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Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

Nuclear Waste: Keep out for 100,000 years.

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Public Health on July 15, 2016 at 11:32 pm

Financial Times has published an article (July 14, 2016) on France’s effort to store nuclear waste underground in the eastern part of the country. Because the waste will remain highly radioactive for millennia they have commissioned artists to prepare signs and symbols that will inform future generations of the danger. The article (on line at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/db87c16c-4947-11e6-b387-64ab0a67014c.html#axzz4EOZHpVil ) is well worth reading for how well it discusses the problem of what to do with nuclear waste. The Nuclear Guardianship program of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center takes a wholly different approach regarding this exceedingly dangerous material. See Nuclear Guardianship Ethic on our web site (http://www.rockyflatsnuclearguardianship.org/#!about/c8de ).

 

Rocky Flats Downwinders Health Survey

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Plutonium, Public Health on June 27, 2016 at 7:45 am

If you lived within 10-Miles of Rocky Flats from 1952-1992, please take the Rocky Flats Downwinders Health Survey.

https:/www.rockyflatsdownwinders.com

Jock Cobb, MD, pioneer activist on Rocky Flats dies at age 96

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Plutonium, Public Health, Rocky Flats on June 27, 2016 at 1:35 am

When I learned about Rocky Flats in 1979 I joined people occupying the railroad tracks entering the facility because I wanted to stop production of nuclear bombs and bring an end to a possible nuclear war. But very soon I attended a seminar on radiation health effects, done by Jock Cobb of the CU medical school. He was a spectacular teacher, able to make complex matters clear even as he presented the moral necessity of action. I learned from him to pay attention to the public health and environmental sides of the nuclear weapons enterprise.

Jock Cobb just died. The link to a Denver Post article about him is http://www.denverpost.com/2016/06/25/john-c-cobb-obituary/

I earlier posted to this blog an article describing Jock Cobb’s effort to study the effect of plutonium in the gonads. He collected samples but they were never analyzed, as you can see from reading the following: Rocky Flats plutonium in the gonads? Samples collected but never analyzed — entry dated August 11, 2014.

 

Why is there a statue of a horse out here?

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Plutonium, Public Health, Rocky Flats, Wildlife Refuge on June 17, 2016 at 6:01 am

Have you seen the horse? It’s a tribute to and a warning about Rocky Flats. Check it out.

Go to  http://nationalenvironmentalpro.com/cold-war-horse/

 

 

 

 

Science Compromised in the Cleanup of Rocky Flats

In Environment, Human rights, Jefferson Parkway, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Plutonium, Public Health, Rocky Flats, Wildlife Refuge on June 11, 2016 at 12:16 am

Science Compromised in the Cleanup of Rocky Flats, By LeRoy Moore, Ph.D.

Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center (October 2006; as revised, July 18, 2013)

“Science-based cleanup of Rocky Flats,” an article published in Physics Today in September 2006, describes the work of a team of scientists who spent several years researching how and to what extent plutonium and other radionuclides migrate in the Rocky Flats environment. Their study, the Actinide Migration Evaluation (AME), produced information used in setting the cleanup levels for the badly contaminated Rocky Flats site. Accordingly, David L. Clark and his co-authors claim for themselves and their colleagues on the AME team a big share of the credit for the cleanup of the defunct Rocky Flats nuclear bomb plant that was completed in 2005.[1] Their claim is apt, but the “science-based cleanup” they celebrate is, as this article demonstrates, an instance of science compromised.

The article by Clark et al. describes the methods and results of the AME project. It is a story familiar to me, because I co-chaired a panel that provided citizen oversight of the AME work. The story as they tell it contains omissions and problems, starting with the scandal with which the AME project began.

A momentous finding

The AME work was preceded by the totally unexpected detection in the exceedingly wet spring of 1995 of substantial movement of plutonium in the near surface soil (vadose zone) at Rocky Flats. This surprising find was made with real-time remotely controlled monitoring instruments set up in the soil on the site by environmental engineer M. Iggy Litaor. An adjunct professor at the University of Colorado, Litaor had for some years worked as a senior soil scientist at Rocky Flats studying actinides in the environment. Over the years he had published more than a dozen articles reporting his findings in leading technical journals.

Litaor estimated that on May 17, 1995, the wettest day of that very wet spring, a quantity of plutonium ranging from 10 millionths of a curie to one-half of a curie[2] was “remobilized overland” and traveled more than 100 meters down slope. This finding, he said, “challenges the framework of the suggested accelerated cleanup,” because the plutonium migration he detected “was not envisioned under any environmental condition or hydrogeochemical modeling scenarios considered for Rocky Flats.” Indeed, his finding countered the dogma heard often by the public from Rocky Flats officials, namely, that once in the environment plutonium stays in place. Litaor himself had previously supported this concept, until, as he admitted in a public forum, “Mother Nature” proved him wrong.[3]

Scandal

When Kaiser-Hill took over as cleanup contractor at Rocky Flats on July 1, 1995, barely five weeks after Litaor’s surprising finding, one of the company’s first acts was to terminate him. Asked at the October 1995 Rocky Flats Citizens Advisory Board meeting if Litaor had been dismissed, Kaiser-Hill official Christine S. Dayton said, “No.” At its next meeting the board learned that she had not told the truth. In response to public outcry over Litaor’s dismissal, Kaiser-Hill retained his services for a brief period, but by this time his research team of graduate students had been dispersed and his field instruments dismantled. Meanwhile, Ms. Dayton was named director of the Actinide Migration Evaluation, a post she would hold for the nearly ten years of the project’s existence.

