Archive for the ‘uranium’ Category

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

November 3, 2018

Uranium

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

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

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

enriched uranium in civilian programs);

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

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

of supply to all their transfers;

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

sensitive nuclear technologies;

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

CHAPTER 3: BUILDING AUSTRALIA’S FUTURE 58

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

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

October 9, 2018

“Nuke ‘Em All, and Let Allah Sort It Out”, History News Network   by William Schroder, 1 June 18  

“……….A left over by-product of Cold War weapons building, thousands of tons of Depleted Uranium(DU) – only 60% as powerful as natural uranium and therefore useless to the thermonuclear arms industry – pile up in temporary storage facilities such as Yucca Mountain, Nevada and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington. What to do with it? In the late 1950s, U.S. and U.K. weapons experts discovered a use for at least some of it. Far denser than lead, a DU coating gives conventional rockets, missiles and small arms ammunition extraordinary armor penetrating capability, a definite advantage against Soviet tanks and other “hard targets.” In the 1990s, as the Cold War waned, the U.S. and British arms manufacturers continued to produce DU ordinance. First used in combat in the Gulf War, an estimated250-300 tons of DU ammunition was expended during Operation Desert Storm and many times that in Bosnia, Kosovo and the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.

DU munitions persist despite the fact their use violates the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the 1925 Geneva Poison Gas Protocol. DU also meets the definition of a WMD in US Code Title 50, Chapter 40 Sec. 2302: “The term ‘weapon of mass destruction’ means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of (A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors; (B) a disease organism; or (C) radiation or radioactivity.”

In addition, the UN Commission on Human Rights passed resolutions in 1996 and 1997stating the use of uranium ammunition is not in conformity with existing international Human Rights Law.

Although only 40 percent as radioactive as natural uranium, DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years and places all life forms at risk. As the material decays, alpha, beta and gamma radiation is released into the environment and contaminates the air, water and soil. Laboratory tests on animals show internalized alpha particles do more chromosome damage than 100 times that of an equivalent amount of other radiation. In an article published in the International Journal of Health Services, Dr. Rosalie Bertell wrote during the height of the war in Iraq, “The chief radiological hazard from DU is alpha radiation. In one day, one microgram (one millionth of a gram) of DU can release 107,000 alpha particles, each particle charged with more than four million electron volts of energy – and it only requires 6 to10 electron volts to break a DNA strand in a cell.

In the years following the 1991 Gulf War, tissue analysis reports from a hospital in Basra, Iraq showed a 160 percent increase in uterine cancer among Iraqi civilians, a 143 percent increase in thyroid cancer, a 102 percent increase in breast cancer and an 82 percent increase in leukemia. Doug Weir, the Coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons, quotes Iraqi oncologist, Dr. Jawad Al-Ali: “We have also seen a rise in the presence of double and triple cancers in patients. We know many carcinogenic factors are available in our environment, but the (cancer) rates increased only a few years after the 1991 war, and now after the 2003 conflict, we have started to have another alarming increase.”

While the U.S. is by far the largest user of DU munitions, a score of other countries have DU weapons in their arsenals. Why? Who profits? In the United States, three companies produce uranium enhanced ordinance – Alliant Techsystems of Edina, MinnesotaDay & Zimmermann of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and General Dynamics of Falls Church, Virginia. According to a November 2007 article in theNew Internationalist, “DU is expensive and hazardous to store, so it is produced at a very low cost to arms manufacturers. Arms manufacturer, Alliant Techsystems has produced more than 15 million 30mm PGU-14 shells for the U.S. Air Force and over a million M829 rounds for the U.S. Army. They also produce small caliber rounds (25mm, 30mm) for guns on U.S. aircraft and fighting vehicles… In February 2006, the U.S. Army placed an order for $38 million of M829 rounds, bringing the total order from Alliant Techsystems to $77 million for that fiscal year.”

Despite the huge profit motive behind the manufacture and use of DU ordinance, the movement to ban radioactive weapons grows. The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) has 80 member organizations worldwide and campaigns “for an explicit international treaty that would not only ban uranium weapons but also cover the decontamination of battlefields and rules on compensation for victims.” The European Organization of Military Associations (EUROMIL), consisting of 34 military associations from 22 countries, also calls for a ban. “EUROMIL recognizes that there may be long-term implications for the health of soldiers performing duties in areas where DU weapons were used. To counteract such effects, governments should ensure measures are put into place that guarantee the safety and protection of troops during their missions in areas contaminated as a result of the use of DU. EUROMIL also recognizes that there may be long-term implications for the health of the population in the area where DU weapons were used. Therefore, EUROMIL strongly urges governments to ban the use of DU weapons and to use their influence to appeal to their worldwide partners to abandon the use of these weapons.”

Disseminating nuclear waste among the innocent civilians of the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria is malfeasance of the highest order. For America to hold her reputation as a nation of justice and high moral purpose, it must reverse present policy and take the lead in a worldwide ban on depleted uranium weaponry. https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/169193

The uses of enriched uranium

October 9, 2018

Times 12th May 2018 Uranium is mined and then processed as nuclear fuel for military or civilian purposes. The ore is ground up and chemically treated to yield “yellowcake”, a coarse powder of uranium oxide. Converted into purified fuel rods, it can be used in pressurised heavy water reactors.

For other uses, the uranium oxide is converted into uranium hexafluoride gas so that it can be enriched. The enrichment process increases the percentage of a particular isotope, uranium-235, which makes up 0.7 per cent of natural uranium. The rest is uranium-238. The commonest method of enrichment is isotope separation by gas centrifuge. Centrifuges rotate at high speed, separating the isotopes by weight and sending the heavier uranium-238 to the outside of the cylinder while the lighter 235 collects at the centre.

The slightly enriched stream is extracted and fed into the next centrifuge, where the process is repeated, enriching it further. Most nuclear power reactors use uranium that has been enriched to a composition of between 3 and 5 per cent uranium-235.  Anything up to 20 per cent uranium-235 is called low-enriched uranium. Uranium enriched to between 12 and 19.75 per cent is used in the production of medical isotopes in research reactors.

Uranium enriched above 20 per cent is called highly enriched uranium, while 20 per cent is the lowest theoretical threshold for weapons-grade uranium. Most weapons use uranium that is 90 per cent enriched. The first stages
require more centrifuges due to the volume of uranium. The process gets easier as purity increases, making the leap from low to high-enrichment easier than the leap from natural uranium to low-enriched. Once the 20 per cent threshold is breached, weapons grade is within reach.
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/iran-saudi-arabia-uranium-from-ore-to-weapons-grade-mf0jdqr86

Uranium pollution dispels the grand illusion of “clean America”

April 2, 2018

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

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

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

Uranium tailings pollution in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, Colorado

April 2, 2018

And so, the billions of tons of silt that has accumulated in Lake Mead and Lake Powell serve as archives of sorts. They hold the sedimental records of an era during which people, health, land, and water were all sacrificed in order to obtain the raw material for weapons that are capable of destroying all of humanity.

The 26,000 tons of radioactive waste under Lake Powell http://www.hcn.org/articles/pollution-a-26-000-ton-pile-of-radioactive-waste-lies-under-the-waters-and-silt-of-lake-powellThe West’s uranium boom brought dozens of mills to the banks of the Colorado River — where toxic waste was dumped irresponsibly.

In 1949, the Vanadium Corporation of America built a small mill at the confluence of White Canyon and the Colorado River to process uranium ore from the nearby Happy Jack Mine, located upstream in the White Canyon drainage (and just within the Obama-drawn Bears Ears National Monument boundaries). For the next four years, the mill went through about 20 tons of ore per day, crushing and grinding it up, then treating it with sulfuric acid, tributyl phosphate and other nastiness. One ton of ore yielded about five or six pounds of uranium, meaning that each day some 39,900 pounds of tailings were piled up outside the mill on the banks of the river.

In 1953 the mill was closed, and the tailings were left where they sat, uncovered, as was the practice of the day. Ten years later, water began backing up behind the newly built Glen Canyon Dam; federal officials decided to let the reservoir’s waters inundate the tailings. There they remain today.

If you’re one of the millions of people downstream from Lake Powell who rely on Colorado River water and this worries you, consider this: Those 26,000 tons of tailings likely make up just a fraction of the radioactive material contained in the silt of Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

 During the uranium days of the West, more than a dozen mills — all with processing capacities at least ten times larger than the one at White Canyon — sat on the banks of the Colorado River and its tributaries. Mill locations included Shiprock, New Mexico, and Mexican Hat, Utah, on the San Juan River; Rifle and Grand Junction, Colorado, and Moab on the Colorado; and in Uravan, Colorado, along the San Miguel River, just above its confluence with the Dolores. They did not exactly dispose of their tailings in a responsible way.

At the Durango mill the tailings were piled into a hill-sized mound just a stone’s throw from the Animas River. They weren’t covered or otherwise contained, so when it rained tailings simply washed into the river. Worse, the mill’s liquid waste stream poured directly into the river at a rate of some 340 gallons per minute, or half-a-million gallons per day. It was laced not only with highly toxic chemicals used to leach uranium from the ore and iron-aluminum sludge (a milling byproduct), but also radium-tainted ore solids.

 Radium is a highly radioactive “bone-seeker.” That means that when it’s ingested it makes its way to the skeleton, where it decays into other radioactive daughter elements, including radon, and bombards the surrounding tissue with alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. According to the Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry, exposure leads to “anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, cancer (especially bone cancer), and death.”

It wasn’t any better at any of the other mills. In the early 1950s, researchers from the U.S. Public Health Service sampled Western rivers and found that “the dissolved radium content of river water below uranium mills was increased considerably by waste discharges from the milling operations” and that “radium content of river muds below the uranium mills was 1,000 to 2,000 times natural background concentrations.”

 That was just from daily operations. In 1960, one of the evaporation ponds at the Shiprock mill broke, sending at least 250,000 gallons of highly acidic raffinate, containing high levels of radium and thorium, into the river. None of the relevant officials were notified and individual users continued to drink the water, put it on their crops, and give it to their sheep and cattle. It wasn’t until five days later, after hundreds of dead fish had washed up on the river’s shores for sixty miles downstream, that the public was alerted to the disaster.

Of course, what’s dumped into the river at Shiprock doesn’t stay in Shiprock. It slowly makes its way downstream. In the early 1960s, while Glen Canyon Dam was still being constructed, the Public Health Service folks did extensive sediment sampling in the Colorado River Basin, with a special focus on Lake Mead’s growing bed of silt, which had been piling up at a rate of 175 million tons per year since Hoover Dam started impounding water in 1935. The Lake Mead samples had higher-than-background levels of radium-226. The report concludes:

 “The data have shown, among other things, that Lake Mead has been essentially the final resting place for the radium contaminated sediments of the Basin. With the closure of Glen Canyon Dam upstream, Lake Powell will then become the final resting place for future radium contaminated sediments. The data also show that a small fraction of the contaminated sediment has passed through Lake Mead to be trapped by Lakes Mohave and Havasu.”

And so, the billions of tons of silt that has accumulated in Lake Mead and Lake Powell serve as archives of sorts. They hold the sedimental records of an era during which people, health, land, and water were all sacrificed in order to obtain the raw material for weapons that are capable of destroying all of humanity.

Health effects of uranium mining in India

March 31, 2018
Radiation in uranium mines People working in nuclear power plants face considerable health hazards. http://www.millenniumpost.in/opinion/radiation-in-uranium-mines-264457?utm_source=web-social-share&utm_partner=mpost&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=facebook Arun Mitra |  2 Oct 2017, Nuclear energy is being projected as the panacea for the energy crisis in our country. It is true that we have acute shortage of electricity which is so essential for development. But there has been debate around the globe whether nuclear energy is the answer. There is evidence to prove that It is fraught with dangers right from digging of its ore – the uranium, to its transport to the nuclear power plants, hazards involved in its utilisation in nuclear facilities and lastly its waste management. There have been many accidents worldwide in the nuclear facilities which have been of extremely serious nature. The Three Mile island accident in 1979, the Chernobyl accident in 1986 and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. In India, too, several low-level accidents have occurred but they have gone unreported because there is no transparency in the nuclear energy industry and it is not covered under the RTI act.
A large number of workers are involved at every step of nuclear energy. Since nuclear energy is directly linked to radiations, it is important to examine if the workers or their families living in and around these facilities have any associated health problems. The Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD) had conducted a study on the health status of indigenous people around Jadugoda uranium mines situated in Jharkhand. The study was conducted under the leadership of Dr Shakeel Ur Rahman, who at present the General Secretary of IDPD.
All mining operations have related occupational health and safety hazards. Uranium mines present another hazard to workers and to members of the public. That is a radiation hazard. There are three types of exposure paths in the surrounding of uranium mine. Uranium mining and milling operations produce dust and gas (radon) having radioisotopes that are inhaled by miners and deliver internal radiation.
Through the ingestion of uranium series radioisotopes, transported in surface waters discharged from the mine delivering an internal radiation.  The gamma-ray exposure by approaching tailing ponds or mine-tailings. The population living around the Jadugoda uranium mines was found to be suffering from following health effects:
Congenital Deformities: The investigation showed that babies from mothers, who lived near the uranium mining operation area, suffered a significant increase in congenital deformities. While 4.49 per cent mothers living in the study villages reported that children with congenital deformities were born to them, only 2.49 per cent mothers in reference villages fell under this category. The study when seen in this background reveals that people with disabilities in the study villages are significantly more than the all India average. Moreover, increased number of children in the study villages are dying due to congenital deformities. Out of mothers who have lost their children after birth, 9.25 per cent in the study villages reported congenital deformities as the cause of death of their children as compared to only 1.70 per cent mothers in the reference villages. The result shows that children born to mothers who lived near uranium mining operational area are more likely to die due to congenital deformities.
Primary Sterility: For the study purpose, the criteria of primary sterility were laid down to be a married couple not having conceived for at least three years after the marriage, and not using any method of contraception. The result shows that while 9.60 per cent of couples in study villages have not conceived even after three years of marriage, only 6.27 per cent of couples from reference villages fell under this category. The finding demonstrates that couples living near uranium mining operational area are approximately 1.58 times more vulnerable to primary sterility.
Cancer: On being asked the cause of last death in the household, 2.87 per cent households in the study villages attributed the cause of death to be cancer, whereas, 1.89 per cent households in reference village fell under this category. The study reveals that cancer as a cause of death among people living near uranium mining operational area is significantly high.
Life Expectancy: The study shows that increased numbers of people living near uranium mining operational area are dying before completing 62 years of age. The average life expectancy in the state of Jharkhand is 62 years. The study shows that 68.33 per cent the of deaths in the study villages were happening before attaining 62 years of age, whereas 53.94 per cent deaths were reported in reference villages under this category. The findings are discerning and the difference is significant. Other variables: The study tried to look at a few other health variables as well, like prevalence of spontaneous abortion among married women, stillbirths, and chronic lung diseases. The prevalence of all these health variables was definitely more in the study villages as compared to reference village, but the results were statistically not significant. (Dr. Arun Mitra is a leading ENT specialist based in Ludhiana. He is the Senior Vice-President of Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD) and is presently a member of the core committee of Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Health care in India. Views expressed are personal.)

The Kazakhstan low-enriched uranium bank will not make the world safer

October 30, 2017

Banking on Uranium Makes the World Less Safe https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/08/banking-on-uranium-makes-the-world-less-safe/  There is a curious fallacy that continues to persist among arms control groups rightly concerned with reducing the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. It is that encouraging the use of nuclear energy will achieve this goal.

This illogical notion is enshrined in Article IV of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which rewards signatories who do not yet have nuclear weapons with the “inalienable right” to “develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Now comes the international low-enriched uranium bank, which opened on August 29 in Kazakhstan, to expedite this right. It further reinforces the Article IV doctrine— that the spread of nuclear power will diminish the capability and the desire to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The uranium bank will purchase and store low-enriched uranium, fuel for civilian reactors, ostensibly guaranteeing a ready supply in case of market disruptions. But it is also positioned as a response to the Iran conundrum, a country whose uranium enrichment program cast suspicion over whether its real agenda was to continue enriching its uranium supply to weapons-grade level.

The bank will be run by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose remit is “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy.” Evidently the IAEA has been quite successful in this promotional endeavor since the agency boasts that “dozens of countries today are interested in pursuing nuclear energy.”

A caveat here, borne out by the evidence of nuclear energy’s declining global share of the electricity market, is that far more countries are “interested” than are actually pursuing nuclear energy. The IAEA numbers are more aspiration than reality.

Superficially at least, the bank idea sounds sensible enough. There will be no need to worry that countries considering a nuclear power program might secretly shift to nuclear weapons production. In addition to a proliferation barrier, the bank will serve as a huge cost savings, sparing countries the expense of investing in their own uranium enrichment facilities.

The problem with this premise is that, rather than make the planet safer, it actually adds to the risks we already face. News reports pointed to the bank’s advantages for developing countries. But developing nations would be much better off implementing cheaper, safer renewable energy, far more suited to countries that lack major infrastructure and widespread electrical grid penetration.

Instead, the IAEA will use its uranium bank to provide a financial incentive to poorer countries in good standing with the agency to choose nuclear energy over renewables. For developing countries already struggling with poverty and the effects of climate change, this creates the added risk of a catastrophic nuclear accident, the financial burden of building nuclear power plants in the first place, and of course an unsolved radioactive waste problem.

No country needs nuclear energy. Renewable energy is soaring worldwide, is far cheaper than nuclear, and obviously a whole lot safer. No country has to worry about another’s potential misuse of the sun or wind as a deadly weapon. There is no solar non-proliferation treaty. We should be talking countries out of developing dangerous and expensive nuclear energy, not paving the way for them.

There is zero logic for a country like Saudi Arabia, also mentioned during the uranium bank’s unveiling, to choose nuclear over solar or wind energy. As Senator Markey (D-MA) once unforgettably pointed out: “Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabia of solar.” But the uranium bank could be just the carrot that sunny country needs to abandon renewables in favor of uranium.

This is precisely the problem with the NPT Article IV. Why “reward” non-nuclear weapons countries with dangerous nuclear energy? If they really need electricity, and the UN wants to be helpful, why not support a major investment in renewables? It all goes back to the Bomb, of course, and the Gordian knot of nuclear power and nuclear weapons that the uranium bank just pulled even tighter.

Will the uranium bank be too big to fail? Or will it even be big at all? With nuclear energy in steep decline worldwide, unable to compete with renewables and natural gas; and with major nuclear corporations, including Areva and Westinghouse, going bankrupt, will there even be enough customers?

Clothed in wooly non-proliferation rhetoric, the uranium bank is nothing more than a lupine marketing enterprise to support a struggling nuclear industry desperate to remain relevant as more and more plants close and new construction plans are canceled. The IAEA and its uranium bank just made its prospects a whole lot brighter and a safer future for our planet a whole lot dimmer.

The uranium town that disappeared

October 30, 2017

“Every house. Every tree. Everything was dug up, shredded and buried in a big hole on top of the hill,” Thompson said. Decades and decades of mining left Uravan contaminated with radioactive chemicals and heavy metals. The EPA declared it a superfund site in the 1980s and ordered the mining company, Umetco, to start clearing away the entire town.

You’d never know the empty picnic area was once a community of about 1000 people. Today, you just see the bottom of a crumbling sandstone river valley

she wants to keep having these annual reunion picnics, where the real star of the show is the desert: an actual yellow cake, with yellow frosting and black radioactive signs on top.

Uravan residents may have lost their town, but not their sense of humor.

Uravan: The Uranium Town That Was http://wyomingpublicmedia.org/post/uravan-uranium-town-was,  • SEP 8, 2017 Superfund cleanups are a priority for Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He wants to cut through red tape that has left more than a thousand sites still contaminated with everything from radioactive waste to lead.

He also wants to remove sites that have already been cleaned up from the so-called National Priority List, which has more than 1300 sites. One of those sites is the town of Uravan.

After hours in the dark main room of the Rimrocker Historical Society,  Jane Thompson showed off what put this part of Western Colorado on the map. She turned on a geiger counter, which began wildly clicking due to the radioactive yellow rock in a nearby antique jar.

Thompson also helps spearhead an annual picnic some 15 minutes up the road, as she did last weekend. She calls it a reunion picnic at the site of her hometown of Uravan.

“The things that happened here were very important,” Thompson said.

A few dozen people gathered under trees and canopies in the otherwise hot empty field on that late August day. Uravan, a tiny mining company town, provided uranium for nuclear weapons developed during the Manhattan Project.

“Even though the town is gone, we feel like that the history of those people need(s) to be kept,” she said.

Uravan — it is gone. Not just the mill where those yellow rocks were processed into so-called yellowcake uranium ore; everything is gone.

“Every house. Every tree. Everything was dug up, shredded and buried in a big hole on top of the hill,” Thompson said. Decades and decades of mining left Uravan contaminated with radioactive chemicals and heavy metals. The EPA declared it a superfund site in the 1980s and ordered the mining company, Umetco, to start clearing away the entire town.

You’d never know the empty picnic area was once a community of about 1000 people. Today, you just see the bottom of a crumbling sandstone river valley. Larry Cooper, 91, sat in a camping chair, wearing suspenders and breathing with the help of an oxygen tank.

“I didn’t know it was dangerous,” he said. “I didn’t know it would hurt ya.”

He worked in the mills and mines around Uravan, starting in the 1950s. His health suffered.

“I got cancer. I lost half of my lung on the right side,” he said.

Registered Nurse Joanna Godwin said it’s very common for former Uravan workers. She attended the picnic with a non-profit called Nuclear Care Partners. They provide free health care through the Department of Labor for medical issues that can be traced back to the mining of radioactive materials.

“We’ve had people with skin cancers. Pulmonary things are very prevalent. It’s a whole array of things,” she said, referring to conditions in former Uravan employees.

After two decades of cleanup, the EPA declared the remediation of Uravan wrapped up in 2008. But, this empty-field-that-used-to-be-a-town was never taken off the list. The agency says it needs further investigation and study before giving it a clean bill of health.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently submitted comments to the EPA, saying the agency’s continued work in Uravan is duplicative, costly and causing delay. That seems to be the kind of thing Administrator Pruitt is looking to streamline.

Still, Jane Thompson doesn’t hold out any hope the Uravan site will ever totally be out of the hands of the federal government.

“Well, I think it will remain forever,” she said.

But, she wants to keep having these annual reunion picnics, where the real star of the show is the desert: an actual yellow cake, with yellow frosting and black radioactive signs on top.

Uravan residents may have lost their town, but not their sense of humor.

Depleted Uranium: Toxic Economy of War in Iraq

October 30, 2017

Invisibility and the Toxic Economy of War in Iraq, http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/27076/invisibility-and-the-toxic-economy-of-war-in-iraq by Toby C. JonesIn April 2008 a small US engineering firm—Stafford, Texas-based MKM Engineers—brought to a close almost two decades of toxic cleanup work on a former US military facility just west of Kuwait City. Seventeen years earlier, in July 1991, a defective heating unit on a military vehicle loaded with 155mm artillery shells at Camp Doha caught fire and ignited a devastating inferno. The blaze injured several dozen people and damaged scores of other vehicles, including several highly prized M1A1 tanks.[1]

Thousands of artillery shells cooked in fire, setting off an extended explosive chain reaction. Ricocheting debris and bursting ordinance sent base personnel scurrying for safety in what quickly came to be known as the Doha Dash.[2] The fire also unleashed a toxic plume. Seared metal—the detritus of broken war machines and spent artillery—always leaves a hazardous legacy. But the base was also home to thousands of 120mm anti-tank depleted uranium (DU) artillery shells, weapons forged from the waste of the American nuclear fuel cycle. DU weapons are both radioactive and toxic. Normally, depleted uranium not put to military or other industrial use, is handled and stored as hazardous waste. The American Environmental Protection Agency and the Pentagon today have strict guidelines in place for its handling with both recognizing it as a danger to human and environmental health. At Camp Doha over 600 of the nuclear waste-turned-weapons detonated in the fire, coating the sky with noxious black smoke and dust that drifted for miles.[3]
Although having been informed over many years that DU, particularly its chemical toxicity, constituted a threat to health and environments, the US military limited its effort to address the mess in Kuwait.[4] Damaged machines were quietly returned to the US either to be scrubbed or destroyed. Spent weapons and some contaminated sand were packaged into barrels, many of which were shipped to remote parts of the Kuwaiti desert and buried. Claiming that it had only a minimal legal obligation to address the fallout and commit to the recovery of the environment around the base, the US abandoned the cleanup job only partially completed by the end of 1991.
Halliburton, the giant oil services company, carried out additional work on the site after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. But it was not until 2008 that the area around Camp Doha was fully neutralized and the danger abated by engineers from Texas. Financed by the Kuwaiti military, MKM Engineers oversaw the final excavation of the site, digging up almost 7,000 tons of toxic and irradiated sand. Once unearthed the poisoned sand was loaded aboard the container ship BBC Alabama and shipped thousands of miles away to the Port of Longview, Washington, nestled on Columbia River in the southwestern part of the state. From there, the sand was transported by rail to a private hazardous waste facility outside of Boise, Idaho where it was permanently buried.[5]
The details of the fire at Camp Doha and its toxic legacy—in which the US military forsake its responsibility to ameliorate a toxic site, only to have much of the site itself ultimately transported back to the US for final treatment and disposal, are absurd.
The global movement of hazardous waste remade as weapons in the United States and put to use the Middle East, in this case to be returned as waste years later, is remarkable and disturbing.
Beyond the details of the fire at Camp Doha, though, why does this episode help us think critically and more broadly about economies and political economies of war?
Below I suggest we set aside more conventional ways of thinking about the value of weapons and arms in war economies, particularly the oft-reported details of the monetary value of weapons bought and sold between global powers. (from monetary to exchange) Weapons systems are always also parts of environmental and health economies and ecologies. To think about this in part, I point toward broader visibility and invisibility as well as how we might use the environmental and health impacts of DU weapons’ use — which remain little known and more disturbingly, often deliberately obscured from view—to expand our frame of what a war economy includes and how parts of it are able to function.
It is the furtive character of DU weapons manufacturing, its testing (primarily and secretly in the American southwest), the scale of its use, and ultimately, the nature and impact that result, that makes it simultaneously difficult to investigate, but also so useful for the American military and its clients.
I suggest that the relative invisibility of DU weapons systems is more than just an idiosyncratic footnote to wars in the Middle East more generally. While non-DU weapons have almost certainly killed more people, caused more damage, and profited investors more significantly, the power of smaller systems and their secretive character transcends their relative “market share.” In one way this has to do with broader politics of visibility and war.
Much happens, from profit to pain, out of sight. War and those it benefits carry on much more easily, and perhaps enthusiastically, as a result. Indeed, the invisibility of key aspects of war and its wages create small, but critical access ways for a broader range of private, corporate and political interest to benefit. They also bracket off or diminish suffering of various kinds, including long term environmental and health impacts.
The magnitude of the damage done in Kuwait was relatively small compared to the devastation of war elsewhere, particularly in Kuwait’s northern neighbor Iraq, where the country was ravaged by the long American war there between 1991 and 2011.[6] The small cost of the Camp Doha fire, perhaps around $40million, is minor in comparison to the trillions of dollars of spent on war and damage in Iraq.[7] And while weapons manufacturing and sales, and the routine exchange of billions of dollars in oil revenues for American weapons and military systems, are critical for understanding the importance of the political economy of war in the Middle East—and its global entanglements—depleted uranium weapons, while not insignificant, make up a small fraction of the amount of weapons industry’s profit on wars in the region.
Since the 1970s when depleted uranium waste first began to be fashioned into weapons designed to destroy Soviet tanks, the total number of DU weapons manufactured is unknown. Made in small batches and designed primarily to destroy heavy armor, depleted uranium’s total production likely numbers in the hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds, millions of smaller caliber shells, as well as armor for tanks and other uses. Whatever the actual scale of production over decades, the United States military used DU weapons extensively against military and non-military targets in Iraq between 1991 and 2011—as well as in Afghanistan and Syria.[8] The Pentagon has been unwilling to disclose the full extent of its use of DU weapons, though anecdotal evidence from various media suggests it was widely deployed from Basra to Falluja against human and non-human targets.
The broader context and story around Camp Doha—in which DU weapons were made in places like Concord, Massachusetts, tested in places like Los Alamos, New Mexico, used in Iraq and Kuwait, finally disposed of by a firm from Texas in a global network that passed from the northern Persian Gulf to Idaho—enrolled and touched upon thousands of people, generated an unknown amount of damage and profit, and yet has remained almost entirely unknown. This invisibility is not trivial. Rather, it is productive, arresting the possibility of scrutiny, operating on multiple small levels simultaneously and over time, rendered local rather than caught up in the much broader networks of which it is a part, and almost entirely uncontested because the unseen is unseen.

The making and circulation of weapons, typically easily monetized and measured, are only one way to think through the cost of war and the character of its economies. There is a second dimension to the productive power of toxic invisibility for war-makers as well. Because so much around depleted uranium is deliberately mystified and withheld – a pattern that is at odds with how militaries often conspicuously celebrate the power of their weapons systems—military and political authorities have also been able to deny claims about its most pernicious toxic effects. While all war results in long lasting environmental, infrastructural, and embodied suffering, toxic weapons produce consequences that are particularly devastating and long lasting. Given their molecular qualities and the scientific and medical difficulty in linking particular cases of exposure to illness, and especially because they mete out their violence over years and decades—slow violence—the damage they do often persist well after that last bombs were dropped.

In spite of the Pentagon’s efforts to obscure the scale of the use of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq and elsewhere as well as what amounts to obstruction of investigation into DU’s effects, Iraqi scientists and doctors, often assisted by global observers, have documented some of health and environmental damage done. The environmental and health impact has been significant and generational. In the face of extensive epidemiological and other evidence, the US military, alongside its allies that employ it in battle as well, deny the toxic dangers of DU weapons. Whatever the arguments put forward by other observers that DU’s hazardous effects are yet unproven, and there are many, claims of uncertainty are not driven by science, but by politics.[9] The evidence that DU causes health and environmental calamity is overwhelmingly understood to be true except to those who have an interest in believing otherwise.

Beyond the politically driven quest for scientific certainty around depleted uranium’s impact on Iraqi bodies and environments, much is lost. Because the impact of DU is denied by those with the power to potentially neutralize its effects, toxic DU dust is left suspended in Iraqi food systems, coated along infrastructure, lodged in the organs and bones bodies, passed on through childbirth, and left on scraps of metal destroyed in the war that themselves have become commodities exchanged in the country’s postwar economy. Iraqis in particularly affected areas come into constant contact with it. Their exposures are repeated and routine and, yet, remain unmeasured and untreated. And while experts can deny the linkage or withhold certainty about the connections between militarized toxins and affected communities, significant networks of suffering exist.

Indeed, alongside the weapons and the political economic terms of their production, use, and the veils that shroud them, the need for care in war-ravaged communities are the “other side” of these small parts of war economies. The injured and sick, particularly those who face long struggles as a result of toxic exposures, are also central to making sense of the economy of war.[10] Suffering and care, then, must also be accounted for not as the afterlife of war, but as central to our moral and economic calculations of what it involves in the first place. Like depleted uranium weapons themselves, the scale and cost of care and the struggle over health are too easily unseen and uncounted.[11]


[1] Associated Press, “56 Soldiers Hurt in Kuwait Blast,” New York Times, 12 July 1991, http://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/12/world/56-soldiers-hurt-in-kuwait-blast.html.

[3] Thomas D. Williams, “The Depleted Uranium Threat,” Truthout, 13 August 2008, http://truth-out.org/archive/component/k2/item/79582:the-depleted-uranium-threat.

[4] For one early example such a warning, see Wayne C. Hanson, “Ecological Considerations of Depleted Uranium Munitions,” Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, United States Atomic Energy Commission, June 1974.

[5] Williams, op cit. See also, Snake River Alliance, “Tons of Waste Shipped to Idaho From Kuwait,” http://snakeriveralliance.org/tons-of-waste-shipped-to-idaho-from-kuwait/; Penny Coleman, “How 6,700 Tons of Radioactive Sand from Kuwait Ended up in Idaho,” Alternet, 16 September 2008, https://www.alternet.org/story/98950/how_6%2C700_tons_of_radioactive_sand_from_kuwait_ended_up_in_idaho.

[6] Toby Craig Jones, “America, Oil and War in the Middle East,” Journal of American History 99, no. 1 (June 2012): 208-218, https://academic.oup.com/jah/article-abstract/99/1/208/854761/America-Oil-and-War-in-the-Middle-East?redirectedFrom=fulltext.

[7] Daniel Trotta, “Iraq War Costs more than $2 trillion: Study,” Reuters, 14 March 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-war-anniversary-idUSBRE92D0PG20130314. On the cost of the Camp Doha fire, see http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2007/im_em/GeneralSession/Knudson.pdf.

[8] Samuel Oakford, “The United States Used Depleted Uranium in Syria,” Foreign Policy, 14 February 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/02/14/the-united-states-used-depleted-uranium-in-syria/.

[9] Toby Craig Jones, “Toxic War and the Politics of Uncertainty in Iraq,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 46 no. 4 (October 2014).

[10] See Omar Dewachi, Ungovernable Life: Mandatory Medicine and Statecraft in Iraq (Stanford University Press, 2017).

[11] Omar Dewachi, “The Toxicity of Everyday Survival in Iraq,” Jadaliyya, August 13, 2013. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/13537/the-toxicity-of-everyday-survival-in-iraq

Prolonged slump in uranium prices makes Cameco a poor investment

July 24, 2017

it is highly unlikely that its financial performance will improve drastically, making it an unappealing investment.

Don’t Try to Catch This Falling Knife   https://www.fool.ca/2017/06/01/dont-try-to-catch-this-falling-knife/  Matt Smith | June 1, 2017 The world?s second-largest uranium producer Cameco Corp. (TSX:CCO)(NYSE:CCJ) continues to suffer, posting a first-quarter 2017 net loss which dragged its stock lower; it’s almost 13% down for the year to date. This has attracted the usual bargain hunters who believe that Cameco is now an appealing, undervalued investment but this couldn?t be further from the truth.  

Now what?

Cameco?s woes can be directly attributed to the prolonged slump in uranium which has lasted for longer than a decade; prices fell to a 13-year low late last year. The embattled uranium miner posted a first-quarter adjusted net loss of $29 million. According to some analysts, wind power is now cheaper than nuclear power, while solar and geothermal electricity generation can have lower costs. These forms of power generation don’t produce highly toxic waste or the potential to create catastrophic environmental damage in the event of failure.

For these reasons, it is difficult to see a huge upswing in demand for uranium over coming years, especially with renewables technology advancing at a rapid rate. This means that Cameco may find itself in the position where it is producing a product that is suffering from a terminal decline in demand. Worse yet, uranium prices remain under pressure because of high global inventories and a growing supply which is expected to expand by over 40% to reach 80,383 tonnes by 2020.

Cameco’s woes can be directly attributed to the prolonged slump in uranium which has lasted for longer than a decade; prices fell to a 13-year low late last year. The embattled uranium miner posted a first-quarter adjusted net loss of $29 million, which was 3.5 times greater than the net loss reported for the same quarter in 2016 and that predicted by analysts.

A key reason for the massive net loss was the decision by Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of Japan’s disabled Fukushima nuclear plant, to terminate its contract with Cameco for the supply of 9.3 million pounds of uranium through to 2028. The contract was worth $1.3 billion in revenue.

Nonetheless, Cameco has pitched its hopes on a surge in demand for uranium as the 57 reactors currently under construction across the globe come online. While there won’t be an immediate ramp-up in demandaccording to industry consultants, it will lead to cumulative uncovered requirements for uranium to total around 800 million pounds of the fissile material over the next nine years.

This may be a positive for company that has been battling significant headwinds for some time, but it does not necessarily guarantee a return to profitability.

You see, nuclear power has been falling into disfavour for some time, and this only gained momentum in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011. While nuclear plants do not emit pollutants, there are the serious issues associated with the leakage of radiation and the disposal of fissile waste.

Radiation can have a catastrophic impact on the environment, animals, and humans. High-level nuclear waste such as a spent fuel assembly, according to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, produces 20 times the fatal dose of radiation for humans for 10 years after being removed from a reactor.

This makes the correct handling and storage of this waste essential, costly, and highly onerous.

The Fukushima disaster highlighted just how vulnerable nuclear plants can be to environmental catastrophes, although, fortunately, there was no leakage of fissile material or polluted water in that case.

However, these aren’t the only reasons for the growing unpopularity of nuclear power.

The cost of safer forms of renewable energy continues to fall.

According to some analysts, wind power is now cheaper than nuclear power, while solar and geothermal electricity generation can have lower costs. These forms of power generation don’t produce highly toxic waste or the potential to create catastrophic environmental damage in the event of failure.

For these reasons, it is difficult to see a huge upswing in demand for uranium over coming years, especially with renewables technology advancing at a rapid rate. This means that Cameco may find itself in the position where it is producing a product that is suffering from a terminal decline in demand. Worse yet, uranium prices remain under pressure because of high global inventories and a growing supply which is expected to expand by over 40% to reach 80,383 tonnes by 2020.

So what?

The loss of the Tokyo Electric Power Company contract is a major blow for Cameco, costing it around $1.3 billion in revenue in what is already a difficult operating environment. When considered with the growing unpopularity of nuclear power, the inexorable advance of renewable energy, and growing uranium supplies, it is difficult to see any significant bounce in the price of uranium occurring.

This makes difficult to see Cameco ever returning the halcyon days when uranium traded at US$67 per pound, meaning that it is highly unlikely that its financial performance will improve drastically, making it an unappealing investment.