Archive for October, 2015

Nuclear Regulatory Commission is all about Public Relations, not Science

October 19, 2015

Instead of treating cancer as a scientific issue, the nuclear industry treats it as a PR challenge. Frequent attempts are made to trivialize the dangers of radiation. Often this involves the Radiation- Is-Everywhere tactic complete with ludicrous examples (“It’s just like eating a banana,” or “It’s just like flying to Denver”). They like to show how little radiation is in an average X-ray but they are careful not to mention that radioactive exposure is cumulative: every dose adds.

The dirty little secret of the nuclear industry is that all NPP regularly discharge radiation into the environment. Nuclear power plants cannot operate without these discharges, and the NRC sets standards for what is allowable.

The push by the nuclear industry to block cancer research demonstrates their true colors.

NRC Blocks Cancer Study Near San Onofre and other Nuclear Power Plants

By Roger Johnson October 14, 2015 Do the regular radioactive emissions from nuclear power plants (NPP) increase the risk of cancer? No one knows for sure whether living near a NPP can cause cancer, but on Sept. 8 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) terminated a study designed to find out.  It would have been carried out by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences which spent 5 years planning the study.

One of the six locations chosen for study was our own San Onofre. The medical records of everyone living within 31 miles of San Onofre (a circle from Huntington Beach around to Solana Beach) would have been part of the study. The research proposal is entitled Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations near Nuclear Facilities.

The NRC logo is “Protecting People and the Environment” but many wonder if it should read “Protecting the Nuclear
Industry and Its Profits.”

The NRC said it could not afford the $8 million, but no one swallows this since the NRC has an annual budget of over $1 billion (90 percent  of which comes from the industry it is supposed to be regulating).

The NRC also said that it already knows the answer: low-level radiation coming from NPP is harmless. It continues to cite a now thoroughly discredited study by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) which examined this issue a quarter of a century ago and failed to find cancer streaks. The nuclear industry prefers this study because it likes the results.

We now know that the NCI study failed because it studied only cancer deaths, not incidence, and it studied only where people died, not where they lived or worked. It also averaged people living very near a NPP with those who lived far away. Also worrisome are recent studies in Europe which discovered that children who live near a NPP double their risk of cancer. The NAS is well-aware of this and designed part of the study to focus on children.

Instead of treating cancer as a scientific issue, the nuclear industry treats it as a PR challenge. (more…)

Fukushima’s insects demonstrate the toxic effects of even low dose radiation

October 19, 2015
The researchers found that caterpillars that ate radioactive leaves pupated into mutated butterflies that did not live as long, compared with caterpillars that ate non-radioactive leaves. These mutations and increased mortality were seen even in butterflies that consumed only very small doses of radioactive cesium.
 Deaths and mutations spike around Fukushima;  October 16, 2015 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer

Plants in the area around Fukushima, Japan are widely contaminated with radioactive cesium, which is

producing mutation and death in local butterflies, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa and published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The butterflies were found to experience severe negative effects at all detectable radiation levels, even very low ones.

“We conclude that the risk of ingesting a polluted diet is realistic, at least for this butterfly, and likely for certain other organisms living in the polluted area,” the researchers wrote.

Insects hard hit

The researchers note that although the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant released “a massive amount of radioactive materials … into the environment,” few studies have looked at the biological effects of this disaster. Researchers have, however, measured elevated radiation levels in the polluted area, and have chronicled the accumulation of radioactive material in both wild and domestic plant and animal life in the region.

Studies have also suggested that insects may be particularly hard-hit by the increased radiation. One study found an increase in morphological abnormalities (physical deformities) in gall-forming aphids. Another found that insect abundance has decreased in the affected region, particularly butterfly abundance. (more…)

New York delays shutting old nuclear power plants: cost is unaffordable

October 19, 2015

New York nuclear plants phase out, challengingly  One doesn’t have look hard in New York and throughout the region to see that the nuclear power industry has hit a rough patch.

The James FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Oswego County may be closing. The Ginna plant is on life support. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he wants to close Indian Point.

Those closings and potential closings, combined with closure of Vermont Yankee in December and the announcement this month that Pilgrim in Massachusetts would be shuttered, herald what nuclear xperts say is a denouement to the story of nuclear power in the United States.

“I would call it an organic phaseout,” said Mycle Schneider, a nuclear consultant based in Paris, during a conference at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on Thursday. “Nuclear’s position is threatened by a number of factors.”

