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The cancer toll on nuclear workers: $15.5 billion in compensation and counting

Nuclear fallout: $15.5 billion in compensation and counting

They built our atomic bombs; now they’re dying of cancer

Nearly 33,500 former nuclear site workers died due to radiation exposure- report

Nuclear Fallout: This story produced in partnership with ProPublica and the Santa Fe New Mexican. (Richly illustrated with photographs, videos, charts, documents interactive map) 
Wave 3, By Jamie Grey and Lee Zurik | November 12, 2018  
LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO (InvestigateTV) – Clear, plastic water bottles, with the caps all slightly twisted open, fill a small refrigerator under Gilbert Mondragon’s kitchen counter. The lids all loosened by his 4- and 6-year old daughters because, at just 38, Mondragon suffers from limited mobility and strength. He blames his conditions on years of exposure to chemicals and radiation at the facility that produced the world’s first atomic bomb: Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Gilbert Mondragon, 38, pulls the cap off a plastic water bottle that had been twisted open by his young daughters. He hasn’t the strength for those simple tasks anymore and blames his 20-year career at the Los Alamos National Lab. He quit this year because of his serious lung issues, which he suspects were caused by exposures at the nuclear facility. (InvestigateTV/Andy Miller)

Mondragon is hardly alone in his thinking; there are thousands more nuclear weapons workers who are sick or dead. The government too recognizes that workers have been harmed; the Department of Labor administers programs to compensate “the men and women who sacrificed so much for our country’s national security.”

But InvestigateTV found workers with medical issues struggling to get compensated from a program that has ballooned ten times original cost estimates. More than 6,000 workers from Los Alamos alone have filed to get money for their medical problems, with around 53 percent of claims approved.

The Los Alamos lab, the top-secret site for bomb design in 1943, has had numerous safety violations and evidence of improper monitoring, federal inspection reports show. Continue reading

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November 13, 2018 Posted by | employment, health, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

One veteran’s story of radiation effects of participating in nuclear bomb testing

Wigan veteran reveals radiation exposure horror, https://www.wigantoday.net/news/wigan-veteran-reveals-radiation-exposure-horror-1-9425139  ANDREW NOWELL  02 November 2018
  A Wigan veteran has spoken of being a “guinea pig” in nuclear tests on a remote Pacific island and the shocking chapter of British military history being forgotten. Alan Evans was one of thousands of British troops exposed to high levels of radiation while atomic weapons were being tested on Christmas Island.
He spent a year at the desolate spot half the world away when he was just 20 years old and described how the lethal work was carried out with no proper safety equipment and no information about what was happening to them. His experiences left him with life-changing health issues, as half his stomach had to be removed shortly after being demobbed and his teeth were also taken out.
Mr Evans, who is now 80, also spoke of being one of the “forgotten veterans” who went to Christmas Island and says he just wants their experiences to be recognised. Mr Evans, of Lime Street, said: “They just told us we were going to Christmas Island. At 19 years old I thought that was alright. I hadn’t a clue what was going on. “They billeted us in tents all the time we were there and we were allocated these jobs. “I think they detonated five bombs while I was there. When they did everybody had to go down to what they called the port side and sit down with our backs towards the sea. We were only wearing shirts and shorts and a pair of sunglasses.
“When the explosion happened you could feel the heat and you could more or less see through your hands, right to the bones. “We would then be told to stand up and turn around to look out to sea. We could see the mushroom cloud forming. “I was given the job of monitoring people as they came back out of what they called the dirty area. I had a geiger counter if it the reading went up so far they had to have a shower. “We also monitored the pilots because their gear was full of radiation and had to scrub the planes down with brushes.
“We even had to do our laundry in the dirty area. We would clean the clothes there, hang them up to dry and then wear them again. We also buried these lead boxes of samples in a big pit we dug for them.
“We were guines pigs, purely and simply. That’s why we were put there.” Alan had joined the RAF in 1956 and ended up serving for four years, with his year-long stint on Christmas Island coming in 1958. Almost immediately after returning, though, he started to feel unwell but now suspects he encountered a wall of silence from the forces keen to keep the details of the nuclear testing quiet. His condition went downhill dramatically once he returned to civilian life.
He said: “When I got back I had about six months to do so I went to Catterick but I was unwell, I was being sick. I kept going to the medical officer but he kept fobbing me off and saying there was nothing wrong with me. “I was told while I was on home leave that I should demand an X-ray but they told me there was nothing there. “When I got demobbed I went for an X-ray and they found an ulcer in my stomach straight away. “I was in the operating theatre for several hours while they took half my stomach away. When I came round the nurse told me that if I had left it longer before seeking treatment I wouldn’t still be here because it would have burst when they opened me up. “When I came out of the forces I lost four and a half stone. The weight just fell off me. I was always a fit young man playing sport but I couldn’t do anything after I came home. “For the first 12 years of my working life after being demobbed if I did three days a week I was lucky. It takes me five or six hours to digest my food and I can’t eat a lot.” Mr Evans says he was recently heartened to see the issue of the Christmas Island veterans raised in the Wigan Observer by Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue.
He feels the story is nowhere near as well known as it should be and points out that Britain has treated those who were exposed to nuclear tests uniquely poorly. He says he has asked his family to continue battling in the future to ensure this particular episode in military history is not forgotten. However, despite his ordeal and the lifelong consequences he suffered as a result he says he feels absolutely no bitterness or anger towards the military. Mr Evans said: “We are the forgotten veterans and we are also the living proof of what happened out there. I spoke to people at the new armed forces hub and even they didn’t know about it. “It wasn’t exactly a war and we didn’t fight with guns so it is forgotten about, although it was almost as bad as being in a war. “I just think there should be recognition of what we have done, those of us left and the many lads who are dead and buried. “I know there’s a push again for us to get a medal but what’s happening with that we don’t know. “Every country in the world has recognised what we went through except Britain. The Isle of Man gave people compensation, but it’s not about the money.
“I’ve nothing against the forces. I would have stayed in but I couldn’t because I was medically unfit. “I enjoyed every minute I was in the military. The only bad thing was Christmas Island.”

November 3, 2018 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Uranium mining in India – just another kind of nuclear disaster

The real cost of uranium mining  October 29, 2018

The case of Tummalapalle By Krishna Shree and Rajesh Serupally, First PostGangotri was 10 when the first boil appeared on her leg — an itchy pustule that soon led to others. Two years later today, both her legs are covered in scabby blisters that continue to spread. Doctors haven’t been able to diagnose her condition or cure it.

Gangotri is a chirpy, carefree child — she unselfconsciously showed us the skin disease (pictured above the headline) that has so changed her life. However, the mood in her village — Kottala in Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh — is one of anger. Gangotri isn’t the only one to suffer from the mysterious ailment, other cases abound, as do other conditions: unheard-of diseases, death of livestock, loss of crops. Bad news is in plenty, and residents point to one culprit: the neighbouring Tummalapalle uranium mine.

The mine started its operation in 2012 after getting the requisite environmental clearance in 2006; the uranium ore in the Kadapa Basin is the largest reserve in the country. The neighbouring villages of Tummalapalle, Mabbuchintalapalle, Bumayigaripalle and Rachakuntapalle of Velpula and Medipentla Mandals and 60 hectares in Kottala village of Vemula Mandal were acquired by Uranium Corporation of India Limited (a government enterprise) for ‘tailing disposal’ — these are the areas where waterborne refuse material is pumped into a body known as a tailing pond. This is where the radioactive mining waste has been dumped for the past six years.

