The Denver Post produced a very unusual video of ailing former Rocky Flats workers after recent meetings in Denver about their efforts to get government compensation for ailments from workplace exposures to which they feel they are entitled. Go to http://photos.denverpost.com/2014/03/17/video-stories-from-colorados-rocky-flats-workers/
Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category
One of the current controversies regarding Rocky Flats is the development of a very large residential-commercial community called Candelas across the whole length of the southern edge of the Rocky Flats site. See the following for an excellent well documented article on Candelas: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candelas_%28Master_Planned_Community%29,_Arvada,_CO
Biggest environmental scandal in Colorado history? The little known dumping of plutonium from Rocky Flats at Lowry LandillIn Environment, Plutonium, Rocky Flats on February 11, 2014 at 4:14 am
In 1994 then-Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary revealed that 1.2 metric tons (2,460 pounds) of plutonium, enough to make more than 400 bombs, was missing from Rocky Flats. Studies by various parties say some of it is in the environment on and off the site. A recent DOE report claims that the missing plutonium is buried at DOE’s Idaho National Engineering Lab. But this claim isn’t credible unless confirmed by an independent scientist with access to all pertinent data, because DOE earlier insisted that shoddy records made it impossible to estimate the quantity of plutonium in Rocky Flats waste buried in Idaho.
DOE’s claim to have found the plutonium O’Leary said was lost is countered by a series of three articles published in Westword in April 2001, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Eileen Welsome. Working closely with environmentalist Adrienne Anderson, Welsome showed that a large quantity of plutonium waste from Rocky Flats was illegally dumped at the Lowry Landfill southeast of Denver (http://www.westword.com/authors/eileen-welsome/). She is quite familiar with plutonium, having received the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for reporting in The Albuquerque Tribune on an Atomic Energy Commission program to determine the health effects of plutonium by injecting it into the bodies of unwilling and unknowing people, most of them “poor, powerless and sick.” Her later The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War (1999) provided more information on this secret program.
Rocky Flats plutonium was dumped at the Lowry Landfill from the early 1950s until about 1980. During this period, according to Welsome, most of the large corporations in the Denver area and many smaller ones, disposed of many kinds of waste there. After Lowry Landfill became a Superfund site in 1994, the major polluters formed the Lowry Coalition and worked together to avoid high costs for the Superfund “cleanup.” Much of their activity was purposely off the record to avoid publicity. Lowry Coalition was ready to make Rocky Flats operators pay a high fee to clean up the radioactive materials. But, with the complicity of the EPA and the City of Denver (which for years owned the site), they reversed themselves, paid fees to get immunity from future charges related to the radionuclides, and worked out a “cleanup” scheme to reduce the quantity of plutonium and other toxins buried at the site by moving the toxins in liquid form through city sewer lines more than a dozen miles to the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District plant on the banks of the South Platte River in north Denver.
At Wastewater this sewage is treated, the cleaner water is released into the South Platte, the heavier plutonium-bearing sludge (“biosolids”) is trucked 50 miles east and spread as fertilizer on farmland, and mildly contaminated water is piped to irrigate city parks, parkways and school yards. Among the large polluters of the Lowry Coalition are the two major newspapers, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, neither of which ever carried any story critical about the contamination at Lowry Landfill. .
In the summer of 2000 the plutonium-contaminated waste began flowing from the Lowry Superfund site at a rate of 20 to 25 gallons a minute. It will continue for 50 years or longer. Rocky Flats authorities denied that radionuclides from the plant were ever dumped at Lowry. But several drivers of tank trucks testified that they delivered liquid waste from Rocky Flats to Lowry Landfill, police officers said they saw some of the deliveries, and trucking company records confirm that the transport happened. A letter addressed by the Lowry Coalition to EPA shows alarmingly high levels of plutonium and americium at numerous wells drilled at the site and concludes that this material could only have come from Rocky Flats. The level of denial about what’s present at Lowry Landfill is high, well nigh universal among the polluters. But when denial meets documentation, documentation prevails. Welsome and Anderson provided the documentation. The extent of the denial makes this perhaps the greatest single environmental scandal in Colorado history.
Published in the Boulder Daily Camera, 1-26-14
A December 28 Camera article suggests that the proposed Jefferson Parkway is moving ahead. This toll road would add about ten miles to C-470, almost completing the loop around Denver. Some call it the “plutonium parkway,” because it would be built on the contaminated edge of the Rocky Flats site, where for four decades the explosive plutonium pits for nuclear warheads were made.
