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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Linear accelerators – a much safer way to obtain medical isotopes, than from nuclear reactors

How Better Cancer Treatment Can Also Mean Better Nuclear Security http://www.nonproliferation.org/how-better-cancer-treatment-can-also-mean-better-nuclear-security/August 14, 2017 C. Norman Coleman, Silvia Formenti, Miles A. Pomperrecent report in The Washington Post that the self-proclaimed Islamic State almost stumbled upon radioactive material in Mosul—in the form of cobalt-60, a substance used in radiation therapy—raises a profound dilemma about cancer treatment in developing countries and the risk of terrorists obtaining a key ingredient for making “dirty bombs.”

Cobalt-60 radiation machines are one of the many tools doctors have used in the treatment of cancer for the past 50 years. In North America, nearly all of these units have been replaced with more advanced technology called linear accelerators, which do not contain radioactive material and provide medically superior treatment. In developing countries, the cobalt-60 radiation machines remain prevalent. They are cost-effective and appealing in states with limited or intermittent electricity supplies and other physical infrastructure as well as a shortage of medical and technical expertise.

 

Iraq still has two cobalt-60 machines, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, having already transitioned to linear accelerators for its 10 other treatment machines. But as Mosul made clear, using even one or two of these radiation machines comes with security risks. If the wrong people, such as members of the Islamic State or another terrorist group, got hold of cobalt-60, they could potentially create a dirty bomb or a radiation exposure device. With more than 70 percent of all cancer deaths now occurring in developing countries, the problem of balancing cancer treatment with security risks will only get worse.

The surest way to prevent terrorists from acquiring these materials, while not limiting people’s access to necessary cancer treatment, is to phase out cobalt-60 radiation machines and replace them with linear accelerators. The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration, which is in charge of efforts to secure potentially dangerous radioactive material, has been supporting this approach for several years. To do so, developing countries need better technology and treatment environments, not only to support this transition away from cobalt-60 machines but to improve cancer treatment overall. Continue reading this article in World Politics Review

August 18, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, health, Reference, safety | Leave a comment

Cancer and other health problems still being caused because of past nuclear explosions

Nuclear explosions from the past are still causing cancer and health problems today https://www.businessinsider.com.au/nuclear-explosion-fallout-cancer-health-effects-2017-8?r=US&IR=T, KEVIN LORIA AUG 18, 2017 

August 18, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, health, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Will potassium iodide protect you from nuclear fallout?

Verify: Will potassium iodide protect you from nuclear fallout?http://www.abc10.com/news/local/verify/verify-will-potassium-iodide-protect-you-from-nuclear-fallout/464777998 Barbara Harvey, KXTV 6:48 AM. PDT August 16, 2017 In 1999, the World Health Organization released guidelines on the use of potassium iodide, citing the exposure of children to radiation after the Chernobyl disaster.

August 18, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, radiation | Leave a comment

Pyroprocessing causes MORE nuclear wastes, not less

The Pyroprocessing Files http://allthingsnuclear.org/elyman/the-pyroprocessing-files. ED LYMAN, SENIOR SCIENTIST | AUGUST 12, 2017, The ARTICLE BY RALPH VARTABEDIAN in the Los Angeles Times highlights the failure of the Department of Energy’s decades-long effort to chemically process a stockpile of spent nuclear fuel at Idaho National Laboratory, ostensibly to convert the waste to forms that would be safer for disposal in a geologic repository. A secondary goal was to demonstrate the viability of a new type of processing spent fuel—so-called pyroprocessing. Instead, it has demonstrated the numerous shortcomings of this technology.

It is particularly important to disseminate accurate information about the failure of this DOE program to dispel some of the myths about pyroprocessing. The concept of the “Integral Fast Reactor”—a metal-fueled fast neutron reactor with co-located pyroprocessing and fuel fabrication facilities—has attracted numerous staunch advocates.

In addition to Argonne National Laboratory, which first developed the technology, the concept has been promoted in the popular media (most notably in the 2013 documentary Pandora’s Promise) and by GE-Hitachi, which seeks to commercialize a similar system. South Korea has long sought to be able to implement the technology, and countries such as China, Japan and Russia all have expressed interest in pursuing it. But this interest has been driven largely by idealized studies on paper and not by facts derived from actual experience.

DOE internal documents reveal problems

The LA Times article refers to a June 2017 Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report that draws on documents that UCS received in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. UCS initiated the request in 2015 to seek information that could shed light on DOE’s troubled program for pyroprocessing 26 metric tons of “sodium-bonded” metallic spent fuel from the shutdown Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II).

Pyroprocessing is a form of spent fuel reprocessing that dissolves metal-based spent fuel in a molten salt bath (as distinguished from conventional reprocessing, which dissolves spent fuel in water-based acid solutions). Understandably, given all its problems, DOE has been reluctant to release public information on this program, which has largely operated under the radar since 2000.

The FOIA documents we obtained have revealed yet another DOE tale of vast sums of public money being wasted on an unproven technology that has fallen far short of the unrealistic projections that DOE used to sell the project to Congress, the state of Idaho and the public. However, it is not too late to pull the plug on this program, and potentially save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

History of the pyroprocessing program

DOE originally initiated the pyroprocessing program for EBR-II spent fuel in the mid-1990s as a consolation prize to Argonne-West National Laboratory (now part of present-day Idaho National Laboratory) after it cancelled the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) program. The idea was that the metal-based spent fuel from the reactor could be pyroprocessed in a facility connected to the reactor, which would extract plutonium, uranium and other elements to be fabricated into new reactor fuel. In theory, this could be a system that could convert its nuclear waste into usable fuel on site and thus could be largely self-contained. Pyroprocessing was billed as a simpler, cheaper and more compact alternative to the conventional aqueous reprocessing plants that have been operated in France, the United Kingdom, Japan and other countries.

Although DOE shut down the EBR-II in 1994 (the reactor part of the IFR program), it allowed work at the pyroprocessing facility to proceed. It justified this by asserting that the leftover spent fuel from the EBR-II could not be directly disposed of in the planned Yucca Mountain repository because of the potential safety issues associated with presence of metallic sodium in the spent fuel elements, which was used to “bond” the fuel to the metallic cladding that encased it. (Metallic sodium reacts violently with water and air.)

Pyroprocessing would separate the sodium from other spent fuel constituents and neutralize it. DOE decided in 2000 to use pyroprocessing for the entire inventory of leftover EBR-II spent fuel – both “driver” and “blanket” fuel – even though it acknowledged that there were simpler methods to remove the sodium from the lightly irradiated blanket fuel, which constituted nearly 90% of the inventory.

Little progress, big cost overruns

However, as the FOIA documents reveal in detail, the pyroprocessing technology simply has not worked well and has fallen far short of initial predictions (Figure 1) (Refs. 1-3). Although DOE initially claimed that the entire inventory would be processed by 2007, as of the end of Fiscal Year 2016, only about 15% of the roughly 26 metric tons of spent fuel had been processed. Over $210 million has been spent, at an average cost of over $60,000 per kilogram of fuel treated. At this rate, it will take until the end of the century to complete pyroprocessing of the entire inventory, at an additional cost of over $1 billion.

But even that assumes, unrealistically, that the equipment will continue to be usable for this extended time period. Moreover, there is a significant fraction of spent fuel in storage that has degraded and may not be a candidate for pyroprocessing in any event (Ref. 4). The long time to completion is problematic because DOE has an agreement with the state of Idaho to remove all spent fuel from the state by the year 2035. The FOIA documents reveal that DOE is well aware that it is not on track to comply with this obligation (Ref 5). Yet DOE has not made any public statements to that effect and continues to insist that it can meet the deadline.

More waste, not less

 An impure uranium waste product is deposited on a cathode in a  pyroprocessing cell (Source: Idaho National Lab)

What exactly is the pyroprocessing of this fuelaccomplishing? Instead of making management and disposal of the spent fuel simpler and safer, it has created an even bigger mess. Pyroprocessing separates the spent fuel into three principal waste streams. The first is an enriched uranium metal material called the “spent fuel treatment product.” Because this material contains unacceptably high levels of plutonium and other contaminants, the uranium cannot be used to make new nuclear fuel unless it is further purified; thus it is a waste product. Meanwhile, the material is accumulating and taking up precious space at INL storage facilities, causing its own safety issues.

