Archive for the ‘health’ Category

70 years since Operation Hurricane: the shameful history of British nuclear tests in Australia

November 3, 2022

Red Flag, by Nick Everett, Sunday, 16 October 2022

At 9.30am on 3 October 1952, a mushroom cloud billowed up above the Monte Bello Islands, 130 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia. The next day, the West Australian reported: “At first deep pink, it quickly changed to mauve in the centre, with pink towards the outside and brilliantly white turbulent edges. Within two minutes the cloud, which was still like a giant cauliflower, was 10,000 feet [three kilometres] high”.

Derek Hickman, a royal engineer who witnessed the blast aboard guard ship HMS Zeebrugge, told the Mirror: “We had no protective clothing … They ordered us to muster on deck and turn our backs. We put our hands over our eyes and they counted down over the tannoy [loudspeaker]. There was a sharp flash, and I could see the bones in my hands like an X-ray. Then the sound and the wind, and they told us to turn and face it. The bomb was in the hull of a 1,450-ton warship and all that was left of her were a few fist-sized pieces of metal that fell like rain, and the shape of the frigate scorched on the seabed.” 

Operation Hurricane was, up until that moment, a closely guarded secret. ……………………….

Throughout 1946, negotiations took place between the British and Australian governments, culminating in an agreement to establish a 480-kilometre rocket range extending northwest from Mount Eba (later moved to Woomera) in outback South Australia. 

On 22 November 1946, Defence Minister John Dedman informed parliament of cabinet’s decision to establish the rocket range. Peter Morton, author of Fire Across the Desert: Woomera and the Anglo-Australian Joint Project 1946–1980, explains that Dedman reiterated claims made in a report by British army officer John Fullerton Evetts that related to the original proposed site at the more remote location of Mount Eba, not Woomera. Dedman told parliament that Australia was the only suitable landmass in the Commonwealth for such testing, the designated area was largely uninhabited and that impacts on the Aboriginal population in the Central Aboriginal Reserves would be negligible. According to Morton, there were approximately 1800 Aboriginal people living on the reserves at the time. The Committee on Guided Projectiles would immediately begin consultations with the director of Native Affairs and other authorities, Dedman told parliament.

Dedman’s announcement ignited fierce opposition. In her book Different White People: Radical Activism for Aboriginal Rights 1946-1972, Deborah Wilson describes the independent Labor member for Bourke, Doris Blackburn, spearheading a peace movement strongly supported by the Australian Communist Party. She published her speeches in the CPA newspaper, Tribune. Blackburn was the widow of lawyer and parliamentarian Maurice Blackburn, whose left-wing views resulted in his expulsion from the ALP. 

Blackburn insisted that the rocket range amounted to a grave injustice against a “voiceless minority”, Australia’s First Nations people. In March 1947, medical practitioner Charles Duguid told a 1300-strong Rocket Range Protest Committee meeting in Melbourne that he was appalled by the government’s blatant “disregard” for the rights of Aboriginal people. According to a Tribune report, he asked those present: “Shot and poisoned as they were in the early days, neglected and despised more lately, will most of our Aborigines [sic] now be finally sacrificed and hurried to extinction by sudden contact with the mad demands of twentieth century militarism?”

Dedman, supported by the Menzies-led opposition, dismissed concerns expressed by Duguid and anthropologist Donald Thompson that contact between military personnel and Aboriginal people living in the military zone would have devastating consequences for their traditional way of life. Deploying assimilation arguments, Dedman insisted that contact between military personnel and “natives” in the area would simply accelerate an inevitable process of detribalisation. 

Meanwhile, Liberal and Country Party politicians railed against Duguid and other opponents of the project, labelling them dupes of communism with a lax attitude to the nation’s security, according to Wilson. They called on the Chifley government to follow the example of the Canadian royal commission established to weed out alleged communist spies in public sector employment…………….

In June 1947, federal parliament rushed through the Approved Defence Projects Protection Bill, a gag tool preventing critical commentary about the government’s defence policy. Transgressors were threatened with fines of up to £5,000 or a 12-month prison sentence.

Under the cover of “national security”, federal bans were imposed on union officials visiting the Woomera rocket range site, now a no-go area for anyone other than sanctioned military personnel. Anti-communist fearmongering helped set the scene for the Chifley government’s establishment of a new and powerful security organisation, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), in 1949.

In mid-1947, 446 kilometres north of Adelaide, the Woomera township was swiftly constructed on the traditional lands of the Kokatha people. By mid-1950, its population had grown to 3,500 and, over the following decade, doubled to 7,000. Roads gouged through Aboriginal country. Electricity and telegraph lines soon followed, connecting the military base with centres of political power.  

The nature of the missile testing remained a top secret to all but those firmly ensconced within the upper echelons of the Department of Defence. However, rumours of a nuclear testing program abounded. The detonation of a 25-kiloton nuclear weapon off the Monte Bello Islands made Britain’s nuclear ambitions, and the Australian government’s complicity, visible for the world. 

In the film Australian Atomic Confessions, witness May Torres, a Gooniyandi woman living at Jubilee Downs in the Kimberley, described observing a cloudy haze that remained in the sky for four or five days. At the time she did not know that it carried radioactive particles that were to contribute to cancer and an early death for many of her community, including her husband, in the early 1960s.

Another witness, Royal Australian Air Force pilot Barry Neale, described aircraft operating out of Townsville identifying nuclear particles in the air three days after the detonation. Two days later, New Zealand Air Force aircraft similarly observed radioactive particles that had emanated from Operation Hurricane. Still today, signs on the Monte Bello islands warn visitors about the dangers of elevated radiation levels.

In October 1953, two nuclear tests (Operation Totem) took place at Emu Field, 500 kilometres northwest of Woomera. In May and June 1956, nuclear testing returned to the Monte Bello Islands. Operation Mosaic detonated the largest ever nuclear device in Australia: a 60-kiloton weapon four times as powerful as that which had destroyed Hiroshima. 

My aunt was among the children who witnessed the Monte Bello explosion from the jetty in the Pilbara town of Roebourne. The spectacle left her and her siblings covered in ash, oblivious to the toxicity of the fallout they were exposed to. 

Meanwhile, west of Woomera, Aboriginal people were being relocated from their traditional lands. In preparation for Operation Buffalo, a series of four nuclear tests at the Maralinga Testing Ground, an 1,100 square kilometre area was excised from the Laverton-Warburton reserve and declared a no-go area. 

Two patrol officers, William MacDougal and Robert (Bob) Macaulay, were given the nearly impossible task of keeping Aboriginal people out of the no-go area. The pair’s reports to the range superintendent were frequently censored, according to Morton. 

In December 1956, a Western Australian parliamentary select committee, led by Liberal MLA William Grayden, visited the Laverton-Warburton Ranges. The select committee’s report (the Grayden Report) identified that displaced Aboriginal people suffered from malnutrition, blindness, unsanitary conditions, inadequate food and water sources, and brutal exploitation by pastoral interests.

News reports in the Murdoch-owned Adelaide News dismissed the committee’s findings, insisting that the claims could not be substantiated. Responding to the Murdoch media whitewash, Tribune reported on 9 January 1957 that the committee had “ripped aside the screen that has veiled the cruel plight to which our [g]overnments condemn Australian Aborigines”.

Tribune asserted that “huge areas of the most favourable land are being taken from [Aboriginal] reserves and provided for mining interests, atomic and guided missile grounds, and other purposes”.

A subsequent Tribune article reported a week later on the observations of Pastor Doug Nicholls, who accompanied the West Australian minister for native welfare, John Brady, on a tour of the Warburton-Laverton district. According to Tribune:

“Pastor Nicholls said that at Giles weather station, deep in the heart of the best hunting grounds in the Warburton reserve—a region that the Government had stolen as part of the Woomera range—the white people lived like kings, and the Aboriginal people worse than paupers … The Commonwealth had spent a fortune on Woomera, but has not even supplied a well for the Aboriginals.”

The Grayden Report deeply shocked the public. A film documentary produced by Grayden and Nicholls, Their Darkest Hour, further exposed these crimes. Wilson describes scenes from the film:

“Images of malnourished, sick and poverty-stricken Aboriginal people bombard the viewer. A mother’s arm has rotted off with yaws. A blind man with one leg hobbles grotesquely on an artificial leg stuffed with furs and bandaged into an elephant-like stump. Malnourished children with huge swollen bellies stare blankly at the camera. A baby lies deathlike beside a mother too weak to walk. A sickening close-up of a toddler who fell into a fire reveals cooked flesh covered with flies. Skeletal remains of a man, dead from thirst, lie beside a dried-up waterhole. As the film concludes, his body is buried in an unmarked grave.”

The detrimental impact of British nuclear testing in Australia wasn’t limited to traditional Aboriginal people. It also exposed thousands of military personnel and their families to nuclear radiation, survivors still feeling the effects seven decades on, according to submissions received by the 1985 McClelland Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia

In 2001, a group of Melbourne scientists made a startling discovery: thousands of jars of ashed human bone that all contained strontium 90, a by-product of nuclear testing that can cause bone cancer and leukaemia. All had been collected from autopsies without the consent of family members, according to a 2002 report by the Australian Health Ethics Committee. This officially sanctioned “body-snatching” provided vital, and until then hidden, evidence of radioactive contamination with widespread effects on human health. 

In the mid-1950s, CSIRO scientist Hedley Marston was tasked by the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee (AWTSC) with studying the radioactive iodine uptake in sheep and cattle as part of wider effort to monitor the biological effects of radiation caused by atomic-bomb testing in Australia. Marston argued that radioactive iodine found in the thyroids of animals indicated the presence of radioactive strontium in the food chain, which would endanger the health of humans, particularly children. Marston’s discovery put him in conflict with the AWTSC, who denied the tests resulted in significant radioactive contamination.

According to the Australian Health Ethics Committee, between 1957 and 1978, the AWTSC and its successor, the Australian Ionising Radiation Committee, covertly took samples of bones from 22,000 human remains during autopsy to test for the presence of strontium 90. The surviving samples located in 2001 suggested that radioactive contamination was far more widespread than previously admitted.

The winding down of the British nuclear testing program in Australia in 1953 did not bring an end to the Australian government’s role in the global nuclear industry. Since 1954, Australian uranium has supplied nuclear reactors around the world, including to the Fukushima reactor in Japan, which in 2011 was the site of the most severe nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown. Australia has also committed to acquiring nuclear-powered submarines to better pursue its imperial interests, and those of its allies, in the Asia-Pacific. And the nuclear industry is trying to promote itself as a viable alternative to polluting fossil fuel industries. 

Its shameful history, and the dire threat it poses to humanity, must not be forgotten.

The Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA) shows that the planned Kimba dump is predominantly for ANSTO’s wastes , NOT for medical wastes.

November 3, 2022

see new 2-page Briefer “ARWA’s National Inventory of Radioactive Waste shows the Kimba dump is predominantly for ANSTO’s waste”…/Inventory-ARWA-Noonan…


ANSTO – Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation – is the predominant source of existing and future radioactive waste to be disposed and stored at Kimba.

ARWA report a five-fold increase in Low Level Waste (LLW) to be disposed at Kimba, with the existing 2 490 m3 LLW intended to increase to a total of 13 287 m3 LLW over the next 100-year period all to be dumped near Kimba.

ARWA states: “The estimated volumes of ANSTO’s future Low Level Waste and Intermediate Level Waste are substantially greater than previously reported.”

ANSTO has produced over 92% of Australia’s existing total LLW Inventory.

ANSTO intend to produce over 98% of future LLW in Australia over the next 100 years.

ANSTO are responsible for over 99.5% of the radioactivity in Australia’s total LLW inventory to be dumped at Kimba.

ARWA reports only a total of 5 (five) m3 of LLW originates from non-ANSTO and non-Commonwealth agency sources

total Hospital existing and future LLW is reported at only 3 m3

total “Research and Education” sector existing and future LLW is reported at only 2 m3

Claims that a national LLW disposal facility is needed at Kimba for hospital and medical waste are false.

ANSTO are near solely responsible for plans to more than double Australia’s total Intermediate Level Wastes (ILW) inventory

ANSTO have produced and hold 96.5% of Australia’s existing ILW packaged inventory at Lucas Heights

ANSTO propose to generate 97% of future ILW in Australia over the next 50-year period

ARWA reports Australia’s total inventory of ILW including nuclear materials, existing and future wastes over the next 50-year period, is 4 377 m3, these hazardous wastes are to be transported to Kimba for indefinite above ground storage.

Hospitals are stated to hold a total of only a single m3 of existing ILW with no future ILW arising.

Nuclear materials feature ANSTO’s nuclear fuel wastes – that were described as “highly hazardous” material by ARPANSA’s inaugural CEO John Loy in evidence to an NSW Parliamentary Inquiry.

Based on ARWA’s Report, all non-ANSTO sources produce on average only approx. 1.3 m3 per year of LLW over the next 100 years and produce approx. 1.34 m3 per year of ILW over the next 50 years.

Nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga triggered Hedley Marston to study fallout over Australia

November 3, 2022

ABC Radio Adelaide / By Daniel Keane 10 Aug 22,

Hedley Marston could be charming, genial and witty but he was not above fulmination, especially where fulminations of a different kind were concerned.

In the mid-1950s, the CSIRO biochemist emerged as arguably the most significant contemporary critic of Britain’s nuclear weapons testing program, which was launched on Australia’s Montebello Islands almost 70 years ago in October 1952.

Despite the imminent anniversary Marston remains an obscure figure, but his biographer Roger Cross believes that should change.

“He appears to be totally unknown to the Australian public and, of course, to South Australians — he was a South Australian after all,” Dr Cross said.

Marston’s reservations about the nuclear program were far from spontaneous; indeed, his strongest concerns weren’t voiced until several years after the first test, when he recorded a radioactive plume passing over Adelaide.

The source of that plume was Operation Buffalo, a series of four nuclear blasts in 1956, and Marston was especially outraged by the fact that the general population was not warned.

“Sooner or later the public will demand a commission of enquiry on the ‘fall out’ in Australia,” he wrote to nuclear physicist and weapons advocate Sir Mark Oliphant.

“When this happens some of the boys will qualify for the hangman’s noose.”

What made Marston’s fury difficult to dismiss, especially for those inclined to deride opposition to nuclear testing as the exclusive preserve of ‘commies’ and ‘conchies’, was the fact that he was no peacenik.

Detractors might have damned him as an arriviste, but never as an activist: his cordial relations with Oliphant and other scientific grandees demonstrate that Marston was, in many respects, an establishment man.

Dr Cross has described Marston’s elegant prose as “Churchillian”, and the adjective is apposite in other ways.

While the roguish Marston might not have gone as far as the British wartime leader’s assertion that, during conflict, truth is so precious “that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies”, he had, in a 1947 letter to the editor, publicly defended scientific secrecy:

Under present conditions of fear and mistrust among nations it is obvious that military technology must be kept secret; and to achieve this end it should be conducted in special military laboratories where strictest security measures may be observed.”

But by late 1956, Marston’s alarm at radioactive fallout across parts of Australia was such that he was privately demanding greater disclosures to the general public.

Much of his ire was aimed at the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee — a body established before the Maralinga tests, but after blasts had already occurred at Emu Fields* and the Montebello Islands.

“He was the only senior Australian scientist to express concerns and, because of his character, the concerns that he expressed were very forthright,” said Dr Cross, whose biography of Marston, aptly entitled Fallout, inspired the documentary Silent Storm.

“When the safety committee after each explosion said there was absolutely no effect on Australians, he believed that they were lying.”

‘If the wind changes, we need to go’

The experiments that led Marston, whose reputation largely rested on his expertise in sheep nutrition, to reach this conclusion were two-fold.

In the more protracted one, he analysed the presence of radioactive iodine-131 — a common component of nuclear fallout — in the thyroids of sheep.

“One group he kept penned up under cover eating dried hay, which had been cut some time before. The other group, he put outside eating the grass,” Dr Cross said.

“He tested the thyroids in each group – the ones on the hay only had background amounts of iodine-131.

“But the ones in the fields had a tremendously high concentration of this radioactive isotope, both north and south of the city.”

A fallout map from the 1985 royal commission, which stated that while fallout at Maralinga Village from the October 11, 1956,  test was “considered to be ‘negligible from a biological point of view’ it does suggest difficulties with the forecast prior to the test”.(Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia)

For the other experiment, Marston conducted air monitoring in Adelaide.

He was especially alarmed by what he found for the period following the Maralinga test of October 11, 1956.

“There was a wind shear and at least part, maybe the major part, of that cloud, blew in a south-easterly direction and that took it towards Adelaide and the country towns in between,” Dr Cross said.

“The safety committee — who must have known of the wind shear — had done nothing about warning Adelaide people perhaps to stay indoors.”……………………………………………………

Despite Marston’s reservations, the nuclear program carried on regardless.

Less than a year after the Operation Buffalo tests, Maralinga was hosting Operation Antler.

In September 1957, newspapers around Australia reported on an upcoming “second test” that would, weather permitting, proceed as part of a “spring series”.

If it hadn’t been for the presence of the words “atomic” and “radioactive”, a reader might easily have inferred that what was being described was as commonplace as a game of cricket.

‘The nuclear bomb was so bright I could see the bones in my fingers’: The atomic veterans fighting for justice

November 3, 2022 24 Oct 22, Veterans of British nuclear testing in the Cold War say they – and their children and grandchildren – are still living with the health effects. And 70 years on, they want to see recognition of their part in the missions

RAF veteran John Lax is about to describe what it’s like seeing a nuclear bomb being detonated. “Even if I tell you what it was like,” he tells i, “you probably can’t really imagine it unless you’ve witnessed it yourself.”

Now 81, Lax was a 20-year-old air wireless mechanic when he was sent to take part in Britain’s nuclear testing programme in the Pacific in 1962.

Like many servicemen, he didn’t know there would be bomb tests when he arrived on Christmas Island, then a British territory,  now a republic named Kiribati. 

“We were told to put on long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt,” he says, “and we had these dark goggles which meant you couldn’t see your hand in front of you. Then we had to go and sit on the football pitch with our backs to the detonation, because if we’d faced it, the fireball would have burned our eyes. 

“When the bomb went off, it was so bright that I could see the spine and ribs of the guy sitting a metre in front of me, like an X-ray. I put my hands over my eyes and could see the bones in my fingers, and could see the blood pumping around my hands. It was 4am but the sky turned blue, like it was daytime. The blast was like the sound of a pistol, except 1,000 times louder. After the fireball, a couple of minutes later, you feel the blast and a strong gust of very hot wind – if you had no shirt on it feels like it would burn through your back – then once the fireball starts to dissipate you get the mushroom cloud.”  

This month it is 70 years since Britain first began developing and testing nuclear weapons, becoming the world’s third nuclear power (after the United States and the Soviet Union).

Between 1952 and 1965, detonations were carried out in Australia and the Pacific, in a series of operations involving the participation of more than 20,000 British service personnel, as well as some Fijian and New Zealand soldiers. Inhabitants of the test areas were moved offshore or to protected areas. 

Read more: ‘The nuclear bomb was so bright I could see the bones in my fingers’: The atomic veterans fighting for justice

Lax, who bore witness to 24 nuclear detonations over 75 days, was at the time given a “film badge”, containing photographic material that was intended to measure the levels of radiation the young men had been exposed to.

“They weren’t much good,” he says, “nobody kept a record of who had which badge, and you’d just put it in a box with all the other badges. These badges are pretty much useless in humid conditions, and Christmas Island was a tropical monsoon climate and very humid. So we had no record of radiation exposure.” 

There were no long-term health studies of nuclear test veterans. Those who were there during the tests at Christmas Island were not given medical examinations when they left, and their health was not studied after they finished their service. Many servicemen – and many islanders – later reported severe health problems, which they believed where due to the radioactive fallout from nuclear bomb tests – from rare cancers to organ failure. 

Some said they had fertility issues and difficulty conceiving, and many of those who did have children and grandchildren reported high incidences of birth defects, hip deformities, autoimmune diseases, skeletal abnormalities, spina bifida, scoliosis and limb abnormalities. Lax’s own health has been OK, but he does wonder about his children, who have both undergone surgery for a series of tumours, one at 14 years old.  

Lax’s nuclear veteran friend has three types of cancer, which he says the specialist attributes “100 per cent to exposure to radiation”.

Another veteran, Doug Hern, who witnessed five thermonuclear explosions, says his skeleton is “crumbling” and has skin problems and bone spurs. His daughter died aged 13 from a cancer so rare that doctors didn’t have a name for it, and he believes all of this is due to the genetic effects of radiation exposure. 

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) says it is grateful to Britain’s nuclear test veterans for their service, but maintains there is no valid evidence to link participation in these tests to ill health.

In 1983, the MoD did commission a study of more than 21,000 veterans, but – while the study found a slightly elevated risk of leukaemia – it concluded that the veterans had experienced no ill health as a result of their nuclear exposure. But nuclear veterans and their advocates have questioned the accuracy of the study.

For years, UK veterans have been campaigning with The British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, and Labrats – an organisation for nuclear test survivors – to be formally recognised, urging the Government to honour the nuclear test veterans’ service and sacrifice with an official recognition medal.

“I was a guinea pig,” says Lax, who believes he was placed there to see what would happen to people when the bomb went off.  

The UK is the only nuclear power to deny special recognition and compensation to its bomb test veterans, of which there are estimated to be 1,500 surviving today.

In 2015, Fiji compensated all its veterans of British nuclear tests in the Pacific, with prime minister Frank Bainimarama announcing: “Fiji is not prepared to wait for Britain to do the right thing. We owe it to these men to help them now, not wait for the British politicians and bureaucrats.”

The United States Radiation Exposure Compensation Act has been providing compensation to its nuclear veterans since 1990.     

Ed McGrath, 84, who was based at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, was 18 when he was sent to Australia and then flown to Maralinga to witness a test explosion.

At the Australian base camp we had good food and we had sunshine,” he tells i.

“As an 18 year-old,  you’re travelling to places you can only imagine, but then when we were flown to witness the bombs, that’s where it went dark and nasty. They had the scientists and the engineers there, but I did nothing except stand there being told to put my hands over my eyes and turn my back to the blast. You were going up there to stand in the vicinity of a very powerful bomb 1,000 times more powerful than Hiroshima or Nagasaki.” 

Despite persistent allegations by veterans that they had been used as guinea pigs in the tests, the Ministry of Defence denies this. McGrath is not convinced.

“There was no reason for us to be there, and I think the politicians who are responsible for sending us there must have come to the conclusion that, ‘Well, these lads are the price we’ve got to pay to find out what on earth is going on in the future.’  

Veterans say that Boris Johnson recently at least gave them some hope of recognition, because as one of his last outings as Prime Minister, he met a group of veterans and campaigners and wrote in an open letter: “I’m determined that your achievements will never be forgotten. I have asked that we look again at the case for medallic recognition because it is my firm belief that you all deserve such an honour.” 

Campaigners also showed the Prime Minister evidence that servicemen’s medical records from their time at the tests were missing from archives. Former prime minister Liz Truss, who promised to support their fight when she entered No 10,  had not acted to put these promises into action. After she took office, she dismissed the veterans’ minister Johnny Mercer.

The Government’s Office for Veterans’ Affairs has this month announced it will launch a £250,000 oral history project to chronicle the voices and experiences of those who supported the UK’s effort to develop a nuclear deterrent. However, Lax says this is “too little, too late” and nowhere near what nuclear  veterans should have.

McGrath has spent time worrying and feeling guilty that his family may face health problems because of his exposure to nuclear tests. His granddaughter had a brain tumour when she was a child but he says: “It’s very difficult to link the two directly and it’s not something you want to think about, to be honest.” 

A Brunel University study found in 2021 that nuclear test veterans have double the normal levels of psychological stress for their age. 

A survey and interviews by the Centre for Health Effects of Radiological and Chemical Agents found that most of the veterans report having become anxious in the mid-80s, when evidence first emerged of cancers, rare blood disorders, miscarriages in wives and birth defects in their children.

Yet this July, researchers at Brunel University published a study that showed “no significant increases in the frequency of newly arising genetic changes in the offspring of nuclear test veteran fathers. This result should reassure the study participants and the wider nuclear test veteran community.”

However, it seems that the legacy of nuclear testing has taken its toll in ways that we perhaps don’t yet fully understand, because there are communities of people across the world who feel their lives have been hugely affected by their nuclear veteran fathers and grandfathers. 

Susan Musselwhite, 42, was eight when her father walked out on the family. When she saw him once again in her twenties, he said his leaving had all been down to the mental and physical anguish of being a test veteran on Christmas Island. Musslewhite lives with chronic migraines and Grave’s disease, sometimes barely being able to lift her head off the pillow, spending 90 per cent of her time indoors. “Sometimes I’m like an 80-year-old woman with dementia,” she says. She started to talk to other descendants and discovered that they were saying similar things about their mental and physical health. “I realised I wasn’t going through this alone.  I truly believe that if my dad wasn’t at the test site, I wouldn’t be like this.”

Elin Doyle, an actress who has written a semi-autobiographical new play called Guinea Pigs  about the tests’ generational effect, spent her early years witnessing her nuclear veteran father’s fight for justice. He had a rare form of cardiac sarcoidosis, an inflammatory condition that can result in heart rhythm abnormalities, in his forties. “Many years later,” says Doyle, “he was asked by a specialist whether he’d ever worked with radiation. So somebody else made the link and that was a bit of a shock for him. At that point I’d already had a sibling who was born with a birth defect.” 

Doyle’s father died of heart failure in his sixties. “You can argue it’s because of radiation or not, but he didn’t have the sort of morbidities that would expose him to young heart disease, and we don’t have a history of it in the family, so the belief was that it was linked.” 

Doyle also talks about the many of the veterans’ feelings of betrayal.

“Sending a bunch of 19-year-olds off in the 1950s to work on nuclear tests and assuring them that it’s perfectly safe, and then to find out actually, they probably weren’t safe and quite possibly, the powers that be knew that that was the case – that has an impact on the rest of a veteran’s life.” 

Steve Purse, 47, from Denbighshire, Wales, remembers how his father David, an RAF flight lieutenant, was too scared to talk about his experience of being posted to test nuclear  weapons in 1962 because of the Government secrecy around the nuclear mission.

He did, however, open up about it years later when he developed a skin condition over his arms and legs and the dermatologist asked whether he’d spent most of his life exposed to intense sunlight in the tropics. He said no, he had spent one year in Australia with nuclear tests. The dermatologist said that this was severe radiation damage to the skin.

Steve has a form of short stature, which doctors don’t know how to diagnose. “All they say is that I’m unique,” he says, “but my dad was exposed to alpha-radiation which causes mutation in DNA, so I believe it’s down to that. It feels like nuclear tests have left a legacy of genetic Russian roulette.” 

For veteran McGrath, it feels as though the nuclear tests, and the men who were exposed to them, are a forgotten part of Cold War history. “It’s encouraging, though, that young people are beginning to take notice,” he says.

He did, however, open up about it years later when he developed a skin condition over his arms and legs and the dermatologist asked whether he’d spent most of his life exposed to intense sunlight in the tropics. He said no, he had spent one year in Australia with nuclear tests. The dermatologist said that this was severe radiation damage to the skin.

Steve has a form of short stature, which doctors don’t know how to diagnose. “All they say is that I’m unique,” he says, “but my dad was exposed to alpha-radiation which causes mutation in DNA, so I believe it’s down to that. It feels like nuclear tests have left a legacy of genetic Russian roulette.” 

For veteran McGrath, it feels as though the nuclear tests, and the men who were exposed to them, are a forgotten part of Cold War history. “It’s encouraging, though, that young people are beginning to take notice,” he says.

How Iodine Tablets Block Some Nuclear Radiation

November 3, 2022

Associated Press, News 18,  OCTOBER 18, 2022,

“……………………………………………….This radioactive material can increase the risk of thyroid cancer if it gets into the body, for example by breathing it in or eating contaminated food. It’s especially dangerous for children, and its health risks can last for many years after exposure, according to the World Health Organization.

Iodine tablets work by filling up the thyroid with a stable version of iodine so that the radioactive kind can’t get in. If the thyroid is already packed with potassium iodide, it won’t be able to pick up the harmful iodine that’s left after a nuclear accident.

 what are iodine pills? And what can they do — and what can’t they do — in the case of a nuclear leak or attack?

Potassium iodide, or KI, offers specific protection against one kind exposure. It prevents the thyroid — a hormone-producing gland in the neck — from picking up radioactive iodine, which can be released into the atmosphere in a nuclear accident.

The pills are cheap and sold all over the world, and many countries, including the U.S., stockpile them.

But potassium iodide doesn’t protect against other kinds of radioactive threats. A nuclear bomb, for example, can release many different kinds of radiation and radioactive material that can harm many parts of the body.

Health authorities caution that potassium iodide should only be taken in certain nuclear emergencies, and works best if it’s taken close to the time of exposure. It shouldn’t be taken as a preventive measure ahead of time.

Potassium iodide doses can come with some side effects like rash, inflammation or an upset stomach. Those over 40 years old generally shouldn’t take iodine tablets unless their expected exposure is very high, according to guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Health Implications of re-licensing the Cameco nuclear fuel manufacturing plant .

November 3, 2022

“Health Implications of re-licensing the Cameco Fuel Manufacturing plant (CFM)” Gordon Edwards 12 Oct 22

 my submission to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, on behalf of the Port Hope Community Health Concerns Committee. Port Hope is in Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Ontario just east of Toronto. This town houses one of the largest uranium “conversion” plants in the world, turning refined uranium into (1) drums of uranium hexafluoride for export to enrichment plants in other countries, and (2) uranium dioxide powder to be turned into ceramic fuel pellets used in Canadian nuclear reactors.

The paper deals with the health implications of the low-level radioactive dust that escapes into the air of Port Hope from the Fuel Fabrication Plant – the plant that manufactures fuel pellets and assembles them into CANDU fuel bundles.  

Before they are used, these fuel bundles are weakly radioactive but safe to handle (with gloves, for a short time). After they are used, the fuel bundles are millions of times more radioactive — when freshly discharged from the reactor, one fuel bundle will kill an unshielded human standing one metre  away in less than 20 seconds. That’s a very HIGH level of radiation, caused by all the broken pieces of uranium atoms that are left Inside the used fuel bundle and are constantly disintegrating.

But that is not the case in Port Hope. Here we have only naturally occurring radioactive uranium that has been brought to the surface to make fuel for nuclear reactors. The problem is that the uranium dust specks are so tiny they are totally invisible, and when inhaled they “stick” in the lungs and stay there for a long time, damaging the tissue so that it might begin to grow in the wrong way, eventually becoming a lung cancer years later.  It is a much slower kind of illness and death that may be caused by LOW level radiation exposure. It’s like a lottery with a negative “prize” – not everyone will be so affected, but the unlucky “winners” will suffer the consequences.

Gordon Edwards

Race Correction and the X-Ray Machine — The Controversy over Increased Radiation Doses for Black Americans in 1968

November 3, 2022

New England Journal of Medicine Itai Bavli, Ph.D.,  and David S. Jones, M.D., Ph.D.

In May 23, 1968, Howard Goldman, director of the New York Bureau of X-Ray Technology, acknowledged that x-ray technicians routinely exposed Black patients to doses of radiation that were higher than those White patients received.1 This practice, which adhered to guidelines from x-ray machine manufacturers, may have been widespread in the 1960s. Senate hearings held that month, as political unrest rocked the country, prompted public outcry and led to calls from state and federal officials to end the practice. Yet in the 21st century, despite growing interest in the problems of race and racism in medicine, race adjustment of x-rays has received little attention.2-6 It’s important to understand the origins of this practice, its rationales, its possible harms, and related controversies. The history shows how assumptions about biologic differences between Black and White people affected the theory and practice of medicine in the United States in ways that may have harmed patients. These insights can inform ongoing debates about the uses of race in medicine.7-10

………………………………….. despite recent attempts to mitigate the harmful effects of racial biases in medicine, race-based beliefs and practices, especially the use of racial categories, remain widespread.8 The history of race adjustment for x-ray dosing reveals how mistaken assumptions can be admitted into medical practices — and how those practices can be ended.

Racialization of the X-Ray

The discovery of x-rays in 1895 revolutionized medicine. It allowed doctors to diagnose and treat many medical problems more easily.22 The ability to image teeth also transformed dental care. However, as x-ray technology developed in the early 20th century, false beliefs about biologic differences between Black and White people affected how doctors used this technology.

Ideas about racial differences in bone and skin thickness appeared in the 19th century and remained widespread throughout the 20th.

………………………………… The belief that Black people have denser bones, more muscle, or thicker skin led radiologists and technicians to use higher radiation exposure during x-ray procedures.

…………………………………….. In the 1950s and 1960s, x-ray technologists were told to use higher radiation doses to penetrate Black bodies. Roentgen Signs in Clinical Diagnosis, published in 1956, described the radiographic examination of a Black person’s skull as a “technical problem” that required a modified technique……………………………..

Debate and Denial in the Senate

The practice of giving larger x-ray doses to Black patients was brought to national attention in May 1968, when the U.S. Senate held hearings about the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968.27

………………………… At the hearings on May 15, Ralph Nader mentioned that technicians exposed Black patients to higher x-ray doses: “A practice widespread around the country is that by technologists and their supervisors giving Negroes one-fourth to one-half larger X-ray dosages than white patients because of a generalized intuition or folklore.”27 

…………………………………… Race classifications have traditionally been based on skin pigmentation and other superficial physical traits. One might have expected x-ray technologies, which see through the skin to deeper structures beneath, to be spared racialization. They were not. During the 20th century, radiologists and device manufacturers embedded racial assumptions in the basic practices of radiology. Nader, a consumer advocate working on radiation safety, exposed the practices of race adjustment to public scrutiny, triggering investigation and rapid action by federal and state officials and by physicians and device manufacturers. However, radiologists and technicians retained the ability to determine x-ray exposures. We do not know how long the practice of race adjustment actually endured……………………….. more

The real death count for Hiroshima and Nagasaki was at least 210,000 – and more later. 

November 3, 2022

The real death count for Hiroshima and nagasaki was 210,000 It was not 15,000 for Hiroshima and 74,000 for Nagasaki. That does not reflect birth defects, or other health effects we now know, are part of nuclear bomb fallout

The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Summary of the Human Consequences, 1945-2018, and Lessons for Homo sapiens to End the Nuclear Weapon Age

Masao Tomonaga Pages 491-517 | Received 01 Sep 2019, Accepted 02 Oct 2019, Accepted author version posted online: 13 Nov 2019, Published online: 02 Dec 2019


Seventy-four years have passed since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Approximately 210,000 victims died, and another 210,000 people survived. The damage to their health has continued, consisting of three phases of late effects: the appearance of leukemia, the first malignant disease, in 1949; an intermediate phase entailing the development of many types of cancer; and a final phase of lifelong cancers for hibakusha who experienced the bombing as a child, as well as a second wave of leukemia for elderly hibakusha and psychological damage such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Thus, the human consequences of the atomic bombings have not ceased; many people are still dying of radiation-induced malignant diseases.  Therefore, it is too early to finalize the total death toll. Hibakusha have faced a never-ending struggle to regenerate their lives and families under the fear of disease. As the only group of Homo sapiens experiencing real nuclear attacks, hibakusha have continued to engage in a lifelong movement to eliminate nuclear weapons. Political leaders, especially of nuclear-weapon states, must learn the wisdom of the hibakusha to save Homo sapiens from possible global extinction by nuclear war.


The first nuclear weapon was detonated in New Mexico on 16 July 1945. That test explosion was soon followed by the wartime use of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, respectively. This opened the nuclear weapon age in the history of humanity. In the long history of wars and weapons, Homo sapiens had finally gained an ultimate weapon of mass destruction capable of obliterating itself……………………………….

Immediate Death and Early Lethal Consequences of the Bombings


Under the two gigantic mushroom clouds, approximately 280,000 citizens in Hiroshima and 240,000 in Nagasaki were suddenly thrown into chaos and agony. A total of approximately 140,000 in Hiroshima (Hiroshima 1971) and 73,000 in Nagasaki (Nagasaki, 1977) died instantaneously or within five months due to the combined effects of three components of physical energy generated by nuclear fissions: blast wind (pressure), radiant heat, and ionizing radiation.  A total of more than 210,000 remaining victims, 140,000 in Hiroshima and 74,000 in Nagasaki, survived the first five months of death and agony and became hibakusha (Figure 1 on original).

A curve of death rates calculated in the aftermath by the surviving medical staff and students of Nagasaki Medical College showed almost 100% in residents living within a 500-meter radius of ground zero; 90% within 1,000 meters; 50% within1,500 meters; and 10% within 2,000 meters, making a clear concentric figure (Figure 2) (Shirabe 2006). Later the death-rate curve of Hiroshima was compared with Nagasaki’s, revealing that two curves were very similar, as if two scientific experiments were conducted. Among areas within 1,000 meters, the Nagasaki Medical School Hospital was exceptional – The death rate in the facility was as low as 43%. This is obviously because of the shielding effect of the thickest concrete walls of the hospital buildings.

Figure 2. [on original] Death rates by distance from ground zero in the first three months in areas of Nagasaki city.

The residents of both cities were mostly noncombatant civilians, including many women and children. Military combatants were only a minority. There were fewer adult males than females, and most of the males worked at military arsenals. Many young men went to war in the later stages of World War II. Young students were employed by military arsenals located close to ground zero; that increased the number of victims.

Citizens were suddenly thrown into firestorms at home, factories, and schools; on open roads or on ground; in automobiles and trams; and in city offices, hospitals, pharmacies, fire stations, and almost all city structures.

Many survivors spent the night on the road or the ground (Figure 3). Subsequently, many severely injured victims were forced to remain where they survived the first strike without being provided any meaningful medical treatment. Most of them died there.

Figure 3. The second morning after Nagasaki bombing.

……………………………….. In areas within 1 kilometer of ground zero, human bodies without any shielding, namely in open air on the roads and ground, were instantaneously squeezed by the blast wind (pressure) against walls, causing multiple fractures of skeletons and ruptures of the abdominal cavity causing escape of colons. Many people in open roads and grounds were carbonized by the direct effect of heat rays within 1.0 km from ground zero (Figure 7, Photo A). Many residential areas full of Japanese houses were crushed by the wind and burned out in which many victims were also burned to white bones (Figure 7, Photo B). The skin of people on open roads or grounds within 0.5–1.5 km were deeply flash-burned due to heavy heat rays. The skins were soon peeled off because of necrosis in the deep skin layer (For an example of a boy whose back was entirely burned, see Figure 8). With large areas of skin peeling off, people suffered severe pain and bleeding.

Figure 7. Body effects by heat rays and fire burn (1).

Figure 7. Body effects by heat rays and fire burn (1).

In three months after the bombing, these deep skin flash burns began to heal. However, with tissue being regenerated, keloid was quite often formed as shown in Figure 9. It was charcterized by marked thickening of the wounds, sometimes resembling cancerous proliferation of the skin.

Figure 9. Keloid formation after a severe flash burn by heat rays.

Thus many residential areas full of Japanese wooden houses were crushed and burned. The firestorms that continued over to next day finally flattened city areas within a 4 km radius. According to the saddest memory of some survivors, the blast wind tore off the heads of babies who were being carried on their mothers’ backs in the traditional Japanese way. Most of the mothers also died soon.

At the same time, the victims were irradiated by 100 grays (Gy)1 or more of combined gamma and neutron rays generated by nuclear fissions (Figure 6). Thus it could be possible to say that they were killed in three ways at once.

The people within 1 km of ground zero who finally survived were mostly those who were working inside a concrete building with thick walls or in a basement. Some other survivors were inside private air-raid shelters or military arsenals set in large shelters. Heat rays were effectively blocked by the walls, and radiation and blast were partially shielded before victims were exposed, thus allowing them to survive. But there were only a few hundred of these people. Many of those who survived at various proximal points were severely injured by debris and pieces of glass from damaged houses, heated and irradiated simultaneously. Many of them died within the first three months.

Struggle for Survival

Medical rescue teams perished and hospitals were all destroyed on the first day of the bombing. It therefore was impossible to find any meaningful medical aid. The situation was much severer in Hiroshima where over 90% of medical staffs, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists were dead. The Nagasaki Medical College Hospital, the largest and strongest concrete buildings in Nagasaki City, located 600 meters from ground zero, did provide fairly good shielding effects; the death rate was a relatively as low as 43%. Subsequently 900 lives in total – approximately half of the total number of professors, doctors, nurses and medical students were lost in the entire college facility including the hospital. Most of those who survived were severely injured by the blast wind and heat ray. The hospital had completely ceased to function. Within a few days, medical staffs and medical students who had survived opened first-aid stations around the margin of flattened areas.

n the late afternoon on the first day, several rescue trucks arrived carrying medical teams consisting of military doctors and nurses from Omura Navy Hospital, located 45 km north of Nagasaki City. They brought back approximately 700 severely injured victims, most of them severely burned, to the hospital and started treatment for burns and injuries consisting of bone fractures, cuts from pieces of glass, and embedding of debris and pieces of glass fragments deep in the skin. This number was very small compared to the total number of victims who suffered severe injuries, estimated to be approximately 30,000 in Nagasaki. A few hundred victims out of 700 were able to survive, thanks to intensive care at Omura Navy Hospital. They were indeed lucky people.

Several small rescue teams started their clinical activities within a few days. Some surgical operations were performed for those who had severe fractures due to the blast wind. There was no good treatment for severe skin burn, especially those cases with wide areas of skin burn. There were no stocks of drugs such as antibiotics and frozen blood plasma. Only oil and ointment were used. Even drip infusions of water and electrolytes such as salts and glucose (sugar) were not available in such small ambulatory facilities.

As a result of this lack of care, many survivors who were alive on the first and second days began to die due to severe bleeding from injuries such as severe fractures, dislocations, abdominal ruptures, thoracic punctures, and scalp and brain damage and also from dehydration and lack of adequate food supplies.

Initial Difficulty in Recognizing Radiation Effects

In the early days after the atomic bombings, many doctors had difficulty in identifying the symptoms of radiation-related ailments. There was no information about the nature of this new type of bomb. They did not even know that the bombs were nuclear and that radiation was dangerous to human beings. …………………………………………………………………………………….

Late Effects of Atomic Bombings: 1948–2018

About 270,000 victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki finally recovered their health. They had to start their new daily life with a serious shortage of food and other necessities. After spending three years of recovery with relatively good health, hibakusha encountered the first malignant disease: leukemia. It is classified as the earliest occurring malignant disease due to atomic-bomb radiation because it was clearly distinguished from the disorders caused by ARS. Therefore, leukemia was the first malignant disease derived from cells injured by initial radiation exposure; the cells then transformed to malignant leukemia cells. This earliest delayed, or “late”, effect was followed by many kinds of cancer of various organs. Thus, the late effect spans an extremely long period.

First Malignant Disease Observed as the Earliest Late Effect of Atomic Bombings


In 1949, doctors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki began to recognize a gradual increase in the number of hibakusha patients, including children, suffering from leukemia. The excess annual rate of leukemia continued to rise until 1955 and then continued at an elevated level for more than 10 years (Figure 12) (Gunz and Henderson 1974). Acute and chronic types of leukemia both were observed. 

 These leukemias were later analyzed in detail when the first dosimetry system (DS65) became available. A clear radiation-dose dependency was revealed as a curve that elevated exponentially (called quadratic) from 100 millisieverts (mSv) at around 2.0 km from ground zero to more than 4 Gy at around 1.0 km (Figure 13 on original). Dose is thus inversely proportional to the square of the distance. Total leukemia incidence was four to five times higher than the control group of Nagasaki citizens not exposed to the bombing (Preston et al. 1996).

……………………………. People who were children under the age of 10 at the time of the bombings are now in their seventies. Some of them suffer from MDS. The increase in MDS among childhood survivors indicates that the massive irradiation of the whole body injured blood cells in bone marrow, and that these cells have survived more than 70 years in the bodies of hibakusha, and finally resulted in leukemia-inducing gene abnormality. MDS patients occasionally develop acute leukemia 3–5 years after the first diagnosis, and mostly die. Therefore, it can be said that atomic bomb is still killing some hibakusha even after more than a half century……………………..

Intermediate to Life-long Delayed Effects of Exposure to Atomic-bomb Radiation


Around 1960, the incidence of solid cancers began to rise gradually. The elevated cancer incidence lasted for a long time (Ozasa 2016). It peaked around the year 2000 and remained at that level until now. The types of cancer that appeared include lung, breast, thyroid, stomach, colon, liver, skin, and bladder. ……………………………………….

In-utero Radiation Exposure


In both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many pregnant women were exposed to various doses of radiation. Miscarriages and malformation of newborn babies were frequently observed, but there were no good statistics showing radiation-dose effect. Some mothers who were in the early prenatal period at the time of the bombing sometimes bore babies who had a small head. The babies later became mentally disabled. There were 62 such babies recorded among 1,470 (Otake and Schull 1998). The larger the dose to the mother’s uterus was, the higher the incidence of microcephalic babies, suggesting high-dose radiation interrupted brain development. This is the most obvious phenomenon observed among fetuses exposed to radiation in utero.


In-utero exposed babies were later found to have an increased risk of cancer development during their early adulthood. The follow-up study is now ongoing (Izumi et al. 2003)……………………………………………………………..

Summary of Hibakusha Life, 1945–2018

Can Homo Sapiens Gain the Ethical Wisdom to End the Nuclear Weapon Age and Survive?

The consequences of the atomic bombings linger on. First generation hibakusha population will cease to exist probably around 2045. If genetic transmission of radiation-related diseases to the second generation of hibakusha would be proved in the future, atomic bombs will continue to affect those descendants forever. The year 2045 will mark the 100th annniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings and of the nuclear weapon age. If we human beings fail to eradicate nuclear weapons before the first century ends, what should we do? This is the question that all hibakusha have posed in their 70-year struggle for survival all the time after bombings.

Summary of Hibakusha Life, 1945–2018

Can Homo Sapiens Gain the Ethical Wisdom to End the Nuclear Weapon Age and Survive?

The consequences of the atomic bombings linger on. First generation hibakusha population will cease to exist probably around 2045. If genetic transmission of radiation-related diseases to the second generation of hibakusha would be proved in the future, atomic bombs will continue to affect those descendants forever. The year 2045 will mark the 100th annniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings and of the nuclear weapon age. If we human beings fail to eradicate nuclear weapons before the first century ends, what should we do? This is the question that all hibakusha have posed in their 70-year struggle for survival all the time after bombings…………………………………………………………………………..more

Hisashi Ouchi Suffered an 83-day Death By Radiation Poisoning

November 3, 2022 By: Patrick J. Kiger  |  Aug 8, 2022

On the morning of Sept. 30, 1999, at a nuclear fuel-processing plant in Tokaimura, Japan, 35-year-old Hisashi Ouchi and two other workers were purifying uranium oxide to make fuel rods for a research reactor.

As this account published a few months later in The Washington Post details, Ouchi was standing at a tank, holding a funnel, while a co-worker named Masato Shinohara poured a mixture of intermediate-enriched uranium oxide into it from a bucket.

Suddenly, they were startled by a flash of blue light, the first sign that something terrible was about to happen.

The workers, who had no previous experience in handling uranium with that level of enrichment, inadvertently had put too much of it in the tank, as this 2000 article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists details. As a result, they inadvertently triggered what’s known in the nuclear industry as a criticality accident — a release of radiation from an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction.

Ouchi, who was closest to the nuclear reaction, received what probably was one of the biggest exposures to radiation in the history of nuclear accidents. He was about to suffer a horrifying fate that would become a cautionary lesson of the perils of the Atomic Age.

“The most obvious lesson is that when you’re working with [fissile] materials, criticality limits are there for a reason,” explains Edwin Lyman, a physicist and director of nuclear power safety for the Union of Concerned Scientists, and co-author, with his colleague Steven Dolley, of the article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

If safeguards aren’t carefully taught and followed, there’s potential for “a devastating type of accident,” Lyman says.

It wasn’t the first time it had happened. A 2000 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission report noted that before Tokaimura, 21 previous criticality accidents had occurred between 1953 and 1997.

The two workers quickly left the room, according to The Post’s account. But even so, the damage already had been done. Ouchi, who was closest to the reaction, had received a massive dose of radiation. There have been various estimates of the exact amount, but a 2010 presentation by Masashi Kanamori of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency put the amount at 16 to 25 gray equivalents (GyEq), while Shinohara, who was about 18 inches (46 centimeters) away, received a lesser but still extremely harmful dose of about 6 to 9 GyEq and a third man, who was further away, was exposed to less radiation.

Internet articles frequently describe Ouchi as ‘the most radioactive man in history,’ or words to that effect, but nuclear expert Lyman stops a bit short of that assessment.

“The estimated doses for Ouchi were among the highest known, though I’m not sure if it’s the highest,” explains Lyman. “These typically occur in these kinds of criticality accidents.”

What Does a High Dose of Radiation Do To the Body?

The radiation dose in a criticality accident can be even worse than in a catastrophic accident at a nuclear power plant, such as the 1986 reactor explosion at Chernobyl in Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union, where the radiation was dispersed. (Even so, 28 people eventually died from radiation exposure.)

“These criticality accidents present the potential for delivery of a large amount of radiation in a short period of time, though a burst of neutrons and gamma rays,” Lyman says. “That one burst, if you’re close enough, you can sustain more than a lethal dose of radiation in seconds. So that’s the scary thing about it.”

High doses of radiation damage the body, rendering it unable to make new cells, so that the bone marrow, for example, stops making the red blood cells that carry oxygen and the white blood cells that fight infection, according to Lyman. “Your fate is predetermined, even though there will be a delay,” he says, “if you have a high enough dose of ionizing radiation that will kill cells, to the extent that your organs will not function.”

According to an October 1999 account in medical journal BMJ, the irradiated workers were taken to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba, just east of Tokyo. There, it was determined that their lymphatic blood count had dropped to almost zero. Their symptoms included nausea, dehydration and diarrhea. Three days later, they were transferred to University of Tokyo Hospital, where doctors tried various measures in a desperate effort to save their lives.

Ouchi’s Condition Continued to Deteriorate

When Ouchi, a handsome, powerfully built, former high school rugby player who had a wife and young son, arrived at the hospital, he didn’t yet look like a victim of intense radiation exposure, according to “A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness,” a 2002 book by a team of journalists from Japan’s NHK-TV, later translated into English by Maho Harada. His face was slightly red and swollen and his eyes were bloodshot, but he didn’t have any blisters or burns, though he complained of pain in his ears and hand. The doctor who examined him even thought that it might be possible to save his life.

But within a day, Ouchi’s condition got worse. He began to require oxygen, and his abdomen swelled, according to the book. Things continued downhill after he arrived at the University of Tokyo hospital. Six days after the accident, a specialist who looked at images of the chromosomes in Ouchi’s bone marrow cells saw only scattered black dots, indicating that they were broken into pieces. Ouchi’s body wouldn’t be able to generate new cells. A week after the accident, Ouchi received a peripheral blood stem cell transplant, with his sister volunteering as a donor.

Nevertheless, Ouchi’s condition continued to deteriorate, according to the book. He began to complain of thirst, and when medical tape was removed from his chest, his skin started coming off with it. He began developing blisters. Tests showed that the radiation had killed the chromosomes that normally would enable his skin to regenerate, so that his epidermis, the outer layer that protected his body, gradually vanished. The pain became intense. He began experiencing breathing problems as well. Two weeks after the accident, he was no longer able to eat, and had to be fed intravenously. Two months into his ordeal, his heart stopped, though doctors were able to revive him.

On Dec. 21, at 11:21 p.m., Ouchi’s body finally gave out. According to Lyman’s and Dolley’s article, he died of multiple organ failure. Japan’s Prime Minister at the time, Keizo Obuchi, issued a statement expressing his condolences to the worker’s family and promised to improve nuclear safety measures, according to Japan Times.

Shinohara, Ouchi’s co-worker, died in April 2000 of multiple organ failure as well, according to The Guardian.

The Japanese government’s investigation concluded that the accident’s main causes included inadequate regulatory oversight, lack of an appropriate safety culture, and inadequate worker training and qualification, according to this April 2000 report by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Six officials from the company that operated the plant were charged with professional negligence and violating nuclear safety laws. In 2003, a court gave them suspended prison terms, and the company and at least one of the officials also were assessed fines, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The cruel and lonely death of an American nuclear weapons scientist

August 17, 2022

The lost tale of a nuclear scientist’s death in a secret San Francisco hospital room, Katie Dowd, SFGATE, Oct. 23, 2020 Before San Francisco became a metropolis, there was the Presidio. Since its creation as a military base in 1776, it has stood alone in a windswept corner, gathering legends.It has seen executions, tragic accidents and countless hospital patients. And if you’re a believer that violent ends produce restless spirits, the Presidio is full up with phantoms as a result. The most haunted place is said to be Letterman Army Hospital, once the base’s largest medical facility In looking for Presidio ghost stories, though, we stumbled across a far stranger tale than any haunting: the real-life demise of a nuclear scientist — a chapter of the Cold War, as far as we can tell, untold since 1953.

Twitchell was a genius. Born in Minnesota in 1917, he got his undergraduate degree from Rollins College in Florida and a masters in chemistry at UC Berkeley. At 23, he was promoted to project engineer in charge of the equipment department of the University of California radiation lab.

This was no ordinary lab. Among Twitchell’s colleagues were Glenn Seaborg, Ernest O. Lawrence and J. Robert Oppenheimer — all of whom would later contribute to the Manhattan Project — and together the team was working on the discovery of atomic particles. Once World War II broke out, their mission shifted. The lab’s work was now crucial to the creation of nuclear weapons for the U.S. military……….

 In 1952 then just 35 years old. That year, doctors diagnosed him with a malignant brain tumor and told him he likely did not have long to live.

As Twitchell and his wife Marie processed the terrible news, the U.S. government sprung into action. Although he likely would have wanted his palliative care to take place at his home at 2319 Glen Ave., in Berkeley, he was told that wouldn’t be possible. He needed to be moved as soon as possible to a secure location.

The brain tumor presented a particular problem for the Atomic Energy Commission: It had the potential to cause erratic behavior and uncontrolled verbal outbursts. They were fearful that as he lost control of his mental faculties, Twitchell would begin spilling nuclear secrets. He knew “as much about atomic energy as any one man,” an anonymous source in the commission would later tell the Oakland Tribune. So they built a secret ward just for Twitchell. At the cost of $100,000 — nearly $1 million today — construction began at the Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco’s Presidio for the unusual patient. Once finished, all doctors and nurses who might interact with Twitchell were given rigorous screenings for any national security issues. In the end, only one male nurse was trusted to primarily care for Twitchell. A guard stood watch outside the room at all times. Unbeknownst to the other military patients at the hospital, a civilian lay dying in his own wing. “He was the hospital’s hush-hush case,” the San Francisco Examiner reported.

On March 23, 1953, five months after his diagnosis, Twitchell died. Two days later, news broke nationally. “A macabre tale of the atomic age was revealed yesterday,” the Examiner proclaimed. The Atomic Energy Commission was forced to admit Twitchell’s room wasn’t the only one they’d covertly constructed. Around the nation, there were similar isolation wards for individuals dealing in nuclear secrets.

An anonymous source told the Tribune this was standard protocol to keep scientists from blabbing while “unbalanced, anesthetized or under the influence of dentists’ ‘laughing gas.'” Although expensive, it was the only way to maintain national security.

But all this drama meant little to the Twitchells, who were left to bury their loved one……