Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Western Australia: Mulga Rock Uranium Project threatens environmental impacts from Tailings waste:

April 2, 2018

Briefer (Nov 2017) by David Noonan, Independent Environment Campaigner

Uranium mining has unique, inherent risks and long term impacts. The West Australian Parliament has passed a Motion (Legislative Council 23 May 2012) recommending:

The government adopt equivalent or better environmental management regulatory requirements for any future uranium mine in Western Australia as exists under Commonwealth and Northern Territory legislation for the operation of the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory with regard to the disposal of radioactive tailings, including the requirements that –

(a) The tailings are physically isolated from the environment for at least 10,000 years: and

(b) Any contaminants arising from the tailings do not result in any detrimental environmental impacts for at least 10,000 years.”

The Barnett era WA gov Approval for the Mulga Rock Uranium Project (Dec 2016) fails to comply with required Commonwealth & NT legislative standards or with the WA Parliament recommendation.

There are two types of intended Tailings Storage Facilities (TSF): an Above Ground TSF and multiple Mine Pit TSF’s in 4 areas across 30 km. An “authorised extent of physical and operational elements” (Approval Schedule 1 Table 2) place some limits on Above Ground TSF but no limits on Mine Pit TSF’s:

Initial disposal for no longer than 2 years after commencement of mining operations, in the above ground TSF labelled on Figure 2. After this time, all disposal must be in the mine pits”;

Disposal of no more than 3 Mtpa of beneficiation rejects and no more than 2 Mtpa of post-leaching tailings material”, within an Above Ground TSF cleared area of up to 106 ha.

Mine Pit TSF’s are not required to use “best available landform modelling over 10 000 years post mine closure” or to try to meet a safety outcome that is applied to the Above Ground TSF disposal:

Condition 16 (1) ensure that the above ground TSF is safe to members of the public and non-human biota, geo-technically and geo-morphologically, and geo-chemically non-polluting.”

Condition 15-1 allows for a plume of tailings seepage and contaminants to move in groundwater:

The proponent shall manage the design and maintenance of all TSF’s to … ensure that the tailings plume is within background groundwater concentrations at the M39/1080 lease boundary”.

The TSF Monitoring and Management Plan (C 15-3) provides for the proponent: “to manage impacts on groundwater quality including from seepage of contaminants into the groundwater and/or soil”.

Conditions 12 & 14 only seek to “minimise impacts” on Inland Waters, on groundwater, and impacts on water quality, including: “Acid and Metalliferous Drainage from seepage into groundwater”.

A number of Management Plans relevant to TSF’s, Groundwater & Environment issues are required: “prior to substantial commencement of the proposal or as otherwise agreed in writing by the CEO” (Conditions 6-1 & 7-1). These Plans require the approval of the CEO Depart of Environment. 2

Barnett era WA gov Uranium Approvals fail to protect Aboriginal Heritage sites:

Redress is required to WA Uranium Approvals authorisation of impacts to Aboriginal Heritage in favour of mining vested interests and irrespective of cultural & heritage values. Aboriginal people should have rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent over any WA uranium mine proposal.

The WA Approval to the Mulga Rock Uranium Project (Condition 11-1 Aboriginal Heritage) authorises impacts to registered Aboriginal Heritage sites and to “unregistered sites”, with a weak objective to only minimise impacts on heritage sites rather than to properly protect sites and avoid impacts:

  1. minimise impacts as far as practical to registered sites DAA 1985 and DAA 1986 and unregistered sites.”

An Aboriginal Heritage Management Plan is required to be approved “prior to ground disturbing activities being undertaken” with decision powers held by the CEO of the Depart of Environment.

Flawed Federal Uranium Approval fails to mention Aboriginal Heritage or Tailings issues:

The Federal Approval to the Mulga Rock Uranium Project (02 March 2017, Minister Josh Frydenberg MP) inexplicably fails to mention Aboriginal Heritage or regulation of uranium mine radioactive tailings. These are unacceptable omissions of key Federal EPBC Act responsibilities to protect the environment from nuclear actions. The Federal ALP should commit to address this Liberal failure.

WA Approval Conditions require a “Compliance Assessment Plan” by May 2018:

WA Approval Condition 4 “Compliance Reporting” requires the proponent submit a “Compliance Assessment Plan” by May 2018, to the satisfaction of CEO Depart of Environment. This will test the new ALP State gov: acquiesce to uranium mining or require robust Plans to protect the environment.

