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February 2, 2023 Posted by | radiation | Leave a comment

Julian Assange’s Biggest Fight in Notorious Prison Isn’t Over Extradition

NewsWeek, BY SHAUN WATERMAN ON 01/27/23 “…………………………………………….. Assange’s physical and mental health have declined severely during more than a decade in confinement — first sheltering from U.S. authorities in the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2012-2019, where he lived in two rooms and never left the building, and for the last almost four years, since he was dragged from the embassy by British police in April 2019, in Belmarsh fighting extradition.

…………………… The proceedings in London continue to drag on. It has been more than a year since the High Court cleared the way for his extradition and his appeal was filed in August. But the court continues to weigh it, with no deadline to reach a decision. Even if he loses, there remains the possibility of an appeal to the British Supreme Court, or to the European Court of Human Rights. Assange could be in the U.S. within months, but he might remain in Britain for years.

His family says that with uncertainty about his extradition hanging over him like the sword of Damocles, he has lost weight and become depressed and anxious.

A confinement of uncertain duration

The worst part about the confinement is having no idea when or how he would be able to leave, Stella Assange said. “It is the uncertain duration that makes it so hard to bear … It’s a kind of torture.”…………..

The uncertainty has exacerbated Assange’s physical and mental deterioration, his wife said. In October 2021, during a High Court hearing about his extradition, Assange, attending via video link from Belmarsh, suffered a “transient ischaemic attack” — a mini-stroke. He has been diagnosed with nerve damage and memory problems and prescribed blood thinners.

“He might not survive this,” she said.

As a remand prisoner, not convicted or sentenced, and facing extradition, not prosecution, Assange is an anomaly in Britain’s most secure prison — designed to hold “Category A” inmates such as IRA militants, jihadis and murderers. One of a tiny handful of unconvicted prisoners, prison regulations require him to be treated differently, his wife said.

“He’s supposed to be able to get visits every day, he’s supposed to be able to work on his case,” she said, “But that’s only on paper. The way the prison system works, it is more efficient to treat everyone like a Cat A prisoner rather than to try to adapt the rules for individuals. In reality, that just doesn’t translate at all.” She said Assange is allowed one or two legal visits, and one or two social visits each week.

In between visits, time can stretch. And the isolation has been hard on him……………………………..

Phone calls, his half-brother Gabriel Shipton told Newsweek from Assange’s native Australia, are limited to 10 minutes. “You’ll just be getting into it and click, it’s over.”

Neither the governor’s office at Belmarsh, nor the press office for the British Prison Service, responded to emails requesting responses to detailed questions.

A source of inspiration and power

Assange gets thousands of letters and parcels from all over the world, Stella Assange said, but the authorities interdict banned items, such as books about national security, paintings and other forbidden objects.

His father, John Shipton, told Newsweek from Australia that Assange draws a lot of inspiration and power from the letters that people write to him. During their phone conversations, he will often read snippets or recall memorable letters, Shipton said. “He loves getting them … You can hear him light up a bit” when he talks about them………………………………………… more


January 29, 2023 Posted by | civil liberties, health, Legal | Leave a comment

The WHO is urging countries to start stockpiling medicines for ‘nuclear emergencies’ after the EU’s latest warning on Ukraine war.

Fortune, BYORIANNA ROSA ROYLE, January 28, 2023

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued guidance on how to survive a nuclear catastrophe, just hours after the EU warned that Russia “is at war with the West”.

Included in the guidance is a list of medicines that nations should stockpile for “radiological or nuclear emergencies”.

The global health body also shared how the stockpiles which could “prevent or reduce exposure to radiation” should be handled. 

Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s acting assistant director-general warned that governments need to make treatments for radiation and nuclear exposure available quickly. 

“It is essential that governments are prepared to protect the health of populations and respond immediately to emergencies,” she added.

Potential scenarios considered in the publication include radiological or nuclear emergencies at nuclear power plants, as well as intentional uses of radioactive materials with malicious intent.

These emergencies could result in exposure to deadly radiation doses, yet many countries are underprepared, according to the document.

It stressed: “It is therefore extremely important that governments respond rapidly to such threats.”………………..

January 29, 2023 Posted by | 2 WORLD, health | Leave a comment

Nuclear strike chief seeks cancer review of launch officers

Midland Daily News. TARA COPP, Associated Press, Jan. 27, 2023 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Air Force general in charge of the nation’s air- and ground-launched nuclear missiles has requested an official investigation into the number of officers who are reporting blood cancer diagnoses after serving at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

The illnesses became publicly known this week after The Associated Press obtained a military brief that at least nine missileers — those officers serving in underground bunkers near silo-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and responsible for turning launch keys if ordered — were reporting diagnoses of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. One of the officers has died.

Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, which is responsible for all of the silo-based and aircraft-launched nuclear warheads, said in a statement to the AP Friday that he has requested that the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine conduct a formal assessment into the reported cancers.

It was not immediately clear if that assessment would be limited to Malmstrom, or if it would include similar nuclear missile facilities at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

“Air Force Global Strike Command and our Air Force takes the responsibility to protect airmen and Guardians incredibly seriously, and their safety and health is always my top priority,” Bussiere said. “While we continue to work through this process, service members and their dependents as well as former service members who may have concerns or have questions are encouraged to speak with their healthcare providers.”…………..

Over the last week, more missileers who served at Malmstrom or their families have reached out to the AP to share their experiences with diagnoses of blood cancer and other types of cancer……………………..

nly about 3,300 troops are based at Malmstrom at a time, and only about 400 of those are assigned either as missileers or as support for those operators. The three bases control a total of 400 siloed Minuteman III ICBMs.

January 28, 2023 Posted by | health, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New documentary film ‘Downwind’ explores why testing, using nuclear weapons are deadly mistakes

St George News, by Stephanie DeGraw, January 25, 2023

PARK CITY — The tragedies of nuclear testing are not over, advocates and directors with the world premiere of the film “Downwind” told the audience at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City Monday evening.

“Subsequent generations may suffer more than the original exposed generation,” Dr. Brian Moench, founder and president of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said. “The faces behind the statistics we’ve heard are real human beings, but there will be more who you don’t see because they haven’t been born yet.”

The Slamdance Spotlight documentary film is still relevant today, locally and globally. The film exposes an often-forgotten chapter of U.S. history and the ongoing health consequences for Americans living downwind.

Some 928 nuclear detonations took place from 1951 to 1992 near Las Vegas, Nevada. These included the 100 atmospheric tests residents of Southern Utah could watch. Research shows St. George has above-average rates of radioactivity compared with the nationwide average.

The West Shoshone is also profoundly affected by the government’s testing. Ian Zabarte, principal man of the West Bands of the Shoshone Nation, said their sacred land continues to be cordoned off as a nuclear test site.

For 40 years, large-scale atomic weapons obliterated the landscape. It exposed people, the environment, livestock and agriculture across the country to deadly fallout. Zabarte said despite a moratorium on testing, the Nevada Test Site remains operational with the possibility of resumed testing. 

“The film ‘Downwind’ is important because it provides us with an understanding of the past,” Zabarte said. “Awareness is key. If we’re going to protect future generations, we need to know what happened in the past and not repeat those mistakes.

“Testing, developing and using nuclear weapons is a mistake. America is the only nation that’s ever killed people with nuclear weapons.”

Zabarte said that atomic weapons are illegal under the new international law, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was enacted on Jan. 22, 2021. 

“We can protect our environment, our Mother Earth, by ending our obsession with nuclear weapons of mass destruction,” Zabarte said. “We can join the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,.”………………………………………………………………………….. more

January 25, 2023 Posted by | health, media, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Investigation underway after nine nuclear missileers develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

ABC News 23 Jan 23

Nine military officers — who had worked decades ago at a nuclear missile base in Montana — have been diagnosed with a blood cancer, and there are “indications” the disease may be linked to their service, according to military briefing slides obtained by The Associated Press. One of the officers has died.

