Archive for the ‘Thorium’ Category

Military operations in Italy left lasting thorium pollution

March 9, 2017

Subject:  Alarming levels of thorium-232 at the military firing range lying between Cordenons, San Quirino, Vivaro and San Giorgio della Richinvelda, in the province of Pordenone http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+E-2014-000031+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

The Italian Army operates a military firing range lying between the districts of Cordenons, San Quirino, Vivaro and San Giorgio della Richinvelda in the province of Pordenone, in the vicinity of the River Cellina and the River Meduna, and the drills carried out at this firing range have led to the area becoming radioactively contaminated.

As has been reported by the press, in late December 2013 the Commander of the 132nd Ariete Armoured Division in Cordenons, the Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Army, the offices of the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the province of Pordenone and the affected districts, the prefect of Pordenone, and lastly Local Health Authority (ASS) No 6, were all sent the results of tests that had been carried out by the Friuli-Venezia Giulia provincial department of the Italian Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA), which showed alarming levels of thorium-232 in the area.

Thorium-232 is a notoriously radioactive metal, which emits particles that are six times more hazardous to human health than those released by depleted uranium. It is at its most toxic between around 20 and 25 years after use. More specifically, out of the eight targets (the shells of armoured tanks used for firing practice) tested by the ARPA, four were found to contain thorium-232 at markedly higher levels than those that generally occur naturally; these levels were therefore unnatural, and presumably attributable to military firing operations.

In all likelihood, such levels are the legacy left behind by the drills carried out at the site in the 1980s and 1990s: between 1986 and 2003, the Italian Army’s units were equipped with ‘Milan’ shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles, which emitted thorium-232(1). The ARPA has indicated that it will shortly carry out more extensive tests in the area. It is recalled that, as a result of the area’s geological make-up, materials tend to trickle down to the lowest layers, which makes their future recovery appear rather difficult.

Consequently, there is an acute risk that the ‘Magredi’ region, and the rocky terrain that makes it so distinctive, will be devastated; what is more, the area is protected as both a site of Community importance and a Special Protection Area within the meaning of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), due to the wide variety of flora and fauna present there(2).

1. Is the Commission aware of this contamination?

2. Can it report whether any similar cases have occurred in the EU, how they were tackled and whether the areas affected were restored to their original state?

3. What initiatives does it intend to implement in order to prevent similar episodes from occurring in the EU, and in particular to prevent the contamination of aquifers?

Dispelling the false story about why thorium nuclear reactors were not developed

February 1, 2017

Thorium Reactors: Fact and Fiction, Skeptoid  These next-generation reactors have attracted a nearly cultish following. Is it justified?   by Brian Dunning  Skeptoid Podcast #555  January 24, 2017

Podcast transcript     “………True or False? Thorium reactors were never commercially developed because they can’t produce bomb material.

This is mostly false, although it’s become one of the most common myths about thorium reactors. There are other very good reasons why uranium-fueled reactors were developed commercially instead of thorium-fueled reactors. If something smells like a conspiracy theory, you’re always wise to take a second, closer look.

When we make weapons-grade Pu239 for nuclear weapons, we use special production reactors designed to burn natural uranium, and only for about three months, to avoid contaminating it with Pu240. Only a very few reactors were ever built that can both do that and generate electricity. The rest of the reactors out there that generate electricity could have been any design that was wanted. So why weren’t thorium reactors designed instead? We did have some test thorium-fueled reactors built and running in the 1960s. The real reason has more to do with the additional complexity, design challenges, and expense of these MSBR (molten salt breeder) reactors.

In 1972, the US Atomic Energy Commission published a report on the state of MSBR reactors. Here’s a snippet of what was found:

A number of factors can be identified which tend to limit further industrial involvement at this time, namely:

  • The existing major industrial and utility commitments to the LWR, HTGR, and LMFBR.
  • The lack of incentive for industrial investment in supplying fuel cycle services, such as those required for solid fuel reactors.
  • The overwhelming manufacturing and operating experience with solid fuel reactors in contrast with the very limited involvement with fluid fueled reactors.
  • The less advanced state of MSBR technology and the lack of demonstrated solutions to the major technical problems associated with the MSBR concept.

