Archive for the ‘personal stories’ Category

Girl’s Cancer Leads Mom to ‘Overwhelming’ Discovery of More Than 50 Sick Kids Near Closed Nuclear Lab

April 30, 2022

https://people.com/health/calif-girls-cancer-leads-mom-to-overwhelming-discovery-more-than-50-kids-near-closed-lab-were-also-sick/ By Johnny Dodd, 29 Apr 22,

“Pediatric cancer is rare — you’re not supposed to have neighbors whose children also have it,” says Melissa Bumstead, who “knew I had to do something”  

Melissa Bumstead made a terrifying discovery in 2014 as her four-year-old daughter Grace lay in a hospital bed battling a rare form of leukemia. While keeping vigil at the Los Angeles medical center where Grace was receiving treatment, Bumstead began meeting the parents of more than 50 children with equally rare cancers and was horrified to learn that they all lived near one another.

“I just kept meeting people who lived down the corner or around the block or behind the high school,” she tells PEOPLE during an interview in this week’s issue. “And that’s when the panic started to set in.”

Even more alarming, Bumstead soon learned that all their homes were located in a circle around a 2,850-acre former top-secret rocket engine and nuclear energy test site—built in 1947—that had long been contaminated with radioactive waste and toxic chemicals.

And for the past seven years the 41-year-old mother of two, who lives 3.7 miles west of the facility, has helped lead the fight to finally get the Santa Susana Field Laboratory property — run chiefly by the Department of Energy, Boeing and NASA before its closure in 2006 — cleaned up.

“This is a hugely contaminated site that contains a who’s-who of chemicals toxic to human health,” says Dr. Robert Dodge, a Ventura, Calif., family doctor and board member of the group Physicians for Social Responsibility. “They can cause cancers, leukemias, along with developmental, genetic, neurologic and immune system disorders.”

While caring for her daughter, whose acute lymphoblastic leukemia has been in remission since a bone marrow transplant five years ago, Bumstead and her group — Parents Against the Santa Susana Field Lab — has pressured California state officials to enforce a 2007 cleanup agreement, scheduled to have been completed in 2017, that they say has remained stalled. That agreement, among other things, called for the removal of contaminated topsoil that residents allege gets blown from the site into surrounding communities by high winds or washed offsite during rains.

Since 2015 Bumstead has immersed herself in scientific studies on the site, testifying at countless public meetings, launching a Facebook page (now with nearly 5,000 members) and creating a change.org petition on the issue (that has attracted over 750,000 signatures).

“It was frightening,” says Bumstead, who is featured in the 2021 documentary In The Dark of the Valley, “to read studies about how adults who lived within two miles from the lab had a 60 percent higher cancer rate than those living more than five miles away or that over 1,500 former workers at the site received federal compensation after being diagnosed with cancer.”

Even more frightening for Bumstead was learning that the lab was the location of one of the nation’s largest — and least known — nuclear accidents that occurred 1959 when one of the facility’s ten sodium nuclear reactors experienced a partial meltdown, releasing enormous amounts of radiation into the surrounding environment.   

“It’s exhausting, depressing and often overwhelming,” says Bumstead of her crusade to get the contaminated site cleaned up. “But the cancer was all around us. And I realized that kids are just going to keep getting sick. So I need to do something to make the situation better.”         

Extremely rare brain cancer appearing in people who attended a New Jersey school, close to former nuclear weapons fuel plant

April 30, 2022

94 former staff and students from Colonia High School in the Woodbridge Township School District have been stricken by the devastating diagnoses in recent years.

While the exact number of former faculty and staff diagnosed with glioblastoma is not precisely known, the cancer is exceedingly rare. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, glioblastoma has an incidence of 3.21 per 100,000

Nearly 100 people at this NJ school got brain tumors — a survivor demands answers,  https://nypost.com/2022/04/14/why-nearly-100-people-at-nj-school-got-brain-tumors/?fbclid=IwAR1IItuf3UXbHuJAJr-gByHSGIgbgX1lZYsljrokhDTk6z1Dx77P5UMwrg4

By Andrew Court

A cancer survivor is vowing to untangle the twisted mystery of why almost 100 people associated with a New Jersey high school have developed “extremely” rare malignant brain tumors.

Al Lupiano is among the 94 former staff and students from Colonia High School in the Woodbridge Township School District who have been stricken by the devastating diagnoses in recent years.

“I will not rest until I have answers,” Lupiano, 50, declared in an interview with NJ.com and the Star-Ledger on Thursday. “I will uncover the truth.”

Among the others diagnosed with brain cancer was Lupiano’s younger sister, who passed away from the disease in February at the age of 44.

The devoted brother promised his sister on her deathbed that he would get to the bottom of what was causing the apparent cancer cluster at Colonia High. On Tuesday — after a public push by Lupiano — local officials approved an emergency probe of the school.

“There could be a real problem here, and our residents deserve to know if there are any dangers,” Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac said in a statement. “We’re all concerned, and we all want to get to the bottom of this. This is definitely not normal.”

Starting this weekend, various radiological assessments will be conducted across the school’s 28-acre campus, including the testing of indoor air samples for radon.

Lupiano was diagnosed with a brain tumor back in the late 1990s, at the age of 27. He went on to recover from the disease.

Last year, his wife — who also attended Colonia — was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. On the exact same day, Lupiano’s younger sister, Angela DeCillis, another alumna of Colonia, learned that she too had brain cancer.

After his sister’s death in February, Lupiano became convinced of a link between the Colonia campus and the brain cancers that he, his wife and his sister had developed. Last month, he started a Facebook group asking locals whether they knew of any other people associated with the school who had been stricken by similar diagnoses.

In less than six weeks, Lupiano says, he has gathered the names of 94 people connected with the school who have developed brain tumors.

The disturbing development became headline news this week after CBS News took it national. A subsequent TikTok video discussing the medical mystery has also racked up more than 2.2 million viral views in just 24 hours.

The vast majority of those who have developed brain tumors “graduated between 1975 and 2000, although outliers have come as recently as a 2014 graduate,” according to the Star-Ledger.

The diagnoses include “several types of primary brain tumors, including cancerous forms like glioblastoma and noncancerous yet debilitating masses such as acoustic neuromas, haemangioblastomas and meningiomas.”

“To find something like this … is a significant discovery,” Dr. Sumul Raval, one of New Jersey’s top neuro-oncologists, told the outlet. “Normally speaking, you don’t get radiation in a high school … unless something is going on in that area that we don’t know,” Raval added, calling for an immediate investigation.

The viral TikTok video discussing the purported cancer cluster was posted Wednesday by popular personality Dr. Joe Whittington.

Whittington — a board-certified MD in California — claimed several of the brain tumors developed by ex-Colonia High staff and students are glioblastoma multiforme — an aggressive cancer which spreads to brain tissue.

While the exact number of former faculty and staff diagnosed with glioblastoma is not precisely known, the cancer is exceedingly rare. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, glioblastoma has an incidence of 3.21 per 100,000.

Meanwhile, the TikTok video sparked panic and a range of conspiracy-theory style comments, with people claiming mold, toxic waste, asbestos and nearby cellphone towers could all be causing the cluster.

Lupiano also spoke with CBS News on Thursday, saying he now believes ionizing radiation must be responsible for the health issues.

“What I find alarming is there’s truly only one environmental link to primary brain tumors, and that’s ionizing radiation,” he declared. “It’s not contaminated water. It’s not air. It’s not something in soil. It’s not something done to us due to bad habits.”

The school was built back in 1967 on acres of empty land, with McCormac telling the news network he is stumped as to what could be causing the cancers.

Lupiano alleges that some contaminated soil was removed from the site when it closed down in 1967 — the same year Colonia High School was built. He now wonders whether some of that soil ended up on the school grounds.CBS2

He has reached out to the state Department of Health, Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry for help — which is reportedly still in the “early stages,” according to the CBS News report.

Lupiano told NJ Spotlight News that the school is located less than 12 miles from the Middlesex Sampling Plant — a site that was used, under the direction of the Manhattan Project, to crush, dry, store, package and ship uranium ore for the development of the atomic bomb.

He alleges that some contaminated soil was removed from the site when it closed down in 1967 — the same year Colonia High School was built. Lupiano is wondering whether some of that soil ended up on the school grounds.

Today, Colonia enrolls approximately 1,300 students, with many said to be “anxious” about the possible cancer cluster.

“We are looking at possible things that we can do between the town and school, and they said they will look at anything we come up with,” McCormac said.  at top   https://nypost.com/2022/04/14/why-nearly-100-people-at-nj-school-got-brain-tumors/?fbclid=IwAR1IItuf3UXbHuJAJr-gByHSGIgbgX1lZYsljrokhDTk6z1Dx77P5UMwrg4

The personal toll of nuclear bomb tests on soldiers and their families

April 30, 2022

Nuclear test veterans were more likely to have cancer and die, government study finds, Mirror, BySusie Boniface 25 Feb 2022

”………………………………………………………….This isn’t history, it is our daily lives’

Ken McGinley was sent to Christmas Island aged 19. He later became sterile and developed a rare blood cancer. He founded the BNTVA in 1983, and has now been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

He said: “This study is proof, but it isn’t the full picture. It doesn’t analyse the sterility, birth defects, or miscarriages, or the number of cancers some of us have had and survived.

“It’s time for full disclosure – a public inquiry. This isn’t history, it is our daily lives, and the government must act now to deliver justice before that anniversary.”

Ken, 83, of Paisley, added: “I was treated like an enemy of the state. I wasn’t given my blood cancer diagnosis although it was in my notes, my benefits were stopped, and when my wife Alice and I were trying for children, a note was added to our file that the doctors would be ‘very interested in the outcome of any pregnancy ’.”

‘Tragedy took over mum’s life’

After The Mirror called for a medal, then-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson met campaigners in 2018.

Widow Shirley Denson, whose husband Eric was an RAF pilot ordered to fly through a mushroom cloud in 1958, walked into the room and said: “So, you’re the man responsible for killing my husband.”

Shirley, of Morden, Surrey, had uncovered documents proving Eric was used in an experiment on his plane, and had the equivalent of 1,649 X-rays to his brain in just six minutes. He later took his own life after two decades of crippling headaches, saying he couldn’t stand it any more. A third of his descendants have birth defects, including missing and extra teeth.

Mr Williamson was so impressed by her that he ordered fresh research.

Shirley died before it could be published, in March last year, with the MoD refusing her deathbed plea for a medal.

Daughter Shelley, 59, said: “My mum was a formidable woman. She raised four daughters, and had to deal with the tragedy not just of my dad’s suicide, but his illness in the years before it. It took over her life.

“This study proves what she always said, when the government claimed there was no evidence – we ARE the evidence. All those young men who were sent to their deaths, just married, with children on the way or yet to come, and then left to rot.

“I hope now that the veterans and their families finally get everything they deserve. It would be an awesome legacy for my mum. She fought so valiantly, and it broke her heart that there was no justice for her girls.”…………………

Operation Buffalo took place in Australia and 1956 and included an “indoctrinee force” ordered to walk, crawl and run through fallout to see how much stayed on their uniforms. Some were ordered to sit in tanks close to the blast to test the effect on men and machinery. The study found all of them had a radiation dose, 85 per cent were dead, more than a quarter died from cancer, and they had double the risk of dying from leukaemia and unspecified tumours. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/nuclear-test-veterans-were-more-26331008

Jimmy Carter hailed as ‘action’ hero for stopping nuclear meltdown at 28

December 26, 2021

Jimmy Carter hailed as ‘action’ hero for stopping nuclear meltdown at 28  https://nypost.com/2021/12/16/jimmy-carter-is-action-hero-for-stopping-nuclear-disaster/
By Hannah Sparks, December 16, 2021  Who needs action movies when there are real-life superheroes like Jimmy Carter among us?

A viral Twitter thread is reminding the world that the 39th US President James Earl Carter Jr., now 97, actually rescued Ottawa, Ontario, from nuclear destruction as a 28-year-old way back on Dec. 12, 1952.

“Do you remember the world’s very first nuclear meltdown? That time the US President, an expert in nuclear physics, heroically lowered himself into the reactor and saved Ottawa, Canada’s capital?” asked Canadian physicist University of Ottawa professor Jeff Lundeen in his now-viral thread, originally posted Tuesday but officially trending two days later.

Sounds like schlocky action movie, but it actually happened!”

Lundeen’s revelatory tweet to his modest 1,078 followers now boasts nearly 50,000 likes, more than 20,000 retweets and hundreds of cheerfully shocked comments. He included data from the Ottawa Historical Society and a snippet of a 2011 report documenting Carter’s heroics, and he followed up with several other media sources that recount the historic tale.

As the story goes, the Plains, Ga., native planned his entire life to join the Navy — and did so when he received his appointment to the Naval Academy in 1942. After graduating with distinction, Carter spent two years completing his service ship duty before signing on to the Submarine Force. Following a series of relocations and promotions, the young lieutenant would request to join Captain Hyman G. Rickover’s nuclear sub program, where they were developing the world’s first atomic subs.

Rickover then sent Carter to work for the US Atomic Energy Commission, where he served on temporary duty with the Naval Reactors Branch. Meanwhile, a few months later, an accidental power surge at Chalk River Laboratories in Ottawa caused fuel rods within a nuclear research reactor to rupture and melt — risking a full nuclear meltdown.

It was the first such incident of its kind, and Carter’s team of 23 men was ordered to clean it up.

I

n a scene straight out of modern-day blockbusters, the operation would require the brave men to descend into the core by rope and pulley so they could deconstruct the reactor bolt by bolt. The lab had set up a duplicate reactor as a training field for Carter’s team, who would get only one shot at the real thing. Each man would have to descend into the core and complete their high-flying tasks in 90-second spurts, as exposure to toxic radiation within the reactor posed a high risk to their long-term health.

Their plan went off without a hitch. The core was shut down and then rebuilt. From there, Carter went on to become the engineering officer for the USS Seawolf, one of the first submarines to operate on atomic power. By 1961, he retired from the Navy and Reserves, and, in 1963, ran for his first political office.

For those who admire the single-term Democratic president, Lundeen’s tweet was just another reminder of Carter’s selfless service — and good jokes.

One top Twitter response included a quote from the president, who visited Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island power plant in 1979, during their disastrous partial meltdown.

When asked by media if he thought it too dangerous to visit the radioactive site, he reportedly quipped, “No, if it was too dangerous they would have sent the vice president.”

Nuclear test veterans: ‘My dad was treated like a guinea pig’

June 17, 2021

Nuclear test veterans: ‘My dad was treated like a guinea pig’, By Chris Wood, BBC News 30 May 21,  When David Purse was sent to Australia, he thought it would be a “wild adventure” in a little-explored place.

However, the RAF flight lieutenant’s posting to a remote area called Maralinga was to test atomic weapons.

Son Steve, 47, from Prestatyn in Denbighshire, puts his own “unique” condition down to “a rare genetic mutation” caused by radiation.

The Ministry of Defence said three large studies found no link between the tests and ill health.

But a study at Brunel University is currently looking at the possibility genetic damage from the tests has affected the children of personnel.

“Flying through mushroom clouds or watching”, Steve believes men were “treated like guinea pigs” and wants recognition for them, adding: “It wasn’t an act of God but an act of government.”

In all, about 40,000 British personnel took part in the testing of atomic and hydrogen bombs in the 1950s and 1960s.

Most were in the Pacific – the biggest being Operation Grapple, where about 22,000 people oversaw the exploding of bombs in 1957.

Maralinga, in South Australia, saw the first test launches of atomic weapons from aircraft in 1962.

“He was told at short notice and was looking forward to visiting a warm country, a relatively unexplained place, and having a wild adventure,” Steve said of his father.

However, he was “close enough to ground zero to see sand to turn to glass” during tests, with no protective equipment.

Steve added: “There was a rope saying ‘do not enter’ but radiation was in the sand and would blow into food, into their face.

“They would swim in the lagoon, and catch fish that contained highly toxic radiation.”……………..

Steve describes his condition as “unique”, with doctors unable to diagnose it exactly, but says it is a form of short stature, similar to that of actor Warwick Davis.

He believes it is because of a “rare genetic mutation” as a result of the nuclear tests, and part of the “roulette” future generations must live with.

Steve is worried his baby son, Sascha, could also develop problems as he grows older.

“That’s the sad thing, it probably won’t die with veterans,” he said………

The possibility that children of personnel could be affected was first raised in a study at New Zealand’s Massey University in 2007.

Al Rowlands, who led the investigation at the university, said results were “unequivocal” that veterans had suffered genetic damage as a result of radiation.

Support group Labrats estimates there are 200,000 descendants of those who took part in British tests – and says the UK is the only nuclear state not to properly recognise its veterans and support them.

It conducted a health survey with 123 people who took part in tests, 76 from the UK.

“Many [problems experienced by descendants] tend to be autoimmune diseases, but if there are problems, they tend to be severe,” said founder Alan Owen.

“There are bone problems, teeth problems, eye sight. Issues that are meant to affect one in 1,000 – we talked to 10 descendants, four were affected.

“They have developed cancer, heart problems, a wide range of diseases.”

He described talking to veterans about their fears, adding: “When a grandchild is born, they don’t ask if it’s a boy or a girl, but if it’s okay. It’s quite sad they’re living with that now.”

Mr Owen’s father was involved at Operation Dominic, where the United States conducted 31 tests in the Pacific in 1962.

The American government has paid compensation to British personnel present and Mr Owen wants recognition by UK authorities.

He believes there are about 1,500 British nuclear veterans still alive, adding: “All they want is for the government to say ‘we did wrong, it was the 1950s’.

“No prime minister has ever met nuclear veterans. Anthony Eden was warned about the consequences and his reply was ‘it’s a pity but we can’t help it’…………

A number of veterans have already called for an apology, linking their cancer to the testing.

The Ministry of Defence responded by saying: “The National Radiological Protection Board has carried out three large studies of nuclear test veterans and found no valid evidence to link participation in these tests to ill health.”

The Brunel University study has been carried out with those involved in British nuclear tests and their children, with results due soon.

“We anticipate that our findings will have a lasting benefit for the broader nuclear community by providing scientific evidence that will resolve current uncertainties and speculation about potential adverse health effects in nuclear test veterans and their families,” said chief investigator Rhona Anderson.  https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-57157476

Early atomic bomb research – the ‘demon core’ that killed physicist Harry Daghlian 

June 17, 2021

The Demon Core: How One Man Intervened With His Bare Hands During A Nuclear Accident   https://www.iflscience.com/physics/the-demon-core-accident-how-one-man-stopped-a-nuclear-detonation-with-his-bare-hands/ 17 May 21,

Following the end of World War 2 and the devastating impacts of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings, the Cold War was looming. The immense destruction and power promised by atomic bombs pushed world superpowers into a nuclear research frenzy, with the USA preparing to drop a third on Japan , and the remaining nations creating their own arsenal as a deterrent or defense.  

Enter the ‘demon core’. Sitting at a sizeable 6.2 kilograms (13.7 pounds) and 3.5 inches in diameter, this spherical mass of radioactive plutonium (at the time named ‘Rhufus’) was designed in nuclear research to be a fissile core for early iterations of the atomic bomb. Throughout 1945 and 1946, the demon core was experimented on ……

As expected from its’ ominous title, the demon core was not kind to the nuclear physicists involved. Designed as a bomb core, it had just a tiny margin before it would increase radioactivity and become supercritical (once the fission reaction has begun, it increases in rate). Therefore, any external factors that could increase reactivity, for example, compression of the core (which is how the fission bomb detonates), must be carefully monitored around the demon core.

Despite the danger, researchers used the core as an experimental piece on supercriticality, using neutron reflectors to push it to its’ limits. Neutron reflectors are used to surround the core, and as the nuclear fission reaction occurs, they reflect neutrons back at the nuclear material to increase the amount of fission taking place.

In 1945, alone in his laboratory, physicist Harry Daghlian was performing a neutron reflector experiment on the demon core when he mistakenly dropped a brick of reflective tungsten carbide onto the core, pushing it into supercriticality and releasing a deadly burst of neutron radiation. After a 3-week battle with acute radiation sickness, Daghlian succumbed to his wounds, leading to tighter legislation around nuclear research in the Manhattan Project – although it would not be strict enough.

Despite the danger, researchers used the core as an experimental piece on supercriticality, using neutron reflectors to push it to its’ limits. Neutron reflectors are used to surround the core, and as the nuclear fission reaction occurs, they reflect neutrons back at the nuclear material to increase the amount of fission taking place.

In 1945, alone in his laboratory, physicist Harry Daghlian was performing a neutron reflector experiment on the demon core when he mistakenly dropped a brick of reflective tungsten carbide onto the core, pushing it into supercriticality and releasing a deadly burst of neutron radiation. After a 3-week battle with acute radiation sickness, Daghlian succumbed to his wounds, leading to tighter legislation around nuclear research in the Manhattan Project – although it would not be strict enough.

That burst of radiation would kill Slotin within 9 days of exposure. Stood right beside him during the accident, Alvin Graves would also receive a huge dose of radiation but would survive the ordeal and live for another 20 years before death. Owing to Slotin’s quick thinking and body position, which absorbed most of the radiation, the remaining onlookers were shielded from the blast and survived to tell the tale.  

Following the accidents, the core would finally gain its name as the demon core, before being recycled down into other fissile cores. 

Dr Helen Caldicott as mentor for anti-nuclear activists.

February 18, 2021

My Six Mentors,  “…….Helen Caldicott, MD,  by Mary Olson, Gender and Radiation Impact Project, 1 January 20121

Helen Caldicott deserves a much greater place in our histories of the Cold War and ending the USA / USSR arms race than she generally gets. This is, perhaps, because she is powerful and a woman. A pediatrician, who in the 1970’s would not tolerate the radioactive fallout she and her patients were suffering from nuclear weapons tests in Australia, Helen and her family came to the USA. She and another physician named Ira Helfand revived what had been a local Boston organization of physicians and created a Nobel Prize winning organization called Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), which later participated in the creation of another Nobel Prize winning group, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). These two along with hundreds of other organizations committed to peace and nuclear disarmament formed the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) which has helped to create the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (see http://icanw.org/the-treaty ) and also won the Nobel Prize (2017).

Helen herself is a powerful communicator and will move audiences at a level that can change the course of someone’s life and work. She followed her own destiny to winning meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union, where she educated him about Nuclear Winter and the fact that nuclear is not a war that anyone can win. She also met with President Reagan in the era and diagnosing early-stage dementia… Her ability to bring the reality of the world to these men, and reality of these men to the world set her aside, in a class by herself—and was an enormous contribution to us all.

I first met Helen in the body of her Cold War block-buster book “Nuclear Madness.” I was in the midst of an existential crisis that could have become an even bigger health crisis.  After college I needed a job (not yet a career) because I was broke, broken up from my first “true” love, and far from home. I got a job as a research assistant in a lab at a prestigious medical school; it was 1984.

Within 2 weeks, I was inadvertently contaminated with radioactivity (without my knowledge) by carelessness of a lab-mate. The radioactive material, Phosphorus-32 is used in research to trace biochemical activity in living organisms. This type of radioactivity is not deeply penetrating, so there was some reason not to panic, however the I was exposed continuously for over a week, and I also found radioactivity at home– my toothbrush was “hot”—so I had also had some level of internal exposure. I was terrified. The lab used concentrations of the tracer thousands of times higher than is typical.

The institution told me there was no danger, but because I was upset, they helped me transfer to a different job. No accident report was filed, and in the midst of transition, my radiation detection badge was never processed. It is not possible to know the dimensions of my exposure—I began having symptoms that were not normal for me. Many people, including some family members told me I was imagining things. No one in my circle understood how terrified I was.

I was fortunate that Helen had already written “Nuclear Madness”—the first edition came out in 1978, just before the March 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown in Harrisburg PA—an event that propelled the book into multiple printings including a Bantam Paperback edition that I found. It turned out that 7 years later I helped Helen to revise and update the same text for the 1994 WW Norton edition. It was Helen’s deep commitment to truth, to speaking and writing that truth, to empowering people to take action for good. Helen’s words accurately described radiation and its potential for harm, and in my panic about the unknown, this calmed me.

Every other authority I had encountered was trying to tell me there was no problem—when I knew they had no right to dismiss what had happened to me.  I am quite certain that had I remained alone with my fear, despair, and confusion my panic would have resulted in behaviors that would have compounded any harm bodily from that radioactive contamination. Reading Helen’s work let me know there was at least one woman walking the Earth who did know what I was going through… it made it possible for me to choose recovery and walk away from a legal battle that would have forced me to maintain, hold and prove a myself a victim. Instead, following in Helen’s wake, I chose Peaceful Warrior. Thank you Helen! : ……….. https://www.genderandradiation.org/blog/2020/12/31/my-six-mentors

 

Mary Olson pays tribute to Rosalie Bertell, the great explainer of radiation impacts on health

February 18, 2021

My Six Mentors,   by Mary Olson, Gender and Radiation Impact Project, 1 January 20121 

“……………. Rosalie Bertell, PhD

It was Rosalie who most let me know that I am able to contribute original work towards the day that People, to decide not to split atoms any more. Human beings began splitting atoms in Chicago, in 1942. Rosalie, a PhD in mathematics and member of the Order of Gray Nuns, knew more than anyone else I have worked with, that all of it—every last nuclear license, and radioactive emission, all the waste and all the bombs and all the money congress gives to nuclear activities are choices. People made, and continue to make these decisions…and we can change our mind.

Rosalie studied radiation impacts and was committed to service on behalf of future generations. She won the Right Livelihood award for her work with communities impacted by nuclear industry. Often called the “alternative Peace Prize” – she was one of the first women to be honored. As a laureate, she was encouraged to find and mentor students. Rosalie hoped that I, and my coworker Diane D’Arrigo would go to graduate school and she could be our mentor. We decided since we were already in our 50’s to simply study with her, informally. We traveled, 5 or 6 times to the Mother House where she resided and she generously met with us in the last two years of her life. She was always small in stature, but at that point her back was bent and she barely came up to my chest, but still had the intensity of a wolverine!

It was Rosalie Bertell who helped me tackle one of the biggest challenges I have faced. After a public talk on radioactive waste policy that I gave during this time, a woman asked me if radiation was more harmful to women, to her, compared to a man. Even though I had studied and known many of the top independent radiation researchers, including Bertell, I had never heard that biological sex could be a factor for harm—other than in reproduction (pregnancy)—but that is more about the embryo and fetus than the woman. I told her that I was sorry, I did not know and would get back to her. In fact, I forgot.

Two years later, when nuclear reactors exploded in Japan at a site called Fukushima Daiichi, I remembered that question and knew it urgently needed an answer. I was unaware that Dr Arjun Makhijani and a team had written on sex differences in radiation harm in 2006 (see www.ieer.org ) and also did not turn that up as I searched for any information on differences between males and females. My findings, five years later are an independent confirmation of the IEER work.

Since I found nothing on a basic google dive, I called Rosalie, who was at that point nearing the end of her life, to ask if she had studied biological sex. She had not, and the one report she pointed me to was out of print. It was my second call, a week later, that prompted her to tell me that I would have to look at the data myself.

I had no idea that the National Academy of Science (NAS) had published tables with 60 years of data on cancers and cancer deaths among the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Rosalie told me to find out for myself. I was shocked. I had stopped any formal study of math in the 6th grade…she was a mathematician—I asked her to do it, and she reminded me that she was dying. I protested again. It was her next words that pushed me. Rosalie said, “The data is divided by males and females so you can look at this question—and if there is a difference, it will be a simple pattern. It is good you do not have more math because if there is a difference, you will find it and not make it more complicated than it is.” She said to get a few pencils, a sharpener, an eraser and lots of paper, and go to it. I did.

The result was my first paper on the topic, “Atomic Radiation is More Harmful to Women,” (October 2011) published to the web in time for Rosalie to congratulate me. Three years later the paper was the basis for my invitation to speak at the global Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons. Three years later as the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was in the work, I founded the Gender and Radiation Impact Project. Rosalie is the one who put rocket fuel in my determination to help. If the world decides to base radiation protection on Refence Little Girl—make every regulation in terms of protecting females who are infants—five years old, future generations have a chance. Rosalie is the one who modeled for me that it is possible to reach for the best possible outcome, and, indeed, we have an obligation to do so………..……  https://www.genderandradiation.org/blog/2020/12/31/my-six-mentors

 

Non violent anti-nuclear action – the Clamshell Alliance model for success

February 18, 2021

Know Your Nonviolent History: In 1976 Clamshell Alliance Launches Mass Demonstrations https://www.riverasun.com/know-your-nonviolent-history-in-1976-clamshell-alliance-launches-mass-demonstrations/August 18, 2016, by Rivera Sun  On August 1st, 1976, the first nonviolent mass demonstration of the Clamshell Alliance took place at the proposed site of the Seabrook Nuclear Energy Facility in New Hampshire. The Clamshell Alliance was a group of anti-nuclear activists who worked to stop nuclear power plant construction at a time when President Nixon’s “Project Independence” had proposed the construction of over 1,000 nuclear power plants throughout the nation. Although the Clamshell Alliance was only partially successful in halting the Seabrook facility, their mass mobilizations deterred the plans for other plants and changed the landscape of nuclear energy forever. If not for the Clamshell Alliance, it is possible that we would be living in the nuclear nightmare of President Nixon’s vision of a thousand plants by the year 2000.

The cover-up of workers’ illnesss in radioactively polluted clean-up of Kingston coal ash spill

December 22, 2020

A Legacy of Contamination, How the Kingston coal ash spill unearthed a nuclear nightmare, Grist By Austyn Gaffney on Dec 15, 2020  This story was published in partnership with the Daily Yonder.

………………………………….The apparent mixing of fossil fuel and nuclear waste streams underscores the long relationship between the Kingston and Oak Ridge facilities………… .

……….In 2017, a former chemist named Dan Nichols stumbled upon a news story that revealed the existence of the additional health problems TVA feared. High levels of uranium had been measured in the urine of a former cleanup worker named Craig Wilkinson. Like Thacker, Wilkinson had worked the night shift. After dredges piped the coal ash back onshore, Wilkinson used heavy equipment to scoop, flip, and dry the wet ash along the Ball Field.

Although Wilkinson worked at the Kingston site for less than a year, he quickly developed health issues, including chronic sinus infections and breathing problems that eventually led to a double-lung transplant. Frustrated by his sudden decline in health, Wilkinson shelled out over $1,000 for a toxicology test because he wanted to know what occupational hazards might be lingering in his body.

After reading Wilkinson’s story, Nichols sat stunned. Though he was not associated with the spill, he’d been unable to shake his obsession with the Kingston disaster. Nichols had worked as a Memphis-based field chemist for a wastewater technology company, and he was used to studying lab reports on industrial water supplies and samples. For years he’d been trying to solve a mystery that no one else seemed to be aware of: why Kingston regulators deleted and then altered a state-sanctioned report showing extremely high levels of radiation at the cleanup site.

Roughly a month after the spill, Nichols read a Duke University press release stating that ash samples collected at Kingston by a team led by Vengosh, the geochemist, showed radium levels well above those typically found in coal ash. Nichols knew that the state environmental regulator, the Tennessee Department for Environment and Conservation, or TDEC, was also testing soil and ash samples at the site. After seeing Vengosh’s high radium readings, he wondered if TDEC’s report would also show high levels of either radium or uranium. (Radium is a decay element of uranium.) Later that spring, Nichols visited TDEC’s website and discovered the test results.

“I opened it up and went to uranium, and it was just off the charts,” Nichols recalled. In a 2020 affidavit, Nichols reported that these levels were “extremely high so as to be alarming.” At least 27 soil and ash samples were collected from at least 20 different sites surrounding Kingston beginning January 6, 2009. The levels ranged from 84 parts per million (ppm) to 2,000 ppm. The average level was over 500 ppm, as much as 50 times the typical uranium content found in coal ash.

The next morning, when Nichols slumped back into his computer chair and refreshed TDEC’s website, he saw that the report had been changed. The high uranium readings had plummeted. Now the average uranium levels in the ash were 2.88 ppm, a tenth of the typical uranium content found in coal ash and illogically, below levels naturally occurring in soil. Luckily, Nichols had downloaded the unaltered report the night before.

A month later, Nichols sent the two lab reports to one of the attorneys representing Tennessee residents affected by the spill in a lawsuit they’d brought against TVA. According to Nichols, the lawyers weren’t interested. Nevertheless, Nichols was determined to find more proof of the unusually high levels of on-site radiation. In between cutting hay and spraying weeds on his family farm, he spent years poring over information online about TVA, coal ash, and uranium before he stumbled across Wilkinson’s story.

Back in 2014, Wilkinson’s urine tested for unusually high levels of both mercury and uranium. The mercury is more easily explained: The most common cause of mercury contamination, according to the EPA, is coal-fired power plant emissions, which account for 44 percent of all man-made mercury pollution. The 2008 spill released 29 times the mercury reported at the Kingston site for the entire decade before it, and TVA documents show high levels of additional legacy mercury were present in the Clinch River and could have migrated into the Emory. Today, Wilkinson has symptoms attributable to methylmercury poisoning including blurry vision, fatigue, a hearing impairment, memory loss, and loss of coordination that caused him to fall out of the machines he operated until retiring on disability in 2015.

But most shocking to Nichols was the high level of uranium in Wilkinson’s body — it was 10 times the U.S. average, and identical to the median levels that one study found in workers exposed to the substance. Prolonged occupational exposure to uranium is strongly linked to chronic kidney disease, which Wilkinson suffers from. Because Wilkinson’s toxicology results were taken four years after he left Kingston, they likely show lower uranium levels than what he and other cleanup workers initially had.

Wilkinson’s results left no doubt in Nichols’ mind that the original uranium readings he’d saved were significant. A reporter for the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Jamie Satterfield, contacted him after the report he saved showed up in court proceedings. Satterfield published a story about the altered uranium readings in May of this year.

In response to her story, TDEC told the News-Sentinel that its updated uranium readings, which plummeted by 98 percent, were due to a change in the sampling method used for the tests. (Satterfield also reported that radium levels had been lowered between the initial TDEC report Nichols downloaded and the updated one; the department attributed this to a “data entry error.”) In an email response to Grist and the Daily Yonder, a TDEC spokesperson elaborated that the sampling lab, which was neither staffed nor supervised by TDEC, “discovered there were interferences in the analysis of soil and ash samples for uranium” and subsequently changed the method of analysis from one EPA-approved protocol to another. The new results were then published without public notice of the alteration.

“Changing lab reports is a very serious thing,” Nichols said. “But I can assure you data entry errors don’t cause a man to test for unusually high levels of uranium. That’s [TDEC’s] big problem.”

Unbeknownst to Nichols, Russell Johnson, the district attorney with jurisdiction over Roane County, where Kingston is located, had informed TDEC’s commissioner in 2017 that he was beginning a criminal probe into the Kingston cleanup. “I am deeply concerned with the apparent intentional conduct of the cleanup contractors and their supervisors, actions that took place in Roane County, conduct that may indeed have caused serious bodily injury or possibly even death to a number of people,” Johnson wrote in a letter to TDEC.

In concert with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Johnson began investigating whether TVA or its contractors “suppressed information” as part of the coverup alleged in the 2013 worker lawsuit against Jacobs. They now have Nichols’ evidence as well. But despite this ongoing investigation, it’s unclear if workers will ever learn for certain whether or not they were exposed to dangerous substances besides the coal ash itself. (Bob Edwards, an assistant district attorney working under Johnson, told Grist and the Daily Yonder that the district attorney’s office could not comment on a pending investigation.)………………….https://grist.org/justice/tva-kingston-coal-ash-spill-nuclear/