Archive for the ‘1 NUCLEAR ISSUES’ Category

Australia and Britain’s shameful history of Nuclear Bombing of First Nations Lands   

April 7, 2019

Living with the legacy of British Nuclear testing: Bobby Brown

Maralinga No More: The British Nuclear Bombing of First Nations Lands   https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/maralinga-no-more-the-british-nuclear-bombing-of-first-nations-lands/?fbclid=IwAR0UIC6VK_x6i8NAStEyZHZXK-Sld-IH4HFyE9gy-Zngp4RzaLtVeiWV7tM, By Paul Gregoire   31/03/2019


As former Australian Conservation Foundation anti-nuclear campaigner David Noonan put it in 2005, “Australia is the only society to have ever provided its own uranium to an overseas nuclear weapons state to make nuclear weapons to then bomb back on their own land.”

And it was Scott Morrison’s pin-up boy, former prime minister Robert Menzies, who in 1950 said yes to the British government carrying out secret nuclear weapons tests without initially consulting cabinet, whilst making assurances that no negative radioactive impact would occur.

Around 800 kilometres northeast of Adelaide, Maralinga was chosen as the main nuclear testing site, as the government found that the Maralinga Tjarutja people – who’d been living there since time immemorial – weren’t actually using the land.

The local Indigenous peoples were never consulted about the testing. Many were forcibly removed from their lands and taken to Yalata mission in SA, which effectively served as a prison camp. Some remained in the vicinity of the test site. Signs written in English were erected warning them to leave.

Indeed, on 27 September 1956, when the first nuclear device, One Tree, was detonated at Maralinga, First Nations peoples had no rights under Commonwealth Law. The vote didn’t come until 1962, while citizenship rights weren’t granted until the 1967 Referendum.

A toxic legacy

The Menzies Liberal government passed the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952, which effectively allowed the British to access remotes parts of Australia to test atomic weapons. The general public for the most part had no awareness or understanding of what would take place.

British and Australian servicemen built a test site, airstrip and township at Maralinga known as Section 400. Australian troops signed documents under Australian secrecy laws that required them never to divulge any operational information, with the threat of harsh prison sentences.

Between September 1956 and October 1957, the British set off seven above ground nuclear bombs ranging from 1 to 27 kilotons. The first four were part of Operation Buffalo, while the last three made up Operation Antler.

Following these tests, the British continued to carry out around 600 minor nuclear warhead tests up until 1963. And it was these that caused the greatest contamination. The most dire being the Vixen B tests that led to massive contamination of plutonium, which has a half-life of over 24,000 years.

The impact upon First Nations

Around 1,200 Aboriginal people were exposed to the radioactive fallout of the tests. This could lead to blindness, skin rashes and fever. It caused the early deaths of entire families. And long-term illnesses such as cancer and lung disease became prevalent amongst these communities.

As for those who were moved away from their homelands, their way of life was destroyed. The Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act was passed by the SA parliament in 1984, which ensured the damaged land was handed back freehold to traditional owners, as soon as it became “safe” again.

The Maralinga Tjarutja people, as well as other First Nations peoples, gradually returned to their homelands. Australia and reluctant British governments carried out initially terribly shonky clean-ups, that got progressively better, of the Maralinga site in 1967, 2000 and 2009.

And the British government eventually paid affected Aboriginal peoples $13.5 million in compensation for the loss and contamination of their lands in 1995.

Prior to Maralinga

The late Yankunytjatjara elder Yami Lester was just a boy living at Walatinna in the South Australian outback, when at 7 am on 15 October 1953, the British detonated a nuclear bomb at a test site at Emu Fields, northeast of Maralinga.

Mr Lester watched as a long, black cloud of smoke stretched out from the bomb site towards his homelands. In the wake of two tests carried out at Emu Fields within 12 days of each other, Yemi permanently lost his site, sudden deaths occurred, and his people suffered long-term illnesses.

The Emu Fields blasts were not the first on Australian soils. The initial nuclear bomb blast was carried out on the Monte Bello Islands in October 1952, while two more blasts took place in this Indian Ocean region in 1956.

And just like the Maralinga and Emu Fields blasts, the radioactive waste from these islands travelled across the entire continent. Two hotspots of excessive radioactive fallout resulting from the Emu Fields blasts were the NSW towns of Lismore and Dubbo.

Adding insult to injury

In 1989, the federal government announced it was establishing a nuclear waste dump near Coober Pedy in SA on the lands the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a senior women’s council representing the local peoples, many of whom had directly suffered the impacts of British nuclear testing.

As opposition to the dump grew, the government used the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act 1989 to seize the land, where it proposed to store the waste that was being produced at Sydney’s Lucas Heights reactor.

n July 2004, after a six year long battle the Kungka Tjuta senior women brought a stop the nuclear waste repository being situated on their land. And the federal government then turned to the NT’s Muckaty Station to dump the NSW waste. However, after that fell through, it’s still looking for a site.