The Tummalapalle project, consisting of an underground mine and processing unit, processes 2,350 tonnes of ore per day (according to a letter sent to the Uranium Corporation of India by the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board). Only 1,305 grams of uranium can be extracted out of the 2,350 tonnes and the rest becomes radioactive waste which is dumped into the tailing pond. It’s been six years since the plant was commissioned, in April 2012. So if we do the math, then till today the plant has dumped some 51,46,500 tonnes (that’s 5,14,65,00,000 kg) of radioactive waste into the tailing pond.

The remnants of the mining process are stored in the form of a semi-solid slurry, pumped to the pond located six km away from the unit. This slurry contains thorium and radium, which are common components of the leached material and airborne dust from uranium ore tailings and waste piles. They pose a serious health hazard if inhaled or ingested. When we visited the tailing pond, we noted that neither is the area cordoned off, nor does it have restricted entry. The locals with their cattle frequent the area for grazing and other such activities, almost as if it is a normal thoroughfare.

Global safety protocol dictates that all tailing ponds be lined with bentonite clay and polyethene to avoid polluting ground water. But the tailing pond at Tummalapalle is unlined and the radioactive slurry has found its way into all the neighbouring water bodies. It has affected everything in its wake, from livestock to crops and has started to show its effects on the people as well.

The ground water in surrounding villages has become contaminated by uranium and other heavy metals according to a Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET) report. This test was carried out at the behest of YS Avinash Reddy (Member of Parliament elected from Kadapa ) after having received complaints from the locals about the apparent water contamination.

Dr Babu Rao, a retired scientist from the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT, Hyderabad) says, “They admit that they have not lined the pond as per the conditions given in the CFE (Consent For Establishment document). UCIL claims that they have followed the more stringent norms of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). It does not stand to scrutiny with the reality at the pond. Now that the pond is full, it is difficult to cross check the permeability of the bottom. Side slopes abutting the tailings are not lined or compacted — as is evident visually. Slopes are highly porous and may be causing severe seepage loss of liquid coming with tailings. Even the bottom is not seepage proof. Approximate calculations indicate a loss of at least 43 m3/day from the bottom surface. That is a lot of contamination.”

After numerous complaints, UCIL established an RO plant (Reverse Osmosis for water purification) in KK Kottala and Mabuchintalapalle. Kanampalli’s request was denied. Ravi Nayak, the Mandal Praja Parishad (MPP) president of Kanampalli told us, “Despite offering our land free of cost to set up the RO plant, UCIL never approved one for our village. Now we are buying drinking water from outside.”

In KK Kottala, Mabuchintalapalle and Kanampalli, as soon as people found out we were there to talk about the mine, they started pouring in with complaints. Most of these were about chronic skin problems which doctors had been unable to cure, uniformly present in people of all ages since all of them still use the contaminated groundwater for cooking, washing, bathing etc. They showed us their limbs covered in itchy black scabs. A similar pattern of skin problems was seen in the livestock as well.

Karthik, a nine-year-old from KK Kottala, has been suffering from skin problems for the past few years. He constantly itches his body, pain visible on his young face. His right thigh had finally healed after years of medication. But the disease has now reappeared on his left hand and is spreading again.

The rashes are just the first strike. Thorium and radium present in mine tailings which have contaminated the water sources, have been shown to lead to a higher risk of cancer (eg. cancer of the bone).

Uranium, which is a radioactive element, has a half life of 2,40,000 years and emits radiation for thousands of years. Uranium radiation has the ability to damage human DNA. A team comprising members of NAPM (National Alliance of People’s Movements) and HRF (Human Rights Watch) measured radiation at different places in and around the tailing pond on 11 June 2018, as part of their study of the impact of the mine. The reading were recorded using a Radiation Dosimeter. At the tailing pond, the reading was as high as 0.80-0.90 µSv Microsievert/hour (a measure of the amount of radiation that a person is exposed to during one hour in the specific area). And at a farm in Kanampalli, it was found to be 0.26 µSv Microsievert/hour. The maximum permissible limit is set at 0.24 µSv Microsievert/hour by internationally accepted standards on background radiation.

Chandra Nayak’s farm was once flourishing but the past few years have been bleak. When we visited, the farm only had droopy plantains trees with blackened, shrivelled branches to show.

The death of the cattle in the affected villages made us recount the words of Ghansham Birulee of Jharkhandi Organisation Against Radiation. Birulee was among the first people to witness the effects of uranium mining in Jaduguda in Jharkhand. “The animals started leaving Jaduguda area immediately after the mining started… They must have sensed the radiation earlier than the humans,” Birulee had said.

Back in Kunampalle, P Narsimulu a 65-year-old resident, says, “The livestock in the village has been dying in large numbers since last year. The goats have been shedding hair excessively. They are unable to walk properly due to weak bones. This is all due to radiation.”

The Lambada community in Kanampalli is among the worst affected. They do not own any land and depend on cattle (goats, cows, buffaloes) to make a living. We spoke to Bhaskar, who lost 30 of his goats over the last couple of years. “I didn’t even have money to take all of them to the vet. Each injection costs more than Rs 175 and the vet himself was 12 km away in Pulivendula. I just sat and watched them die one after the other.” ………..

Ashish Birulee say that “once the mining starts it would be very difficult for the locals to shut it down even when they finally learn and realise (the full extent of) the problems. Jaduguda should be taken as an example. Whatever the villagers are going through is real — severe health problems and cancers are very common. And the future is sure to be much worse, and people should take that as a given. UCIL will never accept the truth that uranium mining and dumping of radioactive waste negatively impacts human health and environment.”

“It took almost five decades for the effects of the radiation to become evident in Jaduguda. But by what we can see in Tummalapalle, it might take less than 15 years for it to become the next Jaduguda,” he adds. Birulee points out that UCIL still hasn’t answered a question which the people of Jaduguda have been asking for decades: “What will happen to us once the mining stops?”

If Jaduguda is any indication, UCIL will disappear from the site as soon as the project loses its economic viability. Those who live in the area will be left grappling with the tonnes of radioactive waste left behind. Where will these people go for help? Who should they complain to, about the way their lives have been bartered in the name of development and better economic prospects? Amid the finger-pointing any real solution remains elusive. https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2018/10/29/the-real-cost-of-uranium-mining/

October 29, 2018 Posted by | environment, health, PERSONAL STORIES, Uranium | Leave a comment

The personal struggle – a rare brain cancer – nothing to do with his radiation exposure at Los Alamos National Laboratory?

Half Life Chad Walde believed in his work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then he got a rare brain cancer, and the government denied that it had any responsibility , Pro Publica, by Rebecca Moss, The Santa Fe New Mexican, 26 Oct 18,“………A Gap Between Records and Recollection

CHAD WAS CLEARED TO RETURN TO HIS JOB at the lab in late January 2015, four months after his diagnosis. He’d undergone radiation and two chemotherapy treatments, and Los Alamos’ occupational medicine staff said he was fit to continue working with classified material, his medical records show. At risk for seizures, he couldn’t drive or climb stairs or ladders. Chad carpooled and had Angela drive him to the laboratory several times a week. His supervisor offered him a desk job, a step down from his managerial role — but one that kept his health insurance running. He accepted. The only real alternative was termination.

