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Radioactive materials spreading from St. Louis landfill – report

RT | December 31, 2015

Dangerous radioactive materials from a nuclear waste dump near St. Louis, Missouri have spread to neighboring areas, a new study shows. Storm water runoff from the site has also raised concerns and is being tested for radioactive pollution.

According to a peer-reviewed study just published in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, there is “strong evidence” that radon gas and water emanating from the West Lake Landfill are responsible for the anomalous levels of a lead isotope (210Pb), created by radioactive decay, in the surrounding area.

Just northwest of the St. Louis International Airport, the West Lake Landfill is a repository of nuclear waste from the Manhattan Project, the WW2 effort to create the atomic bomb. The area was declared an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site in 1990, but the federal government is still deciding how to clean up the waste.

After analyzing nearly 300 soil samples from a 200-square-kilometer zone surrounding West Lake, the report’s authors concluded that “offsite migration of radiological contaminants from Manhattan Project-era uranium processing wastes has occurred in this populated area.”

“The stuff we’re talking about at West Lake is hotter than what you would find in a typical uranium mill tailings operation,” said Bob Alvarez, one of the authors, in an interview on Tuesday.

The study compared the levels of Lead-210 from 287 sample sites in the area to the baseline established by the US Department of Energy at the Fernald, Ohio uranium plant, which handled and stored the same concentrated nuclear waste from the Manhattan Project.

In 48 percent of the samples, concentrations of the isotope were “above the risk-based soil cleanup limits for residential farming,” according to the study.

Moreover, the levels of Lead-210 were not in equilibrium with other isotopes in the radioactive decay series, suggesting that its origin was in the “short-lived, fugitive radon gas that escaped the landfill,” the study says.

A 2013 report found that West Lake had the largest estimated amount of Thorium-230, “a long-lived, highly radiotoxic element,” more than any other nuclear weapons storage or disposal site in the US.

Pollution from the landfill has already been blamed for a sharp increase in the number of cancer cases in the surrounding areas. There are concerns that storm runoff from the toxic waste dump may be carrying radioactive materials into the Missouri river, upstream from the municipal intake for the area’s drinking water supply.

Another cause for alarm is the underground fire burning for several years at the nearby Bridgeton Landfill, just 1000 feet apart. Depending on the extent of the runoff from West Lake, radioactive materials may have already been released by the fire, though EPA and the landfill management have denied the possibility.

In October, local authorities made public an emergency plan drafted in 2014 in case the “sub-surface smoldering event” at Bridgeton reached the West Lake landfill.  County Executive Steve Stenger assured the public that the plan was “not an indication of any imminent danger” and that the procedures in the document were merely a precaution.

December 31, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Sad Nuclear Anniversary

By Brian CLOUGHLEY | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 6, 2015

On 1 September 1939 – the date of the beginning of the Second World War – the President of the United States of America, Franklin D. Roosevelt, wrote to «the Governments of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and His Britannic Majesty» saying that «The ruthless bombing from the air of civilians in unfortified centres of population during the course of the hostilities which have raged in various quarters of the earth during the past few years, which has resulted in the maiming and in the death of thousands of defenceless men, women, and children, has sickened the hearts of every civilized man and woman, and has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity».

He was rightly appalled about the aerial slaughter of civilians and desired each country to which he addressed his appeal «to affirm its determination that its armed forces shall in no event, and under no circumstances, undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations or of unfortified cities, upon the understanding that these same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all of their opponents».

We are now marking the seventieth anniversary of the explosion of the atomic bombs that destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki three days later, killing a total of over 100,000 «defenceless men, women, and children,» prompting the nuclear scientist Robert Oppenheimer to quote from the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu religious and philosophical text, that «Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds».

Development of the atomic bomb began in 1939 but went into high gear as the Manhattan Project three years later. What is intriguing is that President Roosevelt approved the programme on 9 October 1941, a full two months before the Japanese attacked America at Pearl Harbor killing 2,403 people — including civilians. The subsequent declaration of war by the US resulted in concentration on means of war-winning by any means, and resulted in development of the ultimate weapon.

Even before the atomic explosions it was apparent that the major nations involved in the Second World War had no qualms about inflicting devastation. The British considered that their «aim is, therefore, twofold: namely, to produce (i) destruction, and (ii) the fear of death» and to that end mercilessly bombed German cities. The rationale was that it was the Germans who started it and who in 1940-41 subjected London to a non-stop 60 days and nights of aerial bombardment that killed 30,000 people.

In a macabre game of explosive ping-pong the countries at war sought more and deadlier ways to wreak havoc on their opponents, and it would have been difficult to have found a citizen of any of these countries who would have failed to agree with the actions of their government. It was thus that Project Manhattan received its massive impetus, and in an amazing display of technical prowess and organisational proficiency its scientists designed and produced the Atom Bomb.

It was astonishing that President Roosevelt had not told his Vice-President, Harry Truman, one single thing about the bomb project which some well-informed people believed was a potentially catastrophic venture. The first bomb was tested on 16 July 1945 at Alamogordo in New Mexico and caused concern among the scientists who had been involved in its development, 70 of whom sent a letter to President Roosevelt pointing out that use of the atomic bomb would likely presage «an era of devastation on an unimaginable scale» and that «a nation which sets the precedent of using these newly liberated forces of nature for purposes of destruction may have to bear the responsibility of opening the door to an era of devastation on an unimaginable scale».

Hiroshima-truman_2292872bTheir letter wasn’t allowed to reach the President. He never knew of its existence, but in any event was convinced that the A-bomb was essential and had written to Oppenheimer, who had grave doubts about the military’s attitude to nuclear developments, that «whatever the enemy may be planning, American science will be equal to the challenge». The Bomb was going to be used, no matter the consequences, although the president who gave the order to drop the bombs in August 1945 was Harry Truman, who learned of the project’s existence on 13 April 1945, the day after Roosevelt died.

As recorded by Eric Schlosser in his edifying book Command and Control, there had been air attacks on Japan of staggering intensity in the months before the atom bombs were employed. On the night of 9 March 1945, for example, «American planes struck Tokyo with 2,000 tons of bombs containing napalm and jellied gasoline… Within hours the firestorm consumed one quarter of the city. It killed about 100,000 civilians… «Worse was yet to come because Truman icily warned that the Japanese «may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth».

There were not many large concentrations of Japanese that had not been subjected to firebombing, and choosing the ultimate victims was not easy. Kyoto was removed from the list of four targets because the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, pointed out that it was a major cultural centre of great importance to Japanese art and history — and Nagasaki was chosen instead. By such decisions are the fates of human beings decided. Countless thousands of Kyoto citizens were spared, but 39,000 in Nagasaki were condemned to death.

First came Hiroshima, where on 6 August «a firestorm engulfed the city» and 66,000 people were killed. Next on the target list was Kokura, and in yet another horrible twist of fate the city was covered in smoke and haze and the plane was diverted to Nagasaki where the second bomb, hideously named Fat Man, was dropped on 9 August.

The war against Japan then ended, but it should be remembered that between the destruction of the two cities there was a Charter was being approved, on 8 August in the German city of Nuremburg, signed by the victorious allies, that included guidelines for the forthcoming trial of German war criminals by the International Military Tribunal. In an alarming example of double standards, the judges were informed that «The following acts, or any of them, are crimes coming within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal for which there shall be individual responsibility… (b) War Crimes: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include… wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages». It did not include the words of President Roosevelt, that it was sickening to «undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations or of unfortified cities,» but made it clear that such attacks were against the laws of war.

The Nuremburg Charter guided the conviction of German war criminals, and it is hideous coincidence that it was signed at the very time when «Death, the destroyer of worlds» was thundering down on Japan in what Truman called «a rain of ruin from the air».

Which goes to show that justice is reserved for those who win wars.

Really, Sad Nuclear Anniversary.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

August 6, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why We Should Fear the Worst from Fukushima

By Harvey Wasserman | CounterPunch | February 3, 2014

Fukushima’s missing melted cores and radioactive gushers continue to fester in secret.

Japan’s harsh dictatorial censorship has been matched by a global corporate media blackout aimed—successfully—at keeping Fukushima out of the public eye.

But that doesn’t keep the actual radiation out of our ecosystem, our markets … or our bodies.

Speculation on the ultimate impact ranges from the utterly harmless to the intensely apocalyptic.

But the basic reality is simple: for seven decades, government Bomb factories and privately-owned reactors have spewed massive quantities of unmonitored radiation into the biosphere.

The impacts of these emissions on human and ecological health are unknown primarily because the nuclear industry has resolutely refused to study them.

Indeed, the official presumption has always been that showing proof of damage from nuclear Bomb tests and commercial reactors falls to the victims, not the perpetrators.

And that in any case, the industry will be held virtually harmless.

This “see no evil, pay no damages” mindset dates from the Bombing of Hiroshima to Fukushima to the disaster coming next … which could be happening as you read this.

Here are 50 preliminary reasons why this radioactive legacy demands we prepare for the worst for our oceans, our planet, our economy … ourselves.

1. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945), the U.S. military initially denied that there was any radioactive fallout, or that it could do any damage. Despite an absence of meaningful data, the victims (including a group of U.S. prisoners of war) and their supporters were officially “discredited” and scorned.

2. Likewise, when Nobel-winners Linus Pauling and Andre Sakharov correctly warned of a massive global death toll from atmospheric Bomb testing, they were dismissed with official contempt … until they won in the court of public opinion.

3. During and after the Bomb Tests (1946-63), downwinders in the South Pacific and American west, along with thousands of U.S. “atomic vets,” were told their radiation-induced health problems were imaginary … until they proved utterly irrefutable.

4. When British Dr. Alice Stewart proved (1956) that even tiny x-ray doses to pregnant mothers could double childhood leukemia rates, she was assaulted with 30 years of heavily funded abuse from the nuclear and medical establishments.

5. But Stewart’s findings proved tragically accurate, and helped set in stone the medical health physics consensus that there is no “safe dose” of radiation … and that pregnant women should not be x-rayed, or exposed to equivalent radiation.

6. More than 400 commercial power reactors have been injected into our ecosphere with no meaningful data to measure their potential health and environmental impacts, and no systematic global data base has been established or maintained.

7. “Acceptable dose” standards for commercial reactors were conjured from faulty A-Bomb studies begun five years after Hiroshima, and at Fukushima and elsewhere have been continually made more lax to save the industry money.

8. Bomb/reactor fallout delivers alpha and beta particle emitters that enter the body and do long-term damage, but which industry backers often wrongly equate with less lethal external gamma/x-ray doses from flying in airplanes or living in Denver.

9. By refusing to compile long-term emission assessments, the industry systematically hides health impacts at Three Mile Island (TMI), Chernobyl, Fukushima, etc., forcing victims to rely on isolated independent studies which it automatically deems “discredited.”

10. Human health damage has been amply suffered in radium watch dial painting, Bomb production, uranium mining/milling/enrichment, waste management and other radioactive work, despite decades of relentless industry denial.

11. When Dr. Ernest Sternglass, who had worked with Albert Einstein, warned that reactor emissions were harming people, thousands of copies of his Low-Level Radiation (1971)mysteriously disappeared from their primary warehouse.

12. When the Atomic Energy Commission’s (AEC) Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Gofman, urged that reactor dose levels be lowered by 90 percent, he was forced out of the AEC and publicly attacked, despite his status a founder of the industry.

13. A member of the Manhattan Project, and a medical doctor responsible for pioneer research into LDL cholesterol, Gofman later called the reactor industry an instrument of “premeditated mass murder.”

14. Stack monitors and other monitoring devices failed at Three Mile Island (1979) making it impossible to know how much radiation escaped, where it went or who it impacted and how.

15. But some 2,400 TMI downwind victims and their families were denied a class action jury trial by a federal judge who said “not enough radiation” was released to harm them, though she could not say how much that was or where it went.

16. During TMI’s meltdown, industry advertising equated the fallout with a single chest x-ray to everyone downwind, ignoring the fact that such doses could double leukemia rates among children born to involuntarily irradiated mothers.

17. Widespread death and damage downwind from TMI have been confirmed by Dr. Stephen Wing, Jane Lee and Mary Osbourne, Sister Rosalie Bertell, Dr. Sternglass, Jay Gould, Joe Mangano and others, along with hundreds of anecdotal reports.

18. Radioactive harm to farm and wild animals downwind from TMI has been confirmed by the Baltimore News-American and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

19. TMI’s owner quietly paid out at least $15 million in damages in exchange for gag orders from the affected families, including at least one case involving a child born with Down’s Syndrome.

20. Chernobyl’s explosion became public knowledge only when massive emissions came down on a Swedish reactor hundreds of miles away, meaning that—as at TMI and Fukushima—no one knows precisely how much escaped or where it went.

21.  Fukushima’s on-going fallout is already far in excess of that from Chernobyl, which was far in excess of that from Three Mile Island.

22.  Soon after Chernobyl blew up (1986), Dr. Gofman predicted its fallout would kill at least 400,000 people worldwide.

23. Three Russian scientists who compiled more than 5,000 studies concluded in 2005 that Chernobyl had already killed nearly a million people worldwide.

24.  Children born in downwind Ukraine and Belarus still suffer a massive toll of mutation and illness, as confirmed by a wide range of governmental, scientific and humanitarian organizations.

25. Key low-ball Chernobyl death estimates come from the World Health Organization, whose numbers are overseen by International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations organization chartered to promote the nuclear industry.

26. After 28 years, the reactor industry has still not succeeded in installing a final sarcophagus over the exploded Chernobyl Unit 4, though billions of dollars have been invested.

27. When Fukushima Units 1-4 began to explode, President Obama assured us all the fallout would not come here, and would harm no one, despite having no evidence for either assertion.

28. Since President Obama did that, the U.S. has established no integrated system to monitor Fukushima’s fallout, nor an epidemiological data base to track its health impacts … but it did stop checking radiation levels in Pacific seafood.

29. Early reports of thyroid abnormalities among children downwind from Fukushima, and in North America are denied by industry backers who again say “not enough radiation” was emitted though they don’t know how much that might be.

30. Devastating health impacts reported by sailors stationed aboard the USS Ronald Reagan near Fukushima are being denied by the industry and Navy, who say radiation doses were too small to do harm, but have no idea what they were.

31. While in a snowstorm offshore as Fukushima melted, sailors reported a warm cloud passing over the Reagan that brought a “metallic taste” like that described by TMI downwinders and the airmen who dropped the Bomb on Hiroshima.

32. Though it denies the sailors on the Reagan were exposed to enough Fukushima radiation to harm them, Japan (like South Korea and Guam) denied the ship port access because it was too radioactive (it’s now docked in San Diego).

33. The Reagan sailors are barred from suing the Navy, but have filed a class action against Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), which has joined the owners at TMI, the Bomb factories, uranium mines, etc., in denying all responsibility.

34. A U.S. military “lessons learned” report from Fukushima’s Operation Tomodachi clean-up campaign notes that “decontamination of aircraft and personnel without alarming the general population created new challenges.”

35. The report questioned the clean-up because “a true decontamination operations standard for ‘clearance’ was not set,” thereby risking “the potential spread of radiological contamination to military personnel and the local populace.”

36. Nonetheless, it reported that during the clean-up, “the use of duct tape and baby wipes was effective in the removal of radioactive particles.”

37. In league with organized crime, Tepco is pursuing its own clean-up activities by recruiting impoverished homeless and elderly citizens for “hot” on-site labor, with the quality of their work and the nature of their exposures now a state secret.

38. At least 300 tons of radioactive water continue to pour into the ocean at Fukushima every day, according to official estimates made prior to such data having been made a state secret.

39. To the extent they can be known, the quantities and make-up of radiation pouring out of Fukushima are also now a state secret, with independent measurement or public speculation punishable by up to ten years in prison.

40. Likewise, “There is no systematic testing in the U.S. of air, food and water for radiation,” according to University of California (Berkeley) nuclear engineering Professor Eric Norman.

41. Many radioactive isotopes tend to concentrate as they pour into the air and water, so deadly clumps of Fukushima’s radiation may migrate throughout the oceans for centuries to come before diffusing, which even then may not render it harmless.

42. Radiation’s real world impact becomes even harder to measure in an increasingly polluted biosphere, where interaction with existing toxins creates a synergy likely to exponentially accelerate the damage being done to all living things.

43. Reported devastation among starfish, sardines, salmon, sea lions, orcas and other ocean animals cannot be definitively denied without a credible data base of previous experimentation and monitoring, which does not exist and is not being established.

44. The fact that “tiny” doses of x-ray can harm human embryos portends that any unnatural introduction of lethal radioactive isotopes into the biosphere, however “diffuse,” can affect our intertwined global ecology in ways we don’t now understand.

45. The impact of allegedly “minuscule” doses spreading from Fukushima will, over time, affect the minuscule eggs of creatures ranging from sardines to starfish to sea lions, with their lethal impact enhanced by the other pollutants already in the sea.

46. Dose comparisons to bananas and other natural sources are absurd and misleading as the myriad isotopes from reactor fallout will impose very different biological impacts for centuries to come in a wide range of ecological settings.

47. No current dismissal of general human and ecological impacts—”apocalyptic” or otherwise—can account over time for the very long half-lives of radioactive isotopes Fukushima is now pouring into the biosphere.

48. As Fukushima’s impacts spread through the centuries, the one certainty is that no matter what evidence materializes, the nuclear industry will never admit to doing any damage, and will never be forced to pay for it (see upcoming sequel).

49. Hyman Rickover, father of the nuclear navy, warned that it is a form of suicide to raise radiation levels within Earth’s vital envelope, and that if he could, he would “sink” all the reactors he helped develop.

50. “Now when we go back to using nuclear power,” he said in 1982, “I think the human race is going to wreck itself, and it is important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it.”

As Fukushima deteriorates behind an iron curtain of secrecy and deceit, we desperately need to know what it’s doing to us and our planet.

It’s tempting to say the truth lies somewhere between the industry’s lies and the rising fear of a tangible apocalypse.

In fact, the answers lie beyond.

Defined by seven decades of deceit, denial and a see-no-evil dearth of meaningful scientific study, the glib corporate assurances that this latest reactor disaster won’t hurt us fade to absurdity.

Fukushima pours massive, unmeasured quantities of lethal radiation into our fragile ecosphere every day, and will do so for decades to come.

Five power reactors have now exploded on this planet and there are more than 400 others still operating.

What threatens us most is the inevitable next disaster … along with the one after that … and then the one after that …

Pre-wrapped in denial, protected by corporate privilege, they are the ultimate engines of global terror.

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

83-year-old nun convicted of sabotage for breach of US atomic complex

RT | May 09, 2013

Three activists, including an 83-year-old nun, who broke into a US nuclear weapons facility in Tennessee were convicted on Wednesday of interfering with national security.

In what The New York Times labeled the biggest security breach in the history of the atomic complex, the trio broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28, 2012 and defaced a uranium processing plant.

The Y-12 facility has been in operation since 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, and today is responsible for both the production and maintenance of all uranium parts for the entire US nuclear weapons arsenal. Over the years, the facility has also been the target of nonviolent anti-nuclear protests.

Now, a jury in Tennessee has charged the three protesters with sabotaging the plant, with a second charge of damaging federal property.

Defense attorneys for the three activists – Sister Megan Rice, 57-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, 64 – maintained that the prosecution had overreached.

“The shortcomings in security at one of the most dangerous places on the planet have embarrassed a lot of people,” defense lawyer Francis Lloyd said.

“You’re looking at three scapegoats behind me,” he added

Defense attorneys also noted that, once the three refused to plead guilty to trespassing, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, the prosecution introduced the charge of sabotage, which carries a maximum prison term of twenty years. They believed the higher charge should have been dismissed.

According to the Associated Press, which provided details of the court proceedings, the three activists have no remorse for their actions, and were pleased to have reached one of the most secure areas of the facility.

Prosecutor Jeff Theodore noted that the trio’s fate could have been far worse, as that area of the facility allowed guards to use deadly force.

“They’re lucky, and thank goodness they’re alive, because they went into the lethal zone,” said Theodore.

The three defendants spent two hours inside Y-12, during which time they hung banners, cut through security fences, strung crime-scene tape and sprayed “baby bottles full of human blood” on the exterior portion of the facility.

Boertje-Obed, who is a house painter from Duluth, Minnesota, explained why they sprayed the blood.

“The reason for the baby bottles was to represent that the blood of children is spilled by these weapons,” he said.

While inside the most secure portion of the facility, the three activists managed to hammer off what is described as a “small chunk” of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.

During cross examination, Sister Rice stated that she wished she had not waited so long to stage a protest within the plant.

“My regret was I waited 70 years,” she said.”It is manufacturing which can only cause death.”

Prosecutors argued that the breach of security was serious, and caused the plant to shut down for two weeks as security staff were re-trained and defense contractors replaced.

Meanwhile, federal officials maintain that there was never any danger of the three activists reaching materials that could be detonated or used to construct an improvised bomb.

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Six Underground Tanks Leaking Nuclear Waste in Washington State

By Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman | AllGov | February 27, 2013

The nation’s most daunting environmental cleanup project has a new toxic problem on its hands.

Within the Hanford Nuclear Reservation along the Columbia River in Washington State, six underground storage tanks are leaking radioactive waste. Some of the tanks hold as much as 500,000-750,000 gallons of dangerous fluid that is slowing seeping into the soil.

State and federal officials said the leaks don’t pose an immediate threat to human health, since the tanks are located more than five miles from the Columbia River.

The newly discovered problem only adds to the soil contamination at Hanford, which was used for five decades to produce plutonium for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

There are nearly 150 tanks, similar in size and design, to the six spilling radioactive liquid and sludge at the site. Four of the six tanks have leaked in the past. The news led the state’s governor, Jay Inslee, to wonder about the “integrity” of the other tanks.

“It points to the age of the tanks and how there’s going to be an increased probability of this happening in the future,” Suzanne Dahl, tank waste treatment manager for the state’s Department of Ecology, told Reuters. “Once [the waste is] out of the tanks and in the soil, it’s much harder to manage it, remove it, and down the road you’re adding to contamination in the groundwater that already exists.”

The U.S. Department of Energy reported that the tanks are leaking at a rate of up to 300 gallons per year.

With a total area comparable to the size of Los Angeles, Hanford is considered by experts to be the most challenging environmental remediation in North America. The nuclear site was built near the city of Hanford in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, the secret U.S. government research program that produced the first atomic bombs. Federal environmental regulators estimate the site now contains more than 130 million cubic yards of radioactive soil, thanks in large part to the dumping of 475 billion gallons of contaminated wastewater into the ground during the Cold War.

A multi-billion-dollar plan to secure all the waste within a glass-like material and house it in subterranean stainless steel canisters is years away, according to Dahl. But Americans don’t have to wait that long to get a first-hand look at the infamous nuclear site; the U.S. government offers regular public tours, at no cost.

To Learn More:

At the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a Steady Drip of Toxic Trouble (by Eric Nusbaum, Daily Beast)

Radioactive Waste Leaking from Six Tanks at Washington State Nuclear Site (by Eric Johnson, Reuters)

Energy Dept. Accuses Bechtel of Botching Nuclear Cleanup in Washington (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Plutonium Cleanup in Washington State Could Take Millennia (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Contractor Approved Funding for Own Government Contract (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Nuclear Cult

Zealots of the Atom

By KARL GROSSMAN | CounterPunch | June 18, 2012

Nuclear scientists and engineers embrace nuclear power like a religion. The term “nuclear priesthood” was coined by Dr. Alvin Weinberg, long director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the laboratory’s website proudly notes this.  It’s not unusual for scientists at Oak Ridge and other U.S. national nuclear laboratories to refer to themselves as “nukies.” The Oak Ridge website describes Weinberg as a “prophet” of “nuclear energy.”

This religious, cultish element is integral to a report done for the U.S. Department of Energy in 1984 by Battelle Memorial Institute about how the location of nuclear waste sites can be communicated over the ages. An “atomic priesthood,” it recommends, could impart the locations in a “legend-and-ritual…retold year-by-year.” Titled “Communications Measures to Bridge Ten Millennia,” the taxpayer-funded report says: “Membership in this ‘priesthood’ would be self-selective over time.”

Currently, Allison Macfarlane, nominated to be the new head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says she is an “agnostic” on nuclear power—as if support or opposition to atomic energy falls on a religious spectrum.  Meanwhile, Gregory Jaczko, the outgoing NRC chairman, with a Ph.D. in physics, was politically crucified because he repeatedly raised safety concerns, thus not revering nuclear power enough.

Years ago, while I was working on a book about toxic chemicals, the publisher asked that I find someone who worked for a chemical company and get his or her rationale. I found someone who had been at American Cyanamid, the pesticide manufacturer, who said he worked there to better support his growing family financially.

But when it comes to nuclear power, it’s more than that—it’s a religious adherence. Why?  Does it have to do with nuclear scientists and engineers being in such close proximity to  power, literally?  Is it about the process through which they are trained—in the U.S., many in the nuclear navy and/or in the insular culture of the government’s national nuclear laboratories? These laboratories, originally under the Atomic Energy Commission and now the Department of Energy and managed by corporations, universities and scientific entities including Battelle Memorial Institute, grew out of the World War II Manhattan Project crash program to build atomic bombs. After the war, the laboratories expanded to pursue the development of all things nuclear. And is it about nuclear physics programs at universities serving as echo chambers?

Whatever the causes, the outcome is nuclear worship.

And this is despite the Chernobyl or Fukushima Daiichi catastrophes. It’s despite the radioactive messes exposed at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility and at Los Alamos and other national nuclear laboratories most of which have been declared high-pollution Superfund sites where cancer on-site and in adjoining areas is widespread. It’s despite the  continuing threat of nuclear war and the horrific loss of life it would bring and nuclear proliferation spreading the potential for atomic weapons globally. Still, they press on with religious fervor.

“Most of them are not educated about radiation biology or genetics, so they are fundamentally ignorant,” says Dr. Helen Caldicott, a founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility whose books include Nuclear Madness. “They are ‘brought up’ in an environment where they are conditioned to support the concept of all things nuclear.” Further, “nuclear power evokes enormous forces of the universe, and as Henry Kissinger said, ‘Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” And “they practice denial because I think many of them in their heart really know that what they are doing is evil but they will defend it assiduously, unless they themselves or their child is diagnosed with cancer. Then many of them recant.”

Linking the “nuclear priesthood” to the Manhattan Project is Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “The scientists involved weren’t really sure what they were unleashing, and had to have a certain amount of faith that it would work and it would not destroy the world in the process. After they saw the destructive power of the bomb, they were both proud and horrified at what they had done, and believed they had to use this technology for ‘good.’ Thus nuclear power was born,” says Mariotte. “The problem is when you have this messianic vision that you are creating good out of evil, it is very difficult to turn around and realize that the ‘good’ you have created is, in fact, also evil.”

Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste watchdog at Beyond Nuclear, says ever since the first test of an atomic device, “the diabolically-named ‘Trinity’ atomic blast, when Manhattan Project scientists placed bets on whether or not it would ignite the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s been clear something pathological afflicts many in the ‘nuclear priesthood.’ Perhaps it’s a form of ‘Faustian fission’—splitting the atom gave the U.S. superpower status with the Bomb and then over a 100 commercial atomic reactors, so the ‘downsides’ have been entirely downplayed to the point of downright denial. Perhaps the power, prestige and greed swirling around the ‘nuclear enterprise’ explains why so many in industry, government, the military, and even apologists in academia and mainstream media, engage in Orwellian ‘Nukespeak’ and monumental cover ups….The ‘cult of the atom’ has caused untold numbers of deaths and disease downstream, downwind, up the food chain, and down the generations from ‘our friend the atom’ gone bad.”

A parallel situation exists in Russia, the other nuclear superpower. Dr. Alexey Yablokov, a biologist, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and environmental advisor to Presidents Yeltsin and Gorbachev, says the nuclear scientists there refer to themselves as “atomschiky” or “nuclearists” and “think and act as a separate, isolated caste.” From the beginning of nuclear technology in the Soviet Union, they “were enthusiastic about the great, the fantastic discoveries of splitting the atom and developing enormous power. This ‘secret knowledge’ was magnified by state secrecy and a deep belief—in the Soviet Union as in the United States—of atomic energy ‘saving the globe’… There is a remarkable similarity in the argumentation of these groups here and in the United States. Step-by-step, they turned to an atomic religion, closed societies, a ‘state inside a state.’”

Dr. Heidi Huttner, who teaches sustainability at Stony Brook University, explains:

“As in so many parts of our industrialized and mechanized culture, there is no thought of consequences, or connections to the larger web of science, health, and human and nonhuman life… The nuclear culture becomes absolutely caught up in its own language and story. This self-enclosure feeds, validates and perpetuates itself. Without an outside critique or ‘objective’ third eye, any such culture loses the ability to self-regulate and self-monitor.  This is where things become dangerous.”

Russell Ace Hoffman, author of The Code Killers, Why DNA and Ionizing Radiation Are a Dangerous Mix, says: “It is a cult. It fits all the classic definitions of a cult. It’s an elitist, war-mongering, closed society of inbred, inwardly-thinking, aggressively xenophobic, arrogant pseudo-nerds stuck in ideas that are at least half a century out of date… Another cult-like behavior is they don’t care about the suffering of their victims.  Not one bit.”

Dr. Barbara Rose Johnston, an anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Center for Political Ecology in Santa Cruz, recounts spending three days at a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored conference for people involved in the atmospheric monitoring program at the nuclear weapons test site in Nevada. “Many of the scientists and technicians in attendance were from southern Utah and St. Georges County area where the heaviest atomic fallout from the Nevada test site occurred… I did not find a single man who saw a connection between fallout and cancer rates, despite the fact that most had suffered. My initial reaction was that these folks truly ‘drank the Kool-Aid’—true believers through and through.”

“The nuclear industry requires buying into an orthodoxy,” explains nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson. “I know, as I was in it as a senior VP.” He tells of how, after he voiced concerns and criticism, an industry lawyer “told me, ‘Arnie, in this industry, you are either for us or against us, and you just crossed the line.’ The same thing happened to [outgoing NRC Chairman] Jaczko  I know of one nuclear engineer with 40 years of experience who committed suicide five days after Fukushima because he simply could not accept that his life’s work was based on erroneous assumptions.  He had worked on the Mark 1 design [the GE design of the Fukushima Daicchi plants].”

Alice Slater, New York representative of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, says the “nuclear scientists are out of touch with reality. They talk about ‘risk assessment’—as though the dreadful, disastrous events at Chernobyl and Fukushima are capable of being weighed on a scale of ‘risks and benefits.’ They’re constantly refining their nuclear weapons—Congress has budgeted $84 billion for over the next 10 years to maintain the … ’reliability of the nuclear arsenal,’ and $100 billion for new ‘delivery systems’—missiles, submarines and airplanes. After the horrendous effects on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, everyone knows these catastrophic weapons are unusable and yet we’re pouring all this money into perpetuating the national nuclear weapons laboratories. They’re not including the Earth in their calculations and the enormous damage they are doing. They’re involved in the worst possible inventions with lethal consequences that last for eternity. Still, they continue on. They’re holding our planet hostage while they tinker in their labs without regard to the risks they are creating for the very future of life on Earth.”

Dr. Chris Busby of the Health and Life Sciences faculty at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and author of Wings of Death, Nuclear Pollution and Human Health, says:

“What we are seeing with nuclear scientists is a desperate need to control their environment and their lives and the forces that may affect their lives by creating a virtual universe which they can deal with by mathematics and by drawing straight lines on paper.”

It’s the “cult of the nuclearists,” says Busby. And this construct of the nuclear scientists seeking to “control nature with mathematical equations that make them feel safe” sets up a “collision with reality”—and a “way we are going to destroy ourselves.”  The belief in nuclear power is “far beyond anything scientific or rational,” says Busby, who has a Ph.D. in chemical physics.

Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, says the “religious passion for nuclear technology” started with the “guilt” of those in the Manhattan Project. “Those in the ‘nuclear priesthood’ knew that these horrible bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives and they wanted to make up for that… They developed atomic energy for warfare and then thought it had other uses—and they would do anything to make that work.” But the civilian nuclear technology they devised was also deadly, and this realization was too “devastating to be accepted” by the “nuclear originators” or those who followed who “spend their days with their buddies, their colleagues, all thinking the same way.”

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, in his 1955 book The Open Mind, wrote: “The physicists felt a peculiarly intimate responsibility for suggesting, for supporting, and in the end, in large measure, for achieving the realization of atomic weapons…. In some sort of crude sense…the physicists have known sin.”

Whether out of indoctrination, misguided belief, an obsession to “control nature,” the lure of the cult, closeness to power, job security, or their seeking to perpetuate a vested interest, the “nuclearists” have a religious allegiance to their technology. On a moral level, they have indeed sinned—and continue to do so. On a political level, they have corrupted and distorted energy policy in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. On an economic level, they are wasting a gargantuan portion of our tax dollars.

Choices of energy technology should be based on the technology being safe, clean, economic and in harmony with life. Instead, we are up against nuclear scientists and engineers pushing their deadly technology in the manner of religious zealots.

~

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on The Nuclear Cult