Citizens Awareness Network
About Us - Mission and History

CAN's Mission


CAN is a grassroots environmental organization working to end the production of unaffordable and dangerous nuclear waste and power, and replace it with sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy generation. We are therefore committed to a democratically led, environmentally just, and scientifically sound solution for nuclear waste. 


Click here for timeline of CAN's history


CAN envisions a future of safety, prosperity, and health for all:

• Where people generate electricity for their own homes and communities.

• Where local energy production and conservation create new local jobs.

• Where renewable energy is integrated into all of our homes and public buildings.

• Where it is easy for everyone to access sustainable and affordable energy sources.

• Where clean, efficient energy use is standard practice.

• Where family farms and locally owned businesses are the backbone of our communities, and we have what we need to provide for our future

CAN's Bio

CAN is a volunteer, grassroots organization, committed to the creation of vibrant communities with the replacement of nuclear reactors and fossil fuels in New England with sustainable solutions. CAN is committed to empowering people to participate in the democratic process to ensure a sustainable, equitable and energy independent future with the closure and safe decommissioning of New England’s aging fleet of nuclear reactors. CAN is a regional group, with over 4,000 members in New England and the Northeast that was instrumental in the closure of 4 New England reactors—Yankee Rowe, CT Yankee, Millstone Unit 1 and Vermont Yankee. CAN won lawsuits against the NRC and nuclear corporations concerning decommissioning, public participation and high-level waste storage as well as intervening in NRC hearings on cleanup of Yankee Rowe and CT Yankee, and license transfer proceedings on Indian Point, Fitzpatrick, and Vermont Yankee. CAN organized a citizen health study with the MA DPH on radioactive waste releases into the Deerfield River Valley from the Yankee Rowe reactor and the health effects on the neighboring community. In the process CAN organized a team of epidemiologists, meteorologists, and organizations to create the research needed for the investigation. Concerned with the issues of environmental justice, CAN engaged in a series of waste tours alerting people to nuclear waste transport through their communities in the northeast, southeast, midwest and west. CAN organized a high-level waste summit bringing reactor and waste communities together to create nuclear waste policy that supported both affected communities. CAN organized action camps in Vermont; over 1,000 people participated in camp activities. With other organizations, CAN organized a grassroots campaign to support Act 160, empowering the Vermont legislature to decide Vermont Yankee's future. CAN organized and coordinated with other impacted groups a 2.206 petition to the NRC on the financial vulnerability of Entergy and how it impacted the safe operation of Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim and Fitzpatrick reactors. CAN worked with the state of Vermont to create a citizens advisory panel to make the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee as democratic and transparent as possible.

CAN's History

Lightning Strikes

CAN began as a group of concerned citizens organizing to protect their community from a nuclear meltdown. When lightning struck the Vermont Yankee and Yankee Rowe reactors in Western MA in 1991, alarmed citizens began to meet. We were afraid of a meltdown, for the safety of our families and our way of life. We learned that the NRC was allowing the reactor to run with a one in ten thousand (10,000) chance of an accident rather than the required one in a million (1,000,000)!

Click here for timeline of CAN's history


A Community Wakes Up

We began a county-wide program to educate people about our local nuke. We educated people about the fact that the reactor released radioactive waste routinely and regularly into the river that flowed through our community. The river, which is surrounded by farmland, schools and houses, is used extensively for recreation and irrigation. Through health studies, we found that people in the surrounding communities had high rates of disease and illness, and that rate continues to grow to this day. No one realized just how the reactor impacted their everyday lives, however, the more people learned about how nuclear power affected them, the more they realized that closing the reactor was necessary for a safer, cleaner life.


The Work Continues

Since the reactor closed, the local economy has improved and property values have risen. New local businesses have sprung up that cater to locals as well as to tourists who come to boat on the river that was once a dump for radioactive waste. There were also concerns that workers would lose their jobs, but half of the workforce was employed in decommissioning and many moved on to other reactors. Immediate job loss was minimal.

After the community shut Yankee Rowe, we all wanted to return to our ordinary lives, plant our gardens and visit our neighbors. But Yankee Atomic began a rapid clean up, shipping its waste that had hurt our community to Barnwell, South Carolina. We felt it was unethical to ship the same toxic waste that hurt us to another community to hurt them. It became clear to us that all communities impacted by the nuclear fuel chain share the same fate:  we are all sacrifice communities.


We're All In It Together

With this realization, CAN transformed from a small local group into a regional group. The problem was no longer local: it is a regional, national and global issue that we all have to work together to solve. Producing power and nuclear waste raises serious moral issues, issues that cannot be ignored or derided. It is immoral for communities to have to choose between long-term health and short-term economic gain. It is immoral to produce a toxic waste for which there is no scientifically sound nor environmentally just solution, and to practice environmental racism by targeting low income, minority and Native American communities for nuclear contamination.

It must be made clear that those who work at reactors are not immoral nor are they the problem. They are doing their jobs, jobs that protect their communities from accidents and catastrophes. Many are intimidated from raising concerns as the people in our community were.


A Vision for the Future

We now have a great opportunity to choose a clean future for our communities. CAN envisions a future of safety, prosperity, and health for all in which people generate their own electricity in their homes and communities. Where local energy production has created local jobs and renewable energy is integrated into all of our buildings: our homes, businesses, schools and public buildings. A future where it is easy for everyone to access sustainable and affordable energy sources and the use of clean efficient energy is standard practice. Where family farms and locally-owned businesses are the backbone of our communities, and we have what we need to provide for our future.

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Full Panel Meeting
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Winter 23/24

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U.S. Senators, Congressional Delegation, and their Districts

—photo by Lionel Delevingne

Nuclear Power to Save the Climate?
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This year’s edition of the notebook honors the work of environmental
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 To The Village Square

To the Village Square: From Montague, Massachusetts to Fukushima, Japan 1975-2014

A book by Lionel Delevingne, Photographer

"Along the way Lionel Delevingne has been the 'family photographer' of an amazing body of people and actions that, against all odds, have created a way for the human race to survive. Our time together has been joyous, demanding, pathbreaking, exciting, astounding and so much more. All captured on film by the brilliant, loving lens of Lionel Delevingne, and in the beautiful words of Anna Gyorgy’s introduction. 'To the Village Square' is the essential passport to four decades of peaceful passion. Don’t miss it!"

—Harvey “No Nukes” Wasserman

“To the Village Square is AMAZING and important and moving”

—William C. Newman (Director ACLU, Western Mass Regional Office.)

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Deb Katz: 2000 Giraffe Hero Commendation, given to people who stick their necks out for the common good  


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