In short, the technology was just too complicated, and it never became mature enough.

It is, however, mostly true that, if we’re going to use a commercial reactor to get plutonium for a bomb, recycling spent fuel from a uranium reactor is easier, and you can get proper weapons-grade plutonium this way. It is possible to get reactor-grade plutonium from a thorium reactor that can be made into a bomb — one was successfully tested in 1962 — but it’s a much lower yield bomb and it’s much harder to get the plutonium.

The short answer is that reduced weapons proliferation is not the strongest argument for switching from uranium fuel to thorium fuel for power generation. Neither reactor type is what’s typically designed and used for bomb production. Those already exist, and will continue to provide all the plutonium that governments are ever likely to need for that purpose.

There’s every reason to take fossil fuels completely out of our system; we have such absurdly better options. If you’re like me and want to see this approach be a multi-pronged one, one that major energy companies, smaller community providers, and individual homeowners can all embrace, then advocate for nukes. You don’t need to specify thorium or liquid fuel or breeders; they’re already the wave of the future — a future which, I hope, will be clean, bright, and bountiful.  https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4555

How to counter the ‘Thor-Bores’- refuting pro thorium propaganda

September 13, 2016

Thorium: new and improved nuclear energy? https://www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-energy/thorium-new-and-improved-nuclear-energy

There is quite some – sometimes tiresome – rhetoric of thorium enthusiasts. Let’s call them thor-bores. Their arguments have little merit but they refuse to go away.

Here are some facts:

  • There is no “thorium reactor.” There is a proposal to use thorium as a fuel in various reactor designs including light-water reactors–as well as fast breeder reactors.
  • You still need uranium – or even plutonium – in a reactor using thorium. Thorium is not a fissile material and cannot either start or sustain a chain reaction. Therefore, a reactor using thorium would also need either enriched uranium or plutonium to initiate the chain reaction and sustain it until enough of the thorium has converted to fissile uranium (U-233) to sustain it.
  • Using plutonium sets up proliferation risks. To make a “thorium reactor” work, one must (a) mix the thorium with plutonium that has been stripped of the highly radioactive fission products; (b) use the mixed-oxide thorium-plutonium fuel in a reactor, whereby the plutonium atoms fission and produce power while the thorium atoms absorb neutrons and are turned into uranium-233 (a man-made isotope of uranium that has never existed in nature); (c) strip the fission products from the uranium-233 and mix THAT with thorium in order to continue the “cycle”. In this phase, the U-233 atoms fission and produce power while the thorium atoms absorb neutrons and generate MORE uranium-233. And so the cycle continues, generating more and more fission product wastes.
  • Uranium-233 is also excellent weapons-grade material. Unlike any other type of uranium fuel, uranium-233 is 100 percent enriched from the outset and thus is an excellent weapons-grade material and as effective as plutonium-239 for making nuclear bombs. This makes it very proliferation-prone and a tempting target for theft by criminal and terrorist organizations and for use by national governments in creating nuclear weapons.
  • Proliferation risks are not negated by thorium mixed with U-238. It has been claimed that thorium fuel cycles with reprocessing would be much less of a proliferation risk because the thorium can be mixed with uranium-238. In fact, fissile uranium-233 must first be mixed with non-fissile uranium-238. If the U-238 content is high enough, it is claimed that the mixture cannot be used to  make bombs with out uranium enrichment. However, while more U-238 does dilute the U-233, it also results in the production of more plutonium-239, so the proliferation problem remains.
  • Thorium would trigger a resumption of reprocessing in the US. In most proposed thorium fuel cycles, reprocessing is required to separate out the U-233 for use in fresh fuel. Reprocessing chemically separates plutonium and uranium and creates a large amount of so-called low-level but still highly radioactive liquid, gaseous and solid wastes.
  • Using thorium does not eliminate the problem of long-lived radioactive waste. Fission of thorium creates long-lived fission products including technetium-99 (half-life of over 200,000 years). Without reprocessing, thorium-232 is itself extremely long-lived (half-life of 14 billion years) and its decay products will build up over time in irradiated fuel. Therefore, in addition to all the fission products produced, the irradiated fuel is also quite radiotoxic. Wastes that pose long-term hazards are also produced at the “front end” of the thorium fuel cycle during mining, just as with the uranium fuel cycle.
  • Attempts to develop “thorium reactors” have failed for decades. No commercial “thoriumreactor” exists anywhere in the world. India has been attempting, without success, to develop a thorium breeder fuel cycle for decades. Other countries including the US and Russia have researched the development of thorium fuel for more than half a century without overcoming technical complications.
  • Fabricating “thorium fuel” is dangerous to health.  The process involves the production of U-232 which is extremely radioactive and very dangerous in small quantities. The inhalation of a unit of radioactivity of thorium-232 or thorium-228 produces a far higher dose than the inhalation of uranium containing the same amount of radioactivity. A single particle in the lung would exceed legal radiation standards for the general public.
  • Fabricating “thorium fuel” is expensive. The thorium fuel cycle would be more expensive than the uranium fuel cycle. Using a traditional light-water (once-through) reactor, thorium fuel would need both uranium enrichment (or plutonium separation) and thorium target rod production. Using a breeder reactor makes costly reprocessing necessary.
The bottom line is this.Thorium reactors still produce high-level radioactive waste. They still pose problems and opportunities for the proliferation of nuclear weapons. They still present opportunities for catastrophic accident scenarios–as potential targets of terrorist or military attack, for example. Proponents of thorium reactors argue that all of these risks are somewhat reduced in comparison with the conventional plutonium breeder concept. Whether this is true or not, the fundamental problems associated with nuclear power have by no means been eliminated.