Among those threats, he and others said, are the increasing costs of safely providing nuclear power, stagnant demand, a decrease in electricity use, and “ferocious competitors,” including natural gas and renewable power.

The question for state and federal regulators becomes how to safely and efficiently retire the nation’s nuclear fleet, a task infinitely more complex than getting rid of a typical power plant.

“In the time period around 2030 you have this massive drop-off in reactors,” said Gregory Jaczko, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Within 50 years, the nation’s 99 nuclear plants will be retired and only five new ones are in the current pipeline.

“What does that mean for decommissioning?” Jaczko asked.

Nuclear plants are required to maintain decommissioning trust funds, accounts that they pay into each year to provide for the safe removal of spent nuclear fuel and remediation of the sites when the plants are taken off-line. But experts said on Thursday that the time frame for decommissioning — typically 60 years — will lead to a series of complications for the industry even with fully funded decommissioning accounts.

For one thing, the industry will require a new set of skills to take the plants down. The NRC itself is funded by fees plants pay — funds that will dry up when plants are closed.

“Ninety percent of the NRC operating budget comes from reactor fees,” Jaczko said. “So those five plants that would make up the fleet in 40 or 50 years would now share the burden in maintaining the budget of the agency that a hundred plants are now paying.”

Jaczko said the 60-year time line doesn’t make sense from a safety perspective. One of the original rationales was that waiting that long was necesarry to minimize radiation exposure to workers, but, he said, “95 percent of the dose reduction you would get happens in the first 30 years.”

“From a technical perspective and a safety perspective there really is no rationale for a 60-year waste disposal.”

The real rationale, he said, is money.

“When you push people on these factors, they come back with ‘We can’t decommission sooner because we don’t have the money,’” Jaczko said.

John Sipos, an assistant state attorney general, said that waiting 60 years does not provide any additional financial security, but rather extended the risk to taxpayers and power customers.

“There’s the larger question: will the responsible party be there in 60 years and if they’re there in 60 years , will they have the money?” Sipos said.

Many in the industry rely on a 2 percent rate of return in the decommissioning trust funds, a return that is not guaranteed. Moreover, Sipos said it’s difficult to figure the cost of decommissioning until the process actually begins.

“At Connecticut Yankee to the east of us it was quite more expensive than folks thought,” he said, referring to a nuclear facility shut down in 1996. “You’re looking at costs that were $1 billion or more.”

NPR reported that less than a year after the shuttering of Vermont Yankee there already is consternation about how its $660 million trust fund is being spent, and whether Vermonters will ever see any of that money returned as they say they were promised.

Sipos said that the ground beneath Indian Point’s Units 1 and 2 alone contained 1.5 million cubic feet of contaminated soil.

Entergy owns the Vermont Yankee site as well as Indian Point, FitzPatrick and Pilgrim

Spokesman Jerry Nappi responded to the concerns expressed about Indian Point and decommissioning in general.

“All U.S. nuclear plants are required by law to set aside funding for the eventual decommissioning of each reactor,” Nappi said in an email to POLITICO New York. “The three Indian Point units have a pre-funded decommissioning trust fund in place that meets the funding assurance requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Entergy has a demonstrated commitment to meet required funding assurance guidelines and will take any necessary steps to safely decommission its plants at the appropriate time.”
As of August, Entergy had trust funds equaling $1.6 billion for the three Indian Point reactors.

Sipos and Peter Bradford, New York’s former public service commissioner, said states should be acting now to make sure the proper safeguards are in place when nuclear plants retire.

“Hosting an unproductive brownfield for generations or using scarce resources to clean up that site — what are the states going to be able to assume?” Sipos said.

Bradford said states should be gaining clarity about decommissioning law and regulation before plants retire rather than after.

“Whether and when the land is to be suitable for other uses … is not fundamentally a federal matter,” Bradford said. “I’m perplexed that many states are so deferential to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

There is no threshold below which there are no effects of radiation.

October 19, 2015

Radiation Impact Studies: Chernobyl and Fukushima, Dissident Voice,  by Robert Hunziker / September 23rd, 2015 Some nuclear advocates suggest that wildlife thrives in the highly-radioactive Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, animals like it, and not only that, a little radiation for anybody and everybody is harmless and maybe good, not bad. This

may seem like a senseless argument to tackle were it not for the persistence of positive-plus commentary by nuke lovers. The public domain deserves better, more studied, more crucial answers.