Key points:

  • One of the nine officers diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma has since died
  • Top officials say military medical professionals are investigating the new cases
  • Previously, 14 cancer cases were investigated at the base, which was deemed safe

All of the officers — known as missileers — were assigned as many as 25 years ago to Malmstrom Air Force Base, home to a vast field of 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile silos.

The nine officers were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to a January briefing by US Space Force Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Sebeck.

Missileers ride caged elevators deep underground into a small operations bunker encased in a thick wall of concrete and steel.

They remain there sometimes for days, ready to turn the launch keys if ordered to by the country’s president.

“There are indications of a possible association between [this] cancer and missile combat crew service at Malmstrom AFB,” Lieutenant Colonel Sebeck said in slides presented to his Space Force unit this month.

The “disproportionate number of missileers presenting with cancer, specifically lymphoma” was concerning, he said…………………………..

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — which, according to the American Cancer Society, affects an estimated 19 out of every 100,000 people in the US annually — is a blood cancer that uses the body’s infection-fighting lymph system to spread………………..

The median age for adult non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is 67, according to the National Institutes of Health.

However, the former missileers affected are far younger.

Officers are often in their 20s when they are assigned duty watch.

The officer who died, who was not identified, was a Space Force officer assigned to Schreiver Space Force Base in Colorado, with the rank of major, a rank typically achieved in a service member’s 30s.

Two of the others are in the same Space Force unit with the rank of lieutenant colonel, which is typically reached in a service member’s early 40s…………………………………………………

Last year, President Joe Biden signed the PACT Act, which greatly expanded the the types of illnesses and toxic exposures that would be considered presumptive — meaning a service member or veterans would not face an uphill battle to convince the government that the injury was tied to their military service — in order to received covered care.

January 23, 2023 Posted by | health, USA | Leave a comment

An unacceptable risk to children — Beyond Nuclear International

Children exposed to radiation are often from minority communities

An unacceptable risk to children — Beyond Nuclear International

Standards don’t protect them and studies dismiss them

By Linda Pentz Gunter

In a peer reviewed article published in the British Medical Journal Pediatrics Open in October, my Beyond Nuclear colleague, Cindy Folkers and I, reviewed the studies currently available that look at the impact on children from radiation exposures caused by the nuclear power sector.

In particular, we looked at the disproportionately negative impact on children living in disadvantaged communities, primarily those of color. As we wrote in the article: 

“From uranium mining and milling, to fuel manufacture, electricity generation and radioactive waste management, children in frontline and Indigenous communities can be disproportionately harmed due to often increased sensitivity of developing systems to toxic exposures, the lack of resources and racial and class discrimination.”

At about the same time, and as if to confirm our hypothesis, the story of the Jana elementary school in Missouri began to break.

The school is in a predominantly Black community in northern St. Louis and the US army corps of engineers had been called in to assess radioactivity found in classrooms, playgrounds and on sports fields at the school after findings of unacceptable levels of radioactivity on the premises were revealed in an independent report conducted by Dr. Marco Kaltofen, President of Boston Chemical Data Corporation.

The radioactive contamination found at the school was, as the report described it, “consistent with the radioactive legacy uranium processing wastes notoriously found in the heavily contaminated Coldwater Creek in North St. Louis County, MO, and in low-lying areas subject to flooding from the creek.”

The report concluded that “radiological contamination exists at unacceptable levels (greater than 5.0 net pCi/g as alpha radiation) at the Jana School property.”

Those wastes, dating back from the 1940s to 1960s, were produced by a company called Mallinckrodt, which processed uranium from the Belgian Congo as part of the Manhattan Project. The radioactive waste they produced was illegally dumped in what was then surrounding countryside and at the West Lake Landfill. It seeped into creeks and spread into parks and even homes. 

story we ran on Beyond Nuclear International in March 2018 relates the struggle of residents to get their community cleaned up. Atomic Homefront, a compelling documentary about this fight, brings home exactly the toll this environmental crime has taken on people living there, especially women.

Radioactive lead-210, thorium and radium-226 were among the isotopes found at Jana Elementary school, at levels far higher than those considered permissible (but not safe) at Superfund sites. The lead-210 was at levels 22 times what would be considered “expected” in such an environment.

Why had it taken so long to discover this immense and unacceptable risk to children?

Jana’s PTA president, Ashley Bernaugh, believes she knows the answer. 

“Jana elementary’s radioactive past looks like a lot of other communities where hazardous waste has been allowed to exist in predominantly minority communities and in lower middle income communities, where it never would have been allowed in upper income level communities because of the public outrage,” she told The Guardian.

By November 9 the corps had declared that radiation levels at the school “showed no levels of radiation higher than ‘the level of radioactivity Mother Nature already provides.’”

“Mother Nature” is a euphemistic reference to “background radiation,” already problematic given the decades of atomic testing and major nuclear accidents that have added to what “background” radiation levels once were but are no longer. Of far greater concern is that these levels, while likely not even safe for adults, are certainly not safe for children.

This determination of what is “safe” is based on a standard that is not only outdated but was wrong from the start. Here is what we wrote about this in our BMJ article.

“Pregnancy, children and women are underprotected by current regulatory standards that are based on ‘allowable’ or ‘permissible’ doses for a ‘Reference Man’. Early in the nuclear weapons era, a ‘permissible dose’ was more aptly recognized as an ‘acceptable injury limit,’ but that language has since been sanitized.”

Reference Man is defined as a nuclear industry worker 20–30 years of age, who weighs around 154 pounds, is 67 inches tall and is a Caucasian Western European or North American in habitat and custom.

“Very early research conducted in the USA in 1945 and 1946 indicated higher susceptibility of pregnancy to radiation exposure. Pregnant dogs injected with radiostrontium had defects in their offspring and yet, complete results of these studies were not made public until 1969,” we wrote.

“By 1960 however, U.S. experts were clearly aware that research indicated higher susceptibility of children, when the Federal Radiation Council (established in 1959 by President Eisenhower) briefly considered a definition for ‘Standard Child’—which they subsequently abandoned in favor of maintaining a Standard Man definition, later renamed Reference Man.”

Reference Man still stands, although our organization, in partnership with the Gender + Radiation Impact Project, are working to get it changed to Reference Girl. (If you are interested in learning more about this, you can join our online classes.)

Why are children, and especially female children, as well as women and especially pregnant women, more susceptible to harm from radiation exposure? This is not fully understood and regulatory practices, particularly in the establishment of protective exposure standards, have failed to take this difference into account. 

An examination of Navajo babies born between 1964 and 1981 showed that congenital anomalies, developmental disorders and other adverse birth outcomes were associated with the mother living near uranium mines and wastes.

Other studies — among Aboriginal communities in Australia and members of Indigenous tribes in India —showed similar outcomes. But so-called anecdotal evidence is invariably dismissed in favor of “statistical insignificance”.

Even perhaps the most famous study, in Germany, of children living near nuclear plants showing elevated rates of leukemia directly correlated to the proximity of their homes to the nuclear sites, was dismissed with claims that the doses were simply too low to have such an impact.

As we concluded in our BMJ article, which is fully accessible and can be read in its entirety here, “more independent studies are needed focused on children, especially those in vulnerable frontline and Indigenous communities. In conducting such studies, greater consideration must be applied to culturally significant traditions and habits in these communities.”

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear and writes for and curates Beyond Nuclear International.

January 15, 2023 Posted by | 2 WORLD, children, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Return to studying baby teeth for radioactivity from nuclear weapons and nuclear facilities

St. Louis baby teeth study sparked nuclear test ban 60 years ago

Now, the baby tooth study from decades ago carries new life in the form of a Harvard study.

by: Joey Schneider, Jan 7, 2023

ST. LOUIS – A famous study involving the baby teeth of St. Louis area children helped lay the foundation for a treaty to ban atmospheric nuclear testing 60 years ago.

