Archive for March, 2018

Evidence that Britain’s nuclear power industry subsidises nuclear weapons

March 31, 2018

channelling revenues ultimately funded by electricity consumers towards a joint civil-military national nuclear industry base

Evidence from Andy Stirling and Philip Johnstone: As the early part of the process of the BEIS Committee Brexit Inquiry has unfolded, the salience of this civil/military link is being further underscored in statements in which a number of relevant senior civil servants and ministers are confirming that the priority attached to UK military submarine capabilities is deeply entangled in strategic commitments to civil nuclear industry strategy 6 . Several possibly serious implications therefore arise in relation to the particular circumstances of Brexit.

Parliament 27th Oct 2017

Written evidence from the University of Sussex, Science Policy Research Unit (BRN0015)

  1. We submit this evidence to the inquiry on Brexit and the Implications for UK Business.s. The content draws on a detailed submission by the same authors to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), discussed at the PAC witness session on Monday 9 th October 2017, which informed illuminating exchanges with senior civil service witnesses to that Committee and was subsequently published by PAC 1 . A number of potentially important implications arise in relation to issues under discussion around Brexit.

2: This earlier evidence to PAC addressed the otherwise difficult-to-explain intensity of Government commitments to civil nuclear power in the face of growing recognition of the relative competitiveness of alternative UK low carbon energy investments. Multiple grounds were found for inferring that this persistent Government attachment is due, at least in part (and with no public discussion), to perceived needs to engineer a cross-subsidy from electricity consumers to help cover costs of a national nuclear industrial base that is deemed to be essential for maintaining UK military nuclear infrastructures 2 .


3: The issues that arise are central to the general remit of the BEIS Committee. For instance, this recent evidence to the PAC documents significant statements by the National Audit Office, which suggest that UK military nuclear infrastructures are being bolstered by revenue flows to UK industry strategy in other sectors 3 . Many statements in support of this interpretation are cited from defence policy discussions, acknowledging incentives to “mask” costs of military industrial strategy behind civil energy programmes 4 . As a result, it is evident that Government-negotiated, high-price, guaranteed long-term contracts for civil nuclear power, are channelling revenues ultimately funded by electricity consumers towards a joint civil-military national nuclear industry base, whose full costs probably could not otherwise feasibly be covered by defence budgets alone. Resulting implications for wider industry strategy and energy policy have received effectively zero Parliamentary or other policy scrutiny.


4: Much other evidence was presented in submission to PAC, concerning this evidently significant-buthidden influence on civil industry policy by military nuclear considerations 5 . As a result, it seems that undetermined but likely large cross-subsidies are being engineered from UK electricity consumers, in order to cover otherwise insupportable costs of military nuclear industry strategies. In the present evidence we outline key implications for the BEIS Committee inquiry on nuclear implications of Brexit


5: As the early part of the process of the BEIS Committee Brexit Inquiry has unfolded, the salience of this civil/military link is being further underscored in statements in which a number of relevant senior civil servants and ministers are confirming that the priority attached to UK military submarine capabilities is deeply entangled in strategic commitments to civil nuclear industry strategy 6 . Several possibly serious implications therefore arise in relation to the particular circumstances of Brexit.


6: First, there are well-documented general concerns that Brexit-related pressures on the UK industrial base are likely to have a particular impact on large infrastructure projects, specifically including new nuclear build. If these developments unfold, then pressures are likely to intensify around the interlinkages between UK civil and military nuclear infrastructures. With foregone opportunities for industry strategy in other sectors (like offshore wind), the these Brexit-related implications for UK industrial strategy are central issues for the BEIS Committee, which remain unexplored elsewhere 7 .


7: Second, there are concerns that the economic effects of Brexit may include current and possible continuing future depreciation of Sterling. If these effects transpire as variously predicted, then economic pressures will likely intensify to find ways to cross-subsidise growing military nuclear costs in some fashion that mitigates the impact on public spending. Brexit may thus exacerbate incentives to ‘mask’ otherwise-unbearable wider industrial costs of military nuclear submarine infrastructures behind strategic support for civil nuclear supply chains ultimately funded by electricity consumers 8 .

8: Third, there are prospects that demand for UK access to overseas specialist nuclear skills may be aggravated by Brexit-related constraints on labour movement. If this occurs, then competition can be expected to accentuate between recruitment needs for national civil and military nuclear industries. Since key military nuclear skills in particular must for obvious reasons be disproportionately UKbased, so Brexit may reinforce upward pressures on costs of military nuclear infrastructures and so help further increase the pressures for cross-subsidy documented in the earlier PAC evidence 9

9: Fourth, there is the likely effect of Brexit in reinforcing pressures towards Scottish independence. If this transpires, then strong opposition in Scotland to continued associations with the current UK nuclear weapons infrastructure, mean that Brexit will make it more probable that a move will be required of key military nuclear facilities away from Scotland. The result will be a very large Brexitrelated increase in military nuclear costs, further exacerbating pressures for cross-subsidies 10 . 10: We hope it is useful to draw these emerging issues to the attention of the BEIS Committee – both in relation to the above specific repercussions around Brexit and to their wider implications for UK energy strategies, industrial policy and more general qualities of national democratic accountability 11 . October 2017

Extensive references are given on the original document .



In the 1960’s a State Department Study Prevented a Pre-emptive Nuclear Strike on China

March 31, 2018

Given the possible disastrous consequences of a nuclear-armed PRC for the United States, both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations discussed the option of launching preventive strikes on Chinese nuclear weapon facilities. Amid these deliberations, a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Policy Planning Council, Robert H. Johnson, compiled two studies arguing that a nuclear China will not significantly alter the military balance of power in Asia and that, as a corollary, the United States would not need to take radical steps, including military action, in the foreseeable future. Johnson’s papers helped to broaden the discussion about possible policy options vis-à-vis China and may have contributed to the United States not launching a preventive attack on Chinese nuclear facilities in the early 1960s.

China: The Rogue State of the 1960s……..

The State Department Responds While Kennedy was considering preventive war against China’s nuclear weapons capability, several U.S. State Department officials grew skeptical about the White House’s alarmism and militancy. The then-head of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council (PPC), Walt Rostow, noted in July 1963 that even if Beijing developed nuclear weapons, its “desire to preserve its nuclear force as a credible deterrent might tend to make China even more cautious than it is today in its encounters with American power.” Rostow’s opinion was influenced by the first draft of a study titled “A Chinese Communist Nuclear Detonation and Nuclear Capability,” compiled by PPC staffer Robert H. Johnson in close cooperation with officials from the Pentagon, the CIA, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the U.S. Information Agency.

A 100-page version of the paper was distributed in October 1963 to select officials. It is unclear, however, whether Kennedy ever saw it. Its conclusion was distinctly non-alarmist. Most importantly, the report concluded that “apart from serving as an additional inhibition on some levels of U.S. attack upon the mainland, a Chinese nuclear capability need impose no new military restrictions on the U.S. response to aggression in Asia (…)” Even intercontinental ballistic missiles would not “eliminate this basic asymmetry.” Furthermore: “The basic military problems we will face are likely to be much like those we face now: military probing operations (…) relatively low-level border wars” and “‘revolutionary wars’ supported by the ChiComs [Chinese Communists].”

In short, the study suggested that the United States pursue status-quo policies vis-à-vis China (“present policies require no change”) anchored on nuclear deterrence.

The Impact

According to the scholars William Burr and Jeffrey T. Richelson, the study had an immediate impact……..

Robert H. Johnson’s reports helped accentuate the reasons against preventive war. They offered U.S. policymakers alternatives to more hawkish views on how to deal with a nuclear China. ……..

Considering the current U.S. administration’s disjointed responses to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and the repeated talk of the possible necessity of military action, getting the government to “sing from the same sheet” on a very complex issue is no minor achievement. Indeed, our best hope may be that somewhere in the D.C. bureaucracy a 21st century incarnation of Johnson can get the ear of a senior administration official with access to U.S. President Donald Trump and offer a nuanced perspective on the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula.

Franz-Stefan Gady is an associate editor at The Diplomat. He tweets @hoanssolo

Are the remains of an experimental reactor buried on the Niagara Falls storage site?

March 31, 2018

A wide range of radioactive material was dumped cavalierly on site during the Second World War and the decades that followed: plutonium, uranium, thorium, cesium, polonium, strontium, and other dangerous materials. On site today, buried with that steel ball, is what is assumed to be irradiated graphite and almost 4,000 tons of radioactive radium-226, the largest repository in the western hemisphere, representing a staggering quantity of radiation.

—isotopes of plutonium, uranium, cesium, polonium, and other elements that are produced only inside nuclear reactors and by nuclear explosions—

It was known as the Radiological Warfare, or RW, program, and under its auspices scientists studied what materials could best be weaponized, what health consequences they would have on an enemy,

The Bomb That Fell On Niagara: The Sphere Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v7n39 (09/24/2008), by Geoff Kelly & Louis Ricciuti

Are the remains of an experimental reactor buried on the Niagara Falls storage site?

This is going to seem complicated and take a long way to get where it’s going. So here’s the gist, right upfront: Possibly, in Lewiston, are buried the remnants of an experimental nuclear reactor dating from the 1940s. This reactor would have been part of a secret program to weaponize poisonous materials—a program with roots in the study of poison gases in the First World War and whose culmination is found today in the use of depleted uranium munitions around the world.

Sure, it sounds like a plot inspired by Dr. Strangelove. But read on.

Amid the radioactive slurry and scrap interred in the 10-acre interim containment facility at the Niagara Falls Storage Site in Lewiston is a curiosity: a hollow industrial steel ball, 38 feet in diameter.

You won’t find that house-sized steel ball on any waste materials manifest, at least not on any manifest released to the public by the US Army Corp of Engineers, which is the site’s caretaker, or the US Department of Energy, which owns the site and the hazardous waste buried there.

The ball exists in aerial photographs taken of the site in the mid 1940s, however, and it appears to have been rediscovered in a 2002 electric resistivity underground imaging study performed by defense contracting giant SAIC.

In those aerial photos, the ball sits some distance from the main cluster of buildings; the nearest structure is a concrete silo, which eventually became a receptacle for high-energy radium wastes, a legacy of local industry’s central role in the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission, which produced the first atomic bombs.

The Army Corps say there is no documentary record of the ball having been removed from the site. And the 2002 electric imaging scans suggest that a steel sphere, 38 feet in diameter, just like the one in the photos, is buried about a quarter mile from the ball’s original location, on the developed portion of a vast, former federal reservation called the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works. The LOOW came online officially in 1942, a 7,500-acre facility cobbled together from farm fields by the Department of War. Its initial use, according to the site’s official history, was a TNT factory. That factory closed, however, after nine months, at the height of the Second World War. The factory and all its infrastructure—miles of massive pipes, a water and power grid sufficient to sustain a city of 100,000 people, dozens of industrial buildings—were declared surplus.

The LOOW’s actual uses have been a mystery, whose plots and subplots have been revealed slowly and grudgingly by an unforthcoming federal government. ……..

Various sectors of the vast compound became dumping grounds for toxic radiological and chemical waste produced in Niagara Falls factories, as well as laboratories and reactors nationwide, working first on the atom bomb project and later on other Atomic Energy Commission and defense- and intelligence-related projects. A wide range of radioactive material was dumped cavalierly on site during the Second World War and the decades that followed: plutonium, uranium, thorium, cesium, polonium, strontium, and other dangerous materials. On site today, buried with that steel ball, is what is assumed to be irradiated graphite and almost 4,000 tons of radioactive radium-226, the largest repository in the western hemisphere, representing a staggering quantity of radiation.

Beginning in 1980, these wastes—originally dumped in open pools, seeping out of corroded barrels, or just piled on open ground—were consolidated by the DOE into a temporary containment structure on the 119-acre Niagara Falls Storage Site.

The existence on the LOOW of particularly exotic transuranics (that is, above uranium on the periodic table) and fission materials—isotopes of plutonium, uranium, cesium, polonium, and other elements that are produced only inside nuclear reactors and by nuclear explosions—has begged an explanation for decades. The Army Corps says that these transuranics and fission materials arrived at the LOOW with waste from the Navy’s Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory near Schenectady. But the waste from Knolls doesn’t explain all the transuranics and fission materials found on the LOOW, according to some experts, and it doesn’t explain how widespread and how much.

That steel sphere buried among this collection of radiological waste suggests another, simpler explanation: Could that steel ball—a Hortonsphere, named for the inventor of the process of its fabrication—been a component in an early model of an experimental ball-and-pile reactor? One in which exotic materials were created or irradiated, all in the service of a federal weapons program that sought to find new and lethal applications of the materials created in Niagara Falls for the Manhattan Project and beyond?

“I’d have to say yes,” says Tedd Weyman, of the Uranium Medical Research Centre, based in Toronto.

Occam’s Razor

Weyman is a physicist and his group, UMRC, studies the effects of uranium, transuranium elements, and radionuclides produced by the process of uranium decay and fission. UMRC is especially interested in the health effects of depleted uranium, whether it enters the environment as a result of munitions use or as waste.

Weyman examined the aerial photographs of the ball and silo, the list of transuranics and fission materials found on site, and the electric imaging scan that seemed to show that same ball from the photos buried alongside radioactive waste. He reviewed documents that describe the history of the LOOW site and of Niagara Falls industry over the past 60 or so years: the metals and chemicals and devices created in nearby factories, the experimental programs undertaken by defense and intelligence agencies beginning in the 1940s. He considered the size of the Hortonsphere, which he said is consistent with a ball reactor, and its placement in relation to the silo, which is consistent with the pile in a ball and pile reactor—that is, the source of the reactor’s “fuel” and critical reactions.

Weyman then listened to the explanations the Army Corps offered for the ball and the transuranics and fission products: that the ball was used to store anhydrous ammonia used in making TNT and the transuranics and fission products came from Knolls. He concluded that an on-site reactor was a far simpler explanation.

“They’re fission products,” Weyman says of the residues found on site…..

On the subject of the history of the LOOW site and the environmental dangers it poses, the Army Corps has been less than reliable when discussing the documentary evidence. In 2000, for example, when offered evidence that plutonium-tainted waste from medical experiments conducted at the University of Rochester had been buried on the LOOW site, the Corps denied such evidence existed. Eventually, they allowed both that the evidence existed and that the plutonium-tainted waste had been found on site…….

Occam’s Razor is the principle that the simplest explanation is most often the correct one. There’s that anomaly, exactly the diameter of the ball in question, which is exactly the size and manufacture of a ball reactor vessel. It is interred alongside radioactive waste. It originally sat near a silo, which once stored radioactive waste; a 1944 photo of the site looks like a photo of a ball and pile reactor of that era. And there are transuranics and fission materials buried nearby, as well as irradiated graphite, whose nature, quantity, and location aren’t completely explained by the Knolls hypothesis.

“If it quacks, is it not a duck?” Weyman says. “It’s quacking pretty loud.”……….

It was known as the Radiological Warfare, or RW, program, and under its auspices scientists studied what materials could best be weaponized, what health consequences they would have on an enemy, how best to deliver and disperse radioactive materials to a battle zone, and how much to use. This research was more secretive, but here too the expertise of local industries proved valuable. In a brochure from the postwar era, Bell Aircraft (later Bell Aerospace) bragged of its research in area weapons: that is, devices that disperse materials across a battlefield. Niagara Sprayer (a.k.a. FMC, the Middleport company that manufactured Agent Orange) created specialized compounds and nozzles for spraying agricultural metals, powders, and insecticides.

And over at the LOOW site, there was a mammoth federal reserve on which exotic radioactive wastes were accumulating.

Bob Nichols, the San Francisco-based writer who came to the same conculsion as Weyman about the ball buried on the NFSS, specializes in the history of this second track of research. He draws a straight line that connects the radiological warfare program to American research into poison gases, such as mustard gas and chlorine gas (both of which were produced in Niagara County), during the First World War; that line passes through the Manhattan Project along the way, and continues to the present-day use of depleted uranium munitions, which release a cloud of poisonous ceramicized uranium particles as a form of gas when they vaporize on impact.

Nichols explains that the first track—the building of more and better nuclear weapons—created vast stores of radiological waste materials. “The question back then was what on earth to do with it,” he said………

Whatever took place on the former LOOW site in the first decades of the Cold War may have evolved and—like so many local industries—moved away. But its legacy is in the dirt, air, and water. It’s interred under that clay cap. It’s in the region’s higher-than-expected rates of cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses. History should matter to the Corps as much as it matters to those who live in its aftermath.

For more documents and photographs related to the article, visit AV Daily at

In fact, nuclear power plants are a cause of climate change, generating Krypton-85

March 31, 2018
Krypton-85: How nuclear power plants cause climate change

Nuclear power is often referred to as a low-carbon source of energy, implying that it would be a good idea to replace our fossil fuel based energy system with one based on nuclear energy. This is part of a dog and pony show, where the problem of climate change is reduced to its current main contributor, human carbon dioxide emissions. The problem with this approach is that replacing fossil fuel based energy with other energy sources is not a solution, if these other energy sources cause climate change through different mechanisms.

This brings us to the nuclear industry’s dirty little secret, known as Krypton-85. Natural processes generate small amounts of Krypton-85. This leads to an equilibrium concentration in the atmosphere of 0.009 PBq. However, nuclear power plants generate Krypton-85 as well. When spent fuel is recycled, Krypton-85 is released into the atmosphere. As a result, Krypton-85 concentrations in the atmosphere have risen dramatically. The concentration in 1973 was estimated at 1961 PBq. In 2000, the concentration was estimated at 4800 PBq, by 2009, this had increased to 5500 PBq.1

Why should we be interested in the Krypton-85 concentration in our atmosphere? Krypton-85 has a number of interesting effects. As a beta-emitter, Krypton-85 is capable of ionizing our atmosphere. This leads to the formation of ozone.2 In the stratosphere, we’re quite happy to witness the formation of ozone, as it protects us against harmful radiation from the sun. On the other hand, in the troposphere, the layer of the atmosphere beneath the stratosphere, the formation of ozone is a big problem. Unfortunately, Krypton-85’s ozone formation in the stratosphere is minor compared to that by cosmic rays.

In the troposphere on the other hand, Krypton-85 is believed to have a significant role in ozone formation compared to cosmic rays. This is especially significant at night, because normally ozone is not generated during the night, as it requires the presence of sunlight. Krypton-85 generates tropospheric ozone, during the day as well as during the night. Normally, Ozone concentrations in the troposphere drop to near zero during the night.3 In the presence of Krypton-85 however, ozone can be created at night as well.

What are the effect of this? Not a lot is known yet, unfortunately, despite the estimated eight orders of magnitude increase of ozone in our atmosphere. What is know about ozone however, reveals a cause of concern. Besides the fact that tropospheric ozone functions as a greenhouse gas, ozone damages plants. It is believed that ozone causes relatively more damage when trees are exposed to it at night, when concentrations are normally very low due to the absence of sunlight.4 Other worrisome effects of Krypton-85 are expected as well. In a 1994 study it was suggested that “there are unforeseeable effects for weather and climate if the krypton-85 content of the earth atmosphere continues to rise”.5 In its global atmosphere watch measurement guide, the World Meteorological Organization warned:

If 85Kr continues to increase, changes in such atmospheric processes and properties as atmospheric electric conductivity, ion current, the Earth’s magnetic field, formation of cloud condensation nuclei and aerosols, and frequency of lightning may result and thus disturb the Earth’s heat balance and precipitation patterns. These 85Kr-induced consequences call for 85Kr monitoring.6

Fortunately, there is good news as well. Thanks to the ongoing global phase-out of nuclear energy, global atmospheric Krypton-85 concentrations are estimated to have peaked back in 2009. If on the hand, a nuclear renaissance occurs after all, we could expect global atmospheric concentrations to continue to increase. It remains to be seen what the subsequent effects of this would be.

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2 – Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases: Why and How to Control? Proceedings of an International Symposium, Maastricht, The Netherlands, 13–15 December 1993

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Secret tragedy of Britain’s nuclear bomb tests – UK’s soldiers in the Pacific

March 31, 2018

ground crews who washed down planes that flew through the cloud soon began falling sick and low levels of radiation were detected all over Australia.

In 2007 it was found nuclear veterans had the same DNA damage as Chernobyl survivors.

Wives had three times the normal numbers of miscarriage and children 10 times more birth de­­­fects. 

The secrets behind Britain’s first atomic bomb – and the heartbreaking aftermath The detonation of the plutonium bomb in 1952 was hailed a national success, but many of the servicemen involved were left permanently damaged by the fallout BY SUSIE  BONIFACE, MIRROR UK, 6 OCT 2017 

A blinding flash, an eerie silence, and then the sky cracked.

The sound reached those wat­ching at the same time as the blast – a scorching 600mph wind carrying with it the long, grumbling roar of the worst weapon known to humankind.

It was 65 years ago this week – 9.30am local time on October 3, 1952 – that Britain detonated its first nuclear bomb .

Winston Churchill was jubilant, the scientists bursting with pride. But on a tiny island off Australia the cost of the radioactive fallout from Operation Hurricane had yet to be counted.

Many of the servicemen present that day went on to suffer heartbreaking consequences.

Royal Engineer Derek Hickman, now 84, was there. He says: “We had no pro­­tective clothing. You wore shorts and sandals and if you remembered your bush hat, that was all you had.” The blast took place on HMS Plym, an old frigate anchored 300 yards off Trimouille, one of the Monte Bello islands. Troops and scientists lived and worked for months on a small fleet that accompanied her on her final mission.

Derek remembers: “They ordered us to muster on deck – I was on HMS Zeebrugge – and turn our backs to the Plym. We put our hands over our eyes and they counted down over the Tannoy.

“There was a sharp flash and I could see the bones in my hands like an X-ray. Then the sound and the wind and they told us to turn and face it. We watched the mushroom cloud just melt away. They gave us five photos as a memento.

“All that was left of the Plym were a few pieces of metal that fell like rain and her outline scorched on the sea bed.”………

In 1951 Aus­­tralia agreed the blast could take place at Monte Bello.   ….

Thousands of UK and Aussie servicemen saw the mushroom cloud dis­­perse before dozens of planes flew through it to collect dust samples.

The press had been given a viewing tower 55 miles away. The Mirror announced: “This bang has changed the world”.

No official statement was made until October 23 when PM Churchill told the Commons: “All concerned are to be warmly congratulated on the successful outcome of an historic episode.”

But ground crews who washed down planes that flew through the cloud soon began falling sick and low levels of radiation were detected all over Australia.

James Stephenson, 85,remembers being given an unexplained posting to Aber­­­gavenny. The former Royal Engineers soldier says: “We went for train­­ing and they started weeding us out, re­­­moving lads they thought were Communist sympathisers or not up to it.

“Nobody told us what it was about. When we embarked in Portsmouth we had to load machinery ourselves, they wouldn’t let the dockers do it.”James left with the first wave of vessels in January 1952. They were fol­­lowed six months later by HMS Plym carrying the bomb.

Derek explains: “It was a plutonium bomb – the dirtiest. A few years later I went to the doctor and mention­­­ed Monte Bello.

“He asked if I was mar­­ried. I said ‘Yes’ and he replied ‘My advice is ne­­­­v­­­er have children’. He wouldn’t say why.”

It was a warning Derek, now living alone in Crediton, Devon, couldn’t ignore. He says: “My wife wanted children and in the end I walked away from the marriage.

“She never blamed me but it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done. Since then I’ve discovered my friends’ wives suffered many miscarriages and their children had deformities.

“It’s given me a small comfort that at least we avoided that.”

In 2007 it was found nuclear veterans had the same DNA damage as Chernobyl survivors.

Wives had three times the normal numbers of miscarriage and children 10 times more birth de­­­fects. James, from Taunton, Devon, had two healthy children. But he was lucky.

He says: “I know people whose children were born with organs outside their bodies. It made me worry about my grandchildren. Thank God they’re fine.”

Hurricane had an explosive yield of 25 kilotons – 15 kilotons had flattened Hiroshima and killed 126,000. But less than four weeks later the US detonated a hydrogen bomb 400 times more powerful than Hurricane.

The UK was back out in the cold and would not be accepted at the nuclear top table until 1958 when it finally developed its own H-bomb.

In all 22,000 servicemen took part in Britain’s nuclear tests which ended only in 1991. Derek and James are among the 2,000 or so who survive and are still coming to terms with the chain reaction unleashed at Monte Bello.

James says: “Nobody really knew what they were doing, not us or the scientists. It was just a job we had to do.”

The Monte Bello islands are now a wildlife park but visitors are warned not to stay for more than an hour or take home the fragments of metal that can still be found – radioactive pieces of a long-forgotten Royal Navy warship that unleashed a hurricane.

Thousands of UK and Aussie servicemen saw the mushroom cloud dis­­perse before dozens of planes flew through it to collect dust samples.

The press had been given a viewing tower 55 miles away. The Mirror announced: “This bang has changed the world”.

No official statement was made until October 23 when PM Churchill told the Commons: “All concerned are to be warmly congratulated on the successful outcome of an historic episode.”

But ground crews who washed down planes that flew through the cloud soon began falling sick and low levels of radiation were detected all over Australia.

Ignoring the danger of ionising radiation: nuclear waste dumping in the sea

March 31, 2018

The idea that nuclear pollution can be rendered safe by extreme dilution has been proven wrong

radioactive materials bioaccumulate. A worm can contain 2,000 to 3,000 times higher levels than its environment. The worm is then eaten by another marine animal, which gets eating by another, and so on. At each step, the radioactive level rises. Barbey has identified reproductive defects in sea crabs, caused by radioactive contamination, and these genetic defects are passed on to future generations of crabs.

Are we to believe the same is not happening in humans, who are at the top of the food chain?

The fact of the matter is that a certain number of cancer deaths are considered acceptable in order to keep costs for the nuclear waste industry down. The question no one has the answer to is: At what point do the deaths begin to outweigh the cost-savings of the nuclear industry?

As to where such cost-benefit considerations came from in the first place, the filmmakers identify the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)

the nuclear industry is hardly operating for the benefit of the many.

The Rarely Discussed Reality of Radioactive Pollution

Story at-a-glance

  • For decades, the common method of nuclear disposal was to dump plutonium-filled steel barrels into the ocean. Today, many if not most of these barrels have corroded and disintegrated, releasing radioactive material into the environment
  • “Versenkt und Vergessen” (Sunk and Forgotten) investigates what happened to the barrels of nuclear waste, and how radioactive material is disposed of today
  • In 1993, nuclear waste dumping into the ocean was banned worldwide, yet the ocean remains a primary dumping ground for radioactive waste
  • Instead of ditching barrels overboard, the nuclear waste industry built pipes along the bottom of the sea, through which the radioactive material is discharged directly into the open sea
  • Cancer deaths are considered acceptable to keep costs for the nuclear waste industry down. According to the International Commission on Radiological Protection, this cost-benefit consideration is part of Epicurus’ utilitarian ethics, which states that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few

By Dr. Mercola

A rarely addressed environmental problem is radioactive pollution from nuclear waste disposal. For decades, the common method of nuclear disposal was to simply dump plutonium-filled steel barrels into the ocean.

Starting with an overview of the past, the featured documentary, “Versenkt und Vergessen,” (Sunk and Forgotten), notes that in May 1967, 100,000 tons of nuclear waste from Germany, Great Britain and France were dumped in the North Atlantic, the Irish Sea and the English Channel. And that was just one of many loads.

Officials claimed the waste would be safely diluted at depths of about 4,000 meters (2.5 miles). The motto was: “The solution to pollution is dilution.” But was it? The film crew investigates what happened to these barrels of nuclear waste, and how radioactive material is disposed of today, now that ocean dumping is no longer allowed.

1970s Activism Raised Awareness but Could Not Stop Nuclear Dumping

Greenpeace began raising public awareness about the practice of dumping nuclear waste in the ocean during the 1970s. Alas, the nuclear industry remained unfazed. Instead, environmentalists were attacked and criminalized. John Large, a nuclear physicist who was involved in the development of a British nuclear bomb in the 1960s, knows a thing or two about nuclear dumping.

In addition to barrels filled with plutonium, nuclear reactor fuel rods were also routinely dumped into the ocean. And, while specific sites had been chosen for the disposal, there are no guarantees the rods or barrels actually made it there.

The reason for this is because the ship’s crew were continually exposed to radioactivity as long as the rods remained onboard. This meant the captain had to pay careful attention to exposure times to protect the health of the crew, and if they ran into bad weather, the cargo would have to be dumped wherever they happened to be when the clock ran out.

Dumping Inventory Records Tell Us Little

In addition to that, many entries in the disposal inventory records simply read, “not known,” when it comes to the amount, content or location of the disposal. With such an apparent lack of precision in the dumping inventory records, how might the fate of the barrels and fuel rods be ascertained?

The filmmakers turn to the British Health Protection Agency (HPA), which is responsible for radioactive waste. Alas, they have little choice but to rely on the information they’re given, no matter how incomplete. Michael Meacher MP, who was Minister for the Environment between 1997 and 2003 and an opponent of the nuclear dumping policy, believes the lack of record keeping is no accident.

He suggests it was probably an agreement between the British ministry of defense, the Army and the nuclear industry — none of which really wanted anyone to know how much was dumped, what kind of materials were disposed of or exactly where. The less information anyone has, the lower the chances of any of them being held responsible. “This is a sort of conspiracy,” Meacher says, adding that the long-term effects of dumping radioactive waste into oceans are entirely unknown.

Fundamental Assumptions Proven Wrong

The idea that nuclear pollution can be rendered safe by extreme dilution has been proven wrong. As noted by Large, “The fundamental underlying problem was that they assumed that if you dilute the radioactivity with tons and tons of water, it’s safe to discharge. And that has been proven wrong time and time again.” Evidence of this was collected by a German research group in the mid-‘80s.

The exploratory group visited nuclear dumping sites in the Atlantic where they retrieved several barrels, and found plutonium in the water, seabed and fish. An internal document titled “Position paper on the implications of deep sea disposal of radioactive waste,” issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), notes that “Increased concentrations of plutonium in the dump sites indicates plutonium leaks from the barrels.”

Now these toxins have dispersed into the biosphere, and dispersion does not equate to safety. At its headquarters in Monaco, IAEA scientists are conducting experiments to assess the impact of radioactive waste on marine life by feeding marine animals with contaminated food sources. The IAEA, which continuously monitors the ocean floor, claims it has not found any other dumped barrels. The assumption, therefore, is that the barrels ditched in the English Channel have all disintegrated.

Nuclear Waste in the English Channel

There have been no additional investigations at the dumpsites since, however, so is the IAEA correct in its assumption that all dumped barrels have corroded and no longer retrievable? The film crew decides to conduct its own investigation, and travels to an area called Hurd Deep, located in the English Channel near the island of Alderney, where 28,000 barrels of radioactive waste and munitions is known to have been deposited at a depth of 100 meters (328 feet) or less.

With the use of a small unmanned submarine, the team surveils the area. What do they find? On the very first dive, the camera-equipped submersible documents a still undamaged barrel, which could potentially be salvaged. On the second dive, a thoroughly corroded and disintegrating barrel is found — barely half an hour’s boat ride from the coast of France.

With nuclear waste dumped so close to land, what effects might it have on the environment and residents? The team follows professor Chris Busby to Alderney, where a doctor has reported an unusually high number of cancer cases and deaths. Unfortunately, exact statistics on cancer deaths cannot be obtained due to data protection protocols.

Based on informal inquiries, however, the team finds that the island, which has a total of just 2,400 residents, has had quite a few cancer-related deaths. The government, however, assures Busby that everything is fine, and that levels of radioactivity in the environment are far too low to cause harm. According to the IAEA, the dilution hypothesis does work, and despite very large amounts of radioactive waste having been deposited in some areas, the water would still meet safe drinking water standards, were it not saltwater.

Busby disagrees, as does Claus Grupen, a nuclear physicist at the University of Siegen in Germany, who says, “If the amount in which [the radioactive waste] is diluted is infinitely vast — if I discharge it into outer space — then it might be well-diluted. But the Earth is a very small body, and the concentration is growing.” The conclusion is that the radiation is merely spreading out. It’s not actually “disappearing” at all, and according to Busby, every single radionucleotide has the potential to trigger cancer.

Nuclear Ocean Dumping Continues

In 1993, nuclear waste dumping was banned worldwide, in large part thanks to the ongoing efforts of Greenpeace. But that doesn’t mean the practice has stopped. The nuclear industry has merely changed the way it’s doing the dumping. Instead of ditching barrels overboard, the industry built pipes along the bottom of the sea, through which the radioactive material is pumped. To where, you might ask? Directly into the open sea.

One of these nuclear waste pipes is situated in La Hague, Normandy, where physicist David Boilley has founded an environmental group against nuclear ocean dumping. In his view, the nuclear accident in Fukushima has had global ramifications, forcing us to rethink how we view “clean food.” It’s no longer possible to assume that clean water equals clean and healthy fish.

A fish may ultimately be caught in water considered clean, but if that individual fish has, at any point in its life, swum through a contaminated area or eaten contaminated food, it will be contaminated to some degree. So being caught in clean water is no guarantee that it will be free of radioactive contaminants. “It’s like gambling,” Boilley says. “You may be lucky or unlucky.”

Back in Boilley’s lab, water samples prove to have tritium levels that are fivefold higher than those provided by the French nuclear operator Areva. This is why the group, and other environmentalists, refuse to rely on “official” measurements, and insist on taking their own. Fish and shellfish bought at the local market are also tested, as are other marine animals found on the ocean floor.

Microbiologist Pierre Barbey explains that radioactive materials bioaccumulate. A worm can contain 2,000 to 3,000 times higher levels than its environment. The worm is then eaten by another marine animal, which gets eating by another, and so on. At each step, the radioactive level rises. Barbey has identified reproductive defects in sea crabs, caused by radioactive contamination, and these genetic defects are passed on to future generations of crabs.

Are we to believe the same is not happening in humans, who are at the top of the food chain? According to Barbey, the cellular impact is the same. Plutonium has been found in gray seals off the coasts of Europe, and cesium has been found in porpoises. Since the ecosystem is a closed system, every animal must be protected from radioactivity. None is “disposable.” And what happens to the animals will ultimately affect us too.

Why Ocean Dumping Continues Despite Ban

Next, the team visits Sellafield, home of 80 percent of the U.K.’s nuclear waste. This site also has waste pipes dumping radioactive materials into the ocean. In 1997, Greenpeace activists drew attention to the pipe. One of the activists was Shaun Burnie, who to this day continues his fight against the nuclear discharges. He’s particularly concerned about the health and welfare of the locals, especially those who live right on the beach.

Their homes have been found to contain plutonium-contaminated dust, and tests reveal these high-risk individuals have higher levels of radioactivity in their bodies. They even have plutonium in their teeth. Radioactive material originating from Sellafield has also been found along the coast of Norway. But how is it that the nuclear industry can continue disposing of radioactive waste into the ocean when ocean dumping has been banned?

The answer may surprise you. The industry claims the pipes are part of a land-based disposal system, and therefore legal. When asked if there’s a scientific, logical reason why barrels are banned while open discharges into the ocean are allowed, Hartmut Nies with the IAEA replies, “I think it is more of a philosophical question.”

Wolfgang Renneberg, an expert on radioactive waste disposal and director general for nuclear safety in the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, offers a more definitive answer: There’s only one reason why open discharges are allowed, and that is economics. To install a system to ensure discharges have a near-zero radioactivity would likely be so expensive, it would likely render the plant economically unviable.

Rising Childhood Leukemia Rates Dismissed

So, despite reports of rising rates of leukemia in Sellafield — which, according to Busby are 10 times higher than the rest of the country — the discharges continue. And, since investigations into cancer clusters keep finding the nuclear operation at Sellafield is not a factor, plutonium-contaminated beaches remain open to the public.

Many locals have come to suspect the authorities are being “deliberately imprecise in their work” to hide the extent of the problem. In an area of the beach where official soil testing has not been done, the filmmakers find plutonium levels up to 10 times higher than the permissible limit. Still, some nuclear industry experts insist the dangers associated with radioactive material is small. One 30-year veteran in the industry, Richard Wakeford, says:

“I assess the risk of radiation … to be very small, and should really not be a major [concern] to parents or anyone else. There are much more important things to be worried about. There are two major ideas: Either childhood leukemia is a rare response to a common, but as of yet unidentified, infection, or [it’s due to] large-scale urban, rural population mixing.”

As noted in the film, “Conclusion: Either a virus or population mixing around Sellafield is responsible for cancer — but not the highly toxic nuclear waste from the sea?!” The team turns to another expert, the German physician Klaus Hoffmann, member of a number of German federal radiation protection committees. When asked what he thinks about the U.K’s denial of a link between rising leukemia rates and radioactive pollution, he says:

“They are simply wrong. There is little evidence for the population mixing hypothesis, and there’s absolutely no evidence of the virus hypothesis. There is neither a virus, nor are there antibodies. In other words, forget this whole infection hypothesis. These hypotheses have arisen primarily to explain away any risk from radiation.”     

Industry Cost-Savings Weighed Against Human Life

The fact of the matter is that a certain number of cancer deaths are considered acceptable in order to keep costs for the nuclear waste industry down. The question no one has the answer to is: At what point do the deaths begin to outweigh the cost-savings of the nuclear industry?

As to where such cost-benefit considerations came from in the first place, the filmmakers identify the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) — an independent charity “established to advance for the public benefit the science of radiological protection, in particular by providing recommendations and guidance on all aspects of protection against ionizing radiation.”

While interview requests with the Commission went unanswered, they discovered a video online in which former ICRP chairman Roger Clarke explains the cost-benefit principle by quoting one of Epicurus’ utilitarian ethics, which states that, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

In this case, you could argue the nuclear industry is hardly operating for the benefit of the many. If the true costs of operations were considered, it would become clear that there are far less expensive, not to mention less toxic, ways to produce energy. As noted in the film, we need safer forms of energy. The waste pipes need to be closed, and any retrievable barrels recovered from the ocean floor and secured. If we do nothing, our environment will continue to deteriorate, and so will human health.


The Nuclear History of Port Hope – Book “Blind Faith”

March 31, 2018

Blind Faith: The Nuclear History of Port Hope, Ontario  by Dennis Riches  @DennisRiches Port Hope and Public Charity for a Corporate Citizen

Since the 1940s, nuclear weapons tests, power plant failures and uranium mining have left radioactive contamination at hundreds of sites around the world. Whether the contamination is from weapons tests, accidents, or just reckless routine operations, the story of the affected people unfolds in much the same way, as if it were a formulaic plot for a generic television soap opera. Communities that have been chemically contaminated follow much the same script, but radiation adds some distinctive elements to the situation.

Radiation is invisible, and it has always been imbued with a diverse range of magical powers in science fiction. Ironically, in a very real sense, radiation does make people invisible (the phenomenon is fully explained by Robert Jacobs in “Radiation Makes People Invisible”) [1]. Once groups of people have become victims of a radiological contamination, they are, in addition to being poisoned (or being traumatized by the possibility that they have been poisoned), marginalized and forgotten. Their traditions and communities are fragmented, and they are shamed into concealing their trauma. When contamination occurs, there is a strong impulse even among many victims to not admit that they have been harmed, for they know the fate that awaits them if they do.

The victims are helped in this denial by those who inflicted the damage on them because nuclear technology, both for weapons and electricity production, has always been treated as two sides of a single national security problem that requires secrecy and the occasional sacrifice. Its workings must be hidden from enemies, terrorists and citizens themselves. Thus governments have never been interested in helping their citizens investigate nuclear accidents and environmental damage left in the wake of nuclear development.

As secretive programs of nation states, nuclear complexes operate free of any governing body that could provide checks and balances. In this sense, they are a more intractable problem than the corporate villains that are occasionally held in check by government supervision. The American tobacco industry was eventually forced into retreat by government, and it had to pay enormous damages to state governments for health care costs, but the nuclear weapons and energy complexes still operate free of any higher power that could restrain or abolish them.

Thus it is that hibakusha (the Japanese word for radiation victims) become invisible. When a new group of people become victims, such as in Fukushima in 2011, they feel that they have experienced a unique new kind of horror. For them, for their generation, it is new, but for those who know the historical record, it is a familiar replay of an old story. The people of Fukushima should know by now that they are bit players who have been handed down a tattered script from the past.

A case in point is “Blind Faith,” the superb 1981 book by journalist Penny Sanger, about the small irradiated Canadian town of Port Hope on the shores of Lake Ontario. (See the timeline at the end of this article) [2] In the 1970s it faced (and more often failed to face) the toxic legacy of processing first radium, then uranium for nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.

In a saner world this book would not be out of print and forgotten. It would be a classic text known by everyone who has ever had to share his town with a dangerous corporate citizen. Then there would be no surprises when a nuclear reactor explodes or a cancer cluster appears somewhere new. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the victims themselves fall over each other in a rush to excuse their abuser, beg for a continuation of jobs and tax revenue, and threaten the minority who try to break the conspiracy of silence.

On the back cover of the 1981 paperback edition of “Blind Faith” there was an endorsement by the late great Canadian writer Farley Mowat, who passed away in the spring of 2014:

Penny Sanger has written a fascinating and fearsome account of the emotional turmoil that engulfs a small town when it discovers that its major industry is a threat to the health of its citizens. This is a classic account of how economic power enables industry to ride roughshod over those who must depend on it for their daily bread.

Although I wrote above that “Blind Faith” illustrates universal truths about what happens to communities contaminated with radiation, there are always unique aspects of the situation that come into play. In this case, we see the extreme complacency and obliviousness of Canadian society to the role that the country played in the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

The uranium refinery in Port Hope was a key element in the Manhattan Project. It was the main facility for refining uranium ores from the Congo and northern Canada. However, as a subordinate nation in the American-led war, Canada just had to go along in complete secrecy. As was the case even in the US, there was never any debate in public or in elected legislatures. Canada was just taking orders and didn’t have to feel responsible. Canadians are still largely ignorant about their complicity in making the bombs that fell on Japan, as they are about being one of the sources of the uranium that was in the reactors of Fukushima Daiichi.

Another factor in our sense of irresponsibility is the comfortable delusion that all bad things are done by the evil empire south of the border. We’re the good guys, with universal health care and multiculturalism……..

The Port Hope refinery began operations in the 1930s to produce radium from uranium ore. The ore came from the recently discovered rich deposits in the Port Radium mine on the shore of Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories (previous post on this topic here). This mine would later become one of the primary sources of uranium for the first atomic weapons, but in the 1930s radium was the only product that had value for its use in making luminescent paint and medical applications.

By the 1930s it was well understood that radium and uranium mines were extremely dangerous. The high lung cancer rates of miners in Czechoslovakia had been noted for a long time, but there were others who failed to acknowledge any connection. Marie Curie died in 1934 from aplastic anemia, and she never acknowledged that her numerous health problems had been related to the vials of radium that she carried around in her pocket or perhaps to the unshielded x-ray machines she worked with. [3] Today her diaries and papers still have to be stored in a lead box.

Because there was no consensus on the dangers of radium by the early pioneers (DNA wasn’t even understood until the 1950s), there were few safety controls in place when radium became an industrial product. Radium paint workers got sick and died for mysterious reasons, as did workers in processing plants like the Eldorado Mining and Refining facility in Port Hope. Almost nothing was done to protect workers or properly dispose of the waste product. The wastes were isolated in a dump, but when that became problem, the dirt was sold as fill to unsuspecting (or unscrupulous) buyers and used at construction sites all over town.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that a few citizens of Port Hope started to notice radioactive wastes turning up in various locations. This new awareness was the beginning of bitter social divides that would be familiar to anyone who has followed what has happened in Fukushima prefecture since 2011. The enormous implications of the necessary cleanup forced political and economic powers to downplay or ignore the dangers, and ostracize anyone who dared to threaten real estate values and tarnish the image of the community. The mayor even boasted of what a great role the town had played in the Cold War by refining uranium so that America could beat back the Soviet threat, as if the contamination had been worth it.

There was a minimal recognition of the need to do something about the worst hot spots, to placate critics and relocate residents in the worst danger. Everyone agreed, for example, that something had to be done to clean up a contaminated school, but for the most part the problem was denied in favor of keeping the town’s biggest tax payer and employer satisfied. At the same time, the federal government was not motivated to do anything that would set back the expansion of the nation’s nuclear energy program. The Darlington and Pickering nuclear plants were built nearby in this era on the shores of Lake Ontario.

By this time, Eldorado was no longer selling uranium for American nuclear weapons, but it had become a major player in the uranium fuel market. It would provide the fuel for the large fleet of CANDU reactors that Ontario was building, and by the 1980s Eldorado was privatized, turned into Cameco, and was then selling about 80% of its output to the US where the uranium was enriched for use in light water reactors.

Thus a full acknowledgment of the extent of the problem—the cost of cleanup and the health impacts—would have jeopardized the refinery’s role as a major supplier in a growing nuclear energy industry. Eldorado might have seemed like a wealthy giant to outsiders, but the uranium business was perilous and changing rapidly. Just as the public was becoming aware of the extent of the pollution, Eldorado was stuck in long-term contracts that were a bargain for its customers but disastrous in a time of soaring costs.

The situation presented especially difficult obstacles for opponents because Eldorado was a crown (publicly owned) corporation. One obstacle was secrecy. Since 1942, the operations of Eldorado have been state secrets, and much remains locked up in archives that are yet to be opened to historians. [4]

The other problem was in the fact that the government had no interest in investigating its own corporation, and because Eldorado was a federal crown corporation, the province of Ontario had no authority to investigate it for environmental crimes. Thus complaints from citizens ran into this dead end.

Similar situations in the United States, such as at the Rocky Flats plutonium pit factory, involved the Department of Energy hiring large defense contractors like Rockwell to manage the plant. This meant there was a possibility the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigations could act if enough public pressure were applied and evidence of crimes became apparent. As much as the American nuclear weapons complex was a monstrous crime against nature, there is at least something redeeming in the fact that the American system of government consisted of various institutions that could sometimes keep the others in check. In the dying days of operations at Rocky Flats in 1989, the EPA and the FBI raided the facility which was then operated by Rockwell under contract for the Department of Energy. The US government essentially raided and prosecuted itself. [5]

Unfortunately, no such checks and balances existed in Canada’s nuclear industry. The federal government and its crown corporation had a monolithic grip on the historical records and on decisions about environmental safety and health related to radiation. There was no outside force that had legal authority to prosecute them and force them to divulge information.

There are some further details in “Blind Faith” that stand out in my memory. Some are unique to the Port Hope story, while others are typical of stories of other irradiated and poisoned communities.

At one point, a doctor in a nearby town grew alarmed at the number cancer cases that appeared in his patients from Port Hope. He tried to bring the issue to the attention of health authorities, but was slandered and opposed by city officials to a degree that he found alarming. He had foolishly thought that his efforts to speak up for public health would be appreciated.

Instead, city officials made a pathetic attempt to sue him for defaming Port Hope, and when that immediately failed, they complained to the provincial medical association. They had thought that this would succeed in getting him stripped of his license to practice, but they were quickly rebuffed by the medical association that found no fault in a doctor expressing his opinion about a serious public health concern. Such was the sophistication of the strategies of the town fathers as they floundered for ways to preserve the tax base.

Eldorado and the federal government, and even the Workmen’s Compensation Board were equally combative in the lawsuits that former workers eventually managed to bring to court. Lung cancer was the only health issue that was admitted for consideration in the lawsuits, and once it became a legal battle, all ethical considerations went by the wayside. It became a matter of winning at all costs, of admitting to absolutely no wrongdoing no matter how absurd the defendants had to appear. The government lawyers played hardball, abandoning any thought that the government corporation owed anything to the citizens who had lost their health working on a project so essential for national security. The government side was not too ashamed to engage in extreme forms of legalistic hair-splitting.

For example, the victims were forced to prove their exposure, but everyone involved knew that the only party that had the information were the defendants, and Eldorado did its best to conceal it. One victim was denied compensation because the records showed his cumulative exposure was 10.8 working level months. Expert witnesses were brought in to say that the threshold of danger to health was 12 working level months.

Another segment of the book that stands out is that in which Penny Sanger was able to discover that at one time, before the contamination was known by townspeople, the Canadian military had used Port Hope as a training ground for operating in the aftermath of nuclear warfare. The military knew what the citizens of the town didn’t know at the time: there were sizzling hot spots of various sizes all over town, so it made for an ideal training ground for soldiers who would have to map radiation levels and move through contaminated terrain after a nuclear attack. After the training exercise, they might have bothered to tell the locals about what they were living with, but the contamination remained a secret until residents started to figure it out for themselves.

As the years of legal struggles and activism dragged on, there were signs that the government was tacitly admitting to the scale of the problem, even if it refused to accept legal responsibility for health damages. The management of Eldorado was routed, and it would eventually be privatized and turned into Cameco. The refinery became the object of pork barrel politics when the federal Liberals came back to power in 1980. They announced that the more dangerous uranium trioxide operation would be relocated to Blind River, a town in the north that had voted Liberal. Eldorado wanted the refinery kept in place close to markets. (I wonder if anyone saw the ironic symbolism of progress in the names; going from hope to blind—a fiction writer couldn’t have come up with anything better).

One stand-out account is that of a widow whose husband, a long-time Eldorado worker, had died of lung cancer at age 50. He had worked at Eldorado for over twenty years, during the era when workplace monitoring and standards were non-existent. Her husband was no longer there to say whether he too was “philosophical” about it and “couldn’t be bitter about it” like his wife and his daughter claimed. The widow said that in spite of her husband’s shortened life, they were grateful for the good jobs and university education that the children were able to get. Thanks to Eldorado, they had come up in the world.

Penny Sanger passed no judgment on this thinking, but I find it to be a rather disturbinging example of working man’s Stockholm Syndrome. The victim has internalized the values of the captor, and lost self-esteem and critical thinking skills in the process. The bereaved family shrugs that they “can’t be bitter about it.” They’ve internalized the value that children have to go to university to live worthwhile lives, and it’s alright if parents have to kill themselves to accomplish this goal.

It seemed to never occur to any of the Port Hope boosters that there were dozens of similar towns in rural Ontario that had found ways to survive without hosting toxic industries. I know a family of Polish immigrants who landed in Port Hope in the 1960s, and they managed to get by without working for Cameco. The children had the sense to leave town after high school when they saw their friends going straight to grim lives working with the yellowcake down at the plant. One of them managed somehow to get a couple of university degrees after he left town.

This lack of imagination among the terminally hopeful applies more widely. Not only do company towns fail to imagine less toxic ways to live, but large nations also fail to imagine new paradigms for energy and economic systems.

Port Hope’s troubles with its radioactive legacy didn’t end with the privatization of the refinery and other varied forms of resolution that came about in the 1980s. A cleanup was done in the 1980s, but twenty years later hot spots were still turning up, and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission finally admitted the extent of the problem and committed taxpayer funds to a billion-dollar decontamination project which is presently underway—an amount that is, ironically, about the same as the budget for the new Chernobyl sarcophagus under construction now. [6][7]

There is further irony in the fact that while the Fukushima and Chernobyl exclusion zones have become the famous global icons of radiation-affected communities, the Port Hope disaster has no place in Canada’s national consciousness. [8] There is little public awareness of the history, and the present billion-dollar decontamination project has received scant media attention and no public alarm over the high cost.

Opposition parties in Ontario have focused in recent years on stoking citizen outrage over cancelled plans to build gas-powered electric generating stations. That loss was comparatively little, amounting to “only” a few hundred million dollars. The same can be said of the province’s plan to spend $20 billion or more to refurbish nuclear power plants to operate them beyond their originally planned expiry dates. This issue receives little attention, as none of the major political parties wish to use it to stoke debate with rivals. Nuclear energy has vanished from political discourse.

Meanwhile, Cameco has continued to practice its philosophy of good corporate citizenship by funneling all its uranium sales through Switzerland in order to avoid Canadian taxes. The company is in an ongoing legal battle with Canada Revenue Agency, while it has warned stockholders it may owe as much as $850 million in back taxes[9]. Note that this amount falls a bit short of the cost of the decontamination project in Port Hope, but it would provide a big chunk of it.


“Blind Faith” is available on a website dedicated to the history of Port Hope. Since it is out of print and over thirty years old, I asked the author if she would allow its free distribution as a pdf file. She gave her permission, but of course the common sense rules apply. If you want to sell the book, ask the author for permission. If you redistribute it free, in whole or in part, do so with proper citation.Read it in a web browser: download (permitted by author):
Penny Sanger, Blind Faith” (pdf) (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1981), 135 pages.

Text of Nobel Peace Prize award to anti-nuclear campaign ICAN

March 31, 2018   OSLO 

(Reuters) (Reporting By Alister Doyle), 6 Oct 17 – Following is the text of the Nobel Peace Prize award on Friday to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.
We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time. Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.

Nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity and all life on earth. Through binding international agreements, the international community has previously adopted prohibitions against land mines, cluster munitions and biological and chemical weapons. Nuclear weapons are even more destructive, but have not yet been made the object of a similar international legal prohibition.

Through its work, ICAN has helped to fill this legal gap. An important argument in the rationale for prohibiting nuclear weapons is the unacceptable human suffering that a nuclear war will cause. ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations from around 100 different countries around the globe.

The coalition has been a driving force in prevailing upon the world’s nations to pledge to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. To date, 108 states have made such a commitment, known as the Humanitarian Pledge.

Furthermore, ICAN has been the leading civil society actor in the endeavor to achieve a prohibition of nuclear weapons under international law. On 7 July 2017, 122 of the UN member states acceded to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

As soon as the treaty has been ratified by 50 states, the ban on nuclear weapons will enter into force and will be binding under international law for all the countries that are party to the treaty.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is aware that an international legal prohibition will not in itself eliminate a single nuclear weapon, and that so far neither the states that already have nuclear weapons nor their closest allies support the nuclear weapon ban treaty.

The Committee wishes to emphasize that the next steps towards attaining a world free of nuclear weapons must involve the nuclear-armed states. This year’s Peace Prize is therefore also a call upon these states to initiate serious negotiations with a view to the gradual, balanced and carefully monitored elimination of the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world.

Five of the states that currently have nuclear weapons – the USA, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China – have already committed to this objective through their accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1970.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty will remain the primary international legal instrument for promoting nuclear disarmament and preventing the further spread of such weapons.

It is now 71 years since the UN General Assembly, in its very first resolution, advocated the importance of nuclear disarmament and a nuclear weapon-free world. With this year’s award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to pay tribute to ICAN for giving new momentum to the efforts to achieve this goal.

The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has a solid grounding in Alfred Nobel’s will.

The will specifies three different criteria for awarding the Peace Prize: the promotion of fraternity between nations, the advancement of disarmament and arms control and the holding and promotion of peace congresses. ICAN works vigorously to achieve nuclear disarmament.
ICAN and a majority of UN member states have contributed to fraternity between nations by supporting the Humanitarian Pledge. And through its inspiring and innovative support for the UN negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, ICAN has played a major part in bringing about what in our day and age is equivalent to an international peace congress.

It is the firm conviction of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that ICAN, more than anyone else, has in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigor.

Essential for the public to know about the hazards of RADON

March 31, 2018

In the face of multiple environmental hazards and issues radon often gets overlooked, partially because radon is what one can call a silent killer

Educating the public about radon and their ill effects and ways of preventing it is a must as there is not much awareness about this in the public –despite many northern states in the USA having high concentrations. Part of this education effort involves indoor testing.

Public funding and radon poisoning, what’s the link? Morgan, Jessica | October 5, 2017 It has only been a short while since the news of drastic budget trimming on various EPA projects by President Donald Trump’s government came out; however, it is already obvious that it will have a long-term effect on the environment.

The proposed 25-30% cut in EPA’s budgets can severely affect several climate programs that were nurtured under President Obama’s rule, and many other initiatives and projects that support clean air and water. These initiatives were introduced for the well-being of the public to a large extent in the future. This move can also shut the doors for the Indoor Air Radon Program and State Indoor Radon Grants.

The main goal of the Indoor Air Radon Program is minimizing and preventing radon-related lung cancer nationally. The EPA provides grant funds to States and tribes. These funds help finance their radon risk reduction programs. The recipients of the funds must provide a minimum of 40% in matching funds. The SIRG or States Indoor Radon Grant funds are however not available to individuals or homeowners.

The SIRG program was started in 1988 and has been consistent in supporting the State efforts to reduce Radon exposure-related health risks. The SIRG program from time to time has been revising the SIRG guidance by removing the obsolete administrative and technical guidance and updating with latest modifications that address a renewed emphasis on program priorities, documenting results, and results reporting.

Those who receive funds from SIRG are expected to follow the agency’s strategic goals and all their projects and activities must be aligned accordingly. The strategic goals include,

  • Local government to adopt building codes that require radon-reducing features and initiate those building new homes to add these radon-reducing features where appropriate.
  • Have real estate dealers test the property for radon exposure before striking a deal. Also, have homeowners test their homes for radon exposure and have it fixed.
  • Have existing school buildings check for radon exposure and get it fixed appropriately. Building new schools with radon-reducing features.
  • Conducting projects and activities that bring awareness to the public about the above three strategies which include promoting action by consumers, real estate professionals, state and local building code officials, schools officials, non-profit public health organizations,  professional organizations partnerships.

Cutting down the EPA budget can directly affect the SIRG program as it is essential to continue the State radon programs. With the budget cut down, SIRG cannot run an effective program.

In the face of multiple environmental hazards and issues radon often gets overlooked, partially because radon is what one can call a silent killer. It is a gas which is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. When radium or uranium present in the soil, rock, or water breaks down or decays, it releases radon. Radon itself does not cause any harmful effects as it travels to the surface of the ground and dilutes in the air outdoors. The problem is when the gas accumulates indoor in a building it might not have room for an escape of dilution and further decays –radon can enter a house through cracks in foundations, floors, well water, etc. The decayed radon creates radon progeny, which are radioactive particles that attach to dust particles indoors. When a person inhales this radioactive gas, it can damage the cells in the lung tissue and leads to lung cancer.

Usually there will be two copies of DNA repair enzymes in many people that can repair the damage; however, a few less fortunate people may have just one copy of these DNA repair enzymes which might not be sufficient enough to repair the damages and can lead to lung cancer. This is the reason why even though an entire family is living in a radon-exposed environment, only one or two might be affected by it.

Radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air, and the recommended level is 4 pCi/L. In comparison, the outdoor level of radon is just 0.4 pCi/L. If a house or a building has radon above the recommended levels then proper actions need to be taken. Modern technology is able to bring down the radon level indoors to 2 pCi/L or lower.

Educating the public about radon and their ill effects and ways of preventing it is a must as there is not much awareness about this in the public –despite many northern states in the USA having high concentrations. Part of this education effort involves indoor testing. There are short term tests that last for 90 days as well as long-term tests that last for more than 90 days to confirm the levels. There are also test kits available. If it is confirmed that your home is exposed to radon, mitigation steps can be taken by professional contractors who have expertise in this field. The contractor will gauge your house and recommend the exact mitigation system that your house will need. There are different methods like soil suction which involves sub-slab suction, sump holds suction, drain tile suction, and block wall suction. Other methods are heat recovery ventilators, home pressurization, well water aeration, sealing radon entry locations, etc.

Reductions in federal funding for the Indoor Air Radon Program and States Indoor Radon Grant hamstrings many of the radon risk reduction and education programs, raising the likelihood that low-income households will not be able to afford testing and mitigation.  Whether your government supports you or not, you can learn more about the harmful risks of radon and the steps you can take to make your house safer for you and your family. To learn more about radon, go through this infographic from PropertEco which explains about radon gas and its ill effects.

From Nuclear Fusion Fraud to Physics Fortune

March 31, 2018

The ITER Power Amplification Myth Oct. 6, 2017 – By Steven B. Krivit –

Short link:

This is the third of three reports about the claims by representatives and proponents of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). “The Selling of ITER” published on Jan. 12, 2017. “Former ITER Spokesman Confirms Accuracy of New Energy Times Story” published on Jan. 19, 2017.

From Fusion Fraud to Physics Fortune
“………..The ITER project, supported by a widespread misunderstanding of its promised results, funded by billions in cash, resources and materials, will not deliver a practical demonstration of fusion power, but merely a scientific demonstration of a sustained fusion reaction. Yet on July 3, 2017, the Chinese Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak reactor already did this, for 101 seconds. When built, ITER will merely do it for four times longer.

Oddly, the quest for practical nuclear fusion on Earth was born out of fraud. The ITER Web site recognizes this, with a page titled “Proyecto Huemul: From Fusion Fraud to Physics Fortune.”

The story began in 1948 in Argentina when Austrian scientist Ronald Richter proposed his idea for a fusion device to President Juan Perón. Perón agreed to fund the concept, and on March 24, 1951, Perón held a press conference at which he announced that his country had achieved practical, controlled nuclear fusion. By 1952, however, after independent investigators reported no evidence to support the claims, the project was shut down. The ITER page calls it “the scientific fraud of the century.”

Yet in 1951, before the Argentinian project was shut down, the project caught the attention of Lyman Spitzer, an astrophysicist at Princeton University. Spitzer, in turn, approached the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and convinced it to fund his own fusion research concept. Thus, the U.S. controlled nuclear fusion era began at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and the worldwide race for fusion energy began.

Since construction on ITER began in 2007, nuclear fusion news stories have been tagged with titillating headlines about unlimited energy. A CNN story headline is typical: “Is Nuclear Fusion About to Change Our World?” Every incremental step forward in temperature, pressure, or plasma confinement time has been a “breakthrough.” Each breakthrough, according to the news stories, has brought the dream of harnessing the power of the sun on Earth one step closer to reality. Rarely have the stories featured any critical assessment or analysis.

One journalist wrote that physicists at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory had “demonstrated” how a new fusion reactor design could lead to the first commercially viable nuclear fusion power plant. The demonstration was merely on paper. The article featured a photo of a reactor. But it wasn’t the reactor described in the article. That reactor hadn’t been built yet.

As the comics below show, the very same Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory — back in 1975 when the DOE was called the Atomic Energy Commission — told journalists it was a big step closer to virtually limitless pollution-free energy thanks to “breakthroughs” in plasma density and temperature.

Then there’s MIT scientist Earl Marmar, who told journalists this year that the technology exists to have fusion energy in 13 years if only it is funded aggressively enough.

Vision and hope are wonderful and necessary components of the human experience. But false hope and worthless promises — laced with misleading claims — do not represent the science accurately. They do not represent the integrity of all scientists involved in the research.

The false idea that the JET reactor produced 65% of the power it consumed has been deeply planted in the minds of the public and journalists. The same goes for the false idea that the ITER reactor will produce 10 times the power it consumes. These two myths serve to misrepresent the status of fusion energy research and, specifically, the ITER project……