Fortunately, as well as unfortunately, the world has two major real life archetypes of radiation’s impact on the ecosystem: Chernobyl and Fukushima.  Chernobyl is a sealed-off 30klm restricted zone for the past 30 years because of high radiation levels, whereas PM Abe’s government in Japan has already started returning people to formerly restricted zones surrounding the ongoing Fukushima nuclear melt-down.

The short answer to the supposition that a “little dab of radiation is A-Okay” may be suggested in the title of a Washington Blog d/d March 12, 2014 in an interview of Dr. Timothy Mousseau, the world-renowned expert on radiation effects on living organisms. The hard answer is included further on in this article.

Dr. Mousseau is former Program Director at the National Science Foundation in Population Biology, Panelist for the National Academy of Sciences’ Panels on Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities and GAO Panel on Health and Environmental Effects from Tritium Leaks at Nuclear Power Plants, and a biology professor – and former Dean of the Graduate School, and Chair of the Graduate Program in Ecology – at the University of South Carolina.

The title of the Washington Blog interview is:

“Chernobyl and Fukushima Studies Show that Radiation Reduces Animal and Plant Numbers, Fertility, Brain Size and Diversity… and Increases Deformities and Abnormalities”

Dr. Mousseau made many trips to Chernobyl and Fukushima, making 896 inventories at Chernobyl and 1,100 biotic inventories in Fukushima. His mission was to test the effects of radiation on plants and animals. The title of his interview (above) handily serves to answer the question of whether radiation is positive for animals and plants. Without itemizing reams and reams of study data, the short answer is: Absolutely not! It is not positive for animals and plants, period.

Moreover, low doses of radiation, aka “radiation hormesis”, is not good for humans, as advocated by certain energy-related outlets. Data supporting their theory is extremely shaky and more to the point, flaky.

Furthermore, according to the Cambridge Philosophical Society’s journalBiological Reviews, including reported results by wide-ranging analyses of 46 peer-reviewed studies published over 40 years, low-level natural background radiation was found to have small, but highly statistically significant, negative effects on DNA and several measures of good health.

Dr. Mousseau, with co-author Anders Møller of the University of Paris-Sud, examined more that 5,000 papers involving background radiation in order to narrow their findings to 46 peer-reviewed studies. These studies examined plants and animals with a large preponderance of human subjects.

The scientists reported significant negative effects in a range of categories, including immunology, physiology, mutation and disease occurrence. The frequency of negative effects was beyond that of random chance.

There is no threshold below which there are no effects of radiation.

With the levels of contamination that we have seen as a result of nuclear power plants, especially in the past, and even as a result of Chernobyl and Fukushima and related accidents, there’s an attempt in the industry to downplay the doses that the populations are getting, because maybe it’s only one or two times beyond what is thought to be the natural background level…. But they’re assuming the natural background levels are fine. And the truth is, if we see effects at these low levels, then we have to be thinking differently about how we develop regulations for exposures, and especially intentional exposures to populations, like the emissions from nuclear power plants……

Study of nuclear industry workers shows that low dose radiation increases cancer risk

October 19, 2015

Radiation Impact Studies: Chernobyl and Fukushima, Dissident Voice,  by Robert Hunziker / September 23rd, 2015

“…….A consortium of researchers coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, examined causes of death in a study of more than 300,000 nuclear-industry workers in France, the United States and the United Kingdom, all of whom wore dosimeter badges.1

The workers received on average just 1.1 millisieverts (mSv) per year above background radiation, which itself is about 2–3 mSv per year from sources such as cosmic rays and radon. The study confirmed that the risk of leukemia does rise proportionately with higher doses, but also showed that this linear relationship is present at extremely low levels of radiation.

The study effectively “scuppers the popular idea that there might be a threshold dose below which radiation is harmless.”

Even so, the significant issue regarding radiation exposure for humans is that it is a “silent destroyer” that takes years and only manifests once damage has occurred; for example, 200 American sailors of the USS Reagan have filed a lawsuit against TEPCO et al because of radiation-related illnesses, like leukemia, only four years after radiation exposure from Fukushima…..

