the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in 1985, became executive director the next year and began publishing a newsletter called Groundswell, now known as Nuclear Monitor. The organization mobilized antinuclear groups, testified before Congress and enlisted celebrity endorsements.

Notably, it helped defeat a proposed reactor in Calvert Cliffs, Md.; a uranium processing plant in Louisiana; and legislation that would have lifted curbs on the transportation of radioactive waste. Mr. Mariotte said the measure had posed the threat of a “mobile Chernobyl.”

He resigned as executive director at the end of 2013 because of his illness. He was subsequently named president and ran the organization’s website, its GreenWorld blog and other programs.

Mr. Mariotte remained convinced that nuclear power would become obsolete and be replaced by clean, renewable energy sources and greater energy efficiency.

“It is no longer a question of whether these 21st-century technologies can replace nuclear power and fossil fuels,” he said when he stepped down as executive director of the information service. “The question is when.”

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