Further, the CEO has a power under Condition 5 to require release of all validated environmental data relevant to assessment of the Mulga Rock Project “within a reasonable time period approved by the CEO”. These data sets should be made public ASAP and well prior to any Project commencement.

marginal Uranium Project risks a pristine Priority Ecological Community:

The Mulga Rock Uranium Project site is entirely inside the Yellow Sandplain Priority Ecological Community and upstream from the Queens Victoria Springs ‘A Class Nature Reserve’. The project poses a serious long term risk to a listed ‘pristine’ area through production of approx. 32 million tonnes of radioactive tailings and seepage of wastes that require isolation for over 10 000 years.

The Bulletin Magazine (Oct 2016) reports capital costs for Mulga Rock processing and mining infrastructure and indirect costs at over A$360 million, with a planned annual production of uranium oxide concentrate at (only) 1,350 tonnes over a mine life of 16 years. A ‘break even’ Uranium Price for Mulga Rock has been estimated at US$50 per pound. Steve Kidd a former senior official of the World Nuclear Association writes in NEI Magazine (Sept 2017) that: “…uranium prices are set to remain in the US$20’s per pound for a long time, maybe throughout the whole of the 2020’s.

For further info see: www.ccwa.org.au/nuclearfreewa and www.ccwa.org.au/mulga_rocks 

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Harmful effects of radiation on Fukushima’s macaque monkeys

April 2, 2018

Stark health findings for Fukushima monkeys https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2018/03/11/stark-health-findings-for-fukushima-monkeys-of-concern-for-humans/ By Cindy Folkers

Uranium pollution dispels the grand illusion of “clean America”

April 2, 2018

There are 10 or eleven towns in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexicothat had Uranium mills, right in the middle of town. That means that Uranium dust, polonium, thorium, radium, and radon blew freely, thoughout thewe towns, 24 hours a day for years. Most of the water, drained into the Colorado ariver. Many of these towns were downwinder towns, from open air blasting of nucler bombs in Nevada from 1949 to 1962.  Many, of the towns had the misfortune of having underground nuclear bombs detonated close to them as well, to try to track natural gas. Especially in New Mexico and Colorado. In the 60s Hilibutron was also tracking nuclear waste into areas in Nevada, and Wyoming. More recently  there has been fracking for oil and gas in UtAh, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona. This means the radioactive burden to their water tables has been increased again substantially , along with 60 years of radioactive burden on the Colorado River. There are also the 1000 or so uranium mines draining into the Colorado River and Green driver from Utah, the western slope, Shiprock New Mexico,  Wyoming, The Grand Canyon Area.
I think Helen Caldicotts and Christina Macphersons estimates of a few million tons of radioactive sediment in Lake Mead and even lake Powell is wrong. https://nuclear-news.net/2017/12/22/uranium-tailings-pollution-in-lake-mead-and-lake-powell-colorado/

Consider underground nuclear destinations in Rangely Colorado and Northen New Mexico. I think it is more like a half billion or billions of ons of nuclear waste sediment in Lake Powell and lake mead..
There were Uranium Mills on the Navajo nation by Ship Rock and Halchita which is by the Colorado river. There were Uranium Mills right in the middle of town in Canyon City.Colorado, Moab.Utah, Uravan.Colorado, White Mesa.Utah, Monticello.Utah, by Grand Junction.Colorado. Many in Wyoming.
Uranium mining in Wyoming – Wikipedia
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_mining_in_Wyoming.

There are dense cancer clusters in these little towns on the Navajo Nation, in Utah, in Nevada, in Colorado, in Wyoming, in New Mexico. There are Genetic mutations that should not exist. Some people, like those in St George or Monticello Utah got the mere pittance of 50,000 dollars, after having lived in downwinder areas and surviving cancer. Generations of families wiped-out in many instances. Clarke county Nevada, by Las Vegas has one of the highest incidences of cancer in the US. Is it any wonder, with all the radiation in their primary drinking water supplies?
Many little Colorado Plateau towns, in the west are  hit with quintuple curses: bomb blasts above ground, bomb blasts below ground-poisoning their head waters, uranium mills and waste in town, their river water radioacively poisoned from inderground nuclear blasts, from uranium mines, from cold war nuclear bomb detonations.
There has recently, been a great deal of cracking in these areas, releasing radioactivity into their desert rivers and water tables.
Americans live in a grand delusion, thinking how clean the western United States, and the rest of the USA is, with a hundred rickety old nuclear plants belching tritium, into the environment.  The United State is the most radioactive shithole in the world. How Trump has the gall to call other countries shitholes, is beyond me.

USA nuclear tests – a hidden weapon against its own people – radioactive milk

April 2, 2018

Five men at atomic ground zero

RADIOACTIVE MILK US nuclear tests killed far more civilians than we knew, Quartz, https://qz.com/1163140/us-nuclear-tests-killed-american-civilians-on-a-scale-comparable-to-hiroshima-and-nagasaki/21 Dec 17 

Tim Fernholz When the US entered the nuclear age, it did so recklessly. New research suggests that the hidden cost of developing nuclear weapons were far larger than previous estimates, with radioactive fallout responsible for 340,000 to 690,000 American deaths from 1951 to 1973.

The study, performed by University of Arizona economist Keith Meyersuses a novel method (pdf) to trace the deadly effects of this radiation, which was often consumed by Americans drinking milk far from the site of atomic tests.

From 1951 to 1963, the US tested nuclear weapons above ground in Nevada. Weapons researchers, not understanding the risks—or simply ignoring them—exposed thousands of workers to radioactive fallout. The emissions from nuclear reactions are deadly to humans in high doses, and can cause cancer even in low doses. At one point, researchers had volunteers stand underneath an airburst nuclear weapon to prove how safe it was:

The emissions, however, did not just stay at the test site, and drifted in the atmosphere. Cancer rates spiked in nearby communities, and the US government could no longer pretend that fallout was anything but a silent killer.

The cost in dollars and lives

Congress eventually paid more than $2 billion to residents of nearby areas that were particularly exposed to radiation, as well as uranium miners. But attempts to measure the full extent of the test fallout were very uncertain, since they relied on extrapolating effects from the hardest-hit communities to the national level. One national estimate found the testing caused 49,000 cancer deaths.

Those measurements, however, did not capture the full range of effects over time and geography. Meyers created a broader picture by way of a macabre insight: When cows consumed radioactive fallout spread by atmospheric winds, their milk became a key channel to transmit radiation sickness to humans. Most milk production during this time was local, with cows eating at pasture and their milk being delivered to nearby communities, giving Meyers a way to trace radioactivity across the country.

The National Cancer Institute has records of the amount of Iodine 131—a dangerous isotope released in the Nevada tests—in milk, as well as broader data about radiation exposure. By comparing this data with county-level mortality records, Meyers came across a significant finding: “Exposure to fallout through milk leads to immediate and sustained increases in the crude death rate.” What’s more, these results were sustained over time. US nuclear testing likely killed seven to 14 times more people than we had thought, mostly in the midwest and northeast.

A weapon against its own people

When the US used nuclear weapons during World War II, bombing the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, conservative estimates suggest 250,000 people died in immediate aftermath. Even those horrified by the bombing didn’t realize that the US would deploy similar weapons against its own people, accidentally, and on a comparable scale.

And the cessation of nuclear testing helped save US lives—”the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty might have saved between 11.7 and 24.0 million American lives,” Meyers estimates. There was also some blind luck involved in reducing the number of poisoned people: The Nevada Test Site, compared to other potential testing facilities the US government considered at the time, produced the lowest atmospheric dispersal.

The lingering affects of these tests remain, as silent and as troublesome as the isotopes themselves. Millions of Americans who were exposed to fallout likely suffer illnesses related to these tests even today, as they retire and rely on the US government to fund their health care.

“This paper reveals that there are more casualties of the Cold War than previously thought, but the extent to which society still bears the costs of the Cold War remains an open question,” Meyers concludes.

Argayash, close to Russia’s Mayak Nuclear Facility, at the centre of radiation leaking

April 2, 2018

The Russian town in the shadow of a leaking nuclear plant https://www.ft.com/content/2d853158-d064-11e7-b781-794ce08b24dc   

Authorities finally admit that Argayash was at the centre of a radiation cloud.
 Henry Foy in Argayash , 24 Nov 17

Argayash is a cynical, mistrustful town. Decades of being lied to by the government about being down the road from a leaking nuclear plant does that to a place. So too does watching generations of people dying of radiation-related ailments while officials assure them nothing is amiss.

A small, two-road settlement where homes roofed with corrugated iron and Soviet-era Lada cars nod to its poverty, Argayash is one of a handful of towns surrounding the Mayak Production Facility in southern Russia, one of the world’s biggest radiation emitters where a litany of tragic accidents has made it a byword for the dangers of the atomic industry.

This week, 76 years after radiation first began seeping from Mayak into the surrounding rivers, lakes and atmosphere, Russian authorities admitted that Argayash was at the centre of a radiation cloud containing “exceptionally high” levels of radioactive isotope ruthenium-106, which spread so far west that it reached France. The radiation was detected by Russia’s meteoological agency in late September, but only revealed on Monday, after local politicians had spent weeks denying rumours of a leak and rubbishing reports from EU agencies that had tracked the cloud’s movement.

The levels of the isotope in Argayash were almost 1,000 times the normal level. Officials say it is not harmful to public health.  “Nobody tells us anything. They keep it secret,” says Lilia Galimzhanova, a cook at a café in the town. “We are afraid. We are afraid for our children and grandchildren.”  “But we know that the air, the environment is very bad here,” she says. Her 80-year-old mother suffers from radiation poisoning from Mayak. “We are not protected by anyone here . . . We are survivors.”

 The source of the leaked isotope, which does not occur naturally and is produced during the processing of nuclear fuel, has not been confirmed. Rosatom, which operates the Mayak facility, has repeatedly denied it is to blame. “[Mayak] is not a source of increased content of ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere,” Rosatom said in a statement. On Thursday, the company published a message poking fun at journalists on its Facebook page, inviting them to tour the plant, which it sarcastically dubbed “the cradle of ruthenium”. The local region’s chief oncology specialist has told concerned residents to stop worrying, advising them to instead “watch football and drink beer”.
 But local residents see little to laugh about. Many scoff at official denials, having heard similar for decades, even as they watched family and friends die from radiation-related ailments. “We are not told anything about Mayak,” says Nadia, an 18-year-old medical student living in the town, 1,700km east of Moscow. “The government should not keep things secret when people suffer.”  “People in the west know more about this than we do here,” she adds.

Ms Galimzhanova only heard of the radiation that had enveloped her town when a friend in Germany read about it in a western newspaper. Before the authorities admitted its existence, text messages had been sent to residents saying that high levels of pollution from nearby industrial factories meant people should stay indoors.  Regardless of the potential health risks, many here say the government’s initial silence, denial and obfuscation has dredged up painful memories of a past that refuses to stay buried.  Secretly constructed in the 1940s, Mayak was at the forefront of the USSR’s scramble to catch up with the US nuclear programme. As it raced to produce weapons-grade plutonium, a vast amount of nuclear waste was discharged into nearby lakes and the Techa river.  Then, in 1957, nuclear waste storage tanks at the site exploded, raining fallout over hundreds of towns — and releasing more radiation than any other nuclear accident except Chernobyl and Fukushima. Ten years later, an adjacent reservoir used for waste disposal dried out, and powdered radioactive dust was blown over the area.

Not that local people were evacuated, or even warned: Mayak’s very existence was only acknowledged in the late 1980s, as information began to circulate about the long-term contamination. An estimated 450,000 were exposed to radiation from the accidents and the discharging of waste into the water supply, Russian authorities said in 1993, making Mayak one of the world’s biggest sources of harmful radiation. But anti-nuclear campaigners say safety breaches continued: a 2005 court case revealed nuclear waste was still being dumped into rivers as late as 2004, while Rosatom only sealed off the radioactive lake that caused the 1967 disaster in 2015.
 An estimated 450,000 were exposed to radiation from the accidents and the discharging of waste into the water supply, Russian authorities said in 1993, making Mayak one of the world’s biggest sources of harmful radiation. But anti-nuclear campaigners say safety breaches continued: a 2005 court case revealed nuclear waste was still being dumped into rivers as late as 2004, while Rosatom only sealed off the radioactive lake that caused the 1967 disaster in 2015.
 “Previous experience has taught us that they lie and suppress information,” said Andrey Talevlin, co-chairman of the Russian Social-Ecological Union NGO. “We can’t trust what they say, whether they mislead the population on purpose or not.”
 Mr Talevlin, an academic and environmental activist who this week was branded a “foreign agent” by Russian state TV after he called for an investigation into the ruthenium leak, says that suppression of anti-nuclear groups in Russia has rapidly increased over the past two decades. A fellow activist, Nadezhda Kutepova, fled to France in 2015 seeking political asylum after a similar media campaign accused her of “industrial espionage”.  President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said this week that the Kremlin has “no information” regarding any possible causes of the radiation. And some in Argayash say it is little more than an occupational hazard of living in one of Russia’s most industrialised regions.
The authorities say they do not know anything about it. And we must trust them,” says Jamshed, who runs a greengrocer on the town’s main Lenin Street. “Nobody has proven anything. And even if something is proved, I am sure our government will immediately take measures,” he says, looking over his locally-grown vegetables.

Conditions for Residents of Post-3.11 Radiation-Affected Areas Japan

April 2, 2018

Informal Labour, Local Citizens and the Tokyo Electric Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Crisis: Responses to Neoliberal Disaster Management. ANU, Adam Broinowski, 7 Nov 17, “…..Conditions for Residents of Post-3.11 Radiation-Affected Areas

For roughly 30 years, the exclusion zone around Chernobyl has been set at 30 kilometres. Between 1 and 5 mSv/y is the assisted evacuation level and mandatory evacuation is 5 mSv/y and above. Unlike the approach adopted for Chernobyl, which was to achieve containment (a sarcophagus was built in eight months) and permanent resettlement of 350,000 people, the government and TEPCO have adopted a ‘dilution’ approach—to widely disperse and redistribute (‘share’) radioactive materials and waste and decontaminate residential areas. To date, this has permitted the permanent release through venting, dumping and incinerating of radioactive materials into the air, land, water and sea, and circulation in the food chain and recycled materials on a daily basis since March 2011.

Over the first few days at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, severity (International Nuclear Event Scale) levels were steadily raised from level 3 to level 5 to level 7, and the mandatory evacuation zone was gradually expanded from 10 to 30 kilometres. On 16 March 2011, readings in Aizu-Wakamatsu Middle School (100 kilometres from FDNPS) in Fukushima Prefecture returned 2.57 microSv/h (microsieverts per hour),27 and Kōriyama (60 kilometres) recordings returned 3.6–3.9 microSv/h. Inside people’s homes in Kōriyama, levels were between 1.5 and 2.0 microSv/h and 8.2 microSv/h in the downpipes.28 This data was made public only three months later. On 6 April, schools in Fukushima Prefecture were reopened. As the boundaries, legal limits and information were gradually altered, populations were urged to return to work. At the same time the legal safety level for mandatory evacuation for the public (radiation safety level 1972) was raised from 1 to 20 mSv/y,29 based on a cumulative 100 mSv dose averaged over five years, suddenly shifting the parameters for ‘low-level’ radiation and designating the general public with the level previously designated to nuclear workers.

The US Government advised a mandatory evacuation zone of 50 miles (80 kilometres). Several nations’ embassies in Tokyo evacuated their staff. Of roughly 2 million in Fukushima Prefecture, about 80,000 people from 11 municipalities were ordered to evacuate while another 80,000 evacuated voluntarily. By late 2015, about 118,862 remained evacuated.30 Sixty thousand of these people live in temporary housing and many lacked basic needs. There were many evacuees who sought public housing who have been turned away.31 There are additional evacuees affected by the earthquakes and tsunami who come from other prefectures (including parts of Miyagi and Ibaraki), some of whom were also affected by radiation exposure.

The situation in many villages within contaminated areas signifies how government policies have further exposed a wide range of people—farmers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, factory workers, mothers (as reproductive workers), school students, local public servants—to conditions informal workers have long had to endure. In several cases (i.e. Iitate, Minami Soma, Namie), the notification of residents of radiation danger was delayed and potassium iodide pills were not distributed. Similarly, data on weather patterns and distribution gathered by the SPEEDI monitoring system32 was suppressed. These populations were not adequately informed of what the dose readings meant in terms of health risk. When people did seek measurement and treatment for their likely exposures, hospitals and other institutions with the requisite measuring technologies refused to measure them, as it was deemed ‘there was no reason for internal contamination and so there was no reason to measure’.33 These people unwittingly became hibakusha (被曝者), broadly defined as victims of radiation exposure.

Even though the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has caused near-permanent pollution, the conflation of the radiation problem with tsunami and earthquake destruction to be managed as a single large-scale ‘clean-up’, reconstruction and revitalisation operation as instituted by the National Resilience Council 2013 has occluded the materiality of radiation.

Informal workers on ‘decontamination projects’ washed down public buildings and homes and scraped up and replaced soil and sludge contaminated at levels found for example at between 84,000–446,000 Becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) in Kōriyama (60 km from Fukushima Daiichi).34 They also collected waste that included radioactive debris, uniforms and tools. The organic waste is stored on government-purchased land in black industrial bags piled in large walls and mounds to create a sort of buffer zone on town margins and in areas determined as long-term irradiated zones.35 Other contaminated waste is burned in newly constructed incinerators in towns nearest the plant (such as Futaba, Okuma, Naraha, Tamura, Tomioka, with more planned) in addition to the incineration already underway in major cities since 3.11, even while evacuees are being compelled to return to some of them (Tamura, Kawauchi, Naraha) where evacuation orders have been lifted. In addition, in June 2016 the Ministry of the Environment approved radioactive soil of up to 8,000 Bq/kg to be reused in national public works. Although stipulated to be used for roads and barriers (such as sea walls) under a layer of non-contaminated materials, there is concern that these will corrode over time leading to recirculation in the environment.

As compensation schemes are contingent upon where evacuees come from (whether these are areas where there are plans to lift evacuation orders, areas pending decontamination in the shorter term, or those deemed difficult to return to), those mandatory evacuees without property have received on average 100,000 yen per month while voluntary evacuees have received 60,000 yen per month, even if radiation levels in their residential areas were high.

The return to towns that received over 50 mSv/y (Futaba, Namie, Okuma) remains unlikely for decades, but if evacuees do return to other villages, they risk lifetime re-exposures of up to 20 mSv/y. In late 2015, Iitate village, for example, was divided into Areas 1 and 2, which are being prepared for repopulation (54,000 people), and Area 3, which so far remains out of bounds. Although the topsoil contaminated with Caesium was stripped and replaced (i.e. returning 0.6 microSv/h) and its houses and roads were washed down, 96 per cent of Iitate remained at 1 microSv/h. As Iitate is 75 per cent forest, which trapped a large stock of contamination, the land re-concentrates through radiation circulation (hence, quickly returned to 2.6 microSv/h).36 If the majority in Iitate, who are primarily agricultural workers, can no longer harvest vegetables, rice, wild mushrooms and vegetables (sansai 山菜) or burn wood for heat, and their houses are re-irradiated, then only the semi-autonomous elderly are likely to return. By August 2015, less than 10 per cent of roughly 14,000 eligible had applied for temporary return.37

So-called ‘decontamination’ and ‘remediation’ has been deployed to justify redefining evacuation boundaries and lifting evacuation orders so as to cut compensation payments. Following the 37th National Emergency Response Headquarters meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office in June 2015 in which the Prime Minister decreed that ‘evacuees must return to their hometowns as quickly as possible and start new lives’,38 in late August 2015 evacuees were told if they chose to return home they would receive a one-off payment of 100,000 yen per household. If they did not, once evacuation orders had been lifted, ‘free rent’ (yachin hojo 家賃補助) for voluntary evacuees would be cut by March 2017 at the very latest.39 Further, the government announced its intention to partially lift the restriction on the ‘difficult-to-return zone’ by 2022 so as to counteract the negative image of the area and its produce.40 Without alternative income, and with a significant housing shortage due to the restriction of new public housing, many have been and will be forced to return to contaminated areas, to endure radiation exposure without compensation. If only the elderly return, there will be few prospects for young families in such towns where there is little local business and infrastructure, and public facilities and housing are in disrepair.

In Naraha, between May and August 2015, ambient readings in populated areas officially determined as ‘low or moderate’ returned 0.3–0.7 microSv/h and soil samples returned 26,480–52,500 Bq/kg of Caesium 137 and 134 combined (and 18,700 Bq/kg in the town’s water reservoir).41 While the majority of former residents are more likely to either pull down their houses and sell the land or maintain their homes as vacationers, there is additional private and state pressure to industrialise these former idylls as ‘reconstruction hubs’. As part of the ‘Innovation Coast’ plan, for example, 1,000 irregular workers have resided on the town’s outskirts as they built a giant research facility (estimated cost: 85 billion yen) to train hundreds of workers in reactor simulations and use of specialised robots. As industry colonises and transforms such towns, the pressing concern of unmitigated radiation levels in soil, forests and water, whether from distribution or recirculation, remains due to the long-lived decay and harmful effects of these radionuclides.

Similarly, in the effort to stimulate business, highways (Route 6) and train lines (Jōban line) passing directly through the (former) evacuation zone were reopened in 2015, although traffic must still travel with closed windows at the time of writing. Regular users of these corridors such as railway and transport workers and irregular nuclear workers accumulate higher doses from regular exposure while radioactive particles attached to vehicles are dispersed beyond contaminated areas. Clearly, a containment and permanent resettlement approach has been deemed untenable in the belief it would disrupt economic productivity levels. As one high school student insightfully observed, ‘Sensei … If they [really wanted to turn] Fukushima into an evacuation zone they’d have to block the Route 4 highway, Tōhoku expressway and Shinkansen’.42 Nevertheless, in lieu of overall reconstruction costs less conservatively estimated at half a trillion dollars, it may have been cheaper in the longer term to adopt permanent resettlement, education, health treatment and work creation strategies……http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/n2335/html/ch06.xhtml?referer=2335&page=11

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

March 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rarely Discussed Reality of Radioactive Pollution https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/10/07/radioactive-pollution-exposure.aspx?utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20171007Z1_UCM&et_cid=DM16

Story at-a-glance

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

By Dr. Mercola

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

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

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

1970s Activism Raised Awareness but Could Not Stop Nuclear Dumping

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

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

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

Dumping Inventory Records Tell Us Little

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

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

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

Fundamental Assumptions Proven Wrong

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

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

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

Nuclear Waste in the English Channel

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

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

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

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

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

Nuclear Ocean Dumping Continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Ocean Dumping Continues Despite Ban

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

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

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

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

Rising Childhood Leukemia Rates Dismissed

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

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

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

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

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

Industry Cost-Savings Weighed Against Human Life

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

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

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

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

 

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

March 31, 2018

Blind Faith: The Nuclear History of Port Hope, Ontario http://www.mintpressnews.com/MyMPN/blind-faith-nuclear-history-port-hope-ontario/  by Dennis Riches  @DennisRiches Port Hope and Public Charity for a Corporate Citizen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Essential for the public to know about the hazards of RADON

March 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olympic Games 1956: politicians and scientists colluded to hide dangers of nuclear radiation

October 30, 2017

The 1985 Royal Commission report into British Nuclear Tests in Australia discussed many of these issues, but never in relation to the proximity and timing of the 1956 Olympic Games. Sixty years later, are we seeing the same denial of known hazards six years after the reactor explosion at Fukushima?

Australia’s nuclear testing before the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne should be a red flag for Fukushima in 2020,  https://theconversation.com/australias-nuclear-testing-before-the-1956-olympics-in-melbourne-should-be-a-red-flag-for-fukushima-in-2020-85787, The Conversation, Susanne Rabbitt Roff. Part time tutor in Medical Education, University of Dundee, 20 Oct 17,  The scheduling of Tokyo 2020 Olympic events at Fukushima is being seen as a public relations exercise to dampen fears over continuing radioactivity from the reactor explosion that followed the massive earthquake six years ago.

It brings to mind the British atomic bomb tests in Australia that continued until a month before the opening of the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne – despite the known dangers of fallout travelling from the testing site at Maralinga to cities in the east. And it reminds us of the collusion between scientists and politicians – British and Australian – to cover up the flawed decision-making that led to continued testing until the eve of the Games.

Australia’s prime minister Robert Menzies agreed to atomic testing in December 1949. Ten months earlier, Melbourne had secured the 1956 Olympics even though the equestrian events would have to be held in Stockholm because of Australia’s strict horse quarantine regimes.

The equestrians were well out of it. Large areas of grazing land – and therefore the food supplies of major cities such as Melbourne – were covered with a light layer of radiation fallout from the six atomic bombs detonated by Britain during the six months prior to the November 1956 opening of the Games. Four of these were conducted in the eight weeks running up to the big event, 1,000 miles due west of Melbourne at Maralinga.

Bombs and games

In the 25 years I have been researching the British atomic tests in Australia, I have found only two mentions of the proximity of the Games to the atomic tests. Not even the Royal Commission into the tests in 1985 addressed the known hazards of radioactive fallout for the athletes and spectators or those who lived in the wide corridor of the radioactive plumes travelling east.

At the time, the approaching Olympics were referred to only once in the Melbourne press in relation to the atomic tests, in August 1956. It is known that D-notices from the government “requesting” editors to refrain from publishing information about certain defence and security matters were issued.

The official history of the tests by British nuclear historian Lorna Arnold, published by the UK government in 1987 and no longer in print, reports tests director William Penney signalling concern only once, in late September 1956:

Am studying arrangements firings but not easy. Have Olympic Games in mind but still believe weather will not continue bad.

This official history doesn’t comment on the implications. And nowhere in the 1985 Royal Commission report is there any reference to the opening of the Olympics, just one month and a day after the fourth test took place 1,000 miles away.

The 1984 report of the Expert Committee on the review of Data on Atmospheric Fallout Arising from British Nuclear Tests in Australia found that the methodology used to estimate the numbers of people who might have been harmed by this fallout at fewer than 10 was inappropriate. And it concluded that if the dose calculations were confined to the communities in the path of the fallout and not merged with the total Australian population “such an exercise would generate results several orders of magnitude higher than those based on conventional philosophy”. There was no mention of the Olympic Games.

Neither Prime Minister Menzies nor his cabinet ever referred publicly to what had been known from the outset – that the British atomic tests in Australia would almost coincide with the Melbourne Olympics. The tests and the Games were planned simultaneously through the first half of the 1950s.

In May 1955, 18 months before the Olympics were due to start, Howard Beale, the Australian minister for supply, announced the building of “the Los Alamos of the British Commonwealth” (a nuclear test site in New Mexico) at Maralinga, promising that “tests would only take place in meteorological conditions which would carry radioactive clouds harmlessly away into the desert”.

An Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee was formed by the Australians but was closely controlled by physicist Professor Ernest Titterton, the only Englishman on the panel. The 1985 Royal Commission stated explicitly that the AWTSC was complicit in the firing of atomic detonations in weather conditions that they knew could carry radioactive fallout a thousand miles from Maralinga to eastern cities such as Melbourne.

Hazards of radioactivity

Professor Titterton, who had recently been appointed to a chair in nuclear physics at the Australian National University after working on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, and at Aldermaston in England, explained why the atomic devices were being tested in Australia:

Because of the hazards from the radioactivity which follows atomic weapons explosions, the tests are best carried out in isolated regions – usually a desert area … Most of the radioactivity produced in the explosion is carried up in the mushroom cloud and drifts downward under atmospheric airstreams. But particular material in this cloud slowly settles to the ground and may render an area dangerously radioactive out to distances ranging between 50 and several hundred miles … It would therefore be hazardous to explode even the smallest weapons in the UK, and it was natural for the mother country to seek test sites elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

The AWTSC published two scientific papers in 1957 and 1958 which flat out denied that any dangerous levels of radioactivity reached the eastern states. But their measurements relied on a very sparse scattering of sticky paper monitors – rolls of gummed film set out to catch particles of fallout – even though these could be washed off by rain.

Despite their clear denials in these papers, meteorological records show that prior to the Games there was rain in Melbourne which could have deposited radioactivity on the ground.

The AWTSC papers included maps purporting to show the plumes of radioactive fallout travelling north and west from Maralinga in the South Australian desert. The Royal Commission published expanded maps (see page 292) based on the AWTSC’s own data and found the fallout pattern to be much wider and more complex. The Australian scientist Hedley Marston’s study of radioactivity uptake in animals showed a far more significant covering of fallout on a wide swathe of Australian grazing land than indicated by the sticky paper samples of the AWTSC.

The 1985 Royal Commission report into British Nuclear Tests in Australia discussed many of these issues, but never in relation to the proximity and timing of the 1956 Olympic Games. Sixty years later, are we seeing the same denial of known hazards six years after the reactor explosion at Fukushima?