Years after mining stops, uranium’s legacy lingers on Native land http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2016/tribal-series/crow-series/years-after-mining-stops-uraniums-legacy-lingers-on-native-land August 22, 2016 By Brian Bienkowski
Editor’s Note: This story is part of “Sacred Water,” EHN’s ongoing investigation into Native American struggles—and successes—to protect culturally significant water sources on and off the reservation.
CROW AGENCY, Mont.—The Crow are not alone in their struggle with uranium. The toxic metal is irrefutably intertwined with Native Americans, long a notorious national environmental injustice. Some 15,000 abandoned uranium mines with uranium contamination pocket 14 Western states. Of those, 75 percent are on federal and tribal lands, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Contamination is especially concentrated across the Colorado Plateau near the Four Corners region of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, leaving a lasting impact on tribes such as Navajos, Utes, Hopi and Zuni.
The area became saturated with the dangerous metal from the heavy mining fueled by Cold War-era anxieties in the 1940s and ’60s, and the lax cleanup of the 1980s.
Most of the mines were on federal land—managed by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. But tribes, namely the Navajo, were swept into the uranium-mining boom for both their labor and land and are still dealing with the mess it left.
More than 521 abandoned uranium mines pocket Navajo land alone. Some 90 percent of uranium milling in the United States took place on or just outside the boundaries of Native American reservations, according to a 2015 study. This left a legacy of dirty water, leftover toxic waste and health problems such as lung cancer and developmental delays for children in many Western tribes.
Such pollution becomes a force multiplier for Native Americans—on the Crow reservation it adds to economic, health and historical burdens, and further complicates the ability to cultivate and sustain their culture.
In the body, most—but not all—uranium is excreted. What remains settles mostly in the kidneys and bones. Excess uranium has been linked to increased cancer risk, liver damage, weakened bone growth, developmental and reproductive problems.
Even at low levels uranium may play a role in some cancers and fertility problems. Studies have shown it acts as an endocrine disruptor, mimicking the hormone estrogen. Hormones are crucial for proper development, and such altering can lead to some cancers and fertility and reproductive problems.
For the Navajo Nation, many men worked in mining or milling, unaware of the risks, and later dealt with various cancers and failing kidneys. In 2000 researchers reported that from 1969 to 1993 Navajo uranium miners had a lung-cancer rate about 29 times that of non-mining Navajos, according to the study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Most of the mining tunnels, pits and waste piles remain on the reservation today near Navajo families. Water, already scarce, remains tainted with uranium and other metals. In one report, researchers found elevated uranium levels in the urine of 27 percent of almost 600 Navajo tribal members tested. The U.S. population as a whole is closer to 5 percent.
The uranium-mining legacy also left contaminated groundwater on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Indians. In Washington state, two mines were shuttered in the 1980s, but more than 30 million tons of radioactive rock and ore remain at the site. Today it is a federal Superfund site. Researchers are now tracking cancer rates on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
“We see a high percentage of wells contaminated with trace elements like uranium in the double digits all over the U.S, but they are certainly more prevalent in Western, more arid areas.”
– Joe Ayotte, USGSThis toxic trail spreads throughout the West. Some uranium mining took place near the Crow Reservation, but naturally occurring levels can infiltrate drinking water wells too. And private wells don’t have the same safeguards of testing and treatment that public water does.
“We see a high percentage of wells contaminated with trace elements like uranium in the double digits all over the U.S, but they are certainly more prevalent in Western, more arid areas,” says Joe Ayotte, chief of groundwater quality studies section for the U.S. Geological Survey.
The USGS reported 20 percent of untreated water samples from public, private and monitoring wells nationwide contained concentrations of at least one trace element, such as uranium, arsenic and manganese. Manganese and uranium were found at levels at or above human health standards in 12 percent and 4 percent of wells nationwide, respectively, according to the study.
Like the rest of the country, Montana home wells have historically not been tested for elements such as uranium and manganese, so it’s unclear if Crow is an outlier or the norm for the state.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality does not have regulatory authority over private wells on tribal lands, says Lisa Peterson, an agency spokesperson, adding that they haven’t received any information about contamination on the Crow Reservation.
For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at email@example.com.
Leading Doctor Calls Climate Change Gravest Health Threat of 21st Century http://commondreams.org/news/2016/08/23/leading-doctor-calls-climate-change-gravest-health-threat-21st-century?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=socialnetwork
‘When you cannot feed your children, you will do anything, even if it means going to war. This is the reality of climate change’
Climate change is the greatest threat to public health worldwide and doctors must step up to help mitigate it, according to a leading advocate speaking at the annual Canadian Medical Association (CMA) meeting in Vancouver on Monday.
Dr. James Orbinski, a former top official with the medical charity Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), who is now an an associate professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto, urged physicians to “step up and step out” in the fight against climate change as part of their duties to create “health-in-all” policies.
“We’re not separate from our biosphere, or our planet,” Orbinski told the audience of 600. “We can’t possibly live, survive, and thrive without our biosphere. It affects us and we affect it.”
“Climate change is very much of our own making…but as doctors, we have a vital responsibility to urge the development of a health-in-all-policies approach,” he said.
The Vancouver Sun reports on Orbinski’s comments:
Droughts, fires like the one in Fort McMurray in May, floods, food security and infectious diseases are all linked to climate change.
