nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

The radioactive berry harvests of Chernobyl

The harvests of Chernobyl, Aeon, Thirty years after the nuclear disaster, local berry-pickers earn a good living. What’s the hidden cost of their wares?, Kate Brown, is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of Plutopia (2013). Olha Martynyuk is a historian at the National Technical University of Ukraine.

You can’t miss the berry-pickers in the remote forests of northern Ukraine, a region known as Polesia. They ride along on bicycles or pile out of cargo vans. They are young, mostly women and children, lean and suntanned, with hands stained a deep purple. And they are changing the landscape around them. Rural communities across eastern Europe are struggling economically, but the Polesian towns are booming with new construction. Two hundred miles west of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, thousands of mushroom- and berry-pickers are revving up the local economy. As they forage, they are even changing the European diet, in ways both culinary and radiological.
The rise of the Polesian pickers adds a strange twist to the story that began on 26 April 1986, when an explosion at the Chernobyl plant blew out at least 50 million curies of radioactive isotopes. Soviet leaders traced out a 30 kilometre radius around the stricken reactor and emptied it of its residents. Roughly 28,000 square kilometres outside this exclusion zone were also contaminated. In total, 130,000 people were resettled, but hundreds of thousands remained on irradiated territory, including the Polesian towns of Ukraine’s Rivne Province. In 1990, Soviet officials resolved to resettle several hundred thousand more residents but ran out of money to carry out new mass evacuations.

Last summer, we went to Rivnе to talk to people who in the late 1980s wrote petitions begging for resettlement. In the letters, which we had found in state archives in Kiev and Moscow, writers expressed worries about their health and that of their children, while describing a sense of abandonment. Help never arrived; the Chernobyl accident came just as the Soviet state began to topple economically and politically……..

Anyone in Polesia can pick anywhere, as long as they are willing to brave the radioactive isotopes. After Chernobyl, Soviet officials strongly discouraged picking berries in contaminated forest areas, which promised to remain radioactive for decades. As the years passed, fewer and fewer people heeded the warnings. In the past five years, picking has grown into a booming business as new global market connections have enabled the mass sale of berries abroad. A person willing to do the hard work of stooping 10 hours a day and heaving 40-pound boxes of fruit to the road can earn good money. The women and child pickers are revitalising the Polesian economy on a modest, human-powered scale. They are quietly and unceremoniously doing what development agencies and government programmes failed to do: restoring commercial activity to the contaminated territory around the Chernobyl Zone.

We followed the pickers into the woods. …….

Reliance on the forest for a living is an ancestral tradition in Polesia. Because of the mineral-poor soils, traditional farming never thrived here. Instead, Polesians subsisted on game, fish, berries, herbs and mushrooms while making their tools and homes from wood and clay. What is new in the past few years is the industrial-sized scale of berry harvesting. A typical roadside berry-buyer purchases about two tons of berries a day in season, and there are hundreds of buyers. In 2015, Ukraine exported 1,300 tons of fresh berries and 17,251 tons of frozen berries to the European market – more than 30 times as much as in 2014. Ukraine is now one of biggest exporters of blueberries to the EU.

That success is all the more remarkable because Polesian berries are not just any berries. They grow in radioactive soils, which means that they carry some of Chernobyl’s legacy in them. We showed up at a berry wholesaler in the boom town of Rokytne and noticed a radiation monitor who was stationed to meet buyers at the loading dock. The situation there was tense. As the monitor waved a wand over each box of berries, measuring their gamma ray emission, she set aside about half of the boxes. The buyers argued with her, trying to lower the count on their berries: ‘It’s not the berries that are radiating. It’s my trailer. Measure it over there.’

We asked the monitor, a young townswoman, how many berries come up radioactive. ‘All the berries from Polesia are radioactive,’ she replied, ‘but some are really radioactive. We’ve had berries measure over 3,000!’ She could not describe what units she was referring to, microsieverts or microrems; she only knew which numbers were bad. ‘The needle has to be between 10 and 15,’ she said, vaguely pointing to her wand, ‘and then I place it in this machine.’ She gestured toward a small mass spectrometer. ‘If the readout is more than 450, then the berries are over the permissible level.’

Contrary to our assumption, the berries rejected as too radioactive were not discarded, but were merely placed aside. Then they, too, were weighed and sold, just at lower prices. The wholesalers we spoke to said that the radioactive berries were used for natural dyes. The pickers claimed the hot berries were mixed with cooler berries until the assortment came in under the permissible level. The berries could then legally be sold to Poland to enter the European Union (EU) market, even if some individual berries measured five times higher than the permissible level. Such mixing is legal as long as the overall mix of berries falls within the generous limit of 600 becquerel per kilogram set by the EU after the Chernobyl disaster.

No one, certainly no official, ever envisioned revitalising the economy by exploiting berries and mushrooms. Months after the 1986 accident, Soviet scientists determined that forest products were the most radioactive of all edible crops, and banned their consumption. However, villagers in Polesia never stopped harvesting berries and mushrooms (as well as game and fish) from the forests outside the fenced-off Chernobyl Zone. Women sold their produce surreptitiously at regional markets, deftly avoiding the police who learned to identify Polesians by their homemade baskets……..

AQlthough the Polesian berries meet EU standards, it remains unclear how healthy life is for those living in the Rivne Province. Official publications of the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency assert that radiation levels in Polesia are too low to cause health damage other than a slight rise in the chance of cancer. However, that judgment is based on reference studies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims, not on local research in the Chernobyl zones. Wladimir Wertelecki, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, has spent the past 16 years tracking every recorded birth in the Rivne Province. ‘Hiroshima was just one big X-ray. It doesn’t compare to the doses of people in Polesia who ingest radioactive isotopes every day,’ he says. He thinks that the slow-drip exposure of organs to radioactive isotopes over decades makes for a far more damaging exposure than the single, external Hiroshima dose.