The legal case for thorium affected nuclear workers

September 13, 2016

Once secret documents helping lawyers argue for sick nuclear workers at South Carolina complex Unlike many lawyers, Bob Warren agreed to represent sick workers at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The pay has been low, but Warren has for 13 years handled their cases in hopes of gaining compensation from the federal government. He’s done so, despite battling Parkinson’s disease and financial difficulties.Today, he continues to press their cases from a tiny law office in Black Mountain, N.C.  BY SAMMY FRETWELL sfretwell@thestate.com COLUMBIA, SC , 11 Aug 16, 

Lawyers are using once-classified government documents to argue that potentially thousands of sick nuclear weapons workers and their families should be eligible for federal benefits.

The documents, released late last year, provide evidence that some workers at the Savannah River Site were exposed to thorium after 1972 even though the government said the South Carolina plant no longer had significant quantities of the radioactive material, said Bob Warren, an attorney representing ex-SRS employees.

Warren said the federal records show that SRS had ample amounts of thorium, a metal used in nuclear reactions that can cause cancer. Warren obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information Act from the U.S. Department of Energy after a three-year wait.

“Without this information, we would not be able to go forward,’’ Warren said in an interview with The State. “These documents are pivotal in making the case.’’

In a letter to a government radiation advisory board, Warren asks that more people employed at SRS be compensated for illnesses they contracted while working there.

Warren’s request, to be discussed by the advisory board Wednesday, seeks to expand a federal compensation program by making it easier for people who worked at SRS from 1973-2007 to gain benefits for cancer the site caused.

The federal government has already made it easier for many sick workers employed before 1973 at SRS to receive compensation because of likely exposure to thorium at the site.

Those eligible for benefits could get up to $400,000 each under the federal compensation program. The program, available to sick workers at federal weapons complexes across the country, has been criticized as a bureaucratic maze of rules so tough that many deserving people have been denied benefits. Some ex-workers have died before receiving compensation, according to a McClatchy newspapers investigation last year.

“There is no reason not to expand,’’ Warren’s written comments said, noting that approving his request would make “many more workers and their survivors eligible for benefits from the … program before they die.’’

Warren said if he is successful, several thousand people who worked at SRS from 1973 to 2007 could receive benefits.