The global threat continues

Maralinga took place at the height of the Cold War, after the US government refused to continue its nuclear program with British participation. And following World War Two, the crumbling empire sought to develop its own nuclear capacities in its faraway colonial backyard.

But, while many believe the threat of nuclear war faded with the end of the Cold War, renowned political analyst Noam Chomsky still warns that the two major threats in the world today are climate change and nuclear war.

Chomsky has pointed to a March 2007 article published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences that revealed the “extremely dangerous” threat the Trump administration’s nuclear forces modernisation program is creating.

And as of January this year, the Doomsday Clock – which measures the likelihood of human-made global catastrophe – is still set at two minutes to midnight, as it first was 12 months prior. Based on the two threats identified by Chomsky, this setting is the closest to midnight it’s been since 1953.

Advertisements

The truth about Lucas Heights and the supposed medical need for the nuclear reactor

April 7, 2019

Kazzi Jai shared a link. 18 Feb 19, Fight To Stop Nuclear Waste In The Flinders Ranges

X-rays and CAT scanners (which use x-rays) in hospitals do not use radioactive sources. The films from X-rays are very valuable due to their silver content, and can be recycled if they are no longer required. There are now hospitals which are using phosphor flat plate detectors on their X-ray machines, so that a digital image is obtained and kept on hospital computer files instead of generating a film.

The disposable items such as gloves, gowns, sheets etc used in hospitals for loved ones using nuclear medicine are withheld for a period of 10 or more days, then deemed, according to safety regulations, to be safe to be discarded in normal waste.

Of the isotopes which ANSTO – Lucas Heights reactor produces, only 28% are actually used in Australian Hospitals. The rest – 72% – are sent overseas. Which is interesting as the majority of Lucas Heights reactor use is for nuclear medical isotope production!
And of that 28% which is quoted as used in Australian hospitals, the majority of those isotopes are used for nuclear medical imaging – the rest is for treatment. So in fact actual nuclear medical treatment using isotopes is very small.

Also noteworthy is that now cyclotron/imaging partnership locations are found in all of the capital cities in Australia including Darwin – only Hobart does not. This means there will be less reliance on the isotope production from Lucas Heights, as cyclotrons allow generation of isotopes for imaging on site, and do not utilize radioactive sources such as a nuclear reactor to generate them! In other words they do not produce nuclear waste!

In Adelaide you will find the cyclotron and an imaging partnership in the SAHMRI building.

And ANSTO is heavily involved in the cyclotron sector as well. They have a cyclotron in Sydney and a similar piece of equipment called a synchrotron in Melbourne. But you rarely hear about those in South Australia……..

The solution to the waste generated at Lucas Heights – and they have the majority of the nuclear waste generated in Australia by the way, because they generate it there – is to keep it at Lucas Heights!

They claim it is safe there – then keep it there, until they have found a way to properly deal with the Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste, and the Low Level Nuclear Waste can follow that!

Double handling of Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste is NOT World’s Best Practice! Neither is transporting nuclear waste over 1500+kms away from where it is generated!

And Lucas Heights has plenty of space to deal with its waste – and we have been told by DIIS and ARPANSA that should a suitable site not be found, that production of isotopes would not be affected nor Lucas Heights licensing and regulations be affected, and they would simply build more buildings to accomodate it.

Oh….and here is a link on how X-rays in hospitals (both used in X-ray machines and CAT scanners) are generated, if you are interested –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-ray_tube?fbclid=IwAR1u7fjU4_VazLAkx48teUiEHXccLTZZFKB99C_029yGUXWu18wkbmXaxow

 

How our electricity system of the future could be powered by sun, wind and waves

April 7, 2019

Our electricity system of the future could be powered by sun, wind and waves @nickymison

ANSTO nuclear waste will compromise safety and security in South Australia

April 7, 2019

ANSTO nuclear waste to compromise safety and security in SA, https://www.foe.org.au/ansto_nuclear_waste_to_compromise_safety_and_security_in_sDavid Noonan, 17 Jan 19  The federal government intends shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel waste to be imposed through Whyalla or Port Pirie to go onto indefinite above-ground storage at a nuclear dump site at either Kimba or Hawker ‒ all of which is illegal under state law in South Australia.

Two shipments of reprocessed nuclear waste ‒ arising from the reprocessing of fuel irradiated in research reactors operated by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) ‒ are intended in the first two years of nuclear store operations in SA. A shipment is due from Sellafield in UK in the early 2020s, and ANSTO plans a shipment of nuclear waste that was reprocessed in France then shipped to ANSTO’s Lucas Heights site (south of Sydney) in 2015.

Some 100 B-Double truckloads of federal government Intermediate Level Wastes (ILW) ‒ predominantly ANSTO waste from Lucas Heights ‒ are also to be trucked into SA in the first four years of nuclear store operations in SA.

SA communities face decades of potential accident and terrorist risks and impacts from ongoing ANSTO nuclear waste transports, with all of the next 40 years of ANSTO reactor waste also to be shipped and trucked to SA for indefinite above-ground storage.