A group of scientists, led by physician Louise Reed and St. Louis-area professor Barry Commoner, launched the study in December 1958 through the Greater St. Louis Citizen’s Committee for Nuclear Information. The mission: To determine whether radioactive fallout and nuclear energy had a negative impact on children’s health.

From 1958 to 1970, researchers collected more than 320,000 baby teeth of children from various ages, primarily from those in the St. Louis area.

The study followed a 1956 report from the U.S. Public Health Service, which hinted that St. Louis and other Midwestern cities could have alarming levels of radioactivity in water, air and milk following above-ground nuclear tests around the United States. In the decade leading up to that, officials had moved forward with nearly 100 nuclear tests, some that happened above-ground and spurred concerns of exposure, according to the Arms Control Association.

Preliminary case studies determined that children born in 1963 had levels of strontium 90, a radioactive isotope found in bomb fallout, nearly 50 times higher than children born in 1950. A limited study published by Science Magazine in 1961 presented similar findings.

“The immediate radiation danger moved public opinion, which influenced Congress to pass and President John F. Kennedy to implement the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963,” said the Missouri History Museum on the research. “They knew that a by-product of nuclear weapons testing is death-dealing, cancer-causing radiation. Some elemental isotopes last for thousands of years while others decay quickly, but airborne debris drifts for miles from explosions, falling onto food and water.”

Kennedy campaigned for president in strong opposition to nuclear testing, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. However, he entered his term at the height of the Cold War and faced mounting pressure after the Soviet Union conducted dozens of above-ground nuclear tests. In 1962, he reluctantly announced that the United States would resume atmospheric testing.

As Kennedy attempted to negotiate a ban on such testing, the findings of the St. Louis baby tooth study came to his attention. Negotiations to end atmospheric radioactive testing, the issue at the center of the baby tooth study, intensified midway through 1963.

By July, Kennedy had reached an agreement with the Soviet Union to exclusively conduct nuclear tests underground. By August, government officials from the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States gathered in Moscow to sign what is officially known as the “Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water” or “Partial Test Ban Treaty.”

“Let us if we can step back from the shadows of war and seek out the way of peace. And if that journey is 1,000 miles or even more, let history record that we, in this land, at this time, took the first step,” said Kennedy on the agreement in a televised speech on July 26, 1963.

The initial baby tooth study continued through 1970. A research team acquired 85,000 of the tested teeth for a 2001 analysis that concluded 12 children who died of cancer had strontium 90 levels twice as high as others alive during the time of research. Some scientists denounce those findings to this day.

Now, the baby tooth study from decades ago carries new life in the form of a Harvard study. Researchers hope to collect tens of thousands and determine a possible connection between metals and cognitive decline at an older age. Harvard neuroscientist Marc Weisskopf launched the study in 2021, and one survey for the project remains ongoing.

According to a report from, Japanese filmmaker Hideaki Ito is also working on a documentary about the original study and visited St. Louis last year for some groundwork.

January 8, 2023 Posted by | children, radiation, USA | Leave a comment

Electromagnetic radiation – cellphones as a health hazard

What to Know About Cellphone Radiation,, by Peter Elkind Jan. 4,2023

To many people, the notion that cellphones or cell towers might present a health risk long ago receded into a realm somewhere between trivial concern and conspiracy theory. For decades, the wireless industry has dismissed such ideas as fearmongering, and federal regulators have maintained that cellphones pose no danger.

But a growing body of scientific research is raising questions, with the stakes heightened by the ongoing deployment of hundreds of thousands of new transmitters in neighborhoods across America. ProPublica recently examined the issue in detail, finding that the chief government regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, relies on an exposure standard from 1996, when the Motorola StarTAC flip phone was cutting edge, and that the agency brushed aside a lengthy study by a different arm of the federal government that found that cellphone radiation caused rare cancers and DNA damage in lab animals.

The newest generation of cellphone technology, known as 5G, remains largely untested.

Here’s what you need to know:

Do cellphones give off radiation?

Yes. Both cellphones and wireless transmitters (which are mounted on towers, street poles and rooftops) send and receive radio-frequency energy, called “nonionizing radiation.” The amount of this radiation absorbed by the human body depends on how close a person is to a phone and a cell transmitter, as well as the strength of the signal the phone needs to connect with a transmitter.  Cellphones displaying fewer bars, which means their connection with a transmitter is weak, require stronger power to communicate and so produce more radiation. Wireless transmitters, for their part, emit radiation continually, but little of that is absorbed unless a person is very close to the transmitter.

What does the science say about this? Is it harmful?

That’s the multibillion-dollar question. Government-approved cellphones are required to keep radiation exposure well below levels that the FCC considers dangerous. Those safeguards, however, have not changed since 1996, and they focus exclusively on the unlikely prospect of “thermal” harm: the potential for overheating body tissue, as a microwave oven would. The government guidelines do not address other potential forms of harm.

But a growing body of research has found evidence of health risks even when people are exposed to radiation below the FCC limits. The array of possible harms ranges from effects on fertility and fetal development to associations with cancer. Some studies of people living near cell towers have also confirmed an array of health complaints, including dizziness, nausea, headaches, tinnitus and insomnia, from people identified as having “electromagnetic hypersensitivity.”

The most sensational — and hotly debated — health fear about wireless radiation is cancer. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, cited troubling but uncertain evidence in classifying wireless radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” In 2018, a study by the federal government that was nearly two decades in the making found “clear evidence” that cellphone radiation caused cancer in lab animals. A major study in Italy produced similar results.

Do cellphones pose any special health risks for kids?

Some experts say they do, citing studies suggesting children’s thinner, smaller skulls and developing brains leave them more vulnerable to the effects of cellphone radiation. The American Academy of Pediatrics embraces this concern and has for years urged the FCC to revisit its radiation standards, saying they don’t adequately protect kids. More than 20 foreign governments, as well as the European Environment Agency, urge precautionary steps to limit wireless exposure, especially for children.

What about risks in pregnancy?

A Yale study found hyperactivity and reduced memory in mice exposed to cellphone radiation in the womb, consistent with human epidemiological research showing a rise in behavioral disorders among children who were exposed to cellphones in the womb. Dr. Hugh Taylor, the author of the mouse study and chair of the obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences department at the Yale School of Medicine, told ProPublica: “The evidence is really, really strong now that there is a causal relationship between cellphone radiation exposure and behavior issues in children.”

What does the U.S. government say about cellphone radiation?

The key federal agencies — the FCC and the Food and Drug Administration — have echoed the wireless industry and a number of other groups in rejecting evidence of any “nonthermal” human health risk, saying it remains unproven. The government websites also reject the claim that children face any special risk.

In 2019, during the administration of President Donald Trump, the FCC shut down a six-year review of its 1996 wireless-radiation safety standards. The agency rejected pleas to make the standards more stringent, saying it had seen no evidence its safeguards were “outdated or insufficient to protect human safety.” In 2021, however, a federal appeals court ordered the FCC to revisit the issue, saying the agency had ignored evidence of an array of noncancer harms to humans, animals and the environment, and that its decision to uphold its exposure standard failed to meet “even the low threshold of reasoned analysis.” The FCC has taken no formal action since then.

Why is the issue not resolved?

Determining wireless radiation’s health effects with certainty is difficult. Researchers cannot ethically subject people to endless hours of cellphone radiation to gauge the results. Scientists have to rely on alternatives such as animal studies or epidemiological research, where challenges include getting subjects to accurately recount their wireless use and pinpointing the specific causes of disease or harm. Many health effects of toxic exposure, especially cancer, take years or decades to appear. And the mechanisms of how wireless radiation could affect the body at the cellular level are poorly understood.

Research funding on the issue has also been scarce in the U.S., despite frequent calls for more study. Research (and researchers) raising health concerns have come under sharp attack from industry, and government regulators have remained skeptical. A key FDA official, for example, dismissed the relevance of the federal study that found “clear evidence” of cancer in lab animals, saying it wasn’t designed to test the safety of cellphone use in humans, even though his agency had commissioned the research for that reason.