Researchers in Wertelecki’s group and those working on small, usually minimally financed medical studies have found that low doses of ingested radiation tend to concentrate in vital organs that keenly impact on important body functions. Yury Bandazhevsky, a pioneer in studying the health impacts of Chernobyl, has recorded a correlation between the incorporation of radioactive cesium in children’s bodies and heart disease in Belarus and Ukraine. Wertelecki and the Ukrainian medical researcher Lyubov Yevtushok discovered that in the six Polesian regions of the Rivne Province, certain birth defects, such as microcephaly, conjoined twins and neural-tube disorders occur three times more frequently than is the European norm. ‘We did not prove with this study that radiation causes birth defects. We just have a concurrence, not proof, of cause and effect,’ Wertelecki says. Nevertheless, he considers the concurrence statistically strong enough to warrant large-scale epidemiological studies that could prove or disprove whether the birth defects were caused by radiation.

Despite the fact that the nuclear disaster presented scientists with a unique living laboratory, few funding agencies have been willing to finance Chernobyl studies on non-cancerous health effects; based on Japanese bomb-survivor research, industry scientists have insisted that there would be no measurable non-malignant impacts. In Chernobyl-contaminated Polesia, however, few people doubt that ingesting radioactive toxins over decades has a biological cost.

Galina, the woman who declared that there was ‘no Chernobyl’, changed her view later when talking about her own health. Trim and fit at the age of 50, she had a stroke followed by two surgeries for ‘women’s cancer’. About her cancers, she said: ‘All of a sudden, they started growing day by day. I asked the doctors if they’d hold up the operation until autumn [after the harvest], but they said I’d be dead by then. Probably, these problems were caused by radiation. It does have an effect, apparently.’ Even less is known about non-cancer health impacts from Chernobyl. Many locals complain of aching and swollen joints, headaches, chronic fatigue and legs that mysteriously stop moving. There have been almost no studies investigating these vague complaints…….

here has been little public discussion and almost no medical research on the long-term, low-dose ingestion of radioactive isotopes. Presumably exporting the berries helps the people of Polesia, but for now there is no hard proof……

The mass marketing of radioactive Polesian forest products is an unexpected outcome of policies aimed at finalising the disaster. It is a development that disputes the focus on Chernobyl as a ‘place’. Rather, Chernobyl is an event, an ongoing occurrence that transpires as long as the radioactive energy released in the accident continues to decay…….https://aeon.co/essays/ukraine-s-berry-pickers-are-reaping-a-radioactive-bount

April 28, 2017 Posted by | environment, Reference, Ukraine | 1 Comment

Push to examine Turkey Point nuclear wastewater plan

Turkey Point nuclear wastewater plan needs further study, groups say, Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, April 25, 2017 If Florida Power & Light’s proposed Turkey Point units 6 and 7 nuclear reactors are ever built, will it be safe to inject wastewater used to cool to the reactors into deep wells in the Boulder Zone?

April 26, 2017 Posted by | USA, water | Leave a comment

EARTH DAY IN THE AGE OF TRUMP

New Yorker, By  April 12, 2017 Next week, millions of Americans will celebrate Earth Day, even though, three months into Donald Trump’s Presidency, there sure isn’t much to celebrate. A White House characterized by flaming incompetence has nevertheless managed to do one thing effectively: it has trashed years’ worth of work to protect the planet. As David Horsey put it recently, in the Los Angeles Times, “Donald Trump’s foreign policy and legislative agenda may be a confused mess,” but “his administration’s attack on the environment is operating with the focus and zeal of the Spanish Inquisition.”

The list of steps that the Trump Administration has already taken to make America polluted again is so long that fully cataloguing them in this space would be impossible. Here’s a sample:

 In February, the Department of Energy delayed putting into effect new energy-efficiency standards for, among other things, walk-in freezers, central air-conditioners, and ceiling fans. The new standards, according to the department’s own estimates, would prevent the emission of nearly three hundred million tons of carbon dioxide while saving consumers almost twenty-four billion dollars over the next three decades. (Ten states, led by New York, have sued the Administration over the delay.)

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department announced their intention to roll back fuel-economy standards for cars that were set to go into effect in 2022.

Earlier this month, the E.P.A. announced its plans to review—and presumably revoke—President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a set of regulations aimed at reducing pollution from power plants. The Clean Power Plan would not only have cut carbon emissions by almost nine hundred million tons a year but also, according to E.P.A. figures, prevented more than thirty-five hundred premature deaths and ninety thousand asthma attacks annually. The plan is central to the commitments that the United States made under the Paris climate accord, which the Administration may or may not formally abrogate, but which it has apparently already informally abandoned.

Meanwhile, the Administration has proposed slashing the E.P.A.’s budget by thirty-one per cent, which is even more than it has proposed chopping the State Department’s budget (twenty-nine per cent) or the Labor Department’s (twenty-one per cent). The proposed cuts would entail firing a quarter of the agency’s workforce and eliminating many programs entirely, including the radiation-protection program, which does what its name suggests, and the Energy Star program, which establishes voluntary efficiency standards for electronics and appliances…….

How is it that a group as disorganized as the Trump Administration has been so methodical when it comes to the (anti) environment? The simplest answer is that money focusses the mind. Lots of corporations stand to profit from Trump’s regulatory rollback, even as American consumers suffer. Auto manufacturers, for example, had argued that the 2022 fuel-efficiency standards were too expensive to meet. (This is the case even though, when they accepted a federal bailout, during the Obama Administration, the car companies said that the standards were achievable.) Similarly, utilities have argued that the power-plant rules are too costly to comply with. Coal companies will probably benefit from the rollbacks. So, too, will oil companies, and perhaps also ceiling-fan manufacturers, though, in the case of the appliance standards, the affected manufacturers were at the table when the proposed regulations were drafted.

But, while money is clearly key, it doesn’t seem entirely sufficient as an explanation. There’s arguably more money, in the long run, to be made from imposing the regulations—from investing in solar and wind power, for example, and updating the country’s electrical grid. Writing recently in the Washington Post, Amanda Erickson proposed an alternative, or at least complementary, explanation. Combatting a global environmental problem like climate change would seem to require global coöperation. If you don’t believe in global coöperation because “America comes first,” then you’re faced with a dilemma. You can either come up with an alternative approach—tough to do—or simply pretend that the problem doesn’t exist.