SRS is a 310-square mile federal atomic weapons site near Aiken along the Georgia border. It was a cornerstone of the nation’s Cold War nuclear weapons production effort, at times employing more than 10,000 people. Many who worked there were exposed to radiation, and some now say the exposure made them sick.

Federal officials charged with recommending whether to expand the program are expected to challenge Warren’s arguments at Wednesday’s meeting of the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health. But Warren said it’s hard to dispute what he has found in more than 1,300 pages of records that the government released.

The documents, many of which were previously classified, contradict past federal justification for not expanding the compensation program, he said. The records indicate that thorium existed in notable quantities for years at SRS after 1972 – despite government arguments that it did not.

Among the documents are:

▪  Handwritten records from SRS officials showing that more than 8 tons of thorium were stored at the site in 1998.

▪ A 1982 memo from a ranking SRS official showing that thorium was among the radioactive materials the government wanted to discard.

▪  A 1976 inventory report showing about 7 tons of thorium on the site.

In addition, Warren’s comment letter to the advisory board uses the deposition of a top site official to show that the government had no bioassay medical screening program for thorium exposure before 2000.

Thorium is used in the aerospace industry and in nuclear reactions. Breathing thorium dust may cause an increased chance of lung disease as well as lung and pancreatic cancer years after being exposed, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Thorium, which is odorless and tasteless, also has been linked to bone cancer, the agency reports.

The 1,300 pages released by the government now “definitely show thorium shipments to, and in some cases from, SRS after 1972,’’ Warren’s letter says. In the past, federal health officials charged with giving the advisory board information have not provided documentation that would have helped the board recommend expanding the program to cover more recent years, he said.

The Department of Energy had no immediate comment on the thorium issue. It could be months before Warren’s request is resolved……….

Under the federal compensation program, employees sickened by numerous types of cancer at SRS and other federal weapons sites must show that the radiation they received was a significant cause of their illnesses. But the government also can declare entire classes of workers as eligible without requiring each worker to document his or her doses. The class designation can occur when individual dosage records are unavailable to workers.

Bioassy records are unavailable for individual workers to show exposure to thorium, Warren said. So Warren argues that all workers from 1973-2007 should be eligible for compensation. In 2011, he was successful in persuading the government to make workers prior to 1973 eligible for compensation because of thorium exposure.

Warren’s petition is part of a 14-year-effort to obtain compensation for people who say they were sickened by radiation at SRS. An attorney in Black Mountain, N.C., Warren is one of the few lawyers who took on SRS compensation cases, which do not pay attorneys well. He plans to retire soon because of health problems but he works with South Carolina lawyers Warren Johnson and Joshua Fester, who will continue the work.

Nationally, the government has paid more than $12 billion to sick ex-nuclear workers and their families, including those from SRS, McClatchy newspapers reported last year. The energy employees compensation program began in 2001. http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article94448307.html

A critical assessment of the thorium nuclear dream

June 11, 2016

Thorium: new and improved nuclear energy?  https://wiseinternational.org/nuclear-energy/thorium-new-and-improved-nuclear-energy

There is quite some – sometimes tiresome – rhetoric of thorium enthusiasts. Let’s call them thor-bores. Their arguments have little merit but they refuse to go away.

Here are some facts:

