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Clyde nuclear base emergency staff to strike from tomorrow over safety fears


Clyde nuclear base emergency staff to strike from tomorrow over safety fears, Herald Scotland, By Martin Williams  @Martin1Williams, Senior News Reporter  18 Oct 21,
 EMERGENCY workers at the home of Britain’s nuclear weapons on the Clyde are set to strike over “major safety concerns” after managers slashed firefighter numbers.

Action has been previously been given the go-ahead following a ballot of workers after managers proceeded with cuts to eight posts from the specialist fire safety crew at HM Naval Base Clyde, a reduction in strength of 15 per cent, with the a union describing it as an “an accident waiting to happen”.

Unite members working for outsourcing services firm Capita Business Services will now start strike action from Tuesday in a dispute over cuts to fire and rescue crew levels, and a lack of consultation………………

Workers believe the cuts impair the abilities of the onsite fire crews to do their jobs properly, particularly, in relation to incidents that would involve wearing breathing apparatus.

Capita has previously stated that they intend to mitigate safety risks due to the cuts through an investment in new technology to reduce fire risk”.

But workers have said they are not aware of any new technology which would address ongoing safety concerns……………………………   https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/19655524.clyde-nuclear-base-emergency-staff-strike-tomorrow-safety-fears/

October 19, 2021 Posted by | employment, safety, UK | Leave a comment

Cover-up? Unreported event of Hanford nuclear workers’sickness

Unreported event at Hanford nuclear site that sickened workers ‘smells like a cover-up,’ advocates say,  Workers reported smelling odors, resulting in symptoms such as dizziness and shortness of breath. The contractor denied a chronic problem, toxic vapors, is to blame.  https://www.king5.com/article/news/investigations/hanford-nuclear-site-washington-state-tank-farms-workers-sickened-investigation/281-48a540ea-1fa5-4de9-8ab7-b1dc9db6e5c8  Susannah Frame August 27, 2021

RICHLAND, Wash. — On June 18 of this year, 10 workers at the Hanford nuclear site in eastern Washington digging in what are known as the “tank farms,” were overcome by strange odors. Nine of the workers sought medical treatment, including three who were transported to the hospital for an overnight stay and were given oxygen.

The KING 5 Investigators have found the event went unreported by the contractor involved – Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS).

According to WRPS documents obtained by KING 5, symptoms reported by workers included dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, nausea, a metallic taste in the mouth, stomach issues, light headedness and cough.

Smelling unusual odors, followed by adverse medical conditions are hallmark signs of a chronic problem at the nuclear reservation: exposure to toxic vapors that vent from underground nuclear waste holding tanks.  

WRPS is under a legal obligation to report vapor events on a publicly available website.

“I’m still amazed that not one piece of paper has been put out about this exposure, there’s been no announcement,” said Tom Carpenter, executive director of the advocacy group Hanford Challenge. “It’s getting to the point where this silence is very suspicious. It’s like: ‘What are you hiding?’”

The contractor said they did not post the event on their website because they’ve determined the worker’s symptoms were not caused by vapors, but “most likely” by a malfunctioning gas-powered wheelbarrow.

“WRPS collected air samples from the small pieces of fuel-powered equipment used in the soil work. One piece of equipment, a small gasoline-powered wheelbarrow that was difficult to start and used during the June 18 event, was smoking when it started and high levels of volatile organic compound emissions were noted,” a WRPS spokesperson said.

Toxic vapor exposures have been a significant problem at Hanford since the 1980s when the operational mission went from producing plutonium, to clean up only.

Several government reports have identified that poisonous vapors, without warning, will vent from underground tanks. Hanford has 177 underground holding tanks that store the deadliest waste at the site.

Tanks in the tank farm near where the workers got ill in June contain contents including plutonium, the radioactive isotopes of americium and strontium 90, mercury, nickel, lead and cyanide.

In 2014 the KING 5 Investigators revealed a record number of vapor exposures in the tank farms. Approximately 56 workers fell ill with symptoms in the rash of exposures. After each incident, WRPS said their testing didn’t show chemicals of concern over regulatory limits. WRPS officials denied chemical vapors were to blame for the events.

That pattern wasn’t new. Expert reports detailed the same cycle happened at Hanford in the 80s and in the 90s: a slew of exposures, followed by denials by the tank farm contractor, and workers left sick and unable to work.

Many workers said they felt betrayed by the contractors over the years for not being honest about the dangers of vapors.

“Until they are in the field and until they smell what we smell and until they feel like we feel and until they get injured like we get injured, they don’t care,” said Mike Cain, a 47-year current Hanford employee who spent 25 of those years in the tank farms. “Everything that we described 30 years ago, 40 years ago, is still there. Yet they keep doing the same thing over and over and over again.”

After the string of exposures in 2014, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Hanford Challenge and Local 598 all filed lawsuits against WRPS and Hanford’s owner, the U.S. Department of Energy. The complaint accused the contractor and federal government of failing to protect workers from vapor exposures, that can cause adverse health effects including lung disease, nervous system damage and cancers of the liver, lung, blood and other organs. The lawsuit also alleged the Department of Energy had been well aware of the dangers for 25 years, yet “Energy did not fix the problem.”

settlement agreement was reached in September 2018. Hanford officials agreed to improve health and safety conditions, install engineering to keep vapors out of the breathing space of workers. They also agreed to provide respiratory protections including supplied (fresh) air that is worn in tanks on the backs of workers, if needed.

In the June event, workers were not using supplied air. According to workers, the contractor had downgraded respiratory protection to respirators with cartridges. Respirators are lighter and more cost effective than supplied air.

“(That) never should have happened if they were wearing fresh air. Never should have happened,” Cain said.

“They’re not protecting workers. They have a long history of not doing so, of putting money and profits before workers health and safety which is ironic because they’re all about saying they want to protect health and safety. They’re not doing it,” Carpenter said.

A WRPS spokesperson said the company did not skimp on safety protocols in the June event.

“Respiratory controls at the TX Farm during the June 18, 2021 event complied with the tank farms vapors settlement agreement requirements… workers were wearing air-purifying respirators consistent with interim mandatory respiratory protections consistent with cartridge testing results,” the spokesperson said.

What is Hanford?

Hanford is the most contaminated worksite in America. Located near Richland in eastern, Wash., workers at the site produced plutonium for the country’s nuclear weapons program for approximately four decades. Plutonium produced at Hanford fueled the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, that led to the end of WWII. Since the late 80s, Hanford has been a clean up site only.

The settlement agreement also makes it mandatory for WRPS to report events on its website that fall into the category of an “AOP-15.” On the WRPS website, an AOP 15 is described as an unidentified odor event: “When a worker reports an unexpected and unidentified odor in the tank farms, and reports medical symptoms potentially related to that smell.”

In the June event, WRPS did not characterize it as an AOP-15, therefore, company executives said they had no obligation to report it.

“Smells like a cover-up”

“This lack of information sharing and reporting smells like a cover-up. We do not want to see a return to downgraded worker protections that result in routine vapor exposures. The cycle of exposures must end at Hanford, and meaningful and long-lasting regulations should be enacted to assure that Hanford tank farm workers can conduct a cleanup without risking their own health and safety,” said Carpenter of Hanford Challenge in a press statement sent on Friday.

On Thursday, a WRPS executive told KING 5 that the company’s definition of an AOP-15 had changed in 2020. In an email to employees on Dec. 1, 2020, WRPS Executive Jeremy Hartley said that moving forward, an AOP-15 will occur when personal ammonia monitors worn by workers set off an alarm.

“Ammonia has been verified as a sentinel indicator of changing levels of other chemicals of potential concern. The procedure changes clarify and reinforce a disciplined conduct of operations by recognizing the administrative and engineering controls in place, relying on the ammonia monitors and verifying the conditions when an alarm set point is reached,” Hartley wrote.

Given this change, the WRPS spokesperson said they followed protocol by not reporting the event on the website.

As this event did not involve an ammonia alarm, it is not classified as an AOP-15,” the spokesperson said.

Government scientists have concluded that ammonia does not have to be present for other chemicals of concern to release in concentrations that could harm human health. In 2004 the Department of Energy released a Hanford report concluding the potentially harmful gas, nitrous oxide, can be present without the presence of ammonia.

“Based on…characterization data (the contractor) CH2M HILL has incorrectly assumed that nitrous oxides are present only when ammonia is present,” report authors wrote. “…nitrous oxide vapors in tank headspaces can be present in (dangerous) concentrations, even in the absence of ammonia.”

Stakeholders such as Hanford Challenge and union safety representatives said they were unaware that WRPS had changed its AOP-15 definition.

A WRPS communications specialist said they are committed to the safety of workers.

“The health and safety of the workforce is always paramount,” the company official said.8

August 30, 2021 Posted by | employment, health, legal, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

The importance of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act and of coming to terms with USA’s nuclear history.