“Climate change denial is not incidental to a nationalist, populist agenda,” Erickson argues. “It’s central to it.” She quotes Andrew Norton, the director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, in London, who observes, “Climate change is a highly inconvenient truth for nationalism,” as it “requires collective action between states.” This argument can, and probably should, be taken one step further. The fundamental idea behind the environmental movement—the movement that gave us Earth Day in the first place—is that everything, and therefore everyone, is connected……

To acknowledge our interconnectedness is to acknowledge the need for caution, restraint, and, yes, rules. Almost a hundred days into Trump’s Presidency, it’s obvious that he has no agenda or coherent ideology. But two qualities that clearly have no place in his muddled, deconstructive Administration are caution and restraint. As a result, the planet, and everything on it, will suffer.

April 15, 2017 Posted by | environment, USA | Leave a comment

The Sahara’s little known nuclear wasteland

In the Sahara, a Little-Known Nuclear Wasteland, “There’s nothing nuclear in what I do. It’s just rocks we dilute into powder.”, Catapult, Hannah Rae Armstrong Apr 12, 2017  Activist Azara Jalawi lives with her mother, a nomad; her daughter Amina, who watches Mexican soap operas and dates a local human trafficker; her son Doudou, nicknamed “Slim Shady,” and a lean girl, probably a slave, in the town of Arlit, Niger, a mining hub of about forty thousand set deep within the Tuareg Sahara, a slow-baking proto-Chernobyl, a little-known nuclear wasteland.

Around Arlit, prehistoric volcanoes and petrified forests rise from the sand. Beneath it lie the skulls of giant crocodiles who preyed on dinosaurs a hundred million years ago. Within the rocky plateaus are havens like the oasis at Timia, where orange, grapefruit, and pomegranate groves ripen and flower in the desert. For forty years, the French nuclear-energy giant Areva has mined uranium here, and milled it into yellowcake, the solid concentrate that is the first step towards enriching uranium for nuclear fuel or weapons. Three miles outside the town, fifty million tons of radioactive tailings—a waste byproduct containing heavy metals and radon—sit in heaps that resemble unremarkable hills. In strong winds and sandstorms, radioactive particles scatter across the desert. “Radon daughters,” odorless radioactive dust, blanket the town. Public health and the environment exhibit strange symptoms of decay—mysterious illnesses are multiplying; grasses and animals are stunted. The people of Arlit are told that desertification and AIDS are to blame. ………..

Living atop an open-pit uranium mine has made the people ill, in ways they do not understand. Breathing radioactive dust, drinking contaminated well water, and sleeping between walls stitched from radioactive scrap metal and mud, the people tell stories to fill the gaps in their knowledge. ………

At her brother Doudou’s high school, funded by the mining company, students are told not to do drugs or set things on fire. Teachers tell Doudou nothing about the contaminated well water he consumes daily. At lunch on my first day in Arlit, I ask nervously about the source of the water in a chilled glass bottle on the table. “Don’t worry, it’s the well water,” they assure me. “We drink it all the time.” I learn later that well water readings reveal contamination one hundred times beyond the World Health Organization’s threshold for potable water.

………. a dim awareness of the contamination risks was just beginning. Almoustapha Alhacen, a yellowcake miller and environmental activist, recognizes himself on the cover of a 2012 book I’ve brought with me: “Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade.” He is the man wearing a gas mask and gloves. “The problem with Areva is it never informed people that radioactivity exists and that it is dangerous,” he says. An NGO called the Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity (CRIIRAD), created by a French EU deputy after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, equipped him with a device and trained him to take readings. Once, he recalls, he saw a pregnant woman eating mud next to the road that leads from the mine to the town. This road is often tamped down with clay from the mines, and the tires that cross it regularly give it a fresh, invisible wash of radon. Almoustapha took a reading there and found radioactivity twenty-four times higher than the safe level. At markets selling scrap metal used for building houses, and at the community taps where people draw water, he took readings that were off the charts.

“Arlit was built around uranium. And humanity needs uranium,” Almoustapha says, speaking quickly and with rage. “But what happens next for us, when the uranium runs out, Areva leaves, and we are left with 50 million tons of radioactive waste?” As an activist, he ponders the future and the environment with seriousness. But these become abstract concerns before the fact of his job, which he needs right now. In a white turban and sunglasses, with sequined leather jewelry adorning his chest, he protests: “There’s nothing nuclear in what I do. It’s just rocks we dilute into powder, powder we dilute into liquid. It’s just mechanics, like for any car.” …….

If any state benefits from the distraction counter-terrorism provides from these underlying issues, it is France. Insecurity shields the mines from environmental scrutiny. Threats justify deepening militarization, an ongoing erosion of Nigerien sovereignty and independence. And the French mines still face no real obstacle to radiating the radiant desert. In fact, they’re expanding. A new mine—Africa’s largest—is being built near Arlit, at a site called Imouraren. There, a “security belt” encircles 100,000 acres, marking the land off limits to nomads.
https://catapult.co/stories/in-the-sahara-a-little-known-nuclear-wasteland#

April 14, 2017 Posted by | environment, Niger, Uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

Navajo Nation still affected by legacy of uranium mining – contaminated water

Uranium leaves legacy of contamination for Navajo Nation http://www.heraldextra.com/news/state-and-regional/uranium-leaves-legacy-of-contamination-for-navajo-nation/article_8c4df54f-426c-5647-8779-15049d913308.html Apr 2, 2017  SHIPROCK, N.M. (AP) — For more than a decade, about 20 gallons of uranium-contaminated groundwater have been pumped per minute into a disposal pond from beneath a tailings site on the eastern edge of the Navajo Nation.

The U.S. Energy Department says the pond is a few years away from the end of its life span, and pumping will have to stop since the pond has almost reached its capacity.