Roark says the lab’s goal is to treat all employees with debilitating conditions with “utmost respect” and says when employees are unable to perform the functions of their jobs, Los Alamos “makes reasonable efforts to accommodate them,” which can result in job reassignment.

Separately, to process his claim for cancer benefits, the Department of Labor also told Chad it would need all of his medical and radiation exposure records from the lab. The Department of Labor sends these to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, another federal agency that uses a probability equation to determine if a worker had a high enough dose of radiation to cause cancer. If the computer found a 50 percent or higher correlation, Chad would get benefits.

When the records arrived from Los Alamos, containing a single CD and a brief letter, it was the first time Chad realized that his own experience differed from what the lab had noted in its records.

The lab had found “no records” of Chad having been exposed to anything or other environmental occupational hazards, the letter said. And his dosimetry report, a spreadsheet that showed his total dose of radiation annually, was scant.

The lab had not tracked Chad’s radiation exposure in 1999, his first year on the job, the report indicated, or in 2000, when the Cerro Grande fire burned. External monitoring began in 2001 but showed a clean zero for 11 out of the next 14 years. (Only in 2008, 2013 and 2014 were there any hits on the report.)

The report said his total dose was 0.254 rems over his career, well below safety limits and slightly less than an average person gets from background radiation from the sun and environment in a single year. A rem is a unit used to measure the absorbed dose of radiation, with 1 rem equivalent to a CT scan, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Chad marveled at the document. It didn’t track with his memory — or hold any record of the time he’d been called in for going over his limit and accused of taking his badge to the airport, or when he was sent home wearing disposable clothes.

“They aren’t on here,” Chad said when he looked at the document.

It also seemed impossible there were so many years that were completely blank.

Asked about the discrepancy between Walde’s memory and the reports, Los Alamos spokesman Roark said, in general, that the lab “maintains a comprehensive archive of worker radiation dosimetry data” and that it “provides any and all records in response to requests as quickly as possible.”

When NIOSH reviewed the records, it had a simple way to fill in the gaps. For the two years when Chad was not monitored, NIOSH assumed the maximum dose he could have been exposed to was the maximum background radiation at the lab (which was 0.4 rem), adding in the possibility of a couple missed readings.

NIOSH said Chad’s records showed he had been exposed to “various sources of radiation during his employment,” but the maximum dose he could have received at the lab, based on its calculations and assumptions, was a 3.744 rem dose to the brain. The agency modeled his probability for cancer based on how this amount of radiation would affect and mutate cells of the thyroid. It does not have a model for how external radiation might impact brain tissue.

On a phone call with a NIOSH claims representative in September 2015, Chad asked why the agency used general air monitoring data to fill in his missed readings. Chad, who made a recording of the call, said this would fail to account for the radiation present at the more dangerous nuclear areas he had been assigned to.

He told the representative how his badge often took hits. Like he’d told his father-in-law, and his friends, Chad said his boss kept asking him why his readings were “above the reporting levels.”

I “wonder if we are not missing something,” Chad said on the recording. “I also worry about the Los Alamos reporting,” relaying instances in which the lab certified an area free of radiation only to discover contamination later while he was working on a maintenance job. Chad began to talk about something he witnessed at the liquid radioactive waste plant but trailed off, saying, “I don’t know if I am allowed to say any of this stuff — never mind.”

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Chad Walde’s radiation shells hang in the garage of his family’s home. The shells help keep the head still while a patient receives radiotherapy. (Adria Malcolm, special to ProPublica)

Stu Hinnefeld, director of the divis  Stu Hinnefeld, director of the division of compensation analysis and support for NIOSH, said in an interview that those exposed to radiation have a “relatively low” likelihood of developing brain cancer compared with lung and thyroid cancers. He said the institute’s risk models, as a result, require a worker to have a much higher documented exposure to radiation than many of the other cancers in order to get compensation.

The Department of Labor concluded there was just a 2.67 percent chance his cancer was related to his radiation exposure history. His claim was denied on Jan. 14, 2016.

Chad’s dates of employment made him more likely to be rejected than if he had worked at the lab in a prior era. Overall, the Department of Labor has approved nearly 60 percent of claims filed by Los Alamos workers for cancer and beryllium disease. But for workers who started working at the lab after 1996, that figure falls to 45 percent, according to data requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor said, “While gaps in past records have existed at some sites, workers in the modern era have more extensive monitoring records. There are no unexplained gaps or readings in this employee’s radiation dose records.”

Still, Chad wanted to appeal. Over the next year, he would undergo another surgery and start experiencing frequent seizures, at one point spending two days in a coma in Texas, where the family had traveled for the twins’ volleyball tournament, when the spasms refused to subside. The family held “Gray Be Gone” fundraisers, referring to the color of the tumor tissue, to raise money to send Chad to MD Anderson for treatment. He also started clinical trials with a doctor in New Mexico.

During that time, Chad learned that he was not the only person at Los Alamos who thought missing records had led the Department of Labor to deny a claim.

For more than a decade, workers at Los Alamos have been telling federal officials that similar data and records problems have prevented them from getting compensation. In June 2005, at a NIOSH forum for the lab’s technical workers’ union, one worker said the lab “had lied and falsified documents right and left … the monitors were turned off, people weren’t qualified to be doing the monitoring, the equipment was never calibrated,” according to meeting minutes.

Another man, an X-ray technician, said his personal radiation badge always showed up with zero contamination.

Falsified radiation data or medical records have been documented at other labs, including in 2003 at Savannah River Site in South Carolina and Hanford Site in Washington state. Radiation records also were falsified at an Ohio nuclear facility in 2013. The Department of Energy fined lab managers in South Carolina and Ohio more than $200,000 each for “willful falsification.”

Los Alamos has not been fined for willful falsification of health records, but it has been cited within the past year for serious safety violations and for failing to check laboratory rooms for toxic chemicals before allowing workers to enter. Internal incident reports from the early 2000s, obtained by NIOSH, described how records had been removed from radiation log books, “deliberate tampering” with nasal swipe samples (used to test if a worker inhaled radioactive particles) and problems with workers not wearing their radiation badges.

Soon after Chad’s diagnosis, another electrician on his crew, Cesario Lopez, told Chad he’d recently had part of his kidney taken out after being diagnosed with cancer. Both Lopez’s mother and uncle, who worked at the lab before him, had been diagnosed with cancer, too. Lopez applied for and was denied compensation by the Department of Labor but has appealed.

Then Chad learned about his friend Gilbert Mondragon. Mondragon started working as an electrician on the fire protection crew in August 1999, three months before Chad. Mondragon was just 19 and from the beginning saw Chad as a mentor. Chad, he said, taught him how to have a good attitude at work and find value in it. That became harder after Mondragon was diagnosed with kidney cancer in the spring of 2014 at the age of 34.

Like Chad, Mondragon’s radiation report showed 14 straight years of zeroes, and only two years, 2006 and 2007, in which his badge took any hits, totaling 67 millirems of radiation over 16 years.

“It’s not like people think it is,” Mondragon said about lab safety. He, like Chad, recalled several times he’d been decontaminated and given new work clothes or boots.

Mondragon believes some of the zeroes are also the result of being told, by his supervisors, to take his badge off when he was doing work in contaminated places. “Now I know better,” he said, “but it’s too late.”

Roark, the lab spokesman, denies workers were ever told to remove their badges, saying its “Radiation Protection Program would never allow, endorse or recommend removing dosimeters to avoid contamination.”

