The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

How did the Pentagon lose $10 Trillion?

$10 Trillion Missing From Pentagon And No One — Not Even The DoD — Knows Where It Is 27, 2017, BY CLAIRE BERNISH

Over a mere two decades, the Pentagon lost track of a mind-numbing $10 trillion — that’s trillion, with a fat, taxpayer-funded “T” — and no one, not even the Department of Defense, knows where it went or on what it was spent.

Even though audits of all federal agencies became mandatory in 1996, the Pentagon has apparently made itself an exception, and — fully 20 years later — stands obstinately orotund in never having complied.

Because, as defense officials insist — summoning their best impudent adolescent — an audit would take too long and, unironically, cost too much.

“Over the last 20 years, the Pentagon has broken every promise to Congress about when an audit would be completed,” Rafael DeGennaro, director of Audit the Pentagontold The Guardianrecently. “Meanwhile, Congress has more than doubled the Pentagon’s budget.”

Worse, President Trump’s newly-proposed budget seeks to toss an additional $54 billion into the evidently bottomless pit that is the U.S. military  — more for interventionist policy, more for resource-plundering, more for proxy fighting, and, of course, more for jets and drones to drop more bombs suspiciously often on civilians.


Because, without the mandated audit, the DoD could be purchasing damned near anything, at any cost, and use, or give, it — to anyone, for any reason.

Officials with the Government Accountability Office and Office of the Inspector General have catalogued egregious financial disparities at the Pentagon for years — yet the Defense Department grouses the cost and energy necessary to perform an audit in compliance with the law makes it untenable.

Astonishingly, the Pentagon’s own watchdog tacitly approves this technically-illegal workaround — and the legally-gray and, yes, literally, on-the-books-corrupt practices in tandem — to what would incontrovertibly be a most unpleasant audit, indeed.

Take the following of myriad examples, called “plugging,” for which Pentagon bookkeepers are not only encouraged to conjure figures from thin air, but, in many cases, they would be physically and administratively incapable of performing the job without doing so — without ever having faced consequences for this brazen cooking of books.

To wit, Reuters reported the results of an investigation into Defense’s magical number-crunching — well over three years ago, on November 18, 2013 — detailing the illicit tasks of 15-year employee, “Linda Woodford [who] spent the last 15 years of her career inserting phony numbers in the U.S. Department of Defense’s accounts.”

Woodford, who has since retired, and others like her, act as individual pieces in the amassing chewed gum only appearing to plug a damning mishandling of funds pilfered from the American people to fund wars overseas for resources in the name of U.S. defense.

“Every month until she retired in 2011,” Scot J. Paltrow wrote for Reuters, “she says, the day came when the Navy would start dumping numbers on the Cleveland, Ohio, office of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Pentagon’s main accounting agency. Using the data they received, Woodford and her fellow DFAS accountants there set about preparing monthly reports to square the Navy’s books with the U.S. Treasury’s – a balancing-the-checkbook maneuver required of all the military services and other Pentagon agencies.

“And every month, they encountered the same problem. Numbers were missing. Numbers were clearly wrong. Numbers came with no explanation of how the money had been spent or which congressional appropriation it came from. ‘A lot of times there were issues of numbers being inaccurate,’ Woodford says. ‘We didn’t have the detail … for a lot of it.’”

Where a number of disparities could be corrected through hurried communications, a great deal — thousands each month, for each person on the task — required fictitious figures. Murkily deemed, “unsubstantiated change actions” — tersely termed, “plugs” — this artificial fix forcing records into an unnatural alignment is common practice at the Pentagon.

Beyond bogus books, the Pentagon likely flushed that $10 trillion in taxes down the toilet of inanity that is unchecked purchasing by inept staff who must be devoid of prior experience in the field of defense.

This tax robbery would eclipse the palatability of blood money — if it weren’t also being wasted on items such as the 7,437 extraneous Humvee front suspensions — purchased in surplus over the inexplicable 14-year supply of 15,000 unnecessary Humvee front suspensions already gathering warehouse-shelf dust.

And there are three items of note on this particular example, of many:

One, the U.S. Department of Defense considers inventory surpassing a three-year supply, “excessive.”

Two, the stupefying additional seven-thousand-something front suspensions arrived, as ordered, during a period of demand reduced by half.

Three, scores of additional items — mostly unaccounted for in inventory — sit untouched and aging in storage, growing not only incapable of being used, but too dangerous to be properly disposed of safely.

Worse, contractors greedily sink hands into lucrative contracts — with all the same supply-based waste at every level, from the abject disaster that is the $1 trillion F-35 fighter program, to the $8,123.50 shelled out for Bell Helicopter Textron helicopter gears with a price tag of $445.06, to the DoD settlement with Boeing for overcharges of a whopping $13.7 million.

The latter included a charge to the Pentagon of $2,286 — spent for an aluminum pin ordinarily costing just $10.

Considering all the cooking of numbers apparently fueled with burning money stateside, you would think Defense channeled its efforts into becoming a paragon of economic efficiency when the military defends the United States. Overseas. From terrorism. And from terrorists. And terrorist-supporting nations.

But this is the Pentagon — and a trickle of telling headlines regularly grace the news, each evincing yet another missing shipment of weapons, unknown allocation of funds, or retrieval of various U.S.-made arms and munitions by some terrorist group deemed politically less acceptable than others by officials naming pawns.

In fact, so many American weapons and supplies lost by the DoD and CIA become the property of actual terrorists — who then use them sadistically against civilians and strategically against our proxies and theirs — it would be negligent not to describe the phenomenon as pattern, whether or not intent exists behind it.

Since practically the moment of nationalist President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the ceaselessly belligerent of the military-industrial machine have been granted a new head cheerleader with a bullhorn so powerful as to render calls to apply the brakes effectively, if not unpatriotically, moot.

Sans any optimistic indication thus far lacking from the Trump administration it would reverse course and move toward, rather than against, transparency, the painstaking audit imperative to DoD accountability remains only a theory — while the Pentagon’s $10 trillion sits as the world’s largest elephant in apathetic America’s living room.

For now, we know generally where our money is going: war. Which aspect of war — compared to the power of your outrage about its callous and reckless execution in your name — matters little.

Claire Bernish writes for, where this article first appeared.

March 29, 2017 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Stagnation – the most optimistic term to describe the global nuclear industry

Countries with crisis-ridden nuclear programs or phase-out policies (e.g. Germany, Belgium, and Taiwan) account for about half of the world’s operable reactors and more than half of worldwide nuclear power generation

Lobbyists debate responses to the nuclear power crisis, Online opinion

By Jim Green – , 27 March 2017, Nuclear lobbyists are abandoning the tiresome rhetoric about a nuclear power ‘renaissance’. Indeed they’ve turned full-circle and are now warning about a crisis. Michael Shellenberger from the Breakthrough Institute, a US-based pro-nuclear lobby group, has recently written articles about nuclear power’s “rapidly accelerating crisis” and the “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West“.A recent articlefrom the Breakthrough Institute and the like-minded Third Way lobby group discusses “the crisis that the nuclear industry is presently facing in developed countries” and states that “the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies”.

‘Environmental Progress’, another US pro-nuclear lobby group connected to Shellenberger, also acknowledges a nuclear power crisis. The lobby group notes that 151 gigawatts (GW) of worldwide nuclear power capacity (38% of the total) could be lost by 2030 (compared to 33 GW of retirements over the past decade).

As a worldwide generalisation, nuclear power can’t be said to be in crisis. To take the extreme example, China’s nuclear power program isn’t in crisis ‒ it is moving ahead at pace. Nuclear power is moving ahead at snail’s pace in some other countries (e.g. Russia, South Korea), while in others the industry faces problems but is not in crisis (e.g. UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Ukraine).

Nonetheless, the global picture is one of stagnation and malaise. The July 2016 World Nuclear Industry Status Report provides an overview of the troubled status of nuclear power: Continue reading

March 27, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Reference | Leave a comment

The physics of climate change

Elevator Pitches – Chapter 02 – Radiative Gases Radiative Gases

A Musical Basis for Scattering Heat March 2017 by Rob Honeycutt – This is another excerpt from my book 28 Climate Change Elevator Pitches. I’ll be publishing one chapter here on SkS each month.The scientific basis for understanding climate goes back to the 1820’s when brilliant French mathematician Joseph Fourier first proposed the idea that our planet’s atmosphere had heat-trapping properties. Fourier was trying to calculate what should be the temperature of a planet at our distance from the sun. He derived a figure about 33°C (59°F) colder than the actual average temperature of the Earth. For his figures to be correct, he thought gases in our atmosphere must have “radiative properties” with the capacity to absorb and re-emit heat energy. When visible sunlight passes through our atmosphere it warms the surface of the Earth. The heat that is emitted upward we refer to as infrared radiation, or IR. Infrared radiation is just another wavelength of energy which is invisible to the human eye, but we can feel that energy as heat. It’s this heat energy that is scattered by radiative gases in the atmosphere.

In the 1850’s a British scientist, John Tyndall, devised an apparatus enabling him to measure the heat absorbing properties of various gases. Earth’s atmosphere is composed primarily of nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%). The remaining 1 percent of gases are known as “trace gases.” Tyndall discovered that the radiative properties of nitrogen and oxygen are insignificant and transparent to infrared radiation (heat). But, he further discovered that some trace gases do efficiently block heat.

But, how does this work? Why would one gas be transparent to heat and another gas block it?

The most common radiative gases in our atmosphere are water (H2O), carbon dioxide(CO2), and to a lesser extent, methane (CH4), so let’s look at how these molecules are constructed. The first two have a single core atom with two other atoms attached to it. With H2O, there is a central oxygen atom with two hydrogen atoms attached. With CO2, there is a central carbon atom and two oxygen atoms attached. You can picture these being something like soap bubbles joined together, but imagine if you can, that these soap bubbles have an electromagnetic field incorporated into them. This electromagnetic field gently locks the molecule into a specific configuration. That magnetic field also allows the atoms to wobble around a bit as the molecule is floating about in the atmosphere. Methane is somewhat similarly constructed as CO2, but with a central carbon atom surrounded on four sides by hydrogen atoms making it a far more potent radiative gas than the others.

Infrared radiation is a wavelength of light. In a way, it’s analogous to sound waves traveling through the air. If you tap an A note tuning fork on your knee and then hold it against the soundboard of a guitar the A-string of the guitar will vibrate sympathetically. Infrared radiation also has a frequency range, so when visible sunlight (higher frequency energy) comes in and hits the surface of the planet, that energy warms the surface. The surface then emits lower frequency energy as heat (IR) back up through the atmosphere.

The capacity of these molecules to vibrate (the “wobbling”) is “tuned” like the guitar string and when infrared radiation in the right frequency interacts with these gases, the molecule vibrates sympathetically. What they’re doing is absorbing and re-emitting that IR heatenergy. The difference with the dominant molecules, like oxygen (O2) and nitrogen (N2), is they can’t vibrate in this same manner nor at the same frequency ranges, thus they are invisible to IR.

That is the fundamental physics of climate change: the vibrational modes of greenhouse gases acting to absorb and scatter heat energy in the atmosphere. This was a cutting-edge discovery of the mid-19th century but now an indisputable fact of science. Scientists have empirically measured, modeled, and applied these facts in numerous ways for well over a century.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

fossil fuel corporations have captured academic research


Does this corporate capture of academia apply to nuclear research, also?


The fossil fuel industry’s invisible colonization of academia

Corporate capture of academic research by the fossil fuel industry is an elephant in the room and a threat to tackling climate change, Guardian, Benjamin Franta and , 13 Mar 17, On February 16, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center hosted a film screening of the “Rational Middle Energy Series.” The university promoted the event as “Finding Energy’s Rational Middle” and described the film’s motivation as “a need and desire for a balanced discussion about today’s energy issues.”

Who can argue with balance and rationality? And with Harvard’s stamp of approval, surely the information presented to students and the public would be credible and reliable. Right?


The event’s sponsor was Shell Oil Company. The producer of the film series was Shell. The film’s director is Vice President of a family-owned oil and gas company, and has taken approximately $300,000 from Shell. The host, Harvard Kennedy School, has received at least $3.75 million from Shell. And the event’s panel included a Shell Executive Vice President. 

The film “The Great Transition” says natural gas is “clean” (in terms of carbon emissions, it is not) and that low-carbon, renewable energy is a “very long time off” (which is a political judgment, not a fact). Amy Myers Jaffe, identified in the film as the Executive Director of Energy and Sustainability at the University of California, Davis, says, “We need to be realistic that we’re gonna use fossil fuels now, because in the end, we are.” We are not told that she is a member of the US National Petroleum Council.

The film also features Richard Newell, who is identified as a Former Administrator at the US Energy Information Administration. “You can get 50% reductions in your emissions relative to coal through natural gas,” he says, ignoring the methane leaks that undermine such claims. The film neglects to mention that the Energy Initiative Newell founded and directed at Duke University was given $4 million by an Executive Vice President of a natural gas company.

Michelle Michot Foss, who offers skepticism about battery production for renewables, is identified as the Chief Energy Economist at the Center for Energy Economics at the University of Texas at Austin. What’s not said is that the Energy Institute she founded at UT Austin is funded by Chevron, ExxonMobil, and other fossil fuel interests including the Koch Foundation, or that she’s a partner in a natural gas company.

You may notice a pattern. The very experts we assume to be objective, and the very centers of research we assume to be independent, are connected with the very industry the public believes they are objectively studying. Moreover, these connections are often kept hidden.

To say that these experts and research centers have conflicts of interest is an understatement: many of them exist as they do only because of the fossil fuel industry. They are industry projects with the appearance of neutrality and credibility given by academia.

After years conducting energy-related research at Harvard and MIT, we have come to discover firsthand that this pattern is systemic. Funding from Shell, Chevron, BP, and other oil and gas companies dominates Harvard’s energy and climate policy research, and Harvard research directors consult for the industry. These are the experts tasked with formulating policies for countering climate change, policies that threaten the profits – indeed the existence – of the fossil fuel industry.

Down the street at MIT, the Institute’s Energy Initiative is almost entirely fundedby fossil fuel companies, including Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron. MIT has taken $185 million from oil billionaire and climate denial financier David Koch, who is a Life Member of the university’s board.

The trend continues at Stanford, where one of us now works. The university’s Global Climate and Energy Project is funded by ExxonMobil and Schlumberger. The Project’s founding and current directors are both petroleum engineers. Its current director also co-directs Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy, which is named after (and was co-founded by) the CEO of a natural gas company (now owned by Shell). Across the bay, UC Berkeley’s Energy Biosciences Institute is the product of a $500 million deal with BP – one that gives the company power over which research projects get funded and which don’t.

Fossil fuel interests – oil, gas, and coal companies, fossil-fueled utilities, and fossil fuel investors – have colonized nearly every nook and cranny of energy and climate policy research in American universities, and much of energy science too. And they have done so quietly, without the general public’s knowledge.

For comparison, imagine if public health research were funded predominantly by the tobacco industry. It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to understand the folly of making policy or science research financially dependent on the very industry it may regulate or negatively affect. Harvard’s school of public health no longer takes funding from the tobacco industry for that very reason. Yet such conflicts of interest are not only rife in energy and climate research, they are the norm.

This norm is no accident: it is the product of a public relations strategy to neutralize science and target those whom ExxonMobil dubbed “Informed Influentials,” and it comes straight out of Big Tobacco’s playbook. The myriad benefits of this strategy to the fossil fuel industry (and its effects on academic research) range from benign to insidious to unconscionable, but the big picture is simple: academia has a problem.

As scientists and policy experts rush to find solutions to the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, our institutions are embroiled in a nationwide conflict of interest with the industry that has the most to lose. Our message to universities is: stop ignoring it.

We are not saying that universities must cut all ties with all fossil fuel companies. Energy research is so awash with fossil fuel funding that such a proposal would imply major changes. What we are saying is that denial – “I don’t see a conflict,” MIT’s Chairman told the Boston Globe – is no longer acceptable.

Two parallel approaches can help. First, mandatory standards should be established in climate policy and energy research for disclosing financial and professional ties with fossil fuel interests, akin to those required in medical research. And second, conflicts of interest should be reduced by prioritizing less conflicted funding and personnel.

One way or another, the colonization of academia by the fossil fuel industry must be confronted. Because when our nation’s “independent” research to stop climate change is in fact dependent on an industry whose interests oppose that goal, neither the public nor the future is well served.

Dr. Benjamin Franta is a PhD student in the Department of History at Stanford University, an Associate at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a former Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He has a PhD in Applied Physics from Harvard University. 

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Six years on, Japan struggles with Fukushima’s nuclear wastes

Struggling With Japan’s Nuclear Waste, Six Years After Disaster by MOTOKO RICH 

The estimated 6,000 cleanup workers at the site put on new protective gear every day. These hazmat suits, face masks, rubber gloves and shoe coverings are thrown out at the end of each shift. The clothing is compressed and stored in 1,000 steel boxes stacked around the site.

To date, more than 64,700 cubic meters of gear has been discarded, the equivalent of 17 million one-gallon containers. Tokyo Electric says it will eventually incinerate all this contaminated clothing to reduce the space needed to store it.

Branches and Logs From 220 Acres of Deforested Land The plant’s grounds were once dotted with trees, and a portion was even designated as a bird sanctuary. But workers have cleared about 220 acres of trees since the meltdown spewed radiation over them.

Now, piles of branches and tree trunks are stacked all over the site. Officials say there are about 80,000 cubic meters of this waste, and all of it will have to be incinerated and stored someday.

200,400 Cubic Meters of Radioactive RubbleExplosions during the meltdown filled the reactors with rubble. Workers and robots are slowly and carefully trying to remove this tangled mass of crushed concrete, pipes, hoses and metal.

Tokyo Electric estimates that more than 200,400 cubic meters of rubble — all of it radioactive — have been removed so far and stored in custom-made steel boxes. That is the equivalent of about 3,000 standard 40-foot shipping containers.

3.5 Billion Gallons of SoilThousands of plastic garbage bags sit in neat rows in the fields and abandoned towns surrounding the Fukushima plant. They contain soil that was scraped from land that was exposed to radiation in the days after the accident.

Japan’s Ministry of the Environment estimates that it has bagged 3.5 billion gallons of soil, and plans to collect much more. It will eventually incinerate some of the soil, but that will only reduce the volume of the radioactive waste, not eliminate it.

The ministry has already begun building a massive, interim storage facility in Fukushima prefecture and negotiating with 2,360 landowners for the thousands of acres needed to complete it. And that is not even a long-term solution: The government says that after 30 years it will need another site — or sites — to store radioactive waste.

1,573 Nuclear Fuel Rods

The ultimate goal of the cleanup is to cool and, if possible, remove the uranium and plutonium fuel that was inside the three reactors at the time of the disaster.

Hundreds of spent fuel rods are in cooling pools inside the reactors, and the company hopes to have cleared away enough rubble to begin removing them next year. The much bigger challenge will be removing the fuel that was in use in the reactor core at the time of the meltdown.

The condition and location of this molten fuel debris are still largely unknown. In one reactor where a robot was sent in January, much of the melted fuel is believed to have burned through the bottom of the inner reactor vessel and burrowed into the thick concrete foundation of the containment structure.

The plan is to completely seal the containment vessels, fill them with water and use robots to find and remove the molten fuel debris. But the rubble, the lethal levels of radiation and the risk of letting radiation escape make this an exceedingly difficult task.

In January, the robot sent into one of the reactors discovered radiation levels high enough to kill a person in less than a minute. Another had to be abandoned last month after debris blocked its path and radiation disabled it.

Tokyo Electric hopes to begin removing fuel debris from the reactor cores in 2021. The entire effort could take decades. Some say the radioactive material may prove impossible to remove safely and have suggested leaving it and entombing Fukushima under a concrete and steel sarcophagus like the one used at Chernobyl.

But the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric say they are committed to removing all the waste and cleaning the site, estimated at a cost of $188.6 billion.

“We want to return it to a safe state,” said Yuichi Okamura, general manager of the company’s nuclear power and plant siting division. “We promised the local people that we would recover the site and make it a safe ground again.”

March 13, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, Japan, Reference, wastes | Leave a comment

Why does Los Alamos National Laboratory want MORE nuclear waste storage?

The request also raises new concerns about the amount of radioactive waste being stored on the lab’s property, which has been threatened by catastrophic wildfires at least twice in the past 20 years, and about the lab’s long-troubled history of waste management, which has been a frequent subject of federal oversight reports.

Work was stalled for a number of years at the facility because of safety concerns with the building, including an inadequate fire safety system and its potential inability to withstand an earthquake.

“The desire to make more waste is actually competing with [the] desire to get on top of their safety and [existing] waste issues”

The continued storage of above-ground waste also raises questions about the safety of the drums in the event of a fire

LANL seeks permission to store more nuclear waste on-site Mar 12, 2017. By Rebecca Moss The New Mexican LOS ALAMOS — Los Alamos National Laboratory wants to store thousands of gallons of newly generated radioactive waste for an indefinite number of years, possibly decades, on laboratory property that is primarily used for plutonium research and nuclear weapons development.

The lab in January asked the state for permission to modify its 2010 hazardous waste permit in order to use two waste rooms and an outdoor storage pad near the lab’s plutonium facility to hold 1,700 waste drums, or 95,000 gallons, of radiologically contaminated materials — enough to fill six backyard swimming pools.

The new waste would join millions of gallons of radioactive waste and other hazardous contaminants stored in shallow pits and above ground throughout the lab’s 43-square-mile property, some of it dating back to the Manhattan Project. The request underscores the nuclear weapons industry’s continuing struggle to find places to dispose of its growing stockpiles of radioactive waste, an endeavor that was set back in part by the nearly three-year closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Southern New Mexico. An improperly packaged waste drum from the lab burst in an underground chamber in February 2014, causing a radiation leak.

Even with the reopening of WIPP in January, the facility is unlikely to return to full speed for several years, and new rules for accepting radioactive waste will only further delay shipments from Los Alamos.

The request also raises new concerns about the amount of radioactive waste being stored on the lab’s property, which has been threatened by catastrophic wildfires at least twice in the past 20 years, and about the lab’s long-troubled history of waste management, which has been a frequent subject of federal oversight reports.

Officials said the newly generated waste has been accumulating at the lab since WIPP stopped accepting shipments. Continue reading

March 13, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Grandfather and granddaughter join forces prevent nuclear doom

The former defense secretary is spending his twilight years sounding the alarm with his 29-year-old granddaughter.

“When my kids were getting under desks at their school and going through nuclear drills — the danger today is actually greater. We’re just not aware of it,” says Perry.

At 89, he works with granddaughter to prevent nuclear doom

Before Forever Changes


MARCH 11, 2017, BY  Picture a nondescript packing crate labeled “agricultural equipment” being loaded onto a delivery truck, which drives along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., until it stops midway between the White House and the Capitol.

The nuclear bomb explodes with the power of 15 kilotons. There are more than 80,000 deaths, from the highest ranking members of government to the youngest schoolchildren. All major news outlets then report receiving an identical claim: that five more nuclear bombs are hidden in five major cities.

Such is the nightmare nuclear scenario that former US Defense Secretary William Perry says may seem remote, but the consequences, if realized, would be disastrous.

“I do not like to be a prophet of doom,” says Perry, 89, with the gentle grace of a decadeslong diplomat who has negotiated with countries both hostile and friendly to US interests. Then he bluntly gets to the point. “What we’re talking about is no less than the end of civilization.”

Perry doesn’t believe an intentional terrorist attack or all-out nuclear war is the greatest risk — he fears a “blunder” that plunges the globe into a nuclear conflict.

Perry says with a more aggressive Russia, and a brash and at times unpredictable President Donald Trump, “the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe is probably greater than it has ever been, greater than any time in the Cold War.”

CNN reached out to the White House for comment on Perry’s statements. It did not respond.

While he’s long been out of government, Perry’s uses his extensive policy chops and background to engage the public — through speeches, presentations and online courses.

He worries that tensions between the Koreas, and possibly Japan, could turn into a conventional conflict that could go nuclear. A bellicose and expansion-minded Russia could draw the United States into a situation that could escalate, Perry says. And the District of Columbia scenario shows how devastation can result from a crude bomb.

“When my kids were getting under desks at their school and going through nuclear drills — the danger today is actually greater. We’re just not aware of it,” says Perry.

The former defense secretary is spending his twilight years sounding the alarm with his 29-year-old granddaughter. They’re trying to awaken a new audience on social media with the William J. Perry Project, an advocacy group dedicated to helping end the nuclear threat.

“We’re really just out there trying to reach a generation that isn’t really engaged on this issue right now,” says Lisa Perry, the digital communications manager for the project. “It’s something we learned in history class. There was no conversation about what’s happening now.”

“The dangers will never go away as long as we have nuclear weapons,” William Perry explains. “But we should take every action to lower the dangers and I think it can be done.”

A lifetime dealing with the nuclear threat

Perry served three years under President Bill Clinton, a time when more than 8,000 nuclear weapons were dismantled. His nuclear knowledge traces back to his days as a CIA analyst working with the Kennedy administration during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was tapped to evaluate photos showing Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba and recalls it as one of the scariest times in his life.

“We made miscalculations,” recalls Perry about those anxious two weeks. “It’s a miracle they did not lead to war.”

Perry lists the risks: US-Russia hostilities. A nuclear terror attack. A regional crisis.

On a regional conflict, Perry sees North Korea as an unpredictable nuclear threat. The regime’s growing arsenal and history of bold actions, Perry says, could be met by an escalated response by South Korea or even the United States. Not necessarily a deliberate attack, says Perry, but he fears a “blunder” that plunges the globe into a nuclear conflict.

“When a crisis reaches a boiling point then you have a possibility of a miscalculation,” warns Perry.

Trump and the nuclear threat……….

March 13, 2017 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Thorough research to be done on uranium health effects on Navajo Nation

Mothers, Babies on Navajo Nation Exposed to High Levels of Uranium Navajo Birth Cohort Study figuring out how exposure affects health  • December 20, 2016

Researchers with the Navajo Birth Cohort Study aren’t looking for simple answers about how uranium exposure affects health. We already know—and have known for decades—that contact with uranium can cause kidney disease and lung cancer.

This study is the first to look at what chronic, long-term exposure from all possible sources of uranium contamination—air, water, plants, wildlife, livestock and land—does down through the generations in a Native American community.

Since the study began in 2012, over 750 families have enrolled and 600 babies have been born to those families, said Dr. Johnnye Lewis, director of the Community Environmental Health Program & Center for Native Environmental Health Equity Research at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and NBCS principal investigator.

We’re collecting a huge amount of data,” Lewis said. “At this point … all of our results are preliminary, [but] what we do know is that if we look at uranium in urine in the Navajo participants we see higher concentrations than we would expect based on the U.S. population as a whole… [In babies,] we are seeing a trend that uranium levels in urine increase over the first year.”

The Navajo Nation overlies some of the largest uranium deposits in the U.S. Between 1944 and 1986, miners extracted nearly 30 million tons of uranium from Navajo Nation lands. Navajo miners did not have protective suits or masks; they took their work clothes home for laundering; they and other community members used rocks from the mines to build their homes.

When the Cold War ended, most of the uranium mines on Navajo were abandoned—not covered, or sealed, or remediated, just left as they were with waste piles exposed to wind and rain and accessible to anyone, including children.

Today, more than 500 open abandoned uranium mines are spread across the Navajo Nation and uranium dust, particles and radiation continue to be released into the environment.

The questions the NBCS seeks to answer are complex. Uranium does not exist in isolation at the mine sites, so the study is looking at 36 different metals associated with uranium. “We do that because when you look at uranium waste, it’s not just uranium that’s in the waste,” said Lewis. “None of the variables that we look at, none of the causes or the outcomes that we look at are on-off binary sort of things. What we look at is as concentrations of uranium or other metals changes, can we see changes in responses?”

Researchers have also been alarmed by the findings that levels of iodine and zinc are lower than they should be in the study group. Iodine levels are about 40 percent below the World Health Organization sufficiency level, and 61 percent of the mothers in the study have zinc levels below the WHO sufficiency level. “Iodine deficiencies [are] very, very important because iodine is really critical for normal organ development and neurodevelopment,” said Lewis. “And we worry about zinc because we have some evidence that it may be involved in the repair process when you have exposure to some of the metals that we look at. [A lack of zinc] actually inhibits the body’s ability to fix damage to DNA.”

Documenting these deficiencies would make the NBCS worthwhile “even if we learn there are absolutely no [long-term health] effects from uranium,” Lewis said. “Whatever we find out is going to be important.”

Two other endeavors resulting from the study are already in the works, and both will be hugely important to the well-being of Navajo families in the future.

The project has just won Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program funding from the National Institutes of Health. The project is looking at kids all across the U.S. to try to understand how their environment influences their health. It will eventually include 50,000 children and at least two cohorts will be from Native American communities, Lewis said. “We’re just really pleased that they’re including Native Americans.”

The Centers for Disease Control funding for the NBCS only allows families to be followed for up to one year. This new funding, which extends over 5 years after a 2-year initial period, will allow the researchers to go back and look again at each child on an annual basis and do much more detailed developmental assessments. In the process, they will be able to develop an assessment that takes into account Navajo parenting styles and create an instrument that is valid specifically for Navajo children, unlike standardized developmental assessments that are devised based primarily on the dominant culture’s parenting practices.

To accomplish that, “we put together a clinical team that is going to be training our Navajo staff to deliver these developmental assessments. It will be a long process of working together. They’ll be trained and then they will shadow the clinical team so that they get a lot more experience off Navajo before ever coming back here and then when they come back they’ll each be partnered with either a neurodevelopmental expert or psychometrician … who will be hired through the program. They will initially shadow them and then be shadowed by them to ensure that we have consistency.

“So at the end of seven years what we’re going to have is a really great team of professional evaluators who will be staying on Navajo and who will provide that new service” to Navajo families, Lewis said.

The NBCS is a collaborative effort of the University of New Mexico’s DiNEH Project, Center for Disease Control/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR), Navajo Area Indian Health Service, and the Navajo Nation Division of Health, and the Southwest Research and Information Center.

Women between the ages of 14 and 45 who have lived on the Navajo Nation for five years, are pregnant and will deliver their babies at hospitals in Chinle, Gallup, Shiprock, Ft. Defiance and Tuba City are eligible to participate in the study. Call 1-877-545-6775 for information.


March 13, 2017 Posted by | health, indigenous issues, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Lockheed Martin – USA’s top salesman for war?

Lockheed Martin Used Pentagon Dollars to Lobby Congress for Nuclear Weapons Funding One of the uses of the billions of dollars from these contracts is to recycle them back into lobbying the government to push for additional conventional and nuclear weapons spending, as reported by William Hartung and Stephen Miles. Of course, in addition, these funds are used to support a general environment of fear and insecurity, through contributions supporting hawkish think tanks.

Trump Is Bankrupting Our Nation to Enrich the War Profiteers March 06, 2017 By Jonathan King and Richard KrushnicTruthout | News Analysis

“……..Corporations that contract with the Department of Defense (DOD) for nuclear weapons complex work do not report revenues and profits from this work separately from their other military work, although they do break up government work from civilian work, and sometimes break up military work from other government work. Hence, it is not possible to determine profits made from nuclear weapons complex work from the annual reports and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings of large military corporations. However, it is possible to estimate, and to demonstrate how a significant amount of military R&D and production not recorded as nuclear weapons work is in fact partially nuclear weapons work. The nuclear weapons work financed by the US Department of Energy (DOE) is (not surprisingly) carried out in a semi-secret insiders club that insulates it from public knowledge and oversight. The first contracts for the upgrading of the nuclear weapons triads have already been awarded — one to Northrop Grumman — for a new generation of long-range bomber. But the public remains in the dark as to how many tens of billions of their tax dollars will be spent on the project.

From 2012-2014, according to Lockheed Martin’s 2014 annual report, the company realized an average of $46 billion a year in revenue, with an average of $3.2 billion in profits — 7 percent of revenue, and a 76 percent return on $4.2 billion of investor equity. The annual report informs us that 59 percent of 2014 revenue came from the Pentagon. We know from other sources that $1.4 billion a year is coming from the DOE for operation of the Sandia nuclear weapons lab, and we are estimating that an additional $600 million a year is coming for DOE nuclear weapons complex work. Information in the annual report indicates that around $6.1 billion came from foreign military sales. This adds up to around $35 billion of military revenue, or 75.3 percent of total 2014 revenue. The single biggest revenue earner in recent years is the F-35 jet fighter, bringing in $8.2 billion, 17 percent of total corporation revenue, in 2014. (William Hartung’s recent report describes additional aspects of Lockheed Martin’s military business, and his book Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial Complex provides extensive background).

The only references to Lockheed Martin’s nuclear weapons complex work in its 2014 annual report is a sentence noting provision of infrastructure and site support to the DOE’s Hanford complex, and a phrase noting continuing work on the Trident missile. The words “nuclear weapons” never appear in the report.

Lockheed Martin’s Nuclear Weapons Operations

In spite of the lack of mention in the annual report, Lockheed Martin is a partner with Bechtel ATK, SOC LLC and subcontractor Booz Allen Hamilton in Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC (CNS), in running the DOE Pantex Plant and the Y-12 Complex. Pantex does nuclear weapons life extension, dismantlement, development, testing and fabrication of high explosive nuclear warhead components. Y-12 stores and processes uranium, and fabricates uranium weapons components.

Lockheed Martin produced the Trident strategic nuclear missile for the 14 US Ohio-class nuclear submarines and for the four British Vanguard-class submarines. The 24 Tridents on each Ohio-class submarine each carry either eight or 12 warheads, all of them 20 to 50 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each warhead is capable of killing most of the people in any one of the world’s largest cities — either immediately or later, from radiation, burns, other injuries, starvation and disease. Lockheed MArtin is not producing new Trident missiles now, but it maintains and modifies them. Previously, Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors received $65 million for each of the 651 Trident missiles, in addition to the $35 billion in earlier development costs.

The other primary strategic nuclear weapon delivery vehicle is Boeing’s land-based Minuteman III strategic missile, also with many warheads per missile. About 450 of them are in silos in Colorado and northern plains states. Lockheed Martin produced and continues to produce key systems for the Minuteman III, and plays a large role in maintaining them. It was awarded a $452 million contract for this work in 2014.

Lockheed’s Sandia Subsidiary

Regarding the Pentagon’s nuclear weapons upgrades planned for the next decade; particularly important is the role of Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). Outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, this DOE lab’s 10,600 employees make 95 percent of the roughly 6,500 non-nuclear components of all seven US nuclear warhead types. Components arm, fuse, fire, generate neutrons to start nuclear reactions, prevent unauthorized firing, preserve the aging nuclear weapons stockpile and mate the weapons to the missiles, planes and ships that deliver them to targets. Sandia Corporation LLC, wholly owned by Lockheed Martin, operates Sandia. The DOE is spending at least $1.4 billion a year on Sandia nuclear weapons work. The secret Lockheed Martin nuclear warhead assembly plant uncovered in Sunnyvale in 2010 is an extension of Lockheed Martin’s Sandia operations. Again, none of this received any mention or revenue numbers in Lockheed Martin’s 2014 annual report.

Lockheed Martin Used Pentagon Dollars to Lobby Congress for Nuclear Weapons Funding

One of the uses of the billions of dollars from these contracts is to recycle them back into lobbying the government to push for additional conventional and nuclear weapons spending, as reported by William Hartung and Stephen Miles. Of course, in addition, these funds are used to support a general environment of fear and insecurity, through contributions supporting hawkish think tanks. Technically, the federal government does not allow military contracting firms to use awarded funds to lobby Congress. Lobbying funds must come from other parts of the companies’ businesses. In reality, this is a non-functional restriction, since profits from various business segments are fungible; that is, once they are profits, they are intermingled, so in reality, the firms can use the profits from military contracts to lobby Congress. But Lockheed Martin went ahead and spent military contract funds from 2008-2012 as part of the contract expenditures. It didn’t even bother to book the lobbying expenditures as expenditures of profits. In 2015, the US Department of Justice required Lockheed Martin’s Sandia subsidiary to repay $4.9 million of a Sandia contract award to the Pentagon that the firm had spent under the contract for lobbying of Congressman the DOE secretary and the secretary’s family and friends………

March 8, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Italy’s thorium contamination resulting from military operations

Subject:  Alarming levels of thorium-232 at the military firing range lying between Cordenons, San Quirino, Vivaro and San Giorgio della Richinvelda, in the province of Pordenone

The Italian Army operates a military firing range lying between the districts of Cordenons, San Quirino, Vivaro and San Giorgio della Richinvelda in the province of Pordenone, in the vicinity of the River Cellina and the River Meduna, and the drills carried out at this firing range have led to the area becoming radioactively contaminated.

As has been reported by the press, in late December 2013 the Commander of the 132nd Ariete Armoured Division in Cordenons, the Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Army, the offices of the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the province of Pordenone and the affected districts, the prefect of Pordenone, and lastly Local Health Authority (ASS) No 6, were all sent the results of tests that had been carried out by the Friuli-Venezia Giulia provincial department of the Italian Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA), which showed alarming levels of thorium-232 in the area.

Thorium-232 is a notoriously radioactive metal, which emits particles that are six times more hazardous to human health than those released by depleted uranium. It is at its most toxic between around 20 and 25 years after use. More specifically, out of the eight targets (the shells of armoured tanks used for firing practice) tested by the ARPA, four were found to contain thorium-232 at markedly higher levels than those that generally occur naturally; these levels were therefore unnatural, and presumably attributable to military firing operations.

In all likelihood, such levels are the legacy left behind by the drills carried out at the site in the 1980s and 1990s: between 1986 and 2003, the Italian Army’s units were equipped with ‘Milan’ shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles, which emitted thorium-232(1). The ARPA has indicated that it will shortly carry out more extensive tests in the area. It is recalled that, as a result of the area’s geological make-up, materials tend to trickle down to the lowest layers, which makes their future recovery appear rather difficult.

Consequently, there is an acute risk that the ‘Magredi’ region, and the rocky terrain that makes it so distinctive, will be devastated; what is more, the area is protected as both a site of Community importance and a Special Protection Area within the meaning of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), due to the wide variety of flora and fauna present there(2).

1. Is the Commission aware of this contamination?

2. Can it report whether any similar cases have occurred in the EU, how they were tackled and whether the areas affected were restored to their original state?

3. What initiatives does it intend to implement in order to prevent similar episodes from occurring in the EU, and in particular to prevent the contamination of aquifers?

(1) The same missiles were also used at the inter-force firing range in Quirra (Sardinia), which is sadly famous for the effects resulting from thorium-232 contamination.
(2) SCI IT3310009 ‘Magredi del Cellina’, SPA IT3311001 ‘Magredi di Pordenone’.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | environment, Italy, Reference, thorium, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

America’s war profiteers

Trump Is Bankrupting Our Nation to Enrich the War Profiteers March 06, 2017 By Jonathan King and Richard KrushnicTruthout | News Analysis “………The Role of Weapons Contractors

We have previously argued that it is the guaranteed profits from nuclear weapons manufacture that leads contractors to resist nuclear disarmament and promote the concept of danger from abroad.

The profitability derives from three distinct aspects of such weapons contracts:

  • First, they cannot be outsourced to lower cost suppliers, such as in China or Mexico, by congressional edict.
  • Second, the contracts are cost-plus. That is, no matter what the companies spend on the manufacture, they are guaranteed a healthy profit on top. And, of course, the more they run up the costs, the more they make.
  • And third, the contracts are screened from oversight, such as proper audits, by national security considerations.

The current 2017 congressional military authorization calls for spending of some $350 billion over the next decade for upgrades of our nuclear weapons ($35 billion a year) — land-based missiles in silos, long-range bombers and their bombs, new Trident submarines and upgraded Trident missiles and new nuclear-capable cruise missiles. The so-called “modernization” program that Trump supports will spend more than $1 trillion — a thousand billion — income tax dollars over the next 30 years.

Given that the Soviet Union no longer exists, that China has become a capitalist economy and that the major difficulties faced abroad are ISIS (also known as Daesh) and related groups, it is deeply questionable why the congressional budget still devotes tens of billions of dollars to Cold War-era nuclear weapons. Yet the Trump administration is proposing to spend a trillion dollars or more over the next three decades upgrading the US nuclear weapons triad.

Where does the pressure for these wasteful and provocative programs — which almost certainly decrease national security — come from? While military high command and the intelligence agencies also press for nuclear weapons upgrades, corporate profits derived from nuclear weapons contracts may be the most powerful driving force, supported by members of Congress with military research and development (R&D) and production facilities in their districts.

A closer look at Lockheed Martin, the largest weapons contractor in the world, reveals how this coupling between corporate profits and the continuation of nuclear weapons delivery programs operates……….

March 8, 2017 Posted by | Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

America’s nuclear bomb tests and their health toll on Americans

U.S. nuclear testing ceased in 1992. In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that virtually every American that has lived since 1951 has been exposed to nuclear fallout, and that the cumulative effects of all nuclear testing by all nations could ultimately be responsible for up to eleven thousand deaths in the United States alone.

atomic-bomb-lhighly-recommendedAmerica’s Forgotten Nuclear War (On Itself), National Interest Kyle Mizokami, 4 Mar  `17 , Nuclear weapons have a mysterious quality. Their power is measured in plainly visible blast pressure and thermal energy common to many weapons, but also invisible yet equally destructive radiation and electromagnetic pulse. Between 1945 and 1992, the United States conducted 1,032 nuclear tests seeking to get the measure of these enigmatic weapons. Many of these tests would be today be considered unnecessary, overly dangerous and just plain bizarre. These tests, undertaken on the atomic frontier, gathered much information about these weapons—enough to cease actual use testing—yet scarred the land and left many Americans with long-term health problems.

The majority of U.S. nuclear tests occurred in the middle of the Western desert, at the Nevada Test Site. The NTS hosted 699 nuclear tests, utilizing both above-ground and later underground nuclear devices. The average yield for these tests was 8.6 kilotons. Atmospheric tests could be seen from nearby Las Vegas, sixty-five miles southeast of the Nevada Test site, and even became a tourist draw until the Limited Test Ban Treaty banned them in 1963. Today the craters and pockmarks from underground tests are still visible in satellite map imagery.

The bulk of the remaining nuclear tests took place in Pacific, at the islands of Bikini, Enewetak, Johnson Island and Christmas Island. The second nuclear test, after 1945’s Trinity Test, took place at Bikini Atoll. The Pacific tests were notable not only for their stunning visuals, the most compelling imagery of nuclear weapons since Hiroshima, but also the forced relocation of native islanders. Others that were near tests were exposed to dangerous levels of radioactive fallout and forced to fleet. In 1954, the crew of the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru accidentally sailed through fallout from the nearby fifteen-megaton Castle Bravo test. Contaminated with nuclear fallout, one crew member died, and the rest were sickened by radiation.

The first test of a thermonuclear, or fusion, bomb took place on November 1952 at Enewetak Island. Nicknamed Ivy Mike, the huge eighty-two-ton device was more of a building than a usable nuclear device. The device registered a yield of 10.4 megatons, or the equivalent of 10,400,000 tons of TNT. (Hiroshima, by contrast, was roughly eighteen thousand tons of TNT.) Ivy Mike was the biggest test by far, creating a fireball 1.8 miles wide and a mushroom cloud that rose to an altitude of 135,000 feet.

One of the strangest atmospheric tests occurred in 1962 at the NTS, with the testing of the Davy Crockett battlefield nuclear weapon. Davy Crockett was a cartoonish-looking recoilless rifle that lobbed a nuclear warhead with an explosive yield of just ten to twenty tons of TNT. The test, code-named Little Feller I, took place on July 17, 1962, with attorney general and presidential adviser Robert. F. Kennedy in attendance. Although hard to believe, Davy Crockett was issued at the battalion level in both Germany and North Korea.

Also in 1962, as part of a series of high-altitude nuclear experiments, a Thor rocket carried a W49 thermonuclear warhead approximately 250 miles into the exoatmosphere. The test, known as Starfish Prime, had an explosive yield of 1.4 megatons, or 1,400,000 tons of TNT, and resulted in a large amount of electromagnetic pulse being released over the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The test, conducted off Johnston Island, sent a man-made electrical surge as far Hawaii, more than eight hundred miles away. The surge knocked out three hundred streetlights and a telephone exchange, and caused burglar alarms to go off and garage doors to open by themselves.

Nuclear tests weren’t just restricted to the Pacific Ocean and Nevada. In October 1964, as part of Operation Whetstone, the U.S. government detonated a 5.3-kiloton device just twenty-eight miles southwest of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The test, nicknamed Salmon, was an experiment designed to determine if nuclear tests could be detected by seismometer. This was followed up in 1966 with the Sterling test, which had a yield of 380 tons.

In 1967, as part of a misguided attempt to use nuclear weapons for peaceful purposes, the United States detonated a nuclear device near Farmington, New Mexico. Project Gasbuggy was an early attempt at nuclear “fracking,” detonating a twenty-nine-kiloton nuke 4,227 feet underground just to see if the explosion would fracture surrounding rock and expose natural-gas reserves. The experiment was unsuccessful. Two similar tests, Rulison and Rio Blanco, took place in nearby Colorado. Although Rulison was a success in that it uncovered usable gas reserves, the gas was contaminated with radiation, leaving it unsuitable for practical commercial use.

A handful of nuclear tests were conducted in Alaska, or more specifically the Aleutian island of Amchitka. The first test, in October 1965, was designed to test nuclear detection techniques and had a yield of eighty kilotons. A second test occurred four years later, and had a yield of one megaton, or one thousand kilotons. The third and largest test, Cannikin, was a test of the Spartan antiballistic-missile warhead and had a yield of less than five megatons.

During the early years of nuclear testing it was anticipated that nuclear weapons would be used on the battlefield, and that the Army and Marine Corps had better get used to operating on a “nuclear battlefield.” During the 1952 Big Shot test, 1,700 ground troops took shelter in trenches just seven thousand yards from the thirty-three-kiloton explosion. After the test, the troops conducted a simulated assault that took them to within 160 meters of ground zero. This test and others like them led to increases in leukemia, prostate and nasal cancers among those that participated.

U.S. nuclear testing ceased in 1992. In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that virtually every American that has lived since 1951 has been exposed to nuclear fallout, and that the cumulative effects of all nuclear testing by all nations could ultimately be responsible for up to eleven thousand deaths in the United States alone. The United States did indeed learn much about how to construct safe and reliable nuclear weapons, and their effects on human life and the environment. In doing so, however, it paid a terrible and tragic price.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the DiplomatForeign PolicyWar is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

March 6, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Why milk is nature’s perfect radioactivity delivery system

radiation-emanatingWhat’s up with milk and radiation? , Connect Savannah, 14 Sept 2011, 

1. It’s a food. While an external dusting of radionuclides isn’t healthy, for efficient long-term irradiation of vulnerable organs there’s no substitute for actually ingesting the stuff.

2. It’s fast. Not to knock potatoes and chicken, but growing these items can take weeks or months. With milk, the fallout simply drifts over the pasture and lands on the grass, which the cows then eat. The radioactive particles are deposited in the cows’ milk, the farmers milk the cows, and in a day or two the contaminated product shows up in the dairy case.

3. Because it’s processed quickly, milk makes effective use of contaminants that would otherwise rapidly decay. A byproduct of uranium fission is the radioactive isotope iodine-131. Iodine is critical to functioning of the thyroid gland, and any iodine-131 consumed will be concentrated there. However, iodine-131 has a half-life of just eight days. The speed of dairying eliminates this impediment.

4. Milk also does a good job of delivering other radioactive contaminants, such as cesium-134 and cesium-137. Although not important for human health, radioactive cesium mimics potassium, which we do need, and is readily absorbed by the body. Another uranium breakdown product is strontium-90, which is especially hazardous to children, since it can be incorporated into growing bones. In contrast to radioactive iodine, strontium-90 has a half-life of about 29 years, so once it gets embedded in you, you are, as the Irish say, fooked.

5. That brings us to the most fiendish property of radioactive milk-it targets the young. Children (a) drink a lot more milk and (b) are smaller, which when you add it up means they get a much stiffer dose. Some cancers triggered by radioactivity have a long latency period; older people may die of something else first, but kids bear the full brunt.

For all these reasons, testing milk and dumping any contaminated is at the top of the list of disaster-response measures following a nuclear accident, and it’s unusual, though not unknown, for bad milk to find its way into the food supply. For example:

• Iodine contamination during the 1979 Three Mile Island accident was negligible, 20 picocuries per liter. The FDA’s “action level” at the time was 12,000 picocuries per liter; the current limit of 4,600 picocuries is still far in excess of what was observed.

• After the problems with the Fukushima reactors in Japan, one batch of hot milk did test at nine times the current limit, and milk and vegetable consumption was prohibited in high-risk areas. But most bans were rescinded after a couple months.

• In 1957, after a fire at the Windscale plutonium processing plant in the UK, radiation levels of 800,000 picocuries per liter and higher were found in local milk. Though contamination of milk wasn’t well understood at the time, authorities figured 800,000 of anything involving curies can’t be good and banned the stuff.

• Then there’s Chernobyl. Milk sales were banned in nearby cities after the 1986 reactor explosion, but feckless Soviet officials let the sizable rural population fend for itself. Not surprisingly, 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer subsequently developed, proving there’s no catastrophic situation that stupidity can’t make worse.

One last thing. We’ve been talking about cow’s milk, but be aware that iodine-131, strontium-90, and other radioactive contaminants can also be transferred through human milk…..

March 4, 2017 Posted by | radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Up to £219 billion to clean up the UK’s nuclear mess: autonomous robots to be developed

flag-UKUK funding development of autonomous robots to help clear up nuclear waste A new UK consortium will be developing robots to handle nuclear sites, bomb disposal, space and mining. International Business Times,     By   February 28, 2017 The UK government is funding a new consortium of academic institutions and industrial partners to jump start the robotics industry and develop a new generation of robots to help deal with situations that are hazardous for humans.


It is estimated that it will cost between £95 billion and £219 billion to clean up the UK’s existing nuclear facilities over the next 120 years or so. The environment is so harsh that humans cannot physically be on the site, and robots that are sent in often encounter problems, like the small IRID Toshiba shape-shifting scorpion robot used to explore Fukushima’s nuclear reactors, often break down and cannot be retrieved.Remote-controlled robots are needed to turn enter dangerous zones that haven’t been accessed in over 40 years to carry out relatively straightforward tasks that a human could do in an instant.

The problem is that robots are just not at the level they need to be yet, and it is very difficult to build a robot that can successfully navigate staircases, move over rough terrain and turn valves.

To fix this problem, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is investing £4.6m ($5.7m) into a new group consisting of the University of Manchester, the University of Birmingham, the University of the West of England (UWE) and industrial partners Sellafield, EDF Energy, UKAEA and NuGen…….


March 1, 2017 Posted by | Reference, technology, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Rapid spread of ocean acidification in the Arctic

International team reports ocean acidification spreading rapidly in Arctic Ocean, EurekAlert, 28 Feb 17, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE  Ocean acidification (OA) is spreading rapidly in the western Arctic Ocean in both area and depth, according to new interdisciplinary research reported in Nature Climate Changeby a team of international collaborators, including University of Delaware professor Wei-Jun Cai.

The research shows that, between the 1990s and 2010, acidified waters expanded northward approximately 300 nautical miles from the Chukchi slope off the coast of northwestern Alaska to just below the North Pole. Also, the depth of acidified waters was found to have increased, from approximately 325 feet to over 800 feet (or from 100 to 250 meters).


“The Arctic Ocean is the first ocean where we see such a rapid and large-scale increase in acidification, at least twice as fast as that observed in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans,” said Cai, the U.S. lead principal investigator on the project and Mary A.S. Lighthipe Professor of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at UD.

“The rapid spread of ocean acidification in the western Arctic has implications for marine life, particularly clams, mussels and tiny sea snails that may have difficulty building or maintaining their shells in increasingly acidified waters,” said Richard Feely, NOAA senior scientist and a co-author of the research. Sea snails called pteropods are part of the Arctic food web and important to the diet of salmon and herring. Their decline could affect the larger marine ecosystem.

Among the Arctic species potentially at risk from ocean acidification are subsistence fisheries of shrimp and varieties of salmon and crab.

Other collaborators on the international project include Liqi Chen, the Chinese lead principal investigator and scientist with the Third Institute of Oceanography of State Oceanic Administration of China; and scientists at Xiamen University, China and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, among other institutions…….

Arctic ocean ice melt in the summer, once found only in shallow waters of depths less than 650 feet or 200 meters, now spreads further into the Arctic Ocean.

“It’s like a melting pond floating on the Arctic Ocean. It’s a thin water mass that exchanges carbon dioxide rapidly with the atmosphere above, causing carbon dioxide and acidity to increase in the meltwater on top of the seawater,” said Cai. “When the ice forms in winter, acidified waters below the ice become dense and sink down into the water column, spreading into deeper waters.”

March 1, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, oceans, Reference | Leave a comment