Russia’s Mayak nuclear whistleblower seeks asylum in France

October 19, 2015
A Russian antinuclear activist asks for asylum in France  Mediapart , October 2, 2015, by Amélie Poinssot and Michel de Pracontal, As the head of the NGO Planet of Hope [Planeta Nadezhd], Nadejda Koutepova has fought for fifteen years for the victims of radioactive contamination in the Urals, near the Maiak factory which, in 1957, gave the world its first nuclear catastrophe. In July, she was forced by circumstances to dissolve the NGO and leave Russia. This Friday, October 2nd, as Francois Hollande receives Vladimir Putin in Paris, she is asking for asylum in France.
Nadejda Koutepova’s story goes from the Soviet past to the Russia of today. She has been fighting unrelentingly for the last fifteen years to get recognition of the nuclear disaster which began in the Urals in 1949. She found herself under attack in 2012 when the Kremlin began clamping down on NGOs, in particular ones concerned with the military and the environment. Threatened with prosecution, she finally left her country in July.
With her departure, one of the most polluted regions of the world is losing its strongest advocate. The Ozersk region (south of Ekaterinburg in the Urals) has been widely irradiated, since the post-war period, and the contamination is still going on thanks to the continuing operations at Maiak. The name is less well-known than Chernobyl and Fukushima, but the gravity of the disaster is comparable, especially if one considers that it has been ongoing for close to sixty years and nothing has been done to resolve the contamination.
It was in 1946, at the dawn of the Cold War, that construction began on the nuclear complex. It was to produce the plutonium necessary for a Soviet atom bomb. It was built by forced labor under Stalin, close to the closed city of Ozersk, between Chelyabinsk and Ekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk in the Soviet period). Such closed cities near military-industrial complexes were fairly common in the Soviet Union. They didn’t appear on maps, and permits were required to enter them. In total, there were ten closed cities devoted to nuclear weapons. The first uranium-graphite reactor was opened in Maiak in 1948, and the first bomb was detonated in 1949.
Between 1949 and 1957, very large quantities of highly radioactive liquid waste were dumped into the Techa, a 240 kilometer-long river that flowed past dozens of villages. Today, the Techa is the most radioactively contaminated body of water in the world, and nearby Lake Karachai is considered one of the most polluted places on the planet.
In 1957, an explosion in a container of highly radioactive waste caused a new massive contamination along a plume that was 300 kilometers long and 30-50 kilometers wide. In Russian it is referred to as VOURS–Vostochono-Ouralski Radioactivni Sled, the Eastern Ural Radioactive Plume. This explosion was covered up for twenty years before it was revealed by the biologist Jaurès Medvedev (twin brother of the dissident historian Roy Medvedev). Medvedev, in exile in the UK, published the first article in 1976, followed by the book Nuclear Disaster in the Urals in 1988. Taking a name from the closest town on the map (Maiak still didn’t officially exist), the disaster was then designated as the Kychtym nuclear disaster.
Lake Karachai was close to Maiak and was used as a dump for masses of radioactive liquids. In the spring of 1967 it ran dry and the wind carried off radioactive sediment as far as 75 kilometers, causing large-scale contamination, notably of Cesium 137.
In addition to these three massive emissions, the Maiak complex released radioactive wastes continuously in lesser quantities. Meanwhile, the contamination problems were never resolved. According to the relevant estimates given by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the wastes dumped into the Techa in the early period, essentially between 1949 and 1951, amounted to 100 PBq (10E15 becquerels). According to Patrick Boyer of the IRSN (France’s Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire ), that is about four times as much as what Fukushima has released into the Pacific Ocean.
The releases of Strontium 90 and Cesium 137 during the 1949-51 period also contaminated the Techa floodplain, an area of 240 square kilometers where 80 square kilometers were above the Chernobyl zone limit of 3.7x10E10 Bq/km km2.
Starting in 1956, while Maiak continued to grow, storage areas were built out of natural ponds or by building dams on the Techa. Military production of plutonium ended in 1987. At the time there were seven military reactors on the site. Afterwards, Maiak was put to use for both military and civilian purposes, for producing radioactive materials, and for reprocessing of nuclear fuel.
In spite of the waste reservoirs, liquid contamination never stopped. The main dam leaked, as did creeks flowing out of the canals built to channel the water, and contaminants leached out of the soil. “These are long-term mechanisms, very long,” explains Patrick Boyer to Mediapart. “The situation is stabilized in the sense that the releases are much less than they were in the 1950s, but the leaks continue, and the Techa is going to remain very contaminated for decades.  Additionally, the lakes used as reservoirs of nuclear waste contain a considerable level of radioactivity, which constitutes a risk.”
Contamination in the Maiak complex and the surrounding area has had effects on workers and the rural population. According to a Norwegian report, in 1949, workers received a dose corresponding to 1,000 times the maximum allowed dose for nuclear workers today. The villagers along the Techa were also exposed to high levels of radiation which led to high mortality rates and chromosomal abnormalities. Even though the practices of the Cold War no longer occur, radioactive effluents still flow out. The IAEA document mentioned above notes that releases of strontium in the Techa doubled in the 2001-2004 period.
In fact, the population of the region remains exposed to a level of radioactivity which should, according to a 2011 report by CRIIRAD (Comité de recherche et d’information indépendantes sur la radioactivité), require evacuation. This was precisely one of the struggles that Nadejda Koutepova fought, but Russian authorities paid no attention. The pressures that led to her departure from Russia are symptomatic of the opacity that surrounds the Maiak site. Since 2011, scientific data on the site has no longer been available.