Ken Silver, who sits on a Department of Labor advisory board and is a professor of environmental health at East Tennessee State University, testified before Congressin 2007 that instructing workers to remove their radiation badges was a common practice for “cleanup crews” at Los Alamos in the past. Silver said this practice was based on the belief that if a badge was contaminated, workers would go on to spread radiation throughout the laboratory, which he called a “flimsy assumption.”

Los Alamos officials did not testify at the hearing. But the lab says its rate of injuries has dropped significantly since 2006 and is well below the industry average. The laboratory says it does not track the cause of death for its employees.

Hinnefeld said NIOSH has looked into allegations that workers were told to remove their badges and, “We hear that on occasion.” But he said, in the past, officials have concluded that this wouldn’t affect how the agency reconstructs a worker’s radiation exposure because a single missed reading is unlikely to hold much weight in the overall career of a worker.

Diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, which his physician has linked to chemical exposure, Mondragon resigned from the lab this winter. The doctors’ visits have consumed his life. His cancer claim, like Chad’s, also was rejected by the Department of Labor, but he was told he would likely be accepted if he were to develop another cancer.

For the last six months, he has relied on the help of an oxygen tank to breathe, trailing a long, green plastic tube wherever he goes…..more https://features.propublica.org/los-alamos/chad-walde-nuclear-facility-radiation-cancer/

October 27, 2018 Posted by | health, investigative journalism, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Chad Walde believed in his work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then he got a rare brain cancer

Half Life Chad Walde believed in his work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then he got a rare brain cancer, and the government denied that it had any responsibility. Pro Publica, by Rebecca Moss, The Santa Fe New Mexican, 26 Oct 18, “……..That unanswered question — what killed Chad Walde? — nagged at Angela.
There had been other funerals, even that month, for other people who had worked at Los Alamos, one of the nation’s most important nuclear weapons laboratories. Several, like Chad, had died of cancer. Others had thyroid diseases and breathing problems, and they suspected that some of the maladies might stem from contaminated work environments or from the large fire that burned through the vast lab property in 2000. Nobody knew for sure if the illnesses were connected to work at the lab, but they wondered.

For decades, Los Alamos had been criticized for sacrificing workers’ health and safety in the name of atomic progress. In 1999, Bill Richardson, the energy secretary, acknowledged that nuclear sites had concealed information and “sent many of our workers into harm’s way.” He said the government intended to “right the wrongs of the past.” Then, in 2000, Congress passed a compensation act, offering medical benefits and payouts for workers with radiation-related cancers and other occupational ailments. But the government, and Los Alamos in particular, has said that those lapses were in the past, and that they have put in place rules and practices to protect safety. The lab says radiation exposures have been “consistently recorded” over many decades.

Despite these pledges, Chad and his co-workers said safety problems continued. They witnessed accidents and heard the sudden, unexpected blare of radiation alarms. They watched crews come in to decontaminate buildings and run radiation detectors over their hands and feet. They had their limbs scrubbed and clothing replaced. Sometimes days would pass before anyone realized contamination had spread. Many workers say their memories of poor work conditions and high personal radiation readings don’t match the government’s scant records .
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Angela Walde poses for a portrait inside her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Adria Malcolm, special to ProPublica)

In addition to Chad, at least four others on his maintenance crew had been diagnosed with cancer in the past five years.

Before his death, Chad filed a claim for federal benefits, joining more than 1,400 people who said they became sick from radiation exposure for work done within the last 20 years at the lab, according to data obtained by the Santa Fe New Mexican under the Freedom of Information Act. An additional 335 dead workers also had claims filed on their behalf.

Angela would later discover that Chad’s personnel file contained little mention of the radiation exposures and no record of the safety scares her husband had told her about over the years.

Now, in the church, she listened to the country music playing softly and to the minister in prayer. After his treatments, Chad would laugh and tell his friends, “I get more radiation sitting in my office at Los Alamos.” Even when he was suffering and in pain, he would smile and say he was living the dream.

Looking at his closed coffin, Angela wished she could go back 18 years and tell him to find a different job, far from laboratories and nuclear weapons.b

A New Career, and the Risk of Radiation

ON HIS FIRST DAY OF WORK AT LOS ALAMOS, Chad Walde got dressed in the dark. It was the fall of 1999 and a week before his 27th birthday. The drive from Albuquerque to Los Alamos took nearly two hours, and as he got on the highway in a small, white Ford Escort, just after 5 a.m., the hulking peaks of the Sandia Mountains would have been cast in silhouette.

The town of Los Alamos was just beginning to stir around the time he arrived. Log cabins preserved from the government’s military takeover during World War II mingled with modern buildings. The roads had been named after famous scientists and atomic testing grounds. Trinity Drive. Bikini Atoll Road. Oppenheimer Drive. Gamma Ray. When he reached the white laboratory gates, lines of cars had already begun to form, each stopping at booths to present armed guards with ID.

Inside, Chad was issued a special Z number, unique to each employee at Los Alamos, which would become a proxy for his identity there. In the days to come, he underwent several medical exams and was asked to detail any prior exposure to 81 hazardous radionuclides, explosives, chemicals, gases or lab animals. He circled no to each. He wasn’t perfect: He smoked, drank intermittently and, for a man over 6 feet tall, was overweight. A doctor found no abnormalities on his head, eyes, heart, lungs, thyroid, limbs or spine. His bloodwork came back normal.

Chad was still adjusting to life as a civilian. He had left the Navy four months earlier and moved his family back to Albuquerque, where he’d been working odd jobs as an electrician. After four years on the USS Lake Champlain, sailing to ports in the Middle East and Asia, Chad still missed the sea, the way the sun turned red as it set in the middle of the ocean. Now, he’d be working at a hallowed place. And, making $22 per hour, he’d earn more than he ever had in his life.

Chad knew about the lab’s historic role in creating the first atomic bombs, but little else. He didn’t know that its nuclear mission had come with a human toll.

Employees of the complex had long complained of health problems, but quietly, often only to friends and families. Speaking ill of the lab was considered by some as anti-American, and some whistleblowers said they were often ostracized by colleagues and pushed out or fired for reporting problems. Most who’ve sought state workers’ compensation over the years for illnesses they attributed to their work at the lab have had their claims aggressively challenged in court.

Out of a fear of liability, the famed nuclear scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who served as the lab’s first director, mandated that health records be labeled top secret, according to a memo written by his colleague in 1946 and declassified in the 1990s………more https://features.propublica.org/los-alamos/chad-walde-nuclear-facility-radiation-cancer/

October 27, 2018 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference | Leave a comment

A personal history on the effects of ionising radiation

October 11, 2018 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES | Leave a comment

On September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov saved the world

September 28, 2018 Posted by | depleted uranium, history, PERSONAL STORIES, politics international, Reference, Religion and ethics | Leave a comment

UK, USSR, and US soldiers paid the health costs, as guinea pigs for nuclear bomb blasts

‘We Were Guinea Pigs’: Soldiers Explain What Nuclear Bomb Blasts Feel Like https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/wjk3wb/what-does-a-nuclear-bomb-blast-feel-like, 30 Aug 18

“It was as if someone my size had caught fire and walked through me.” When America dropped the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world watched as the atomic age began. The effects of the bomb were devastating and linger to this day. No government or military has ever detonated a nuclear bomb during a war since. But they have detonated them for various other reasons—including a series of tests designed to give soldiers a taste of what nuclear war might feel like.