When Nuclear Fallout Comes Home.   Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (NM03) spoke on the importance of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act and coming to terms with our nuclear history.   https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/when-nuclear-fallout-comes-home-191720by Harry Tarpey      Whether in New Mexico, Guam, or the Marshall Islands, the consequences of uranium mining, atmospheric testing, and nuclear weapons manufacturing continue to impact communities around the world, with little awareness from the international community.

I know people who have been impacted by uranium mining, and by the fallout and nuclear testing, so this is not abstract,” said Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández of New Mexico’s 3rd District, who recently sat down for an interview with Press the Button. “These are people I know, these are families I know—you can’t ignore it.”

Leger Fernández is a leading advocate in Congress for the extension and expansion of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), reforms that would establish a more robust and easier to navigate compensation program for the victims of nuclear radiation in the United States and its territories.

RECA is a federal statute established in 1990 as a mechanism to compensate individuals whose health or livelihood was affected by unintended radiation exposure due to our nuclear weapons complex. To date, it has compensated over $2.2 billion to tens of thousands of claimants suffering from health ailments caused by exposure to radiation.

 These include atomic veterans, downwinders, and individuals working on atmospheric nuclear tests and in uranium mines.

Though many of these recipients have undoubtedly benefited from the program, Leger Fernández and her colleagues are recommending several improvements to the statute to expand its impact.

One such change she is championing is an increase in the amount of compensation provided per individual grant. “Right now, [RECA payments] are $50,000. That’s not sufficient, so we’re going to raise it to $150,000.” The legislation she will be co-sponsoring, if passed, would expand the limited scope of eligibility that RECA currently maintains to include geographic areas and age groups not currently covered by the statute.

When RECA was first designed, “it had a very limited area where, if you happen to be exposed in these certain counties, you got compensation. But we know that it’s not just a few counties that were impacted,” argues Leger Fernández, “we need to make sure they are all entitled to the compensation.”

Although this expansion would no doubt have a positive impact within her district, Leger Fernández views it as an issue that resonates well beyond her constituency: “I want to take on this fight because this impacts not just New Mexicans, but people elsewhere, who were exposed to radiation from testing, from the development of the weapons, through no fault of their own are

now suffering the consequences. We as a government who inflicted this harm cannot stand back and say ‘too bad’—we must act.”

With RECA set to either expire or be reauthorized in July 2022, Leger Fernández views the year ahead as an important opportunity to reassess and refine RECA to ensure its continued effectiveness. “We need to take this moment and re-authorize the act,” she told guest host Lily Adams, “but also, when we look at it, ask ‘where is [RECA] efficient, and what do we need to do to make it better?”

August 16, 2021 Posted by | employment, health, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The need for integrity in epidemiological research: investigation of uranium miners’health to be carried out by pro nuclear bodies

They want to show that it doesn’t cause cancer. I think they want to find that result.”

for years, the CNSC has served both as a regulator and promoter of the nuclear industry

“It is concerning that health standards are set by physicists and industries, based on financial and technological convenience, rather than by those educated in and committed to public health and safety.”


Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to Investigate Lung Cancer Rates Among Uranium Workers,
Mother Jones

What’s happened to 80,000 people who have worked in Canada’s mines and processing facilities?CHARLES MANDEL, 25 July 21, The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is leading a national study examining incidences of lung cancer in uranium workers from across the country.

The Canadian Uranium Workers Study (CANUWS) will examine health data from 80,000 past and present employees at Canada’s uranium mines, mills and processing and fabrication facilities. The study, which is now underway and set to end in 2023, is the largest examination of lung cancer in Canadian uranium workers to date.

Rachel Lane, one of the lead researchers on the new study, told Canada’s National Observer she believes it will reassure workers they face less risk than before from lung cancer arising from exposure to radon, ……..

The $800-million mining and milling uranium industry employs over 2,000 people—of whom more than half are residents of northern Saskatchewan—at mine sites. The researchers plan to examine causes of death in uranium workers from 1950 on and chart their cancer data from 1970 onwards, using research from previous studies.

The new study will build on the results of two historical studies: the Eldorado study and the Ontario Uranium Mine Workers Study, both of which found elevated risks of lung cancer in uranium workers. During numerous follow-ups ending in 2015, both studies found lung cancer among miners was still more prevalent than in the general population………….

deaths from lung cancer associated with radiation were historically higher for uranium workers than the general male population……….

In 2015, a follow-up to the 2007 Ontario Uranium Miner Cohort study was done. It examined approximately 28,546 male and 413 female uranium miners who had worked at least one week in the Elliot Lake and Bancroft regions or at the Agnew Lake Mine between 1954 and 1996.

The conclusion: “Significant elevations in lung cancer mortality and incidence, as well as silicosis and injury mortality were observed in comparison with the general Canadian population.”……….

Anne Leis, the department head of Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, will administer the project and analyze the data. Her colleague, Punam Pahwa, a professor of biostatistics, will lead the statistical analysis of the health data……….

Uranium mining companies Cameco, Orano, and BWXT are co-funding the study, contributing $60,000. The CNSC is providing $125,000, while the Saskatchewan government is kicking in $60,000, and the University of Saskatchewan is contributing $90,000 of in-kind funding.………… 

Concerns Over Possible Bias

While former employees and industry watchers applaud efforts to study the health of uranium workers, some are skeptical about the ability of CNSC to produce an unbiased report.

Jamie Kneen, communications and outreach coordinator at Mining Watch Canada, says it’s important to understand the longer-term impacts of radon on the miners. But he cautions that the peer review and oversight of the study must be carefully examined because it is being led by CNSC.Kneen contends that for years, the CNSC has served both as a regulator and promoter of the nuclear industry. “Their tendency has been to extend license periods and to give operators, whether it’s in the uranium industry or the nuclear power industry, more space, more time in terms of licensing and more leeway rather than the kind of tight supervision and oversight that the public probably would expect.”

Therefore, it’s a question of scrutinizing who’s doing the work and reviewing the study to ensure that it really is independent, according to Kneen. He notes that’s a difficult task given that the methodology around radiation is intricate and that not many people can decipher the technical details.

“So there’s a lot of potential for not necessarily deliberate manipulation, but for error to creep in and biases to creep in.”

Rod Gardiner, a former general foreman at the now-defunct Cluff Lake Mine in Saskatchewan, expresses his own concerns about the industry. Gardiner was at the mine for 33 years, working his way up to general foreman and acting mine manager.

He alleges management at Cluff Lake, which was owned by the multinational mining corporation Orano Group, consistently boasted that working in the mine was as safe as working in a supermarket and putting prices on soup cans. “That’s what they used to say, the company.”

He hopes a new study might answer questions about workers’ health. But others aren’t sure whether results will be trustworthy, primarily because the CNSC is partially funding and leading the study.

The CNSC’s work has been subject to just those kinds of complaints in the past.

Writing in the journal Canadian Family Physician in 2013, Dale Dewar and two other authors expressed concern over the CNSC’s ability to act independently of government and industry. The authors noted the former Conservative federal government fired the commission’s CEO when she applied safety guidelines to shut down the Chalk River reactor in Ontario.

The authors observed: “It is concerning that health standards are set by physicists and industries, based on financial and technological convenience, rather than by those educated in and committed to public health and safety.”

Dewar, a longtime general physician in northern Saskatchewan, recently told Canada’s National Observer: “They want to show that it doesn’t cause cancer. I think they want to find that result.”

Dewar expressed surprise that the CNSC has opted for a focused study when northerners have been asking for decades for a baseline health study to determine such things as whether or not there have been increases in autoimmune diseases or cancers that couldn’t be explained by diet, for example.

“I think not only is it virtually a sin that they’ve never done this, but I think it’s a really huge missed opportunity because if they had a study done like this, they would have researchers around the world trying to get information out of it.”…………

Compensation for Uranium Workers

Another, less discussed issue is compensation for uranium miners. In the United States, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) administered by the Department of Justice has awarded over US$2.4 billion in benefits to more than 37,000 claimants since its introduction in 1990. https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2021/07/canadian-nuclear-safety-commission-to-investigate-lung-cancer-rates-among-uranium-workers/

July 26, 2021 Posted by | Canada, employment, health, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Most Hanford nuclear site workers report exposure to toxic or radioactive chemicals


57% of Hanford nuclear site workers surveyed by WA state report toxic exposures,
Tri City Herald

BY ANNETTE CARY, JULY 07, 2021 

 More than half of Hanford site workers responding to a Washington state survey said they had been involved in an incident at the Hanford nuclear reservation that resulted in exposure to radioactive or toxic chemicals.

Some 57% of about 1,600 past and present workers who took the survey reported being in an exposure incident, which could include the release of radioactive material into the air.

And nearly a third, 32%, reported they had long-term exposure to hazardous materials at the nuclear reservation, rather than exposure during a single incident………

Workers are cleaning up and treating radioactive and hazardous chemical waste left from the past production at Hanford of two-thirds of the nation’s plutonium for its nuclear weapons program……….