The second waste stream is the molten salt bath that is used to dissolve the spent fuel. Fission products and plutonium have accumulated in this salt for 20 years. Eventually it will have to be removed and safely disposed of. But for various reasons—including cost and a lack of available space for the necessary equipment—INL is reconsidering the original plan to convert this waste into a stable ceramic waste form. Instead, it may just allow it to cool until it hardens and then directly dispose of it in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico (Ref. 6).

The third waste stream consists of the leftover metal cladding tubes that encased the nuclear fuel, and the metal plenums that extended above the fuel region, which are contaminated with fission products and sodium. The original plan was to convert these scraps into a stable, homogeneous waste form. But the FOIA documents reveal that DOE is also reconsidering this plan, and considering redefining this material as transuranic or low-level waste so it could be disposed of without further processing in WIPP or a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility. Storage of the accumulating metal scrap material is also becoming an increasing burden at INL (Ref. 7).

In other words, pyroprocessing has taken one potentially difficult form of nuclear waste and converted it into multiple challenging forms of nuclear waste. DOE has spent hundreds of millions of dollars only to magnify, rather than simplify, the waste problem. This is especially outrageous in light of other FOIA documents that indicate that DOE never definitively concluded that the sodium-bonded spent fuel was unsafe to directly dispose of in the first place. But it insisted on pursuing pyroprocessing rather than conducting studies that might have shown it was unnecessary.

Everyone with an interest in pyroprocessing should reassess their views given the real-world problems experienced in implementing the technology over the last 20 years at INL. They should also note that the variant of the process being used to treat the EBR-II spent fuel is less complex than the process that would be needed to extract plutonium and other actinides to produce fresh fuel for fast reactors. In other words, the technology is a long way from being demonstrated as a practical approach for electricity production. It makes much more sense to pursue improvements in once-through nuclear power systems than to waste any more time and money on reprocessing technologies that pose proliferation, security and safety risks. DOE continues to consider alternatives to pyroprocessing for the blanket fuel (Ref. 8). It should give serious thought to the possibility of direct disposal of the remaining inventory without processing.

Links to FOIA documents

Below are links to some of the documents that UCS obtained from its FOIA request. We will provide more documents and analyses of them soon.

August 14, 2017 Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

In the effort to deal with nuclear waste, pyroprocessing created even more problems

Since the project began 17 years ago, 15% of the waste has been processed, an average of one-fourth of a metric ton per year. That’s 20 times slower than originally expected, a pace that would stretch the work into the next century — long past the 2035 deadline.

Lyman said he was determined to explore the Idaho program in light of increasing interest in the scientific and regulatory communities in advanced nuclear reactors — including breeder reactors — and what he believed was misleading information by advocates.

The Idaho National Lab created a ‘wonder fuel.’ Now, it’s radioactive waste that won’t go away, http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-na-idaho-nuclear-waste-2017-story.html, Ralph VartabedianContact Reporter, 13 Aug 17  In the early days of atomic energy, the federal government powered up an experimental reactor in Idaho with an ambitious goal: create a “wonder fuel” for the nation.

The reactor was one of the nation’s first “breeder” reactors — designed to make its own new plutonium fuel while it generated electricity, solving what scientists at the time thought was a looming shortage of uranium for power plants and nuclear weapons.

It went into operation in 1964 and kept the lights burning at the sprawling national laboratory for three decades.

But enthusiasm eventually waned for the breeder reactor program owing to safety concerns, high costs and an adequate supply of uranium. Today, its only legacy is 26 metric tons of highly radioactive waste. What to do with that spent fuel is causing the federal government deepening political, technical, legal and financial headaches.

The reactor was shut down in 1994. Under a legal settlement with Idaho regulators the next year, the Department of Energy pledged to have the waste treated and ready to transport out of the state by 2035.

The chances of that happening now appear slim. A special treatment plant is having so many problems and delays that it could take many decades past the deadline to finish the job.

“The process doesn’t work,” said Edwin Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who has documented the problems in a new report. “It turned out to be harder to execute and less reliable than they promised.”

Many of the cleanup efforts, like the one in Idaho, are years or even decades behind schedule, reflecting practices that were far too optimistic when it came to technology, costs and management know-how.

Jim Owendoff, the acting chief of the Energy Department’s environmental management program, recently ordered a 45-day review of the entire $6-billion-a-year radiation cleanup effort. “What I am looking at is how we can be more timely in our decision-making,” he said in a department newsletter.

The Idaho reactor, located at the 890-square-mile Idaho National Laboratory, was designed to produce electricity while it “breeds” new fuel by allowing fast-moving neutrons to convert non-fissionable uranium into fissionable plutonium.

But the complexity of breeder reactors led to safety problems.

Only one breeder reactor ever went into commercial operation in the U.S. — the Enrico Fermi I near Detroit, which suffered a partial core meltdown in 1966. Construction of a breeder reactor on the Clinch River in Tennessee was stopped in 1983.

A reactor using similar technology above the San Fernando Valley experienced fuel core damage in 1959 that is believed to have released radioactive iodine into the air.

Ultimately, the nation never faced a shortage of uranium fuel, and now the Energy Department is spending billions of dollars to manage its surplus plutonium. Unlike uranium, the “wonder fuel,” as the lab called it, was bonded to sodium to improve heat transfer inside the reactor.

The sodium has presented an unusual waste problem.

Sodium is a highly reactive element that can become explosive when it comes in contact with water and is potentially too unstable to put in any future underground dump — such as the one proposed at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

To remove the bonded sodium, the government used a complex process, known as pyroprocessing, which was developed to also separate plutonium from the spent fuel. The spent fuel parts from the reactor are placed in a chemical bath and subjected to an electrical current, which draws off the sodium onto another material. The process is similar to electroplating a kitchen faucet.

Back in 2000, the project managers estimated in an environmental report that they could treat 5 metric tons annually and complete the job in six years.

But privately, the department estimated that it would take more than twice that long, according to internal documents that Lyman obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Even that was unrealistic, because it assumed that the treatment plant could work around the clock every day of the year, without down time for maintenance or allowance for breakdowns. Lyman found that during one year — 2012 — no waste at all was processed.

Since the project began 17 years ago, 15% of the waste has been processed, an average of one-fourth of a metric ton per year. That’s 20 times slower than originally expected, a pace that would stretch the work into the next century — long past the 2035 deadline.

The problem with the breeder reactor waste is just one of many environmental issues at the lab, located on a high desert plateau near Idaho Falls. The federal government gifted the Idaho lab with additional radioactive waste for decades.

After the highly contaminated Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant near Denver was shut down in 1993, the waste was shipped to Idaho. The Navy has been sending in its spent fuel from nuclear-powered ships.

The lab is dealing with tons of waste containing artificial elements, so-called transuranic waste. The Energy Department promised to move an average of 2,000 cubic meters to a special dump in New Mexico, but it has missed that goal for several years, because of an underground explosion at the dump. The Energy Department declined to answer specific questions about the breeder waste cleanup, citing the sensitivity of nuclear technology. It blamed the slow pace of cleanup on inadequate funding but said it was still trying to meet the deadline.

“When the implementation plan for the treatment of the [spent fuel] was developed in 2000, there was very limited nuclear energy research and development being performed in the United States,” a department spokesperson said in a statement.

“The funding for this program has been limited in favor of other research and development activities. The Department remains strongly committed to the treatment of this fuel in time to meet its commitments to the State of Idaho.”

Susan Burke, who monitors the cleanup at the laboratory for the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, said the state will continue to demand that the waste be ready for shipment out of Idaho by 2035.

“The Energy Department is doing the best it can, but our expectation is that they will have to meet the settlement agreement,” she said.

Idaho watchdogs are skeptical.

“There is some bad faith here on the part of the Energy Department,” said Beatrice Brailsford, nuclear program director at the Snake River Alliance, a group that monitors the lab. “The department is misleading the public. Not much information has been given out, but enough to be skeptical that the technology works well enough to meet the settlement.”

Lab officials declined to comment.