Linda Birnbaum, who led the federal agency that conducted the cellphone study, said that while proof of harm remains elusive, what is known means that precautions are merited. “Do I see a smoking gun? Not per se,” she told ProPublica. “But do I see smoke? Absolutely. There’s enough data now to say that things can happen. … Protective policy is needed today. We really don’t need more science to know that we should be reducing exposures.”

If I’m concerned about the risk, are there precautions I can take to protect myself and my family?

Because exposure varies dramatically with your proximity to the source of the radiation, experts say a key to minimizing risk is increasing your distance from the phone. This means keeping any cellphone that’s turned on away from direct contact with your body. Don’t keep it in your bra, in your pocket or (especially if you’re pregnant) against your abdomen, they say. And instead of holding the phone against your head when you talk, use a speaker or wired earphones. (Wireless headsets, such as AirPods, also emit some radiation.) Try to avoid making calls when the phone is telling you the signal is weak because that boosts the radiation level. You can also limit exposure by simply reducing how much time you spend talking on your cellphone and texting instead, they say. Using an old-fashioned landline avoids the problem altogether.

January 4, 2023 Posted by | ASIA, radiation | Leave a comment

Marie Curie’s Belongings Will Be Radioactive For Another 1,500 Years


Marie Curie, known as the ‘mother of modern physics’, died from aplastic anaemia, a rare condition linked to high levels of exposure to her famed discoveries, the radioactive elements polonium and radium.

Curie, the first and only woman to win a Nobel Prize in two different fields (physics and chemistry), furthered the research of French physicist Henri Becquerel, who in 1896 discovered that the element uranium emits rays.

Alongside her French physicist husband, Pierre Curie, the brilliant scientific pair discovered a new radioactive element in 1898. The duo named the element polonium, after Poland, Marie’s native country.

Still, after more than 100 years, much of Curie’s personal effects including her clothes, furniture, cookbooks, and laboratory notes are still radioactive, author Bill Bryson writes in his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything.

Regarded as national and scientific treasures, Curie’s laboratory notebooks are stored in lead-lined boxes at France’s Bibliotheque National in Paris. Wellcome Library

While the library grants access to visitors to view Curie’s manuscripts, all guests are expected to sign a liability waiver and wear protective gear as the items are contaminated with radium 226, which has a half life of about 1,600 years, according to Christian Science Monitor.

Her body is also radioactive and was therefore placed in a coffin lined with nearly an inch of lead.

The Curie’s are buried in France’s Panthéon, a mausoleum in Paris which contains the remains of distinguished French citizens – like philosophers Rousseau and Voltaire.

January 1, 2023 Posted by | France, radiation, Reference, women | Leave a comment

The ‘Demon Core,’ The 14-Pound Plutonium Sphere That Killed Two Scientists

By Kaleena Fraga | Checked By Erik Hawkins December 10, 2022

Physicists Harry Daghlian and Louis Slotin both suffered agonizing deaths after making minor slips of the hand while working on the plutonium orb known as the “demon core” at Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico.

To survivors of the nuclear attacks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, the nuclear explosions seemed like hell on earth. And though a third plutonium core — meant for use if Japan didn’t surrender — was never dropped, it still managed to kill two scientists. The odd circumstances of their deaths led the core to be nicknamed “demon core.”

Retired to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagaski, demon core killed two scientists exactly nine months apart. Both were conducting similar experiments on the core, and both made eerily similar mistakes that proved fatal.

Before the experiments, scientists had called the core “Rufus.” After the deaths of their colleagues, the core was nicknamed “demon core.” So what exactly happened to the two scientists who died while handling it?

The Heart Of A Nuclear Bomb

In the waning days of World War II, the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan. One fell on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and one fell on Nagasaki on August 9. In case Japan didn’t surrender, the U.S. was prepared to drop a third bomb, powered by the plutonium core later called “demon core.”

The core was codenamed “Rufus.” It weighed almost 14 pounds and stretched about 3.5 inches in diameter. And when Japan announced its intention to surrender on August 15, scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory were allowed to keep the core for experiments.

As Atlas Obscura explains, the scientists wanted to test the limits of nuclear material. They knew that a nuclear bomb’s core went critical during a nuclear explosion, and wanted to better understand the limit between subcritical material and the much more dangerous radioactive critical state.

But such criticality experiments were dangerous — so dangerous that a physicist named Richard Feynman compared them to provoking a dangerous beast. He quipped in 1944 that the experiments were “like tickling the tail of a sleeping dragon.”

And like an angry dragon roused from slumber, demon core would soon kill two scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory when they got too close.

How Demon Core Killed Two Scientists

On Aug. 21, 1945, about a week after Japan expressed its intention to surrender, Los Alamos physicist Harry Daghlian conducted a criticality experiment on demon core that would cost him his life. According to Science Alert, he ignored safety protocols and entered the lab alone — accompanied only by a security guard — and got to work.

Daghlian’s experiment involved surrounding the demon core with bricks made of tungsten carbide, which created a sort of boomerang effect for the neutrons shed by the core itself. Daghlian brought the demon core right to the edge of supercriticality but as he tried to remove one of the bricks, he accidentally dropped it on the plutonium sphere. It went supercritical and blasted him with neutron radiation.

Daghlian died 25 days later. Before his death, the physicist suffered from a burnt and blistered hand, nausea, and pain. He eventually fell into a coma and passed away at the age of 24.

Exactly nine months later, on May 21, 1946, demon core struck again. This time, Canadian physicist Louis Slotin was conducting a similar experiment in which he lowered a beryllium dome over the core to push it toward supercriticality. To ensure that the dome never entirely covered the core, Slotin used a screwdriver to maintain a small opening though, Slotin had been warned about his method before.

But just like the tungsten carbide brick that had slipped out of Daghlian’s hand, Slotin’s screwdriver slipped out of his grip. The dome dropped and as the neutrons bounced back and forth, demon core went supercritical. Blue light and heat consumed Slotin and the seven other people in the lab.

“The blue flash was clearly visible in the room although it (the room) was well illuminated from the windows and possibly the overhead lights,” one of Slotin colleagues, Raemer Schreiber, recalled to the New Yorker. “The total duration of the flash could not have been more than a few tenths of a second. Slotin reacted very quickly in flipping the tamper piece off.”

Slotin may have reacted quickly, but he’d seen what happened to Daghlian. “Well,” he said, according to Schreiber, “that does it.”

Though the other people in the lab survived, Slotin had been doused with a fatal dose of radiation. The physicist’s hand turned blue and blistered, his white blood count plummeted, he suffered from nausea and abdominal pain, and internal radiation burns, and gradually become mentally confused. Nine days later, Slotin died at the age of 35.

Eerily, the core had killed both Daghlian and Slotin in similar ways. Both fatal incidences took place on a Tuesday, on the 21st of a month. Daghlian and Slotin even died in the same hospital room. Thus the core, previously codenamed “Rufus,” was nicknamed “demon core.”

What Happened To Demon Core?

Harry Daghlian and Louis Slotin’s deaths would forever change how scientists interacted with radioactive material. “Hands-on” experiments like the physicists had conducted were promptly banned. From that point on, researchers would handle radioactive material from a distance with remote controls.

So what happened to demon core, the unused heart of the third atomic bomb?

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory had planned to send it to Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, where it would have been publicly detonated. But the core needed time to cool off after Slotin’s experiment, and when the third test at Bikini Atoll was canceled, plans for demon core changed.

After that, in the summer of 1946, the plutonium core was melted down to be used in the U.S. nuclear stockpile. Since the United States hasn’t, to date, dropped any more nuclear weapons, demon core remains unused.

But it retains a harrowing legacy. Not only was demon core meant to power a third nuclear weapon — a weapon destined to rain destruction and death on Japan — but it also killed two scientists who handled it in similar ways.