For incurable diseases, such as chronic beryllium disease caused by breathing in fine particles of the metal beryllium, information sharing could be key to finding cures, the board said.

SICK HANFORD WORKER ISSUES

It also recommended expanding Tri-Cities access to care that is tailored to Hanford workers’ health needs.

Some workers reported they did not receive a diagnosis until they visited clinics outside the Tri-Cities area and sometimes outside the state.

After an initial assessment or diagnosis related to Hanford exposures there was not long-term coordination of care, said workers in survey comments.

Part of the difficulty was that some health problems, such as cancers, are not diagnosed until years after exposures, the report said……………https://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/hanford/article252613523.html

July 26, 2021 Posted by | employment, health, USA | Leave a comment

Greenpeace Rainbow Warrier aims to help workers to transition to renewable energy work

The Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior III ship is in Aberdeen Harbour as part of its Just Transition Tour. The campaign calls on government to train oil and gas workers for a smooth transition to renewable energy schemes. The 190-ft vessel will moor overnight in Aberdeen before heading for Wick with sights set on the 84-turbine Beatrice offshore windfarm sitting lying nine miles off the Caithness coast. The intrepid crew are keen to assess “the challenges and opportunities” facing the platforms’ workers.

Greenpeace UK’s oil campaign leader Mel Evans, head said offshore workers had their full support. He added: They have powered our economy through difficult times and they have plenty of transferable skills which will be vital to our transition to renewable energy. “Politicians must sit down with offshore workers and take urgent action to make the funds, retraining opportunities and jobs available to make Scotland’s clean energy transition a success.”

 Evening Express 18th July 2021

July 20, 2021 Posted by | employment, renewable, UK | Leave a comment

The Green Jobs Taskforce

Just Transition**

 The UK is currently not on track to deliver a commitment to host two
million green-collar jobs by 2030. But the economic recovery from Covid-19
presents a window to accelerate investment and build a robust skills
pipeline, according to the Green Jobs Taskforce report published this week.


The Taskforce was set up by the Government late last year, following
pressure from trade bodies, businesses and NGOs. Its purpose is to develop
recommendations for helping unemployed people into skilled jobs that
contribute to the net-zero transition and supporting those currently
working in high-carbon businesses to upskill and reskill.

Under an overarching call to ensure that the Net-Zero Strategy is published to time
ahead of COP26 and includes significant commitments on jobs and skills,
three themes are covered in the report: Scaling up investment in the
net-zero transition, building pathways into good green careers and
supporting a just transition for workers in the high-carbon economy.

 Edie 16th July 2021

https://www.edie.net/news/11/Six-UK-green-policy-stories-you-need-to-know-about-this-week/

July 20, 2021 Posted by | employment, UK | Leave a comment

Most Hanford nuclear cleanup workers exposed to hazardous materials: Washington state report

Most Hanford cleanup workers exposed to hazardous materials: Washington state report  https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/561893-most-hanford-workers-exposed-to-hazardous-materials-state-report

BY CELINE CASTRONUOVO – 07/07/21 More than half of all current and former workers involved in the Hanford Nuclear Reservation cleanup effort have said they were exposed to hazardous materials, according to a new report from the Washington state government.

The report, the last in a series from the Department of Commerce’s Hanford Healthy Energy Workers Board, found that 57 percent “of all current and former workers reported being in an exposure event,” with 32 percent saying they experienced “long-term exposure to hazardous materials.”

The 106-page document cited “deep concerns” among current and former workers about “compensation system processes and the healthcare system’s ability to meet workers’ needs,” and identified “deficiencies in continued engagement with workers after an initial assessment or diagnosis as a common obstacle for the Hanford workforce.”

The findings cap eight months of research by a state-commissioned board tasked with making recommendations on addressing the health needs of workers at the Hanford nuclear site.

The 560-square-mile area in Washington was used by the federal government from 1944 to 1987 to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons and missile warheads.

However, the state board noted that during this time, “many highly radioactive byproducts and waste chemicals were dumped directly into the ground or stored in subterranean multi-million-gallon underground storage areas known as tank farms.”

The Department of Energy’s mission at the site shifted from production to cleanup beginning in the late 1980s.

The site has come under increased scrutiny in recent years for its affect on health and the environment, with the Energy Department warning in April that it believed an underground tank at the facility was leaking waste produced by plutonium production.

The Hanford area is considered the most contaminated site of radioactive waste in the U.S.

The board’s final report on Wednesday offered a look at some of the long-term impacts of nuclear production and waste at the site, including incurable conditions like chronic beryllium disease, which leads to scarring of lung tissue.

The board said that “information sharing could be key to finding cures” to the disease and other chronic conditions developed from exposure to hazardous materials.

Other recommendations included the creation of a Hanford Healthy Energy Workers Center to “serve as a centralized clearinghouse for Hanford-specific health-related information that includes up-to-date scientific knowledge, research on emergent topics, exposure data analysis, medical surveillance data analysis and coordinated intergovernmental efforts for policy and advocacy.”

The board said greater access should be given to specialty and follow-up care, and urged health officials to improve “the quality of care available to Hanford workers both at the Hanford site and in the Tri-Cities area.”

July 15, 2021 Posted by | employment, health, USA | Leave a comment

A People’s Guide to the War Industry, by Christian Sorensen — Rise Up Times

“The main role of the federal government under capitalism is to maintain the capitalist economic system and set the general conditions by which large corporations and billionaires are able to accrue more and more profit.”

A People’s Guide to the War Industry, by Christian Sorensen — Rise Up Times A People’s Guide to the War Industry -2: Profits & Deception  https://consortiumnews.com/2021/05/26/a-peoples-guide-to-the-war-industry-2-profits-deception/May 26, 2021   Christian Sorensen maps out the global system of weapons mongering. Second in a series of five articles on the U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex.   By Christian Sorensen

Special to Consortium News   War corporations are spread across the United States. The top war industry hubs in the U.S. are Huntsville, Alabama; greater Boston; greater Tampa, Florida; the Dallas-Fort Worth region; southern California; and the corridor stretching from northeast Virginia, through Washington, to Baltimore (consistently home to the wealthiest counties in the country).

The U.S. war industry profits well through global supply chains, including setting up subsidiaries in allied capitalist countries and using those countries’ industrial bases to produce parts of a weapons platform (such as the costly, underperforming F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, parts of which are built in locations as diverse as Italy and Japan).

War corporations manage global chains by organizing, coordinating, and enforcing a hierarchical command structure upon disparate locations. Orders flow down the chain and capital flows up, allowing the corporation’s executives, and ultimately Wall Street — not workers who make the products — to harvest enormous amounts of wealth. This exacerbates inequality, not just in Lemont Furnace, Pennsylvania, and Marietta, Georgia, but also Rochester, England, and Aire-sur-l’Adour, France — all locations where U.S. war products are made. War corporations paint these actions as “building lasting capacity” and other euphemisms.

A euphemism is a kinder, gentler term used in place of a direct, often more accurate one. The MIC employs euphemisms adeptly. Public relations gurus know the English language very well. Recall George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language:”

”In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible… Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”

With the care of a sommelier, MIC propagandists select the perfect euphemisms to mask their activities and present death and destruction in comfortable terms. Getting rid of euphemism, pursuing an honest language, is one step toward achieving a system that benefits people and planet.

Globe-Spanning Installations

Military installations are avenues through which corporations route goods and services. Sometimes the U.S. military sets up an installation overseas with permission from the allied capitalist regime. Sometimes the ruling class orders the military to take the land by force. It stole land in Guam, compensating locals a paltry sum or nothing at all. It took the Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It stole Vieques, Puerto Rico. It teamed up with the Danish government to remove the indigenous Inughuit to make way for Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland. And the Pentagon and State Department teamed up with the United Kingdom to remove Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean in order to set up what is now called Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia.

Incredible corporate profit (e.g. base operations, ordnance, platforms, construction, fuel, maintenance) runs through each military installation. Most U.S. military bases overseas are not located in active war zones. The largest concentrations of U.S. troops are on bases in the Persian Gulf, Europe, and the Western Pacific.

There are thousands of U.S. military installations inside the United States (land stolen from the Native Americans). As contract announcements indicate, Corporate America is sometimes put in charge of studying and documenting the effect a planned base or weapons range might have on the surrounding community — aircraft noise, potential for mishaps and accidents, and the extent to which land use works with or against local designs — even though Corporate America stands to benefit if the base or range gets established.

Duping Workers

In the capitalist economic system, relatively few people control the means of production (e.g. machinery, factories). In order to survive, most people (the working class) sell their ability to work. They receive a wage in return. A worker’s work is what makes money for the ruling class. This is true across all industries, including the war industry.