Lyman said he was determined to explore the Idaho program in light of increasing interest in the scientific and regulatory communities in advanced nuclear reactors — including breeder reactors — and what he believed was misleading information by advocates.

He presented a technical paper about pyroprocessing at a conference held in July by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Lyman said he believes the Energy Department has little chance of success in the program.

“They are just blowing smoke,” he said. “It is a failure and they can’t admit it, because they don’t have a backup plan that would satisfy the state.”

August 14, 2017 Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Haunting photographs of 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki

If you’re against war, get this book: The photos will haunt you http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708100035.html By SONOKO MIYAZAKI/ Staff Writer August 10, 2017 A boy standing at rigid attention with the dead body of his infant brother strapped to his back at a crematorium in Nagasaki is one of searing images of the city’s destruction after the U.S. atomic bombing in 1945.

In a book published Aug. 9, Kimiko Sakai, the widow of Joe O’Donnell, the photographer who snapped the image, tells the story of her husband’s life work through photographs he shot in Japan in the immediate aftermath of the war.

Aug. 9 marked the 72nd anniversary of the bombing as well as the 10th anniversary of O’Donnell’s death at the age of 85.

The 192-page book, titled “Kamisama no Finder: Moto-Beijugun Cameraman no Isan” (God’s finder: the legacy of a former war photographer), was published by the Tokyo-based Word of Life Press Ministries.

After Japan’s surrender, O’Donnell, who was attached to the U.S. Marine Corps, traveled to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and other Japanese cities to document the wartime devastation. He stayed in Japan from September 1945 to March 1946.

He took 300 or so photographs for his private use.

He believed it was wrong to drop the atomic bombs after witnessing the sufferings of the victims.

But O’Donnell didn’t exhibit these pictures for decades because of prevailing U.S. sentiment that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki hastened the end of World War and saved many American lives.

O’Donnell later decided to exhibit the photographs in the hope they would help advance the anti-war movement.

The catalyst for this was when he gazed on a sculpture evoking Jesus on the cross and engulfed by flames at a church in Kentucky in 1989. The life-size work, titled “Once,” was created for the repose of the tens of thousands of people killed in that atomic bombings, with photos of victims pasted all over the body. O’Donnell was stunned.

After that, O’Donnell until his death held exhibitions of his photos in the United States and Japan to convey the horrors of nuclear war.

The image of the boy at the crematorium stayed with him. O’Donnell recalled that the boy stared motionless as bodies were being burned and he awaited his turn. He also noticed that the boy’s lips were caked with blood because he was biting them so hard, although no blood spilled.

Sakai agreed to a proposal to publish the book after she was contacted by the publisher two years or so ago. Sakai, who lives in Tennessee, said she accepted out of respect for her husband’s commitment to the anti-war cause.

“My husband photographed his subjects as fellow human beings, not as an occupier,” she said in a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun.

Asked if she had a message for those working to rid the world of nuclear arsenals, she said, “Just ‘not to forget,’ which is important.”

August 11, 2017 Posted by | history, Japan, Reference, resources - print, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Dispelling the myths about U.S. President Harry Truman’s decision to nuclear bomb Japanese cities

The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime worse than any that Japanese generals were executed for in Tokyo and Manila. If Harry Truman was not a war criminal, then no one ever was. 

Mises Institute 10 Aug 17  [Excerpted from “Harry S. Truman: Advancing the Revolution,” in Reassessing the Presidency: The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom, John Denson, ed.]

The most spectacular episode of Harry Truman’s presidency will never be forgotten but will be forever linked to his name: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and of Nagasaki three days later. Probably around two hundred thousand persons were killed in the attacks and through radiation poisoning; the vast majority were civilians, including several thousand Korean workers. Twelve US Navy fliers incarcerated in a Hiroshima jail were also among the dead.1

Great controversy has always surrounded the bombings. …….

the rationale for the atomic bombings has come to rest on a single colossal fabrication, which has gained surprising currency — that they were necessary in order to save a half-million or more American lives. These, supposedly, are the lives that would have been lost in the planned invasion of Kyushu in December, then in the all-out invasion of Honshu the next year, if that had been needed. But the worst-case scenario for a full-scale invasion of the Japanese home islands was forty-six thousand American lives lost.7 The ridiculously inflated figure of a half-million for the potential death toll — nearly twice the total of US dead in all theaters in the Second World War — is now routinely repeated in high-school and college textbooks and bandied about by ignorant commentators. Unsurprisingly the prize for sheer fatuousness on this score goes to President George H.W. Bush, who claimed in 1991 that dropping the bomb “spared millions of American lives.”8

“The rationale for the atomic bombings has come to rest on a single colossal fabrication — that they were necessary in order to save a half-million or more American lives.”

Still, Truman’s multiple deceptions and self-deceptions are understandable, considering the horror he unleashed. It is equally understandable that the US occupation authorities censored reports from the shattered cities and did not permit films and photographs of the thousands of corpses and the frightfully mutilated survivors to reach the public.9 Otherwise, Americans — and the rest of the world — might have drawn disturbing comparisons to scenes then coming to light from the Nazi concentration camps.

The bombings were condemned as barbaric and unnecessary by high American military officers, including Eisenhower and MacArthur.10 The view of Admiral William D. Leahy, Truman’s own chief of staff, was typical:

the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. … My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.11

The political elite implicated in the atomic bombings feared a backlash that would aid and abet the rebirth of horrid prewar “isolationism.” Apologias were rushed into print, lest public disgust at the sickening war crime result in erosion of enthusiasm for the globalist project.12 No need to worry. A sea change had taken place in the attitudes of the American people. Then and ever after, all surveys have shown that the great majority supported Truman, believing that the bombs were required to end the war and save hundreds of thousands of American lives, or, more likely, not really caring one way or the other.

Those who may still be troubled by such a grisly exercise in cost-benefit analysis — innocent Japanese lives balanced against the lives of Allied servicemen — might reflect on the judgment of the Catholic philosopher G.E.M. Anscombe, who insisted on the supremacy of moral rules.13 When, in June 1956, Truman was awarded an honorary degree by her university, Oxford, Anscombe protested.14 Truman was a war criminal, she contended, for what is the difference between the US government massacring civilians from the air, as at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Nazis wiping out the inhabitants of some Czech or Polish village?……

While the mass media parroted the government line in praising the atomic incinerations, prominent conservatives denounced them as unspeakable war crimes. Felix Morley, constitutional scholar and one of the founders of Human Events, drew attention to the horror of Hiroshima, including the “thousands of children trapped in the thirty-three schools that were destroyed.” He called on his compatriots to atone for what had been done in their name, and proposed that groups of Americans be sent to Hiroshima, as Germans were sent to witness what had been done in the Nazi camps.

The Paulist priest, Father James Gillis, editor of The Catholic World and another stalwart of the Old Right, castigated the bombings as “the most powerful blow ever delivered against Christian civilization and the moral law.” David Lawrence, conservative owner of US News and World Report, continued to denounce them for years.21 The distinguished conservative philosopher Richard Weaver was revolted by

the spectacle of young boys fresh out of Kansas and Texas turning nonmilitary Dresden into a holocaust … pulverizing ancient shrines like Monte Cassino and Nuremberg, and bringing atomic annihilation to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Weaver considered such atrocities as deeply “inimical to the foundations on which civilization is built.”22

Today, self-styled conservatives slander as “anti-American” anyone who is in the least troubled by Truman’s massacre of so many tens of thousands of Japanese innocents from the air. This shows as well as anything the difference between today’s “conservatives” and those who once deserved the name.

Leo Szilard was the world-renowned physicist who drafted the original letter to Roosevelt that Einstein signed, instigating the Manhattan Project. In 1960, shortly before his death, Szilard stated another obvious truth:

If the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us, we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them.23

The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime worse than any that Japanese generals were executed for in Tokyo and Manila. If Harry Truman was not a war criminal, then no one ever was. https://mises.org/blog/harry-truman-and-atomic-bomb

August 11, 2017 Posted by | history, Reference, Religion and ethics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Harm from inhaled radioactive dust: new evidence from Hiroshima’s teenagers of 1945

Extent of A-bomb dust inhalation in 1945 underestimated: researchers https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170731/p2a/00m/0na/004000cJuly 31, 2017 (Mainichi Japan)HIROSHIMA — The prevalence of acute symptoms among teenage soldiers exposed to dust particles as they helped out with relief operations in the aftermath of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima has been found to be at least 10 times higher than those who were unexposed, it has been learned.