The foregoing was only the most visible part of the scandal surrounding Litaor and the creation of the AME. Behind the scenes during its first weeks as the new cleanup contractor Kaiser-Hill commissioned a review of Litaor’s work by five scientists, among them Bruce D. Honeyman of the Colorado School of Mines and David L. Clark from DOE’s Los Alamos Lab (lead author of “science-based cleanup” article). Their 33-page critique of Litaor’s work faulted him most pointedly for failing “to address the question of the chemical form, i.e., speciation, of plutonium in the environment.” Speciation is the study of the range of chemical forms an element like plutonium may take under varied conditions (e.g., whether liquid, solid or gas). Clark and Honeyman, who are speciation specialists, in effect were criticizing Litaor for not being themselves. Both, not incidentally, were soon identified as members of the new AME group.[4]

Litaor learned about this dismissive review of his work, which was never made available to the public, only after it was completed. In a written response he said that the main objectives of his work had been “characterization and quantification of the physical processes that control plutonium mobilization.” It was with a “real-time in-situ remotely controlled monitoring system” that he observed the “unexpected phenomenon” of plutonium migration under exceptional meteorological conditions, something that would never have been achieved with speciation analyses that in his view “merely study the beaker environment.”[5]

Over a period of at least two years after termination of his Rocky Flats contract, Professor Litaor, having returned to his native Israel to assume an academic post, sought crucial geological data needed to complete a detailed account of his plutonium-migration findings. Neither Kaiser-Hill nor the DOE would provide him with what he sought. I and others petitioned the site on his behalf, to no effect. A full report on Litaor’s important finding thus has never been published. The very wet spring of 1995, when Litaor detected plutonium migration, has been called the equivalent of a hundred-year storm. This means that, on average, the conditions he encountered are likely to be repeated once each century. Due to Litaor’s dismissal, how it happened and how he was subsequently treated, the AME work celebrated by Clark et al. began under a cloud. For some in the engaged public this cloud never lifted.

The question of plutonium solubility

As the AME team began their work, they faced a barrage of questions about plutonium migration at Rocky Flats. Clark et al. say in their article that “researchers hypothesized” that migration happened because plutonium “was soluble in surface and groundwater,” but “the initial models of contaminant transport – ones based on soluble forms of plutonium – were flawed and indefensible.” They never, however, identify the “researchers” or the “models” to which they refer. Litaor, in his numerous public presentations regarding his finding of plutonium migration, never spoke of solubility.

In the context of the AME work, the only person to claim that plutonium moved in the Rocky Flats environment because it became soluble was AME team member Bruce Honeyman of the Colorado School of Mines. At a public meeting on August 20, 1997, he said he had concluded from his speciation studies that up to 90% of the plutonium in the environment at Rocky Flats could become soluble. Asked if this meant it would eventually migrate off the site, he said, “Yes, but additional work is needed to determine the rate of movement.”[6] He never spoke this way again, and efforts to get him to explain what he had said were brushed aside by those involved with the AME project. Had his exact words not been recorded in minutes of that particular meeting, they might be forgotten by all but a few people with very acute hearing. Honeyman soon stopped attending AME public meetings.[7]

Bioturbation

In an unprecedented 1996 study, ecologist Shawn Smallwood revealed how burrowing animals redistribute contaminants left in the soil at Rocky Flats. He identified 18 species of burrowing creatures at Rocky Flats, all constantly moving soil and any adhering contaminants. They take surface material down and bring buried material up. Major diggers, like pocket gophers, harvester ants, and prairie dogs, burrow to depths of 10 to 16 feet and disturb very large areas on the surface, while coyotes, badgers, rabbits, and other animals move additional soil. Plants loosen soil and create passages animals can use. Smallwood estimated that burrowing animals disturb 11 to 12% of surface soil at Rocky Flats in any given year. Undisturbed soils do not exist at this site. The plutonium, which at Rocky Flats is only partially remediated down to a depth of 6 feet and is not remediated at all below that level, is being constantly re-circulated in the environment. What is now buried is likely some day to be brought to the surface for wider dispersal by wind, water, fires or other means.[8] In his research Smallwood, who is located in Davis, CA, went onto the Rocky Flats site on three separate occasions in the summer and fall of 1996, each time accompanied by Rocky Flats personnel. He finished his report before the end of that year and two years later published results in a technical journal.[9] But his findings were totally ignored by the AME scientists. Their final report issued in 2004 states that data on highly mobile species that might transport actinides “are not available and would be difficult and in some cases logistically nearly impossible to obtain.”[10] Smallwood’s study had been completed eight years earlier.