The federal government monitors and pumps groundwater from beneath the Shiprock uranium mill tailings site in northwestern New Mexico as part of a long-term project aimed at cleaning up the area.

 Mark Kautsky with the DOE’s Office of Legacy Management recently toured the site near the Arizona-New Mexico state line with a group of students from Arizona.

“The water level has come up the point where that pond is just about full,” he told the students from Shonto Preparatory School.

Over the next couple of years, the pond will be evaporated and its liner will be replaced, the Gallup Independent reported (http://bit.ly/1jl8YBA).

Kautsky said the community of Shiprock should not be affected since its drinking water is piped from miles away and farmers in the area get their irrigation water diverted from the San Juan River about 10 miles (16 kilometers) upstream.

The mill tailings disposal site is located behind a locked fence on a ridge behind the Shiprock Fairgrounds and past the Navajo Engineering Construction Authority.

Families live in mobile homes within several hundred yards (meters) of the site, and yellow signs attached to the fencing display warnings in Navajo not to drink the pond’s water.

The disposal site sits on top of a former mill that processed more than 200 tons of uranium ore a day from mines in Cove, Arizona, and other nearby locations.

 The mill operated from 1954 through 1968. The buildings and equipment were torn down in the years immediately after the operation ceased and initial cleanup of the site took place from 1975 throughout 1980.

The massive rock covering of the uranium tailings was built in 1986 to prevent the escape of radon gas.

Kautsky said it was safer to leave the tailings in place than to move them.

“If you start picking up all of this material and hauling it out of here through the community there would be a lot of potential for accidents to happen,” he told the students.

 The Energy Department began long-term oversight of the disposal site in 1991. Federal officials have said there are over 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American reservation in the country. Navajo territory spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Energy Department has four legacy management locations on the Navajo Nation: the Shiprock site; disposal sites in Mexican Hat, Utah, and Tuba City, Arizona; and a former processing site in Monument Valley, Arizona.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working with responsible parties and implementing settlements that provide funding to assess and clean up about 40 percent of abandoned uranium mines on Navajo land. Linda Reeves, a regional project manager with the agency, said the EPA is in the early stages of its work.

April 7, 2017 Posted by | indigenous issues, Uranium, USA, water | Leave a comment

Ionising Radiation from Cold War nuclear bomb testing still lingers in reindeer in Lapland

 Lapland reindeer herders still carrying radiation from Cold War nuclear tests, UUTISET  News 5.4.2017 The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority is measuring radiation among people in Ivalo, northern Lapland this week. Measurements have been taken there since the 1960s, which is when radiation figures skyrocketed due to Soviet and US nuclear testing.

Reindeer herders in upper Lapland record higher levels of radiation  than people elsewhere in Finland, but cancer cases there are actually somewhat rarer. The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk) is measuring radiation among people in Ivalo in the far north this week.

The radiation levels of people living in the northernmost reaches of the country have been studied since the early 1960s. The USSR tested its nuclear capability in the atmosphere during the Cold War; and although the levels of cesium have gone down since those days, there is still more of it among the population of Lapland than elsewhere in Finland.

According to watchdog Stuk, Soviet nuclear bomb tests over Novaja Zemlja in the Arctic Ocean – some 1,000 kilometres from Ivalo – raised the radiation in the city a thousandfold compared with long-term levels.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute published its latest radiation report in 2011, fifty years after the Soviet tests.

Stuke laboratory head Maarit Muikku says that nuclear testing by the United States during the Cold War also released cesium into the stratosphere, from where they have descended to Finnish Lapland and other areas.

The highest average levels of cesium-137 in humans in Inari and Utsjoki – 45,000 becquerels – were recorded in the mid-60s. By comparison, the figures from 2011 have a mid range of about 1,100 becqurels; but that is still ten times higher than the rest of Finland’s population.

From moss to reindeer to person

Reindeer herder Taneli Magga has been involved in the measurements since their inception, first as a school boy in Inari in 1961.

“The levels have gone down every time I’ve been involved. This last time cesium levels had fallen by 200 becquerels in six years,” says Magga.

Most of the cesium in upper Lapland is from atmospheric nuclear testing. The Chernobyl power plant disaster in 1986 only caused a minor spike because the wind blew those cesium clouds south.

Herders obviously eat a lot of reindeer meat, which is full of cesium that the animals ingest when they eat moss and fungi. Fish and berries also contain artificial radiation…….http://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/lapland_reindeer_herders_still_carrying_radiation_from_cold_war_nuclear_tests/9548131

April 7, 2017 Posted by | environment, EUROPE | Leave a comment

Tiny New Guinea frogs endangered by climate change

Tiny frogs face a troubled future in New Guinea’s tropical mountains, ABC News, The Conversation, 30 Mar 17, By Paul Oliver and Michael Lee At night, the mountain forests of New Guinea come alive with weird buzzing and beeping calls made by tiny frogs, some no bigger than your little fingernail.

These little amphibians — in the genus Choerophryne — would shrivel and dry up in mere minutes in the hot sun, so they are most common in the rainy, cooler mountains.

Yet many isolated peaks, especially along northern New Guinea, have their own local species of these frogs.

So how did localised and distinctive species of these tiny frogs come to be on these isolated peaks, separated from each other by hotter, drier and rather inhospitable lowlands?

Our new study of their DNA, published this week in the open access journal PeerJ, reveals how they achieved this feat. It reveals a dynamic past, and more worryingly it highlights the future vulnerability of tropical mountain forests and their rich biodiversity………

During past phases of global cooling (glacial periods), the colder, wetter, mountainous habitats of New Guinea expanded downhill, a process termed elevational depression.

If depression was extensive enough, the frogs on one mountain might have been able to travel across tracts of cool, wet lowlands to colonise other mountains.

Later, a warming climate would wipe out the lowland populations, leaving two isolated mountain populations, which might eventually become new species………

The little frogs and the future

Why does it matter how the tiny frogs moved to their mountain habitats? Because it could be a warning to their future survival……..