December 12, 2022 Posted by | - plutonium, radiation, Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

US military atomic cleanup crews were sent out in the wake of American nuclear testing, and many paid a heavy price, veterans say

“We’re still fighting. We’re not gonna give up, and we’re just gonna keep going and keep fighting,” Brownell said. “The world needs to know. They need to know how dangerous the radiation is — how dangerous nuclear testing is.” Jake Epstein , Dec 11, 2022

  • Over a period of more than a decade, the US military conducted dozens of nuclear tests in the Pacific.
  • Years later, soldiers were sent to the Marshall Islands to try and clean up the fallout from the testing.
  • But many were exposed to contaminated food and dust, leaving them with severe and lasting health issues. 

For over a decade beginning not long after World War II, the US carried out dozens of nuclear weapons tests in the Marshall Islands — a chain of islands and atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The largest of the 67 tests that were conducted between 1946 and 1958 was Castle Bravo. On March 1, 1954, the US military detonated a thermonuclear weapon at Bikini Atoll, producing an explosive yield 1,000 times greater than the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima, Japan.

Nuclear tests like Castle Bravo produced a substantial amount of nuclear fallout that negatively affected the people of the Marshall Islands, according to the Brookings Institution think tank. Radioactive material was even found in communities thousands of miles away.2

‘There’s no way possibly to clean that up’

Ken Brownell, who was a carpenter when he served in the military in the late 1970s, was sent to the Marshall Islands in 1977 to build a base camp for hundreds of soldiers assigned to cleanup operations. These cleanup efforts involved a concrete dome that was built on Runit Island, one of 40 islands that make up Enewetak Atoll, which was used to deposit soil and debris contaminated by radiation. 

The goal, Brownell said, was supposedly to make the area habitable again for the Marshallese people after all the nuclear testing that happened during the US occupation, which began during World War II (the Marshall Islands eventually became independent in 1979). 

Brownell, 66, said he worked 12-hour work days, six days a week, while living on Lojwa — an island “deemed safe” at the time because it didn’t host any nuclear tests, even though it was located near islands that did. His job included excavations and pouring concrete. 

But despite the US military’s efforts to clean up the islands, Brownell said there was one, massive problem — it just couldn’t be done.

“There’s no way possibly to clean that up. Once that soil was contaminated, the animals that lived on the islands, the birds, the rats, the coconut crabs, all the — whatever wildlife was there — they consumed all that,” Brownell said. “So all this — the radioactive material goes into the ocean, gets into the coral. Now you’ve got it into the fish life. You’ve got it into the lobsters.”

Brownell said exposure to radioactive material could come from “any place on those islands,” whether it was eating contaminated seafood, or just walking around in the dirt and breathing in contaminated dust. 

“On our end of it, most of our guys are dead because of the cancers and all the ailments that come along with the radioactive materials that we ingested,” Brownell said, adding that he had nothing in the way of protective gear. On a typical day, he said he would wear an outfit consisting of just combat boots, shorts, and a hat.  

Coming from a farming community in New York, Brownell said he had no knowledge of radioactive materials before getting sent to the Marshall Islands. He also said he didn’t receive any prior training in radiological cleanups and that the potential dangers of the mission were never properly addressed beforehand.   

“There was no running water … you couldn’t actually wash up. So you’re eating a baloney sandwich with dirty, contaminated hands, sitting in contaminated soil,” Brownell said. “The government said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it … be careful swimming because there’s sharks out there.'”

Atomic veteran Francis Lincoln Grahlfs echoed Brownell’s remarks about a lack of knowledge on the dangers of nuclear cleanups, writing in a Military Times op-ed last year that “little was known by the public about the long-term effects of radiation exposure.”

Impact of radiation contamination 

Nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands had “devastating effects” on the country’s environment that “remain unresolved,” according to a 2019 report by the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ National Nuclear Commission. Some individuals still “live with a daily fear of how their health might be affected by long-term exposure to radiation.”

Several of Brownell’s friends dealt with health complications that he believed to be related to their service in the Marshall Islands — and he was not immune. In 2001, he was diagnosed with stage-four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and given only six months to live. That wasn’t the end though.

That six months has turned into 20 years — 21 years,” Brownell said. “So I’m grateful every day that I’m still here.”

Like Brownell, Grahlfs — who was sent to the Marshal Islands in 1946 — wrote in his December 2021 op-ed that he has suffered from health complications, including cancer, believed to be a result of his service.

Brownell and other veterans have been fighting to be covered by government services that could provide compensation and other care. He is currently covered by the PACT Act, which is legislation aimed at improving funding and healthcare access for veterans who were exposed to toxins during their service that was signed by President Joe Biden in August.

However, he, like thousands of others, are excluded from the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which only covers veterans present for atmospheric nuclear tests. RECA has had faster response times for claims than those submitted through the VA.

“We’re still fighting. We’re not gonna give up, and we’re just gonna keep going and keep fighting,” Brownell said. “The world needs to know. They need to know how dangerous the radiation is — how dangerous nuclear testing is.”

December 12, 2022 Posted by | environment, health, OCEANIA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Plutonium’s Fatal Attraction

In February 2022, on the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces took over the Chornobyl Zone of Alienation, an exclusion zone surrounding the plant created in the weeks after the Chornobyl accident. A month later, the Russian Army occupied the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine, and since then, the plant has been repeatedly under fire. At the start of the invasion, the world seemingly received an education in nuclear power. News reporting illuminated that containment vessels protecting nuclear reactors had been stress-tested for tornadoes, tsunamis, and planes landing on them, but not for something so banal and human as a conventional war.

The public also came to understand that nuclear reactor complexes require a steady supply of electricity to keep running and to prevent overheating, and also that nuclear power plants hold years of highly-radioactive spent nuclear fuel—chock full of plutonium, among other harmful isotopes—which are not protected by containment buildings.

e-flux Architecture, Kate Brown, Half-Life, December 2022

Think of the earth. At its core is fire, an inferno around which biological life emerged. With fire in our planetary loins, no wonder humans have trouble staying away from it; that they delight in reproducing it in fiction, movies, fireworks, war games, and in technologies.

Perhaps that is why, decades after radioactive toxins saturated the Earth’s surface and at a time when threatened reactors in war-torn Ukraine are at risk of blowing again, many people are still enchanted by nuclear reactors. They are burning cores, sources of other-worldly heat and energy. If you can harness plutonium, the element at the heart of the nuclear inferno, then you can magnify human power to a super-hero level. In tandem, plutonium has the power to re-map territories, produce new borders—not just between people, but between humans and the environment. By extension, plutonium spatializes power.

In 1940, Glenn Seaborg first synthesized plutonium in a cyclotron in Berkeley, California. With these initial micrograms, plutonium became the first human-produced element on the periodic table. Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years, which means that Seaborg’s plutonium will linger on earth for over 240,000 years. Like all good offspring, plutonium promises to outlast humans on Earth.

Plutonium is also beautiful, sensual, and kaleidoscopic. It is a heavy metal that self-heats, warming a person’s hands like a small animal. In metallic form, plutonium is yellow or olive green. Shine a UV light on it, and it glows red. When it comes in contact with other radioactive isotopes plutonium sends out a dazzling blue light, a light show designed and powered by what appears to be an inert, inanimate metal. But it is not.

In 1943, the DuPont Corporation built a massive factory for the Manhattan Project to produce the world’s first industrial supplies of plutonium in the eastern reaches of Washington State. As engineers drew up plans for nuclear reactors and radio-chemical processing plants necessary for production, Dupont officials learned something alarming: “the most extreme health hazard is the product itself.”1 “It is now estimated,” DuPont executive Roger Williams wrote to the US Army Corps of Engineers overseeing the project, “that five micrograms (0.000005 grams) of the product [plutonium] entering the body through the mouth or nose will constitute a lethal dose.” A Manhattan Project medical officer wrote on the margins of this sentence: “Wrong!” With the first birthing pains of plutonium, a debate was born over the lethality and consequent liabilities inherent in nuclear industries.