  • There is no “thorium reactor.” There is a proposal to use thorium as a fuel in various reactor designs including light-water reactors–as well as fast breeder reactors.
  • You still need uranium – or even plutonium – in a reactor using thorium. Thorium is not a fissile material and cannot either start or sustain a chain reaction. Therefore, a reactor using thorium would also need either enriched uranium or plutonium to initiate the chain reaction and sustain it until enough of the thorium has converted to fissile uranium (U-233) to sustain it.
  • Using plutonium sets up proliferation risks. To make a “thorium reactor” work, one must (a) mix the thorium with plutonium that has been stripped of the highly radioactive fission products; (b) use the mixed-oxide thorium-plutonium fuel in a reactor, whereby the plutonium atoms fission and produce power while the thorium atoms absorb neutrons and are turned into uranium-233 (a man-made isotope of uranium that has never existed in nature); (c) strip the fission products from the uranium-233 and mix THAT with thorium in order to continue the “cycle”. In this phase, the U-233 atoms fission and produce power while the thorium atoms absorb neutrons and generate MORE uranium-233. And so the cycle continues, generating more and more fission product wastes.
  • Uranium-233 is also excellent weapons-grade material. Unlike any other type of uranium fuel, uranium-233 is 100 percent enriched from the outset and thus is an excellent weapons-grade material and as effective as plutonium-239 for making nuclear bombs. This makes it very proliferation-prone and a tempting target for theft by criminal and terrorist organizations and for use by national governments in creating nuclear weapons.
  • Proliferation risks are not negated by thorium mixed with U-238. It has been claimed that thorium fuel cycles with reprocessing would be much less of a proliferation risk because the thorium can be mixed with uranium-238. In fact, fissile uranium-233 must first be mixed with non-fissile uranium-238. If the U-238 content is high enough, it is claimed that the mixture cannot be used to  make bombs with out uranium enrichment. However, while more U-238 does dilute the U-233, it also results in the production of more plutonium-239, so the proliferation problem remains.
  • Thorium would trigger a resumption of reprocessing in the US. In most proposed thorium fuel cycles, reprocessing is required to separate out the U-233 for use in fresh fuel. Reprocessing chemically separates plutonium and uranium and creates a large amount of so-called low-level but still highly radioactive liquid, gaseous and solid wastes.
  • Using thorium does not eliminate the problem of long-lived radioactive waste. Fission of thorium creates long-lived fission products including technetium-99 (half-life of over 200,000 years). Without reprocessing, thorium-232 is itself extremely long-lived (half-life of 14 billion years) and its decay products will build up over time in irradiated fuel. Therefore, in addition to all the fission products produced, the irradiated fuel is also quite radiotoxic. Wastes that pose long-term hazards are also produced at the “front end” of the thorium fuel cycle during mining, just as with the uranium fuel cycle.
  • Attempts to develop “thorium reactors” have failed for decades. No commercial “thoriumreactor” exists anywhere in the world. India has been attempting, without success, to develop a thorium breeder fuel cycle for decades. Other countries including the US and Russia have researched the development of thorium fuel for more than half a century without overcoming technical complications.
  • Fabricating “thorium fuel” is dangerous to health.  The process involves the production of U-232 which is extremely radioactive and very dangerous in small quantities. The inhalation of a unit of radioactivity of thorium-232 or thorium-228 produces a far higher dose than the inhalation of uranium containing the same amount of radioactivity. A single particle in the lung would exceed legal radiation standards for the general public.
  • Fabricating “thorium fuel” is expensive. The thorium fuel cycle would be more expensive than the uranium fuel cycle. Using a traditional light-water (once-through) reactor, thorium fuel would need both uranium enrichment (or plutonium separation) and thorium target rod production. Using a breeder reactor makes costly reprocessing necessary.
The bottom line is this.Thorium reactors still produce high-level radioactive waste. They still pose problems and opportunities for the proliferation of nuclear weapons. They still present opportunities for catastrophic accident scenarios–as potential targets of terrorist or military attack, for example. Proponents of thorium reactors argue that all of these risks are somewhat reduced in comparison with the conventional plutonium breeder concept. Whether this is true or not, the fundamental problems associated with nuclear power have by no means been eliminated.

The false claims of the thorium lobby

March 20, 2016

The mythologies of thorium and uranium, Greenpeace,  by Jan Beránek – 24 March, 2014 Thorium and uranium represent the heaviest naturally occurring elements on Earth. Both were named after ancient gods: Uranus was the principal Greek god of the sky while Thor was the Norse (and broadly Germanic) god of a thunder.

……What are the chances that replacing the Greek god with a Germanic one will help? Would Thor take his powerful hammer and nail it all down? Not likely….

Let’s look more closely at some of the hopeful claims around thorium.

Safer reactors? The risks inherent in nuclear reactors are due to the massive concentrations of radioactive materials and the huge amount of heat they produce (which is actually needed to generate electricity). No matter if the fuel is based on uranium or thorium, if it’s solid or liquid, this characteristic alone will inevitably continue to be the Achilles heel of any nuclear reactor. As you can read in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ briefing on this issue, the truth is that the U.S. Department of Energy concluded in 2009 after a review that “the choice between uranium-based fuel and thorium-based fuel is seen basically as one of preference, with no fundamental difference in addressing the nuclear power issues [of waste management, proliferation risk, safety, security, economics, and sustainability].”

Less nuclear waste? It’s obvious that fission applied to different nuclear fuel results in a different composition of radioactive waste. But it’s still radioactive waste and whether the waste produced by thorium reactors is less problematic (because there’s no plutonium in it) remains a question. Spent thorium fuel still contains long-lived isotopes such as proactinium-231 (with a half-life 32,000 years which is even longer than plutonium Pu-239) which implies the need for long term management in timescales comparable to typical high level waste from uranium reactors. Not surprisingly, a chart published in Nuclear Engineering International magazine in November 2009 shows that the radiotoxicity of spent thorium fuel is actually higher than uranium spent fuel over the long term, ie after first 10,000 years:

graph Torium toxicity

No proliferation? Yes, thorium can’t itself be used to build nuclear weapons but it can’t be used directly as a nuclear fuel either. In fact, it has to be first converted into the fissile uranium isotope, U-233. That’s an isotope that is suitable for nuclear weapons. The US successfully detonated a nuclear bomb containing U-233 in 1955.

Even the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change commissioned a report which concluded in 2012  that the claims by thorium proponents who say that the radioactive chemical element makes it impossible to build a bomb from nuclear waste, leaves less hazardous waste than uranium reactors, and that it runs more efficiently, are “overstated”.

Thorium reactors exist only in blueprints and early experiments, which means there could be other issues not yet detected that would complicate their large scale implementation. In any case, this also means that it would take much longer than a decade before thorium reactors would potentially become available for a larger commercial deployment……. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/the-mythologies-of-thorium-and-uranium/blog/48625/

Thorium nuclear reactors and the USA nuclear weapons laboratory

October 19, 2015

The U.S. government lab behind China’s nuclear power push  HONG KONG |REUTERS  Dec 20, 2013 Scientists in Shanghai are attempting a breakthrough in nuclear energy: reactors powered by thorium, an alternative to uranium.

The project is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a government body with close military ties that coordinates the country’s science-and-technology strategy. The academy has designated thorium as a priority for China’s top laboratories. The program has a budget of $350 million. And it’s being spearheaded by the influential son of a former Chinese president.

But even as China bulks up its military muscle through means ranging from espionage to heavy spending, it is pursuing this aspect of its technology game plan with the blessing – and the help – of the United States. China has enlisted a storied partner for its thorium push: Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The U.S. government institute produced the plutonium used for the Manhattan Project and laid important groundwork for the commercial and military use of nuclear power.

The Tennessee lab, as it happens, helped pioneer thorium reactors. The Pentagon and the energy industry later sidelined this technology in favor of uranium……..

Thorium’s chief allure is that it is a potentially far safer fuel for civilian power plants than is uranium. But the element also has possible military applications as an energy source in naval vessels. A U.S. congressman unsuccessfully sought to push the Pentagon to embrace the technology in 2009, and British naval officers are recommending a design for a thorium-fueled ship.

In a further twist, despite the mounting strategic rivalry with China, there has been little or no protest in the United States over Oak Ridge’s nuclear-energy cooperation with China……..

Although it does not yield byproducts that can be readily used to make weapons, thorium does have military applications.

The fuel could be used to power Chinese navy surface warships, including a planned fleet of aircraft carriers. China’s nuclear submarine fleet has struggled with reactor reliability and safety, according to naval commentators, and thorium could eventually become an alternative.

Top British naval engineers last year proposed a design for a thorium reactor to power warships. Compact thorium power plants could also be used to supply reliable power to military bases and expeditionary forces.

Thorium also has military potential for the United States, experts say……..