Uptake of plutonium in grass

An eleven-year study done at DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina demonstrates that plutonium in subsurface sediments at that site moved upward from the buried source material. The authors of this study conclude “that the upward movement was largely the result of invading grasses taking up the plutonium and translocating it upward,” producing a “measurable accumulation of plutonium on the ground surface.”[11] By contrast, the AME study at Rocky Flats concluded that “uptake into plant . . . tissues is minor.”[12] The Rocky Flats site consists for the most part of prairie grassland. If grass at the Savannah River Site brings plutonium up to the surface, should we not expect something similar to happen at Rocky Flats? Very likely the grasses at Rocky Flats have roots that run deeper into the soil than those at Savannah River, due to the comparably drier climate at Rocky Flats. The question whether the grass at Rocky Flats brings plutonium to the surface presents an uncertainty worth detailed exploration.

The AME conclusion: Plutonium “relatively immobile”

Despite the never explained interlude with Honeyman about plutonium solubility, the AME researchers concluded in their final report that virtually all plutonium in the Rocky Flats environment is in the form of non-soluble plutonium-oxide particles that can be moved by wind or water, that is, by the physical processes of erosion and sediment transport. This conclusion, based mainly on computer modeling, is very close to what Litaor had said a decade earlier. But the AME researchers differed strongly from Litaor as well as the from the findings of Smallwood and the grass research at the Savannah River Site in concluding that plutonium and americium left behind at Rocky Flats “are relatively immobile in the soil and groundwater because of their low solubility and tendency to sorb [attach] onto soil.”[13]

On the basis of this conclusion, Clark and his colleagues can rightly claim that the AME contributed substantively to the final legally binding Rocky Flats Cleanup Agreement (RFCA) adopted in June 2003. RFCA requires cleanup of concentrations of plutonium and americium in the top three feet of soil in excess of 50 picocuries per gram (a picocurie is one trillionth of a curie). But it allows concentrations of 1,000 to 7,000 picocuries per gram at levels 3 to 6 feet below the surface, and puts no limit on the quantity allowed below 6 feet. In adopting these standards for cleanup, DOE and the regulators relied on the AME conclusion that plutonium left in soil at Rocky Flats would remain “relatively immobile” and thus posed no significant public-health risk.[14]

But plutonium at Rocky Flats does move

The AME team’s conclusion of inconsequential plutonium migration at Rocky Flats flies in the face of one of their own reports. This report maintains that cleanup of plutonium in the soil at Rocky Flats even to citizen-recommended 10 picocuries per gram,[15] rather than the 50+ actually adopted, would result in conditions of either a 10-year or a 100-year storm in failure at certain downstream areas to meet the Colorado State standard for plutonium in surface water of 0.15 picocuries per liter.[16] This contradictory report, though it was part of the AME work, is not even cited in the final summary report of the AME project.[17]

Twice in 1997, before this wayward report was written, the quantity of plutonium in Walnut Creek at the downstream boundary of the Rocky Flats site exceeded the state standard.[18] This occurred on several subsequent occasions. The exact source of this plutonium was never identified. The problem is being handled with engineered controls that divert and dilute the water. Can maintenance of such controls be expected to outlast the plutonium?

Research done elsewhere counters the AME “relatively immobile” conclusion

The AME conclusion that migration of plutonium oxide at Rocky Flats would be insignificant is countered by findings at other locations. A report on plutonium transport at the site of the then-proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository asserts that plutonium “in oxidized form . . . can be quite mobile.”[19] Important recent research has focused on the propensity of minuscule plutonium oxide particles to attach to submicrometer-size colloids consisting of organic or inorganic compounds. Such colloids can transport the plutonium considerable distances in groundwater. Annie B. Kersting et al. reported that plutonium released from an underground bomb test at the Nevada Test Site moved at least 1.3 kilometers (0.8 mile) in 30 years, with “colloidal groundwater migration” the likely means of transport.[20] A recent study concludes that colloidal transport accounts for the migration of plutonium more than 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) in about 55 years in the subsurface environment at the Mayak facility in Russia. Other studies show similar long-distance plutonium transport in the subsurface environment at DOE’s Los Alamos and Savannah River sites. Kersting says regarding the Mayak findings, “we need to get away from this idea that plutonium doesn’t move, because it does.”[21]

Mayak and Savannah River are very wet environments, the Nevada Test Site and Los Alamos very dry ones. Rocky Flats resembles the latter two more than the former. If plutonium attached to colloids can move long distances quickly at all these locations, cannot the same thing happen at Rocky Flats? The AME team thinks not, because, in Honeyman’s words, “the very properties that make some compounds good candidates for colloidal transport – low solubility and high particle reactivity – limit the amount of contaminants that can be transported.”[22]

Another location where plutonium may be migrating rapidly is at DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory. From 1954 until 1988 large volumes of waste highly contaminated with plutonium were sent from Rocky Flats to the Idaho facility where the waste was dumped in shallow pits on the assumption that many millennia would elapse before the plutonium could percolate down the 600 feet to the Snake River Plain aquifer, the principal water source for large agricultural areas in Idaho. However, a graph published in a National Academy of Sciences report shows dramatic changes in estimates of how long it will take for the plutonium to reach the aquifer, from an estimate of 80,000 years in 1965 to one of 30 years in 1997.[23] Asked about this, the AME researchers said two things: First, they assert but don’t demonstrate that the National Academy’s graph “was developed to refer to contaminants in general, and not plutonium in particular.” The burden of proof rests with them. Second, they say that knowledge about actinide migration at INL is deficient because that site has not had the benefit of the kind of work done at Rocky Flats by the AME project.[24]

The AME group’s claim at being at the cutting edge of science is refuted by the ongoing work of Annie B. Kersting, whose finding of rapid transport of plutonium in groundwater at the Nevada Test Site was mentioned above. Since reporting that finding in 1999, Kersting, a geochemist at DOE’s Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, has intensified her research on actinide migration because of its significance at various sites worldwide, including Rocky Flats. According to a recent article about her work, it is driven by the recognition that, despite very low concentrations of actinides transported from the original source, their “long half-lives combined with their high toxicity make them of particular concern.” Thanks to her team’s research on plutonium, “the most perplexing element on the periodic table is slowly losing some of its mystery about how it travels underground faster and further than anyone at first expected.”[25]

What about the long-term?