As we’ve shown, the global cooling in past glacial periods allowed the mountain-dwelling frogs to move down across the lowlands to find new mountain peaks.

But today, as global temperatures soar to levels not seen for millions of years, their habitable cool zones are heading in the other direction: shrinking uphill.

We have no idea how quickly these frogs will respond to these changes, but recent research elsewhere in New Guinea has found birds are already shifting upslope rapidly.

We don’t yet know what could happen to these cute little amphibians should temperatures continue to climb, and they in turn run out of mountainside to climb……… http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-31/tiny-frogs-face-a-troubled-future-in-new-guineas-mountains/8403936

April 1, 2017 Posted by | environment, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

How the Trump budget threatens uranium mine cleanup

Native American uranium miners and the Trump budget, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists  Robert Alvarez, 30 Mar 17, For minimum wage or less, they blasted open seams, built wooden beam supports in the mine shafts, and dug out ore pieces with picks and wheelbarrows. The shafts penetrated as deep as 1,500 feet, with little or no ventilation. The bitter-tasting dust was all pervasive, coating their teeth. They ate in the mines and drank water that dripped from the walls and, sometimes, developed chronic coughs. And much worse.

Native American uranium miners were essential to the United States’ efforts to create a nuclear arsenal. From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, Indian people dug up approximately four million tons of uranium ore—nearly a quarter of the total national underground production in the United States used in nuclear weapons. As they did so, they were sent into harm’s way without sufficient warning, becoming the workers most severely exposed to ionizing radiation in the US nuclear weapons complex. After more than a century, the legacy of US uranium mining lingers. More than three billion metric tons of mining and milling wastes were generated in the United States. Today, Navajos still live near about one third (approximately 1,200 out of 4,000) of all abandoned uranium mines in the United States.

Only after concerted efforts by Navajo activists to spur congressional investigations in 1993 and 2006 did the US government promise to remediate abandoned mines and ascertain their health impacts. But more than a century after the government issued the first uranium mining leases on Navajo land, the Trump administration has proposed deep cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget—upward of 30 percent overall—putting that cleanup effort in peril.

America’s Indian miners were never warned of the hazards of radioactivity in the mines, where they inhaled, ingested, and drank uranium dust. The water in the mines was especially dangerous; it contained high quantities of radon—a radioactive gas emanating from the ore. Radon decays into heavy, more radiotoxic isotopes, called “radon daughters,” which include isotopes of polonium, bismuth, and lead. The alpha particle emissions of radon daughters are considered to be about 20 times more carcinogenic than x-rays. If they lodge in the respiratory system, especially the deep lung, radon daughters emit energetic ionizing radiation that can damage cells of sensitive internal tissues.

And of course, the miners brought the uranium dust home, along with their contaminated clothing.

A known danger, hidden. …..

How the Trump budget threatens uranium mine cleanup. Even though there is a significant body of evidence, spanning decades, of deliberate negligence by the US government, federal courts have denied claims by the uranium miners and those exposed to radioactive fallout from Nevada nuclear weapons testing on the grounds of sovereign immunity. “[A]ll the actions of various governmental agencies complained of by plaintiffs were the result of conscious policy decisions made at high government levels based on considerations of political and national security feasibility factors,” is how one federal judge put it.

After several decades of considerable effort by miners and their families, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act in October 1990. The Act offered a formal apology for sending people into harm’s way and provided a one-time compensation to each victim in the amount of $150,000. But the financial compensation came too late for many who had died. And it would never be enough to compensate for illness and death that could have been prevented.

An estimated 30,000 Navajos are now living near abandoned uranium mines. The EPA has found that, because of their traditional lifestyle, Indian people are the group most vulnerable to environmental contaminants. The Navajo nation and the US Justice Department have reached settlement agreements in two uranium-related lawsuits since 2014; the settlements total about $1.5 billion, which would go toward remediating 144 of the most troublesome mines. But there’s a rub: The degree and extent of mine cleanup depends on tribal assistance funds and oversight by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The budget plan that the Trump administration recently released makes deep cuts in the EPA workforce, in EPA programs to ensure compliance with the cleanup agreements, and in funding for the Navajo nation to carry out its responsibilities to oversee the process. This makes it clear that addressing the sacrifices made by the Indian people for the nuclear arms race are being put at the bottom of the list of Trump administration priorities. http://thebulletin.org/native-american-uranium-miners-and-trump-budget10657?platform=hootsuite

March 31, 2017 Posted by | environment, indigenous issues, USA | Leave a comment

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution continues to monitor Pacific Ocean fish for radiation

 

Why is this headline so melodramatic, when the content of this article is quite restrained?

 

Fukushima nuke radiation POISONING world’s water – including FISH Brits eat, Daily Star UK 29 Mar 17 BRITS could be eating salmon and tuna containing nuclear radiation from the Fukushima disaster according to a study. Salmon caught in the Pacific Ocean, which are imported for sale as a luxury product in UK shops, were found to contain worrying amounts of radiation.

Highly toxic Cesium-134, the nuclear fallout from Fukushima, was recently found in Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach, in the US state of Oregon. The terrifying discovery was reported by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.Cesium-134 was also detected in 2015 in Canada when a salmon pulled from a river in British Columbia was found to contain radiation….

….Japanese fish have tested positive for dangerous levels of radiation and now, it seems, fish as far away as the US have been infected by the waste.

Alaskan Salmon is imported for sale in most major UK supermarkets when Scottish salmon is out of season. After being caught in the Pacific, these fish then make a 22,000 mile journey via China to supermarket shelves here in Britain.

A statement on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution website said: “For the general public, it is not direct exposure, but uptake by the food web and consumption of contaminated fish that is the main health concern from the oceans.

“Most fish do not migrate far from their spawning grounds, which is why some fisheries off Fukushima remain closed.