After World War II, the UK, USSR, and US detonated more than 2,000 atomic bombs. In Britain, 20,000 soldiers witnessed atomic blasts conducted by their own government. Only a few of them are still alive today and the nuclear glow of the mushroom cloud they witnessed still haunts them. “Nuclear detonations, that was the defining point in my life,” Douglas Hern, a British soldier who experienced five nuclear bomb tests, told Motherboard.

“When the flash hit you, you could see the x-rays of your hands through your closed eyes,” he said. “Then the heat hit you, and that was as if someone my size had caught fire and walked through me. It was an experience that was unearthing. It was so strange. There were guys with bruises and broken legs. We couldn’t believe it. To say it was frightening is an understatement. I think it all shocked us into silence.”

The stories these nuclear veterans told Motherboard were harrowing.

“It was utter devastation. If I was looking at you now, I would see all your bones. You would see all the blood vessels. All I saw was this rising, colossal fireball going up and thunder, lightning, you name it,” David Hemsley, who experienced atomic bomb blasts at the age of 18, told Motherboard. “I think it was too much for some people—some of them were crying, asking for their mum. It was awful.”

“Didn’t know anything about it when we went, we didn’t know what we were going to do when we went, only to be told we were going to be testing bombs. It was just sheer brilliant light,” Robert Fleming said.

The most notorious of these experiments was the Castle Bravo detonation on March 1, 1954. At 15 megatons, it was the highest yield weapon ever tested by the United States, but that high yield was an accident. Weapon scientists anticipated a yield of 6 megatons, but new weapon designs led to the inadvertent discovery of thermonuclear fusion chain reactions. The accident more than doubled the power of the blast.

US Navy sailors on several ships watched the explosion from what they were told was a distance. It was not. “We soon found ourselves under a large, black and orange cloud that seemed to be dropping bright red balls of fire all over the ocean around us,” one witness told journalist Douglas Keeney in 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation. “I think many of us expected we were witnessing the end of the world.”

The nearby Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands have never been the same. The tiny island republic experienced fallout from multiple nuclear tests over the years, but the Castle Bravo explosion permanently altered the islands and its people. To this day, its citizens experience birth defects and cancer rates many times higher than those of the general population.

“We were basically used as guinea pigs,” Hern said. “There’s no other word for it.”

These men stood closer to the power of the atom and lived to tell the tale, but the blasts took their toll. Many have chronic health issues and cancers. The blasts sterilized certain soldiers, and higher instances of disease and early death were reported among the kids of those soldiers who did go on to bear children.

The onus is now on the young people to get rid of these weapons,” George Booker said. “With the right sort of education, they will do that.”

August 31, 2018 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Death of courageous direct action anti nuclear campaigner Sarah Hipperson

Walthamstow Guardian 18th Aug 2018, A prominent anti-nuclear campaigner has died, aged 90. Sarah Hipperson of
Wanstead rose to national attention in 1983 after she joined a protest at
Greenham Common. She passed away on Wednesday (August 15).

The mother-of-five was best known for her role at a women’s camp at the Royal
Air Force station in Berkshire to prevent cruise missiles from being stored
at the site. She was involved in direct action, such as cutting fences and
obstructing vehicles. She served 22 prison sentences, the longest being 28
days, for criminal damage but would proudly boast that she “never paid a
fine.”

August 20, 2018 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, UK | Leave a comment

John Kotson: President Trump is in denial about nuclear threat

John Kotson: President Trump is in denial about nuclear threat http://www.timescall.com/columnists/opinion-local/ci_32068313/john-kotson-president-trump-is-denial-about-nuclear, By John Kotson   08/14/2018

In October 1962, as a young IBM engineer, I and another co-worker were sent to Walker AFB, Roswell, N.M., to work on problems with the IBM-built electronics on the brand new B-52 strategic bombers. The morning we finished our work and were planning on flying back home, we encountered a full “alert” at the airbase. The “Cuban Missile” crisis was underway and no one could enter or leave the base except mission critical personnel. The commercial airline used the AFB base runway for operations, so they were out of business and we were stuck in Roswell.

All three wings of B-52 bombers (approximately 45 airplanes) sat on alert pads completely fueled and fully armed with nuclear weapons. The flight crews were living in underground bunkers next to their airplanes awaiting orders to attack. They all knew this was a one-way mission; there would be no airbase, homes or families to return to. Another increase in the “DEFCON” (Defense of the Continent) alert level would have launched an attack against the Soviet Union such as the world has never known. Both the United States and Soviets would have suffered massive destruction and millions of deaths.

THAT NIGHT, WE WENT TO BED WONDERING IF WE WOULD LIVE TO SEE ANOTHER DAY ON EARTH. EVERYONE IN ROSWELL KNEW THAT WALKER AFB WAS A PRIME TARGET FOR THE SOVIETS AND THE CHANCES FOR SURVIVAL WERE MINIMAL. THE TOWN BARS WERE JAMMED FULL AS EVERYONE WAS TRYING TO SOOTH THEIR NERVES. THIS SITUATION CONTINUED FOR SEVERAL DAYS UNTIL COOLER HEADS PREVAILED AND BOTH COUNTRIES MOVED BACK FROM THE NUCLEAR PRECIPICE. TO THIS DAY, THAT IS THE CLOSEST AMERICA HAS EVER COME TO A NUCLEAR WAR.

NOW WE HAVE A PRESIDENT THAT THREATENS COUNTRIES WITH NUCLEAR WAR AT THE DROP OF A HAT. THE “COMMANDER-IN-TWEETS” HAS VERBALLY THREATENED BOTH NORTH KOREA AND IRAN WITH A NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST FOR MAKING WAR-LIKE THREATS AGAINST THE UNITED STATES. AT THE SAME TIME, HE HAS ANGERED OUR NATO FRIENDS TO THE POINT THAT IT IS NO LONGER ASSURED THAT THEY WILL EVER COME TO OUR AID IN THE EVENT OF A CONFLICT.

PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS SHOWN A LOVE FOR RUSSIA AND THEIR MURDEROUS, AUTOCRATIC, LEADER, VLADIMIR PUTIN THAT DEFIES ALL LOGIC. HE PROMISED THAT HIS SECRET ONE-ON-ONE MEETING WITH PRESIDENT PUTIN YIELDED ASSURANCES THAT RUSSIA IS NO LONGER A THREAT TO ATTACK THE U.S. RUSSIA WILL ALWAYS BE A THREAT TO THE U.S. AS LONG AS THEY CONTINUE ON A PATH OF SEIZING TERRITORY BY MILITARY MEANS AND THREATENING OUR NATO ALLIES. WE MUST REMEMBER, THE UNITED STATES IS COMMITTED UNDER THE NATO TREATY TO COME TO ANY MEMBER’S AID THAT IS ATTACKED BY ANOTHER COUNTRY.

THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN RUSSIAN NUCLEAR MISSILE SUBMARINES STATIONED JUST OFF U.S. COASTAL WATERS. PRESIDENT PUTIN BRAGS THAT HIS MISSILES CAN EACH CARRY UP TO 15 INDEPENDENTLY TARGETED NUCLEAR WARHEADS. IN A FIRST STRIKE SCENARIO, A LAUNCH OF THESE SUBMARINE MISSILES COULD DESTROY COUNTLESS U.S. MILITARY TARGETS, CITIES AND PEOPLES. THE MISSILE FLIGHT TIMES WOULD BE SO SHORT, IT WOULD BE NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO MOUNT AN EFFECTIVE DEFENSE AGAINST THEM. ONLY THE EXISTENCE OF MANY U.S. NAVY NUCLEAR MISSILE SUBMARINES PROVIDES A DETERRENT AGAINST RUSSIA STARTING SUCH A WAR.

I HAVE LIVED FOR 70 YEARS UNDER THE THREAT OF A NUCLEAR WAR, FIRST WITH THE SOVIET UNION AND MORE RECENTLY NORTH KOREA. DURING THAT TIME, MANY OTHER NATIONS HAVE ACQUIRED NUCLEAR WEAPONS, COMPOUNDING THE THREAT OF A MISTAKE CAUSING A NUCLEAR CONFRONTATION. PRESIDENT TRUMP TOTALLY IGNORES THE CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES OF USING NUCLEAR THREATS TO ACHIEVE HIS OBJECTIVES. UNFORTUNATELY, THIS MAN HAS HIS FINGER ON A NUCLEAR TRIGGER THAT COULD START A WAR INSTANTLY.

I WORRY ABOUT MY CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN HAVING TO LIVE UNDER A NUCLEAR THREAT, AS NATION AFTER NATION STRIVES TO OBTAIN THESE WEAPONS. LIKE MOST AMERICANS, THEY PROBABLY WILL NEVER REALIZE THE THREAT THEY LIVE UNDER UNTIL THE DAY OF NUCLEAR ARMAGEDDON ARRIVES. UNLESS ALL COUNTRIES SOON AGREE TO DESTROY THEIR NUCLEAR WEAPON STOCKPILES, OUR WORLD WILL SOMEDAY ENTER A WAR THAT WILL DESTROY ALL HUMANITY. LIKE THE DINOSAURS, WE WILL JUST CEASE TO EXIST.

JOHN KOTSON IS A LONGMONT RESIDENT. HE IS AN IBM RETIREE, FEDERAL SYSTEM DIVISION PREVIOUSLY; IBM SYSTEM ENGINEERING MANAGER FOR MISSILE WARNING AND TRACKING GROUND SYSTEMS; AND SPENT MANY YEARS WORKING ON PENETRATION AIDS AND WEAPON GUIDANCE SYSTEMS FOR THE U.S. AIR FORCE AND U.S. NAVY.

August 15, 2018 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Guam nuclear bomb test veteran continues fight for radiation compensation

Atomic veteran continues fight for radiation compensation, Meghan Swartz | The Guam Daily Post , 27 July 18

As one of a few islanders in his company within the U.S. Army, Robert Celestial jumped at the chance to help with post-World War II cleanup in the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the late 1970s. He looked forward to six months of island living and was promised a monthly trip to Hawaii for some R&R.

Not long after, Celestial found himself draining water from a crater on Lojwa Island in the Enewetak Atoll, wearing shorts, boots and a dust mask. The crater was left over from a nuclear test explosion. While he knew they were dealing with nuclear waste during the deployment, he said he did not know that was what the crater was from.

“We were never told the extent of the 66 nuclear detonations,” he said. “The only thing that was serious was the Air Force was in charge of the Geiger counters … if you see an Air Force guy running, then you better run.”

Like any good soldier, he followed orders and didn’t ask questions. When a magazine came to report on the cleanup, some soldiers donned a full-body protective suit. Celestial said it was the only time he saw the suit used.

Celestial said he and fellow soldiers often caught fish, lobster and octopus to eat. They were not told that the seafood could be contaminated until months after arriving.

More than 70 years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Celestial’s past willingness to be exposed to that level of nuclear radiation is unthinkable.

But that was decades ago, at the dawn of the nuclear age. Few could be expected to predict the ramifications of their six-month cleanup tour.

An undetectable enemy

“We were all young. … We got to the Marshall Islands and it was beautiful,” he said. “You can’t see the danger, you can’t smell it, taste it. … We just did what they told us.”

Today, Celestial, who serves as president of the Guam-based Pacific Association for Radiation Survivors, says he is blessed: He hasn’t been diagnosed with cancer, unlike many of his fellow veterans, and was discharged from the Army with full disability.

Celestial said he deals with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. In fact, he said, almost all atomic veterans suffer from brittle bones. Two decades ago, while living in San Diego, California, Celestial was told he had the liver of a 90-year-old and was given four years to live, but he ultimately recovered.

Others have not been as fortunate. One Enewetak veteran, who lives in Maine, has been diagnosed with six distinct cancers, Celestial said. Because he was diagnosed after his separation from the military, he does not receive any compensation for medical costs.

Without any major medical issues, some wonder why Celestial has spent the better part of the past two decades fighting for Guam and veterans who participated in the Enewetak Atoll cleanup to receive federal reimbursement for illnesses linked to radiation exposure.

Proposed amendment

Legislation has been introduced that would expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. The current law has distributed more than $2 billion to residents within Nevada, Utah and Arizona who suffer from radiation-related illnesses, but will end payments by 2022. The last year for people to apply for coverage is 2020.

The proposed amendment would extend RECA by 19 years and offer up to $150,000 in medical coverage to residents of Guam, Idaho, New Mexico and the Navajo Nation.

In late June, Celestial gave testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Toward the end of the hearing, he was asked if he had cancer.

“I told them no,” Celestial said with a laugh. “It made other people realize … what the hell is he doing it for? I’m not doing it for myself. I’m doing it for other people. I’m fighting for the people of Guam and the other states, and I’m also fighting for the Enewetak veterans who haven’t been rightly identified.”

He said his Senate testimony – given alongside downwinder allies from Idaho, New Mexico and Navajo Nation – was a new high in his decades-long fight.

“Now the Senate really believes our testimonies,” Celestial said. “They really understand this.”

But he refuses to make any promises about the future.

“What we’ve done in the Senate is the closest we’ve come,” he said. “Now we have to go to the House.”

……… Years ago, Celestial’s fight was bolstered by a report from the Board on Radiation Effects Research, which determined that Guam “did receive measurable fallout.”

Without this proof, Celestial said, he would not have continued his work on RECA.

‘Very, very wrong’

Lt. Charles Bert Schreiber, a chemical, biological and radiological officer with the U.S. Navy who served on Guam in 1952, gave testimony to the BRER, saying that just two days after a nuclear explosion in the Marshall Islands, radiation level readings were off the charts on Guam.

According to Schreiber’s testimony in 2001, he went straight to the admiral’s top aide to see what needed to be done. Minutes later, he was told to leave.

“I then knew something was very, very wrong,” Schreiber said in his testimony.

After giving this testimony, containing information that Celestial said was previously classified above the top-secret level, Schreiber revealed to Celestial that a burden had been lifted from him, as he was finally able to share what happened.

“The Guamanians, for the large part, had only rainwater for drinking … and they were drinking highly contaminated radioactive water and I could not tell them to stop. The Navy … did not provide any information to the military personnel, civilians or the natives about how to protect themselves.”

According to Post files, Schreiber called it quite simply “madness.”  https://www.postguam.com/news/local/atomic-veteran-continues-fight-for-radiation-compensation/article_fa1b4024-931c-11e8-8401-87c44085fc5d.html

July 30, 2018 Posted by | health, Legal, PERSONAL STORIES, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

 The British campaigners who shed light on deadly nuclear fuel reprocessing 

Children were dying. They took action The British campaigners who shed light on deadly nuclear fuel reprocessing https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/72759838/posts/1909887908, By Linda Pentz Gunter 1 June 18

The road winds steeply up through bucolic countryside, some of the most spectacular in Britain. There are sheep bleating in the distant meadows. Then suddenly, you are out on the fell, stripped almost barren, black, empty. But still there are sheep, their wool the same smoky color as the landscape, dotted like the rocks that are scattered across these bleak tops, the hallmark of the storied Lake District. Then down we go again, past a stone-walled pub, up another hill, and we are pulling up in front of a whitewashed cottage straight from a Beatrix Potter film.

And indeed, that is where we are — in Potter country — about as far removed in atmosphere and idyll as it is possible to be from the ugly, industrial, and deadly blight that sits just a few miles away on the Cumbria shore. That would be the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing facility, which spews radioactive waste into the sea, pumps it into the air, and has accumulated 140 tonnes of plutonium to absolutely no purpose.

A sheepdog runs out to greet us. A pair of elderly cats languish contentedly on a warm stone wall, basking in some late afternoon sunshine. Later, we are introduced to a small flock of Herdwick sheep who are “pets,” and a flock of pigeons, of which more later.

The people who live in the house are Janine Allis-Smith and Martin Forwood, the heart of the aptly named small activist group CORE — Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment. They have dedicated more than three decades to challenging the continued operation of Sellafield and calling out the harm it has caused. 

Martin and Janine, partners in life as well as activism, embody the longstanding and tenacious anti-nuclear fight in Cumbria, the most nuclear county in the United Kingdom. Without their watchdog vigilance and their educational advocacy, far less would be known about the dangers posed by the British nuclear industry, and particularly by the Sellafield reprocessing and nuclear waste site.

Martin and Janine have been at the heart of the struggle against the Sellafield operations since the mid-1980s. They have exposed the facility’s clandestine activities, especially emissions of radioactive wastes into the environment. For Janine, formerly from the Netherlands, this hit home especially hard when her own son was diagnosed with leukemia in 1983. He survived, but as Janine began to look into the issue, she found far too many other instances of childhood leukemias among children living close to Sellafield, many fatal.

The pair began to suspect that radioactive discharges from Sellafield were contaminating local beaches and tide pools where children loved to play. And, as Allis-Smith, recounted, “it was not just leukemia, but other cancers. Some were stillborn, while other suffered unexplained deaths at a very young age.”

This launched Janine and Martin on a relentless campaign to expose the on-going violations at the Sellafield site where radioactive discharges have made the Irish Sea one of the most radioactively contaminated bodies of water in the world. In 2017, CORE released a damning report which showed how, “during the 1995-2013 period, the radioactive discharges to the marine environment from Sellafield’s reprocessing facilities B205 (magnox) and THORP (oxide) have dominated those from all other UK facilities and are recognized as being the major contributor to the levels of radioactive substances recorded in the Irish Sea and wider oceans.”

Both Martin and Janine were new to the issue when they began their work. But they quickly educated themselves, then others. They perfected an ideal and complementary presentation style — with Martin offering a simple, lay explanation of reprocessing itself, then Janine describing its impact, especially on the health of children. They quickly moved hearts and minds in equal measure. Politicians, the media, and the public at large were forced to take notice.

Over the years, the pair have collected numerous mud samples from local beaches and estuaries that have been analyzed for radioactive contamination, confirming their suspicions.

The pair uncovered scandals involving illegal activities at the Sellafield site. They fought the THORP reprocessing plant, due to close permanently in 2018; the rash decision to develop a MOX fuel manufacturing plant, which closed after just 10 years of operation; and the global transport of radioactive materials.

In 1990 Martin gave his first guided “Alternative Sellafield Tour”, highlighting the spots where the reprocessing plant endangers the environment.

More recently, the pair were part of a successful effort to prevent the Nuclear Waste Agency NIREX from building a subterranean depository for British and international nuclear waste at the edge of the Lake District National Park.

Currently, they are at the forefront of the fight to block new nuclear power plants planned for Moorside adjacent to Sellafield. Their landmark 2015 report, “Moorside Build & Job Projections – All Spin and No Substance,” has proven an essential tool for the broad opposition to this deadly scheme.

The couple are not without a sense of fun either. In 2005, Martin made and delivered a radioactive “Pizza Cumbriana” to the Italian Embassy in London — Italy was shipping radioactive waste to Sellafield for reprocessing at the time. The box was marked “Best before 26005”, a reference to plutonium 239, which has a half-life of 24,400 years. The pizza was immediately seized by the Environment Agency, stored, then buried eight years later at the Drigg nuclear waste dump in Cumbria, adjacent to the Sellafield site.

Also buried as radioactive waste was the garden of two elderly ladies living along the sea front in the drab town of Seascale adjacent to the Sellafield plant. The sisters had devotedly fed flocks of pigeons who visited their garden — birds that also roosted on the Sellafiled roofs. After the guesthouse next door complained about excessive bird poop and called for the birds’ removal, the entire garden had to be excavated down to several feet and hauled away as radioactive waste. Martin and Janine took in a few of those pigeons. Their descendants still live with them today and appear each morning and evening on the garage roof for feeding time.

Last year, Forwood and Allis-Smith received some long-overdue recognition for their commitment to a safer, cleaner, greener environment when they received the Nuclear-Free Future Award in the category of Education, a prize that carries a $10,000 cheque, a rare and much needed boon in a movement largely deprived of meaningful or consistent funding. (Disclaimer, I nominated them for the award.)

The couple were unable to attend the ceremony, but wrote in a press release: “We are honoured to have received NFFA’s Education Award for 2017 and humbled to be joining the list of diverse and distinguished winners of the past. Since the 1980s, when Sellafield was preparing to double its commercial reprocessing activities, we have focused not only on acting locally but also being the ‘eyes and ears’ for the many interested parties world-wide on Sellafield and its many detriments which include site accidents, environmental contamination, health risks, plutonium stockpiles and nuclear transports.

“With decades of uniquely difficult decommissioning yet to come, and with plans for new-build at Moorside, we still have much to do and will face the challenges with the same determination that has seen us through the many highs and lows experienced over the last thirty years in our campaign against an industry we believe still has much to answer for.” (You can view their full acceptance remarks in the video higher up in this article.)

This article was adapted from its original publication in The Ecologist.

 

July 2, 2018 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, PERSONAL STORIES, UK | 1 Comment

Hiroshima witness urges New Zealand to lead nuclear weapons elimination 

Stuff,  LAURA WALTERS , June 28 2018,   When the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, Taeko Yoshioka Braid watched from the second-floor window of herclassroom, 60 kilometres away.

Braid, who moved to New Zealand in 1956 and now lives in Hastings, travelled to Hiroshima the next day with classmates to look for her family members and take supplies to the victims.

Yoshioka Braid said it was hard to talk about the horrors she saw as a 13-year-old in Hiroshima, including children separated from their parents, and people dying from burns from the blast and the radiated water.

On her second trip to the town at the epicentre, she felt something sticking to her shoes. She eventually realised it was human skin, which had melted off, following the blast.

…….. At a time when the international rules-based order is being challenged, and nuclear weapons remain a global issue, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reinstated the Cabinet portfolio of disarmament and arms control. Ardern announced Winston Peters would take up the ministerial role, during her first foreign policy speech in February.     In September last year, New Zealand was one of the first countries to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at a ceremony during the United Nations General Assembly.

The treaty is a landmark legally-binding international instrument prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons and related activities.

In July last year, it was adopted by the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.

Yoshioka Braid’s comments came during the international treaty examination, at a Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee hearing on Thursday. Something that needed to take place before New Zealand ratified the treaty.

“If anyone went there the day the bombed dropped, I’m sure they would all think like me: never again…

“I don’t want those same sorts of things to happen anywhere in the world; anywhere in the world.”

Alternative NZ submission by stuffnewsroom on Scribd….(included on original) ..

It was difficult to describe the experience, she said, adding that the bomb was so strong, some people died instantly, others were alive but too injured to move or talk.

Her daughter, Jacky Yoshioka Braid said New Zealand needed to take a leadership role in the elimination of nuclear weapons.

“We need to stop the fighting, and stop this fantasy around a nuclear war that we possibly could survive – it won’t happen.

“We saw what happened in Hiroshima, we’ve seen the after effects of what happened there and in Nagasaki. They were tiny compared to what could happen today.”

New Zealand created a world-leading anti-nuclear policy in 1984, after seeing what happened in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the cold war years.

“I think it’s really important that New Zealand takes this leadership role and helps guide these other young people around the world who want to stop the nuclear proliferation,” she said……….. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/105072027/hiroshima-witness-urges-nz-to-lead-nuclear-weapons-elimination

June 29, 2018 Posted by | New Zealand, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Britain’s nuclear veterans, damaged by radiation, deserve to be recognised as heroes

Because while science cannot be certain, common sense tells us why successive governments did not test these terrible new weapons in the skies over Britain. Yet for 60 years governments of every stripe denied, ignored or failed our nuclear heroes.

Tom Watson: Nuclear test veterans’ long battle for nation’s thanks is cruel shame https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tom-watson-nuclear-test-veterans-12614082 A medal from the nation would go a long way to healing some of their wounds. ByTom Watson 29 MAY 2018 

Sixty years ago, Britain sent thousands of men to the middle of the South Pacific and ordered them to take part in one nuclear explosion after another.

Our National Servicemen went to Christmas Island and built a runway, a hospital, and officers’ mess. They put up tents, fuel tanks and refrigeration units. Then they were told to watch as RAF crews dropped hydrogen bombs, and they say the only care taken was to tell them to cover their eyes.

Thirty years ago those men got together and the Mirror told their stories: of leukaemia, rare cancers, miscarriages, birth defects. Of troubled wives and sick children. Of ground crew allegedly contaminated washing down the planes, Royal Engineers who fell sick after collecting bomb-damaged equipment, strapping navy stevedores suddenly struck down by ill health. They fought long court battles, to no avail.

Twenty years ago research from Durham University found evidence that 1 in 3 of the nuclear veterans had bone cancer or leukaemia, and that twice as many veterans had multiple myeloma than successive British governments had admitted.

Eleven years ago research in New Zealand showed survivors of British tests had the same rate of genetic damage as survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Ten years ago the Isle of Man Tynwald voted to give 8 of its residents, who were nuclear veterans, £6,000 each in recognition of their service. Five years ago those who still survived and their families marched – with walking sticks and wheelchairs – on Downing Street demanding recognition. Not money: just recognition.

Today, of the 22,000 who saw those tests, just 1,500 survive. I met one of them, a West Bromwich born-and-bred gentleman called John Ward, when he came to Parliament to see me. You can see the video of our chat on the Mirror website. I already knew a little of his story but was stunned to learn that in that powerful flash of light from the bomb’s explosion he saw the bones in his hands as though in an X-ray.

And it was incredibly moving to hear him talk of the troubles his family has suffered since. John went on to work for the Wolverhampton Express & Star, the Birmingham Post and later for the government itself in the Cabinet Office, but meanwhile his wife Margaret had difficult pregnancies and a miscarriage, John and his son Mark both recently had tumours removed from their kidneys, and his daughter Denise is, in his words, “a medical mess”.

What struck me about John was his bravery and dignity in the face of terrible experiences, and that he – quite wrongly – holds himself to blame. That because he was ordered into danger, he feels guilt for the problems suffered by his family. Nobody should have to bear that burden.

But there are not many people like John who feel that worry, because most have died. Thousands of men who were the fittest the British armed forces could find to take part in experiments vital to this nation’s future safety and security have passed away many years before they were expected to.

And still they cannot prove what, if anything, happened to them. The records of the time are missing or incomplete, science is simply unable to link genetic changes definitively to radiation from a bomb, and there are so few veterans left it is hard for scientists to find suitable subjects to help them find that silver bullet.

But there is, nevertheless, something we can do. And something we SHOULD do.

Because while science cannot be certain, common sense tells us why successive governments did not test these terrible new weapons in the skies over Britain. Yet for 60 years governments of every stripe denied, ignored or failed our nuclear heroes. We let people like John, and their families, feel ashamed of something that was never their fault. It is a stain on our nation’s record that for so long we asked these men for proof of what was done to them, when all most of them ever wanted was our thanks for doing it.

Now four survivors of those tests have returned to the Pacific proving grounds to bear witness once again. It has been 60 years since they helped Britain to do the improbable, and now it is time for us to repay that debt. Regardless of whether or not these men, or their children, have suffered ill effects as a result of the nuclear tests it is time the nation honoured their service. A medal from the nation would go a long way to healing some of their wounds.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Japanese atomic bomb survivor pays tribute to U.S. POWs killed in A-bombing

Hiroshima hibakusha attends Massachusetts memorial ceremony for U.S. POWs killed in A-bombing 

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/05/29/national/hiroshima-hibakusha-attends-massachusetts-memorial-ceremony-u-s-pows-killed-bombing/#.Ww39OzSFPGg KYODO An atomic bomb survivor attended a memorial ceremony Monday to honor the 12 American servicemen who died in the U.S. nuclear attack in the closing days of World War II.

Hibakusha Shigeaki Mori, an 81-year-old historian, spent years researching and identifying the 12 American soldiers who were killed during the bombing of Hiroshima. He was reunited at the ceremony with a relative of one of the fallen POWs, Normand Brissette of Lowell, Massachusetts.

In a speech, Mori said Brissette was a true patriot who risked his life to fight for his country. Brissette was a naval officer who was taken prisoner and died from radiation poisoning in the days following the bombing.

Susan Archinski, a niece of Brissette, said her reunion with Mori is “emotional because he is a wonderful, wonderful man and his wife is a wonderful woman. Mori-san is (the) best. Very pleased.” The two had met once before, in Hiroshima in 2015.

Mori was 8 years old at the time of the world’s first atomic bombing. He was blown off a bridge near his school at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, 1½ miles (about 2.5 km) from ground zero in Hiroshima.

After 42 years of research, Mori found each soldier’s name and tracked down their next of kin to obtain permission to memorialize the 12 POWs on the cenotaph for A-bomb victims in Hiroshima among the more than 300,000 Japanese, Korean and Chinese victims.

Mori is visiting the United States for the first time. He attended screenings of the film “Paper Lanterns,” a documentary about his research into the U.S. POWs, in California and will attend more screenings of the film in Boston and at the United Nations in New York.

The 2016 documentary, which the filmmakers hope to release digitally this summer, caught the attention of former U.S. President Barack Obama shortly after its limited release.

Obama, who in May 2016 became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, mentioned Mori in his speech at the Peace Memorial Park as “the man who sought out families of Americans killed here because he believed their loss was equal to his own.”   Afterward, Obama and Mori shared an embrace that garnered international attention.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment