Archive for the ‘1 NUCLEAR ISSUES’ Category

Plutonium

January 9, 2019

TOXICOLOGICAL PROFILE FOR PLUTONIUM , Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine/Applied Toxicology Branch,  Atlanta, Georgia TOXICOLOGICAL PROFILE FOR PLUTONIUM   WHAT IS PLUTONIUM?  Radioactive metal Plutonium is a radioactive element. Pure plutonium is a silvery-white metal. Most plutonium is found combined with other substances, for example, plutonium dioxide (plutonium with oxygen) or plutonium nitrate (plutonium with nitrogen and oxygen). Plutonium is usually measured in terms of its radioactivity (curies or becquerels). Both the curie (Ci) and the becquerel (Bq) tell us how much a radioactive material decays every second. Exists in various forms called isotopes The most common plutonium isotope is plutonium-239. Plutonium is not stable Each radioactive isotope of an element constantly gives off radiation, which changes it into an isotope of a different element or a different isotope of the same element. This process is called radioactive decay. Plutonium-238 and plutonium-239 give off alpha particles (sometimes referred to as alpha radiation) and transform into uranium-234 and uranium-235, respectively. The half-life is the time it takes for half of the atoms of a radionuclide to undergo radioactive decay and change it into a different isotope. The halflife of plutonium-238 is 87.7 years. The half-life of plutonium-239 is 24,100 years. The half-life of plutonium-240 is 6,560 years. Produced in Very small amounts of plutonium occur naturally. Plutonium-239 and nuclear power plutonium-240 are formed in nuclear power plants when uranium-238 plants and used captures neutrons. Plutonium is used to produce nuclear weapons. in nuclear weapons and Plutonium-238 is used as a heat source in nuclear batteries to produce batteries electricity in devices such as unmanned spacecraft and interplanetary probes.

WHAT HAPPENS TO PLUTONIUM WHEN IT ENTERS THE ENVIRONMENT? Released during testing of nuclear weapons Plutonium released during atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, which ended in 1980, is the source of most of the plutonium in the environment worldwide. The plutonium released during these tests was deposited on land and water. The small amount that remains in the atmosphere continues to be deposited as it slowly settles out.
 Plutonium is also released to the environment from research facilities, waste disposal, nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, nuclear weapons production facilities, and accidents at facilities where plutonium is used.
  HOW CAN PLUTONIUM ENTER AND LEAVE MY BODY? Plutonium can When you breathe air that contains plutonium, some of it will get trapped in enter your body your lungs. Some of the trapped plutonium will move to other parts of your when it is inhaled body, mainly your bones and liver. The amount of plutonium that stays in or swallowed your lungs depends on the solubility of the plutonium that is in the air you breathe. A small amount of the plutonium you swallow (much less than 1%) will enter other parts of your body (mainly your bones and liver). If plutonium gets onto your healthy skin, very little, if any, plutonium will enter your body. More plutonium will enter your body if gets onto injured skin, such as a cut or burn. Plutonium in your Plutonium leaves your body very slowly in the urine and feces. If plutonium body will remain were to enter your lungs today, much of the plutonium would still be in your there for many body 30–50 years later. years ..……https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp143.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1iffNMF8xj33aBhDW-zhtFzPejF0eNlQ5QUaIgxBhCcujUKU0XRC8NvMc
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Plutonium and environmental and health effects

January 9, 2019
 TOXICOLOGICAL PROFILE FOR PLUTONIUM , Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine/Applied Toxicology Branch,  Atlanta, Georgia“……….HOW CAN PLUTONIUM AFFECT MY HEALTH? Plutonium may remain in the lungs or move to the bones, liver, or other body organs. It generally stays in the body for decades and continues to expose the surrounding tissues to radiation. Lung, liver, and bone cancer You may develop cancer depending on how much plutonium is in your body and for how long it remains in your body. The types of cancers you would most likely develop are cancers of the lung, bones, and liver. These types of cancers have occurred in workers who were exposed to plutonium in air at much higher levels than is in the air that most people breathe. Affect ability to fight infections In laboratory animals, plutonium affected the animal’s ability to resist disease (immune system). More information on the health effects of plutonium is presented in Chapters 2 and 3………

  2.2 SUMMARY OF HEALTH EFFECTS Risks for adverse outcomes of plutonium exposures are strongly dependent on radiation doses received by specific tissues and organ systems. Most of the body burden of plutonium resides in the skeleton and liver, and following inhalation exposures, in the lung and lung-associated lymph nodes. As a result, these tissues receive relatively high radiation doses following exposures to plutonium. Radiation-induced toxicity to these tissues has been documented in human epidemiological studies and in animal models. The relatively high radiation doses received by bone, liver, and lung lend greater credibility to the epidemiological findings for these tissues than for outcomes in other tissues that receive much smaller radiation doses. All epidemiological studies that have reported adverse outcomes in these tissues have studied populations (i.e., workers in plutonium production and processing facilities) that experienced exposures and radiation doses that greatly exceed those experienced by the general public. Accordingly, risks for these outcomes in the general population are substantially lower than reported for these more highly exposed worker populations.
Death. Possible associations between exposure to plutonium and mortality have been examined in studies of workers at the U.S. plutonium production and/or processing facilities (Hanford, Los Alamos, Rocky Flats), as well as facilities in Russia (e.g., Mayak) and the United Kingdom (e.g., Sellafield). The Mayak studies provide relatively strong evidence for an association between cancer mortality (bone, liver, lung) and exposure to plutonium. Plutonium dose-response relationships for lung cancer mortality have been derived from studies of Mayak workers, who received much higher uptakes of plutonium compared to other epidemiological cohorts (i.e., mean body burdens 0.09–9.2 kBq, with much higher individual exposures [up to 470 kBq] in relatively large numbers of these workers). Excess relative risk (ERR) estimated in three studies (adjusted for smoking) were 3.9 per Gy (95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.6– 5.8) in males, and 19 per Gy (95% CI: 9.5–39) in females (attained age 60 years), 4.50 per Gy (95% CI: 3.15–6.10) in males, and 0.11 per Sv (95% CI: 0.08–0.17) or 0.21 per Sv (95% CI: 0.15–0.35), depending on the smoking-radiation interaction model that was assumed (these estimates per Sv correspond to 2.2 or 4.3 per Gy, respectively, assuming a radiation weighting factor of 20 for -radiation). The ERR per Gy in Mayak workers declined strongly with attained age. In a recent cohort mortality study of the Mayak workers, significant plutonium dose-response relationships (p<0.001) were found for deaths due to lung or liver cancer, and for deaths in which bone cancer was considered a contributing cause. At attained age of 60 years, ERRs for lung cancer were 7.1 per Gy (95% CI: 4.9–10) in males and 15 per Gy (95% CI: 7.6–29) in females. Averaged-attained age ERRs for liver cancer were 2.6 per Gy (95% CI: 0.7–6.9) for males and 29 per Gy (95% CI: 9.8–95) for females, and averaged-attained age ERRs for bone cancer were 0.76 per Gy (95% CI: <0–5.2) for males and 3.4 per Gy (95% CI: 0.4–20) for females. Elevated risks for bone cancer were observed only for workers with plutonium doses exceeding 10 Gy. For lung and bone cancer, the ERR declined with attained age, and for lung cancer, the ERR declined with age at first plutonium exposure.
Decreased survival was noted in beagle dogs exposed to plutonium aerosols (238PuO2, 239PuO2, or 239Pu(NO3)4) at levels resulting in initial lung burdens in the range of ≥1 kBq/kg body weight. Early deaths were attributed to radiation pneumonitis and decreased survival late in life was typically associated  with tumor development.
 Cancer. Possible associations between exposure to plutonium and cancer mortality and morbidity have been examined in studies of workers at the U.S. plutonium production and/or processing facilities (Hanford, Los Alamos, Rocky Flats), as well as facilities in Russia (Mayak) and the United Kingdom (e.g., Sellafield). Compared to studies of U.K. and U.S. facilities, the Mayak cohorts had relatively high uptakes of plutonium (i.e., mean body burdens as high as 9.2 kBq, with much higher individual uptakes [up to 470 kBq] in relatively large numbers of these workers). Collectively, the Mayak studies provide evidence for an association between cancer mortality (lung, liver, bone) and uptake of plutonium. Studies of U.K. and U.S. facilities have examined cohorts of workers who had substantially lower estimated plutonium uptakes and corresponding internal radiation doses than the Mayak cohorts (e.g., Sellafield: ≤1 kBq in 97% of the assessed workers; Los Alamos: mean body burden 0.970 kBq, range 0.05– 3.18 kBq). Although a significantly higher incidence of cancer mortality in certain groups of plutonium workers has been found in some studies, higher cancer incidence and/or risks for tissues that received the highest plutonium radiation doses (i.e., lung, liver, bone) have not been found, making causal connections of these outcomes to plutonium exposure more uncertain. The Sellafield study is by far the strongest of these studies and did not find associations between plutonium exposure and cancers to tissues receiving the highest radiation doses from plutonium.
  Plutonium dose-response relationships for lung cancer mortality and morbidity have been corroborated in four Mayak studies. Estimated excess relative risk in these four studies (adjusted for smoking) were as follows: (1) 3.9 per Gy (95% CI: 2.6–5.8) in males and 19 per Gy (95% CI: 9.5–39) in females; (2) 7.1 per Gy (95% CI: 4.9–10) in males and 15 per Gy (95% CI: 7.6–29) in females at attained age of 60 years; (3) 4.50 per Gy (95% CI: 3.15–6.10) in males; and (4) 0.11 per Sv (95% CI: 0.08–0.17) or 0.21 per Sv (95% CI: 0.15–0.35), depending on the smoking-radiation interaction model that was assumed (these estimates per Sv correspond to 2.2 or 4.3 per Gy, respectively, assuming a radiation weighting factor of 20 for “-radiation).
  The risks of mortality and morbidity from bone and liver cancers have also been studied in Mayak workers. Increasing estimated plutonium body burden was associated with increasing liver cancer mortality, with higher risk in females compared to males. Relative risk for liver cancer for a cohort of males and females was estimated to be 17 (95% CI: 8.0–26) in association with plutonium uptakes >7.4 kBq; however, when stratified by gender, the relative risk estimates for females was 66 (95% CI: 16–45) and higher than for males, 9.2 (95% CI: 3.3–23). Risk of bone cancer mortality in this same cohort (n=11,000) was estimated to be 7.9 (95% CI: 1.6–32) in association with plutonium uptakes >7.4 kBq (males and females combined). Risks of leukemia mortality, in the same cohort, were not associated with internal plutonium exposure. In a case control study of Mayak workers, the odds ratio for liver cancer was 11.3 (95% CI: 3.6–35.2) for subjects who received doses >2.0–5.0 Gy (relative to 0– 2.0 Gy) and the odds ratios for hemangiosarcomas were 41.7 (95% CI: 4.6–333) for the dose group >2.0– 5.0 Gy, and 62.5 (95% CI: 7.4–500) for the dose group >5.0–16.9 Gy; doses were estimated based on periodic urine sampling. A study reported averaged-attained age ERRs for liver cancer of 2.6 per Gy (95% CI: 0.7–6.9) for males and 29 per Gy (95% CI: 9.8–95) for females, and averaged-attained age ERRs for bone cancer of 0.76 per Gy (95% CI: <0–5.2) for males and 3.4 per Gy (95% CI: 0.4–20) for females. Elevated risks for bone cancer were observed only for workers with plutonium doses exceeding 10 Gy. For lung and bone cancer, the ERR declined with attained age, and for lung cancer, the ERR declined with age at first plutonium exposure. …….
Studies in Animals. Radiation pneumonitis has been observed following plutonium (primarily insoluble) aerosol exposure of dogs, nonhuman primates (monkeys and baboons), and rodents. As discussed in Section 3.2.1.1, radiation pneumonitis was identified as primary, major contributing, or incidental cause of death in some dogs and nonhuman primates that inhaled 238PuO2, 239PuO2, or 239Pu(NO3)4 aerosols.
Muggenburg et al. (2008) studied the effect of plutonium ILB and radiation dose on radiation pneumonitis in beagles as part of a plutonium lifespan composite study. The relationship between pneumonitis induction and the cause of death was reported to be a function of the plutonium ILB, the resulting cumulative radiation dose, and the particle size to some extent. Increased ILB and plutonium dose rate were associated with the fraction of animals with radiation pneumonitis as primary, major contributing, or incidental cause of death. A trend was observed for the induction of radiation pneumonitis at lower ILBs in the 0.75 and 1.5 µm AMAD groups than in the 3 µm AMAD group. At radiation doses sufficient to produce radiation pneumonitis, the resulting inflammation was a chronic symptom due to long-term retention of 239PuO2 in the lung.
As a result, 239PuO2-induced radiation pneumonitis was always associated with pulmonary fibrosis. The radiation pneumonitis/pulmonary fibrosis progressively impaired lung function, including alveolar-capillary gas exchange, resulting in increases in respiratory rate, minute volume, arterial CO2 pressure, and lung stiffness, along with decreases in tidal volume and arterial O2 pressure. Symptoms in order of decreasing frequency were tachypnea, increased breath sounds, body weight loss, anorexia, dyspnea, cyanosis, bradycardia, and discharge from the nose, eyes, or mouth. Increasing radiation dose and dose rate corresponded to progressively shorter times to onset of symptoms and increased severity of effects (Muggenburg et al. 2008). …….
Exposure of Dogs to 238PuO2. In the ITRI 238PuO2 dog studies, the first symptom of radiation pneumonitis (tachypnea) was observed at approximately 600 days after initial exposure (Muggenburg et al. 1996). …… Radiation pneumonitis was the primary cause of death in eight dogs with initial lung burdens of 8.3–45 kBq/kg (Muggenburg et al. 1996).
 Similar observations were reported in the PNL studies on 238PuO2, with chronic radiation pneumonitis observed in dogs with initial lung burdens ≥0.28 kBq/kg (Park et al. 1997). Exposure of Dogs to 239PuO2. Chronic radiation pneumonitis also was observed in the ITRI and PNL dogs exposed to 239PuO2 aerosols   ……  Radiation pneumonitis was observed in dogs dying from 0.3 to 11.7 years after inhaling 239PuO2, with the time to death inversely related to initial lung burden (Hahn et al. 1999; Muggenburg et al. 1999, 2008). The lowest initial lung burden causing fatal radiation pneumonitis was 1.0 kBq/kg (Muggenburg et al. 1999, 2008). The time to death from radiation pneumonitis was not different in ITRI dogs administered a single exposure (initial lung burden of 3.9 kBq/kg) or repeated exposures (7–10 semiannual exposures for a mean total lung burden of 5.3 kBq/kg) (Diel et al. 1992). Death due to radiation pneumonitis was observed in 239PuO2-exposed PNL dogs at mean initial lung burdens ≥1 kBq/kg (DOE 1988a; Weller et al. 1995b) …..
Exposure of Other Laboratory Animal Species. Baboons ….. Higher initial lung burdens resulted in earlier death from radiation pneumonitis accompanied by pulmonary edema. Radiation pneumonitis and pulmonary fibrosis were also reported in Rhesus monkeys…..
  Cardiovascular Effects. Epidemiological Studies in Humans. Possible associations between exposure to plutonium and cardiovascular disease have been examined in studies of workers at production and/or processing facilities in the United Kingdom (Sellafield) (McGeoghegan et al. 2003; Omar et al. 1999). These studies are summarized in Table 3-2 and study outcomes for mortality from cardiovascular disease are described in Section 3.2.1.1. Omar et al. (1999) compared mortality rates between plutonium workers and other radiation workers within a cohort of Sellafield workers and found that the mortality rate ratios were significantly elevated for cerebrovascular disease (1.27, p<0.05) in a cohort of Sellafield workers. The cumulative internal uptakes of plutonium in the cohort were estimated to range from 0 to 12 kBq, with approximately 75% of the cohort having cumulative uptakes ≤250 Bq. McGeoghegan et al. (2003) compared mortality rates between plutonium workers and other radiation workers within a cohort of Sellafield workers and found that morality rate ratios for plutonium workers were significantly elevated for deaths from circulatory disease (2.18, p<0.05) and ischemic heart disease (4.46, p<0.01). ….
Cancer.  Epidemiological Studies in Humans. Possible associations between exposure to plutonium and cancer mortality and morbidity have been examined in studies of workers at the U.S. plutonium production and/or processing facilities (Hanford, Los Alamos, Rocky Flats), as well as facilities in Russia (Mayak) and the United Kingdom (e.g., Sellafield). The most recent findings from these studies are summarized in Table 3-2. Compared to studies of U.K. and U.S. facilities, the Mayak cohorts had relatively high PLUTONIUM 55 3. HEALTH EFFECTS exposures to plutonium (i.e., mean body burdens ranging from 0.09 to 9.2 kBq, with individual exposures as high as 470 kBq (Krahenbuhl et al. 2005). Collectively, the Mayak studies provide evidence for an association between cancer mortality and exposure to plutonium. Plutonium dose-response relationships for lung cancer mortality have been corroborated in three Mayak studies (Gilbert et al. 2004; Jacob et al. 2005; Kreisheimer et al. 2003). ……
Collectively, the Mayak studies provide evidence for increased risk of cancer mortality (bone, liver, lung) in association with increased internal plutonium-derived radiation dose and/or body burden, with approximately 4-fold higher risks in females compared to males. Four studies estimated lung cancer mortality risk among Mayak workers and yielded similar estimates of excess relative risk per Gy of internal lung dose. Gilbert et al. (2004) estimated the excess lung cancer mortality risk (per Gy attained at age 60 years) for essentially the entire cohort of Mayak workers (n=21,790) to be approximately 4.7 per Gy (95% CI: 3.3–6.7) in males, and 19 per Gy (95% CI: 9.5–39) in females. Adjustment for smoking, based on risk estimates in subgroups for which smoking data were available, decreased these estimates only slightly: males, 3.9 per Gy (95% CI: 2.6–5.8); and females, 19 (95% CI: 7.7–51). Cancer mortality risk was linearly related to plutonium radiation dose. ……
Risks of mortality and morbidity from bone and liver cancers have also been studied in Mayak workers (Gilbert et al. 2000; Koshurnikova et al. 2000; Shilnikova et al. 2003; Sokolnikov et al. 2008; Tokarskaya et al. 2006). Increasing estimated plutonium body burden was associated with increasing cancer mortality, with higher risk in females compared to males. Gilbert et al. (2000) examined liver cancer mortality in a cohort of Mayak workers (n=11,000). …….
U.K. Atomic Energy Authority and Atomic Weapons Establishment Workers. ………..The mortality rate ratio was significantly elevated for breast cancer (7.66, p<0.01) and cerebrovascular disease (1.27, p<0.05). McGeoghegan et al. (2003) examined cancer mortality in a cohort of female Sellafield workers (n=6,376), from which a subset (n=837) of women who had been monitored for plutonium exposure was identified as plutonium workers. This cohort overlapped considerably with that studied by Omar et al. 1999). Effective dose equivalents to the lung from plutonium were estimated to have ranged up to 178 mSv (mean: 3.45 mSv, 5th–95th percentile range: 0.36–8.89 mSv). Comparisons of mortality rates between plutonium workers and other radiation workers yielded significantly elevated mortality rate ratios for all deaths (2.20, p<0.01), all cancers (3.30, p<0.01), breast cancer (3.77, p<0.05), circulatory disease (2.18, p<0.05), and ischemic heart disease (4.46, p<0.01).
……p. 66   3.3 GENOTOXICITY Abundant information is available regarding the genotoxicity of ionizing radiation (refer to the Toxicological Profile for Ionizing Radiation for a detailed discussion of the genotoxic effects of various forms of ionizing radiation). The genotoxicity of alpha radiation from plutonium sources has been investigated in various groups of plutonium workers, as well as in vivo animal studies and a variety of in vitro test systems. Tables 3-4 and 3-5 present the results of in vivo and in vitro genotoxicity studies, respectively. Although epidemiological studies do not provide conclusive evidence that plutonium produces genetic damage in humans, results of some studies provide suggestive evidence of dose-related increases in chromosomal aberrations in plutonium workers with measurable internalized plutonium. For example, Livingston et al. (2006) examined relationships between external radiation dose, internal radiation dose, and frequencies of chromosomal aberrations and micronuclei in peripheral blood lymphocytes of a group of 30 retired plutonium workers with dosimetrically-estimated internal and external radiation doses >0.5 Sv, another 17 workers with predominantly external radiation doses <0.1 Sv, and 21 control subjects with no history of occupational radiation exposure. Frequency of chromosomal aberrations was positively correlated with the bone marrow dose (alpha radiation from internalized plutonium; 168 mSv  median dose to the bone marrow), but not with the external radiation dose. Frequency of micronuclei did not differ significantly among the three study groups.
Significantly increased frequencies of symmetrical and asymmetrical chromosomal aberrations were reported among workers at the Sellafield (United Kingdom) plutonium facility with internalized plutonium in excess of 20% of the maximum permissible body burden (Tawn et al. 1985). Frequencies of symmetrical aberrations were significantly higher at retesting 10 years later, although no significant external radiation exposure had occurred during the 10-year interim (Whitehouse et al. 1998). This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that internally-deposited plutonium irradiates hemopoietic precursor cells (Whitehouse et al. 1998).
  Internal plutonium dose-related increased frequencies in chromosomal aberrations have also been reported in peripheral blood lymphocytes of plutonium workers with estimated plutonium body burdens as high as 15.5 kBq from exposure at the Mayak plutonium facilities in Russia (Hande et al. 2003, 2005; Mitchell et al. 2004; Okladnikova et al. 2005). The increased frequencies of chromosomal aberrations in the Mayak workers persisted many years following the cessation of exposure (Hande et al. 2003, 2005; Mitchell et al. 2004).
 Significantly increased frequencies of chromosomal aberrations were observed among Rocky Flats (Colorado) plutonium workers with internal plutonium burdens >740 Bq (Brandom et al. 1990; IAEA 1979). Conversely, among Manhattan Project plutonium workers followed for up to 32 years, no apparent correlation was found between the frequency of chromosomal aberrations and plutonium body burdens in the range of 0.185–15.4 kBq (Hempelmann et al. 1973; Voelz et al. 1979).
Open wounds represent a significant route through which plutonium workers might be exposed to plutonium alpha particles. Chromosomal aberrations were observed in lymphocytes among eight plutonium workers in the United Kingdom occupationally exposed to plutonium with the primary routes of exposure through wounds, punctures, or abrasions (estimated plutonium body burdens from 0.78 to 1.5 kBq). In exposed individuals, the number of dicentric aberrations averaged 5 per 500 cells, while the natural population background frequency of this aberration is 1 per 4,000 cells (Schofield 1980; Schofield et al. 1974).
Results of in vivo genotoxicity studies in laboratory animals consistently reveal alpha radiation-induced dose-related increases in the frequency of chromosomal aberrations following internalization of   plutonium. Chromosomal aberrations were observed in monkeys and hamsters following inhalation exposure to plutonium. Increases in chromosomal aberrations in blood lymphocytes were seen in immature Rhesus monkeys exposed to 239PuO2 at concentrations resulting in initial lung burdens of 1.9– 19 kBq 239Pu/kg body weight (LaBauve et al. 1980) and Cynomolgus monkeys exposed to 239Pu(NO3)4 at a concentration resulting in a projected initial lung burden of 40 kBq (Brooks et al. 1992), but not at lower levels. ……
  Consistently positive genotoxicity results have been reported in various test systems exposed to the alpha radiation from plutonium compounds in vitro (see Table 3-5). Chromosomal aberrations were reported in human peripheral blood lymphocytes and lymphoblasts (DOE 1980h; Purrott et al. 1980)  ……https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp143.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1iffNMF8xj33aBhDW-zhtFzPejF0eNlQ5QUaIgxBhCcujUKU0XRC8NvMc     Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine/Applied Toxicology Branch 1600 Clifton Road NE Mailstop F-62 Atlanta, Georgia 30333

The cancer toll on nuclear workers: $15.5 billion in compensation and counting

December 4, 2018

Nuclear fallout: $15.5 billion in compensation and counting

They built our atomic bombs; now they’re dying of cancer

Nearly 33,500 former nuclear site workers died due to radiation exposure- report

Nuclear Fallout: This story produced in partnership with ProPublica and the Santa Fe New Mexican. (Richly illustrated with photographs, videos, charts, documents interactive map) 
Wave 3, By Jamie Grey and Lee Zurik | November 12, 2018  
LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO (InvestigateTV) – Clear, plastic water bottles, with the caps all slightly twisted open, fill a small refrigerator under Gilbert Mondragon’s kitchen counter. The lids all loosened by his 4- and 6-year old daughters because, at just 38, Mondragon suffers from limited mobility and strength. He blames his conditions on years of exposure to chemicals and radiation at the facility that produced the world’s first atomic bomb: Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Gilbert Mondragon, 38, pulls the cap off a plastic water bottle that had been twisted open by his young daughters. He hasn’t the strength for those simple tasks anymore and blames his 20-year career at the Los Alamos National Lab. He quit this year because of his serious lung issues, which he suspects were caused by exposures at the nuclear facility. (InvestigateTV/Andy Miller)

Mondragon is hardly alone in his thinking; there are thousands more nuclear weapons workers who are sick or dead. The government too recognizes that workers have been harmed; the Department of Labor administers programs to compensate “the men and women who sacrificed so much for our country’s national security.”

But InvestigateTV found workers with medical issues struggling to get compensated from a program that has ballooned ten times original cost estimates. More than 6,000 workers from Los Alamos alone have filed to get money for their medical problems, with around 53 percent of claims approved.

The Los Alamos lab, the top-secret site for bomb design in 1943, has had numerous safety violations and evidence of improper monitoring, federal inspection reports show.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory employs about 11,000 people and is located in the desert about 25 miles northwest of Santa Fe. The facility gained notoriety because it designed, developed and tested the country’s first nuclear weapons. After World War II, it branched out into research in areas such as chemistry, nuclear physics and life sciences. The weapons program, however, still takes up nearly two-thirds of its $2.5 billion budget. (InvestigateTV/Jamie Grey)

“A million workers with our nuclear weapons won the Cold War for us by producing the nuclear weapons, maintaining them, watching them, but they were exposed,” said Bill Richardson, the former federal energy secretary, Congressman and governor of New Mexico.

Richardson helped create the federal compensation program 18 years ago for workers at government nuclear plants.

As of October 2018, the federal government had paid more than $15 billion to 61,360 workers or their surviving family members through the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP).

InvestigateTV reviewed reports that predict the compensation program will dwindle in coming decades, with accepted claims disappearing mid-way through this century.

But Richardson and others familiar with the program said they believe this compensation program will continue to cost taxpayers because the work of creating the most dangerous weapons on the planet remains dangerous.

Monitoring radiation

Nuclear weapons facilities contain plenty of materials that at certain levels health professionals consider dangerous: radioactive agents such as plutonium, toxic elements such as beryllium, and even more standard industrial hazards such as cleaners, asbestos and diesel exhaust. Those substances are associated with a variety of cancers, thyroid disease, chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD) and other health issues.

Because of the dangers, many workers in Department of Energy’s laboratories and technology centers around the country are monitored for exposure – or they are supposed to be.

Many workers at Los Alamos wear a badge like this, called a dosimeter. It measures radiation exposure and is just one part of monitoring employees. Workers also submit to other tests such as, urinalysis.

As a health physics technician at Los Alamos, Mondragon said part of his duties included radiation monitoring and looking for contamination. Despite the assignment of looking for dangers, he said he was sometimes told to tuck his badge monitoring the density of radiation into his coveralls.

“It makes sense to me now to always wear a badge, but then I was young, naïve, didn’t know better,” he said. “These people were older, been working there for years. And I trusted in them I guess and did what they said.”

Los Alamos disputes claims of employees of being told to remove their radiation monitoring badges.

A Los Alamos spokesman, Kevin Roark, would not agree to an on-camera interview with InvestigateTV but responded via email to questions about worker radiation badges, stating the “Radiation Protection Program would never allow, endorse or recommend removing dosimeters to avoid contamination.”

Federal law sets exposure limits for workers; “doses” of radiation are required to stay as low as reasonably achievable. Dosimeter or radiation badges such as the one Mondragon wore are required for a number of different employees based on the amount of exposure they are likely to encounter.

Former nuclear-plant worker Albert Mondragon, left, poses for a picture with his grandson Samuel and son Gilbert, right. The grandfather and father both share a family problem – each became sick after working at Los Alamos. The similarities, though, stop there. The elder Mondragon received federal compensation for lung fibrosis because of his work as a uranium miner. His son’s claims for lung disease have been denied.

Mondragon described going into known-contaminated areas, places workers refer to as “hot” – in a lab coat and booties. He said he would then see others there in respirators; he suspected those people were higher up in the lab’s chain of command.

After a time, he said he started to question safety measures and certain jobs at the lab, but said nothing for fear of getting in trouble or being assigned to dreaded jobs such as being put outside on cold winter days. He said he kept his head down and “rode the gravy train; it was easy.”

That “gravy train” – a well-paying job in a rugged state – is what brings many people to the expansive complex of buildings stretching into the New Mexico desert northwest of Santa Fe. Mondragon started at Los Alamos in 1999 when he was 19 years old. His father had worked there, and his job paid a starting wage of $10.25 an hour, more than double minimum wage in New Mexico at the time.

“Because where else around here are you going to make good money? And that’s what it boiled down to,” Mondragon said.

In 2014, while still working at the lab, now as an electrician, Mondragon was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He beat the disease, but he was later diagnosed with occupational asthma, sleep apnea and lung nodules, leaving him almost always tethered to an oxygen tank.

Gilbert Mondragon spends his days tethered to oxygen tank in his home. He used to enjoy hunting cow elks such as those hanging on his walls and coaching his kids’ sports team but hasn’t the stamina for those activities anymore. Now he worries about mounting medical bills and suspects that he will be paying them for the rest of his life. (InvestigateTV/Andy Miller)

With medical bills mounting, Mondragon applied for federal compensation – but he was denied.

His radiation monitoring reports showed two years of scant exposure and 14 years of zero exposure, which Mondragon said he believes is wrong because he was not always wearing a badge.

But compensation case examiners determined there wasn’t enough evidence to prove his medical problems were caused by his work environment.

Gilbert Mondragon’s radiation-exposure documents show his records from Los Alamos. Over a 16-year period, those reports, routinely given to workers, indicate that he registered no exposure for 14 of those years. What the report doesn’t show, however, is that Mondragon said he was oftentimes told to tuck away his monitoring badge. (Santa Fe New Mexican/Rebecca Moss).

Mondragon said the examiners determined his job as an electrician didn’t expose him to enough hazardous materials to cause cancer. But, he added, “they don’t realize … I did maintenance, and I worked in every single building.”

A history of noncompliance

While federal laboratories are allowed to operate with a great deal of secrecy, the government has stepped in at times to investigate facilities and punish weapons sites for unsafe operations.

The most significant evidence of that occurred after 1989, when the Department of Energy ordered extensive assessments of nuclear facilities by groups of inspectors known as Tiger Teams. Around the same time, Congress gave the department enforcement power, though that did not go into effect until 1996.

In the last three decades, those enforcement actions and reports paint a picture of ongoing issues at Los Alamos. For example, the department’s most recent report card in January 2018 on preventing nuclear and radiation accidents showed the lab in the “red” zone. It was the only lab out of 18 evaluated to receive a “does not meet expectations” designation.

Use the timeline below [on original] to explore examples of Los Alamos’ safety reports and violation notices.

The Government Accountability Office has mentioned Los Alamos in some of its reports, including a 1999 report stating the Energy Department’s “Nuclear Safety Enforcement Program Should Be Strengthened.” The GAO noted a significant violation at Los Alamos for “inadequate monitoring of radiological contamination. Repeated problems and inadequate corrective actions.”

As for the report card that noted issues with prevention measures, Roark, the lab’s spokesman, stated the lab routinely self-reports those infractions and said that they do not indicate an actual accident but “a condition, activity, or event that might create a potential danger for employees.”

Issues with compensation

Dr. Akshay Sood talkes about the worker compensation program. “It is a generous program but it is really heavily bureaucratized,” he said. Sood is a pulmonologist at the University of New Mexico Occupational Lung Clinic who has treated – and fought for benefits for – many workers from the Los Alamos nuclear facility. (InvestigateTV/Andy Miller).

In 2006, Dr. Akshay Sood decided to move to New Mexico to treat patients with occupational lung disease. In recent years, he’s begun treating more and more patients who worked at Los Alamos. He’s helped many of them wade through the claims process for compensation – a proceeding he often characterizes as a fight.

“It’s frustrating because even though the law is meant to favor the patient, in the real world, what happens is the opposite,” Sood said. “The worker really gets screwed in the whole process.”

Workers have complained to the compensation program ombudsman, saying they don’t believe their claims are being processed with accurate information about exposure or job responsibilities related to exposure.

“Usually the most likely case is there was a particular radioactive material that people were exposed to that they were not appropriately monitored for,” said Stuart Hinnefeld, director of the division of the Department of Health and Human Services that determines which workers get to file for compensation through the easier cohort process.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Division of Compensation and Analysis Support is housed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention office in Cincinnati. The division is in charge of determining the radiation dose workers could have received at work and maintaining a “risk model” that determines how likely it is that cancer was caused by radiation at work. (InvestigateTV/Jamie Grey).

Workers outside the cohort go through a process where the government office looks at available records from that individual worker and also other workers with similar characteristics – such as job title and the buildings they worked in.

At Los Alamos, all workers who started their jobs from the time the lab opened through 1995 are part of a special cohort group. Those who started after 1995, such as Chad Walde, are the ones who have to prove their cases to examiners.

Their cases may be sent to Hinnefeld’s office, which helps tie different exposure information, including the employees’ individual records and existing databases, together. His office looks at the data to determine if a person’s condition was “more likely than not” caused by work exposure.

The paperwork that Gilbert Mondragon received explains why he was denied compensation benefits. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports “causation” numbers. In Mondragon’s case, the agency said that there was a 21.55 percent probability that his health issues were job related. Workers need at least a 50 percent probability to receive benefits. (InvestigateTV photo illustration).

Despite questions over how well employees have been monitored in the last two decades and questions about the lab’s safety records, Hinnefeld said his office is only charged with looking at whether they have enough records and information to determine worker exposure for compensation.

“We make no judgments about the site’s operations, whether they’re doing things right, correctly, whether they should be doing them differently,” Hinnefeld said. “We just want to know: Are they generating enough evidence that we can go and find enough evidence?”

One year too late

Gilbert Ulibarri went to work at Los Alamos in 1996 after a career as a master plumber with a shop in Santa Fe. His wife, Charlene Maes, described her husband’s frustration with lab tasks he was given that he felt were unsafe.

He kept spiral-bound notebooks about incidents he saw, and Maes now feels like the lab is unsafe for workers “in the trenches,” based on the safety reports she’s seen at compensation program meetings.

Gilbert Ulibarri’s broad shoulders easily surround his wife Charlene Maes. “Guys wanted to be like him, and women wanted to know him,” Maes said. “He was genuine. He was salt of the earth. He was a tough, badass kind of guy.” (Ulibarri family photo)

“Because you don’t even have to read too much to find out how many instances of injuries and contamination and things like that that happen,” Maes said. “If it was so extremely safety-conscious, they would have zero on that side of the list, I would think.”

In 2015, her husband started getting stomach pains while remodeling their home. A rugged and tough rancher used to hard work, he knew something was wrong. Doctors found a tumor on his pancreas. Three years later and 120 pounds lighter due to cancer treatments, he died.

Gilbert Ulibarri shrunk from a burly, active man to a helpless patient. When he died from cancer just shy of his 22nd wedding anniversary, he was but a shell of his former shelf. “I watched him shrink from this guy that was like my hero to this small person,” his wife Charlene Maes said. (Family-provided photos).

During his treatment, Ulibarri and Maes attempted to get compensation through the federal program, but they were denied multiple times. Because he started working at Los Alamos just after 1995, he had to go through the rigorous documentation processes. Before he died, Maes said he had hoped his family would be left with some money to help cover expenses. Eventually, they gave up trying.

“It isn’t even about the money,” Maes said. “What I would really like is for someone in the government to understand that you can’t do this to a people. You can’t come to a state as beautiful as New Mexico and make everybody sick and then walk away and not take responsibility.”

Watch a life tribute video about Gilbert Ulibarri below, [on original]  courtesy of Leandra Romero.

Maes isn’t sure if her husband would have worked at Los Alamos given his later health issues, but she said she knows there is pride in working at these facilities.

“I understand the mission,” Maes said. “There’s safety and the world and protecting your country and the threat of terrorists. And I understand that. I understand why it’s needed. I just don’t understand why it’s a cavalier way of handling it.”

Los Alamos refutes allegations it is unsafe, even with the reports. The lab’s spokesman wrote in an email to InvestigateTV that the lab’s “nuclear operations are safe.” He also said the facility is continuing to make improvements to reach full compliance with Defense Nuclear Safety Board regulations.

The full email from Los Alamos is below. [on original]  Click “full screen” on the top left to view larger images…….

Not just New Mexico

Nuclear weapons facilities are scattered throughout the country – and workers from facilities in 43 states have filed for compensation. The majority of the claims are coming from the large labs memorialized in World War II history books. The others are coming from smaller labs or those that have been shut down over the years.

 

All told, 380 facilities may have workers eligible for compensation.

Use the map below [on original]  to learn about those facilities – clicking on individual dots will reveal information about each, from dates of operation to a description of the work. Note: Due to a lack of accurate historical addresses, some labs geolocate to the center of town. This map should be used for finding labs mapped down to a city point and not exact street address. All information is compiled from Department of Energy records.

In the panhandle of Texas, a plant called Pantex in Amarillo employs thousands of workers. Like Los Alamos, Pantex was part of the World War II construction projects. This facility was the last built during the war for bomb loading. Currently, it is the only facility responsible for dismantling old nukes and maintenance of the country’s weapons stockpile.

“The weapons plants were built in agricultural areas because they knew these were patriotic individuals and these were people who could be trusted to maintain security,” former Pantex employee Sarah Ray said.

Ray first came to work at the Amarillo plant in 1974 and completed training to work on weapons. She left for a number of years, returning to work as a training specialist. One of her main job assignments involved radiation alarm monitoring systems.

Today, at 72-years-old, she helps fellow Pantex employees file compensation claims. While she initially was working with older people who began working at the plant decades ago, she said she now sees younger, more recent workers.

“I have always said there would be another wave of workers,” Ray said. “Now I’m seeing people in their 50s and 60s. Now that wave is here.”

Like those who work on claims related to Los Alamos, Ray said the biggest problem is the burden put on workers, particularly those who aren’t approved for special cohorts.

“With workers, they are guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent,” she said. “They have to fight the battle. They have to remember everything.”

That’s a battle Gilbert Mondragon, the former health physics technical at Los Alamos, is still fighting; he is still trying to prove his case to the government to help his offset his mounting medical bills.

“Sometimes I feel worthless,” said Mondragon. “I’m this big guy that should be able to lift more than five pounds. And most days I can’t even open my own bottle of water.”http://www.wave3.com/2018/11/12/nuclear-fallout-billion-compensation-counting/

 

Nuclear meltdown at Santa Susana Lab and the government cover-up

December 4, 2018

L.A.’s Secret Meltdown; Simi Valley, CA(1959)Largest Nuclear Incident in U.S. history.

LA’s Nuclear Secret: Part 1  link https://www.nbclosangeles.com/investigations/LA-Nuclear-Secret-327896591.html–  Sep 22, 2015  Tucked away in the hills above the San Fernando and Simi valleys was a 2,800-acre laboratory with a mission that was a mystery to the thousands of people who lived in its shadow, By Joel Grover and Matthew Glasser  The U.S. government secretly allowed radiation from a damaged reactor to be released into air over the San Fernando and Simi valleys in the wake of a major nuclear meltdown in Southern California more than 50 years ago — fallout that nearby residents contend continues to cause serious health consequences and, in some cases, death. LA’s Nuclear Secret: Timelines, Documents, FAQ

Those are the findings of a yearlong NBC4 I-Team investigation into “Area Four,” which is part of the once-secret Santa Susana Field Lab. Founded in 1947 to test experimental nuclear reactors and rocket systems, the research facility was built in the hills above the two valleys. In 1959, Area Four was the site of one of the worst nuclear accidents in U.S. history. But the federal government still hasn’t told the public that radiation was released into the atmosphere as a result of the partial nuclear meltdown.

Now, whistleblowers interviewed on camera by NBC4 have recounted how during and after that accident they were ordered to release dangerous radioactive gases into the air above Los Angeles and Ventura counties, often under cover of night, and how their bosses swore them to secrecy.

In addition, the I-Team reviewed over 15,000 pages of studies and government documents, and interviewed other insiders, uncovering that for years starting in 1959, workers at Area Four were routinely instructed to release radioactive materials into the air above neighboring communities, through the exhaust stacks of nuclear reactors, open doors, and by burning radioactive waste.

How It Began

On July 13, 1959, the day of the meltdown, John Pace was working as a reactor operator for Atomics International at Area Four’s largest reactor, under the watch of the U.S. government’s Atomic Energy Commission.

“Nobody knows the truth of what actually happened,” Pace told the I-Team.

In fact, Pace said, the meltdown was verging on a major radioactive explosion.

“The radiation in that building got so high, it went clear off the scale,” he said.

To prevent a potentially devastating explosion, one that in hindsight the 76-year-old Pace believes would have been “just like Chernobyl,” he and other workers were instructed to open the exhaust stacks and release massive amounts of radiation into the sky.

“This was very dangerous radioactive material,” he said. “It went straight out into the atmosphere and went straight to Simi Valley, to Chatsworth, to Canoga Park.”

Pace and his co-workers frantically tried to repair the damaged reactor. Instead, he said they realized, their efforts were only generating more radioactive gas. So for weeks, often in the dark of night, Pace and other workers were ordered to open the large door in the reactor building and vent the radiation into the air.

“It was getting out towards the public,” he said. “The public would be bombarded by it.”

Pace said he and his co-workers knew they were venting dangerous radiation over populated areas, but they were following orders.

“They felt terrible that it had to be done,” he said. “They had to let it out over their own families.”

Area Four workers “were sworn to secrecy that they would not tell anyone what they had done,” Pace explained.

He remembered his boss getting right in his face and saying, “You will not say a word. Not one word.”

That was more than five decades ago, but radioactive contamination didn’t just vanish. It remains in the soil and water of Area Four and in some areas off-site, according to state and federal records obtained by the I-Team. And, evidence suggests that the fallout could be linked to illnesses, including cancer, among residents living nearby.

Arline Mathews lived with her family in Chatsworth, downwind of Area Four during some of the radiation releases. Her middle son, Bobby, was a champion runner on the Chatsworth High School track team for three years, running to the Santa Susana Field Lab and back to school every day. Bobby died of glioblastoma, a rare brain cancer often linked to radiation exposure. Mathews said there is no known family history of cancer and she blames the radiation from Area Four for her son’s illness.

“He was exposed to the chemical hazardous waste and radioactivity up there,” Mathews said. “There’s no getting over the loss of son.”

The Government Cover-up

Six weeks after the meltdown, the Atomic Energy Commission issued a press release saying that there had been a minor “fuel element failure” at Area Four’s largest reactor in July. But they said there had been “no release of radioactive materials” to the environment.

“What they had written in that report is not even close to what actually happened,” Pace said. “To see our government talk that way and lie about those things that happened, it was very disappointing.”

In 1979, NBC4 first broke the story that there was a partial meltdown at Area Four’s largest reactor, called the Sodium Reactor Experiment. But at the time, the U.S. government was still saying no radiation was released into the air over LA.

But during its current yearlong investigation, the I-Team found a NASA report that confirmed “the 1959 meltdown… led to a release of radioactive contaminants.”

For years, NASA used part of the site for rocket testing and research.

More Radioactive Releases

After filing a Freedom of Information request, the I-Team obtained more than 200 pages of government interviews with former Santa Susana workers. One of those workers, Dan Parks, was a health physicist at Area Four in the 1960s.

In the early 60s, Parks said, he often witnessed workers releasing radiation into the sky through the exhaust stacks of at least three of Area Four’s ten nuclear reactors.

“They would vent it to the atmosphere,” he said. “The release was done with the flick of a switch.”

Radioactive Waste Up in Smoke

Parks said he often witnessed workers releasing radioactive smoke into the air when they disposed of barrels of radioactive waste from Area Four’s 10 nuclear reactors.

“We were all workers,” he said. “Just taking orders.”

Workers would often take those barrels of waste to a pond called “the burn pits” and proceed to shoot the barrels with a high-powered rifle causing an explosion. The radioactive smoke would drift into the air over nearby suburbs and toward a summer camp for children.

“It was a volatile explosion, beyond belief,” Parks said.

Whatever direction the wind was blowing, the radioactive smoke would travel that way.

“If the wind was blowing to the Valley, it would blow it in the Valley,” he said.

Ralph Powell, who worked as a security officer at Area Four in the mid-60s, recalled being blanketed by that radioactive smoke.

“I saw clouds of smoke that was engulfing my friends, that are dying now,” Powell said.

Powell believes it wasn’t just his friends who suffered the consequences. He fears he may have exposed his own family to radiation, tracking it home on his clothes and car.

While Powell was working at Area Four, his son Michael was diagnosed with leukemia — a cancer linked to radiation exposure — and died at age 11.

“I suspect it caused the death of my son,” he said. “I’ve never gotten that out of my mind.”

Toxic Chemical Contamination

In addition to the radiation, dozens of toxic chemicals, including TCE and Perchlorate, were also released into the air and dumped on the soil and into ground and surface water from thousands of rocket tests conducted at the Santa Susana Field lab from the 1950s to 80s. The tests were conducted by NASA, and by Rocketdyne, a government aerospace contractor.

According to a federally funded study obtained by the I-Team, “emissions associated with rocket engine testing” could have been inhaled by residents of “West Hills, Bell Canyon, Dayton Canyon, Simi Valley, Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Woodland Hills, and Hidden Hills.”

Contamination Moves into Neighborhoods

Radiation released at Area Four continues to contaminate the soil and water of the Santa Susana Field Lab.

In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completed a $40 million soil test of the site and found 423 hot spots — places contaminated with high levels of man-made radiation.

Other studies and government documents obtained by the I-Team show that radiation has moved off-site, and has been found in the ground and water in suburbs to the south, northeast and northwest of the Field Lab.

“Radiation doesn’t know any boundaries,” said Dr. Robert Dodge, a national board member of the Nobel Prize-winning nonprofit Physicians For Social Responsibility, which studies the health effects of radiation.

Dodge, who has reviewed numerous government and academic studies about the contamination at Santa Susana, said he believes the contamination has spread far beyond the facility’s borders.

“If the wind is blowing and carrying radiation from Santa Susana, it doesn’t stop because there’s a fence,” he said.

One of the places radiation has been found, in a 1995 study overseen by the U.S. EPA, was the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley. The Institute is a nationally-known center of Jewish learning, and the home to Camp Alonim, a beloved summer sleepaway camp that has hosted some 30,000 children.

In December 1995, The Brandeis-Bardin Institute filed a federal lawsuit against the present and past owners of the Santa Susana Field Lab, alleging that toxic chemicals and radiation from the field lab “have subsequently seeped into and come to be located in the soil and groundwater” of Brandeis “is injurious to the environment” and “will cause great and irreparable injury.”

Brandeis settled the lawsuit in a confidential agreement in 1997.

A spokesman for the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, Rabbi Jay Strear, told NBC4 that the groundwater and soil is “tested routinely,” and the results have shown the “the site is safe.”

The I-Team asked Brandeis-Bardin to provide NBC4 with those test results showing the site is safe and free of hazardous substances. The Institute refused, and in an email said “we are not in a position to devote the required staff time to respond to your more detailed inquiries, nor do we see the necessity for doing so.”

A government scientist who has studied the contamination at Santa Susana told the I-Team he thinks there’s a continued threat of radiation and toxic chemicals flowing from the field lab to places like Brandeis-Bardin, via groundwater and airborne dust.

Clusters of Cancer

Researchers inside and out of government have contended that the radiation and toxic chemicals from Santa Susana might have caused many cancer cases.

“The radiation that was released in 1959 and thereafter from Santa Susana is still a danger today,” Dr.Dodge said. “There is absolutely a link between radiation and cancer.”

The I-Team tracked down dozens of people diagnosed with cancer and other illnesses who grew up in the shadow of Santa Susana — in Canoga Park, West Hills, Chatsworth, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley. Many of them believe their cancers were caused by radiation and chemicals from the field lab.

Kathryn Seltzer Carlson, 56, and her sisters, Judy and Jennifer, all grew up in Canoga Park around the time of the nuclear meltdown and for years after, and all have battled cancer.

“I played in the water, I swam in the water, I drank the water” that ran off the Santa Susana Field Lab, said Carlson, who finished treatment for ovarian cancer earlier this year and is now undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. “I’ve had, I don’t know how many cancers.”

Bonnie Klea, a former Santa Susana employee who has lived in West Hills since the 60s, also battled bladder cancer, which is frequently linked to radiation exposure.

“Every single house on my street had cancer,” Klea said.

A 2007 Centers for Disease Control study found that people living within two miles of the Santa Susana site had a 60 percent higher rate of some cancers.

“There’s some provocative evidence,” said Dr. Hal Morgenstern, an epidemiologist who oversaw the study. “It’s like circumstantial evidence, suggesting there’s a link” between the contamination from Santa Susana and the higher cancer rates.

Silence From the Government

For more than two months, the I-Team asked to speak with someone from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the federal agency that’s responsible for all nuclear testing, to ask why workers were ordered to release dangerous radiation over Los Angeles, why the DOE has never publicly admitted this happened, and what it plans to do to help get the site cleaned up.

The DOE emailed the I-Team, “We will not have anyone available for this segment.”

So the I-Team showed up at a public meeting this month about Santa Susana and asked the DOE’s project manager for the site, Jon Jones, to speak with us. He walked away and wouldn’t speak.

Will the Contamination Ever Be Cleaned Up?

Community residents, many stricken with cancer and other radiation-related illnesses, have been fighting for years to get the government and the private owners of the Santa Susana Field Lab to clean up the contamination that remains on the site.

But efforts in the state legislature and state agencies that oversee toxic sites have, so far, stalled.

But residents, with the support of some lawmakers, continue to fight for a full cleanup.

“People are continuing to breathe that (radiation) in and to die,” Chatsworth resident Arline Mathews said.

“See that this is done immediately, before more lives are lost.”

Computer errors that almost started nuclear wars

December 4, 2018

The argument from cyberspace for eliminating nuclear weapons  NOVEMBER 9, 2018 “…….Computer errors that almost started nuclear wars

Unclassified reports reveal that problems within the computers of nuclear command and control date back to at least the 1970s, when a deficient computer chip signalled that 200 Soviet missiles were headed towards the U.S. Computer problems have persisted: In 2010, a loose circuit card caused a U.S. launch control centre to lose contact with 50 nuclear missiles. In both cases, the accident might have been mistaken for a deliberate attack. Failing to recognize the mistake could have resulted in the U.S. launching nuclear weapons.

These cases were presumably the result of unintentional errors, not deliberate actions. But hacking and other forms of targeted cyberattacks greatly increase the risk of accidental nuclear launch or other devastating actions. Overconfidence on the part of the officials overseeing the nuclear arsenal is therefore negligent and dangerous.

A more recent compounding factor is the ongoing, roughly trillion-dollar upgrade of the U.S. nuclear arsenal started by the Obama administration. This so-called modernization effort included upgrades to the nuclear command and control system. The Trump administration continues to make this a priority.

Modernization increases the possibility that changes to the nuclear command and control system will introduce new or reveal hitherto unknown vulnerabilities into the system. The evidence from the GAO report and other publicly available documents indicates that the officials in charge will be emphasizing speed, convenience, or cost over cybersecurity.

In its conclusion, the GAO report explained that the DOD “has taken several major steps to improve weapon systems cybersecurity.” But the DOD “faces barriers that may limit its ability to achieve desired improvements,” such as constraints on information sharing and workforce shortages. That is not reassuring.

There is a more basic problem that we have emphasized above: the risks associated with cyberattacks can be ameliorated but not fully eliminated. When this intrinsic risk is integrated with the sheer destructiveness of nuclear weapons, the only way to avoid a catastrophic accident at some point in time is to embrace efforts to abolish the weapons themselves.

International co-operation works: the healing of the ozone layer

December 4, 2018
Ozone layer finally healing after damage caused by aerosols, UN says https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/05/ozone-layer-healing-after-aerosols-un-northern--hemisphere Fiona  HarveyEnvironment correspondent

Radioactivity induced mutations in the animals of Chernobyl

December 4, 2018

What We Know About the Chernobyl Animal Mutations https://www.thoughtco.com/chernobyl-animal-mutations-4155348?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=shareurlbuttons&fbclid=IwAR0ML06KNkYYmozGbreM6e9ApQ9154nFmnYLxzZFUkK0pznLEi2X9FM-FHQ   by

The 1986 Chernobyl accident resulted in one of the highest unintentional releases of radioactivity in history. The graphite moderator of reactor 4 was exposed to air and ignited, shooting plumes of radioactive fallout across what is now Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Europe. While few people live near Chernobyl now, animals living in the vicinity of the accident allow us to study the effects of radiation and gauge recovery from the disaster.

Most domestic animals have moved away from the accident, and those deformed farm animals that were born did not reproduce. After the first few years following the accident, scientists focused on studies of wild animals and pets that had been left behind, in order to learn about Chernobyl’s impact.

Although the Chernobyl accident can’t be compared to effects from a nuclear bombbecause the isotopes released by the reactor differ from those produced by a nuclear weapon, both accidents and bombs cause mutations and cancer.

It’s crucial to study the effects of the disaster to help people understand the serious and long-lasting consequences of nuclear releases. Moreover, understanding the effects of Chernobyl may help humanity react to other nuclear power plant accidents.

The Relationship Between Radioisotopes and Mutations 

You may wonder how, exactly, radioisotopes (a radioactive isotope) and mutations are connected. The energy from radiation can damage or break DNA molecules. If the damage is severe enough, cells can’t replicate and the organism dies. Sometimes DNA can’t be repaired, producing a mutation. Mutated DNA may result in tumors and affect an animal’s ability to reproduce. If a mutation occurs in gametes, it can result in a nonviable embryo or one with birth defects.

Additionally, some radioisotopes are both toxic and radioactive. The chemical effects of the isotopes also impact the health and reproduction of affected species.

The types of isotopes around Chernobyl change over time as elements undergo radioactive decay. Cesium-137 and iodine-131 are isotopes that accumulate in the food chain and produce most of the radiation exposure to people and animals in the affected zone.

Examples of Domestic Genetic Deformities

Ranchers noticed an increase in genetic abnormalities in farm animals immediately following the Chernobyl accident. In 1989 and 1990, the number of deformities spiked again, possibly as a result of radiation released from the sarcophagus intended to isolate the nuclear core. In 1990, around 400 deformed animals were born. Most deformities were so severe the animals only lived a few hours.

Examples of defects included facial malformations, extra appendages, abnormal coloring, and reduced size. Domestic animal mutations were most common in cattle and pigs. Also, cows exposed to fallout and fed radioactive feed produced radioactive milk.

The health and reproduction of animals near Chernobyl were diminished for at least the first six months following the accident. Since that time, plants and animals have rebounded and largely reclaimed the region. Scientists collect information about the animals by sampling radioactive dung and soil and watching animals using camera traps.

The Chernobyl exclusion zone is a mostly-off-limits area covering over 1,600 square miles around the accident. The exclusion zone is a sort of radioactive wildlife refuge. The animals are radioactive because they eat radioactive food, so they may produce fewer young and bear mutated progeny. Even so, some populations have grown. Ironically, the damaging effects of radiation inside the zone may be less than the threat posed by humans outside of it. Examples of animals seen within the zone include Przewalksi’s horses, wolves, badgers, swans, moose, elk, turtles, deer, foxes, beavers, boars, bison, mink, hares, otters, lynx, eagles, rodents, storks, bats, and owls.

Not all animals fare well in the exclusion zone. Invertebrate populations (including bees, butterflies, spiders, grasshoppers, and dragonflies) in particular have diminished. This is likely because the animals lay eggs in the top layer of soil, which contains high levels of radioactivity.

Radionuclides in water have settled into the sediment in lakes. Aquatic organisms are contaminated and face ongoing genetic instability. Affected species include frogs, fish, crustaceans, and insect larvae.

While birds abound in the exclusion zone, they are examples of animals that still face problems from radiation exposure. A study of barn swallows from 1991 to 2006 indicated birds in the exclusion zone displayed more abnormalities than birds from a control sample, including deformed beaks, albinistic feathers, bent tail feathers, and deformed air sacs. Birds in the exclusion zone had less reproductive success. Chernobyl birds (and also mammals) often had smaller brains, malformed sperm, and cataracts.

The Famous Puppies of Chernobyl 

Not all of the animals living around Chernobyl are entirely wild. There are around 900 stray dogs, mostly descended from those left behind when people evacuated the area. Veterinarians, radiation experts, and volunteers from a group called The Dogs of Chernobyl capture the dogs, vaccinate them against diseases, and tag them. In addition to tags, some dogs are fitted with radiation detector collars. The dogs offer a way to map radiation across the exclusion zone and study the ongoing effects of the accident. While scientists generally can’t get a close look at individual wild animals in the exclusion zone, they can monitor the dogs closely. The dogs are, of course, radioactive. Visitors to the area are advised to avoid petting the pooches to minimize radiation exposure.

References 

  • Galván, Ismael; Bonisoli-Alquati, Andrea; Jenkinson, Shanna; Ghanem, Ghanem; Wakamatsu, Kazumasa; Mousseau, Timothy A.; Møller, Anders P. (2014-12-01). “Chronic exposure to low-dose radiation at Chernobyl favours adaptation to oxidative stress in birds”. Functional Ecology. 28 (6): 1387–1403.
  • Moeller, A. P.; Mousseau, T. A. (2009). “Reduced abundance of insects and spiders linked to radiation at Chernobyl 20 years after the accident”. Biology Letters. 5 (3): 356–9.
  • Møller, Anders Pape; Bonisoli-Alquati, Andea; Rudolfsen, Geir; Mousseau, Timothy A. (2011). Brembs, Björn, ed. “Chernobyl Birds Have Smaller Brains”. PLoS ONE. 6 (2): e16862.
  • Poiarkov, V.A.; Nazarov, A.N.; Kaletnik, N.N. (1995). “Post-Chernobyl radiomonitoring of Ukrainian forest ecosystems”. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. 26 (3): 259–271. 
  • Smith, J.T. (23 February 2008). “Is Chernobyl radiation really causing negative individual and population-level effects on barn swallows?”. Biology Letters. The Royal Society Publishing. 4 (1): 63–64. 
  • Wood, Mike; Beresford, Nick (2016). “The wildlife of Chernobyl: 30 years without man”. The Biologist. London,UK: Royal Society of Biology. 63 (2): 16–19. 

Trump administration heads for the dodgy science of the radiation sceptics

December 4, 2018

Is a Little Radiation Good For You? Trump Admin Steps Into Shaky Science, Discover Magazine, By Nathaniel Scharping | October 5, 2018 

For decades, studies have shown that even low doses of radiation are harmful to humans.

This week, the Associated Press reported that the Trump administration may be reconsidering that. The Environmental Protection Agency seemed to be looking at raising the levels of radiation considered dangerous to humans based on a controversial theory rejected by mainstream scientists. The theory suggests that a little radiation might actually be good for our bodies. In April, an EPA press release announced the proposal and included supporting comments from a vocal proponent of the hypothesis, known as hormesis. It prompted critical opinion pieces and sparked worry among radiation safety advocates.

EPA’s decision to move away from the radiation dose model widely accepted by the scientific mainstream. But by Friday, the EPA backed away from Calabrese’s stance in comments to Discover.

The debate cuts to the heart of the debate over the effects of low doses of radiation and reveals how difficult it is to craft clear guidelines in an area where scientific evidence is not clear cut.

Radiation Debate

When radiation damages our DNA, the body steps in to make repairs. Hormesis suggests that hitting the body with a little more radiation should kick our defensive mechanisms into overdrive. According to proponents of the theory, this results in the production of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce our risk for cancer and heart disease, among other things. That’s why hormesis backers want the EPA to raise the level of acceptable radiation, pointing out that it would also save millions in safety costs.

It sounds convincing, and proponents have dozens of studies to point to that they say back up their claims. But, there’s never been a large-scale human study of hormesis. And while studies of low-dose radiation are very hard to do, so far, most suggest that radiation is indeed bad for us, at any dose.

“Large, epidemiological studies provide substantial scientific evidence that even low doses of radiation exposure increase cancer risk,” says Diana Miglioretti, a professor in biostatistics at the University of California, Davis in an email. “Risks associated with low-doses of radiation are small; however, if large populations are exposed, the evidence suggests it will lead to measurable numbers of radiation-induced cancers.”

Long-term studies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing survivors show higher cancer risks. Marshall Islanders exposed to radiation from atomic bomb tests suffered a higher risk of thyroid disease. And patients who get CT scans, which deliver a dose of radiation equal to thousands of X-rays, saw cancer risks go up afterward. Researchers also found that radiation from childhood CT scans can triple the risk of leukemia and, at higher doses, triple the risk of brain cancers as well. Another found that low-dose radiation increased the risk of breast cancer among some some women.

And large-scale reviews of the evidence for hormesis find that it is decidedly lacking. Two studies, one in 2006 by the National Research Council, and another in 2018 by the National Council and Radiation Protection and Measurements looking at 29 studies of radiation exposure find no evidence for hormesis, and reiterate that the evidence points toward radiation being bad for us even at low doses.

Scientific Uncertainty

It’s difficult to study low doses of radiation, though, and that’s where much of the controversy comes from. At doses below a few hundred millisieverts (mSv), a radiation unit that accounts for its effects on the body, it becomes extraordinarily hard to separate out the effects of radiation from other things like lifestyle or genetics. Research on the effects of these small radiation doses often use data sets involving thousands of people to compensate for the minimal effect sizes, but even then it’s often not enough to be certain what’s happening.

“Data collected at low doses (defined by the scientific community [as] exposures less than 100 mSv) suffers from a ‘signal to noise’ problem which limits our ability to conclusively state effects one way or another,” says Kathryn Higley, head of the school of nuclear science and engineering at Oregon State University in an email.

A single CT scan delivers anywhere from 1 to 15 mSv, but some patients need many scans during the course of their treatment, increasing the total dose. Workers cleaning up after the Fukushima meltdown received radiation doses above 100 mSv in some cases. And current U.S. standards limit radiation workers to no more than 50 mSv of exposure per year.

Many studies indicate that there are dangers at that level, but it’s often an assumption. Those studies base their suppositions on what’s called the linear no-threshold model, which extrapolates more reliable data from studies of higher doses of radiation to lower doses. Though it may be an educated guess, for decades large-scale studies have indicated this is true.

……….. The EPA in recent days appeared to back away from the suggestion that it supported hormesis. The agency released a statement in response to the APstory affirming that it intends to continue using the linear no-threshold model when constructing radiation guidelines, something that contradicts Calabrese’s comments in the April press release.

“The proposed regulation doesn’t talk about radiation or any particular chemicals. EPA’s policy is to continue to use the linear-no-threshold model for population-level radiation protection purposes which would not – under the proposed regulation that has not been finalized – trigger any change in that policy,” said an EPA spokesman in response to a request for comment.

Radiologist Rebecca Smith-Bindman says the vast bulk of the evidence suggests even small amounts of radiation are harmful. We shouldn’t base our policies on an unproven theory, she adds.

“There is extensive evidence that ionizing radiation will cause cancer,” says Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco in an email exchange. “These data come from a range of different sources, including epidemiological data (such as studies of patients who have received diagnostic and therapeutic radiation and from environmental exposures and accidents), from animal studies and from basic science studies. While it is more difficult to precisely quantify the exposures — which will vary by many factors, such as age at exposure, and source of radiation, etc. — there is no uncertainty among the scientific community that radiation will cause cancer.”

She says that pointing to issues with the linear no-threshold model misses the point. Though it may not be totally accurate at very low doses, she says it’s unfair to use that uncertainty to cast doubt on data about radiation where there’s solid evidence.

…….. Miglioretti says “Based on the large body of evidence to date, I believe that revising the regulations to increase allowable radiation exposure limits will lead to an increase in the number of radiation-induced cancers in this country.”

That’s in line with what multiple experts Discover contacted believe — that radiation can harm even at low doses and raising limits would endanger the public, though the increase in risk would likely be small.

It’s not clear at the moment whether the EPA proposal to raise limits will pass, though it does follow in the footsteps of other Trump administration proposals to weaken safety standards. At the moment, it’s unclear what the effects on the public if the EPA raises radiation limits.

“Perhaps it might make nuclear power plants less expensive to build. It might lower the cost of cleanup of radioactively polluted sites,” says David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University in an email. “But [it] begs the question of whether cleanup to a less rigorous standard is desirable.” http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2018/10/05/epa-trump-administation-radiation-guidelines/#.W99ZFtIzbGg

“Climate change, nuclear power, and the adaptation–mitigation dilemma”

December 4, 2018

“Climate change, nuclear power, and the adaptation–mitigation dilemma”  https://nuclearexhaust.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/climate-change-nuclear-power-and-the-adaptation-mitigation-dilemma/ Natalie Kopytko and JohnPerkins The University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK The Evergreen State College, 1806 24th Avenue NW, Olympia, WA 98502, USA, Available online 30 October 2010.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421510007329?via%3Dihub

Abstract
Many policy-makers view nuclear power as a mitigation for climate change. Efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, however, interact with existing and new nuclear power plants, and these installations must contend with dilemmas between adaptation and mitigation. This paper develops five criteria to assess the adaptation–mitigation dilemma on two major points:

(1) the ability of nuclear power to adapt to climate change and

(2) the potential for nuclear power operation to hinder climate change adaptation.

Sea level rise models for nine coastal sites in the United States, a review of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents, and reports from France’s nuclear regulatory agency provided insights into issues that have arisen from sea level rise, shoreline erosion, coastal storms, floods, and heat waves. Applying the criteria to inland and coastal nuclear power plants reveals several weaknesses.

Safety stands out as the primary concern at coastal locations, while inland locations encounter greater problems with interrupted operation. Adapting nuclear power to climate change entails either increased expenses for construction and operation or incurs significant costs to the environment and public health and welfare. Mere absence of greenhouse gas emissions is not sufficient to assess nuclear power as a mitigation for climate change.

Research Highlights
►The adaptation-mitigation criteria reveal nuclear power’s vulnerabilities. ►Climate change adaptation could become too costly at many sites. ►Nuclear power operation jeopardizes climate change adaptation. ►Extreme climate events pose a safety challenge.     end quote of abstract. see original link above.

Australia’s Labor Party must keep to its strong nuclear-free policy

November 3, 2018

Uranium

  1. The production of uranium and its use in the nuclear fuel cycle present unique and unprecedented hazards and risks, including:
  • Threats to human health and the local environment in the mining and milling of uranium and management of radioactive materials, which demand the enforcement of strict safety procedures;
  • The generation of products that are usable as the raw materials for nuclear weapons manufacture, which demands the enforcement of effective controls against diversion; and
  • The generation of highly toxic radioactive waste by-products that demand permanently safe disposal methods.
  1. Labor accordingly will allow the mining and export of uranium only under the most stringent conditions.
  1. In relation to mining and milling, Labor will:
  • Ensure the safety of workers in the uranium industry is given priority. Labor has established acompulsory register for workers in the uranium industry that includes regular health checks and ongoing monitoring. The register is held by an independent agency and will be subject to privacy provisions;
  • Ensure Australian uranium mining, milling and rehabilitation is based on world best practice standards, extensive continuing research on environmental impacts and the health and safety of employees and affected communities, particularly Indigenous communities;
  • Ensure the Australian public is informed about the quality of the environmental performance of uranium mines through public accountability mechanisms;
  • Foster a constructive relationship between mining companies and Indigenous communities affected by uranium mining; and
  • Prohibit the mining of uranium within national parks under International Union for Conservation of Nature protected area category 1A, category 1B, and category 2, and listed world heritage areas.
  1. In relation to exports other than to India, Labor will allow the export of uranium only to those countries that observe the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), are committed to nonproliferation policies, and have ratified international and bilateral nuclear safeguards agreements.

Labor will export uranium only to countries that maintain strict safeguards and security controls over their nuclear power industries.

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  1. In relation to India, an important strategic partner for Australia, commitments and responsible actions in support of nuclear non-proliferation, consistent with international guidelines on nuclear supply, will provide an acceptable basis for peaceful nuclear cooperation, including the export of uranium, subject to the application of strong safeguards.
  1. In addition, Labor will work towards:
  • Strengthening export control regimes and the rights and authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
  • Appropriate international responses to violations of existing safeguard commitments;
  • Limiting the processing of weapon usable material (separation of plutonium and high

enriched uranium in civilian programs);

  • Tightening controls over the export of nuclear material and technology;
  • Universalising of the IAEA additional protocol making it mandatory for all states and

members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to adhere to the additional protocol as a condition

of supply to all their transfers;

  • Criminalising actions of individuals and companies that assist in nuclear proliferation;
  • The development of an international guarantee of nuclear fuel supply to states foregoing

sensitive nuclear technologies;

  • Revising the NPT to prevent countries from withdrawing from the NPT and passing a new resolution in the United Nations Security Council addressing the penalties for withdrawal from the NPT;
  • Encouraging all nuclear states to join the NPT;
  • Reserving the right to withhold supplies of uranium permanently, indefinitely or for a specified period from any country that ceases to observe the non-proliferation safeguards and security conditions applied to Australian uranium exports to that country, or which adopts nuclear practices or policies that do not further advance the cause of nuclear nonproliferation;
  • Supporting the maintenance and enhancement of international and Australian safeguards to ensure that uranium mined in Australia, and nuclear products derived from it, are used only for civil purposes by approved instrumentalities in approved countries that are signatories to the NPT (with the exception of India) and with whom Australia has safeguard arrangements; and
  • Seeking adequate international resourcing of the IAEA to ensure its effectiveness in undertaking its charter.
  1. Labor will progress these commitments through diplomatic means including the re-establishment of the Canberra Commission to re-invigorate Australia’s tradition of middle power, multilateral diplomacy. In doing so, Labor believes that as a non-nuclear armed nation and a good international citizen, Australia can make a significant contribution to promoting disarmament, the reduction of nuclear stockpiles, and the responsible use of nuclear technology.
  1. Labor will:
  • Vigorously and totally oppose the ocean dumping of radioactive waste;

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  •  Prohibit the establishment of nuclear power plants and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia;

  • Fully meet all Australia’s obligations as a party to the NPT; and
  • Remain strongly opposed to the importation and storage of nuclear waste that is sourced from overseas in Australia.