Given the 24,110 year half life of plutonium-239 and the danger it poses if minuscule particles are taken into the body, the cleanup at Rocky Flats, based as it is on the work of the AME team and done with their imprimatur, looks like a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The AME researchers, with all their confidence in modeling, made no effort to predict conditions at Rocky Flats 500 years from now, much less 10,000 or 100,000 years from now.

Conclusion

The most persistent criticism of the AME work is that the researchers relied mainly on computer modeling to reach their conclusion that plutonium left in the environment at Rocky Flats will be relatively immobile. Future sampling could show whether the modeling was correct or flawed. But adequate future sampling is not likely. The affected public thus may never know the validity or invalidity of the AME work. The consequences are not minor, since the government intends to allow public recreation on the Rocky Flats site.[26]

The authors of “Science-based cleanup of Rocky Flats” write with certitude about realms of knowing that are replete with uncertainties. People of the future, whether near or distant, are not well served by the kind of cleanup done at Rocky Flats, even if it is “science-based.” In a situation like that at Rocky Flats, what is the measure of good science? What would responsible science look like? One doesn’t have to be a certified scientist to venture an answer to this question.

 

 

[1] David L. Clark, David R. Janecky, and Leonard J. Lane, “Science-based cleanup of Rocky Flats,” Physics Today (September 2006), pp. 34-40.

[2] One curie is the quantity of any radioactive material that emits 37 billion bursts of radiation per second.

[3] M. Iggy Litaor, The Hydrogeochemistry of Pu in Soils of Rocky Flats, Colorado: Summary,” Public Presentation, Denver, May 15, 1996; and Litaor, “Open Letter to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service concerning its draft plan for the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge,” March 10. 2004.

[4] “Technical and Peer Review” of M. Iggy Litaor’s work by Bruce D. Honeyman et al. (Subcontract No. KH 353044ED3), September 22, 1995.

[5] M. Iggy Litaor to Bruce D. Honeyman, November 1, 1995.

[6] Record of Meeting Notes, Actinide Migration Status Report, August 20, 1997.

[7] This author once sent a letter to Mr. Honeyman seeking documentation of misleading remarks he had made in an AME public meeting. A reply came not from him but from John Rampe, a DOE official, saying that in the future any concerns regarding things said by AME team members should be addressed not to them but to Mr. Rampe or to Christine Dayton, the AME supervisor at Kaiser-Hill. The documentation I sought was thus never provided, and Mr. Honeyman was allowed to duck his responsibility to be forthcoming with the public.

[8] Shawn Smallwood, “Soil Bioturbation and Wind Affect Fate of Hazardous Materials that Were Released at the Rocky Flats Plant, Colorado” (November 23, 1996), Report submitted for plaintiff’s counsel in Cook v. Rockwell International, United States District Court, District of Colorado, No. 90-CV-00181; see also the transcript of Smallwood’s appearance in court in this case, pp. 3912-4130. Arnie Heller, “Plutonium Hitches a Ride on Subsurface Particles,” Science & Technology Review, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, October/November 2011, pp. 16-18.

[9] Smallwood et al., “Animal Burrowing Attributes Affecting Hazardous Waste Management,” Environmental Management, vol. 22, no. 6, 1998, pp. 831–847.

[10] Kaiser-Hill Co., Actinide Migration Evaluation Pathway Analysis Summary Report, ER-108 (April 2004), p. 23.

[11] D. I. Kaplan et al., “Upward Movement of Plutonium to Surface Sediments During an 11-Year Field Study, SRNL-STI-2010-00029, January 25, 2010. http://sti.srs.gov/fulltext/SRNL-STI-2010-00029.pdf

[12] Kaiser-Hill Co., Actinide Migration Evaluation Pathway Analysis Summary Report, ER-108 (April 2004), p. 28; see p. 24.

[13] Kaiser-Hill, AME Pathway Analysis Summary Report, ER-108 (April 2004), p. 28.

[14] For a critique of the cleanup including the risk calculation on which it is based, see my “Rocky Flats: The bait and switch cleanup,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (January/February 2005), pp. 50-57. http://www.rockyflatsnuclearguardianship.org/leroy-moores-blog/papers-by-leroy-moore-phd-2/

[15] Establishing the cleanup level for plutonium in soil at 10 picocuries per gram or less was recommended in a report prepared for the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center by Arjun Makhijani and Sriram Gopal, “Setting Cleanup Standards to Protect Future Generations: The Scientific Basis of the Subsistence Farmer Scenario and Its Application to the Estimation of Radionuclide Soil Actions Levels for Rocky Flats” (Takoma Park, MD: Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, December, 2001). http://www.ieer.org/reports/rocky/toc.html

[16] Kaiser-Hill Co., Report on Soil Erosion and Surface Water Sediment Transport Modeling for the Actinide Migration Evaluation at the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, 00-RF-01823/DOE-00-93258 (August 2000), p. 51.

[17] Kaiser-Hill, AME Pathway Analysis Summary Report, ER-108 (April 2004).

[18] J. E. Law, Rocky Mountain Remediation Services, L.L.C., Memo to D. C. Shelton, K-H. Environmental Compliance, dated August 18, 1997, Re: Recent elevated plutonium and americium in water at RFCA point of compliance, Walnut Creek at Indiana Street.

[19] Yucca Mountain Site Description, TDR-CRW-G5-000001, Rev 01 ICN 01 – 10. Factors Affecting Radionuclide Transport (http://www.ymp.gov/documents/m2nu_a/sect10/sect10-01.htm).

[20] A. B. Kersting et al., “Migration of plutonium in ground water at the Nevada Test Site,” Nature, vol. 397, no. 7 (7 January 1999).

[21] Alexander P. Novikov et al., “Colloid Transport of Plutonium in the Far-Field of the Mayak Production Association, Russia,” SCIENCE, vol. 314 (27 October 2006); notes 6 and 8 of this article reference reports of similar long-distance plutonium migration at DOE’s Los Alamos and Savannah River sites; note 10 suggests greatly increased public health risk from such migration at Yucca Mountain. Kersting is quoted in David Biello, “Colloids in Russia: Have Plutonium, Will Travel,” Scientific American.Com, November 10, 2006.

[22] Bruce D. Honeyman, “Colloidal culprits in contamination,” Nature, vol. 397, no. 7 (7 January 1999), quoted in Christine S. Dayton, Kaiser-Hill, to LeRoy Moore, March 13, 2003 (03-RF-00441), with attachment from AME Advisory Group (CSD-004-03).

[23] For the graph and discussion, see Michelle Boyd and Arjun Makhijani, “Poison in the Vadose Zone: Threats to the Snake River Plain Aquifer from Migrating Nuclear Waste” http://www.ieer.org/sdafiles/vol_10/10-1/poison.html.

[24] Christine S. Dayton, Kaiser-Hill, to LeRoy Moore (03-RF-00441), March 13, 2003, with attachment (CSD-004-03).

[25] Arnie Heller, “Plutonium Hitches a Ride on Subsurface Particles,” Science & Technology Review, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, October/November 2011, pp. 16-18.

[26] After completion of the Rocky Flats cleanup, about seven square miles (roughly three quarters of the site) were transferred from the DOE to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to manage as a wildlife refuge. FWS intends eventually to open the refuge for public recreation. For details on why this should not happen, see the four brief parts of chapter 8 of my “Plutonium and People Don’t Mix,” online at http://media.wix.com/ugd/cff93e_ba3aba3546e545278e4de4d8b3990c57.pdf http://media.wix.com/ugd/cff93e_a1b30d0398e943b0b92bb758a938f391.pdf http://media.wix.com/ugd/cff93e_2ad82029215b4aa6a63ab37cc0466a5f.pdf http://media.wix.com/ugd/cff93e_109f46d1cf6d46a490cb8bd2e56e4519.pdf

A letter of thanks to Bernie Sanders

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Peace, Public Health on June 10, 2016 at 8:57 am

‘We Will Never Give Up’: A Note of Thanks to Bernie Sanders
‘Your courage in taking on the political establishment has emboldened millions of us to stand up and demand our voices be heard.’
byRobert Reich

Editor’s note: The following open letter first appeared on the author’s personal Facebook page on Wednesday, June 8, 2016.

Dear Bernie,

I don’t know what you’re going to do from here on, and I’m not going to advise you. You’ve earned the right to figure out the next steps for your campaign and the movement you have launched.

But let me tell you this: You’ve already succeeded.

At the start they labeled you a “fringe” candidate – a 74-year-old, political Independent, Jewish, self-described democratic socialist, who stood zero chance against the Democratic political establishment, the mainstream media, and the moneyed interests.

Then you won 22 states.

And in almost every state – even in those you lost — you won vast majorities of voters under 30, including a majority of young women and Latinos. And most voters under 45.

You have helped shape the next generation.

You’ve done it without SuperPACs or big money from corporations, Wall Street, and billionaires. You did it with small contributions from millions of us. You’ve shown it can be done without selling your soul or compromising your conviction.

You’ve also inspired millions of us to get involved in politics — and to fight the most important and basic of all fights on which all else depends: to reclaim our economy and democracy from the moneyed interests.

Your message – about the necessity of single-payer healthcare, free tuition at public universities, a $15 minimum wage, busting up the biggest Wall Street banks, taxing the financial speculation, expanding Social Security, imposing a tax on carbon, and getting big money out of politics – will shape the progressive agenda from here on.

Your courage in taking on the political establishment has emboldened millions of us to stand up and demand our voices be heard.

Regardless of what you decide to do now, you have ignited a movement that will fight onward. We will fight to put more progressives into the House and Senate. We will fight at the state level. We will organize for the 2020 presidential election.

We will not succumb to cynicism. We are in it for the long haul. We will never give up.

Thank you, Bernie.

Bob

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of Nations; Locked in the Cabinet; Supercapitalism; and his newest, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at http://www.robertreich.org.

BBC Report: Renewable energy surges to record levels around the world

In Environment, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Public Health on June 3, 2016 at 10:13 pm

By Matt McGrath, BBC News, Environment correspondent, June 1 2016
http://tinyurl.com/hajgomn
Spending on renewable sources like wind has overtaken coal and natural gas according to this study
New solar, wind and hydropower sources were added in 2015 at the fastest rate the world has yet seen, a study says.
Investments in renewables during the year were more than double the amount spent on new coal and gas-fired power plants, the Renewables Global Status Report found.
For the first time, emerging economies spent more than the rich on renewable power and fuels.
Over 8 million people are now working in renewable energy worldwide.
For a number of years, the global spend on renewables has been increasing and 2015 saw that arrive at a new peak according to the report.
Falling costs key
About 147 gigawatts (GW) of capacity was added in 2015, roughly equivalent to Africa’s generating capacity from all sources.
China, the US, Japan, UK and India were the countries adding on the largest share of green power, despite the fact that fossil fuel prices have fallen significantly. The costs of renewables have also fallen, say the authors.
“The fact that we had 147GW of capacity, mainly of wind and solar is a clear indication that these technologies are cost competitive (with fossil fuels),” said Christine Lins, who is executive secretary of REN21, an international body made up of energy experts, government representatives and NGOs, who produced the report.
“They are the preference for many countries and more and more utilities and investors and that is a very positive signal.”
Investment in renewables reached $286bn worldwide in 2015.
With China accounting for more than one-third of the global total, the developing countries outspent the richer nations on renewables for the first time.
When measured against a country’s GDP, the biggest investors were small countries like Mauritania, Honduras, Uruguay and Jamaica.
“It clearly shows that the costs have come down so much that the emerging economies are now really focussing on renewables,” said Christine Lins.

“They are the ones with the biggest increases in energy demand, and the fact that we had this turning point really shows the business case – and that is really a remarkable development.”
The UK’s high position in the global renewables table may come as a surprise to some as there have been a series of substantial cuts to green subsidies over the past year. The UK’s solar industry saw tariff support tumble by over 60% last December.
Despite a significant fall off in European investment in renewables, down around 21%, green power is now the leading source of electricity, providing 44% of total EU capacity in 2015.
The authors say that while the Paris Climate Agreement came after this report was compiled, the fact that countries were getting serious about rising temperatures has already been reflected, to some degree, in their investments. As of early 2016, 173 nations had renewable energy targets in place.
It’s not just nations that are taking big steps towards a greener future. In the US, some 154 companies employing 11 million people have committed to 100% renewable energy.
Traffic jam
However there are still some areas that are proving resistant to green energy such as transport and heating and cooling. The low price of oil has contributed to the lack of uptake for renewables in these sectors.
Despite these holdups, the authors are in no doubt as to the direction of travel.
“I’ve been working in this sector for 20 years and the economic case is now fully there,” said Christine Lins.
“The renewables industry is not just dependant on a couple of markets but it has turned into a truly global one with markets everywhere and that is really encouraging.”
“The best is yet to come,” she told BBC News.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster is ongoing

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Public Health, Workplace exposure on June 3, 2016 at 10:05 pm

by Andrew R. Marks, Op-Ed, Journal of Clinical Investigation, May 23, 2016

http://www.jci.org/articles/view/88434#B2

Abstract

The 5th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster and the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the two most catastrophic nuclear accidents in history, both occurred recently. Images of Chernobyl are replete with the international sign of radioactive contamination (a circle with three broad spokes radiating outward in a yellow sign). In contrast, ongoing decontamination efforts at Fukushima lack international warnings about radioactivity. Decontamination workers at Fukushima appear to be poorly protected against radiation. It is almost as if the effort is to make the Fukushima problem disappear. A more useful response would be to openly acknowledge the monumental problems inherent in managing a nuclear plant disaster. Lessons from Chernobyl are the best predictors of what the Fukushima region of Japan is coping with in terms of health and environmental problems following a nuclear catastrophe.

Five years after a tsunami caused the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, cleanup of radioactive contamination is ongoing and a formerly vibrant farming region lays largely fallow. A recent visit to northeast Japan revealed wholly unexpected aspects of the impact of the meltdown of three nuclear reactors. The area devastated by the nuclear accident is easily accessed by a two-hour train ride from Tokyo to the city of Fukushima. It is then possible to rent a car and drive to within 18 kM of the reactors, which are still in meltdown.

On the train, digital banners in Japanese and English encourage passengers to visit the beautiful cherry trees in the Fukushima district. In the rental car agency, glossy pamphlets exclaim the beauty of the region and feature the brilliant pink blossoms. On a recent April afternoon, the cherry blossoms were indeed spectacular. The roads deep into the region affected by the radioactive plume that engulfed the area in March of 2011 are clearly marked and readily accessible in a car rented at the Fukushima rail station. My Japanese-speaking colleague translated the rental agency’s map as indicating an “area not to return to,” which we carefully avoided.

Following route 114 traveling east toward the coast, progressively larger piles of large black plastic bags filled with dirt appeared on the roadside. At first, there were piles of several hundred such bags, each approximately five feet wide by five feet in height, methodically stacked one upon the other. Of note, similar bags appear to be used elsewhere in Japan to hold debris at construction and yard cleaning sites. Each bag was numbered with a white marker.

Approaching the eastern coast of Japan, the piles of bags on the roadside were more frequent and larger and larger and larger. As route 114 progresses toward the exclusion zone indicated on the car rental agency’s map, the piles of plastic bags filled with dirt reach unimaginable dimensions. Numbered in the many thousands, they eventually fill entire valleys that recede off into the horizon. In some instances, the piles of black plastic bags are covered with blue tarps with pipes inserted into their tops, presumably to provide ventilation.

Roadside radiation monitoring stations are placed near now abandoned homes, many of which are still decorated with plantings of flowers and the blossoming cherry trees that are found in the yards of most homes in this region. The readings on the radiation monitors ranged from 0.2115 to 1.115 microsieverts per hour, a measure of the relative risks imparted to biological tissues by ionizing radiation. One microsievert per hour is equivalent to four airport security screenings per hour and is almost twice the annual limit for occupational whole-body radiation dose limits established by the nuclear regulatory commission. One sievert total exposure causes a 5.5% risk of cancer (1).

To understand the health risks associated with ongoing radiation contamination and cleanup in the Fukushima region, the best comparator is Chernobyl. Two of the most important public health issues related to both the Chernobyl and the Fukushima disasters are thyroid cancers and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Assessing the effects of these nuclear accidents on the risk of thyroid cancer is confounded by the fact that the mere collection of data required to make the diagnosis (e.g., thyroid scans and ultrasounds) necessitates extranormal surveillance. Thus, true control populations are not available. Nevertheless, there have been reports of increased rates of thyroid cancer following the Chernobyl nuclear accident (2), and extrapolation from that incident to Fukushima is reasonable but as-yet unproven. The incidence of PTSD is understandably quite high following nuclear accidents (3). There are no controlled experimental data available to assess the ongoing risks of chronic low-level radiation now present throughout the Fukushima region. Thus, it is imperative that epidemiological data are collected as thoroughly as possible to provide insight concerning the risks of long-term low-level environmental radiation. Similarly, it is imperative that data are collected concerning the spread of radioactivity from the nuclear plant disaster via water (e.g., streams running through the region should be sampled regularly) and via animals (in particular birds should be banded and monitored to determine how they may be vectors for spreading radioactivity in seeds and other forms throughout Japan).

Just outside the town of Iitate, brilliant pink flags, which are the same color used for the advertisements designed to attract tourists to view the cherry blossoms in the region, flap in the breeze, announcing (only in Japanese) “radioactivity removal.” At one particularly large site near the town of Iitate, a constant stream of large trucks with entirely open containers was streaming into an excavation site located at a large mountain of brown dirt. Huge shovels were digging dirt and placing it onto conveyer belts pouring the dirt into the open trucks, which were leaving the site heading south. The men and women handling this contaminated dirt were wearing outfits similar to construction workers observed in other regions of Japan, including helmets, masks, gloves, and overalls (Figure 1). Over an approximately 5-hour period of driving through the region, the only police observed were at the turn around marking the edge of the restricted zone. No military presence was observed. On several occasions, workers were seen handling the plastic bags of radioactively contaminated dirt without gloves.

[ See also http://ccnr.org/Decontamination_Fuk_2014.pdf ]

During the entire afternoon of driving through the region not a single sign warning of the potential dangers of radioactive contamination was observed in any language other than Japanese. There was no security at most of the contaminated sites, and thousands of plastic bags of contaminated dirt were piled high in areas without any supervision or even a fence to prevent access from the public roadway. Birds flew all through the area, presumably transporting radioactive seeds and leaving contaminated droppings throughout Japan.
It is estimated that over 100,000 individuals have been displaced from their homes due to the reactor meltdown (4). Some have been relocated to far away cities, including Tokyo. During my visit, a group of five elderly women arrived on the same train as we did and were escorted onto a waiting bus to be driven to see the cherry blossoms decorating the village they used to live in. Other displaced former residents of now unlivable villages are perhaps less fortunate and have been relocated to one of the numerous “temporary” dwellings dotting the region indicated by convenient roadside signs. Many of these were immediately adjacent to radioactivity detectors indicating levels of at least 1 microsievert per hour.

Ironically, during my visit to Fukushima on April 14, 2016, an earthquake rocked the Kumamoto region of Japan, ultimately causing at least 42 deaths and displacing thousands. This region contains the only working nuclear reactor remaining in Japan. Too far away to be felt in Fukushima, it was nevertheless a harsh reminder of the continued risk for further damage to the reactors already in meltdown.

The continued high level of radioactivity removal efforts in the Fukushima region (entire hill sides have been denuded of surface soil) indicate that the Japanese government knows the health threat caused by the contamination remains. The lack of security, the failure to provide any of the internationally accepted protective warnings against radioactivity contamination (e.g., the universal three-armed black and yellow sign warning of radioactivity), and the absence of any warning signs for non-Japanese-speaking individuals, despite the active advertising campaign to attract tourists to view the cherry blossoms on this beautiful region of Japan, is disturbing. The possibility that individuals could access enormous amounts of radioactively contaminated dirt and transport it to a sensitive area in Japan or elsewhere is frightening.
About the author
Andrew R. Marks is the chair of the Department of Physiology, founding director of the Clyde and Helen Wu Center for Molecular Cardiology, and professor of Medicine and Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at Columbia University. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and served as editor in chief of the JCI from 2002 to 2007. His research focuses on the regulation of ryanodine receptor calcium release channels that control excitation-contraction coupling in cardiac and skeletal muscle.
Reference information:J Clin Invest. doi:10.1172/JCI88434.

[No authors listed]. The 2007 Recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection. ICRP publication 103. Ann ICRP. 2007;37(2–4):1–332.
Tuttle RM, Vaisman F, Tronko MD. Clinical presentation and clinical outcomes in Chernobyl-related paediatric thyroid cancers: what do we know now? What can we expect in the future? Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2011;23(4):268–275.
Ben-Ezra M, et al. From Hiroshima to Fukushima: PTSD symptoms and radiation stigma across regions in Japan. J Psychiatr Res. 2015;60:185–186.
Yamashita S, Radiation Medical Science Center for the Fukushima Health Management Survey. Comprehensive health risk management after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2016;28(4):255–262.

Rocky Flats Health Survey

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Plutonium, Public Health, Rocky Flats on May 20, 2016 at 2:36 am

ROCKY FLATS DOWNWINDERS AND METROPOLITAN STATE UNIVERSITY OF DENVER TO LAUNCH HEALTH SURVEY ON MAY 17TH SURVEY WILL FOCUS FOR THE FIRST TIME ON RESIDENTS LIVING DOWNWIND FROM ROCKY FLATS (Denver, CO)-

For their release, go to https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/154c474eebf06dac?projector=1

Obama on nukes: All talk, no action

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Public Health on May 19, 2016 at 11:56 pm

BY SETSUKO THURLOW
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Thursday, May 19, 2016, 5:00 AM
As a 13-year-old schoolgirl, I witnessed my hometown flattened by a hurricane-like blast, burned in 7,000-degree Fahrenheit heat and contaminated by the radiation of one atomic bomb.

Miraculously, I was rescued from the rubble of a building, a little more than a mile from ground zero. Most of my classmates in the same room were burned to death. I can still hear their faint voices, calling their mothers for help, and praying to God.

As I escaped with two other girls, we watched a procession of ghostly figures: grotesquely wounded people whose clothes were tattered or gone. Parts of their bodies were missing. Some were carrying their eyeballs in their hands. Some had their stomachs burst open, their intestines hanging out.

Of a population of 360,000 residents of Hiroshima — largely noncombatant women, children and elderly — most became victims of the atomic bombing. Many were killed immediately; some, over time. Nearly 71 years later, people are still dying from the delayed effects of the bomb, called Little Boy, considered crude by today’s standards for mass destruction.

This same city, rebuilt over the decades with few reminders of its tragic past, will soon play host to President Obama, as he becomes the first sitting U.S. President to journey to the place where nuclear weapons were first used in war. For me, and for many survivors, this historic occasion presents a conflict of emotions. Of course we appreciate the courage it takes to come to Hiroshima, especially given the current political climate in the United States.

But still we are frustrated by Obama’s eloquent propensity to say one thing and do another.

In his famous speech in Prague, in 2009, he said, “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.”

Why then has the U.S. government, under the Obama administration, pledged $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize its nuclear arsenal? Exactly where is the moral responsibility and leadership in that?

Regarding disarmament, Obama stated, “Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global nonproliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.” Why then are the U.S. and other nuclear weapon states actively boycotting the latest international nuclear negotiations?

ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, AUG. 8, 2010; U.S. ARMY VIA THE HIROSHIMA PEACE MEMORIAL MUSEUM; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS PUBLICLY DISTRIBUTED HANDOUT PHOTO TO BE USED ONLY TO ILLUSTRATE NEWS REPORTING OR COMMENTARY ON THE FACTS OR EVENTS DEPICTED IN THIS IMAGE. AP provides access to this publicly distributed HANDOUT photo to be used only to illustrate news reporting or commentary on the facts or events depicted in this image.Never again (AP)
If the President is serious about disarmament, he should have sent a delegation to the UN in Geneva, where, this month, representatives from nearly 100 countries discussed the prospects for a nuclear ban treaty.

Currently endorsed by 127 nations, the nuclear ban treaty is the most significant advance for nuclear disarmament in a generation. Yet there is little attention in the media, so the public remains unaware.

The President also made the bold and accurate claim that, “If we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.”

It is crucial to understand that this use may result by design or by accident. Indeed, nuclear risk is on the rise as accidents and aging infrastructure have been revealed in recent research, proving that the very existence of nuclear weapons presents an avoidable threat to life on Earth.

Let us not forget that within two flashes of light three days apart, two beloved cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, became places of desolation, with heaps of rubble, horrifically wounded people and blackened corpses everywhere.

He may be courageous to visit Hiroshima, but the President’s symbolic and rhetorical courage must be backed up by action for disarmament.

Thurlow, a former social worker and founder of Japanese Family Services of Metropolitan Toronto, is an advocate for nuclear disarmament.

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