Workers who design and assemble the major weapons of war form the core of the working class within the war industry. They put together missiles at Raytheon’s factory in Tucson, Arizona. They manufacture drones at General Atomics’ factory in Poway, California. They fabricate land vehicles at AM General’s factory in South Bend, Indiana. They build landing craft at Textron’s factory in New Orleans, Louisiana. Whatever the workers produce is not theirs to use or sell. Instead, their output belongs to the capitalist class. These rulers (literally sitting in corporate suites) decide what to produce, how to produce it, and to whom to sell it.

The ruling class profits by underpaying the workers. A given worker on a given day produces value, which we’ll call A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The corporation pays the worker a wage comparable to F and G. The rest (A, B, C, D, E) is “surplus value.” This difference between what a worker is paid in wages and the value a worker creates is how the corporation profits

Those profits go toward executives’ compensation (CEO pay at the top five war corporations totaled almost half a billion dollars over the course of 2015-2019); boost stock price and allow for stock buybacks; and are invested to make more profit. Money used to expand business to increase future profits is functioning as capital. An example of this is General Dynamics building a 200,000-square-foot building for submarine assembly at its Groton, Connecticut, shipyard in order to make more goods to sell for profit.

The ruling class inundates the working class with various forms of advertising, public relations gimmicks, propaganda, and disinformation in order to keep the working class (which greatly outnumbers the ruling class) passive and compliant. Many within the working class have swallowed such deception.

Working class jobs within the war industry are various, and include administrative assistant, analyst, armed mercenary, astrophysicist, data officer, engineer, lawyer, lobbyist, linguist, mathematician, public relations specialist, technician, and tradesperson. From the haughtiest academic to the humblest welder, what propaganda have they seized in order to justify working in the war industry?

Civilian Use

Unlike products from other industries, the public cannot eat, consume, play with, learn from, or interact with most goods and services sold by the war industry. Employees of war corporations invoke civilian applications of military technology: The internet, the jet engine, radar, and satellite technology all came about from military funding.

But these are ancillary benefits. Imagine what technological benefits society could achieve if $750 billion per year was directed intentionally toward research and development of technology that benefits human wellbeing and the natural world, not military and war.

We can harness the human mind in many ways. Nonetheless, so far — by the numbers — the U.S. government has only spent significant monies on military and war. Try throwing that kind of money at the sciences and arts every year — via other federal departments, such as Interior, Agriculture, Health & Human Services, Transportation — and see where unpressured, non-militarized research and development lead.

Distancing 

Lockheed Martin’s director of communications once said, “The missile has nothing to do with the manufacturer… Lockheed Martin was not the one that was there, firing the missile” (Robert Fisk, Independent,May 18, 1997).

Such distancing is no different from an engineer at a U.S. university who justifies her work on nuclear weapons along the lines of, “Well it’s not me pushing the button. Surely, there are military professionals in charge of these weapons.” Other workers in the war industry rationalize by arguing, “I might disagree with the wars, but I’m not the one elected to make such decisions. I’m just doing my job.” Those who resort to distancing focus on their own daily, incremental tasks, blocking out all consequence.

Traditional Patriotism 

Traditional patriotism rallies a person around the flag and shuns holding authority to account. Traditional patriotism allows the wars to continue. True patriotism, however, involves questioning government, making government accountable, and changing government when it is polluted and corrupt. True patriotism, as retired Major Danny Sjursen puts it, is “participatory and principled.”

Support the Troops 

Some people justify working for the war industry by saying they do it for the troops. Journalist Jeffrey Stern describes how one machinist at a missile factory rationalizes his role:

“[T]he thing that he said made him most proud about working at Raytheon was helping to keep American servicemen and women safe. The company makes a point of hiring veterans with combat injuries, which reminds him of whom he’s working for and why. He feels it when he sees the gigantic photos of service members that the company hangs in the most prominent parts of the plant. The photos, he explained, are of relatives of Raytheon workers. When he’s at work, the notion of helping American servicemen and women is not abstract. It’s almost tactile.”

Well played, Raytheon! The phrase “support the troops” is a clever slogan through which the MIC throws a blanket of patriotism over the underlying issue: supporting the wars. “Support the troops” has been very effective in getting the working class to line up in favor of war.

Delusion & Moral Bankruptcy 

Many people within the war industry are deluded or morally bankrupt and therefore have no problem working in such a destructive industry. Delusion and moral bankruptcy are the direct result of decades of refined capitalist propaganda and indoctrination. Many workers don’t understand that the system exists because of their exploitation. Many don’t understand that the war industry exists as a means of profit. Nor does the increasingly privatized and standardized public-school system emphasize the critical thinking needed to alter such a sad state of affairs.

Lack of Courage

Many smart people, blissfully comfortable with the paycheck that being part of the war industry work brings, lack the courage to act. Consider one plucked at random from the middle ranks of a war corporation. The man’s résumé is impressive: degree from a prestigious university, awards from industry and the Pentagon, and not one ounce of moral courage. His participation in the war industry leads directly to the deaths of innocents abroad and perpetuates war.

This flexible, powerful recipe allows one to justify working in the war industry.

A few people within the MIC recognize the gravity of the situation — that funneling so much money toward military, espionage, and war has a negative effect on U.S. security because it drains manpower, time, and capital, and forestalls social care — but are afraid of the consequences of speaking up.

Group think, hierarchy, compartmentation, economic incentive, and chain of command enforce the status quo. Violence and social isolation deter the few who push back against the machinery of war. The minor whistleblower is ostracized and demoted, the leaker fined and locked up. When just a few people push back, the MIC crushes them. When the working class pushes back, united and together, the MIC has a problem on its hands.

The ruling class employs other devices to ensure the workers continue to sell their labor power. Divide and conquer is a popular device: pit the workers against one another, profiting the capitalist while exhausting the worker. Wedge issues, such as race and nationalism, further split the working class along arbitrary, divisive lines, as seen when U.S. workers buy into the demonization of Arab, Persian, or Chinese workers.


Capitalists also elevate a few workers here and there above other fellow workers (think of the foreman in a Virginia shipyard or a taskmaster in an office producing signals intelligence software). These elevated few are given a tad more money in exchange for keeping the majority of the workers in line.

Replacing workers with machines and automating jobs keeps the workforce desperate. With so many people unemployed and underemployed, capitalist rulers get to pick the most passive laborers for war industry jobs, the ones who will keep their heads down and not raise a fuss about the relative pittance they’re paid. Purchasing the necessities of life (e.g. food, exorbitant healthcare, sky-high rent, utilities) requires that workers continue to sell their labor (the products of which maim and kill the working class in other countries) through which the ruling class becomes fantastically wealthy.

Academia

Education in the United States exists within narrow confines. The working class educated in elementary and secondary schools are not given the opportunity to learn about capitalism, let alone the horrific nature and devastating effects of the U.S. war industry. They are not taught about how the interests of the ruling class (including the Pentagon’s leadership, industry executives, Wall Street financiers, and Congress) clash head-on with the interests of the working class. An uneducated population will not mobilize effectively against its oppressors. This atmosphere of ignorance greatly benefits the MIC.

The war industry and the Pentagon fund extensive science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) initiatives across the U.S. and in allied countries. By attracting students into STEM careers, the war industry and the Pentagon prepare and safeguard their future. Industry promotion of STEM lays the groundwork for future design, engineering, and production capacity, while the Pentagon promotes STEM in order to foster a technologically literate workforce and future generations of enlisted troops who are capable enough to operate the war industry’s products. STEM efforts are comprehensive, covering a wide geographical area and all ages, from elementary through university.

Many universities in the United States are part of the U.S. war industry. The role of these academic institutions is threefold: research and develop technology, serve as a holding station (e.g. Harvard’s Belfer Center) for MIC elites before they rotate into government or corporate suites, and accept philanthropy from war profiteers thereby whitewashing capitalist brutality. The main academic participants in the war industry include but are not limited to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, the University of Dayton, and Georgia Tech.

The U.S. government runs many research labs pursuing military and intelligence R&D. The Army Research Lab and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity are located in Maryland. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research are in Arlington, Virginia. The Air Force Research Lab is run out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, northeast of Dayton, Ohio, with branches in New Mexico and upstate New York. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research & Development Center is in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Most work in and for these labs is carried out by corporations and academic institutions, not uniformed military personnel.

report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued in September 2020 detailed, “DOD does not know how contractors’ independent R&D projects fit into the department’s technology goals.”


“Brain drain” happens when industry herds intelligent people toward purposes of war, like when a graduate of an engineering school goes to work for a war corporation instead of a municipality. Humanity thus loses skilled human beings as a result. Brain drain is a great tragedy, and the war industry’s biggest success. In Boston, the U.S. Air Force alone funds ninety different research projects, according to the Air Force Secretary. And that’s just the publicly declared actions of one branch of the military in one city.

Lockheed Martin alone employs nearly 50,000 scientists and engineers, according to its CEO in her presentation to the Society of Women Engineers. Imagine if these minds were working on problems and projects for the betterment of humanity and the planet, instead of devising more ingenious ways to surveil or murder. Imagine the possibilities.

Effective science is based on free, open discussion. Military funding and stipulations (compartmentation, shoehorned focus, classification, near-term deadlines, stove-piped fields) oppose free, open discussion. Breakthroughs benefitting humanity rarely happen when people are tied to military-industry funding priorities, schedules, and narrow cognitive confines. Military and industry shun and condemn the polymath, the free thinker, and the uninhibited tinkerer. Military and industry embrace and fund the careerist, the complicit academic, the rigid functionary, the greedy corporatist, and the aspiring bureaucrat. Military-industry science may possess strong minds, but it does not often make the scientific breakthroughs society needs.

Influence

Strategy involves establishing priorities, making choices, and then matching available resources to goals, means to ends. Capitalists running the war industry utilize a five-step strategy to capture government:

  • Pull retiring military officers into war corporations
  • Stack the deck by placing ex-industry officials in the Pentagon’s leadership
  • Finance congressional campaigns
  • Lobby creatively and expansively
  • Fund think tanks & corporate media

War corporations recruit retired high-ranking military officers. War corporations use these eager retirees to open doors, influence policy, and increase sales. Generals and admirals retire from the U.S. Armed Forces and then join war corporations where they set to work converting their knowledge (about the acquisition process, senior military and civilian leaders, long-term military policy, and how the Pentagon works) and connections into profit.

Corporate jobs for these retired officers include manager, vice president, lobbyist, consultant, and director. Only a small number of 3- and 4-star officers declines this systemic corruption. War corporations have plenty to pull from, as there are more generals and admirals in uniform today in 2021 than there were at the end of World War II. Mere issuance of a bulletin announcing the hiring of a former high-ranking general or admiral often leads to a boost in stock price.

U.S. military officers benefit professionally and financially from implementing MIC aggression. There is no downside for high-ranking officers who support nonstop war. They’ll soon retire with full benefits, and likely go work for a war corporation. Officers who make it to the highest military ranks are very good at conforming to the system.

These officers support nonstop wars of choice and broad military deployments, and defer to pro-war pretexts and jargon coming from industry think tanks and pressure groups. They judge military activity in terms of numbers (dollars spent, weapons purchased, bases active, troops deployed) instead of clear soldierly goals.

Many officers are unable or unwilling to distinguish between the needs of a war corporation and the needs of a professional uniformed military. These U.S. military officers don’t see war corporations; they see a total force in which military and industry work together. An officer who dissents in a forceful manner risks their career. As the MIC crafts pretexts to justify its own existence and expansion, officers who go against the system from the inside are isolated, shed, or spit out.

Reality is difficult to stomach: There is an absolute dearth of class consciousness and moral courage within the Pentagon. The upper ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces are rife with a caliber of officer predisposed to seek out profit and reward upon retirement.


Executives move smoothly from corporations to the Pentagon, particularly the sundry civilian offices (secretary, deputy secretary, and assistant deputy secretary). These men and women who run the Pentagon have been raised in an environment of profiteering; they are steeped in corporate thought; their allegiance is to corporate success. They bring with them their industry contacts and an exploitative ideology. They turn to corporate products when presented with a military problem. They benefit professionally and financially.

Industry executives, the most rapacious of the capitalist class, enter “public service” and influence programs and policies. This invariably boosts the profits of former industry employers, who, thenceforth, capture and direct more of the U.S. military establishment. (Such actions, profit invested to make more profit, is money functioning as capital.)

Giant corporations finance the campaigns of people running for congressional office. Those people, once in office, help out the corporations. Washington is so corrupt that they’ve basically legalized this process — they’ve legalized bribery. In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that limits on election spending are unconstitutional; in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), the Supreme Court distorted the First Amendment’s free speech clause, allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political contributions; and in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (2014), the Supreme Court got rid of limits on the total number of political contributions one can give over a two-year period.

We are told that the Supreme Court defends liberty and provides a check against the executive and legislative branches, however, the function of the Court, as its rulings demonstrate, is to abet corporate authority and financial interest in line with what the Executive and Legislative branches pursue.

The war industry targets both houses of Congress, particularly elected officials on relevant committees (Armed Services, Appropriations, Intelligence, Foreign Relations). The war industry finances many political action committees, or PACs. These are tax-exempt organizations that aggregate donations to fund political campaigns or influence federal elections. Super PACs (a.k.a. independent expenditure-only committees) allow unlimited contributions. Funding congressional campaigns directly impacts the way U.S. elected officials vote.

Politicians and their war industry bosses are proficient at claiming the “defense” industry creates jobs. Take caution when a war corporation throws the word “jobs” around. Many of these jobs are part-time, temporary, or menial (e.g. painter, welder, roustabout), parsed out to an increasingly desperate workforce. Some are construction jobs that vanish in a year or so. Working-class jobs in the war industry are often in difficult conditions.


Industry jobs that pay very well typically require advanced degrees, which the majority of the population does not have. Furthermore, some jobs are non-U.S. jobs (e.g. microchips manufactured overseas). Other jobs are induced (e.g. the mom making less-than-minimum wage on a ridesharing app driving an industry executive from work to a pub, or the waiter at a St. Louis restaurant where a missile engineer dines). Industry inflates job tallies. The goal is to confine the congressional side of the MIC, which cites the inflated jobs numbers and goes along for the ride.

The claim that the “defense” industry brings jobs is a stale public relations ploy. It hides the truth: Spending on healthcare, education, or clean energy creates more jobs than spending on the military.

The war industry can inflate job numbers because there is no accountability coming from Washington: Capitol Hill is largely content letting Corporate America police itself. Readers are likely familiar with cases where corporations get to inspect their own product (e.g. the airline industry, the pork industry) instead of external government inspectors doing the job.

Corporations policing corporations is rampant in the war industry, like when the advertising agency GSD&M measures the effectiveness of its own efforts at recruiting working class youth into the military. Sometimes one corporation polices part of industry, like when Calibre Systems conducts “cost and economic analysis of major weapons system programs and associated acquisition/financial management policies and procedures.”

The claim that the “defense” industry brings jobs is a stale public relations ploy. It hides the truth: Spending on healthcare, education, or clean energy creates more jobs than spending on the military.

The war industry can inflate job numbers because there is no accountability coming from Washington: Capitol Hill is largely content letting Corporate America police itself. Readers are likely familiar with cases where corporations get to inspect their own product (e.g. the airline industry, the pork industry) instead of external government inspectors doing the job.

Corporations policing corporations is rampant in the war industry, like when the advertising agency GSD&M measures the effectiveness of its own efforts at recruiting working class youth into the military. Sometimes one corporation polices part of industry, like when Calibre Systems conducts “cost and economic analysis of major weapons system programs and associated acquisition/financial management policies and procedures.”


Second in a five-part series by the author. Part 3 on Friday: ‘Bribery and Propaganda’

Christian Sorensen is an independent journalist mainly focused on war profiteering within the military-industrial complex. An Air Force veteran, he is the author of the recently published book, Understanding the War Industry. He is also a senior fellow at the Eisenhower Media Network (EMN), an organization of independent veteran military and national security experts. His work is available at War Industry Muster

May 29, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Education, employment, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Cyberattacks grind Hanford nuclear energy workers’ benefit program to a halt

Cyberattacks grind Hanford nuclear energy workers’ benefit program to a halt, Seattle Times May 10, 2021   By Patrick Malone

Cyber attacks on the U.S. government have abruptly paused processing of benefit applications for workers who were sickened while working on nuclear weapons programs at Hanford and other Department of Energy sites, delaying aid to some dying workers, according to advocates.

Without warning, advocates from the Alliance of Nuclear Workers Advocacy Group received notice late last Friday that effective Monday, a vital component of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program would be offline for two to four months.

The Radiation Dose Reconstruction Program databases’ sudden hiatus could delay approval of new benefits for groups of workers who believe they’ve been exposed to workplace hazards.

Among them are more than 550 workers from Hanford, a mothballed plutonium processing site in Richland, who were potentially exposed to radiation and toxins when they were provided leaky respirators, according to a Seattle Times investigation last year.

Those workers are seeking inclusion in the federal benefits program administered by the Department of Labor. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health plays an instrumental role in determining eligibility.

Hanford, born in secrecy during World War II in a rush to develop the first atomic bomb, processed the plutonium fuel for nuclear weapons for four decades, a process that fouled the 580-square-mile site with radioactive waste and toxic vapors that sickened and killed many workers.

Washington’s U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Adam Smith, both Democrats, sponsored legislation in response to The Times investigation that would expand benefits to include the Hanford cleanup crew who were given faulty respirators and other nuclear workers across the country who aren’t yet eligible.

Others who could be affected are some 1,378 individual workers across the country currently applying for assistance, and those with recent terminal diagnoses, who normally would be eligible for benefits awarded as quickly as a day after application. Those benefits can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Terminally ill workers often do not have 2 to 4 months to live,” Terrie Barrie, ANWAG founder, wrote in a Monday, May 3, letter to NIOSH director to Dr. John Howard. “Will they no longer have the option to have their claim expedited so that they can receive the medical and financial benefits before they die?”

The source and nature of the cyberattacks are unclear, but in a May 4 letter to ANWAG, Howard said that an ongoing review of the energy workers’ compensation databases “identified very significant concerns about the cybersecurity integrity of the Program’s claimant database,” forcing an immediate and secret shutdown of the claims process……………………. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/cyberattacks-grind-hanford-nuclear-energy-workers-benefit-program-to-a-halt/

May 11, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, employment, secrets,lies and civil liberties | 1 Comment

Whistleblower can’t sue U.S.Dept of Labor, because it has ‘sovereign immunity’


Federal Nuclear Engineer Loses Whistleblower Retaliation Appeal
, Bloomberg Law, May 1, 2021,

  • Safety reports on nuclear plant allegedly cost him promotions
  • Energy Reorganization Act doesn’t allow suit against government

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission engineer who blew the whistle on health and safety risks at a nuclear power plant can’t sue the Department of Labor for alleged retaliation because it’s shielded by sovereign immunity, the Fourth Circuit said Friday.

Michael Peck worked as senior resident inspector at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. After he left the plant, Peck took three actions regarding concerns he had with safety conditions there—he filed a formal “differing professional opinion” with the NRC; sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which oversees the NRC; and provided testimony to the…… (subscribers only)  https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/federal-nuclear-engineer-loses-whistleblower-retaliation-appeal

May 1, 2021 Posted by | employment, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear workers plagued by leukaemia, cancers and other illnesses

Some workers developed cancer, leukemia and other illnesses. The same held true for workers at other nuclear facilities across the nation.

The number of potentially eligible workers across the nation is uncertain. Likewise, the number of employees potentially affected at West Valley could be in the thousands when accounting for temporary workers.

“This was particularly troubling if the same workers were hired repeatedly as temporaries and received high doses each time,”

In addition, the exposure of growing numbers of individuals increased the possibility of genetic consequences for the entire population.” 

Cancer plagues West Valley nuke workers   https://www.investigativepost.org/2021/03/01/cancer-plagues-west-valley-nuke-workers/

Federal program has paid former employees $20.3 million in compensation. Other claims are pending and still more workers are unaware of the program.
By Phil Gambini      David Pyles says he lives on painkillers and moves with the help of a cane and walker. He worked for five years at the West Valley Demonstration Project, a failed experiment to process spent nuclear fuel.

“What we were doing was insane. We were dealing with so much radiation,” he told Investigative Post from his home in New Hampshire.

“I’ve got absolutely no joints left in my knees — my knees are gone, my ankles are gone and my hips are gone,” he said.

“I wonder if it’s from working in that bathtub full of radiation.”

Pyles was one of about 200 full-time employees who operated the former Nuclear Fuel Services reprocessing facility five decades ago in the hamlet of West Valley, where the company partnered with the federal government to recycle used radioactive fuel. Other workers were hired to contain and dispose of the dangerous waste the operation left behind.

Some workers developed cancer, leukemia and other illnesses. The same held true for workers at other nuclear facilities across the nation. As a result, Congress established the Energy Employees Occupational Illness and Compensation Program in 2000. 

An Investigative Post review of the program found the government has paid $20.3 million over the last two decades in cases involving at least 59 people who worked at the West Valley site.

In all, individuals have submitted claims involving 280 employees who worked at the bygone reprocessing facility or during the ongoing $3.1 billion taxpayer-funded cleanup. An undetermined number of claims have been denied; the rest are being adjudicated.

Pyles said he was unaware of the program. He isn’t alone.

The Department of Labor’s Office of the Ombudsman has repeatedly criticized outreach efforts  in its annual oversight reports. Most of it has been in the form of events held near former sites. Given the passage of time and people’s movement, reaching more eligible workers is a challenge.

The workforce at West Valley involved more than full-timers. About 1,000 temporary laborers were hired by the company in any given year, according to government and media reports from the time.

The use of temporary workers was a common labor practice at the time, but few operations needed to “raise quite so large an army” as Nuclear Fuel Services, according to a Science Magazine report from the era.

The industry had a nickname for them: “sponges.”

They were hired to “absorb radiation to do simple tasks,” according to Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, a radiological waste consultant who co-authored a study of West Valley. 

While working at a site like West Valley does not guarantee later illnesses or genetic complications for offspring, each exposure to radiation increases the likelihood of cancer, Resnikoff said.

“It’s what I guess I would call a meat grinder,” he said.

Exposure to radiation

At its groundbreaking in 1963, the Nuclear Fuel Services reprocessing facility was thought to be a harbinger of a coming economic transformation. It closed in less than a decade, however.

Through six years of operation, at least 36 individuals in 13 incidents were exposed to “excessive concentrations” of radioactivity, according to a federal consultant’s report.  Nevertheless, government officials at the time reported “no significant improvement in exposure controls or radiological safety conditions.”

The plant opened in the spring of 1966. Used fuel rods, thousands of which are assembled to power a nuclear reactor core, were transported to the plant by rail and truck. Upon arrival, containers were submerged in a 45-foot-deep cooling pool of demineralized water.

The fuel rods were then cut open, chopped up and placed in an acid bath. The solvent separated the used fuel from the reusable uranium and plutonium, which was collected for resale. The radioactive byproduct was pumped into underground tanks for storage.

The plant had handled 630 tons of fuel and produced 660,0000 gallons of liquid waste by 1972, when it was shut down in anticipation of making improvements to increase capacity and meet new regulatory standards.

That’s when Pyles quit.

The former lab supervisor said he was upset at management’s inaction concerning safety issues. Radioactive dust migrated through the ventilation system and accumulated in ducts, federal records said. A single duct was a “primary source of radiation” in the plant on three levels.

Pyles and coworkers absorbed radiation from that duct for five years, he said. They recognized that it posed a danger, but he said management ignored repeated requests to keep the airway flushed.

In response, Pyles said he and his coworkers hammered into the floor quarter-inch sheets of lead, used as temporary shields throughout the plant. When radiation levels went up, another sheet went down, he said. Finally, when the lead was an inch thick, Pyles said there were concerns they’d reached “the load bearing limit of the floor.”

 Many unaware of program

Under the terms of its contract with the federal government, Nuclear Fuel Services pulled out of the operation in 1977. Federal and state officials battled over who was responsible for the site, until it was decided by Congressional action five years later.

In 1982, the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy took control of the 200 acres where the reprocessing facility operated. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, was charged with shutting down the site’s disposal area and stewardship of the 3,345 acres that surround it.

Nationally, the Department of Labor has received claims based on 129,488 former employees and paid $19.1 billion. While substantial, the department’s ombudsman has continually pushed for more resources and outreach efforts.

“While it is clear that those efforts have informed many individuals of the existence of the [program], it is likewise clear that there are still many who are unaware of [the program] and for whom more should be done to address this lack of awareness,” the office said in its most recent report to Congress.

The report cites an email from one frustrated former employee, who learned of the program with his wife by overhearing another couple’s conversation in the lobby of a hotel in Colorado.

“The husband was a former (energy employee),” the email said, concluding: “THIS IS HOW I WAS MADE AWARE OF THIS PROGRAM.”

The number of potentially eligible workers across the nation is uncertain. Likewise, the number of employees potentially affected at West Valley could be in the thousands when accounting for temporary workers. A 1985 report to Congress on workplace reproductive health threats noted 991 temporary workers were hired in West Valley in 1971. It was an “extreme case” of using such labor, the report said.

The 1974 report in Science Magazine said temporary laborers outnumbered operating staff 10 to 1 at times. According to federal records, media reports and interviews, temps were assigned tasks ranging from replacing light bulbs to “burying low-level nuclear waste.”

Records are typically scant for such subcontractor laborers, however. Companies, rather than the government, tended to retain those employment records, many of which no longer exist.

Science Magazine reported that former employees, members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said “two contractors drew heavily on moonlighters, students and men seasonally employed at area automobile plants.”

A union official told the magazine then that between one-third and one-half of the Nuclear Fuel Services workforce were temporary hires that “could have been described as ‘down-and-out’ men from skid-row areas.”

How educated they were about the hazards of the job is an open question, according to J. Samuel Walker, a historian of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission whose published work includes research on nuclear transient workers. Use of the labor practice declined in time as  safety concerns grew, Walker wrote in his book, “Permissible Dose.”

“This was particularly troubling if the same workers were hired repeatedly as temporaries and received high doses each time,” Walker said. “In addition, the exposure of growing numbers of individuals increased the possibility of genetic consequences for the entire population.”


Want to know more about the program? Call 716-832-6200 or visit this website.

March 8, 2021 Posted by | employment, health, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Profound questions raised by the employment tribunal case; bullying at Sellafield nuclear site?

Byline Times 15th Jan 2021, An employment tribunal case that has been running for more than two yearshas started to raise profound questions over management at Europe’s
largest nuclear reprocessing plant, the ability of the employment tribunal
system to defend the rights of whistleblowers, ethical conduct by major law firms, and a conflict of interest at the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The case of McDermott versus Sellafield, the Nuclear
Decommissioning Authority and former Sellafield HR director Heather Roberts
has been brought under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 – also
known as the Whistleblowers’ Act. Alison McDermott, an HR professional
and diversity specialist, claims that the sudden termination of her
freelance contract in October 2018 by Sellafield was linked to her
protected disclosures containing evidence of systemic bullying, and racist
and sexist incidents at the Sellafield site in Cumbria.

https://bylinetimes.com/2021/01/15/it-causes-life-altering-trauma-to-those-who-speak-out-in-public-interest-going-nuclear-on-whistleblowers-rights/

January 18, 2021 Posted by | civil liberties, employment, Legal, UK | Leave a comment

Kingston Fossil Plant and Oakridge Nuclear Facility – an unholy alliance of radioactive pollution

While no one was killed by the 2008 coal ash spill itself, dozens of workers have died from illnesses that emerged during or after the cleanup. Hundreds of other workers are sick from respiratory, cardiac, neurological, and blood disorders, as well as cancers.

The apparent mixing of fossil fuel and nuclear waste streams underscores the long relationship between the Kingston and Oak Ridge facilities.

Between the 1950s and 1980s, so much cesium-137 and mercury was released into the Clinch from Oak Ridge that the Department of Energy, or DOE, said that the river and its feeder stream “served as pipelines for contaminants.” Yet TVA and its contractors, with the blessing of both state and federal regulators, classified all 4 million tons of material they recovered from the Emory as “non-hazardous.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analysis confirms that the ash that was left in the river was “found to be commingled with contamination from the Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Reservation site.

For nearly a century, both Oak Ridge and TVA treated their waste with less care than most families treat household garbage. It was often dumped into unlined, and sometimes unmarked, pits that continue to leak into waterways. For decades, Oak Ridge served as the Southeast’s burial ground for nuclear waste. It was stored within watersheds and floodplains that fed the Clinch River. But exactly where and how this waste was buried has been notoriously hard to track.

A Legacy of Contamination, How the Kingston coal ash spill unearthed a nuclear nightmare, Grist By Austyn Gaffney on Dec 15, 2020  This story was published in partnership with the Daily Yonder.

In 2009, App Thacker was hired to run a dredge along the Emory River in eastern Tennessee. Picture anindustrialized fleet modeled after Huck Finn’s raft: Nicknamed Adelyn, Kylee, and Shirley, the blue, flat-bottomed boats used mechanical arms called cutterheads to dig up riverbeds and siphon the excavated sediment into shoreline canals. The largest dredge, a two-story behemoth called the Sandpiper, had pipes wide enough to swallow a push lawnmower. Smaller dredges like Thacker’s scuttled behind it, scooping up excess muck like fish skimming a whale’s corpse. They all had the same directive: Remove the thick grey sludge that clogged the Emory.

The sludge was coal ash, the waste leftover when coal is burned to generate electricity. Twelve years ago this month, more than a billion gallons of wet ash burst from a holding pond monitored by the region’s major utility, the Tennessee Valley Authority, or TVA. Thacker, a heavy machinery operator with Knoxville’s 917 union, became one of hundreds of people that TVA contractors hired to clean up the spill. For about four years, Thacker spent every afternoon driving 35 miles from his home to arrive in time for his 5 p.m. shift, just as the makeshift overhead lights illuminating the canals of ash flicked on.

Dredging at night was hard work. The pump inside the dredge clogged repeatedly, so Thacker took off his shirt and entered water up to his armpits to remove rocks, tree limbs, tires, and other debris, sometimes in below-freezing temperatures. Soon, ringworm-like sores crested along his arms, interwoven with his fading red and blue tattoos. Thacker’s supervisors gave him a cream for the skin lesions, and he began wearing long black cow-birthing gloves while he unclogged pumps. While Thacker knew that the water was contaminated — that was the point of the dredging — he felt relatively safe. After all, TVA was one of the oldest and most respected employers in the state, with a sterling reputation for worker safety.

Then, one night, the dredging stopped.

Sometime between December 2009 and January 2010, roughly halfway through the final, 500-foot-wide section of the Emory designated for cleanup, operators turned off the pumps that sucked the ash from the river. For a multi-billion dollar remediation project, this order was unprecedented. The dredges had been operating 24/7 in an effort to clean up the disaster area as quickly as possible, removing roughly 3,000 cubic yards of material — almost enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool — each day. But official reports from TVA show that the dredging of the Emory encountered unusually high levels of contamination: Sediment samples showed that mercury levels were three times higher in the river than they were in coal ash from the holding pond that caused the disaster.

Then there was the nuclear waste. Continue reading

December 29, 2020 Posted by | employment, environment, history, legal, PERSONAL STORIES, politics, Reference, safety, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Ohio a clear example of corporate power and dark money shaping public policy

What happened in Ohio is a clear example of corporate power combined with the growth of “dark money” organizations following the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision to shape public policy decisions. The reasons why FirstEnergy engaged in such activities are not hard to guess. Any entity that invests so heavily in these dark money organizations, media strategies, lobbyists, and political contributions will be expecting a sizeable return on its investments. And indeed, it has been rewarded handsomely. The irony is that an industry that acknowledges that it is not economically competitive is spending massively on lobbying. It is the ratepayers and taxpayers who bear the cost of these twisted priorities.  

A dirty battle for a nuclear bailout in Ohio  https://thebulletin.org/2020/04/a-dirty-battle-for-a-nuclear-bailout-in-ohio/#    By Shakiba FadaieM. V. Ramana, April 21, 2020  Last July, Ohio’s governor signed House Bill 6 (HB6) to provide FirstEnergy (now Energy Harbor), a large electric utility, with subsidies of nearly $150 million per year to keep its Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants operating. Ohio is only the fifth US state to offer such subsidies; other states include New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Although the subsidies are justified by some as necessary for climate mitigation, in the latter four states, electricity generation from natural gas, which results in greenhouse gas emissions, has increased since 2017, when these subsidy programs started kicking in. Moreover, in Ohio, subsidies are also being extended to coal power plants, providing the clearest illustration that what underlies the push for subsidies to nuclear plants is not a result of a real commitment to climate mitigation but a way to use climate concerns to bolster the profits of some energy corporations.

The enormous lobbying effort that won the subsidies used dark money–backed organizations that spent millions of dollars to sway voters and politicians. But it didn’t stop with the bill being signed into law—the lobbying also thwarted the ability of citizens to put the proposal to a democratic vote through a referendum, including by funding television advertisements that falsely claimed that China was “intertwining themselves financially in our energy infrastructure” and threatening “national security,” implying that not going through with the nuclear bailout would somehow lead to Chinese control of Ohio’s power grid. As confronting climate change gets in the way of corporate profits, such dirty battles are sure to emerge more often.

Electricity economics. It has been known since the late 1970s that the cost of constructing nuclear plants in the United States is very high, but the cost gap between nuclear electricity and other alternatives has increased dramatically in the last decade. In its most recent estimate, the Wall Street firm Lazard estimated that a new nuclear plant will generate electricity at an average cost of $155 per megawatt hour, nearly four times the corresponding estimates of around $40 per megawatt hour each for new wind and solar energy plants. The average cost for natural gas plants is $56 per megawatt hour.

The gap will only grow larger. While the costs of nuclear power have been increasing, the costs of wind and solar power have declined by around 70 to 90 percent in the last decade. Even solar projects that offer some amount of storage to meet demand when the sun no longer shines are becoming cheaper. Last year, the city of Los Angeles signed such a contract at $33 per megawatt hour. So new nuclear power plants are simply not competitive in the US electricity market.

But what about already operating nuclear plants, those that don’t have to worry about borrowing money for construction or repaying the money they have already borrowed? Herein lies the real cost problem for electric utilities that own nuclear plants. For each megawatt hour of electricity generated in 2019, the average nuclear power plant in the United States spent $30.42 on fuel, repairs and maintenance, and wages; some spent much more. Those costs are comparable to the overall generation costs (including the cost of construction) of solar and wind power listed above.

Renewable energy plants, of course, cost very little to operate since they don’t need any fuel. Thus, already existing renewable plants will remain far cheaper than nuclear plants. With natural gas plants, the comparison with nuclear plants depends on the cost of natural gas; thanks to fracking, for the last many years, natural gas plants have also lowered their operational costs to way below that of nuclear reactors.

The net result is that nuclear electricity is no longer competitive, and that is a problem for utilities that operate in states where electricity is traded on the market. (Other states, where a state regulator approves electricity projects, allow utilities to pass on the high costs of nuclear power to rate payers.) The number of nuclear plants this trend affects is quite large. In 2018, Bloomberg analysts estimated that “more than one quarter of all nuclear plants don’t make enough money to cover their operating costs.”

Political games. This state of affairs has led electric utilities in various states to try and get taxpayers and ratepayers to pay more to keep up their profits. Ohio’s FirstEnergy started early, in 2014, when it asked Ohio regulators to allow its distribution utilities to enter into agreements to purchase the outputs of its coal and nuclear plants at a set price that significantly exceeded wholesale electricity market prices. Ohio ratepayers would end up paying for electricity from these plants even if the distribution companies could have purchased electricity from other providers at cheaper prices. The proposal was approved in 2016, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission blocked the deal because it would have been unfair to consumers.

Since then, FirstEnergy has regularly tried to get subsidies in one form or another—until it succeeded in 2019 with HB6. In summary, that bill forces electricity consumers in Ohio to pay a surcharge on their monthly bills, and the resulting amounts go to subsidizing two nuclear power plants owned by FirstEnergy—Perry and Davis-Besse—and two coal-fired plants owned by Ohio Valley Electricity Corporation. The bill also weakens (and will eventually gut) Ohio’s requirements for a minimum amount of electricity to be provided by renewable sources and reduces its targets for improving energy efficiency.

There has been a recent history of growth of renewables in Ohio, albeit from a pitifully low base. According to the US Energy Information Administration, between 2011 and 2017, Ohio’s wind and solar production grew by factors of 7.6 and 4.3 respectively. The reasons for this growth presumably have to do with the economic factors mentioned earlier. Likewise, energy efficiency programs saved twice as much as was spent on implementing them, and were projected to save $4 billion over 10 years. An increase in renewable energy production combined with energy efficiency improvements was shown to be the most economical way to reduce Ohio’s emissions by over 30 percent between 2012 and 2030 as part of the 2014 proposed Clean Power Plan of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

What do those in favor of the bill say? The arguments being used by pro-nuclear groups can be categorized into two sets of claims: economic and environmental.  The environmental argument is that nuclear power is a clean power source and a source of “clean air,” a claim made by, for example, Judd Gregg, former governor and senator from the state of New Hampshire and a member of the advocacy council of Nuclear Matters. The problem with that argument is two-fold. First, it does not explain why the bill would support the continued operation of old coal power plants. Second, it doesn’t fit well with the fact that renewables and energy efficiency are far cheaper sources of clean air, and this bill guts both of those.

The economic argument has to do with the fact that nuclear power plants are a source of employment among those communities living near the facilities. When they are shut down, those jobs would obviously disappear. Naturally, some labor unions, those with many members working in the nuclear industry, supported the bill. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers website, for example, proudly announced that its “activists have been hard at work, pressing representatives from both political parties to support this job-saving bill and urging all of their Buckeye State brothers and sisters to do the same,” with a union official going on to offer the tip: “No form letters or petitions, but one-on-one contact with the people that vote for them… It’s the personal touch that works.”

But, as with the environmental argument, the economic argument is dubious. The Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants employ an estimated 700 workers each. Even generous estimates that include “additional  jobs … that result from the overall economic boost associated with lower electricity prices and more in-state production” assert that the two plants create a combined 4,270 jobs. While these claims don’t square with the higher electricity costs that drive the need for subsidies, even these figures are just a fraction of the “over 81,000 workers” employed in the energy efficiency sector in the state.

More to the point, the number of jobs at these nuclear plants is very small when viewed in the context of the millions of dollars offered as subsidies to FirstEnergy, which, if invested in other energy resources, would create work for many more people. Per unit of electricity generated, nuclear power creates somewhere between one-half and one-sixth the number of jobs created by solar photovoltaic electricity. Because solar energy costs much less to install or generate, nuclear power employs even fewer on a per dollar basis.

The big fight. None of these arguments is exactly rocket science, and the fact that HB6 amounted to a corporate bailout was clear to many. Coalitions of Ohio companies, the state’s manufacturers’ association, environmental groups, and economists testified against the bill. A consumer group ran targeted radio advertisements pointing out how the bill was intended “to subsidize FirstEnergy’s failing investments.” All to no avail.

FirstEnergy’s lobbying power was overwhelming. Politicians were targeted directly and were offered campaign contributions. FirstEnergy and a political action committee they created contributed millions to political candidates and parties in Ohio. Although the details remain murky, much of the funding is documented by two main sources: state and federal campaign-finance filings and records from bankruptcy proceedings that FirstEnergy had entered into. Among the more egregious examples of this funding was the use of payroll deductions from FirstEnergy’s roughly 15,000 employees to raise and pay nearly a million dollars in political contributions between 2017 and 2019, most of it going to Republicans. The effort also included at least $9.5 million in television advertisements, much of which came from a dark money group. There is evidence, however, that FirstEnergy paid at least $1.9 million to this group. 

Although Republicans received the majority of the financial contributions, Democrats were also recipients, and therefore support for (and opposition to) the bill was not strictly along party lines. On the Democratic side, those who supported the bill typically cited “a desire to retain union jobs at the endangered plants.” On the other side of the aisle, those Republicans who opposed it invoked problems with subsidies in general.

The raw political and economic power of the industry was on display even after the bill was passed. Having been defeated within the legislature, grassroots organizations such as Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts and Ohio Consumers Power Alliance took to the streets and tried to collect signatures on a petition calling for a referendum question about HB6 to be included in the 2020 elections. It was a tough task, since those opposing the bailout had less than two months to gather over a quarter of a million valid signatures.

FirstEnergy tried to stop them with a two-pronged approach. The first was a legal trick. It went to the state’s supreme court and argued that the monthly charges on customers “should be considered tax increases, which cannot be challenged by a referendum.” But the court dismissed the case, saying there was “no ‘justiciable controversy’ for it to decide.” For the main part, though, the response from FirstEnergy and other beneficiaries was more of the same: dark money–backed organizations spending millions to undo the grassroots efforts by urging voters to refuse signing the petition.

Among these organizations was one called Ohioans for Energy Security, which sponsored television advertisements that falsely claimed that China is “intertwining themselves financially in our energy infrastructure,” threatening “national security,” and implying that not going through with the bailout campaign would lead to Chinese control of Ohio’s power grid. The watchdog organization Energy and Policy Institute quickly identified that some of the people featured in the TV advertisement were in fact FirstEnergy employees. In other words, there was reason to suspect that FirstEnergy was behind the advertisement. Ohioans for Energy Security also mailed thousands of letters to state residents with bold lettering behind a Chinese flag imploring, “Don’t give the Chinese government your personal information.” The hyperbolic allegations about China apparently are connected to natural gas-fired power plants in Ohio that were partially financed by a Chinese government-owned bank, although FirstEnergy has itself borrowed money from the same bank.

There were also accusations that the law’s supporters were trying to buy off circulators and take their petitions. Another front group, Protect Ohio Clean Energy Jobs, whose spokesperson was registered as a lobbyist for FirstEnergy Solutions, used “targeted ads on social media” to urge people who had already signed the referendum petition to withdraw their names.

The point of all these actions by FirstEnergy and its front or allied organizations was to dissuade voters from participating—and they succeeded. In October of last year, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts announced that it would not file the referendum petition, and HB6 went into effect.

Lessons. What happened in Ohio is a clear example of corporate power combined with the growth of “dark money” organizations following the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision to shape public policy decisions. The reasons why FirstEnergy engaged in such activities are not hard to guess. Any entity that invests so heavily in these dark money organizations, media strategies, lobbyists, and political contributions will be expecting a sizeable return on its investments. And indeed, it has been rewarded handsomely. The irony is that an industry that acknowledges that it is not economically competitive is spending massively on lobbying. It is the ratepayers and taxpayers who bear the cost of these twisted priorities.  

Although they have not been so egregious in their strategies and the energy and environmental policy outcomes have not been so detrimental, electricity utilities in New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticut have also pursued profits at a financial cost to customers. As in the case of Ohio, the concerned electricity utilities all have investments in fossil fueled plants as well, and they have a vested interest in maintaining those plants for as long as possible.

Adding up all the bailouts to utilities with nuclear plants in the five aforementioned states would result in roughly $15 billion going from consumers to these corporations over the next several years. Although such a sum might seem small when compared to the much larger bailouts that have been paid out in the aftermath of the economic crashes in 2008 and 2020, it is nevertheless a large amount of money within the electricity sector. More important, the funds go to maintaining the profits of large energy corporations, often under the guise of climate mitigation, but without delivering the real and rapid reductions of emissions that are urgently needed.

Climate change is a serious concern, and finding ways of rewarding electric utilities for maintaining the status quo is not the way to tackle it. Even worse, by diverting much-needed resources and investment away from renewables and related technologies, these subsidies undermine efforts to decarbonize the electricity sector and further entrench companies that invest in high-risk energy sources, be they nuclear or fossil-fueled.

December 29, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, employment, politics, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment