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New nuclear ‘pit’ production at LANL is unnecessary

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Politics, Workplace exposure on July 22, 2017 at 8:45 am

By Jay Coghlan, Albuquerque Journal, July 21, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Center for Public Integrity recently published a series of articles on nuclear safety lapses in plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos lab that captured a lot of national attention.
Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons that initiate the thermonuclear detonation of modern weapons. The articles were largely based on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s annual contractor Performance Evaluation Reports. Those reports are publicly available only because Nuclear Watch New Mexico successfully sued for them in 2012.

The former plutonium pit production site, the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, was shut down by a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes. A special grand jury indicted both Department of Energy (DOE) officials and the contractor, but a federal judge quashed the indictments at the urging of the local federal attorney general. It was only by sheer luck that a major plutonium fire on Mother’s Day 1969 didn’t contaminate Denver with highly carcinogenic plutonium.

I specifically recall senior DOE officials promising New Mexicans 20 years ago that serious lessons were learned from Rocky Flats and that re-established plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) would always be safe. Since then, the lab has spent billions of taxpayers’ money on plutonium pit production but, as the recent articles document, LANL still can’t do it safely.

As the articles reported, a serious nuclear criticality accident was narrowly averted in July 2011, which resulted in the three-year shutdown of LANL’s main plutonium facility. Nevertheless, according to the fiscal year 2011 LANL Performance Evaluation Report, the lab contractor was paid $50 million in pure profit for that year.

In 2014, a radioactive waste barrel improperly prepared by LANL ruptured underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), shutting down that multi-billion-dollar facility for nearly three years. Radioactive waste disposal at WIPP will remain constrained for years, raising the question of where future LANL bomb-making wastes will go.

Congress has required the Los Alamos lab to quadruple plutonium pit production, regardless of the technical needs of the stockpile. The requirement was drafted by professional staff on the House Armed Services Committee, one of whom was originally from the Sandia nuclear weapons lab.

That the existing stockpile doesn’t need pit production is demonstrated by the fact that none has been scheduled since 2011 when LANL finished up the production run that was stopped when Rocky Flats was shut down.

At NukeWatch’s request, former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) required an independent study of the lifetimes of pits. The expert conclusion was that plutonium pits last at least a century, more than double government estimates (the oldest pits in the stockpile are now around 45 years old). Moreover, there are some 20,000 existing plutonium pits stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas.

Future plutonium pit production is for a new so-called “Interoperable Warhead” that is supposed to function both as a land-based ICBM and a sub-launched nuclear warhead. The nuclear weapons labs are pushing this $13 billion make-work project that the Navy doesn’t want.

Ironically, new-design pits for the Interoperable Warhead may hurt national security because they cannot be tested in a full-scale nuclear weapons test or, alternatively, testing them would have severe international proliferation consequences.

Given all this, why expand plutonium pit production when apparently it can’t be done safely and may decrease, not increase, our national security? One strong reason is the huge contractor profits to be had under the $1 trillion-plus “modernization” of the nuclear weapons stockpile and production complex started under Obama, which Trump promises to expand. Far from just “modernization,” existing nuclear weapons are being given new military capabilities, despite denials at the highest levels of government.

The directors of the Livermore, Sandia and Los Alamos nuclear weapons labs in truth wear two hats – the first as lab directors, the second as presidents of the for-profit limited liability corporations running the labs. This inherent conflict of interest skews U.S. nuclear weapons policy and should be brought to an end.

The New Mexico congressional delegation kowtows to the nuclear weapons industry in our state. I specifically call upon Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to certify within this calendar year that future plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos Lab will be safe, or otherwise end their support for it.

Jay Coghlan is the director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

 

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Flatlining: Exploring hidden toxic landscapes and the embodiment of contamination at Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, USA.

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Public Health, Workplace exposure on February 9, 2017 at 9:44 am

Stephanie Malin, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Colorado State University and Becky Alexis-Martin, Senior Research Fellow in Human Geography at The University of Southampton, February 8, 2017

Within the boundaries of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, black bears prowl, elk tussle, prairie dogs burrow and porcupines forage. A diverse array of wildlife, wedged between the cities of Boulder and Denver. Within this diverse habitat, small animals nestle into the grass and burrow into the dusty alluvial soil. Superficially, this site has been transformed from military industrial complex into an ordered wilderness. However, the heart of this refuge contains a burden of atomic mass, for this bleakly lovely space encircles a Superfund site with a startling and intrusive legacy of nuclear pollution. Welcome to Rocky Flats, a disquieting relic of the American military industrial complex.
Originally, Rocky Flats was occupied by swathes of pastoral farmland. It was selected for weapons manufacturing due to its underlying geological stability and its proximity to uranium sources and other nuclear installations, and was therefore purchased by the US Atomic Energy Committee. Beginning in 1952, Rocky Flats became an all-American home for manufacturing plutonium pits, which are the triggers that detonate nuclear weapons. Local residents were grateful to have well-paid jobs and production quietly ensued, the site itself wrapped in the furtiveness of Cold War industry. Within this culture of secrecy, little transgressions gradually emerged on-site at Rocky Flats. These grew in severity, and complete technological failure eventually occurred as human errors were silenced, accidents were hidden and toxicity was concealed.

Major fires occurred in 1957 and 1969, whilst unsealed barrels of radioactive waste leached and dispersed across the surrounding hinterland (Krey and Hardy, 1970). In 1972, US Congress authorised the purchase of a buffer zone of land around the site, when traces of plutonium and elevated levels of radioactive tritium were discovered within local reservoirs (Krey, 1976). Elevated levels of plutonium were identified within the topsoil beyond this zone, and so further land was purchased to expand this buffer zone. On-site regulation was used as a technology of control, to ensure that off-site contamination was never recognised.

Protests began when local residents became concerned about the safety of the facility. Activist mobilization escalated throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as several thousand people showed up to organized protests and sit-ins. Eventually, a large-scale protest occurred in August 1989, which attracted thousands of participants. This sustained public outcry was ignored by the nuclear sector. However, it was not possible to stifle the covert material that was provided by Rocky Flats workers to the Environmental Protection Agency, and a case was gradually built up through FBI agent Jon Lipsky’s extensive work with informants. The whistleblowing reached an apogee by June 6th 1989. Operation Desert Glow was implemented by the US Department of Justice to investigate the Rocky Flats plant. This raid issued a search warrant to the manager of Rocky Flats, and led to the discovery of multiple toxic violations of anti-pollution legislation.

An array of contaminants has been discovered at the Rocky Flats site, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chromic acid, beryllium and radionuclides. Whilst chromium metal has little toxicity, chromic acid and similar hexavalent chromium compounds are both toxic and mutagenic (Barnhart, 1997; Baruthio, 1992). Symptoms of human exposure to hexavalent chromium can include: dermatitis, allergic and eczematous skin reactions, skin and mucous membrane ulcerations, allergic asthmatic reactions, bronchial carcinomas, and gastro-enteritis (Baruthio, 1992). Hexavalent chromium compounds also have ecological impacts, due to toxicity to plant life (Singh et al., 2013). Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are organochlorine compounds, and also have detrimental environmental and human health effects (Robertson and Hansen, 2015, Longnecker et al., 1997). PCB compounds are toxic and can cause abnormalities of liver function; skin and the nervous system; neonatal hypotonia or hyporeflexia; and increase the likelihood of exposed persons developing cancer. The detrimental effects of heavy radionuclides, including isotopes of plutonium, americium and curium, are also well documented within medical and environmental literature (Bair, 1974, Nénot and Stather, 2013, Newman, 2014). This includes genotoxic and stochastic effects that can increase the likelihood of the development of solid body tumours and blood cancers (Durakovic, 2016).
Unfortunately, it is not possible to access the final records of contamination for Rocky Flats. Like other places that have been squatted by the Cold War military-industrial complex, there is a notable absence of publically available information that documents the exact times, quantities and conditions of contaminant release. Even when the first special Grand Jury in Colorado’s history was convened in 1989 to hear the post-raid federal case against Rocky Flats’ corporate facility operators, Rockwell, the company paid fines amounting to less than they had earned in federal bonuses for operating the plant. The Grand Jury itself contested the trial and sentencing outcomes and felt that their recommendations had been illegally ignored (McKinley and Balkany 2004).

Rocky Flats has received relatively little international attention as a significant place of atomic and industrial toxicity. Somehow, its messy atomic history has been redacted, swallowed up alongside that of many other military nuclear installations and laboratories worldwide. Whilst the wildlife flourishes across Rocky Flats, despite a legacy of contamination, the local communities suffer invisibly.

A contaminated community?

Tiffany Hansen is a member of the down-winder community and founder of Rocky Flats Downwinders. She grew up in the shadow of the Rocky Flats plant. She remembers her father and brother working there. However, Tiffany did not realise the nuclear and covert nature of manufacturing, the military significance of the work that was undertaken, or the potential health effects that surrounded the site. She remained unaware of these risks until she developed ovarian and thyroid cancers as a young woman, and became acutely aware that her experience was not unique. She soon began organizing a community of people impacted by potential environmental health impacts of living near Rocky Flats. As Tiffany explains:

“It was a challenge to connect with former residents, there was no support, the research available was limited and difficult to find, and there was no organized advocacy… Since launching our website in 2015, I have heard from thousands of people, many like myself, who felt there was a strong connection between our health problems and the close proximity to the facility… I hear from people whose entire families are sickened, many lost loved ones, others are fighting or lost the fight for their lives.”
Tiffany’s observations echo the contested yet compelling evidence of cancers associated with toxic exposure, clustered within the communities that surround the site. These communities are the embodiment of their experiences of exposure (Brown, 2016).

It is challenging to design statistically significant epidemiological studies of the health effects of long-term, low-level toxic exposure to local communities due to confounding lifestyle factors, a neoliberalized, privatized healthcare system that cannot provide answers, and the economic migration of populations away from the plant after its closure. Whilst occupational health studies of exposure to Rocky Flats employees exist, they do not reflect community health, especially that of local women and children (Gilbert et al., 1989, Viet et al., 2000, Brown et al., 2004). Further, broader environmental and community health concerns highlight the related losses of livelihood, contamination concerns, anxieties, and somatic conditions associated with trauma such as those experienced by residents around Rocky Flats, steeped in uncertainty.

Thus, public health risks remain stressfully uncertain and undefined. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently released a study showing elevated rates of certain cancers in the communities surrounding Rocky Flats, but without the community-based component that people have requested. The study did not examine cancers such as thyroid, despite community-based requests to do so, and some critics assert that the agency works with large state-wide samples that dilute evidence of cancer clusters and hot spots due to the chosen methodological approach.

Access to information about the site has been difficult to acquire – particularly for people moving in to new homes on and around the former plant grounds. To some, this is the most significant concern. Dedicated community activist, Alesya Casse, who co-founded the group Candelas Glows, leads actions and community meetings to educate the community and speaks regularly about keeping new construction and the public off of the site and the Wildlife Refuge. Casse states:

“It’s disheartening to see government agencies continue with their legacy of turning ‘weapons into wildlife’ in the face of community opposition and concern. People have a right to know the history of the area and to make informed decisions for themselves and their families. What happened at Rocky Flats is both tragic and unfortunately common, but we have an opportunity to make it right by informing the public of the risks and doing comprehensive testing to address ongoing concerns and questions that continue to arise.”

The future is unwritten

It has been 28 years since the FBI first raided Rocky Flats, and eleven years since the US Environmental Protection Agency announced the completion of on-site remediation activities. Whilst some of its clandestine toxic secrets have been unveiled, many mysteries still surround the on-going and long-term effects of this multi-contaminant environmental and social disaster. It is impossible to say what the future holds for the local community of Rocky Flats in the face of landscape regeneration, contested diagnoses, unmedicalised conditions, and denial of people’s experiences. Importantly, the long-term outcomes for this community could still yet be affected by the presidency of Donald Trump, as he has already called for sites such as Rocky Flats to be repurposed yet again as repositories for nuclear waste or even revitalized nuclear production.

In response, collaborative social science and public health research by Metropolitan State University and Colorado State University aims to discern the social and cultural impacts to health of being a Rocky Flats downwinder. Already, the health survey component of this study has found that 46% of the reported cancers are defined as ‘rare’ and are often directly related to radiation exposure. Whilst we cannot anticipate if this unique community will ever truly gain environmental or social justice, we continue to develop our understanding of the significant influence that nuclear accidents and nuclear defence has had upon their lives. In the meantime, the Rocky Flats downwinders continue to exist, without a true understanding of the future implications of their toxic fate.

References

BAIR, W. J. 1974. Toxicology of plutonium. Advances in radiation biology, 4.

BARNHART, J. 1997. Chromium chemistry and implications for environmental fate and toxicity. Soil and Sediment Contamination, 6, 561-568.

BARUTHIO, F. 1992. Toxic effects of chromium and its compounds. Biological trace element research, 32, 145-153.

BROWN, K. 2016. The Last Sink: The Human Body as the Ultimate Radioactive Storage Site. Mauch, Christof (Hg.), Out of Sight, Out of Mind. The Politics and Culture of Waste, RCC Perspectives, München, 41-47.

BROWN, K. L. 2013. Plutopia: Nuclear families, atomic cities, and the great soviet and American plutonium disasters, Oxford University Press, USA.

BROWN, S. C., SCHONBECK, M. F., MCCLURE, D., BARÓN, A. E., NAVIDI, W. C., BYERS, T. & RUTTENBER, A. J. 2004. Lung cancer and internal lung doses among plutonium workers at the Rocky Flats Plant: a case-control study. American journal of epidemiology, 160, 163-172.

DURAKOVIC, A. 2016. Medical effects of internal contamination with actinides: further controversy on depleted uranium and radioactive warfare. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 21, 111-117.

GILBERT, E. S., FRY, S. A., WIGGS, L. D., VOELZ, G. L., CRAGLE, D. L. & PETERSEN, G. R. 1989. Analyses of combined mortality data on workers at the Hanford site, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant. Radiation research, 120, 19-35.

KREY, P. W. 1976. Remote plutonium contamination and total inventories from Rocky Flats. Health Physics, 30, 209-214.

KREY, P. W. & HARDY, E. P. 1970. PLUTONIUM IN SOIL AROUND THE ROCKY FLATS PLANT. New York Operations Office (AEC), NY Health and Safety Lab.

LONGNECKER, M. P., ROGAN, W. J. & LUCIER, G. 1997. The human health effects of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and an overview of organochlorines in public health 1. Annual review of public health, 18, 211-244.

MALIN, S. A. 2015. The Price of Nuclear Power: Uranium Communities and Environmental Justice, Rutgers University Press.

NÉNOT, J.-C. & STATHER, J. W. 2013. The Toxicity of Plutonium, Americium and Curium: A Report Prepared Under Contract for the Commission of the European Communities Within Its Research and Development Programme on Plutonium Recycling in Light Water Reactors, Elsevier.

NEWMAN, M. C. 2014. Fundamentals of ecotoxicology: the science of pollution, CRC press.

ROBERTSON, L. W. & HANSEN, L. G. 2015. PCBs: recent advances in environmental toxicology and health effects, University Press of Kentucky.

SINGH, H. P., MAHAJAN, P., KAUR, S., BATISH, D. R. & KOHLI, R. K. 2013. Chromium toxicity and tolerance in plants. Environmental chemistry letters, 11, 229-254.

VIET, S. M., TORMA-KRAJEWSKI, J. & ROGERS, J. 2000. Chronic beryllium disease and beryllium sensitization at Rocky Flats: a case-control study. AIHAJ-American Industrial Hygiene Association, 61, 244-254.

Nuclear accident in New Mexico ranks among the costliest in U.S. history

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Public Health, Workplace exposure on August 24, 2016 at 12:53 am

By Ralph Vartabedian

Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2016, 3:00 AM

When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations.

The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department’s credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste.

But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.

The Feb. 14, 2014, accident is also complicating cleanup programs at about a dozen current and former nuclear weapons sites across the U.S. Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for the dump are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere, state officials said in interviews.

Washington state officials were recently forced to accept delays in moving the equivalent of 24,000 drums of nuclear waste from Hanford site to the New Mexico dump. The deal has further antagonized the relationship between the state and federal regulators.

“The federal government has an obligation to clean up the nuclear waste at Hanford,” Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “I will continue to press them to honor their commitments to protect Washingtonians’ public health and our natural resources.”

Other states are no less insistent. The Energy Department has agreed to move the equivalent of nearly 200,000 drums from Idaho National Laboratory by 2018.

“Our expectation is that they will continue to meet the settlement agreement,” said Susan Burke, an oversight coordinator at the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

The dump, officially known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, was designed to place waste from nuclear weapons production since World War II into ancient salt beds, which engineers say will collapse around the waste and permanently seal it. The equivalent of 277,000 drums of radioactive waste is headed to the dump, according to federal documents.

The dump was dug much like a conventional mine, with vertical shafts and a maze of horizontal drifts. It had operated problem-free for 15 years and was touted by the Energy Department as a major success until the explosion, which involved a drum of of plutonium and americium waste that had been packaged at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The problem was traced to material — actual kitty litter — used to blot up liquids in sealed drums. Lab officials had decided to substitute an organic material for a mineral one. But the new material caused a complex chemical reaction that blew the lid off a drum, sending mounds of white, radioactive foam into the air and contaminating 35% of the underground area.

“There is no question the Energy Department has downplayed the significance of the accident,” said Don Hancock, who monitors the dump for the watchdog group Southwest Research and Information Center.

Though the error at the Los Alamos lab caused the accident, a federal investigation found more than two dozen safety lapses at the dump. The dump’s filtration system was supposed to prevent any radioactive releases, but it malfunctioned.

Twenty-one workers on the surface received low doses of radiation that federal officials said were well within safety limits. No workers were in the mine when the drum blew.

Energy Department officials declined to be interviewed about the incident but agreed to respond to written questions. The dump is operated by Nuclear Waste Partnership, which is led by the Los Angeles-based engineering firm AECOM. The company declined to comment.

Federal officials have set an ambitious goal to reopen the site for at least limited waste processing by the end of this year, but full operations can not resume until a new ventilation system is completed in about 2021.

The direct cost of the cleanup is now $640 million, based on a contract modification made last month with Nuclear Waste Partnership that increased the cost from $1.3 billion to nearly $2 billion. The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as repairs continue. And it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system or any future costs of operating the mine longer than originally planned.

An Energy Department spokesperson declined to address the cost issue but acknowledged that the dump would either have to stay open longer or find a way to handle more waste each year to make up for the shutdown. She said the contract modification gave the government the option to cut short the agreement with Nuclear Waste Partnership.

It costs about $200 million a year to operate the dump, so keeping it open an additional seven years could cost $1.4 billion. A top scientific expert on the dump concurred with that assessment.

In addition, the federal government faces expenses — known as “hotel costs” — to temporarily store the waste before it is shipped to New Mexico, said Ellis Eberlein of Washington’s Department of Ecology.

The Hanford site stores the equivalent of 24,000 drums of waste that must be inspected every week. “You have to make sure nothing leaks,” he said.

The cleanup of the Three Mile Island plant took 12 years and was estimated to cost $1 billion by 1993, or $1.7 billion adjusted for inflation today. The estimate did not include the cost of replacing the power the shut-down plant was no longer generating.

Other radioactive contamination at nuclear weapons sites is costing tens of billions of dollars to clean up, but it is generally the result of deliberate practices such as dumping radioactive waste into the ground.

James Conca, a consultant who has advised the Energy Department on nuclear waste issues, described the accident as a comedy of errors and said that federal officials are being “overly cautious” about the cleanup. “It got contaminated, but a new exhaust shaft is kind of ridiculous,” he said.

For now, workers entering contaminated areas must wear protective gear, including respirators, the Energy Department spokesperson said. She noted that the size of the restricted area had been significantly reduced earlier this year.

Hancock suggested that the dump might never resume full operations.

“The facility was never designed to operate in a contaminated state,” he said. “It was supposed to open clean and stay clean, but now it will have to operate dirty. Nobody at the Energy Department wants to consider the potential that it isn’t fixable.”

Giving up on the New Mexico dump would have huge environmental, legal and political ramifications. This year the Energy Department decided to dilute 6 metric tons of surplus plutonium in South Carolina and send it to the dump, potentially setting a precedent for disposing of bomb-grade materials. The U.S. has agreements with Russia on mutual reductions of plutonium.

The decision means operations at the dump must resume, said Edwin Lyman, a physicist and nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“They have no choice,” he said. “No matter what it costs.”

ralph.vartabedian@latimes.com

Twitter: @RVartabedian

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

Montreal Declaration for a Nuclear-Fission-Free World

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Peace, Workplace exposure on August 14, 2016 at 8:15 am

Montreal Declaration for a Nuclear-Fission-Free World

As citizens of this planet inspired by the Second Thematic World Social Forum for a Nuclear-Fission‐Free World, conducted in Montreal from August 8 to August 12, 2016, we are collectively calling for a mobilization of civil society around the world to bring about the elimination of all nuclear weapons, to put an end to the continued mass‐production of all high‐level nuclear wastes by phasing out all nuclear reactors, and to bring to a halt all uranium mining worldwide.

This call goes out to fellow citizens of all countries worldwide who see the need,whether as an individual or as a member of an organization, for a nuclear-­fission‐free world. We are committed to building a global network of citizens of the world who will work together, using the internet and social media to overcome isolation, to provide mutual support and to coordinate the launching of joint actions for a world free of nuclear fission technology, whether civilian or military.

We will begin by creating communication channels to share information and educational tools on legal, technical, financial, medical, and security‐related matters linked to

military and non‐military nuclear activities. We will pool our resources across national boundaries in a spirit of cooperation, allowing us to contribute to the formulation of a convergent and unified response to counteract the plans of the nuclear establishment that operates on a global scale to multiply civil and military nuclear installations worldwide and to dump, bury and abandon nuclear wastes.

We recognize each nuclear weapon as an instrument of brutal and unsurpassed terror, designed to kill millions of innocent men, women and children at a single stroke. We realize that even a limited nuclear war can provoke sudden extreme climate change on a global scale, crippling agricultural production and threatening the survival of all higher forms of life. We are grimly aware that a nuclear‐armed world will surely destroy itself and set in motion a process that will undo four billion years of evolution. We are determined to help guide the world away from the brink of nuclear annihilation.