Plutonium is a monumental invention, akin to harnessing fire. Upscaling the Pu chemical extraction process meant separating plutonium from about a hundred thousand curies of fission fragment radiation every single day. This was an incredibly dangerous undertaking. Plant operators worked with robotic arms and protective gear behind massive concrete walls and thick lead-glass windows in ship-sized “canyons.” They worked toward a final product that had extraordinary properties. Seaborg described element 94:

Plutonium is so unusual as to approach the unbelievable. Under some conditions it can be nearly as hard and brittle as glass; under others, as soft and plastic as lead. It will burn and crumble quickly to powder when heated in air, or slowly disintegrate when kept at room temperature. It undergoes no less than five phase transitions between room temperature and its melting point… It is unique among all of the chemical elements. And it is fiendishly toxic, even in small amounts.

Plutonium made not only a novel weapon of war, but its special existence inspired people to use it to create new technologies, and it gave birth to an elaborate security apparatus to safeguard the “super-poisonous” product, and later, new border zones to protect regions spoiled by the spillage of plutonium and other radioactive byproducts after accidents. As workers over subsequent decades produced more and more plutonium, the new mineral transformed landscapes, science, energy production, and human society around the world. Plutonium militarized, segregated, and compartmentalized large parts of the Earth, leaving a profound shadow that reaches into the twenty-first century.

Plutonium Landscapes

At the Hanford Plutonium Plant in Richland, Washington, DuPont engineers initially dedicated minimal resources to the management of growing volumes of radioactive waste. They had chosen a sparsely populated site and removed several towns and a settlement of the Wanapum nation from the newly designated “federal reservation” in case of accidents and the leakage of radioactive waste. They often repeated the platitude: “diffusion is the solution.” With a good bit of distance and privacy won with an elaborate security apparatus, DuPont and Army Corps engineers set up waste facilities for non-radioactive debris according to existing, standard practices. They drilled holes, called “reverse wells,” for dumping liquid radioactive waste. They bulldozed trenches and ponds, pouring in radioactive liquid and debris. Cooling ponds attached to reactors held hot, radioactive water for short periods before flushing it into the Columbia River. Smokestacks above processing plants issued radioactive particles in gaseous form. High-level waste—terrifically radioactive—went into large, single-walled steel coffins buried underground. Engineers designed these chambers for temporary, ten-year storage with the knowledge that the waste would corrode even thick steel walls.

DuPont leaders were nervous about these waste management procedures. The corporation had experience polluting rivers and landscapes with chemical toxins near their factories, and insisted that the Army Corp pay for environmental assays to learn what happened to the dumped radioactive waste. At Hanford in the 1940s, Dupont set up a soil study, a meteorological station, and a fish lab to monitor the health of valuable salmon migrations in the Columbia River. The studies showed that while it took large hits of external gamma rays to kill fish, much smaller ingested doses weakened and killed fish and other experimental animals. Weather studies showed that radioactive gases either traveled considerable distances in strong winds or hovered for long periods over the Columbia Basin when caught in an inversion. Researchers found, in short, that radioactive waste did not spread in a diffuse pattern, but collected in random hot spots of radioactivity. Soil scientists discovered that plants drank up radioactive isotopes readily from the soil and that aquifers became contaminated with radioactive liquids. Ichthyologists learned that fish concentrated radioactivity in their bodies at levels at least sixty times greater than the water in which they swam. Generally, researchers found that radioactive isotopes attached to living organisms readily made their way up the food chain.

Despite this troubling news, even after September 1946 when General Electric took over the running of the plant, no major changes were made to waste management methods for thirty years. In the course of forty-four years, Hanford rolled out the plutonium content for 60,000 nuclear weapons.4 The environmental footprint of that military production, however, is immeasurable. Indeed, it is intrinsically shape-shifting.

Rushing to develop their own bomb and encouraged by the example of the United States, Soviet leaders followed American practices in the years following World War II. Soviet generals commanded Mayak, a site in the southern Russian Urals that became known as “Post Box 40.” Engineers at Mayak dumped radioactive waste into the atmosphere, ground, and local water sources. High-level waste was contained temporarily in underground tanks similar to those built at Hanford. Unlike the high-volume, rocky Columbia River, the nearby Techa River flowed slowly, flooding frequently and bogging down in swamps and marshes. After just two years of operation of the Mayak Plutonium Plant, its director deemed the Techa River “exceedingly polluted.”5 By 1949, when the first Soviet nuclear bomb was tested, the plant’s underground containers for high-level waste were overflowing. Rather than shutting down production while new containers were built, plant directors decided to dump the high-level waste in the turgid Techa River.6 Each day, four thousand three hundred curies of waste? flowed down the river. From 1949 to 1951, when dumping ended, plant effluent comprised a full twenty percent of the river. A total of 3.2 million curies of waste clouded the river along which 124,000 people lived.7 Radioactivity became a new contour that outlined human activity and new communities of people who shared in dangerous exposures.

Rushing to develop their own bomb and encouraged by the example of the United States, Soviet leaders followed American practices in the years following World War II. Soviet generals commanded Mayak, a site in the southern Russian Urals that became known as “Post Box 40.” Engineers at Mayak dumped radioactive waste into the atmosphere, ground, and local water sources. High-level waste was contained temporarily in underground tanks similar to those built at Hanford. Unlike the high-volume, rocky Columbia River, the nearby Techa River flowed slowly, flooding frequently and bogging down in swamps and marshes. After just two years of operation of the Mayak Plutonium Plant, its director deemed the Techa River “exceedingly polluted.”5 By 1949, when the first Soviet nuclear bomb was tested, the plant’s underground containers for high-level waste were overflowing. Rather than shutting down production while new containers were built, plant directors decided to dump the high-level waste in the turgid Techa River.6 Each day, four thousand three hundred curies of waste? flowed down the river. From 1949 to 1951, when dumping ended, plant effluent comprised a full twenty percent of the river. A total of 3.2 million curies of waste clouded the river along which 124,000 people lived.7 Radioactivity became a new contour that outlined human activity and new communities of people who shared in dangerous exposures.

Villagers used the river for drinking, bathing, cooking, and watering crops and livestock. Soviet medical personnel investigated the riverside settlements in 1951 and found most every object and body contaminated with Mayak waste. Blood samples showed internal doses of uranium fission products, including cesium-137, ruthenium-106, strontium-90, and iodine-131. Villagers complained of pains in joints and bones, digestive tract illnesses, strange allergies, weight loss, heart murmurs, and increased hypertension.8 Further tests showed that blood counts were low and immune systems weak. Soviet army soldiers carried out an incomplete evacuation of riverside villages over the next ten years. Twenty-eight thousand people, however, remained in the largest village, Muslumovo. They became subjects of a large, four-generation medical study. In subsequent years, prison laborers created a network of canals and dams to corral radioactive waste streams into Lake Karachai, now capped with crumbling cement and considered the most radioactive body of water on earth.

Radioactive waste redraws the spatial relationships between humans and environment on the ground and by air. On September 29, 1957, an underground waste storage tank exploded at the Mayak plutonium plant in the southern Urals. The explosion sent a column of radioactive dust and gas rocketing skyward a half mile. Twenty million curies of radioactive fallout spread over a territory four miles wide and thirty miles long. An estimated 7,500 to 25,000 soldiers, students, and workers cleaned up radioactive waste ejected from the tank. Witnesses described hospital beds fully occupied and the death of young recruits, but the fate of 92% of the accident clean-up crew is unknown. Following the radioactive trace, soldiers evacuated seven of the eighty-seven contaminated villages downwind from the explosion. Residents of the villages that remained were told not to eat their agricultural products or drink well water, an impossible request as there were few alternatives. In 1960, soldiers resettled twenty-three more villages. In 1958, the depopulated trace became a research station for radio-ecology.