The following is an interview with Nadejda Koutepova that was conducted on October 2, 2015 just as Vladimir Putin was welcomed at the Élysée by Francois Hollande to discuss the wars in Ukraine and Syria…..

Unusually high rates of thyroid cancer in Fukushima children and adolescents

October 19, 2015

Thyroid Cancer Detection by Ultrasound Among Residents Ages 18 Years and Younger in Fukushima, Japan: 2011 to 2014.   by Tsuda, Toshihide; Tokinobu, Akiko; Yamamoto,

Eiji; Suzuki, Etsuji Epidemiology: Post Author Corrections: October 5, 2015 Open Access Published Ahead-of-Print

 Background: After the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011, radioactive elements were released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Based on prior knowledge, concern emerged about whether an increased incidence of thyroid cancer among exposed residents would occur as a result.

Methods: After the release, Fukushima Prefecture performed ultrasound thyroid screening on all residents ages <=18 years. The first round of screening included 298,577 examinees, and a second round began in April 2014. We analyzed the prefecture results from the first and second round up to December 31, 2014, in comparison with the Japanese annual incidence and the incidence within a reference area in Fukushima Prefecture.

Results: The highest incidence rate ratio, using a latency period of 4 years, was observed in the central middle district of the prefecture compared with the Japanese annual incidence (incidence rate ratio = 50; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 25, 90). The prevalence of thyroid cancer was 605 per million examinees (95% CI = 302, 1,082) and the prevalence odds ratio compared with the reference district in Fukushima Prefecture was 2.6 (95% CI = 0.99, 7.0). In the second screening round, even under the assumption that the rest of examinees were disease free, an incidence rate ratio of 12 has already been observed (95% CI = 5.1, 23).

Conclusions: An excess of thyroid cancer has been detected by ultrasound among children and adolescents in Fukushima Prefecture within 4 years of the release, and is unlikely to be explained by a screening surge.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially.

Dissecting a deceitful article by USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission

October 19, 2015

Examining the Reasons for Ending the Cancer Risk Study as given in article by USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission 6 Oct 15 Garry Morgan, U.S. Army Medical Department, Retired Director Health and Radiation Monitoring BEST/MATRR a local chapter of BREDL

One word describes this article – FALLACY. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) mission to protect the public is compromised by politicians supported by Nuclear Special Interest Groups such as the NEI, Nuclear Energy Institute, applying pressure to decrease funding to the NRC. You are supporting the nuclear industry not the public. The NRC is not an agency which has separated itself from undue political and industry influences and pressures.

A report of radiological contamination and its health effects could have been completed with less expense than $8 million dollars, accurately. The nuclear industry and the United States Government has much to hide regarding the failures to protect the public at large and in communities surrounding all nuclear facilities – this includes the uranium mining communities, the fuel facility communities, the nuclear hazardous waste communities, nuclear weapons communities and all nuclear reactor facility communities.

The nuclear industry and the regulator does not report real time ionizing radiation from emission sources from any active nuclear facility; reporting is based on averages reported annually from nuclear facility locations. This type of reporting is skewered, and lacks scientific credibility due to not reporting emissions in a real time monitoring program with accurate radiological assessments from real time monitoring reports along with community resident health evaluations.

Non-profit institutional examination of nuclear emissions and community health is demonstrating an entirely different story from that which the nuclear industry and the NRC reports. When there is contradictory evidence disputing the nuclear industry and the NRC, the NEI hires nuclear industry paid persons to contradict any information assimilated from private non-profit sources, regardless if the information is actually an accurate compilation from government sources with professional data assimilation and analysis. Example – The Browns Ferry Report <>

The examination of dispersal of radiological contaminating materials in East Tennessee presents a horror story of cancer, declining health and radionuclide contamination of the environment of East Tennessee communities along the Tennessee River and its’ tributaries. The citizens of East Tennessee have become a sacrificial group since the beginnings of the nuclear age in 1945. Unfortunately, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the NRC are participants in this horror story of the atomic age, placing the money gained from atomic death industry before peoples health and welfare – shame on you. Shame on the NRC, DOE, and the many nuclear and nuclear defense industries for your continued deceit.

This is the million pound weight in the room – the continuous deceit and placing money before human health in civilian nuclear and nuclear contractor programs, besides the continuous building of highly radioactive nuclear waste materials. The deceit demonstrated is a continuous failure to uphold Human Reliability Standards which is a cornerstone of any nuclear program, the failure due to deceit is tantamount to a disaster awaiting an outcome.>

The hidden scandal of the Mayak radioactive contamination revealed by Nadejda Koutepova

October 19, 2015
A Russian antinuclear activist asks for asylum in France  Mediapart , October 2, 2015, by Amélie Poinssot and Michel de Pracontal, The revelation, decades later
“………Fifteen years ago you established the NGO “Planet of Hope” in order to aid the victims of radioactive contamination from Maiak. What led you to this cause?
Nadejda Koutepova :
My grandmother was a chemical engineer and she worked at the complex from the time it opened in 1948. The Soviet state wanted, like the Americans, to develop nuclear weapons, so they built a secret factory in the Siberian forest next to the closed city of Ozersk. People who worked there were forbidden from talking about their work. In 1965, my grandmother died of lymphatic cancer. I never knew her. At the time of the accident in 1957, when a container of highly radioactive waste exploded, my father was a student in Ekaterinburg. He belonged to the Komsomols (All-Union Leninist Young Communist League) so he was immediately mobilized as a liquidator. He worked there for nearly five years. In 1985, he died of intestinal cancer. I was a teenager at the end of his life, and it was horrific. He lived with a colostomy bag and was consumed by alcoholism.
But it was only later that I understood what could have caused him and my grandmother to die. One fine day in 1999, I was invited to a conference on the environment organized in Chelyabinsk, the big regional city. It was there that I discovered that the whole Ozersk region is contaminated, yet the local population ignores the situation completely. Officially, the region is not polluted. The inhabitants eat mushrooms and fish in the rivers without asking any questions. This conference was a revelation. At that moment I decided to establish an NGO. I had studied law, sociology and political science at university. I wanted the inhabitants who were still there to have the means to leave and I wanted the unrecognized victims to be able to defend themselves.
In the first years of operation of the factory, 1949-52, all the highly radioactive wastes were dumped into the Techa. Cases of leukemia and premature death multiplied in the villages along the river, so the factory started managing the wastes in metal tanks. During the next decade, 34 out of 39 villages along the river were evacuated. At the same time, radioactive wastes were dumped in Lake Karachai. It was only in 1962 that the authorities announced that they would stop these practices.
In reality, the contamination of the surrounding waters never ended. In 2005, the director of the factory at Maiak, Vitali Sadovnikov, was prosecuted for having let the factory release, starting in the year 2000, tens of thousands of cubic meters of radioactive water into the Techa. Sadovnikov was given amnesty by the Duma (Russian parliament) in 2006. Nonetheless, the files on the court decision on Sadovnikov show that 30 to 40 cubic meters of radioactive water were dumped between 2001 and 2004! Since then, we haven’t even had access to the file, and the Maiak factory denies all responsibility for the contamination of the river.
Do the Russian authorities today recognize the victims of radioactive contamination?
A law was enacted in 1993, inspired by the 1991 law on victims of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe. This law provides social assistance to the victims of the 1957 accident and to people affected by the contamination of the river—but not to their spouses or children. It specifies the typology of illnesses: if the patient could prove a direct link to her work at Maiak or to a place where she lived with radiation from Maiak, then she had a right to compensation.
In total, 19,000 people have been classified as eligible. The figure is always declining because of deaths. Five years ago there were 23,000. But this only represents a small part of the population affected by the consequences of contamination in the region. Our NGO estimates that the number has grown now to about 100,000.
The typology is very restrictive. It was reduced a lot by scientists after Chernobyl. There are only four categories: cancers, blood diseases, genetic instability, and chronic cellular dysfunction. Mental health and psychosomatic problems, for example, are not on the list. Furthermore, when a patient applies for compensation, a “council of experts” gets together at the center for radiation research in the Urals. Made up of eleven persons, they vote by a show of hands on whether the patient should be compensated. These men are not independent. They raise their hands under pressure from their supervisors. And who are we to question their decisions? They respond that they are the scientists. It is they who have the knowledge. We have tried to set up procedures to appeal their decisions. It is impossible.
Another problem is that many people lived and worked in the city at various jobs, but their occupations were not considered to have put them at risk. These were such people as the teachers at the technical college in Maiak, or workers at the train station in the neighboring town. They couldn’t claim compensation. Others didn’t live within the officially recognized zone of contamination. There is also the story of the children of the village of Karabolka who worked regularly in the fields. They were mobilized after the accident to bury carrots and potatoes. For weeks they handled irradiated produce. But unlike the liquidators, they never received certificates proving their participation. Fifty years later they have finally been recognized.
European Court of Human Rights
Still now local people don’t have the chance to get proper medical tests. When they are done, they are often very cursory. I know a woman who had a chromosome test done, but they looked at only one hundred cells. In order to do it properly, they need at least 500 to 1,000. As a result, no pathology was proven.
Compensation is not large. It depends on the occupation and the place the applicant lived. A former liquidator, for example, receives a food supplement of 600 rubles a month (which is worth about 8 euros at present rates), as well a small payment annually for health care. The recipient has access to free medicine and can, in theory, go once a year to a sanatorium. In some cases, a housing benefit is available…….

Travel to Mars and killer cosmic radiation

October 19, 2015

An Inconvenient Radiation By David Galbraith  THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR , 5 Oct 16 Mars waxes large in our current imagination. Matt Damon provides a compelling performance as an astronaut botanist stranded on the Red Planet, in a Ridley Scott film lauded for its scientific accuracy. The future in space shines bright, it seems. But is this really so?……..

Cosmic rays are a puzzle. They are the remnants of atoms hurtling through the galaxy at inconceivable energies. Inconceivable is not used lightly here: the most energetic cosmic rays have energies roughly 40 million times greater than the particles we can produce in the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. We do not know how they can be formed. And yet they exist, and they permeate the universe, continuously bathing the earth.
A major part of the magic of life on earth is associated with the atmosphere. Not only do we breathe it, but it also acts as a vital shield against cosmic rays since, when they hit the atoms in the atmosphere, their energies are converted into the harmless light that my father detected.

Why do we need protection? The most energetic cosmic rays pack a punch of a 56 mile‐per‐hour baseball. Just as a body can be damaged by a baseball, so a cell can be damaged by a cosmic ray. How much damage can it do? Scientists have recently tested this question, exposing mice to amounts of radiation that would be experienced by astronauts during a trip to Mars which has very little atmosphere and minimal protection from cosmic rays. Extensive destruction of the brains of these mice was seen, with drastic deterioration in cognitive tests.

Our astronauts have already described interactions with cosmic rays during brief trips to the moon, reporting random flashes of light, a consequence of the explosive interaction of a cosmic ray with the cells in the retina. During the much longer trip to Mars, and the establishment of a permanent colony there, the brains of the astronauts will experience lethal levels of cosmic radiation.

 So why not simply provide protection against cosmic rays? It’s easy to calculate the screening provided by the earth’s atmosphere at the surface. It’s equivalent to a 400-ton sphere, with the astronauts placed in the center. We cannot raise that amount of mass to earth orbit, or move it to Mars, or land it on the Martian surface. Plus, it is improbable that we will ever have that capability. Sending humans further into the solar system and beyond becomes impossible. The inconvenient conclusion is that humanity, in its biological form, is restricted, through the grand, inevitable, and total progression of time, to this planet only……..

An alternative, and very simple explanation of Fermi’s paradox, is that the universe is a sterilizing system: cosmic rays prevent access of living organisms, alien or human, to our immediate space neighborhood and beyond. Accepting and coming to terms with this disturbing concept will have far‐ reaching consequences, both practical, political, philosophical, and, perhaps, theological. The only things that remain shining, as we keep looking up, are the inaccessible stars, and my father’s ironic gift, the faint Cerenkov radiation in the night sky formed by cosmic rays.