We recognize each nuclear reactor as a repository of the most pernicious industrial waste ever known; waste so radioactive that it spontaneously melts down if not continually cooled; waste that, when targeted by terrorists or saboteurs, or by conventional warfare, will render large portions of the earth uninhabitable for centuries; waste that contains material that can be used as a nuclear explosive at any time in the future, for thousands of years to come.

We recognize uranium as the key element behind all nuclear weapons and all nuclear reactors, and we endorse the call by the International Physicians for the Prevention of- Nuclear War and by the 2015 Quebec World Uranium Symposium for a total global ban on the mining and processing of uranium.

We will use our networks

‐to pressure governments everywhere to put an end to nuclear fission

‐to expose the dangers associated with the export and transport of nuclear materials and nuclear waste;

‐to puncture the myths used to prop up and justify our irrational nuclear addiction;

‐to tell the sobering stories of nuclear victims and nuclear refugees;

‐to emphasize our moral responsibilities not to burden future generations with a poisonous nuclear legacy;

‐to warn governments without nuclear facilities to realize the dangers and avoid becoming enmeshed in this technology;

‐to disseminate the findings of engineers, doctors, biologists, ecologists, physicists and concerned citizens having special knowledge and appreciation of nuclear dangers;

‐to promote and popularize the wide variety of renewable energy alternatives that are green and sustainable;

‐to launch lawsuits and to support whistle‐blowers to halt the most egregious examples of nuclear malfeasance;

‐to promote non‐violent conflict resolution, and

‐to denounce the illegal, immoral, and insane obsession with nuclear weapons arsenals.

We invite all people, groups and organizations involved in the effort for a world without nuclear fission and uranium mining, to commit themselves to this effort. We also ask them to endorse this declaration and to transmit it widely in their networks.

This declaration is partly inspired by the Tokyo Appeal issued by the First Thematic World Social Form for a Nuclear‐Free World held in Tokyo and Fukushima in March 2016.

To endorse the declaration send name and e‐mail address to ccnr@web.ca and to JGerson@afsc.org

http://www.PeaceAndPlanet.org

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.

Unique Hazards at Rocky Flats

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Plutonium, Public Health, Rocky Flats, Wildlife Refuge, Workplace exposure on June 5, 2015 at 8:04 am

Social ecology students, working with Professor John Whiteley at the University of Colorado in Irvine, have produced a web site with much information about Rocky Flats and the nuclear enterprise. See http://uniquehazardsrockyflats.weebly.com/

One of the worst nuclear spills ever

In Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Policy, Public Health, Race, Workplace exposure on November 12, 2014 at 11:24 pm

The following article from the NY Times describes what happened with a spill of nuclear material in Juarez, Mexico (across the river from El Paso). It’s the sort of accident that could happen anywhere, any time — and harm many people, like this one did.  This is a reprint of an article from 1984, when the spill occurred.

Nuclear Spill

at Juarez

 
By Sandra Blakeslee, NY Times,  May 1, 1984
 

FIVE months ago, a Mexican electrician forced open an unmarked capsule filled with 6,010 tiny, silvery pellets that looked like cake decorations. He paid little attention as they spilled into the bed of his pickup truck, onto the road and later throughout a junkyard in his hometown of Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso.

But at that moment the electrician unwittingly caused what is now being recognized as potentially the worst spill of radioactive material in North American history. Since then, more than 200 people have been exposed to radiation from the tiny pellets of cobalt 60 that had once been the core of a cancer-treatment device.

The full dimensions of the spill, which officials in the United States said has released radiation 100 times more intense than the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, are still unknown because the incident was so unusual. Unlike most nuclear accidents, in which one or two people are exposed to a brief burst of high radiation, this one involved scores of people exposed to low but significant levels of radiation intermittently over a long period of time.

Mexican officials say it is too soon to know if the people exposed to the radiation suffered any long-term health effects. But 10 people exposed in Juarez have undergone chromosome tests, and all showed damage, the authorities said.

”In terms of how many people were potentially exposed and the duration of their exposure, it could be the most serious radiation accident” in North America, said Karl Hubner, a leading radiation accident expert at the Oak Ridge Associated Universities in Tennessee.

Most of the cobalt 60 pellets were scooped up by a giant junkyard magnet, mixed in with other scrap metal and taken to two Mexican foundries, where they were melted into steel reinforcement rods and restaurant table legs. Thousands of tons of this ”hot” metal were then shipped throughout Mexico and the United States.

Meanwhile, hundreds of the pellets remained in the back of the electrician’s pickup truck, which sat parked for eight weeks in a busy neighborhood of Juarez. People walked by the truck every day, and neighborhood children played on it.

Mexican public health officials said that about 200 people were exposed, but that most are believed to have absorbed relatively low levels of radiation. The device involved in the Juarez accident was a Picker 3000 cancer therapy unit. Manufactured about 20 years ago, it contained small pellets of metallic cobalt, made radioactive in a nuclear reactor, that were placed in a stainless steel container. This capsule was sealed in a tungsten wheel the size of a tricycle tire, which was then placed behind thick lead shielding. Radiation emitted through a pinhole in the lead was used to treat patients with localized cancers. About 1,000 newer cancer-treatment machines using the same principle are in use today throughout the United States, Dr. H”ubner said.

In 1977 a Lubbock, Tex., hospital sold the unit to an X-ray equipment company in Fort Worth, which in turn sold it to a medical clinic, Centro Medico, in Juarez.

According to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the sale was legal even though the clinic in Mexico had no license to receive radioactive materials.

Once in Juarez, however, the machine sat in a warehouse. Doctors at the clinic said they were never able to hire the specialist required to operate the device.

Device Sold to Junkyard for Nine Dollars

Then, late last November, an electrician, Vicente Sotelo, said he was told to go to the warehouse to pick up some material and to take it to the Jonke Fenix junkyard in Juarez. He and a co-worker heaved the radioactive tungsten wheel, which had been removed from its enormous lead casing, into the back of a pickup truck. Mr. Sotelo later told the authorities he forced the unmarked capsule open on the back of his truck.

Doctors at the clinic say Mr. Sotelo was not authorized to take the wheel containing the capsule, which he sold to the junkyard for $9. No charges have been filed, and the Mexican authorities said they were still investigating the incident.

When the capsule was breached it held about 400 curies of radioactive cobalt in the 6,010 pellets. Each pellet, according to Joel Lubenau, a health physicist at the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, produced a radiation dose of 25 rads per hour two inches from the pellet. One to 50 rads per hour is considered a significant radiation dose. In comparison, the highest exposure a bystander could have received from the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island was 100 millirads, or about one-tenth of a rad.

A rad is a unit of absorbed radiation. An average chest X-ray produces 20 to 30 millirads instantaneously. A lethal dose for half the population is 450 rads received instantaneously over the whole body.

”If you sat next to a pellet over many hours, you might several days later develop a reddening of the skin,” Dr. Lubenau said. ”If a pellet became embedded in your shoe you could get localized high exposure to the body.”

Children Played on ‘Hot’ Truck

By Dec. 6, Mr. Sotelo had thrown the capsule off his truck into the salvage yard. The date is known because all paperwork from the junkyard dated Dec. 6 or later is radioactive.
 

About 60 curies of cobalt remained on the truck, which Mr. Sotelo drove home to his neighborhood in another part of the city. It stood parked for eight weeks, most of the time with a flat tire, near a row of back-street houses. Children played on and near the truck. People passed it every day, including Mr. Sotelo’s own family.

The truck was dangerously ”hot.” From one yard away, it emitted 50 rads an hour of radioactivity. ”It was a large source that can give whole body exposure,” Dr. Lubenau said. ”Most people at 100 rads or so will start demonstrating physical signs of radiation injury.” These include a decrease in white blood cells, which protect the body from infection, and blood platelets, as well as temporary damage to the body’s chromosomes.

Meanwhile, the capsule containing the remaining cobalt pellets – 340 curies worth – was contaminating the junkyard. It was dumped near an enormous magnet used to pick up and load scrap metal onto trucks, the metal to be recycled at Mexican foundries.

The capsule was made of nonferrous metal. Every time it was scooped up by the magnet, it eventually fell to the ground, spilling out cobalt pellets like salt from a shaker. The pellets were ferrous. The magnet picked them up and mixed them into the scrap leaving the junkyard. Some pellets were pulverized and thoroughly spread across the huge junkyard, and others are believed to have become imbedded in truck tires and spread along highways.

In this manner, 300 curies of radioactive cobalt made its way to two foundries. One in Juarez manufactured metal table legs and sent them to the largest distributor of restaurant tables in the United States. Another in Chihuahua produced about 5,000 tons of rebar, or steel rods used to reinforce concrete in building projects.

About 600 tons of the contaminated steel was shipped to the United States in December and January.

Spill Discovered by Accident

When a delivery truck took a wrong turn near the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico on Jan. 17, a radiation alarm was tripped. Thus, by accident, did the American and Mexican authorities learn of the contamination. It was quickly traced to the junkyard, which was closed Jan. 20. Mr. Sotelo’s truck was impounded Jan. 26.

American officials said they tracked down all the table legs and rebar in February and March and have returned the material to Mexico. While there were a few ”hot spots” of up to 600 millirads per hour, most of the metal produced very low levels of radiation and never posed a serious health threat to Americans who came in contact with the metal, they said.

But Mexican officials have had a much tougher job. About 40 curies of the cobalt pellets remained spread around the junkyard. It took two months to mop up there.

Pellets could have been dropped anywhere on the roads between Juarez and Chihuahua. Last month a special reconnaisance helicopter provided by the United States Department of Energy flew over the area and found 22 radioactive sites. Eight pellets were dug out of highway pavement.

Such material, along with the radioactive truck, is now in a special holding area near Juarez, waiting to be buried at a safe disposal site, said Roberto Trevino of Mexico’s National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Safeguards.

Thousands of tons of contaminated rebar, however, have spread into four or five Mexican states. Hundreds of new homes built with the rods may have to be torn down, he said.

Chromosome Damage Is Found

The accident has been costly to Mexico. But the greatest toll may be levied on the people who were most exposed to the radioactive cobalt.

The problem, Dr. Hubner said, is to figure how to identify the people who were exposed and what doses of radioactivity they encountered.

One standard method of assessing radiation exposure, which costs about $1,000 per person to conduct, involves looking for chromosome damage. It is controversial because it cannot predict long-term health consequences of radiation exposure.

White blood cells of 10 Juarez residents, four people from the neighborhood and six junkyard workers, were cultured in Dr. Hubner’s laboratory. As the cells were allowed to divide 500 times, the number of broken or aberrant chromosomes were counted. This number was then used to estimate the dose of radiation received.

It appears that several people were exposed to 150 or 200 rads, Dr. Hubner said, which is higher than the doses received by Marshall Islanders who encountered radioactive fallout from United States nuclear tests. Those with the highest exposures included two junkyard workers, one of Mr. Sotelo’s neighbors and the man who helped Mr. Sotelo load the cancer device off the truck. Mr. Sotelo apparently escaped serious contamination.

But ”broken chromosomes only tell us there was damage and nothing about its biological consequences,” Dr. Hubner said. ”It is not predictive in terms of genetic effects or future cancers.”

Meanwhile, the junkyard workers and families are being monitored by Mexican health officials. One man received a radiation burn on his hand, Mr. Trevino said, and others experienced blackened fingernails and reduced sperm counts. But blood counts appear to have returned to normal, he said, and no one seems to have suffered serious health complications.

‘It’s O.K. – We’re Still Alive’

Mr. Sotelo, who has three children, said that he has been dismissed from his job and cannot find another, and that his neighbors are worried and upset. But ”It’s O.K.,” he said. ”We’re still alive. Maybe the doctors exaggerated the danger.”

Concern over the implications of the incident continues. American officials, worried that more contaminated rebar might make its way into the United States, have asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to place scores of radiation detectors at all major border crossings.

The commission is taking a new look at export regulations, according to Richard Cunningham of the agency’s division of materials licensing and policy issues. ”There is no requirement now that we have to know if a person who receives a radioactive material from this country is authorized by their own country to possess it,” he said. ”We sell thousands of radioactive sources to other nations every year.”

Mexican and United States officials are meeting today in El Paso to discuss ways to help one another finish cleaning up the Juarez accident, to monitor the health of people exposed to radiation and how to prevent future accidents.

”There is a growing international trade in nuclear materials used for medicine, research and industrial purposes,” Dr. H”ubner said. ”Although this type of accident is rare, it could happen again anywhere to anyone.”

Rocky Flats Books, Articles & Films

In Art, Democracy, Environment, Jefferson Parkway, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Plutonium, Poetry, Public Health, Rocky Flats, Wildlife Refuge, Workplace exposure on October 21, 2014 at 6:35 am

Non-fiction books on Rocky Flats

Len Ackland, Making a Real Killing: Rocky Flats and the Nuclear West (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999). This well-documented history of the Rocky Flats plant during production years and the beginning of cleanup activities was written by the former editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who recently retired from teaching journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Robert Adams, Our Lives and Our Children: Photographs Taken Near the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant (Millerton, NY: Aperture, a Division of Silver Mountain Foundation, 1983). This volume consists of images from daily life of people who lived near Rocky Flats at the height of the production years; in a brief concluding essay the photographer says each of the many individuals depicted “refutes the idea of acceptable losses.”

Patricia Buffer, Rocky Flats History (DOE Rocky Flats Field Office, July 2003). This invaluable reference work provides a timeline of more than 50 years of Rocky Flats history, written from an inside-the-plant perspective. PDF version is available on line.

Kim S. Cameron and Marc Lavine, Making the Impossible Possible: Leading Extraordinary Performance: The Rocky Flats Story (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006). A business management specialist who teaches at the University of Michigan and a graduate student from Boston College celebrate the “abundance approach,” which, according to them, was successfully employed by Kaiser-Hill in the cleanup of Rocky Flats.

Joseph Daniel (photographs) and Keith Pope (text), Year of Disobedience (Boulder, CO: Daniel Productions, 1979), with preface by Daniel Ellsberg and poetry by Allen Ginsberg. This book is a photo-documentary on the 1978-79 demonstrations and civil disobedience blockade of the railroad tracks leading in to the Rocky Flats Plant.

Joseph Daniel, A Year of Disobedience and a Criticality of Conscience (Boulder: Story Arts Media, 2013), is an updated 35th-anniversary edition of Year of Disobedience, the 1979 photo-documentary on the 1978-79 demonstrations and civil disobedience blockade of the railroad tracks leading in to the Rocky Flats plant. This edition includes all of the original photographs by Daniel (enlarged, with some new ones) and the earlier text and trial transcriptions by Daniel Ellsberg and Keith Pope and poetry by Allen Ginsberg. New in this edition is “Local Hazard, Global Threat,” a historical update and reflection by LeRoy Moore; an Afterword in which Daniel Ellsberg explores the current worldwide nuclear weapons threat, the role of patriotic whistleblowers, and the conflict between national security and government surveillance; and August Freirich’s Activist Appendix, his recent interviews with some who participated in the 1978-79 occupation of the railroad tracks at Rocky Flats.

