Katie the goat died Sunday.
Continue Reading Below
Inoperable cancer. It was bound to happen eventually, grazing the way she did, downwind from a nuclear power plant.
She is survived by her goat children, her goat grandchildren, her goat great-grandchildren and her loving goat keeper, Connecticut antinuclear activist Nancy Burton.
"She went to the highest levels of government to spread the alarm," Ms. Burton said. But the caprine activist was rebuffed by Connecticut's governor and even first lady Michelle Obama.
For a radioactive goat, Katie lived a long, productive and complicated life. No one knows when she was born. She was found as a stray wandering down a rural road. Her rescuer could have taken her to a livestock auction and that would have been that. Instead, she ended up as a pet on a sloping meadow in Waterford, Conn. And there, she ate the sweet grasses growing five miles north of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station.
Lab techs would come by and test Katie's milk. In a 2001 report, Dominion Resources Inc. (D), owner of the Millstone plant, acknowledged Katie's milk contained radioactive isotope strontium-90, among other frightening carcinogens.
Continue Reading Below
Goats have four stomachs and easily concentrate radioactivity in their milk, making them effective environmental monitors. But the plant, which generates about half of Connecticut's electricity, denied it was the cause of this toxicity. Apparently the radiation in Katie's milk must have come from somewhere else.
The state's Department of Environmental Protection also concluded Dominion wasn't to blame. The agency's then-director, Regina McCarthy, eventually went on to become assistant administrator for air and radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama. So breathe that.
Ms. Burton, founder of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone, has been trying to shut down the plant for years. Nuclear power, she contends, is simply too expensive and too dangerous. And the radiation it produces ends up in milk, even human mother's milk, said Ms. Burton who is also co-director of a group called the Mother's Milk Project.
Ms. Burton is a bit of a firebrand who was disbarred as an attorney in 2001. A judge apparently took issue with her fierce critiques of state's judiciary, calling them an "assault" on the court's integrity. This didn't stop her from running, unsuccessfully, for Connecticut attorney general on the Green Party ticket in 2006 or for filing lawsuits against Dominion attempting to shutter its plant.
After discovering the nugget of disclosure in Dominion's report about strontium-90, Ms. Burton tracked down Katie the goat and eventually adopted her. She would take the goat to antinuke rallies across Connecticut, even appearing beside renowned consumer activist Ralph Nader. Katie the goat sometimes sported a sign that read "Got Strontium?"
In 2006, then-Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, declined Ms. Burton's invitation to meet Katie the goat. Hey, who wants to listen to an old goat?
Last year, Ms. Burton drove Katie the goat to the White House to meet with the first lady. Ms. Burton had offered to give the first family Dana Blue-Eyes, a granddaughter of Katie the goat. Dana Blue-Eyes could entertain children and allow the White House to monitor radiation right on its front lawn.
Revered presidents long past have kept goats, but Ms. Obama politely declined in a letter. "Your offer is extremely generous and seems like a fantastic opportunity," she wrote. "Unfortunately, we are unable to satisfy your request." Perhaps the first lady feared the Secret Service agents assigned to guard the nation's First Goat would be seen as a boondoggle.
At Dominion, there was no mourning for Katie the goat's passing. "We have no comment," said Ken Holt, spokesman for the Millstone Power Station.
As far as anybody knows, she lived at least 15 years. That's what is known in the goat business as an old goat. It is impossible to argue that a nuclear power plant shortened Katie's life when so many of the world's goats are slaughtered before they are even a year old. But Ms. Burton said Katie's unusually strong constitution kept her alive and that the radiation her body collected is still a warning for us all.
On Sunday, Millstone operators had to shut down one of their nuclear units because the sea water it draws from the Long Island Sound for cooling is getting way too warm. Mr. Holt was unable to comment on when the unit would come back online.
Perhaps unusually hot weather is warming the sea. Alternatively, Ms. Burton theorizes, the plant is choking on its own thermal plume. This is how it is in the nuclear-reactor business. Rarely can one draw a firm conclusion. One can only connect dots.
So here are two dots: On the same day Katie the goat died, Millstone Unit 2 went down, as well. I'm calling it "goat karma."
"I hope it doesn't reincarnate," Ms. Burton said, "unlike my hopes for Katie."
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. Contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org or tellittoal.com)