In the postwar era, the social consequences of the production and dispersal of large volumes of invisible, insensible radioactive toxins were profound, manifesting in sophisticated spatial planning and infrastructure that appropriated and exploited existing inequities. Plant managers in the US and USSR created special residential communities—“nuclear villages” in the US and “closed cities” in the USSR—to both manage and control the movement of workers and radioactive isotopes. In exchange for the risks, workers in plutonium plants were paid well and lived like their professional class bosses. As part of the bargain, they signed security oaths and agreed to surveillance of their personal and medical lives. They remained silent about accidents, spills, and intentional daily dumping of radioactive waste into the environment. Free health care and a show of monitoring employees and the nuclear towns led workers to believe they were safe.

To protect full-time employees, much of the dirty work of dealing with radioactive waste and accidents fell to temporary, precarious labor in the form of prisoners, soldiers, and migrant workers, often of ethnic minorities (Muslims in the USSR, Latinos and Blacks in the USA). Segregating space by race to disaggregate “safe” places—or what I call plutopias—and sacrifice zones became a larger pattern in Soviet and American Cold War landscapes.

Soviet and American plutonium communities surfed on a wave of federal subsidies in company towns in isolated regions where there were no other industries and few alternative sources of employment for plant workers. Leaders found it politically difficult to shut off the good life they had created for their plutopias. In Richland, Washington, when the supply of plutonium had been satiated, city leaders campaigned to keep their plants going nonetheless, resulting in an overwhelming excess.11 By the 1980s, the US had produced fifty percent more plutonium than that which was deployed in nuclear warheads.

American officials explored other uses for plutonium. In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower announced a new international program, Atoms for Peace. At the time, this was largely a propaganda slogan to counter Soviet officials who frequently pointed out that the US was the only nation to use nuclear weapons to kill. 

In the next decade, engineers and physicists devised new, non-military uses for plutonium and its radioactive by-products. Turbines attached to reactors began to produce plutonium for (very expensive) generation of electricity. Scientific experiments tested plutonium in cancer research, as a power source for pacemakers, and even for instruments for espionage.12 It seemed there was no end to the uses of plutonium and its radioactive by-products. In the 1950s and 1960s, American radioactive isotopes were shipped abroad under the Atoms for Peace logo in great quantities, dispersing and propagating nuclear technologies across the globe. This trade was both open and clandestine.13 In the name of “peace,” US not only gave other nations the possibility to build nuclear weapons, but also to expose civilian populations as well.

One of the most critical technologies that US agencies exported were “civilian” nuclear power plants. Advocates for nuclear power have long carefully drawn boundaries between nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation. But the existence of nuclear power reactors opened the door for the production of plutonium at the core of nuclear missiles and nuclear accidents. In the late 1960s, both the US and USSR created so-called “dual-purpose reactors” that erased the already-questionable boundaries between peaceful and martial nuclear technologies. These reactors were designed to produce either electricity to power a grid or plutonium for the core of a nuclear missile.

American engineers created the N-reactor at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Richland, Washington, while Soviet engineers designed the RBMK-1000 reactor, a standardized model that was built over a dozen times in the USSR. In contrast to the US, Soviet leaders were worried that the RBMK-1000’s plutonium-generating capabilities could be abused if their technology was shipped abroad.

………………………………………………………… Geopolitics could not reconcile the way that nuclear contaminants did not respect borders. For most officials in the USSR and abroad, the solution was silence and suppression. To admit in the 1990s to the ongoing public health disaster in Ukraine and Belarus would mean acknowledging the damage done to populations around the globe exposed to Cold War nuclear experimentation, weapons production, nuclear testing, and future nuclear accidents. But underestimating and obscuring the effects of Chornobyl has left humans unprepared for the next disaster.

 In the years after 1986, commentators repeated that a tragedy like Chornobyl could never occur in a developed, industrial country. This claim was dispelled, however, in 2011, when a tsunami crashed into the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Japanese business and political leaders responded in ways eerily similar to Soviet leaders twenty-five years earlier. They grossly understated the magnitude of the disaster (a meltdown of three reactors), sent in firefighters unprotected from the high fields of radioactivity, raised the acceptable level of radiation exposure for the public twenty-fold, and dismissed a recorded increase in pediatric thyroid cancers.

In February 2022, on the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces took over the Chornobyl Zone of Alienation, an exclusion zone surrounding the plant created in the weeks after the Chornobyl accident. A month later, the Russian Army occupied the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in southern Ukraine, and since then, the plant has been repeatedly under fire.

At the start of the invasion, the world seemingly received an education in nuclear power. News reporting illuminated that containment vessels protecting nuclear reactors had been stress-tested for tornadoes, tsunamis, and planes landing on them, but not for something so banal and human as a conventional war. The public also came to understand that nuclear reactor complexes require a steady supply of electricity to keep running and to prevent overheating, and also that nuclear power plants hold years of highly-radioactive spent nuclear fuel—chock full of plutonium, among other harmful isotopes—which are not protected by containment buildings.

The ongoing war in Ukraine has shown how vulnerable electric power grids are in times of war and, one can presume, in scenarios of extreme weather, triggered by climate change. The grounded sites of nuclear events, whether on the high plains of Eastern Washington, the birch-pine forests of the Russian Urals, the swampy stretches of Northern Ukraine, or in coastal Japan, have a global reach. The impact of the invention of plutonium, a new element on the periodic chart, reshaped landscapes, reconfigured spatial and security regimes, and remade what we understand to be human bodies, which have all incorporated radioactive isotopes. Watching the crisis in Ukraine unfold in real-time, a global audience has learned that humanity’s attraction to fire continues to be a fatal one.


December 9, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, history, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Large Multinational Study Shows Link Between CT Radiation Exposure and Brain Cancer in Children and Young Adults
December 9, 2022, Jeff Hall

In a new study based on five- to six-year follow-up data from over 650,000 children and young adults who had at least one computed tomography (CT) exam prior to the age of 22, researchers found a “strong dose-response relationship” between increased CT radiation exposure and brain cancer.

Increased cumulative exposure to radiation from computed tomography (CT) exams led to elevated risks for developing gliomas and other forms of brain cancer in children and young adults, according to the findings of a large multinational study of data from over 650,000 patients.

In the study, recently published in the Lancet Oncology, researchers reviewed pooled data from nine European countries and a total of 658,752 patients. All study participants had at least one CT exam prior to the age of 22 with no prior cancer or benign brain tumor, according to the study. Examining follow-up data at a median of 5.6 years, the study authors noted 165 brain cancers (including 121 gliomas). They also found that the overall mean cumulative brain radiation dose, lagged by five years, was 47.4 mGy for the study cohort in comparison to a mean cumulative brain radiation dose of 76.0 mGy for those with brain cancer.

“First results of (the study) after a median follow-up of 5.6 years show a strong dose-response relationship between the brain radiation dose and the relative risk of all brain cancers combined and glioma separately; a finding that remains consistent for doses substantially lower than 100 mGy,” wrote lead study author Michael Hauptmann, Ph.D., a professor of Biometry and Registry Research at the Brandenburg Medical School Theodor-Fontane in Neuruppin, Germany, and colleagues.

For head and neck CT exams, the researchers noted a “significant positive association” between the cumulative number of these procedures and elevated brain cancer risk. Employing linear dose-response modelling, the researchers found a 1.27 excess relative risk (ERR) per 100 mGy of brain radiation dosing for all brain cancers, a 1.1 ERR for gliomas and a 2.13 ERR for brain cancers excluding gliomas, according to the study.

Hauptmann and colleagues acknowledged that the risk estimates in the study translate to one out of 10,000 children experiencing a radiation-induced brain cancer five to 15 years after a head CT exam. However, the researchers also emphasized appropriate caution, pointing out annual estimates of pediatric head CT exams surpassing one million in the European Union and five million in the United States.

“These figures emphasize the need to adhere to the basic radiological protection principles in medicine, namely justification (procedures are appropriate and comply with guidelines) and optimization (doses are as low as reasonably achievable),” added Hauptmann and colleagues.

Study limitations included the potential for confounding indications with the study authors noting the inclusion of studies with some patients having congenital syndromes that may be predisposing factors for brain tumor development. However, Hauptmann and colleagues noted that exclusion of those patients and adjustments for those conditions saw no significant effect on the assessment of ERR.

The study authors also noted a lack of information on other imaging, such as nuclear medicine studies and X-rays, that may have been performed in the study population. However, they suggested the contribution of radiation dosing from these exams “is probably minor” in comparison to higher frequencies and dosing seen with pediatric head CT exams.

December 9, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, children, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Missouri Community and Its Children Grappling With Exposure to Nuclear Waste

In the 2022 report, BCDC took 32 soil, dust, and plant samples throughout the school buildings and campus. Using x-ray to analyze the samples BCDC found more than 22 times more lead-210 than the estimated exposure levels for the average US elementary school in the Jana Elementary playground alone. There were also more than 12 times the lead-210 expected exposure in the topsoil of the basketball courts alone.

Radioactive  isotopes of polonium-210radium-266thorium-230, and other toxicants were also found in the library, kitchen, ventilation system, classroom surfaces, surface soil and even soil as far as six feet below the surface. Chanese Forte, December 8, 2022

The families, students, and school officials in Florissant, Missouri have been living a modern nightmare for the past several weeks, learning that Jana Elementary school and the surrounding region has high levels of radiation, a problem caused decades ago by the production of nuclear weapons

Radiation exposure can damage the DNA in cells leading to a host of health problems including cancer and auto-immune disorders. What’s more troubling is that the Centers for Disease Control reports that children and young adults, especially girls and women, are more sensitive to the effects of radiation.

Jana Elementary school has 400 students and a predominantly (82.9%) Black student body. Unfortunately, the United States has a long history of environmental racism which results in harming Black, Indigenous and Brown communities much more in the process of creating and maintaining nuclear weapons.

When science cannot agree, the community suffers

The suburban school north of St. Louis, Missouri, was thought to be safe for students based on research completed in 2000 by the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Specifically, USACE has been in the Coldwater Creek region for the last 20 years attempting to remediate radioactive waste associated with the creek (which does not include Jana Elementary).

Toward the start of the 2022 semester, as part of an ongoing lawsuit in the region the Boston Chemical Data Corp (BCDC), an environmental consulting group, reported the elementary school as having radioactive waste levels far above the estimated national levels.

These radioactive waste exposures—like lead-210—are associated with decreased cognition, brain defects, thyroid disease, and cancer, and can accumulate in the body over time.

Following the BCDC report, all Jana Elementary students were sent home for the rest of the semester in hopes their homes were less toxic.

By the Thanksgiving holiday break, the USACE returned to test inside and on the playground of the school and found no radiation on the campus, news which many community members and organizers unsurprisingly expressed as suspicious.

The School Board then hired SCI Engineering, a private engineering firm, to sample Jana Elementary who came to a similar conclusion as USACE.

Now returning to classes from Thanksgiving break, many wary students joined classes at new schools in the area per the school board’s decision related to BCDC’s radiation exposure assessment. Many parents also expressed to National Public Radio they felt left out of discussions for decisions being made.  

How did radioactive waste end up in Florissant, MO?

The region near Jana Elementary was first contaminated by the US Department of Energy’s decision to make St. Louis one of the processing sites for uranium during the Manhattan Engineering District project. These nuclear weapons were built through World War II and originally stored at the St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

Unfortunately, the waste was later illegally dumped in 1973 at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, MO, which lies about 10 miles Southwest of Jana Elementary. The West Lake Landfill is located near the Mallinckrodt Chemical Works Company which regularly floods, causing these harmful chemicals to be carried away by nearby water ways like Coldwater Creek.

Coldwater Creek runs for 19 miles throughout the area and flows directly into the Missouri River. Jana Elementary, just North of St. Louis, is bordered by the creek on two sides but has to date not been included in any clean-up efforts by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

US Army Corps of Engineers initially didn’t sample inside or outside of Jana Elementary

Prior to the Boston Chem Data Corp 2022 report, the USACE did not take any samples within 300 feet of the school building in their 2017 assessment. According to BCDC’s report, this doesn’t follow US Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR) standards for radioactive sampling.

In fact, it ignores the conclusion ATSDR made that most exposures in the region will be indoors and just outdoors of buildings.

Indoor samples from creek-facing homes in the same neighborhood as Jana Elementary had similar radioactive waste both indoors and outdoors. ATSDR also noted in a 2019 report that radioactive wastes are routinely moved from Coldwater Creek into homes due to flooding. The region floods frequently which is only increasing due to climate change in the region.

New radioactive sampling methods used to understand student exposure

In the 2022 report, BCDC took 32 soil, dust, and plant samples throughout the school buildings and campus. Using x-ray to analyze the samples BCDC found more than 22 times more lead-210 than the estimated exposure levels for the average US elementary school in the Jana Elementary playground alone. There were also more than 12 times the lead-210 expected exposure in the topsoil of the basketball courts alone.

Radioactive  isotopes of polonium-210radium-266thorium-230, and other toxicants were also found in the library, kitchen, ventilation system, classroom surfaces, surface soil and even soil as far as six feet below the surface.

Marco Kaltofen, an environmental engineer who is leading the BCDC team, collected roughly 1,000 samples from across the region as a part of law suit efforts. There are several businesses and homes also indicated as exposed in the lawsuit as well.

Overall, Kaltofen suggests that BCDC’s unprecedented x-ray method better picks up the microscopic radioactive materials. However, he also asserts both studies are essentially saying the same thing, which is of course confusing for many community members.

Community organizers fight for testing and clean-up

Just Moms STL activist Dawn Chapman has worked tirelessly since 2014 to get the federal government to test for radioactive material in more regions where the creek floods.

The co-founder of Just Moms STL, Karen Nickel, also attended Jana Elementary School and has reported currently living with several autoimmune disorders. She uses her experience and love of the area to battle these exposure injustices.

In a 2017 Nation Public Radio report, Ms. Chapman says,

“They [The US Government] fought us for years. Finally, they [tested] parks that had flooded, and found [radioactive waste]. They started testing some backyards and found it. We pushed for Jana Elementary, because it is the closest school to the creek.”   Just Moms STL activist, Dawn Chapman

We reached out to Just Moms STL to understand what the next steps are. Just Moms STL Recommends:

  • The sites in St. Louis should be expeditiously cleaned up.

    Unfortunately, Jana Elementary School is not the only place to be concerned about near St. Louis. 
  • Since remediation of nuclear weapons waste in the area has already taken decades, many of these students will likely age out of Jana Elementary School before there is full remediation of radioactive waste in the St. Louis area.

While there is guidance on defining “safe” or acceptable radioactive exposure levels as it relates to human health, scientists also calculate “expected” levels from the Earth naturally (like radon in sediment).

Unacceptable levels are frequently defined as radiation exposure above natural levels by communities.

  • However, legally the Army Corps is allowed to leave some radioactive residue above naturally occurring levels, and Just Moms STL would like this to no longer be the case.  
  • Residents near nuclear weapon processing sites like the St. Louis area should be included in federal radiation compensation programs, such as the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). UCS also suggests consideration of St. Louis in the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Program Act (EEOICPA), and other forms of compensation as well.

Expanding radiation compensation programs is complicated because the list of communities that want to be included who currently qualify is long. Moreover, Just Moms STL says the RECA program needs to be expanded to include processing sites like St. Louis, which has previously only applied to nuclear testing exposure sites and uranium workers, or EEOICPA, which has only covered nuclear site workers, but not surrounding communities.

There are currently two bills being proposed to the House and Senate to extend and strengthen  RECA. Just Moms STL is working to get Missouri elected officials to help sponsor and carry RECA as well. And your representatives may also be interested in supporting adjustments to RECA or the EEOICPA.

December 8, 2022 Posted by | children, radiation, USA, wastes | Leave a comment