Allen Ginsberg (editor), Clean Energy Verse: Poetry from the Tracks at Rocky Flats (Woodstock, NY: Safe Earth Press, 1979). Illustrated with photos by Robert Godfrey, this booklet, produced to support the Rocky Flats Truth Force, contains poems by Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman and others.

Jennifer Haines, Bread and Water: A Spiritual Journey (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997). A devout Christian pacifist provides an intensely personal account of how she fulfilled her mission of bearing witness at Rocky Flats by means of daily vigils at the facility’s west gate and repeated acts of civil disobedience trespass for which she spent extended periods in federal penitentiaries.

Farrel Hobbs, Rocky Flats Facts: An Insider’s View Of Rocky Flats: Urban Myths Debunked (2010). This book’s author worked at Rocky Flats from 1969 until plant closure in 2005, except for an interlude of about seven years. He held a variety of positions at the plant but says he made his largest contribution in environmental management. He told me he was head of environmental management for Rockwell when the FBI raided the plant to collect evidence of alleged environmental law-breaking – but in fact he never held this high-ranking post, instead worked for an engineering firm that had a sub-contract at the plant. His several chapters on the raid, the grand jury, the out-of-court settlement and the absence in his view of any real criminality directly counters claims made in The Ambushed Grand Jury, by Wes McKinley and Caron Balkany, another book described in this list. While his narrative is even-tempered, he criticizes a wide range of parties, from outsiders who overstate plutonium’s danger to the media, the union of hourly plant workers, the DOE, Dow Chemical and EG&G. He praises Rockwell for paying fines in the out-of-court settlement for crimes it did not commit. The book is available both on line and in hard copy.

Kristen Iversen, Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats (NY: Crown Publishers, 2012). Iversen entwines tales of growing up in what her family regarded as a suburban paradise with her own gradually dawning awareness of what it means that they lived immediately downwind of the Rocky Flats nuclear bomb plant. Her superbly written narrative includes stories of both workers inside the facility and people in her neighborhood who wonder if their cancers and other ailments are due to contaminants released from the plant. The government which holds the trump card in secrecy as well as in defining “permissible exposure,” says this is only conjecture. Iversen shows why the questions won’t go away. Among books written to provide a convincing account of life in the nuclear era from the perspective of affected people, Full Body Burden sets a very high standard for thoroughness of investigation, clarity of explanation and humane understanding.

Kaiser-Hill Co., LLC, Rocky Flats: A proud legacy, a new beginning: The story of the world’s largest and most complex environmental cleanup project (2005). This booklet, produced by the company that did the Rocky Flats cleanup, tells their story from their point of view.

John J. Kennedy, Jr., “Annihilation Beckons: A Brief History of Colorado’s Nuclear Bomb-Trigger Factory,” Colorado Heritage (Spring 1994). This special issue of the official journal of the Colorado Historical Society is devoted primarily to Kennedy’s informative, very well illustrated article on the history of the Rocky Flats Plant. Attention is paid both to the work done at the plant and to the activities of those who resisted what was done there.

Shiloh R. Krupar, “Transnatural ethics: revisiting the nuclear cleanup of Rocky Flats, CO, through the queer ecology of Nuclia Waste,” Cultural Geographies, May 24, 2012. Krupar, a Georgetown University geographer, critiques the ethic that guided the Rocky Flats cleanup for “eliminating uncertainty” and assuming that nature is “static and separate from the human” and that nuclear waste left behind will stay put so that the resultant wildlife refuge can be viewed as pristine rather than as a contaminated zone. Since we no longer experience “pure nature” we must adopt a “transnatural ethic” that “directs attention toward the impurifications already in existence” and grounds responsibility in awareness of a broader human/nature kinship. She cites the antics of Denver drag queen Nuclia Waste as an example of the cognitive transformation required. Online: http://egj.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/05/24/147447011433756.abstract?patientinform-links=yes&legid=spcgi:147447011433756v1.

Shiloh R. Krupar, Hot Spotter’s Report: Military Fables of Toxic Waste (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013). In this erudite volume Georgetown University geography professor Krupar explores three examples of the U.S. permanent war economy: the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (nerve gas), Rocky Flats (plutonium pits) and the compensation program for ailing nuclear weapons workers. The chapter on Rocky Flats looks at the post-Cold War period when production ceased and what she calls “green war” (militarized green-washing) prevailed, accompanied by denial of the site’s contamination amidst its transition into the “romanticized” nature of the wildlife refuge which humans, especially children, are expected to enjoy as if it poses no danger. Her writing combines biting satire (including an account of the antics of Denver drag queen Nuclia Waste) with densely documented academic analysis. Hot spotting cultivates an ethic of seeing the unseen radiation effects in slow violence and death and rejects the myth of a pure nature reserve.

Clayton Lagerquist, The Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant I Remember: Its Rise and Fall (Morrisville, NC: Lulu.comm 2009). The author of this highly opinionated book was a health physicist at Rocky Flats from 1963 till 1988. Alongside his descriptions of individuals and the radiation detection world at the plant, he levels harsh criticisms at elected officials, the plant union, the media, the Federal Government (for supervising all activities at Rocky Flats, then suing Rockwell International for environmental misconduct), and, not least, “the anti-Rocky Flats movement that ultimately caused its closure” and who were “nothing but terrorists without guns.” “Safety of the employees,” he says, “was never a problem at Rocky Flats.” These are clearly not the words of an exposed production worker. When a colleague urged him “to reduce radiation exposure by a certain percent each quarter,” his reply was that he couldn’t because “any reduction would have to be accompanied by a reduction in production.”

Lamm-Wirth Task Force, Final Report (Denver: The Task Force, 1975). Convened by newly elected Governor Dick Lamm and Representative Tim Wirth, the Lamm-Wirth Task Force concluded that Rocky Flats should never have been located in a major metropolitan area and that it should be closed and its work moved to another location.

Brian Lipsett, “Rocky Flats: A Plea Bargain in Public View,” in Mary Clifford (editor), Environmental Crime: Enforcement, Policy, and Social Responsibility (Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, 1998), pp. 397-412. Lipsett focuses on issues raised by the out-of-court settlement of the federal case against Rockwell precipitated by the FBI raid on Rocky Flats in 1989. The special grand jury convened to review evidence in the case wanted to indict several Rockwell and DOE officials. Lipsett shows that the Department of Justice settled the case without indicting these individuals because their illegal behavior was part of a “DOE culture” of law-breaking. The DOJ settlement allowed these individuals to act above the law. Lipsett praises the grand jury for daring to go public with their rejection of the settlement.

Local Hazard, Global Threat: Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant (Denver: Rocky Flats Action Group, 1977). This 20-page handbook, the first such guide published by activists, contained most of what was publicly known about Rocky Flats at the time of publication.

Wes McKinley and Caron Balkany, The Ambushed Grand Jury: How the Justice Department Covered Up Government Nuclear Crimes and How We Caught Them Red Handed (N.Y.: Apex Press, 2004). The foreman of the grand jury convened after the 1989 FBI raid of Rocky Flats to investigate environmental wrongdoing at the facility and attorney Balkany reconstruct the tale of high-level deceit and denial at Rocky Flats.

LeRoy Moore et al., Citizen’s Guide to Rocky Flats: Colorado’s Nuclear Bomb Factory (Boulder: Rocky Mountain Peace Center, 1992). A comprehensive account of what was publicly known about Rocky Flats at the time of publication, this work became an essential handbook for many people dealing with the Rocky Flats issue.

LeRoy Moore, “Democracy and Public Health at Rocky Flats: The Examples of Edward Martell and Carl J. Johnson,” in Diane Quigley, Amy Lowman and Steve Wing (editors), Tortured Science: Health Studies, Ethics, and Nuclear Weapons in the United States (Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Company, Inc., 2012), pp. 60-97. More than any other scientists in the Denver area, Edward Martell, a radiochemist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Carl Johnson, then Director of the Jefferson County Health Department, alerted the public to dangers posed by releases of plutonium from the Rocky Flats plant. This article assesses their work and shows that for their contribution to public awareness they were made to paid dearly. Available on line at http://www.rockyflatsnuclearguardianship.org/leroy-moores-blog/papers-by-leroy-moore-phd-2/democracy-and-public-health-at-rocky-flats-11-6-12/

Theresa Satterfield and Joshua Levin, “From Cold War Complex to Nature Preserve: Diagnosing the Breakdown of a Multi-Stakeholder Decision Process and Its Consequences for Rocky Flats,” in Barbara Rose Johnson (editor), Half-lives & Half-Truths: Confronting the Radioactive Legacies of the Cold War (Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press, 2007), pp. 165-191. The authors are social scientists who spent several months closely observing public participation related to the cleanup at Rocky Flats. They praise the process for producing well-informed stakeholders at Rocky Flats, but say it ultimately failed because the evident intent of DOE and the regulators was less to involve the public in decision-making than to convince them that already made decisions were in their best interest.

Summary of Findings: Historical Public Exposure Studies on Rocky Flats (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, August 1999). This work summarizes the findings of the nine year dose reconstruction study for the Rocky Flats plant. The study estimated the quantities of radioactive and toxic substances released from the Rocky Flats plant to the off-site environment during the production years of 1952 to 1989, on the basis of which it also estimated increased cancer risk to residents living or working in surrounding areas during the period of the plant’s operation.The study concluded that the government need not do any further health study. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment administered the study. Oversight was provided by a 12-member Health Advisory Panel appointed in 1999 by former Governor Roy Romer.

Anne Waldman, “Rocky Flats: Warring God’s Charnel Ground,” in Waldman and Andres Schelling (editors), Disembodied Poetics: Annals of the Jack Kerouac School (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994). Poet Anne Waldman’s essay on Rocky Flats, like most of the contents of this volume, was presented as part of the 1993 summer writing program at Naropa Institute (now University) in Boulder. She also makes brief reference to Rocky Flats in a long interview with her conducted by Randy Roark, also included in this book. Director of the Poetics and Writing Program at Naropa, Waldman wrote poetry expressing her opposition to what was done at Rocky Flats when she sat on the railway tracks there in 1978.

Eric Wright and Judy Danielson, Songs to Convert Rocky Flats (Denver: Rocky Flats Action Group, 1979). This small booklet ofsongs was widely used for years by Rocky Flats activists.

Non-fiction works in which Rocky Flats receives significant attention

Len Ackland, “Open Wounds from a Tough Nuclear History: Forgetting How We Made Ourselves an Endangered Species,” in Remedies for the New West: Healing Landscapes, Histories, and Cultures, edited by Patricia Nelson Limerick, Andrew Cowell and Sharon K. Collings (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2009). In this article, Ackland, retired professor of journalism at the University of Colorado and author of Making a Real Killing: Rocky Flats and the Nuclear West, looks at the task of remembering our nuclear history being taken on by museums in various places, He cites the bad example of the Smithsonian being prevented from telling the full story of the Hiroshima bombing on the event’s 50th anniversary in 2005. Closer to home, he says the DOE “is discouraging the public from remembering and considering the broad historical legacies of Rocky Flats,” preferring instead a one-dimensional “Cold War Hero” narrative, as if there had been no global threat, no contamination, no ill workers. He advocates a shared storyline of “unacceptable risk.”

David Albright, Frans Berkhout, and William Walker, Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 1996: World Inventories, Capabilities and Policies (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1997). This volume, a project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), provides details on the inventories of weapons-grade nuclear materials on hand or “unaccounted for” at Rocky Flats in 1996.

Tad Bartimus and Scott McCartney, Trinity’s Children: Living along America’s Nuclear Highway (NY: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1991). The authors interviewed dozens of people who live near or work at sites involved with the nuclear enterprise along the broad swath of Interstate 25 from the Trinity bomb site in southern New Mexico to the missile silos near Cheyenne, Wyoming. Included along the way is Rocky Flats.

Thomas Bullock’s Diary of a Cold War Patriot (Smashwords, Inc., 2011) narrates the career of a retired nuclear engineer. He reports on three activities in which he was involved at Rocky Flats while employed by Parsons Corp., an engineering firm located in Pasadena, CA. The first was development of “more stringent fire protections systems” after the 1969 fire at the plant. The second was the effort to correct design problems that plagued Bldg. 371, which he calls “a $250 million white elephant” (that’s 1980 dollars). Intended as “a state-of-the-art” replacement for the outmoded and quite dangerous Bldg. 771 plutonium processing facility, Bldg. 371 became contaminated throughout soon after startup. Bullock was brought in from the outside to lead a $60 million ultimately unsuccessful effort to get the building back into operation. Thus the newest, most robust, most expensive building in Rocky Flats history was never used for the work for which it was created. The third Rocky Flats activity mentioned by Bullock was the little-known highly secret “black budget” project to develop depleted uranium armor plating for U.S. Army tanks. Initially deployed in West Germany during the 1980s, tanks with this DU armor became notable for their use in the 1991 and 2002 U.S. wars in Iraq. On line at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/74199

Thomas C. Cochran, William M. Arkin, Robert S. Norris, and Milton M. Hoenig, Nuclear Weapons Databook, Vol. II: U.S. Nuclear Warhead Production (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing Co., 1987). The multi-volume Nuclear Weapons Databook series, produced as a project of the Natural Resources Defense Council, is the most comprehensive description of all aspects of the nuclear weapons enterprise in the U.S., the former Soviet Union, France, Britain, and China, at the time the only declared nuclear weapons states. Rocky Flats is covered in the volume mentioned here.

Robert Del Tredici, At Work in the Fields of the Bomb (NY: Harper & Row, 1987). This book documents the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise with photographs and interviews with key people. It includes a photograph of Rocky Flats as well as an interview with Kay Gable, widow of Don Gable, a Rocky Flats worker who at age 30 died of brain cancer due to on-the-job exposure to plutonium, according to a court decision. The interview explains how after his death his brain disappeared as did all records regarding his workplace conditions.

Jack Doyle, Dow Chemical and the Toxic Century (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2004). This study of Dow Chemical as a major polluter includes a chapter on Rocky Flats.

Allen Ginsberg, Plutonian Ode and Other Poems, 1977-1980 (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1982). “Plutonian Ode,” the poem that gives this book its name, comes from the time when Ginsberg sat on the railway tracks leading in to the Rocky Flats Plant in 1978. Among other poems in this small book are several short verses written as part of his experience of civil disobedience, arrest and trial related to Rocky Flats.

Sam Kashner’s When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School (NY: Harper Collins, 2005) narrates his experience as the first student of Allen Ginsberg and others at the Jack Karouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa College in Boulder. In one brief chapter he tells of going to Rocky Flats in 1978 when Ginsberg, Daniel Ellsberg and others were arrested for civil disobedience on the tracks leading in to the plant. Hopefully the bulk of Kashner’s narrative is more accurate than his report that someone occupying the tracks at Rocky Flats lost his legs when a train ran over him. Nothing like this ever happened at Rocky Flats. Kashner may be misremembering what happened with Brian Wilson, who in 1987 lost his legs blockading a train at a US Navy base in Concord, California, from which arms were being sent to Central America.

Judith A. Layzer, The Environmental Case: Translating Values into Policy (2nd edition, Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2002). CQ Press, a subsidiary of SAGE Publications, specializes in publishing analyses of actions and policies of the federal government. Chapter 4 of this book, “Government Secrets at Rocky Flats,” explores the government’s role in polluting the environment around Rocky Flats. The author demonstrates that scientific experts rarely can resolve environmental policy controversies: they may in fact make them worse.

Arjun Makhijani, Howard Hu, and Katherine Yih (editors), Nuclear Wastelands: A Global Guide to Nuclear Weapons Production and Its Health and Environmental Effects (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1995). Produced by a special commission of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, this volume is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons production globally.

Peter Metzger, The Atomic Establishment (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1972). The author, a former Rocky Mountain News journalist, brings together a great mass of little known detail about the whole nuclear enterprise in the USA in the quarter century following the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1946. In looking at problems like nuclear waste, contamination, and penalties for whistle blowers, Rocky Flats is one of his topics.

Charles Piller, The Fail-Safe Society: Community Defiance and the End of American Technological Optimism (NY: Basic Books 1991). An assessment of opposition by community groups to scientific and technological enterprises that present hazards to the communities where they are located, this book includes a chapter on Rocky Flats.

Max S. Power, America’s Nuclear Wastelands: Politics, Accountability, and Cleanup (Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 2008). From 1988 to 2004 Power was the Senior Policy Advisor to the Nuclear Waste Program in Washington State. This very informative book is a helpful guide to laws and regulations that apply to nuclear waste and cleanup of nuclear sites. The author draws on his extensive experience with these issues at Hanford to look at other DOE sites, including Rocky Flats. He regards the cleanup of Rocky Flats as a success due to DOE’s openness and the decision to turn most of the site into a wildlife refuge. Some involved in oversight of the cleanup would disagree. A positive feature at Rocky Flats, he says, is having damned holding ponds that prevent potentially contaminated water from being released off the site. But DOE has decided to breath all of these dams by 2020. Power seems prescient when he questions the viability of long-term stewardship at sites that have been cleaned up because there’s no guarantee that funding will continue. Might the breaching of the dams at Rocky Flats be a first step in the elimination of stewardship funding at this site?

Robert Rapoport, The Great American Bomb Machine (NY: Ballantine, 1971). This book looks at the whole US nuclear weapons complex as it existed at the time of publication. Chapter 3 deals with Rocky Flats.

Stephen I. Schwartz (editor), Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons since 1940 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1998). This thoroughly documented and well-indexed volume is the most comprehensive study of the costs of the US nuclear weapons enterprise yet done.

Bryan C. Taylor, “Radioactive History: Rhetoric, Memory and Place in the Post-Cold War Nuclear Museum,” in Places of Public Memory: The Rhetoric of Museums and Memorials, edited by Greg Dickinson, Carole Blair and Brian L. Ott (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010), pp. 57-86. In this demanding and dense article Taylor, who teaches at the University of Colorado and was formerly on the board of the Rocky Flats Cold War Museum, assesses the difficulty of creating viable nuclear museums, given the “entangled discourses of nuclear history, memory and heritage.” Most nuclear museums present “the dominant narrative of Cold War patriots” who celebrate the nuclear weapons enterprise rather than the “less-popular but also persistent” antinuclear narrative. In the post-Cold War era, however, three parallel trends appear: “new stakeholder identities, the ongoing struggle for control of the nuclear-historical narrative, and the growth of a nuclear heritage apparatus. How those responsible for museums handle these themes will determine whether museums serve a more inclusive vision.

Bryan C. Taylor, William J. Kinsella, Stephen P. Depoe and Maribeth S. Metzler (editors), Nuclear Legacies: Communication, Controversy, and the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007). This book includes a brief discussion of the origins of the Rocky Flats Cold War Museum, including controversy over whether the federal government should fund the museum and others like it at other sites within the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. The volume’s lead editor, Professor Bryan Taylor of the University of Colorado, was formerly chair of the Board of Directors of the Rocky Flats Cold War Museum.

Anne Waldman, Vow to Poetry: Essays, Interviews & Manifestos (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2001). This collection of writings of poet Anne Waldman, director of the summer writing program at Naropa University in Boulder, CO, contains numerous well indexed references to Rocky Flats and plutonium. Waldman’s references to Rocky Flats show that over the years since the 1970s she has been both a person of words (in poetry and in testimony at public hearings) and a person of action (most notably her civil disobedience on the tracks at Rocky Flats in 1978). Her “Warring God Charnel Ground: Rocky Flats Chronicles” consists of a series of brief essays from different periods.

Harvey Wasserman and Norman Solomon, with Robert Alvarez and Eleanor Walters, Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experiment with Atomic Radiation (N.Y.: Delacorte, 1982). A critique of all aspects of the US nuclear enterprise, this book focuses on public health, environmental contamination, and workplace exposure. The authors devote a full chapter to Rocky Flats.

Paul Wehr, Conflict Regulation (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1979), This book by Paul Wehr, Emeritus Professor of Siocology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, examines nonviolent ways of regulating or containing conflict. One chapter is devoted to nonviolent direct action at Rocky Flats, with primary focus on the 1978-79 occupaton of the railroad tracks leading in to the Rocky Flats plant by the group that took the name, Rocky Flats Truth Force.

Jon Weiner, How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey across America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012). Professor of history at the University of California at Irvine, the author discusses U.S. museums and memoriasl that commemorate aspects of the Cold War. A brief chapter entitled “Rocky Flats: Uncovering the Secrets” is devoted to the Rocky Flats Cold War Museum. Unfortunately, it contains a few minor errors of fact. The museum story is “an inspiring one,” says Weiner. “Instead of an omniscient voice of authority instructing visitors about the one true history of this place, the museum will present a variety of voices. It’s almost like democracy at work.”

Fiction on Rocky Flats

Mario Acevedo, Nymphos of Rocky Flats: A novel (NY: Rayo, 2006). This debut comedy novel features an ex-soldier turned into a vampire while serving in Iraq who came to Rocky Flats at the invitation of a friend from DOE to look into an outbreak of nymphomania among female guards.

Ron Olson, Half Life (Wellington, CO: Bannack Publishing Co., 1984). This work of fiction is about Rocky Flats Its author, a deceased former Rocky Flats employee, says his purpose is “solely to provide an item of thoughtful entertainment.”

Films on Rocky Flats

Dark Circle (1983). Feature-length film produced by Judy Irving, Chris Beaver, and Ruth Landy. This documentary, premiered in Denver, focuses primarily on Rocky Flats, secondarily on the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant then under construction in California.

Secrets of a Bomb Factory (1993). Produced for Frontline by Oregon Public Broadcasting; WGBH Educational Foundation: 1993; produced and directed by Michael McLeod (Alexandria, Va.: PBS Video, 1993). This 55-minute documentary focuses on the grand jury investigation that followed the 1989 FBI raid on Rocky Flats.

(List compiled by LeRoy Moore, updated 11-26-14)

Brief Film on Disabled Rocky Flats Workers

In Human rights, Plutonium, Rocky Flats, Workplace exposure on April 7, 2014 at 4:56 am

Arin Billings worked with us for several months before returning to North Carolina. When she left here she was working on a film about Rocky Flats workers made ill from workplace exposure to toxins. Her excellent 3 minute film is available on line.

Video on ailing former Rocky Flats workers

In Art, Environment, Human rights, Nuclear Guardianship, Plutonium, Rocky Flats, Workplace exposure on March 19, 2014 at 2:17 am

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/