“But some species, such as the Pacific bluefin tuna, swim long distances and could pick up cesium in their feeding grounds off Japan before crossing the Pacific.” Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the institution, said that the levels of radiation should not affect anyone eating the salmon, but admitted that he would be closely monitoring radiation levels.

“We don’t expect to see health concerns from swimming or fish consumption, but we would like to continue monitoring until (the radiation level) goes back down again,” he said.

“In Japan, at its peak celsium-134 levels were 10 million times higher than what we are seeing today on the West Coast.”

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservations (DEC), in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and other state, federal, and international agencies, continues to test Alaska seafood for any potential impacts resulting from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Testing performed in previous years showed no detectable levels of Fukushima-related radionuclides. Testing in 2016 also confirmed the quality and health of Alaska seafood has not been impacted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Fish species were chosen for testing based on their importance to subsistence, sport, and commercial fisheries and because they spend part of their life cycle in the western Pacific Ocean.

These species include: king salmon, chum salmon, sockeye (red) salmon, pink salmon, halibut, pollock, sablefish, herring, and Pacific cod. Samples of fish were taken by DEC Environmental Health Officers during regular inspections of commercial fishing processors throughout the state.

The results of testing conducted on Alaska fish in 2016 showed no detection of Fukushima-related radionuclides Iodine-131 (I-131), Cesium-134 (Cs-134), and Cesium-137 (Cs-137). more http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/600099/Fukushima-radiation-nuclear-waste-poisoning-world-water-fish-Brit-eat-supermarket

March 31, 2017 Posted by | oceans, radiation | Leave a comment

Ireland demands to be consulted on potential effects of nuclear power station on England’s west coast

Ireland issues powerful demand to have say on UK nuclear plant, Sunday Times, Environment minister Denis Naughten has asked the UK to consult Ireland on the potential effects of a nuclear power station on England’s west coast, 250km from Rosslare.

The Irish government has stopped short of calling for a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) of Hinkley Point C, the first new nuclear station in the UK in more than 20 years, however. Were such a study held, the Irish public could comment on the plans.

The environment department said it was a “matter for the UK to decide” whether work on Hinkley C should be put on hold while potentially affected countries such as Ireland are consulted, as recommended by a United Nations committee.

The UK has been criticised at the UN for not consulting neighbouring countries…http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/ireland/ireland-issues-powerful-demand-to-have-say-on-uk-nuclear-plant-nvb7q0rf8

March 27, 2017 Posted by | environment, UK | Leave a comment

At Svanhovd, Norway, another tiny measurement of radioactive iodine – ongoing release?

Another tiny measurement of radioactive iodine at Svanhovd https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/ecology/2017/03/another-tiny-measurement-radioactive-iodine-svanhovd
Norwegian Radiation Protection Authorities (NRPA) without any suspected source. 
Thomas Nilsen March 23, 2017

The very small amount of radioactive iodine was measured in week 10, between March 6 to 13, by the authorities’ instruments at Svanhovd, a few hundred meters from Norway’s border to the Kola Peninsula in the north.

«We measured 0,35 microbecquerels of iodine-131. We didn’t detected any other radioactive isotopes,» says Head of section for emergency preparedness with NRPA, Astrid Liland, in an e-mail to the Barents Observer.

The radiation authorities says no other measurements of iodine are found anywhere else in Norway for the period.

NRPA underlines that no radiation is measured at Svalbard where the measurement filters are connected to the CTBTO network with the purpose of monitoring the nuclear test ban treaty.

This is the second time this winter that radioactive iodine is measured at Svanhovd. Following the traces measured in January, a series of tweets started to spread claiming the source to be a possible Russian nuclear weapon test at Novaya Zemlya. No other evidence supported such weapon test.

Ongoing release?

Nuclear physicist with the Bellona Foundation, Nils Bøhmer, says this second period of measurement indicates that there are some kind of ongoing releases.

«If it is iodine-131, it is serious because that likely means a continuing release still going on. Iodine-131 has a half-life of only 8 days, so what was measured in January are long gone,» Bøhmer says to the Barents Observer.

A possible ongoing release is supported by measurements in Finland a week before the trace was detected in Norway’s northeasternmost corner.

In late February, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland detected radioactive Iodine-131 in Rovaniemi. Levels were at 0,3 microbecquerels per cubic meter of air. Norwegians have not reported any traces of the isotope for that period. The January trace of radioactive Iodine-131, still of unknown origin, was first detected at Svanhovd near Kirkenes in northern Norway. Shortly afterwards, the isotope was detected over large areas in Europe, first in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland. Within the next two weeks, traces of radioactivity, although in tiny amounts, were measured in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain, the Barents Observer reported.

March 24, 2017 Posted by | environment, EUROPE, radiation | Leave a comment

The very serious threat of sea level rise

SEA-LEVEL RISE IS A ‘SERIOUS THREAT’ #CLIMATECHANGE #AUSPOL https://jpratt27.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/sea-level-rise-is-a-serious-threat-climatechange-auspol/

Sea-level rise poses ‘a serious threat’ to millions of Europeans, scientists warn. A new study spells out the threat of sea-level rise in coastal communities.The kind of devastating flooding that occurs once every century along Europe’s northern coastline could become an annual event if greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb, according to a recent study published in the journal Earth’s Future.

New analysis takes into account changes in sea-level rise, tides, waves, and storm surge over the 21st century and found that climate change could prompt extreme sea levels — the maximum levels seen during major storms, which produce massive flooding — to increase significantly along the European coastline by 2100.

This scenario will likely stress coastal protection structures beyond their capacity, leaving much of the European coastline vulnerable to dangerous flooding, according to study authors.

“Unless we take different protection measures, five million people will be exposed to coastal flooding on an annual basis,” said Michalis Vousdoukas, a coastal oceanographer at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and lead author of the study.

The study described the projected rise in extreme sea levels as “a serious threat” to coastal communities, noting, “their safety and resilience depends on the effectiveness of natural and man-made coastal flood protection.”

Kevin Trenberth, a scientist with the climate analysis section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who was not involved in this research, said the signs of extreme sea levels are already worrisome, not just in Europe, but in the United States as well. “Witness the sunshine flooding in Florida already, the flooding that shows up even with no storm on many streets any time there is a slightly high tide,” he said.

Sea level is going up because the ocean is warming and hence expanding, and because land ice — glaciers, etc. — are melting and putting more water into the ocean. But it is not the gradual rise that matters,” Trenberth said. “Rather, it is the storm surge on top of a high tide riding on top of the increase in sea level that crosses thresholds and causes things to break.”

Richard Alley, professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, who also did not take part in this study, noted that the study didn’t consider the possible collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. “If that happens, then sea-level rise and impacts to coasts could be much higher than in this paper,” Alley said. “Rapid West Antarctic collapse could cause enough rise to make many of these other factors of secondary importance. So, the ‘worst case’ in this paper isn’t really the worst case.”

The new paper predicted that some regions could experience an even higher increase in the frequency of these extreme flooding events, specifically along the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, where the present day 100-year extreme sea level could occur as often as several times a year.

“The ‘worst case’ in this paper isn’t really the worst case.”

Information about the number of people at risk from flooding can be used to determine how large the social and economic impact of these events will be, said Marta Marcos, a researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Spain, who was not involved in the new study. “In terms of adaptation strategies and policy-making, it is very relevant,” she said.

The researchers studied changes in extreme sea levels by 2100 under different greenhouse gas scenarios and considered how all these components — mean sea level, tides, waves, and storm surge — will be affected by climate change.

f emissions continue to rise unabated throughout this century, extreme sea levels along Europe’s coastlines could increase by more than 2.5 feet, on average, by 2100. Under a more moderate situation, where greenhouse gas emissions peak in 2040, 100-year extreme sea levels still could jump by nearly 2 feet, on average, by the end of the century — with flooding events occurring every few years — according to study’s authors.

In a related study appearing in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists found that if greenhouse gases continue to rise, there could be disturbing changes by the end of the century in the energy that waves carry to the coast.

In the southern hemisphere, extreme waves could carry up to 30 percent more energy by 2100, according to the study, meaning that stronger waves will become more frequent, and have a greater impact on the coast, said Lorenzo Mentaschi, a researcher at the Joint Research Centre and lead author of the study.

The new study attributed the changes in wave energy to the intensification of weather patterns, like El Niño. The new research will be provided to European Union policymakers. The data will also be made public so it can be used by scientists, engineers, and coastal managers.

Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, said the research once again underscored how climate change, “which has already increased the threat to our coastlines through a combination of sea-level rise and intensified coastal storms, will be catastrophic for coastal communities if we don’t reduce global carbon emissions.”

Marlene Cimons writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art & culture.

Press link for more: Think Progress

March 17, 2017 Posted by | climate change, EUROPE, oceans | Leave a comment

Savage attack on the environment: the Trump budget

Aside from the catastrophic impacts on public health and planetary survival, these Trump-Koch attacks on environmental protection and increased energy efficiency bode ill for a struggling U.S. economy. Germany, China and other global competitors are surging ahead with ecologically sound advanced technologies like high-speed rail, EV autos, PV cells, ultra-efficient wind turbines, solar farms, and highways guaranteed to leave America in the dust.

The “tycoon” President who promised full employment and prosperity is instead bringing an ill wind, darkened sun, and scorched planet.

Trump’s Budget Assault on the Environment Packs a Wallop, The Progressiveby  March 17, 2017
Donald Trump’s first budget makes his antipathy to the environment clear—and his love for fossil fuels and nuclear power even clearer.

In addition to slashing funding to the Environmental Protection Agency, he also announced this week that he wants massive rollbacks in automotive fuel efficiency standards and billions in new investments in nuclear weapons and storage for commercial nuclear waste.

The administration’s budget cuts $2.4 billion from the EPA’s operating funds
—roughly 31 percent—taking the agency’s annual budget from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion, the smallest since it was formed in 1970. These cuts will cripple regulation of air and water quality, strip oversight of a wide range of land management programs, and loosen restrictions on chemical emissions from industrial facilities.

Much of this money would be shifted directly over to the military, which the Trump Administration wants to bolster with an additional $54 billion over the final Obama allocations…….

llowing through on his campaign promise to reduce the EPA to “little tidbits,” Trump’s budget defunds more than 50 programs. These include infrastructure improvement on Indian reservations, major projects to clean up Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, a wide range of renewable energy development and energy efficiency programs, numerous climate change research programs, national heritage sites, environmental justice programs, oceanographic research and preservation, and much more. Gina McCarthy, a former EPA official under Obama, described it as “a scorched earth budget that represents an all-out assault on clean air, water and land.”

Some of the immediate opposition has crossed party lines. Ohio’s recently re-elected Republican Senator Rob Portman, a close associate of former President George W. Bush, strongly opposed cuts to the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Bill Becker of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies warned, “if such cuts are realized, many more people will die prematurely and get sick unnecessarily due to air, water and waste pollution.”…….

Meanwhile, Illinois and New York are moving toward massive subsidies for uncompetitive, dangerously dilapidated old nuclear reactors in a marketplace where renewables are coming in far cheaper and creating thousands more jobs. In Ohio and other states, owners of money-losing reactors are advocating for massive handouts to block cheaper, job-creating renewables and efficiency from getting into the marketplace.

Adding insult to injury, Trump wants to add $120 million to the long-dead Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump. ……

Aside from the catastrophic impacts on public health and planetary survival, these Trump-Koch attacks on environmental protection and increased energy efficiency bode ill for a struggling U.S. economy. Germany, China and other global competitors are surging ahead with ecologically sound advanced technologies like high-speed rail, EV autos, PV cells, ultra-efficient wind turbines, solar farms, and highways guaranteed to leave America in the dust.

The “tycoon” President who promised full employment and prosperity is instead bringing an ill wind, darkened sun, and scorched planet. http://progressive.org/dispatches/trump%E2%80%99s-budget-assault-on-the-environment-packs-a-wallop/

March 17, 2017 Posted by | environment, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Massive amountsof heat being stored in the oceans

The world’s oceans are storing up staggering amounts of heat — and it’s even more than we thought, by Chelsea Harvey, Energy & Enviornment, Washington Post, Mar 10, 2017 The world is getting warmer every year, thanks to climate change — but where exactly most of that heat is going may be a surprise.

As a stunning early spring blooms across the United States, just weeks after scientists declared 2016 the hottest year on record , it’s easy to forget that all the extra warmth in the air accounts for only a fraction of the heat produced by greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, more than 90 percent of it gets stored in the ocean. And now, scientists think they’ve calculated just how much the ocean has warmed in the past few decades.

new study, out Friday in the journal Science Advances, suggests that since 1960, a staggering 337 zetajoules of energy — that’s 337 followed by 21 zeros  — has been added to the ocean in the form of heat. And most of it has occurred since 1980.

“The ocean is the memory of all of the past climate change,” said study co-author Kevin Trenberth , a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

The world’s oceans are storing up staggering amounts of heat — and it’s even more than we thought   https://www.skepticalscience.com/2017-SkS-Weekly-Digest_10.html

March 15, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment

The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 3 https://www.nrdc.org/experts/nrdc/real-lowdown-trump-and-congressional-republican-assault-our-environment-vol-3 March 03, 2017 NRDC Nearly halfway through his first 100 days, President Donald Trump is on track to set a record for putting Americans’ health and our environment at risk.

In recent days, we’ve seen Trump issue an order to keep streams and rivers flowing with toxic chemicals, add a trio of polluters’ allies to his cabinet, hint of eviscerating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and telegraph he’ll soon start to try to unravel our country’s best chance to curb dangerous climate change: the popular Clean Power Plan.

Cabinet nominees

The GOP-led Senate staffed up Trump’s cabinet of polluters by confirming Ryan Zinke at the U.S. Department of the Interior, threatening public lands; Rick Perry at Energy, jeopardizing clean energy; and Scott Pruitt, the polluters’ lawyer, at the EPA.

After Pruitt was sworn in, his old office in Oklahoma released—on court orders—thousands of e-mails confirming his critics’ worst fears. They showed he worked hand in glove as attorney general with fossil fuel lobbyists and dirty energy companies to try to block the EPA’s clean air and clean water rules as well as other health protections. Pruitt also used private e-mail to communicate with his AG staff, even though he told the Senate he did not.

The newly minted administrator, speaking before the Conservative Political Action Committee on February 25, promised to roll back environmental protections in an “aggressive way” and told his appreciative audience that calls to completely eliminate the EPA are “justified.

NRDC is fighting back

A few days before, NRDC filed a Freedom of Information Act request for materials and communications related to a press release the EPA issued announcing Pruitt as the new agency administrator. In the press release, the EPA endorsed statements calling itself “tone deaf,” “rogue,” and “one of the most vilified agencies in the ‘swamp’ of overreaching government.” Such statements are “unheard of and extremely alarming,” says Aaron Colangelo, codirector of litigation at NRDC. “We want to know who and what is motivating the agency’s new leader to undermine the EPA’s mission before he even gets started.”

On February 28, Trump addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time as president, where he outline an agenda that purportedly would create jobs and lift the economy. In response, NRDC President Rhea Suh penned a blog on the website The Hill, noting that the speech left unsaid “his unmitigated assault on the nation’s environment and public health.”

Slashing the EPA budget

Words and deeds don’t always match up. In his address to Congress, Trump promised to “promote clean air and clean water.” But he declined to mention this: Behind the scenes, he’s cooking up a budget plan that, according to news reports, includes a 24 percent cut to the EPA, the guardian of our air and water and environment. If approved, his plan would cripple the agency founded by Richard Nixon in 1970. NRDC President Rhea Suh warned: “Slashing the EPA’s budget will be dangerous to our health and the well-being of our children.”

Love that dirty water

Trump loves that dirty water. He has signed away safeguards that protected streams and downstream communities from coal-mining pollution. And he recently signed an executive order dubbed the “Dirty Water Rule” because it begins the rollback of the Obama-approved Clean Water Rule to protect wetlands and drinking water sources for more than 117 million Americans. Suh declared: “We will stand up to this reckless assault. We’ll stand up for clean water and a healthy future for all Americans.”

Moving ahead with pipelines

In that same address to Congress, Trump boasted about clearing the way for construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would threaten drinking water and our climate, and the Dakota Access Pipeline, disregarding concerns from indigenous people about its impact on their communities. Trump also touted a directive he issued that new American pipelines be made with American steel—except a few days later he exempted KXL from his “buy American” requirements.

Pruitt steps away from limiting methane emissions

Just days into his job, Pruitt yanked an Obama administration directive from last November requiring thousands of oil and gas companies to report a broad range of information about their operations’ emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Pruitt acted just one day after 11 state attorneys general asked the EPA to suspend the requirement, which had been part of a long-term plan to limit wasteful and climate-harming methane emissions.

Drilling on public lands

Even before Zinke took office, the Department of the Interior abruptly stopped enforcing a rule that closed a loophole the fossil fuel industry has used to lower the royalties for extracting oil on public lands (by artificially depressing the market value of that oil). Taxpayers, according to estimates, have lost as much as $30 billion with this scheme.

Orders coming to derail climate action

Trump could, as early as next week, issue an executive order undermining or eliminating the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate action agenda. The plan sets the first national emissions limits on the nation’s power plants, the largest source of the dangerous carbon pollution that is driving climate change.

Reopening public lands to coal mining

Trump also is expected to sign an order lifting an Obama administration moratorium on new coal leasing on public lands. This ignores poll findings of strong support for conservation rather than development among residents of the Rocky Mountain states, home to large tracts of public lands.

NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats posed by the new administration. And we will be vigilantly monitoring and reporting on its assault on the environment through Trump Watch.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | climate change, environment, politics, USA | Leave a comment