The federal nuclear regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), states that nuclear fuel wastes and other ILW require radiation shielding and require isolation from the environment for over 10,000 years. Yet the current plan is to store this waste in SA in a fancy shed for indefinite storage described as “interim” and as “long term above-ground storage (approximately 100 years)”.

After 60 years, ANSTO still has no nuclear waste disposal capacity, while ANSTO’s nuclear waste production is set to increase to more than double waste stockpiles over the next 40 years.

The government’s April 2018 ‘Australian Radioactive Waste Management Framework’1 reports total ILW at 1,770 cubic metres (m3), with 95% by volume arising as federal government wastes.

The federal government plans to produce a further 1,960 m3 of ILW over next 40 years, with 95% (1,850 m3) arising from ANSTO’s reactor operations – all to be trucked into SA for indefinite above-ground storage at either Kimba or Hawker.

All of these federal government nuclear waste plans face serious obstacles and community opposition. They are illegal under state law in SA; are in breach of formal advice of the Nuclear Safety Committee to the federal regulator ARPANSA2; and do not represent International Best Practice.

The import, transport, storage and disposal of ANSTO nuclear fuel wastes were prohibited by the SA Liberal government in 2000; then in 2002‒03 the incoming SA Labor government extended the legislation to cover other radioactive wastes. Yet the federal Coalition government intends to override state law to impose nuclear wastes onto SA.

Advice provided to the CEO of ARPANSA by ARPANSA’s ‘Nuclear Safety Committee’ in Nov. 2013 states that:

“International best practice points to the need to have in place a policy and infrastructure for final management and ultimate disposal of waste before activities generating waste commence.”

“[T]he dual handling and transport process associated with interim storage does not represent international best practice”

“Dual handling also has implications for security.”

More recently, in Nov. 2016, the Nuclear Safety Committee advised the CEO of ARPANSA on the “ongoing requirement to clearly and effectively engage all stakeholders, including those along transport routes” and the Committee said that such engagement is “essential”.3

However, in an arrogant, flawed process, the federal government named port cities in SA as required ports to take shipments of nuclear waste in a report4 posted on the internet but failed to even inform the targeted communities and their local councils.

The story broke on Southern Cross TV on Aug. 6. The next day the ABC quoted Port Pirie’s Mayor saying Council was “blind-sided” by the federal government position to potentially require Port Pirie as a nuclear waste port. On Aug. 9 the story ran on p.1 of the Whyalla News, with the Whyalla Mayor saying Council won’t accept this.

Communities in Whyalla or Port Pirie ‒ and in Port Augusta which was named on a number of potential required nuclear waste transport routes ‒ face “complete shutdown” in transport of nuclear wastes through their cities but have been excluded from having a say by this federal government.

The federal Coalition government must stop this untenable nuclear waste threat to compromise safety and security in SA and accept extended storage of ANSTO nuclear fuel waste and ILW at Lucas Heights.

As the alternate federal government, the ALP is yet to say what they may do if elected in 2019.

More information: www.nuclear.foe.org.au/noonan

References:….

  1. www.radioactivewaste.gov.au/sites/prod.radioactivewaste/files/files/Australian%20Radioactive%20Waste%20Management%20Framework.pdf
  2. www.arpansa.gov.au/sites/default/files/legacy/pubs/nsc/nsc_iwsadvice.pdf
  3. www.arpansa.gov.au/sites/default/files/legacy/pubs/nsc/nrwmf-stakeholder-engagement.rtf
  4. https://prod-radioactivewaste.industry.slicedtech.com.au/sites/prod.radioactivewaste/files/60565376_NRWMF%20Site%20Characterisation%20Technical%20Report_Wallerberdina_20.07.2018_FINAL_Optimized.pdf

Published in Chain Reaction #134, December 2018. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia. www.foe.org.au/chain_reaction

The choice of Maralinga as nuclear bomb site – and the effects on Aboriginal people

April 7, 2019

Aboriginal people were still living close to the test sites and were told nothing about radiation. 

‘High rates of cancer were eventually documented in the 16,000 test workers, but no studies were done on Aboriginal people and others living in areas of fallout. It’s been called the cancer capital of Australia.’

Although many Aboriginal people were forcibly removed from their land, more than a thousand were directly affected by the bombs.

Vomiting, skin rashes, diarrhoea, fevers and, later, blood diseases and cancer were among the common conditions caused by the testing.

Aboriginal Rights: Michael Anderson: No treaty or contract valid if the parties are at war

April 7, 2019
Ghillar, Michael Anderson, Convenor of Sovereign Union of First Nations and Peoples in Australia, and Head of State of the Euahlayi Peoples Republic www.sovereignunion.mobi Under international law and domestic contractual law–no treaty or contract can be classified as legal if we are under the ‘rules and disciplines of war’. If our First Nations Peoples are not fully aware of these facts, then any contract entered into, treaty or otherwise, can be argued to be invalid.

Ghillar, Michael Anderson, Convener of the Sovereign Union, last surviving member of the founding four of the Aboriginal Embassy and Leader of the Euahlayi Nation said from Goodooga today:

The upcoming Sovereign Union Gathering of Nations sponsored by the Yorta Yorta Nation will focus on key rights that we have as First Nations Peoples of this continent. These rights are now supported by international laws and developing international customary legal norms, for example, as collated inHuman Rights at Your Fingertips published by the Federal Attorney-General’s department: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/hrayf_2012.pdf

One international legal norm is the progressive recognition of redress for past wrongdoings perpetrated by ambitious French, Portuguese, English, Dutch, Spanish and German colonialists.

What is interesting, however, is understanding that the Pope in Rome was instrumental in instigating invasions of other countries. In order to settle the Spanish, Portuguese, French and English wars across the English Channel/La Manche, the key warring parties had to find a third party to mediate an end to their violent clashes against each other in the 1400s and 1500s. History shows that they turned to God’s representative on earth, the Pope, seen as the ‘divine ruler’.

It should be remembered that during the internal wars over land titles in England, the key players also turned to God’s representative, the Pope (Innocent III) and his ‘disciples’, and that to break the tyranny of King John of England, it was a Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, who drafted the Magna Carta that King John agreed to on 15 June 1215.

Having mediated European struggles over land and resources, the Pope then issued new decrees which divided the world up for the warring parties to rape, pillage and plunder in order to end the wars in Europe. Thus began the flow of Papal Bulls (seals) whereby an order of the Pope, supposedly representing the biblical Judeo-Christian God on earth, divided the world up for kingdoms such as Portugal, Spain, England and France to invade under the Doctrine of Discovery, which became deeply entrenched. This alleged Christian right to usurp the lands and the usufructuary rights of the native inhabitants, ‘pagans’ and ‘infidels’ was decreed in The Bull Romanus Pontifex (Nicholas V), January 8, 1455 and The Bull Inter Caetera (Alexander VI), May 4, 1493 which instructed the invaders to ‘overthrow’ and ‘vanquish’ ‘barbarous’ nations, ‘and all other infidels whatsoever’ and ‘enemies of Christ wheresoever placed’ and ‘subdue certain gentile or pagan peoples living between, who are entirely free from infection by the sect of the most impious Mahomet and to preach and cause to be preached to them the unknown most sacred name of Christ’. In order ‘more zealously to pursue … this most pious and noble work’ ‘to conserve their right and possession’ it is ‘supported by … the Apostolic See with favors and graces’. The ‘Christian rule’ acquired ‘by the right of conquest’ ‘from the lands of infidels or pagans’ ‘all those provinces, islands, harbours, and seas whatsoever’. First Nations Peoples were also decreed to remain unarmed by preventing trade in ‘iron instruments, wood to be used for construction, cordage, ships and any kinds of armor’.[1]

The Doctrine of Discovery had its origin in the biblical text, which was articulated by the Papacy in Rome and circulated as supreme authority by the Papal Bulls. These Judeo-Christian decrees were the basis for the right of ‘First Discoverers’ to plunder and enslave, and in so doing asserted that the word of God had superior force over pre-existing claims and right of occupation.

Therefore, the zealous taking of lands during the imperial colonial expansion was promoted as a God-given right. The justification was that lands would be classified as terra nullius (nobody’s land)and uncivilised, if populated by those who did not believe in Jesus Christ or an equivalent.

Then comes the Mabo High Court case in 1992Limited though the questions were, the High Court took a giant step to firstly overturn existing legal precedents and to recognise the continuing proprietary interests and usufruct rights of the First Nations Peoples in Australia. But the conviction of those who made the decision was counteracted by their cowardice in refusing to recognise the decision of Chief Justice Willis in the NSW Supreme Court caseR v Bonjon 1841, in which Willis held that the colonists are the intruders and Aboriginal Peoples are the ‘sovereigns of the soil’. Willis CJ is also reported as ruling:

But the frequent conflicts that have occurred between the colonists and the Aborigines within the limits of the colony of New South Wales make it, I think, sufficiently manifest that the Aboriginal tribes are neither a conquered people, nor have tacitly acquiesced in the supremacy of the settlers. …

I repeat that I am not aware of any express enactment or treaty subjecting the Aborigines of this colony to the English colonial law, and I have shown that the Aborigines cannot be considered as Foreigners in a Kingdom which is their own.

This cowardice of the High Court judges that I speak of, is where the High Court realised that they were between a rock and a hard place with the Mabo case. At paragraph 29 they lamented:

… It is not possible, a priori, to distinguish between cases that express a skeletal principle and those which do not …

In other words, had the High Court known where this case would lead, they may not have agreed to hear the case in the first place.

So the judges in Mabo had to stretch a very long bow when they ruled that Australia was ‘settled’ on an ancient English legal foundation, which was the feudal land system. The irony of this decision falls into two categories:

·      the concept of terra nullius (or land belonging to no-one)

·      the law of feudalism and its legal impacts which are null and void, because feudalism disappeared from the English legal system in 1660.

In order to justify the alleged Crown Land ownership in Australia, the High Court resurrected a non-existent ancient land law system belonging to Britain, while feudalism has no legal authority in common law anywhere in the world, except in Australia.

The end of feudalism in England, permitted private ownership of land throughout the United Kingdom and destroyed the King’s or Queen’s right to own all the land. But by the High Court ruling that land tenure in Australia is based on feudalism, the judges could find that the king came and claimed all the land as his. This ties in with Governor Darling denouncing the Batman Treaty in Victoria, because no other person but the king could sign away land.

The related legal question is: Does ‘feudalism’ have any legal validity today?

Like the justices of the High Court, lawyers who are committed to the Bar and the Bar Association of Australia, are just big cowards and fear challenging what needs to be challenged and what is justly correct. This cowardice is represented by the lawyers following black letter law, e.g. in the Native Title Act. Don’t rock the boat!

The question that we, as First Nations People, must ask next is: Are we happy with the current situation and, if not, what is our next move?

Having asked this question, I put it to all our First Nations Peoples, who are proposing to come to our Gathering of Nations to give thought to the following:

In Native Title applications, the question that the lawyers ask the applicant group is: ‘Do you have the ability to prove your connection to Country under your Law and customs at the time of ‘British Sovereignty’. (N.B. should state alleged British Sovereignty). If we are to prove our connection to Country at the time of alleged ‘British Sovereignty’, we need to go back to Justice Willis’s New South Wales Supreme Court decision in R v Bonjon 1841, which has never been overturned. The High Court in Mabo indirectly observed R v Bonjon 1841 (without it being mentioned) by ruling that our proprietary law rights have their authoritative origins in our own pre-existing and continuing Law and customs. As the Mabo decision ruled at paragraph 65, these rights under our Law and custom are inalienable and no foreign parliament, such as Australia and its federated States and its two mainland Territories, have the legal capacity to take them from us:

65. … Native title, though recognized by the common law, is not an institution of the common law and is not alienable by the common law..

In other words, the High Court in Mabo ruled that they are inalienable rights and that the Commonwealth Parliament and its State and Territory counterparts cannot legislate to take them away, because they are inherent sovereign rights that belong to another authoritative jurisdiction, independent of the colonial occupying power. This is why the expert on the Australian Constitution, Professor George Williams, says Aboriginal people need not ask for sovereignty, they should simply assert it under their Law and customs.

So, the next question is: How does the Australian authority maintain its power over us? The answer is very simple. What gives this answer its fluency and authority comes from the Orders issued to Governor Phillip, in which the Colonial Secretary’s Office and the British Admiralty, now known as the War Office, instructed him on 12 August 1786 to apply the ‘rules and disciplines of war’ when establishing the colony of New South Wales:

… you are to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time as you shall receive from us, or any other of your superior officers according to the Rules and Disciplines of War … [2]

There is no evidence that this lawful instruction from England was ever repealed and the history of Australia thereafter clearly demonstrates that the State police are used as their military wing to crush Aboriginal resistance, which is made to look like acts of civil disobedience that is dealt with under the criminal law. Conversely, the Howard government did use the military to enforce the Northern Territory Intervention.

Politicians, through their propaganda and electioneering, argue for and on behalf of the public that ‘law and order’ is a key policy objective, but the electorate does not realise that the act of war is being perpetrated against our First Nations Peoples and is written into these pretended ‘law and order’ control mechanisms. This is evidenced by the fact that First Nations people sit in jails around this country in large numbers, including our youth and children, for alleged offences that non-First Nations People would never go to jail for. The colonial administrators argue this when they use the term ‘recidivism’ (the tendency of a convicted person to reoffend) and they catch our people in these nets of incarceration with the three-strike rule principle and ‘paperless arrests’, but these only apply to First Nations people, because this is who they are targeting.

The Native Title Act is in itself a law that attacks our inherent rights and, in fact, diminishes these rights to a point where they no longer exist. In short, this is yet again another act of war against First Nations Peoples.

It therefore follows under international law and domestic contractual law–no treaty or contract can be classified as legal if we are under the ‘rules and disciplines of war’.

It further follows that, if our First Nations Peoples are not fully aware of these facts, then any contract entered into, treaty or otherwise, can be argued to be invalid.

These and other issues must be addressed if we are to get the justice due to us.

It is imperative that we as First Nations People know all the wrongdoings, so as to ensure that we have a clear understanding of our legal rights now and going forward. To act in a knee-jerk reaction will cause us all to be in the same boat as the Noongar people in south-west Western Australia now find themselves.

We will be making the call, not the colonists.

Our rights, our future–never forget it.

SovereignUnionSourcewww.nationalunitygovernment.org/content/no-treaty-or-contract-valid-if-parties-are-war

Before we enter “a new nuclear age” – learn from the newly declassified Chernobyl health records

April 7, 2019

Fortunately, Chernobyl health records are now available to the public. They show that people living in the radioactive traces fell ill from cancers, respiratory illness, anaemia, auto-immune disorders, birth defects, and fertility problems two to three times more frequently in the years after the accident than before. In a highly contaminated Belarusian town of Veprin, just six of 70 children in 1990 were characterised as “healthy”. The rest had one chronic disease or another. On average, the Veprin children had in their bodies 8,498 bq/kg of radioactive caesium (20 bq/kg is considered safe).

For decades, researchers have puzzled over strange clusters of thyroid cancer, leukaemia and birth defects among people living in Cumbria, which, like southern Belarus, is an overlooked hotspot of radioactivity from cold war decades of nuclear bomb production and nuclear power accidents.

Currently, policymakers are advocating a massive expansion of nuclear power as a way to combat climate change. Before we enter a new nuclear age, the declassified Chernobyl health records raise questions that have been left unanswered about the impact of chronic low doses of radioactivity on human health.

*******************************************************

As researchers monitored Chernobyl radioactivity, they made a troubling discovery. Only half of the caesium-137 they detected came from Chernobyl. The rest had already been in the Cumbrian soils; deposited there during the years of nuclear testing and after the 1957 fire at the Windscale plutonium plant. The same winds and rains that brought down Chernobyl fallout had been at work quietly distributing radioactive contaminants across northern England and Scotland for decades. Fallout from bomb tests carried out during the cold war scattered a volume of radioactive gases that dwarfed Chernobyl. 

The Chernobyl explosions issued 45m curies of radioactive iodine into the atmosphere. Emissions from Soviet and US bomb tests amounted to 20bn curies of radioactive iodine, 500 times more. Radioactive iodine, a short lived, powerful isotope can cause thyroid disease, thyroid cancer, hormonal imbalances, problems with the GI tract and autoimmune disorders.

As engineers detonated over 2,000 nuclear bombs into the atmosphere, scientists lost track of where radioactive isotopes fell and where they came from, but they caught glimpses of how readily radioactivity travelled the globe.

Chernobyl’s disastrous cover-up is a warning for the next nuclear age

 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/04/chernobyl-nuclear-power-climate-change-health-radioactivity,   So that day, in a Moscow airport, technicians loaded artillery shells with silver iodide. Soviet air force pilots climbed into the cockpits of TU-16 bombers and made the easy one-hour flight to Chernobyl, where the reactor burned. The pilots circled, following the weather. They flew 30, 70, 100, 200km – chasing the inky black billows of radioactive waste. When they caught up with a cloud, they shot jets of silver iodide into it to emancipate the rain.In the sleepy towns of southern Belarus, villagers looked up to see planes with strange yellow and grey contrails snaking across the sky. Next day, 27 April, powerful winds kicked up, cumulus clouds billowed on the horizon, and rain poured down in a deluge. The raindrops scavenged radioactive dust floating 200 metres in the air and sent it to the ground. The pilots trailed the slow-moving gaseous bulk of nuclear waste north-east beyond Gomel, into Mogilev province. Wherever pilots shot silver iodide, rain fell, along with a toxic brew of a dozen radioactive elements.

If Operation Cyclone had not been top secret, the headline would have been spectacular: “Scientists using advanced technology save Russian cities from technological disaster!” Yet, as the old saying goes, what goes up must come down. No one told the Belarusians that the southern half of the republic had been sacrificed to protect Russian cities. In the path of the artificially induced rain lived several hundred thousand Belarusians ignorant of the contaminants around them.

The public is often led to believe that the Chernobyl exclusion zone, a depopulated 20-mile circle around the blown plant, safely contains Chernobyl radioactivity. Tourists and journalists exploring the zone rarely realise there is a second Chernobyl zone in southern Belarus. In it, people lived for 15 years in levels of contamination as high as areas within the official zone until the area was finally abandoned, in 1999.

In believing that the Chernobyl zone safely contained the accident, we fall for the proximity trap, which holds that the closer a person is to a nuclear explosion, the more radioactivity they are exposed to. But radioactive gases follow weather patterns, moving around the globe to leave shadows of contamination in shapes that resemble tongues, kidneys, or the sharp tips of arrows.

(more…)

Research on gene mutations caused by nuclear radiation – Kazakhstan

April 7, 2019

Over the years, those who sought care from Dispensary No. 4 or the IRME were logged in the state’s medical registry, which tracks the health of people exposed to the Polygon tests. People are grouped by generation and by how much radiation they received, on the basis of where they lived. Although the registry does not include every person who was affected, at one point it listed more than 351,000 individuals across 3 generations. More than one-third of these have died, and many others have migrated or lost contact. But according to Muldagaliev, about 10,000 people have been continually observed since 1962. Researchers consider the registry an important and relatively unexplored resource for understanding the effects of long-term and low-dose radiation2

Geneticists have been able to use these remaining records to investigate the generational effects of radiation…….