Mental health problems and respiratory ailments from air pollution as well as rising rates of infectious diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease are also some of the consequences of climate change.
He also noted that Canada’s yearly rate of warming is twice the global pace, which means the effects of climate change will increase as time goes on, absent a concerted effort to reduce greenhouse gases.
“The implications are utterly profound,” Orbinski said.
“People go to war over water, food and territory, and when you cannot feed your children, you will do anything, even if it means going to war. This is the reality of climate change.”
CMA president Dr. Cindy Forbes said the organization would attempt to create an action plan. “I appreciated greatly Dr. Orbinski’s call to action, and I agree as a nation and as a planet we cannot ignore climate change,” she said.
The researchers estimated air pollution from past and projected future wildfires in 561 western counties, and found that by mid-century more than 82 million people will experience “smoke waves,” or consecutive days with high air pollution related to fires.
The regions likely to receive the highest exposure to wildfire smoke in the future include northern California, western Oregon, and the Great Plains.
Their results, published in the journal Climatic Change, point to the need for new or modified wildfire management and evacuation programs in the nation’s high-risk regions, said Jia Coco Liu, a recent Ph.D. graduate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and lead author of the study.
“Our study illustrates that smoke waves are likely to be longer, more intense, and more frequent under climate change,” Liu said. “This raises critical health, ecological, and economic concerns. Identifying communities that will be most affected in the future will inform development of fire management strategies and disaster preparedness programs.”…..http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/ysof-mt081516.php
Once secret documents helping lawyers argue for sick nuclear workers at South Carolina complex Unlike many lawyers, Bob Warren agreed to represent sick workers at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The pay has been low, but Warren has for 13 years handled their cases in hopes of gaining compensation from the federal government. He’s done so, despite battling Parkinson’s disease and financial difficulties.Today, he continues to press their cases from a tiny law office in Black Mountain, N.C. BY SAMMY FRETWELL firstname.lastname@example.org COLUMBIA, SC , 11 Aug 16,
Lawyers are using once-classified government documents to argue that potentially thousands of sick nuclear weapons workers and their families should be eligible for federal benefits.
The documents, released late last year, provide evidence that some workers at the Savannah River Site were exposed to thorium after 1972 even though the government said the South Carolina plant no longer had significant quantities of the radioactive material, said Bob Warren, an attorney representing ex-SRS employees.
Warren said the federal records show that SRS had ample amounts of thorium, a metal used in nuclear reactions that can cause cancer. Warren obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information Act from the U.S. Department of Energy after a three-year wait.
“Without this information, we would not be able to go forward,’’ Warren said in an interview with The State. “These documents are pivotal in making the case.’’
In a letter to a government radiation advisory board, Warren asks that more people employed at SRS be compensated for illnesses they contracted while working there.
Warren’s request, to be discussed by the advisory board Wednesday, seeks to expand a federal compensation program by making it easier for people who worked at SRS from 1973-2007 to gain benefits for cancer the site caused.
The federal government has already made it easier for many sick workers employed before 1973 at SRS to receive compensation because of likely exposure to thorium at the site.
Those eligible for benefits could get up to $400,000 each under the federal compensation program. The program, available to sick workers at federal weapons complexes across the country, has been criticized as a bureaucratic maze of rules so tough that many deserving people have been denied benefits. Some ex-workers have died before receiving compensation, according to a McClatchy newspapers investigation last year.
“There is no reason not to expand,’’ Warren’s written comments said, noting that approving his request would make “many more workers and their survivors eligible for benefits from the … program before they die.’’
Warren said if he is successful, several thousand people who worked at SRS from 1973 to 2007 could receive benefits.
SRS is a 310-square mile federal atomic weapons site near Aiken along the Georgia border. It was a cornerstone of the nation’s Cold War nuclear weapons production effort, at times employing more than 10,000 people. Many who worked there were exposed to radiation, and some now say the exposure made them sick.
Federal officials charged with recommending whether to expand the program are expected to challenge Warren’s arguments at Wednesday’s meeting of the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health. But Warren said it’s hard to dispute what he has found in more than 1,300 pages of records that the government released.
The documents, many of which were previously classified, contradict past federal justification for not expanding the compensation program, he said. The records indicate that thorium existed in notable quantities for years at SRS after 1972 – despite government arguments that it did not.
Among the documents are:
▪ Handwritten records from SRS officials showing that more than 8 tons of thorium were stored at the site in 1998.
▪ A 1982 memo from a ranking SRS official showing that thorium was among the radioactive materials the government wanted to discard.
▪ A 1976 inventory report showing about 7 tons of thorium on the site.
In addition, Warren’s comment letter to the advisory board uses the deposition of a top site official to show that the government had no bioassay medical screening program for thorium exposure before 2000.
Thorium is used in the aerospace industry and in nuclear reactions. Breathing thorium dust may cause an increased chance of lung disease as well as lung and pancreatic cancer years after being exposed, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Thorium, which is odorless and tasteless, also has been linked to bone cancer, the agency reports.
The 1,300 pages released by the government now “definitely show thorium shipments to, and in some cases from, SRS after 1972,’’ Warren’s letter says. In the past, federal health officials charged with giving the advisory board information have not provided documentation that would have helped the board recommend expanding the program to cover more recent years, he said.
The Department of Energy had no immediate comment on the thorium issue. It could be months before Warren’s request is resolved……….
Under the federal compensation program, employees sickened by numerous types of cancer at SRS and other federal weapons sites must show that the radiation they received was a significant cause of their illnesses. But the government also can declare entire classes of workers as eligible without requiring each worker to document his or her doses. The class designation can occur when individual dosage records are unavailable to workers.
Bioassy records are unavailable for individual workers to show exposure to thorium, Warren said. So Warren argues that all workers from 1973-2007 should be eligible for compensation. In 2011, he was successful in persuading the government to make workers prior to 1973 eligible for compensation because of thorium exposure.
Warren’s petition is part of a 14-year-effort to obtain compensation for people who say they were sickened by radiation at SRS. An attorney in Black Mountain, N.C., Warren is one of the few lawyers who took on SRS compensation cases, which do not pay attorneys well. He plans to retire soon because of health problems but he works with South Carolina lawyers Warren Johnson and Joshua Fester, who will continue the work.
Nationally, the government has paid more than $12 billion to sick ex-nuclear workers and their families, including those from SRS, McClatchy newspapers reported last year. The energy employees compensation program began in 2001. http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article94448307.html
It has been known for a long time, and without a doubt, that even low levels of radiation in our food or water can have disastrous effects, even at levels of say 30 or 40 Bq/kG of consumed food.
And here is the study itself.
Cosmic radiation: Apollo astronauts 5 times more likely to die from heart disease, says study Rt.com 29 Jul, 2016 The first study of Apollo astronauts – the only people to have traveled beyond Earth’s protective magnetic shield – has found that those who ventured to the moon are five times more likely to die from heart disease.
The NASA and Florida State University study revealed its findings on Thursday. They state that so far three Apollo astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, have died from cardiovascular disease, apparently as a result of the extreme cosmic radiation they were exposed to during their missions. The researchers concentrated on a small group for the study: 42 astronauts who flew in space, seven of whom were Apollo veterans, the other 35 being non-flight astronauts.
The study, published in the Scientific Reports journal, found that Apollo astronauts are four to five times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease death than astronauts who either never entered space or only flew on low-altitude missions.
“These data suggest that human travel into deep space may be more hazardous to cardiovascular health than previously estimated,” it said. https://www.rt.com/usa/353865-apollo-study-heart-disease/#.V5smTINhh9Q.facebook
Christopher Busby exposes the fallacy behind the current accepted model of exposure hazard adopted by governments and the nuclear industry since the ‘50s and which he will be challenging in a major legal case in London in June on behalf of nuclear test veterans. This is one of the rare times that I publish someone else’s work to the IMVA.
March saw the publication, in the influential scientific journal Environmental Health and Toxicology, of a landmark analysis of the effects of internal radioactive contamination on the genetic integrity of life.
My German colleagues and I used published data from Chernobyl effects in Europe to dismiss the radiation risk model that is currently employed by governments to limit discharges and exposures.1 This is the model of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), which bases its analysis on a different scenario to the fallout from Chernobyl: the survivors of the Hiroshima bomb.
It is claimed that there were no cases of found in those who were there. So the ICRP uses data from mice to give a risk of a doubling of heritable effects after an exposure dose of 1,000 milliSieverts (mSv). To put this in perspective, natural background radiation’s annual dose is about 2mSv so ICRP says you need to have 500 times this dose to risk having a child with a birth defect.
However, our paper shows this is wildly incorrect: that the tiniest doses from ingested or inhaled radioactive materials released by accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima, produced by the 1960s atmospheric bomb tests, and emitted routinely under licence from nuclear sites like Sellafield and Hinkley Point, kill and deform babies at doses of less than 1mSv.
The Government and the nuclear industry defend the ICRP position by referring to natural background radiation. But, though it is true that life has been exposed to natural background radiation, including radon, throughout evolution, there has never been on Earth, prior to 1945, the new Uranium fission and activation products like Strontium-90, Caesium-137, Tritium, Carbon-14, Plutonium-239 and their nasty ‘daughters’ and relations. These substances and the entirely new, airborne, radioactive, pure particles of uranium and radium only appeared about 70 years ago. Already we can see the terrible damage they have caused to the human genome.
The fallout generation
The first evidence of harm was identified by the late Prof Ernest Sternglass.2 He pointed out that the period of the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons had caused increases in infant mortality in the USA and the UK. Fig 1 shows a graph of this effect re-plotted by me from a later paper in by a Canadian paediatrician, Robin Whyte.3 The figure also displays the increases in Strontium-90 in milk and in the bones of children aged 0-1 over the fallout period, as measured in autopsies by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Agency.
The sensitivity of the unborn child to radiation had been demonstrated by Alice Stewart at Birmingham University in 1958, but the authorities could not believe that the 10mSv X-ray doses to mothers could cause the 40% increases in childhood cancer that Stewart demonstrated.4 Nuclear weapons development was in full swing, fallout in the rain everywhere was causing increased measured levels of Strontium-90 in milk and children’s bones and teeth (see Fig 1).
The Cold War needed thermonuclear bombs: so research into the health effects of radiation was rapidly taken from the doctors and given to the nuclear physicists. The Japanese Hiroshima genetic data was manipulated.5 In 1959 an agreement was signed between the medics at the World Health Organisation and the physicists at the International Atomic Energy Agency, leaving all studies of radiation and health to the IAEA; thus the cover-up was sealed. This is why there has been no proper study of the health outcome of Chernobyl.
Fig 1. This graph shows first-day neonatal mortality rate per 1,000 births in the USA from 1936 to 1987. The black diamonds line shows the expected background fall in mortality rate based on the period either side of the atmospheric nuclear tests’ fallout. The red line shows the build-up of Strontium-90 in milk in the UK and the blue line, the build-up of Strontium-90 in bones of children in the UK aged 0-1. Mortality data from Robin Whyte’s paper.3 Note: different scales for milk and bone; Strontium-90 in milk (red: Bq/gCa++ x 10) and bone (blue: pCi/gm Ca++, sunshine units) from UK Atomic Energy Authority. 1pCi = 0.037Bq.
Radiation has its effects by causing mutations in the DNA, the material in the cell that carries all the information. If this is germ cell DNA (sperms and eggs), depending on the amount of damage, you get sterility, miscarriage, stillbirth or congenital effects, which can show as malformations at birth, or more silent malformations (eg. heart defects) or cancer later on.
If it is chromosomal DNA in a cell in the body then it can lead to cancer. The lag time between initial DNA damage and cancer is about 20 years. In my 1995 book, Wings of Death, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, I discussed all this and compared cancer rate trends in Wales with those in England.6 Because of the high rainfall, the cancer rates in Wales, which had been slightly higher than England, suddenly and alarmingly increased about 20 years after the fallout. The correlation was persuasive. Even the effect of the 1959 partial test ban was reflected in the cancer rate trend. The effect was particularly obvious for breast cancer, one of the sites most sensitive to radiation exposures, and I made such a suggestion in a letter published in the BMJ in 1994.7
Of course, the contamination of the planet did not stop with the 1963 Kennedy/Krushchev test ban. Where the testing stopped, the nuclear power contamination began, with releases under licence to the air and the sea. This was followed by the accidents, Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, the most infamous of many others. The world has been increasingly bathed with radioactivity since 1945 in a femtosecond of evolutionary time and there seems no sign of governments stopping this unless it can be proved that the radiation risk model is wildly incorrect and is killing people. But we can, as you will see.
Everyone now knows that the age-standardised cancer rates have been increasing alarmingly. Everyone has been touched by this epidemic. What is the cause? In the ‘50s, one in nine people developed cancer. In the 1990s it was one in five. In the last few years it is one in three and according to the WHO (who are not allowed to assess radiation) in 2020 it will be one in two.
None of the big cancer charities nor the Government health departments address the chief cause. Why? Because the main cause is ionising radiation. It is not smoking, nor lifestyle, nor obesity nor even the many chemicals now polluting the environment. The UK’s cancer epidemic began on the west coast in Wales and the west of Scotland with the rain and the fallout, not in the east, where the agrochemicals and insecticides are in greater concentration. This is the first thing I checked. As the late Dr John Gofman, of the US Atomic Energy Commission, wrote: ‘The nuclear industry is waging a war on humanity’.
The highest cancer rates are in those born at the peak of the fallout, from 1959 and 1963, now aged 52-56. The incidence of most cancers increases exponentially with age, but the ages when it is diagnosed are falling fast because everyone born after 1959 has been drinking contaminated milk, water and food as a baby, and building up Strontium-90 in their bones.
Strontium-90 (and uranium) binds chemically to DNA, the target for genetic damage. The effects are most easily seen in breast cancer and the proof that the breast cancer epidemic is caused by radioactive contamination can be seen in the studies of breast cancer near nuclear sites. We have carried out epidemiological studies of three nuclear sites in the UK: Bradwell in Essex, Trawsfynydd in Wales and Hinkley Point in Somerset. All three papers were published in a peer-reviewed journal.8-11 Two used official government mortality data to show there was a 100% excess risk of dying of breast cancer if you lived near the contamination; the other used a questionnaire organised by a TV company making a documentary.
Our new genetic paper, the subject of this article, reviewed all the evidence available from populations exposed to Chernobyl fallout. Increased congenital effects, heart defects, organ defects, limb defects, neurological effects like spina bifida and hydrocephalus, cleft palate, Downs syndrome and those appalling images that have been seen in Iraq after the use of depleted uranium weapons. All were found to increase immediately after the Chernobyl contamination.
Effects were reported from Belarus and Ukraine, but also from Croatia, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Greece, Hungary, the UK, places where the doses from the fallout were less than 1mSv. We also reviewed effects found in radiographers, surgeons using radiation, uranium miners, uranium nuclear workers in France and the UK and, finally, the children of the nuclear test veterans. I draw attention to this latter group because of what I am involved with in the High Court in London in June.
The nuclear test veterans’ case
Since 2004 I have been working with the nuclear test veterans as an expert witness in their cases against the UK Ministry of Defence, in the High Court action (which was lost on appeal) but, most successfully, in the Pensions Appeals. This has been in and out of Tribunals all over the country. I was successful in five cases in reversing the decisions by the Secretary of State for Defence not to grant pensions in cases of cancer, lymphoma and leukemia in veterans of the atmospheric weapons tests in Australia and Christmas Island in the 1950s.
Then the veterans’ solicitors, Rosenblatts, suddenly and unexpectedly dropped the case, a new group of solicitors, Hogan Lovells, took over, and threw me out just before the case was heard in February, 2013. The veterans appealed successfully and the case was remitted for a new hearing, which will occur over three weeks in Court 25 of the Royal Courts of Justice starting on June 14th.
Meanwhile, a proportion of the vets have died (of cancer). In the appeal in 2014, the MoD brought a successful motion to have me dismissed as a witness because they argued that, as an activist, I could not be unbiased. At this point the veterans appointed me as their Representative, so I am still there and the position is more effective than being an expert witness because I can cross-examine the MoD’s experts, something I am looking forward to.
I have already argued successfully in two hearings before a new judge, Sir Nicholas Blake, that we want access to secret material held by the MoD that shows the amounts of radioactivity, particularly uranium, in the bomb fallout. Uranium was not measured at the time, or at least the MoD will not give us any data, but we now know, from the effects of depleted uranium in Iraq and the Balkans, and also a huge amount of new research, that uranium is thousands of times more dangerous than is modelled by ICRP.
One of the effects it has (in uranium miners, workers, battlefield victims and populations, and nuclear test veterans) is that it causes huge amounts of genetic damage, shown as chromosome damage and congenital malformations. And, like Strontium-90, uranium binds to DNA.
The new judge has figured out that this is an issue. He ordered the release of some secret data showing the levels of congenital malformations in children and grandchildren of the veterans. Among his reasons for doing this, he wrote:
Dr Busby, who now represents the appellants Battersby and Smith, raises a number of new points not previously determined. . . The international Radiation Protection Authority’s guidance on the safe maxima in insufficient to screen out all risks to human health arising from explosions of the kind undertaken at Maralinga and Christmas Island.
Biggest public health scandal ever
We can use the secret birth defect data together with the new genetic paper to show that the radiation risk model of the ICRP is in error by about 1,000 times or more. This mistake, which was made in 1952 and has been promulgated ever since through the power and influence of the nuclear industry and the military, is, in the main, responsible for the deaths and agonies of all the people that you yourselves know have developed cancer – from the little, bald children, to the beautiful women suffering the cutting, burning and worse that is now orthodox treatment, to your parents, your own children and, indeed, yourselves.
This exposure is at the base of the loss of fertility and the increased real rates of heritable diseases (in advanced countries detected and aborted). Winning this case will put this issue firmly in front of the legislators. Accepting this combined chess move, the peer-reviewed study and the court case, should, in any unbiased court, result in the shutting down of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, including the nuclear submarines that deliver them. It is a Big Deal. But the prize is continued life on Earth.
About the author
Work stoppage continues at Hanford Nuclear Reservation http://q13fox.com/2016/07/12/work-stoppage-continues-at-hanford-nuclear-reservation/ JULY 12, 2016, BY ASSOCIATED PRESS SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A rare work stoppage continues by some Hanford Nuclear Reservation workers who contend that radioactive wastes left from the production of nuclear weapons are making them sick.
Union president Dave Molnaa, who ordered the work stoppage, said it will continue until all employees are provided with bottled air when working around all of the underground nuclear waste storage tanks on the Hanford site.
Workers have contended for years that chemical vapors escaping from the tanks are making them sick.
The steel tanks, some dating back to World War II, contain wastes created by the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons.
The Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council, a coalition of 15 unions that represent workers on the site near Richland, issued the “stop work” order on Monday morning.
Hanford nuclear contractor makes offer to cut vapor exposure, Bellingham Herald, 8 July 16
The contractor that operates radioactive waste storage tanks on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has proposed that employees who move tank farm waste perform their shifts on nights and weekends to reduce exposure to chemical vapors, after dozens of employees said they were sickened from vapors associated with the tanks. BY NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS Associated Press SPOKANE, WASH.
The contractor that operates radioactive waste storage tanks on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has proposed that employees who move tank farm waste perform their shifts on nights and weekends to reduce exposure to chemical vapors, after dozens of employees said they were sickened from vapors associated with the tanks.
Washington River Protection Solutions this week asked unions to approve making evenings, nights and weekends the standard shifts for employees who transport the waste and work close to waste tanks. The request came a month after union leaders demanded that work that could release vapors be limited at the sprawling facility during the day when many more employees are present.
More than 8,000 people work at Hanford, but only about 700 have jobs involving waste transport and regular tasks at the waste tanks. Tank farm work involving the movement of nuclear waste is suspected in the release of the non-radioactive chemical vapors.
More than 50 Hanford workers in recent months have sought medical examinations for possible exposure to chemical vapors. Some reported smelling suspicious odors and some experienced respiratory problems. Nearly all were cleared to return to work……….
Hanford for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons, work that generated a massive inventory of nuclear waste that is stored in 177 underground tanks. The site is now dedicated to cleaning up the waste, a process expected to last decades and cost billions of dollars. WRPS is a contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy, which owns the Hanford site near Richland, Washington.
The union coalition had also asked management to supply air respirators for all work performed within the Hanford zones that contain steel-lined waste tanks. Some of the tanks are protected by single steel walls while newer ones have double walls.
Workers must already wear respirators while near the single-wall tanks known to emit vapors………http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/article88411777.html#storylink=cpy
Shift to Clean Energy Could Save Millions Who Die From Pollution
Reducing deadly pollution has the double benefit of quickly trimming carbon dioxide emissions, the International Energy Agency says. Inside Climate News, BY PHIL MCKENNA 27 JUNE 16
In its first report ever to examine the links between these twin goals, the authoritative International Energy Agency said the solutions go “hand-in-hand.”
With a 7 percent increase in energy-related investment, it said, the world could cut air-pollution mortality from about 6.5 million today to 3.3 million in 2040. And the changes would bring about a peak in CO2 emissions by 2020, it said.
Along with spending on pollution control equipment, the keys, it said, are energy efficiency and the use of renewables like wind and solar.
The report marks a new movement among those who favor the long-term goal of fighting global warming toward an equal and more immediate concern—protecting the health of the world…….
The IEA assessment outlines a Clean Air Scenario where an additional $4.8 trillion in pollution control technologies, renewable energy and energy efficiency measures is invested worldwide between now and 2040. The investment would include making clean cooking facilities available to an additional 1.8 billion people worldwide.
The $4.8 trillion cost represents an additional 7 percent on top of energy spending plans already announced by the world’s nations, including the pledges to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that they made under the new Paris climate treaty. (The IEA calls this baseline its “New Policies Scenario” to distinguish it from business as usual.)
The alternative Clean Air Scenario detailed in the report would result in a drop of more than 50 percent in global emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and a nearly 75 percent reduction in harmful particulate matter emissions by 2040.
Air pollution reductions would be greatest in developing countries. The 60 percent of India’s population currently exposed to air with a high concentration of fine particles would, for example, fall to less than 20 percent, according to the report.
“Implementing the IEA strategy in the Clean Air Scenario can push energy-related pollution levels into a steep decline in all countries,” Birol said.
“It can also deliver universal access to modern energy, a rapid peak and decline in global greenhouse-gas emissions and lower fossil-fuel import bills in many countries.”…….http://insideclimatenews.org/news/27062016/shift-clean-energy-could-save-climate-and-millions-who-die-air-pollution
According to a recent report, Radiation and Public Health Project researchers compared the state and national cancer data from 1988-92 with three other five-year periods (1993-97, 1998-02, and 2003-07). The results, published in 2009, show the cancer rates going from 11 percent below the national average to 7 percent above in that time span. Unexpected increases were detected in 19 out of 20 major types of cancer. Thyroid cancer registered the biggest increase, going from 13 percent below the national average to 51 percent above.
While the U.S. war machine spends hundreds of billions of dollars per year waging war against humanity, Americans at home are dying from a crumbling nuclear infrastructure. The realization that multiple nuclear disasters are currently unfolding across the country, while the mainstream media remains silent, speaks to the fact that most media is owned by the same benefactors that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
There’s No Covering Up This One — Visible Pollution Leaking From NY Nuclear Plant, Activist Post, By Matt Agorist, 1 July 16 US Coast Guard officials have cordoned off a portion of Lake Ontario this week, after aerial spotters found a visible “sheen” that is coming from a nuclear power plant in upstate New York.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary aircrew first noticed the sheen on Sunday. Shortly after, a boat crew from the Oswego station tested the sheen and a “temporary safety zone” was put in place.
The Free Thought Project spoke to the Coast Guard Sector Buffalo Command Center on Tuesday and confirmed that the zone was still closed off, and there is no information as to when it will reopen.
The oil sheen is said to be coming from the vent for the hydrogen seal system of the Fitzpatrick plant is in Scriba, New York, approximately 10 miles northeast of Oswego……..
It appears that this Fitzpatrick leak is likely the least worrisome of current leaks popping up around the country.
Although the media spotlight is rarely shined upon America’s aging nuclear infrastructure, U.S. nuclear power plants are decaying rapidly, precipitating numerous nuclear environmental disasters across the country.
To give you an idea of the scope of the crisis facing America’s aging nuclear infrastructure, a startling investigation by the Associated Press found radioactive tritium leaking from three-quarters of all commercial nuclear power sites in the United States.
As The Free Thought Project reported last month, a major nuclear disaster is unfolding in Washington state at what is known as the Hanford nuclear site. There have been reports that the Hanford has been leaking massive amounts of radioactive material for over two weeks. Continue reading
New guidelines proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would significantly increase the amount of radiation that people can ingest in the days and years following a radiological accident — levels far higher than existing limits set by the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974.
Watchdog groups, academics and even some EPA officials worry the change could severely compromise public health. The agency’s proposal, released in early June and open for public comment until July 25, suggests a two-tiered system to advise the public when water is too dangerous for consumption after a radiological release — an event ranging from an accident at a nuclear power plant, such as the 1979 reactor meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania, to a roadside spill of Cold War-era transuranic waste from Los Alamos to a deliberate act of terrorism. The agency has capped the proposed limits at 500 millirems per year for people over 15, and no more than 100 millirems for younger children, the elderly, and pregnant or nursing women.
The new emergency guidelines are at least 25 times higher than the current guidelines, which cap public consumption of radiation at 4 millirems per year. Opponents of the proposal say it will allow radiation exposure equivalent to 250 chest X-rays each year without medical need or consent……
The EPA proposal has significant ramifications for New Mexico, home to two nuclear weapons research laboratories and the nation’s only permanent underground repository for radioactive waste, all of which were built near underground aquifers.
New Mexico’s highways pose concerns under the new EPA proposal because truck transportation of nuclear waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad will resume if the now-shuttered underground storage facility reopens, as planned, by the year’s end. When operations restart at the waste site, which has been closed since a radiation leak in February 2014, U.S. 62-180, Interstate 25, Interstate 40 and U.S. 285 would once again be used to transport nuclear waste to WIPP from Los Alamos, as well as from out-of-state defense sites.
In the first decade of the waste plant’s opening, at least 900 trucks carrying transuranic waste traveled those roads to reach the Carlsbad facility. The New Mexico Environment Department documented 29 accidents between 2002 and 2013, though none led to a spill.
Proposals by the U.S. Energy Department show the federal government also plans to store some foreign plutonium at WIPP, after the material has been processed at a facility in South Carolina. Continue reading
Decades Later, Sickness Among Airmen After a Hydrogen Bomb Accident, NYT, by DAVE PHILIPPSJUNE 19, 2016Alarms sounded on United States Air Force bases in Spain and officers began packing all the low-ranking troops they could grab onto buses for a secret mission. There were cooks, grocery clerks and even musicians from the Air Force band.
It was a late winter night in 1966 and a fully loaded B-52 bomber on a Cold War nuclear patrol had collided with a refueling jet high over the Spanish coast, freeing four hydrogen bombs that went tumbling toward a farming village called Palomares, a patchwork of small fields and tile-roofed white houses in an out-of-the-way corner of Spain’s rugged southern coast that had changed little since Roman times.
It was one of the biggest nuclear accidents in history, and the United States wanted it cleaned up quickly and quietly. But if the men getting onto buses were told anything about the Air Force’s plan for them to clean up spilled radioactive material, it was usually, “Don’t worry.”
“There was no talk about radiation or plutonium or anything else,” said Frank B. Thompson, a then 22-year-old trombone player who spent days searching contaminated fields without protective equipment or even a change of clothes. “They told us it was safe, and we were dumb enough, I guess, to believe them.”
Mr. Thompson, 72, now has cancer in his liver, a lung and a kidney. He pays $2,200 a month for treatment that would be free at a Veterans Affairs hospital if the Air Force recognized him as a victim of radiation. But for 50 years, the Air Force has maintained that there was no harmful radiation at the crash site. It says the danger of contamination was minimal and strict safety measures ensured that all of the 1,600 troops who cleaned it up were protected.
Interviews with dozens of men like Mr. Thompson and details from never before published declassified documents tell a different story. Radiation near the bombs was so high it sent the military’s monitoring equipment off the scales. Troops spent months shoveling toxic dust, wearing little more protection than cotton fatigues. And when tests taken during the cleanup suggested men had alarmingly high plutonium contamination, the Air Force threw out the results, calling them “clearly unrealistic.”
In the decades since, the Air Force has purposefully kept radiation test results out of the men’s medical files and resisted calls to retest them, even when the calls came from one of the Air Force’s own studies.
Many men say they are suffering with the crippling effects of plutonium poisoning. Of 40 veterans who helped with the cleanup who The New York Times identified, 21 had cancer. Nine had died from it. It is impossible to connect individual cancers to a single exposure to radiation. And no formal mortality study has ever been done to determine whether there is an elevated incidence of disease. The only evidence the men have to rely on are anecdotes of friends they watched wither away.
“John Young, dead of cancer … Dudley Easton, cancer … Furmanksi, cancer,” said Larry L. Slone, 76, in an interview, laboring through tremors caused by a neurological disorder.
At the crash site, Mr. Slone, a military police officer at the time, said he was given a plastic bag and told to pick up radioactive fragments with his bare hands. “A couple times they checked me with a Geiger counter and it went clear off the scale,” he said. “But they never took my name, never followed up with me.”
Monitoring of the village in Spain has also been haphazard, declassified documents show. The United States promised to pay for a public health program to monitor the long-term effects of radiation there, but for decades provided little funding. Until the 1980s, Spanish scientists often relied on broken and outdated equipment, and lacked the resources to follow up on potential ramifications, including leukemia deaths in children. Today, several fenced-off areas are still contaminated, and the long-term health effect on villagers is poorly understood.
Many of the Americans who cleaned up after the bombs are trying to get full health care coverage and disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. But the department relies on Air Force records, and since the Air Force records say no one was harmed in Palomares, the agency rejects claims again and again.
The Air Force also denies any harm was done to 500 other veterans who cleaned up a nearly identical crash in Thule, Greenland, in 1968. Those veterans tried to sue the Defense Department in 1995, but the case was dismissed because federal law shields the military from negligence claims by troops. All of the named plaintiffs have since died of cancer…….
“First they denied I was even there, then they denied there was any radiation,” said Ronald R. Howell, 71, who recently had a brain tumor removed. “I submit a claim, and they deny. I submit appeal, and they deny. Now I’m all out of appeals.” He sighed, then continued. “Pretty soon, we’ll all be dead and they will have succeeded at covering this whole thing up.”……
The Pentagon focused on finding the bomb lost in the ocean and largely ignored the danger of loose plutonium, the Air Force personnel at the site said. Troops traipsed needlessly through highly contaminated tomato fields with no safety gear. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/20/us/decades-later-sickness-among-airmen-after-a-hydrogen-bomb-accident.html
Decades Later, Sickness Among Airmen After a Hydrogen Bomb Accident, NYT, by DAVE PHILIPPS JUNE 19, 2016 “……….Spain’s Monitoring
The United States promised to pay for long-term monitoring of health in the village, but for decades it provided only about 15 percent of funding, with Spain paying the rest, according to a declassified Department of Energy summary. Broken air-monitoring stations went unfixed and equipment was often old and unreliable. In the early 1970s, an Atomic Energy Commission scientist noted, the Spanish field monitoring team consisted of a lone graduate student.
Reports of two children dying of leukemia during that time went uninvestigated. The lead Spanish scientist monitoring the population told American counterparts in a 1976 memo that, in light of the leukemia cases, Palomares needed “some kind of medical surveillance of the population to keep watch for diseases or deaths.” None was created.
In the late 1990s, after years of pressure from Spain, the United States agreed to increase funding. New surveys of the village found extensive contamination that had gone undetected, including some areas where radiation was 20 times the permissible level for inhabited areas. In 2004, Spain quietly fenced off the most contaminated land near the bomb craters.
Since then, Spain has urged the United States to finish cleaning the site.
Because of the uneven monitoring, the effect on public health is far from clear. A small mortality study in 2005 found cancer rates had gone up in the village compared with similar villages in the region, but the author, Pedro Antonio Martínez Pinilla, an epidemiologist, cautioned that the results could be because of random error, and urged more study.
At that time, a United States Department of Energy scientist, Terry Hamilton, proposed another study, noting problems in Spain’s monitoring techniques. “It was clear the uptake of plutonium was poorly understood,” he said in an interview. The department did not approve his proposal…..
About a fifth of the plutonium spread in 1966 is still estimated to contaminate the area. After years of pressure, the United States agreed in 2015 to clean up the remaining plutonium, but there is no approved plan or timetable…….http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/20/us/decades-later-sickness-among-airmen-after-a-hydrogen-bomb-accident.html
Decades Later, Sickness Among Airmen After a Hydrogen Bomb Accident, NYT, by DAVE PHILIPPSJUNE 19, 2016 “….. Tests Thrown Out During the cleanup, a medical team gathered more than 1,500 urine samples from the cleanup crew to calculate how much plutonium they were absorbing. The higher the level in the samples, the greater the health hazard.
The records of those tests remain perhaps the most prominent artifact from the cleanup. They show about only 10 of the men absorbed more than the allowed safe dose, and the rest of the 1,500 responders were not harmed. The Air Force today relies on the results to argue that the men were never harmed by radiation. But the men who actually did the testing say the results are deeply flawed and are of little use in determining who was exposed.
“Did we follow protocol? Hell, no. We had neither the time nor the equipment,” said Victor B. Skaar, now 79, who worked on the testing team. The formula for determining the contamination level required collecting urine for 12 hours, but he said he was able to get only a single sample from many men. And others, he said, were never tested at all.
He sent samples to the Air Force’s chief of radiation testing, Dr. Lawrence T. Odland, who started seeing alarmingly high results. Dr. Odland decided the extreme levels did not indicate a true health threat, but were caused by plutonium loose in the camp that contaminated the men’s hands, their clothes and everything else. He threw out about 1,000 samples — 67 percent of the results — including all samples from the first days after the blasts when exposure was probably highest.
Now 94 and living in a rambling Victorian house in Hillsboro, Ohio, where a photo from the Greenland crash hangs in his hall, Dr. Odland questioned his decision.
“We had no way of knowing what was from contamination and what was from inhalation,” he said. “Was the world ending or was everything fine? I just had to make a call.”
He said he never got accurate results for hundreds of men who may have been contaminated. In addition, he soon realized plutonium lodged in the lungs could not always be detected in veterans’ urine, and men with clean samples might still be contaminated.
“It’s sad, sure, it’s sad,” he said. “But what can you do? You can’t take the plutonium out; you can’t cure the cancer. All you can do is bow your head and say you are sorry.”
Monitoring Program Killed
Convinced that the urine samples were inadequate, Dr. Odland persuaded the Air Force in 1966 to set up a permanent “Plutonium Deposition Registry Board” to monitor the men for life.
Experts from the Air Force, Army, Navy, Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs) and Atomic Energy Commission met to establish the program shortly after the cleanup. In welcoming remarks, the Air Force general in charge said the program was “essential” and following the men to their graves would provide “urgently needed data.”
The organizers proposed not notifying troops of their radiation exposure and keeping details of testing out of medical records, according to minutes of the meeting, out of concern notifying them could “set a stage for legal action.”
The plan was to have Dr. Odland’s staff follow the men. Within months, though, he had hit a wall.
“He is not able to get the support from the Department of Defense to go after the remaining people or set up a real registry because of the sleeping-dog policy,” an Atomic Energy Commission memo from 1967 noted.
“The sleeping dog policy? It was to leave it alone. Let it lie. I didn’t agree. Hell no, I didn’t agree,” Dr. Odland said. “Everyone decided we should watch these guys, take care of them. And then from somewhere up high they decided it was better to get rid of it.”
Dr. Odland did not know who gave the order to terminate the program, but said since the board included all the military branches and the veterans agency, it likely came from top-level officials.
The Air Force officially dismantled the program in 1968. The “permanent” board had met just once…….. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/20/us/decades-later-sickness-among-airmen-after-a-hydrogen-bomb-accident.html
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