August 2, 2017 Posted by | Japan, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Nuclear weapons wastes polluting America’s soil: 12 hotspots

The Invisible War On American Soil, Topic, 29 July 17  Photographs by Nina Berman

War is a dirty, dirty business. Beyond the damage inflicted on the battlefields themselves, every part of a military operation marks the earth. From munitions factories to massive supply lines, collateral costs abound.GIVEN THE SIZE OF OUR DEFENSE BUDGETS, it should come as no surprise that the United States military is one of the planet’s most prolific and chronic polluters. Perhaps more surprising is that this impacts life within the U.S. as well as overseas. Vast stretches of the American landscape are contaminated by the business of war and armed aggression; it’s littered with unexploded ordnance, toxic chemicals, depleted uranium, radioactive particles, and more.

In this essay, we examine seven such sites of environmental damage wrought by the nation’s military and its weapons contractors. The places range from sites in New Mexico, where nuclear weapons have been produced, to the Passaic River in New Jersey, where dioxin from Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War has poisoned the riverbed. As the technology of warfare changes, so has its impact, with current contamination coming from the skies—such as on Whidbey Island, Washington, where Navy testing of EA-18G Growler planes might be making residents ill.

 

Acid Canyon; Los Alamos, New Mexico……

Trinity Site; White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico……

Haystack Mine; Haystack Mountain, New Mexico……

White Sands Missile Range Museum; New Mexico……

Luis Lopez Cemetery; New Mexico……

San Antonio, New Mexico…….

Fort Wingate, New Mexico …..

Whidbey Island, Washington…..

Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge; Madison, Indiana…..

Near the Starmet Superfund site; Concord, Massachusetts…..

Passaic River; Lyndhurst, New Jersey…..

Tularosa, New Mexico….. https://www.topic.com/the-invisible-war-on-american-soil

July 31, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Hanford nuclear waste site – a national disaster they don’t want to talk about.

“Nobody in the world has waste like ours,” says one of my guides as we enter the site. No one has so much strontium 90, for instance, which behaves a lot like calcium and lodges inside the bones of any living creatures it penetrates, basically forever. Along with chromium and tritium and carbon tetrachloride and iodine 129 and the other waste products of a plutonium factory it is already present in Hanford’s groundwater. There are other nuclear-waste sites in the United States, but two-thirds of all the waste is here. Beneath Hanford a massive underground glacier of radioactive sludge is moving slowly, but relentlessly, toward the Columbia River.

The place is now an eerie deconstruction site, with ghost towns on top of ghost towns. Much of the old plutonium plant still stands: the husks of the original nine reactors, built in the 1940s, still line the Columbia River, like grain elevators. Their doors have been welded shut, and they have been left to decay—for another century.

 Only one stakeholder in the place wanted to know what was going on beneath its soil: the tribes. 

WHY THE SCARIEST NUCLEAR THREAT MAY BE COMING FROM INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE, Vanity Fair, BY  MICHAEL LEWISSeptember 2017  “………By the early 1940s the United States government understood that for democracy to survive it needed to beat Hitler to the atom bomb, and that the race had two paths—one required enriched uranium, the other plutonium. In early 1943, the United States Army was evicting everyone from an area in Eastern Washington nearly half the size of Rhode Island and setting out to create plutonium in order to build a nuclear bomb. The site of Hanford was chosen for its proximity to the Columbia River, which could supply the cooling water while its dams provided the electricity needed to make plutonium. Hanford was also chosen for its remoteness: the army was worried about both enemy attacks and an accidental nuclear explosion. Hanford was, finally, chosen for its poverty. It was convenient that what would become the world’s largest public-works project arose in a place from which people had to be paid so little to leave.

From 1943 until 1987, as the Cold War was ending and Hanford closed its reactors, the place created two-thirds of the plutonium in the United States’ arsenal—a total of 70,000 nuclear weapons since 1945. You’d like to think that if anyone had known the environmental consequences of plutonium, or if anyone could have been certain that the uranium bomb would work, they’d never have done here what they did. “Plutonium is hard to produce,” said MacWilliams. “And hard to get rid of.” By the late 1980s the state of Washington had gained some clarity on just how hard and began to negotiate with the U.S. government. In the ensuing agreement the United States promised to return Hanford to a condition where, as MacWilliams put it, “kids can eat the dirt.” When I asked him to guess what it would cost to return Hanford to the standards now legally required, he said, “A century and a hundred billion dollars.” And that was a conservative estimate.

More or less overnight Hanford went from the business of making plutonium to the even more lucrative business of cleaning it up. In its last years of production the plutonium plant employed around 9,000 people. It still employs 9,000 people and pays them even more than it used to. “It’s a good thing that we live in a country that cares enough to take the time it will take, and spend the money it will spend, to clean up the legacy of the Cold War,” said MacWilliams. “In Russia they just drop concrete on the stuff and move on.”

The Department of Energy wires 10 percent of its annual budget, or $3 billion a year, into this tiny place and intends to do so until the radioactive mess is cleaned up. And even though what is now called the Tri-Cities area is well populated and amazingly prosperous—yachts on the river, $300 bottles of wine in the bistros—the absolute worst thing that could happen to it is probably not a nuclear accident. The worst thing that could happen is that the federal government loses interest in it and slashes the D.O.E.’s budget—as President Trump has proposed to do. And yet Trump won the county in which Hanford resides by 25 points. Continue reading

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Just Moms, St Louis

The Fallout, In St. Louis, America’s nuclear history creeps into the present, leaching into streams and bodies. Guernica, 

Joe Trunko from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources … told Dawn that there is a landfill near her home, that it is an EPA Superfund site contaminated with toxic chemicals, that there has been an underground fire burning there since 2010. “These things happen sometimes in landfills,” he said. “But this one is really not good.”

Joe told Dawn that this landfill fire measures six football fields across and more than a hundred and fifty feet deep; it is in the floodplain of the Missouri River, less than two miles from the water itself, roughly twenty-seven miles upstream from where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi River before flowing out to the sea. “But to be honest, it’s not even the fire you should be worrying about,” Joe continued. “It’s the nuclear waste buried less than one thousand feet away.”

Joe explained how almost fifty thousand tons of nuclear waste left over from the Manhattan Project was dumped in the landfill illegally in 1973…….

Weeks later, she found herself standing outside the chain-link fence that surrounds the landfill with half a dozen environmental activists who had gotten hold of some air-sampling equipment……..

Karen Nickel didn’t know much about the landfill—she’d only just learned about it a few weeks before—but she knew about the waste……

Karen did look into it and learned that many of her classmates and neighbors and childhood friends had died of leukemias and brain cancers and appendix cancers—rare in the general population, but, again, apparently common among those who live or had lived near the creek. It couldn’t possibly be a coincidence…..

When Dawn and Karen learned what the EPA had proposed years earlier, in their Record of Decision, they immediately pushed back. They called the media, gave interviews, started a Facebook page. “I remember getting so excited when we hit two hundred members,” Karen told me. “Now we have over seventeen thousand.” They all lobbied their representatives, their senators, City Council members, mayors…….

“We’re just moms!” Karen and Dawn would answer. “We’re just citizens concerned about the health and safety of our kids and our community!”

Soon after, Karen and Dawn, along with another resident, Beth Strohmeyer, officially formed Just Moms STL………

After a few weeks of making these graphs, they realized the fire wasn’t under control, it wasn’t going out. It was, in fact, moving toward the waste, inching toward the known edge, spreading through the old limestone quarry. Now one thousand feet away. Now seven hundred………

Robbin and Mike Dailey moved to this house in 1999, after their kids had moved out and started families of their own. It’s a relief their children never lived here, she tells me. In this neighborhood children fall ill. There are brain cancers and appendix cancers, leukemias and salivary-gland cancers. Up the street from Robin and Mike there’s a couple with lung and stomach cancer. They bought their home just after it was built in the late 1960s.

I ask what they think might happen if the fire ever reaches the waste. The question hangs in the air for a moment as the TV flickers from the far wall. “Look, we know it won’t explode,” Robbin explains. “We’re not stupid. We know that’s not how it works. But just because there’s no explosion doesn’t mean there won’t be fallout.”…….

I’ve looked at thousands of pictures of this landfill, aerial photos and historical photos, elevation photos and topographical maps, but nothing has prepared me to see it in person, this giant belching mound of tubes and pumps and pipes. There’s some kind of engineered cover over the dirt itself, which is supposed to suffocate the fire and capture the fumes. It looks like little more than a green plastic tarp patched together over a hundred acres of sagging hills.

“This is the burning side,” Robbin tells me. “The radwaste is on the other side.” The patchwork is topographical and bureaucratic: the burning side is the southern section of the landfill and falls under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources; the radioactive waste is mostly on the northern side, and under EPA jurisdiction. On the burning side, workers drive over the tarp on utility carts, wearing hard hats and work clothes. No gloves, no masks, no protection from the destruction buried underneath their feet……….https://www.guernicamag.com/the-fallout/

 

July 24, 2017 Posted by | environment, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

The continuing horror story of nuclear weapons’ waste in North St Louis, USA

The reports don’t acknowledge these stories, these illnesses, those who are dying or dead. Most residents of St. Louis—including and especially the residents of predominantly African-American neighborhoods—don’t even know the contamination is there. …….

the half-life of Thorium 232: fourteen billion years, a half-life so long that by the time this element is safe for human exposure

a contradiction I can’t resolve: that the massive crime here began with a belief in a kind of care, a belief that protection comes only in the form of wars and bombs, and that its ultimate expression is a technology that can destroy in a single instant any threat to our safety with perfect precision and efficiency. But hundreds of thousands lost their lives to those bombs in Japan, and the fallout from building them has claimed at least as many lives right here at home.

The Fallout, In St. Louis, America’s nuclear history creeps into the present, leaching into streams and bodies. Guernica, By Lacy M. Johnson, 10 July 2017 “………Months ago, when a high-school friend reached out to me asking that I give my attention to this story, she told me that a company tasked decades ago with disposing of nuclear waste for the federal government had instead dumped thousands of barrels of the waste somewhere in North St. Louis County. The barrels were left exposed to the elements for decades, and the waste had leaked into the ground and into the water of a nearby creek……

When the federal government filed suit to acquire the property under eminent domain, officials refused to disclose the exact nature of the waste “for security reasons.” They assured the local government that the waste they’d be storing there wasn’t dangerous. They shook hands and signed papers. They looked people squarely in the eye.

During the next twenty years, truckload by truckload, the green patchwork of farm fields by the airfield turned into a foreign world. Mountains of raffinate rose up across from row after row of rusty black drums, stacked two or three high.

……..The reports tell only so much, only certain parts of certain versions of the story. The rest I have to piece together using articles in the local newspaper, phone calls with these residents, oral histories collected by others, newsletters from various companies celebrating one anniversary or another…..

In my pile of reports there is a series of letters from Cotter to the Atomic Energy Commission, in which Cotter tries to convince the government to take these wastes back. Commercial disposal would cost upwards of two million dollars (about twelve million dollars today). They couldn’t afford it. They knew that the AEC was using a quarry at the recently decommissioned second Mallinckrodt facility at Weldon Spring, roughly twenty miles southwest of the airport, as a dump for nuclear waste. They asked the AEC if they could use it, asked for guidance, and for help.

That help never came……

A lengthy investigation discovered that from August to October 1973, a private construction firm drove truckloads of the leached barium sulfate—along with roughly forty thousand tons of soil removed from the top eighteen inches of the Latty Avenue site—to West Lake Landfill, all around the clock, sometimes in the middle of the night. To the landfill operator it looked like dirt, so he waved the trucks in and charged them nothing, using it as landfill cover over the municipal refuse…..

the reports express the detection of this contamination in charts, as numbers and statistics. They’ve found contamination at the airport, in the drainage ditches leading away from the airport, and all along the creek—along the trucking routes, in ballfields and in parks and gardens and backyards, in driveways, in people’s basements and under their kitchen cabinets. Even now, as I write this, they are still trying to figure out just how far it has spread.

The reports measure the health risk of exposure to this contamination as an equation, with a threshold of acceptable risk. But what the reports don’t say is that the contamination has already done so much damage that cannot be measured or undone. The Mallinckrodt uranium workers are some of the most contaminated in the history of the atomic age. So contaminated, in fact, that in 2009 all former Mallinckrodt uranium workers were added as a “special exposure cohort” to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. The act provides compensation and lifetime medical benefits to employees who became ill with any of twenty-two named cancers as a result of working in the nuclear-weapons industry. Because of this special cohort status, if a former Mallinckrodt worker develops any of these named illnesses, exposure to the uranium is assumed. But the people who live near the creek didn’t work for Mallinckrodt. They aren’t entitled to compensation or to medical benefits.

A woman named Mary Oscko, for instance, has lived her whole life in North St. Louis County, most of it near that small creek. Now she is dying of stage-four lung cancer, though she has never smoked a day in her life. Shari Riley, a nurse who lived near the creek, died recently of appendix cancer—rare in the general population, but several dozen cases have been reported among those who live or lived near the airport or along the creek. My friend—the one who contacted me about this story—never lived in St. Louis, but her mother grew up two houses away from that creek. My friend suspects that her mother’s exposure to the contamination as a child changed her DNA in ways she passed on to her children, which would explain why my friend was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer a few years ago, at the age of thirty-five. Could it also explain why my friend’s mother once gave birth to a set of conjoined twins? Conjoined twins are an anomaly in the general population, but these make the fourth set born to women who grew up near that creek. And those are just the ones we know about.

The reports don’t acknowledge these stories, these illnesses, those who are dying or dead. Most residents of St. Louis—including and especially the residents of predominantly African-American neighborhoods—don’t even know the contamination is there. …….

“My librarian,” Kay Drey tells me—has filed the EPA’s Record of Decision for the West Lake Landfill, and then on the drawer where I might find studies that contradict the EPA’s assessment that the radioactive waste in the landfill doesn’t pose a threat to residents—the radiological surveys of the site conducted in the 1970s and 1980s by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy, as well as more current studies by independent researchers. She explains that the radioactive waste buried in West Lake Landfill covers about twenty acres in two locations in one or many layers, estimated at two to fifteen feet thick, some of it mixed in with municipal refuse and some of it sitting right at the surface. It is in the trees surrounding the landfill and the vacuum bags in nearby homes. This waste contains not only uranium, but also thorium and radium, all long-lived, highly radio-toxic elements. And because Mallinckrodt removed most of the naturally occurring uranium from this ore, the Cotter Corporation, in effect, created an enriched thorium deposit when they dumped the residues at West Lake Landfill. “In fact,” Kay muses, “West Lake Landfill might now be the richest deposit of thorium in the world.”

Thorium and uranium in particular are among the radioactive primordial nuclides, radioactive elements that have existed in their current form since before Earth was formed, since before the formation of the solar system even, and will remain radioactive and toxic to life long after humans are gone. We’re sitting back in Kay’s dining room when she pulls out a tiny booklet labeled “Nuclear Wallet Cards.” What its intended purpose is, I don’t know, but Kay flips to the back to show me the half-life of Thorium 232: fourteen billion years, a half-life so long that by the time this element is safe for human exposure, the Appalachian Mountains will have eroded away, every ocean on Earth’s surface will have evaporated, Antarctica will be free of ice, and all the rings of Saturn will have decayed. Earth’s rotation will have slowed so much that days will have become twenty-five hours long, photosynthesis will have ceased, and multicellular life will have become a physical impossibility.

“You know, tritium is my favorite,” Kay tells me before I leave. It’s produced as a side effect of operating nuclear reactors and released into the air, or leaks into the waterways; it contaminates the water supply and condenses in our food. One official who worked at the nuclear reactor Kay had tried to prevent once told her that tritium was no big deal. “It only destroys DNA molecules.” A few years ago they found tritium in the groundwater in Callaway County. “There is no way to remove it,” she says…..

….the Weldon Spring site. After it was decommissioned, the plant—a second one run by Mallinckrodt—was found to be so contaminated that the Department of Energy eventually entombed the whole site in layers upon layers of clay and soil, gravel, engineered filters and limestone rocks, creating a mountain covering forty-five acres, containing approximately 1.5 million cubic yards of hazardous waste. With its own educational center located near the base, the containment dome has become a kind of memorial for a tragedy that hasn’t finished happening. The top of the dome is the highest point in the county.

“Oh, you don’t want to go there anyway,” Kay says, waving the idea away with her slender hand. “It’s leaking.”……..

a contradiction I can’t resolve: that the massive crime here began with a belief in a kind of care, a belief that protection comes only in the form of wars and bombs, and that its ultimate expression is a technology that can destroy in a single instant any threat to our safety with perfect precision and efficiency. But hundreds of thousands lost their lives to those bombs in Japan, and the fallout from building them has claimed at least as many lives right here at home.

There is no one to arrest for this, to send to jail, to fine or execute or drag to his humiliation in the city square. Even if Karen and Dawn win their fight and convince the government to remove every gram of radioactive waste in the landfill and the creek and the airport and the backyards and gardens here, people will still be sick. Thousands of them. Chronic exposure to radiation has changed their DNA, and they’ll likely pass those changes on to their children, and to their children’s children, and on and on through every generation. In this regard, no one is immune……..

The EPA Region 7 offices are located in a sprawling modern government building in a suburb of Kansas City. The small conference room just to the side of the main entrance is filled with a surprising number of people……

During our too-short conversation I learn that the EPA has over 1,300 sites in the Superfund program, and Region 7 alone has ninety-eight sites on the National Priorities List. Each of these communities is demanding that their toxic sites be scrubbed clean. ………https://www.guernicamag.com/the-fallout/

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Vast areas of America’s land poisoned by mismanagement of military wastes

More than three decades ago, Congress banned American industries and localities from disposing of hazardous waste in these sorts of “open burns,’’ concluding that such uncontrolled processes created potentially unacceptable health and environmental hazards.

That exemption has remained in place ever since, even as other Western countries have figured out how to destroy aging armaments without toxic emissions.

Federal environmental regulators have warned for decades that the burns pose a threat to soldiers, contractors and the public stationed at, or living near, American bases.

“They are not subject to the kind of scrutiny and transparency and disclosure to the public as private sites are,”

How The Pentagon’s Handling Of Munitions And Their Waste Has Poisoned America
Many nations have destroyed aging armaments without toxic emissions. The U.S., however, has poisoned millions of acres.
Huffington Post,  20/07/2017 Co-published with ProPublica  20 July 17 RADFORD, Va. — Shortly after dawn most weekdays, a warning siren rips across the flat, swift water of the New River running alongside the Radford Army Ammunition Plant. Red lights warning away boaters and fishermen flash from the plant, the nation’s largest supplier of propellant for artillery and the source of explosives for almost every American bullet fired overseas.

 Along the southern Virginia riverbank, piles of discarded contents from bullets, chemical makings from bombs, and raw explosives — all used or left over from the manufacture and testing of weapons ingredients at Radford — are doused with fuel and lit on fire, igniting infernos that can be seen more than a half a mile away. The burning waste is rich in lead, mercury, chromium and compounds like nitroglycerin and perchlorate, all known health hazards. The residue from the burning piles rises in a spindle of hazardous smoke, twists into the wind and, depending on the weather, sweeps toward the tens of thousands of residents in the surrounding towns.

Nearby, Belview Elementary School has been ranked by researchers as facing some the most dangerous air-quality hazards in the country. The rate of thyroid diseases in three of the surrounding counties is among the highest in the state, provoking town residents to worry that emissions from the Radford plant could be to blame. Government authorities have never studied whether Radford’s air pollution could be making people sick, but some of their hypothetical models estimate that the local population faces health risks exponentially greater than people in the rest of the region.

 More than three decades ago, Congress banned American industries and localities from disposing of hazardous waste in these sorts of “open burns,’’ concluding that such uncontrolled processes created potentially unacceptable health and environmental hazards. Companies that had openly burned waste for generations were required to install incinerators with smokestacks and filters and to adhere to strict limits on what was released into the air. Lawmakers granted the Pentagon and its contractors a temporary reprieve from those rules to give engineers time to address the unique aspects of destroying explosive military waste.
That exemption has remained in place ever since, even as other Western countries have figured out how to destroy aging armaments without toxic emissions. While American officials are mired in a bitter debate about how much pollution from open burns is safe, those countries have pioneered new approaches. Germany, for example, destroyed hundreds of millions of pounds of aging weapons from the Cold War without relying on open burns to do it.

In the United States, outdoor burning and detonation is still the military’s leading method for dealing with munitions and the associated hazardous waste. It has remained so despite a U.S. Senate resolution a quarter of a century ago that ordered the Department of Defense to halt the practice “as soon as possible.” It has continued in the face of a growing consensus among Pentagon officials and scientists that similar burn pits at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan sickened soldiers.

Federal records identify nearly 200 sites that have been or are still being used to open-burn hazardous explosives across the country. Some blow up aging stockpile bombs in open fields. Others burn bullets, weapons parts and — in the case of Radford — raw explosives in bonfire-like piles. The facilities operate under special government permits that are supposed to keep the process safe, limiting the release of toxins to levels well below what the government thinks can make people sick. Yet officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which governs the process under federal law, acknowledge that the permits provide scant protection.

Consider Radford’s permit, which expired nearly two years ago. Even before then, government records show, the plant repeatedly violated the terms of its open burn allowance and its other environmental permits. In a typical year, the plant can spew many thousands of pounds of heavy metals and carcinogens — legally — into the atmosphere. But Radford has, at times, sent even more pollution into the air than it is allowed. It has failed to report some of its pollution to federal agencies, as required. And it has misled the public about the chemicals it burns. Yet every day the plant is allowed to ignite as much as 8,000 pounds of hazardous debris.

“It smells like plastic burning, but it’s so much more intense,” said Darlene Nester, describing the acrid odor from the burns when it reaches her at home, about a mile and a half away. Her granddaughter is in second grade at Belview. “You think about all the kids.”

Internal EPA records obtained by ProPublica show that the Radford plant is one of at least 51 active sites across the country where the Department of Defense or its contractors are today burning or detonating munitions or raw explosives in the open air, often in close proximity to schools, homes and water supplies. The documents — EPA PowerPoint presentations made to senior agency staff — describe something of a runaway national program, based on “a dirty technology” with “virtually no emissions controls.” According to officials at the agency, the military’s open burn program not only results in extensive contamination, but “staggering” cleanup costs that can reach more than half a billion dollars at a single site.

The sites of open burns — including those operated by private contractors and the Department of Energy — have led to 54 separate federal Superfund declarations and have exposed the people who live near them to dangers that will persist for generations.

In Grand Island, Nebraska, groundwater plumes of explosive residues spread more than 20 miles away from the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant into underground drinking water supplies, forcing the city to extend replacement water to rural residents. And at the Redstone Arsenal, an Army experimental weapons test and burn site in Huntsville, Alabama, perchlorate in the soil is 7,000 times safe limits, and local officials have had to begin monitoring drinking water for fear of contamination.

Federal environmental regulators have warned for decades that the burns pose a threat to soldiers, contractors and the public stationed at, or living near, American bases. Local communities – from Merrimac, Wisconsin, to Romulus, New York – have protested them. Researchers are studying possible cancer clusters on Cape Cod that could be linked to munitions testing and open burns there, and where the groundwater aquifer that serves as the only natural source of drinking water for the half-million people who summer there has been contaminated with the military’s bomb-making ingredients……..

ProPublica reviewed the open burns and detonations program as part of an unprecedented examination of America’s handling of munitions at sites in the United States, from their manufacture and testing to their disposal. We collected tens of thousands of pages of documents, and interviewed more than 100 state and local officials, lawmakers, military historians, scientists, toxicologists and Pentagon staff. Much of the information gathered has never before been released to the public, leaving the full extent of military-related pollution a secret.

“They are not subject to the kind of scrutiny and transparency and disclosure to the public as private sites are,” said Mathy Stanislaus, who until January worked on Department of Defense site cleanup issues as the assistant administrator for land and emergency management at the EPA.

Our examination found that open burn sites are just one facet of a vast problem. From World War I until today, military technologies and armaments have been developed, tested, stored, decommissioned and disposed of on vast tracts of American soil. The array of scars and menaces produced across those decades is breathtaking: By the military’s own count, there are 39,400 known or suspected toxic sites on 5,500 current or former Pentagon properties. EPA staff estimate the sites cover 40 million acres — an area larger than the state of Florida — and the costs for cleaning them up will run to hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Department of Defense’s cleanups of the properties have sometimes been delegated to inept or corrupt private contractors, or delayed as the agency sought to blame the pollution at its bases on someone else. Even where the contamination and the responsibility for it are undisputed, the Pentagon has stubbornly fought the EPA over how much danger it presents to the public and what to do about it, letters and agency records show.

Chapter 1. Rules With Exceptions……..

Chapter 2. Debating the Dangers…….

Chapter 3. Awakening to Threats…….

Chapter 4. Risks and Choices…….   alternatives only seem to be deployed after communities have mobilized to fight the burning with a vigor that has proven elusive in many military towns. “Sometimes it’s easier for everybody to just lie low and keep doing what they are doing,” Hayes added. “Short term thinking is the problem. In the immediate, it costs them nothing to keep burning.”

The success in Louisiana could be the start of a shift in momentum. In the 2017 Defense Department funding bill, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, supported an amendment ordering the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate alternatives to open burning. ………

For Devawn Bledsoe, the foot dragging and decades of delay have led to profound disillusionment. For a long time, she thought her responsibility was to bring light to the issue. Now she thinks it takes more than that. “There’s something so immoral about this,” she said. “I really thought that when enough people in power — the Army, my Army — understood what was going on, they would step in and stop it.”

“It’s hard to see people who ought to know better look away.”

Nina Hedevang, Razi Syed and Alex Gonzalez, students in the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute graduate studies program, contributed reporting for this story. Other students in the program who also contributed were Clare Victoria Church, Lauren Gurley, Clare Victoria Church, Alessandra Freitas and Eli Kurland. http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/open-burns-ill-winds_us_5970112de4b0aa14ea770b08

July 21, 2017 Posted by | investigative journalism, Reference, USA, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Mayak: Russia’s radioactive horror that just keeps on giving

Mayak disaster

Russia’s nuclear nightmare flows down radioactive river,  http://www.concordmonitor.com/Russia-s-nuclear-nightmare-flows-down-radioactive-river-1834751  Monitor, By KATHERINE JACOBSEN Associated Press. Friday, April 29, 2016  At first glance, Gilani Dambaev looks like a healthy 60-year-old man and the river flowing past his rural family home appears pristine. But Dambaev is riddled with diseases that his doctors link to a lifetime’s exposure to excessive radiation, and the Geiger counter beeps loudly as a reporter strolls down to the muddy riverbank.

Some 30 miles upstream from Dambaev’s crumbling village lies Mayak, a nuclear complex that has been responsible for at least two of the country’s biggest radioactive accidents. Worse, environmentalists say, is the facility’s decades-old record of using the Arctic-bound waters of the Techa River to dump waste from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, hundreds of tons of which is imported annually from neighboring nations

At first glance, Gilani Dambaev looks like a healthy 60-year-old man and the river flowing past his rural family home appears pristine. But Dambaev is riddled with diseases that his doctors link to a lifetime’s exposure to excessive radiation, and the Geiger counter beeps loudly as a reporter strolls down to the muddy riverbank.

Some 30 miles upstream from Dambaev’s crumbling village lies Mayak, a nuclear complex that has been responsible for at least two of the country’s biggest radioactive accidents. Worse, environmentalists say, is the facility’s decades-old record of using the Arctic-bound waters of the Techa River to dump waste from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, hundreds of tons of which is imported annually from neighboring nations.

The results can be felt in every aching household along the Techa, where doctors record rates of chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects and cancers vastly higher than the Russian average – and citizens such as Dambaev are left to rue the government’s failure over four decades to admit the danger.

“Sometimes they would put up signs warning us not to swim in the river, but they never said why,” said Dambaev, a retired construction worker who like his wife, brother, children and grandchildren have government-issued cards identifying them as residents of radiation-tainted territory. “After work, we would go swimming in the river. The kids would too.”

Thousands already have been resettled by Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corp. to new homes a mile inland from the river, leaving Dambaev’s village of Muslyumovo in a state of steady decay as shops close and abandoned homes are bulldozed. The evacuations began in 2008, two decades after Russia started to admit disasters past and present stretching from Mayak’s earliest days in the late 1940s as the maker of plutonium for the first Soviet atomic bombs.

 The question, 30 years after the former Soviet Union’s greatest nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, is whether Mayak is truly cleaning up its act or remains primed to inflict more invisible damage on Russians. Nuclear regulators say waste no longer reaches the river following the last confirmed dumping scandal in 2004, but anti-nuclear activists say it’s impossible to tell given the level of state secrecy.

Vladimir Slivyak, an activist for the Russian environmentalist group EcoDefense, has visited villages downstream from Mayak many times to help document the poor health of locals in the area, 870 miles east of Moscow near Russia’s border with Kazakhstan.

“My opinion is they’re still dumping radioactive waste,” he said, “but proving that is impossible unless Mayak says: ‘Yes, we’re dumping radioactive waste.’“

The Nuclear Safety Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, which oversees safety standards for the country’s nuclear industry, told the AP that Mayak’s nuclear waste processing system presents no danger to the surrounding population. The plant also manufactures a range of radioactive isotopes of use for specialist equipment, medical research and cancer treatments that generate lucrative contracts worldwide.

Rosatom spokesman Vladislav Bochkov, in response to several Associated Press requests seeking an interview to discuss Mayak’s safety standards and operations, sent an email Thursday denying Mayak dumps nuclear waste in the river. Bochkov said the complex “follows all the environmental protection guidelines and has all the approvals it needs for operation.”

“The level of pollution in the Techa River today completely complies with the sanitary standards of the Russian Federation,” he wrote. He said the river water is clean: “You can drink it endlessly.”

But when the AP took a Geiger counter to the riverbank outside Dambaev’s home, the meter reading surged at the water line and the machine began beeping loudly and continuously. Measurements ranged from 8.5 to 9.8 microsieverts — 80 to 100 times the level of naturally occurring background radiation. A typical chest X-ray involves a burst of about 100 microsieverts.

Nuclear Safety Institute member Leonid Bolshov bills these levels as safe, saying: “The level of pollution in the water today is incomparably less to what it used to be.”

What it used to be is pretty bad. Environmentalists estimate that Mayak tossed 76 million cubic meters (2.68 billion cubic feet) of untreated waste — enough to fill more than 30,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — into the river from 1948 to the mid-1950s as nuclear scientists scrambled to catch up to the U.S. nuclear program.

In September 1957, underground storage tanks of overheating nuclear waste exploded, sending a cloud of nuclear fallout 300 kilometers (200 miles) northeast across 217 towns and villages containing 272,000 people, a minority of which were quietly evacuated over the following two years.

A decade later, a nearby lake used to dispose of nuclear waste dried up amid a summer drought, and high winds whipped the exposed powdery residue to many of the same population centers. Greenpeace estimates the fallout reached 68 towns and villages containing 42,000 people.

Russia suppressed all news of both disasters until the late 1980s, when it acknowledged the two accidents and the Mayak site’s very existence.

In 1993, Russia said the two accidents combined with longer-term dumping of waste into the river meant that an estimated 450,000 people had been exposed to excess radiation from Mayak. It offered no breakdown of immediate deaths, accelerated deaths or increased rates of illness and disease in the populace.

A 2005 criminal case against Mayak’s then-director, Vitaly Sadovnikov, revealed that the plant continued to dump at least 30 million cubic meters (1 billion cubic feet) of untreated nuclear waste into the river from 2001 to 2004. Prosecution documents said the dumping quadrupled the volume of the radioactive isotope strontium-90 in the river.

A study by Greenpeace in 2007, citing hospital records and door-to-door surveys of Muslyumovo residents, reported cancer rates 3.6 times higher than the Russian national average. Russian scientists have reported residents suffer 25 times more genetic defects than the general population.

A decades-long Radiation Research Society study of people living near the Techa River conducted jointly by Russian and American scientists has linked radiation particularly to higher rates of cancer of the uterus and esophagus. In their latest 2015 report, the scientists analyzed 17,435 residents born before 1956, among them 1,933 with cancer. They found that the vast majority of residents had accumulated heightened deposits of strontium-90 in their bones and such “radiation exposure has increased the risks for most solid cancers.”

Such figures come as no surprise to one of Muslyumovo’s longest-serving doctors, Gulfarida Galimova, a gynecologist and family general practitioner who started work in the village’s hospital in 1981. Galimova says she was immediately struck by the exceptional volume of pediatric emergencies involving miscarriages, early and still births, and newborns with malformed limbs and other defects.

Still, like others she did not know Mayak —unmarked on any map at the time and still off-limits to the public today — even existed. She recalls 1980s mornings of blissful ignorance washing her hair in the deceptively soft waters of the Techa.

“The water was nice and not calcified. Soft water. Your hair would be so fluffy,” Galimova recalled.

She was among some 280 households that accepted Rosatom’s offer to abandon their homes in Muslyumovo for new two-story homes away from the river in what today is called New Muslyumovo. But her 2012 move came too late for her own family. A son born in the village in 1985, and a grandson born last year, both have birth defects that she blames on Mayak radiation. Her son has a club foot; her grandson has heart deformities.

One of her neighbors in New Muslyumovo, with its rows of pastel yellow homes with red roofs, blames the new location for her family’s health problems. Alfia Batirshina, 28, says a radon deposit beneath the topsoil of the new settlement gives her chronic headaches and her 8-year-old daughter recurring nosebleeds.

She is loath to discuss her daughter’s own birth defect, a deformed leg, and keeps her out of view of journalists. Her 62-year-old father, Vakil Batirshin, struggles to say anything at all. His neck is painfully swollen from lymph nodes that have grown triple their normal size, leaving his words nearly unintelligible.

The homemaker says she and neighbors are resigned to their medical fate living in Mayak’s nuclear shadow.

“I don’t hope for anything anymore,” she said. “If we get sick, we get sick.”    Associated Press reporters Iuliia Subbotovska in Muslyumovo, Jim Heintz in Moscow and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this story.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | environment, Reference, Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

Cover-up of the true radiation effects in southern Russian Urals

secret-agent-SmIn conferences debating the number of victims of the Chernobyl accident, officials who draw paychecks from nuclear lobbies make similar arguments about alcohol abuse and “radiophobia”—stress-related illnesses caused by fear of radiation.

flag_RussiaStrange illnesses in one of the most contaminated towns in the world challenge what we think we know about the dangers of radioactivity.Slate, By Kate Brown, April 18, 2013, “……What do we know about communities living on contaminated terrain? Two years after the meltdown of three reactors in Fukushima, Japan, the World Health Organization forecasts that there will be no significant rise in cancers among people living nearby. These projections are based on guesses from models calculated from prior studies, mostly of Japanese people who survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet when Japanese scientists and inspected the bodies of 38,000 children living in the Fukushima Prefecture, they found 36 percent had abnormal growths on their thyroids a year after the accident.

We have grown accustomed to this scenario—media attention to nuclear accidents followed by a long, slow quarrel among scientists about whether the spilled fission products will damage human bodies or not. It will take decades to learn the public health impact of the 2011 meltdown. By then, most of the public will have lost interest. But there are other ways to get at this question of what it means to live on earth sullied with decaying radioactive isotopes.

No one has lived longer on contaminated terrain than people in the village of Muslumovo in the southern Russian Urals located downstream from the Maiak plutonium plant, built in 1948 to produce Soviet bomb cores. Unlike the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game, daily life in Muslumovo is terrifyingly banal: long waits at medical clinics, worries over the price of prescriptions, reams of paperwork related to compensation and disability claims, sick kids, unemployment, poverty, and chronic illness.

I showed up in Muslumovo on a Saturday morning in August 2009. Muslumovo is a big village, sprawled inside a crooked elbow of the Techa River, which is slow, sluggish, and considered to be the world’s most radioactive. The village center has a train station, a few apartment buildings, and a corner store. Marat Akhmadeev met me at the station in his Soviet vintage car, dusty and dented. We jolted up and down on the choppy seas of the unpaved streets. Muslumovo is a strange village—half there and half gone. Many houses are abandoned, some partly dismantled, exposing weathered wallpaper and overturned appliances.

The Techa became a flowing radioactive reservoir in 1949 when engineers at the plutonium plant ran out of underground storage containers for high-level radioactive waste. A Dixie cup of this waste could kill everyone in a large ballroom. Compelled by the arms race, the plant director ordered it dumped in the Techa River. The men running the plant didn’t tell anyone about this decision. The 28,000 Russian, Bashkir, and Tatar farmers living on the river—drinking, cooking, and bathing with river water—had no idea. In the 1950s and ’60s special forces resettled most of the 16 contaminated villages on the Techa, but a few villages were too large and expensive to move, so they stayed. Muslumovo is one.

There’s no work in Muslumovo. A person either commutes 60 miles to the industrial city of Cheliabinsk or farms a patch of land of the long-defunct Muslumovo collective farm. Marat farms, living off the land—a term that takes on new meaning in Muslumovo, where in 2008, an American team found domestic interiors registering radiation at 40 times above the background level. After we pulled up at Marat’s house, his teenage son silently trailed us. Noticing a twitch in the boy’s step, I turned to look at him. His mouth drooped and fingers twisted, as he mouthed a stuttered greeting. Marat explained, “This is Kareem,nash luchevik,” meaning “our radiant one,” said in an off-hand manner, as if every family has a luchevik……

There is a legal contest going on over the health of the people of Muslumovo: whether they are sick and, if so, ill from the radioactive isotopes dumped in the river or from poor diets and alcohol abuse. Medical evidence has been contradictory. In 1959, Soviet scientist A. N. Marei wrote a dissertation in which he argued that the Techa villagers were in poor health because of their poor diets. In 1960, in contrast, local Soviet officials linked the river-dwellers’ illnesses to the contaminated river. This debate between nature (radiation) and nurture (lifestyle) has been going on a long time…….

Over the years, FIB-4 doctors had diagnosed 935 people on the Techa River with chronic radiation syndrome. But as thousands of people in Ukraine worried about their exposures from the Chernobyl blast, Soviet medical officials backpedaled on the FIB-4 doctors’ original findings. In 1991, Angelina Gus’kova, the chief official voice in evaluating Chernobyl health problems, argued that in fact there were only 66 cases of chronic radiation syndrome among the Techa River people. The rest, she claimed, suffered from more prosaic diseases such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and rheumatism caused by poor diets and sanitation. As American researchers supported by the Department of Energy have taken over as lead researchers of studies in Muslumovo, the diagnosis of chronic radiation syndrome has largely dropped from the radar. Meanwhile, Russian officials, worried about lawsuits, charged that many people in Muslumovo had dreamed up illnesses in order to sue for compensation. These people, they said, had no chronic radiation disease but were chronic welfare cases looking for handouts.

The trope of ignorant, genetically deficient, and drunken villagers is a common one in Russia. In the southern Urals in the past few decades, the cliché has been useful in glossing over the human suffering connected to uncontrolled dumping into the Techa River. In conferences debating the number of victims of the Chernobyl accident, officials who draw paychecks from nuclear lobbies make similar arguments about alcohol abuse and “radiophobia”—stress-related illnesses caused by fear of radiation. It would be a mistake, however, to allow the longstanding politicization of medical studies to overtake this very important, yet overlooked, place for our understanding of radiation’s effects on human bodies. Reprinted from Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters by Kate Brown with permission from Oxford University Press USA. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/04/nuclear_contamination_in_former_ussr_radioactivity_in_muslomovo_on_techa.html

July 15, 2017 Posted by | environment, Reference, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | 1 Comment