Plutonium released from Rocky Flats is present in soil on and off the plant site in the form of particles too small to see but not too small to do harm. Plutonium emits a type of radiation that cannot penetrate skin but that may wreck one’s health if it is inhaled or otherwise taken into the body. Lodged in the body, it continually irradiates surrounding cells, probably for the rest of one’s life. The result may be cancer or other ailments, including harm to offspring. Because it remains dangerously radioactive for a quarter of a million years, it poses an essentially permanent danger.
In 1970 P. W. Krey and E. P. Hardy, scientists with the Atomic Energy Commission (predecessor to the Department of Energy), sampled soil on and off the Rocky Flats site to a depth of 8 inches and analyzed it for its plutonium content. The heaviest concentrations were in soil along the eastern edge of the site in the area now intended for construction of the highway. In September 2011 Marco Kaltofen of the Boston Chemical Data Corp. collected soil samples along Indiana St. precisely where the proposed road would be built. He found plutonium concentrations roughly equivalent to what Krey and Hardy found in 1970.
Sampling done as part of the Rocky Flats cleanup on what is now the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge showed only a scant presence of plutonium near where the highway would be built. But these samples were collected in shallow surface soil, not at the deeper levels analyzed by Krey and Hardy.
Building the road would affect the environment. In 2004 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service performed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to create the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. But this EIS did not analyze the effect of construction of a highway in an area known to be contaminated with plutonium. Fish and Wildlife nevertheless provided land for the road.
The Camera article says proponents of the highway “cite a letter written by officials with the EPA and the Colorado health department in late 2011 stating that the risk of excessive cancer incidence for people who work at the refuge is below standards set by the state” and the federal government. This letter is meaningless, because there’s a latency period of 20 to 30 years before plutonium taken into the body produces cancer. Not until refuge workers have been at the site without interruption for at least this long will we have a better sense of the incidence of cancer among them.
People who live or work near the Rocky Flats site or who visit there may be unwittingly exposed to plutonium left in soil by those responsible for the ten-year Superfund cleanup completed in 2005. They made no effort to clean the site to the maximum extent possible with existing technology. Assuming incorrectly that plutonium left behind would remain in place, they willingly allowed an unknown quantity of plutonium to remain in the soil, with no limit on the amount allowed below six feet.
Plutonium particles brought to the surface by burrowing animals will be carried hither and yon by wind. They can be readily inhaled. The result decades later may be cancer or some other illness. Children are without question the most vulnerable. There is no certainty that any of us will be exposed or will become ill. But it is a definite risk. The inadequate cleanup done at Rocky Flats gambles with peoples’ lives. Constructing the Jefferson Parkway would up the ante on the gamble. The wise move is to avoid the site and to abandon the highway.
LeRoy Moore, PhD, is a consultant with the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. For more on Rocky Flats, see www.rockyflatsnuclearguardianship.org
This video by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto shows all nuclear detonations from 1945 through 1998, year by hear, country by country. http://www.upworthy.com/an-artist-counted-every-atomic-explosion-on-earth-and-shows-them-all-in-a-matter-of-seconds-3?g=2
A friend recently suggested planting mushrooms at Rocky Flats. She said they will absorb and neutralize the radiation in the environment at that site.
This claim has been around for years. It has resurfaced recently in part due to an article entitled “How Mushrooms Can Save the Planet,” published in the July-August DISCOVER magazine. The article is about Paul Stamets who says “fungi can clean up everything from oil spills to nuclear meltdowns.”
Stamets statement is partially correct but unfortunately not absolutely so.
I asked members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability about mushrooms and radiation. Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, located in the DC area, replied: “The mushrooms can absorb certain radioactive isotopes at a high rate. But then the mushrooms’ flesh becomes highly radioactive. The mushrooms are not able to eradicate the radioactivity.”
He adds: “This has become tragic in the Chernobyl region, as the surrounding Slavic cultures treasure edible mushrooms as a delicacy.”
What Kevin didn’t say is that the mushrooms themselves become radioactive waste. That is, they become part of the problem. It’s an old story with radioactivity. It can’t be seen, tasted, smelled, heard or felt. But some of it, especially the plutonium at Rocky Flats, will be around for a very long time, and everything it touches becomes radioactive.
‘We don’t do nuclear energy’
By Agence France-Presse, United Nations, November 28, 2013
The World Bank and United Nations on Wednesday appealed for billions of dollars to provide electricity for the poorest nations but said there would be no investment in nuclear power.
“We don’t do nuclear energy,” said World Bank president Jim Yong Kim as he and UN leader Ban Ki-moon outlined efforts to make sure all people have access to electricity by 2030.
Kim said $600-$800 billion a year will be needed to meet the campaign target of universal access to electricity, doubling energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewable energy by 2030.
In some countries, only 10% of the population has electricity.
So far, the campaign has a pledge of one billion dollars from the OPEC Fund for International Development, Bank of America has raised $500 million through the world’s first ‘green bond’ and Norway has committed to spend two billion krone ($325 million) on renewable energy efforts in 2014.
Kim said the World Bank is preparing energy plans for 42 countries that would be ready in June, but said any money raised would only go to new power sources.
“Nuclear power from country to country is an extremely political issue,” Kim told reporters.
“The World Bank Group does not engage in providing support for nuclear power. We think that this is an extremely difficult conversation that every country is continuing to have.
“And because we are really not in that business our focus is on finding ways of working in hydro electric power in geo-thermal, in solar, in wind,” he said.
“We are really focusing on increasing investment in those modalities and we don’t do nuclear energy.”
Kim highlighted private financing for power expansion in Nigeria and Ivory Coast and said efforts were being made to launch a similar deal for Myanmar, where the government has launched major reform efforts.
“We are working and moving very quickly to try to ensure that Myanmar experiences a clear democracy dividend,” Kim said.
The World Bank chief said it had been difficult to find long term capital for poorer countries but insisted: “We will show investors that sustainable energy is an opportunity they cannot afford to miss.”
Take a look at this excellent article. I’ve actually visited several of these places. <http://climateviewer.com/2013/11/24/10-most-radioactive-places-on-earth/>
Kristen Iversen, author of FULL BODY BURDEN: GROWING UP IN THE NUCLEAR SHADOW OF ROCKY FLATS, has just created The Rocky Flats Story Project. The purpose is to pull together stories from people who live near Rocky Flats or grew up near there. She’s especially interested in stories of people who have or know of someone with ailments that may be due to exposure to toxins, including plutonium, released from Rocky Flats. The stories will be categorized according to date, geographic location, and particular disease or ailment.
She and her research assistant, Matt Gallant, also plan to produce a questionnaire to be used in collecting more stories. She will be assisted as well locally by Michelle Garioloff-Parish. Stories can emailed directly to Matt at <MWGallantis@gmail.com>.
Please help spread the word. This message could be posted on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, web sites.
No actual study of the health of any off-site members of the public who may have been harmed by Rocky Flats has ever been done. Compiling a solid record of people who may have been harmed by material released from the plant is a step in the direction of getting needed medical surveillance. People who worked at the plant wore badges by means of which it was discerned whether or not they were exposed, but no effort was ever made to determine what members of the public were exposed.
See the previous entry in this blog for a Boulder Weekly article about plutonium and the recent flood. This brief letter to the author of that article responds to a quoted erroneous statement made by the current manager of the DOE portion of the Rocky Flats site.
Your recent Boulder Weekly article, “Flood Raises Questions at Rocky Flats,” says Scott Surovchak, the Manager of the DOE portion of the Rocky Flats site, disputes claims Marco Kaltofen of the Boston Chemical Data Corp. made in a report in early 2012 giving results of soil sampling he had done for the Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center on the eastern edge of the Rocky Flats site along Indiana St. Kaltofen reported that according to his work the plutonium levels in this area were just as high in 2012 as they were 40 years earlier before any cleanup activity had happened at Rocky Flats. He suggested that water leaving the site as a result of the September flood was quite possibly contaminated with small quantities of plutonium. Surovchak disputed this claim, saying (according to your article) that Kaltofen’s sampling “was done with an optical rather than radiological analysis and was therefore inappropriate for determining the true levels of plutonium in surface soil.” Kaltofen responded: “The plutonium was determined by both electron backscatter and gamma spectroscopy. Both are standard methods. Neither is an optical method.”
Clearly, DOE Manager Surovchak either doesn’t know what he is talking about, or he is deliberately demeaning an experienced soil sampler. Neither enables the public to trust what a DOE official says.