In 2002, Dubrova and his colleagues reported that the mutation rate in the germ lines of those who had been directly exposed was nearly twice that found in controls3. The effects continued in subsequent generations that had not been directly exposed to the blasts. Their children had a 50% higher rate of germline mutation than controls had. Dubrova thinks that if researchers can establish the pattern of mutation in the offspring of irradiated parents, then there could be a way to predict the long-term, intergenerational health risks.

The nuclear sins of the Soviet Union live on in Kazakhstan  https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01034-8 Wudan Yan 3 Apr 19, Decades after weapons testing stopped, researchers are still struggling to decipher the health impacts of radiation exposure around Semipalatinsk. The statues of Lenin are weathered and some are tagged with graffiti, but they still stand tall in the parks of Semey, a small industrial city tucked in the northeast steppe of Kazakhstan. All around the city, boxy Soviet-era cars and buses lurch past tall brick apartment buildings and cracked walkways, relics of a previous regime.Other traces of the past are harder to see. Folded into the city’s history — into the very DNA of its people — is the legacy of the cold war. The Semipalatinsk Test Site, about 150 kilometres west of Semey, was the anvil on which the Soviet Union forged its nuclear arsenal. Between 1949 and 1963, the Soviets pounded an 18,500-square-kilometre patch of land known as the Polygon with more than 110 above-ground nuclear tests. Kazakh health authorities estimate that up to 1.5 million people were exposed to fallout in the process. Underground tests continued until 1989.

Much of what’s known about the health impacts of radiation comes from studies of acute exposure — for example, the atomic blasts that levelled Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan or the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine. Studies of those events provided grim lessons on the effects of high-level exposure, as well as the lingering impacts on the environment and people who were exposed. Such work, however, has found little evidence that the health effects are passed on across generations.

People living near the Polygon were exposed not only to acute bursts, but also to low doses of radiation over the course of decades (see ‘Danger on the wind’). Kazakh researchers have been collecting data on those who lived through the detonations, as well as their children and their children’s children. (more…)

The very dangerous history of making plutonium weapons triggers – “pits” at Rocky Flats

April 7, 2019

Dangerous history of pit production  https://www.aikenstandard.com/opinion/guest-column-dangerous-history-of-pit-production/article_a22aa6b8-4ab2-11e9-83dc-7b695e05d8a7.html Dr. Rose O. Hayes

Recent comments on the proposed pit production at Savannah River Site warrant a cautionary comment. All is not wonderful news where pit production is concerned. It has a very dirty past. Awareness of that past is paramount to the protection of CSRA public health and safety.

The primary U.S. plant to smelt plutonium, purify it and shape it into “triggers” (pits) for nuclear bombs was Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Site. From 1952 to 1989, Rocky Flats manufactured more than 70,000 pits at a cost of nearly $4 million apiece. Each one contained enough breathable plutonium particles to kill every person on earth. Virtually all of the waste produced there remains on-site. As we have learned through the SRS waste storage struggles, there is no place for it to go and no government plan to develop a repository. What’s made at a nuclear processing plant, stays at the nuclear processing plant.

Much went wrong at Rocky Flats due to mismanagement, criminal government indifference and public complacency. It took more than 30 years for the public to become so concerned with the pollution hazards issuing from the plant before the Department of Energy (DOE) was forced to hold a public meeting in 1988 to address the problems. One example: The plant produced one boxcar a week packed with 140 drums of radioactive waste. They were parked on site. Moisture penetration of a drum could have triggered an explosion. Ground water, soil and air pollution were also major hazards. A subsequent DOE study indicated that Rocky Flats was the most dangerous site in the country.

On June 6, 1989 more than 70 FBI and EPA agents raided the plant to begin an official investigation of the contractor and DOE for environmental crimes. The plant manager acknowledged that problems were solved “when DOE wanted to pay for them.” The final FBI/EPA allegations included concealment of environmental contamination, false certification of federal environmental reports, improper storage and disposal of hazardous and radioactive waste, and illegal discharge of pollutants into creeks flowing to drinking water supplies. Another independent study found there was enough lost plutonium in the plant exhaust ducts to create the possibility of an accidental nuclear reaction. According to a later DOE report, about 62 pounds of plutonium was lost in the plant air ducts; enough for seven nuclear bombs.

A grand jury was convened to hear the case on Aug. 1, 1989. The contractor argued in court that it could not fulfill its DOE contract without also violating environmental laws. In order to remediate the damage, on Sept. 28, 1989, EPA added Rocky Flats to its Superfund cleanup list. The grand jury worked until May 1991, then voted to indict the plant contractor, five employees and three individuals working for DOE.

The Department of Justice refused to sign the indictments despite more than 400 environmental violations that occurred during the decades of pit production at the plant. All charges were dropped. A settlement guaranteed the contractor and all indicted individuals immunity. Although the contractor pleaded guilty to criminal violations of the federal hazardous waste law and the Clean Water Act, the fine was only $18.5 million, less than the corporation had collected in bonuses for meeting production quotas that year. The contractor’s annual fee to run the site was estimated at $10 million, with an additional $8.7 million paid from DOE for management and safety excellence.

The contractor was also allowed to sue for reimbursement of $7.9 million from taxpayers for fees and costs related to its case. In addition, the contractor’s plea agreement indemnified it from further claims and all future prosecution, criminal or civil. The trial records are permanently sealed. Further, the contractor argued that everything it did at Rocky Flats was at the behest of DOE and maintained the right to receive future government contracts.

Grand jury members asked to write their own report but the judge refused to read it or release it to the public. Not surprisingly, the report was leaked to the press and printed in a Denver newspaper and Harper’s magazine. In January 1993, a Congressional committee finally issued a report revealing evidence of high-level intervention by Justice Department officials for the purpose of reducing the contractor’s fines.

DOE has estimated that it will take until 2065 to clean up Rocky Flats, at a cost to American taxpayers of more than $40 billion. One DOE official testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that some weapons plants, like Rocky Flats, may never be cleaned up because we lack the technology to do so at a reasonable cost. Another investigator, testifying before the U.S. Senate’s Governmental Affairs Committee, stated he did not believe it possible to reverse the harm done at Rocky Flats.

Could this history repeat itself at SRS? Without a comprehensive cradle to grave plan with built-in irrevocable government funding and independent oversight, including citizen stakeholder input, SRS could become the next Rocky Flats. How likely is the government to attach such planning and funding to an SRS pit processing campaign? Past experience at SRS includes years of having to do best guess planning under continuing resolution funding and government failures to pass a budget, decades of “temporarily” storing deadly radioactive waste due to the government’s failure to meet off-site disposition commitments, budget reductions, program cancellations (most recently, the MOX project), and more.

Plutonium pit production waste is not just radioactive. It is nuclear waste on steroids. If produced here, it will likely remain in our backyard, along with all the decades old waste at SRS. There is no place for it to go. Looming large as examples of the dangers and difficulties SRS will face in having pit production waste moved off-site are the explosion and prolonged closure at the New Mexico Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (the government’s only operating repository) and the abandonment of the Yucca Mountain project.

Is it the CSRA’s responsibility to take on this mission? Pit production, while bringing jobs to the Aiken/Augusts area, will add to the decades old SRS hazards waiting for DOE remediation. SRS is already part of the DOE nuclear complex cleanup program. That mission, 30 some years old, drags on under the burden of DOE mismanagement and variable federal funding. Estimates are it will take another 70 years to clean up the DOE nuclear complex and cost about $500 billion more. Celebration of plans to add U.S. pit production to SRS is a rush to judgement. Only the usual corporations, living large off gigantic federal awards, stand to benefit.

Dr. Rose O. Hayes is a medical anthropologist who spent her career in public health. She holds a B.S., M.S., M.A., and Ph.D. from SUNY and completed post-doctoral work in skeletal biology at The George Washington University. From 2009 to 2015, she served on the U.S. Department of Energy Site-Specific Advisory Board for the Savannah River plant, chairing its Nuclear Materials Committee. 

Why Low dose radiation can be more dangerous- more cancers per person than at high doses

April 7, 2019

LeRoy Moore: Low-dose radiation can be more dangerous,  http://www.dailycamera.com/letters/ci_32543151/leroy-moore-low-dose-radiation-can-be-more 31 Mar 19  Though Maddie Nagle’s beautifully written column of March 8 criticizes me, more important is that she downplays the significance of low-dose exposure to the alpha radiation of plutonium at Rocky Flats. This could harm people unaware of the danger. Carl Morgan, the “Father of Health Physics,” studied the effects of radiation for those building Manhattan Project nuclear weapons. He knew that the alpha particles released by plutonium cannot be harmful unless inhaled or taken into the body through an open wound.

Toward the end of his life he spoke to Robert Del Tredici. He said “down at the low doses you actually get more cancers per person rem than you do at the high doses … because the high levels will often kill cells outright, whereas the low levels of exposure tend to injure cells rather than kill them and it is the surviving injured cells that are the cause for concern.” The effects of a small exposure “will be much more severe than had been anticipated.”(Del Tredici, “At Work in the Fields of the Bomb,” 1987, p. 133)

Nagle also makes misleading remarks about Tom K. Hei of Columbia University. Hei and colleagues demonstrated that a single plutonium alpha particle induces mutations in mammal cells. Cells receiving very low doses are more likely to be damaged than destroyed. Replication of these damaged cells constitutes genetic harm, and more such harm per unit dose occurs at very low doses than would occur with higher dose exposures. “These data provide direct evidence that a single alpha particle traversing a nucleus will have a high probability of resulting in a mutation and highlight the need for radiation protection at low doses.” (Hei et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 94, April 1997, pp. 3765-3770.)