St Louis plagued by illness from #thorium and uranium radioactive contamination

July 31, 2015

This week, internationally recognized physician Dr. Helen Caldicott reviewed documents and reports concerning the West Lake landfill. She stated in no uncertain terms that the health records and data clearly show that contaminants have been causing cancers in the affected region at elevated levels.

As the recipient of 21 honorary doctoral degrees for her work on the health consequences of exposure to nuclear material including the disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, Caldicott is one of the world’s most-respected experts on the topic. With regard to the West Lake site, she concluded that ongoing health dangers demand that, “the [West Lake] site needs to be dealt with immediately. It needs to be cleaned-up this year.”

Radioactive site continues to plague St. Louis residents andregion http://www.examiner.com/article/radioactive-site-continues-to-plague-st-louis-residents-and-region, 29 May 15 In North Saint Louis County, Missouri, in the City of Bridgeton, there is a ticking time bomb in the form of several contiguous landfills which contain radioactive waste and all the “daughter products” associated with weapons-grade uranium processing. Most notably, the site in question, the West Lake landfill, has the largest concentration in the nation of one of these highly dangerous daughter products.

In a 2013 report entitled, The West Lake Landfill: A Radioactive Legacy of the Nuclear Arms Race, Robert Alvarez states, “Of significance is the fact that the largest estimated amount of Thorium-230, a long-lived, highly radiotoxic element, is present at West Lake — more than any other U.S. nuclear weapons storage or disposal site.”

Alvarez, Senior Scholar for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C., lays out several imminent risks associated with inaction—1. The landfill has no engineered barriers and its radioactive material is uncontained; 2. It’s located in a densely populated area; and 3. The site is only thousands of feet away from the Missouri River, a source of drinking water for area residents.

To further compound the problem, there is an underground fire in an adjacent landfill smoldering away and could be creeping toward the majority of radioactive material if it hasn’t hit it already. Radioactive substances on fire would liberate some of the material in the form of airborne particulates—a community-wide health problem of nightmarish proportions.

One serious persistent issue is the lack of detailed and accurate records of precisely what has been dumped at the site. A number of private corporations swirl around the narrative with even less accurate depictions of what was moved to West Lake. Despite the lack of official documentation and spotty records from private entities, workers have now begun to come forward with stories of undocumented disposal of hazardous waste products at the site.

Of course, the irresponsible handling of radioactive material is not unique to St. Louis and many of the contaminated sites around the U.S. have similar stories of mishandling and neglect. In the following decades, many workers on these projects suffered horribly as radiation poisoning slowly crept-up on them. But workers are not the only victims of these programs—at these contaminated sites, nearby residents have also been affected.

This week, internationally recognized physician Dr. Helen Caldicott reviewed documents and reports concerning the West Lake landfill. She stated in no uncertain terms that the health records and data clearly show that contaminants have been causing cancers in the affected region at elevated levels.

As the recipient of 21 honorary doctoral degrees for her work on the health consequences of exposure to nuclear material including the disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, Caldicott is one of the world’s most-respected experts on the topic. With regard to the West Lake site, she concluded that ongoing health dangers demand that, “the [West Lake] site needs to be dealt with immediately. It needs to be cleaned-up this year.”

On Friday, Dr. Caldicott spoke with Just Moms STL and agreed to advise on their situation, help broaden awareness of the site’s dangers, and more importantly, coerce Federal action to clean it up and deliver safety to nearby residents and region.

Some History

During the Second World War, the race was on to develop the first working nuclear weapons, and following a letter written by Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt warning of the growing capacity for Nazi Germany to acquire nuclear weapons technology, the Manhattan Project was launched. Its goal was to produce the first A-bomb and to do it before Hitler did. It was a matter of winning the war and some would say the research, uranium refining, and building of America’s first atomic weapons was conducted in a reckless manner. Throughout the early Cold War years, these practices continued on in much the same way.

For security reasons, the Manhattan Project was decentralized with disparate communities across the nation playing very distinct roles. Workers and even managers were totally in the dark about the ultimate purpose of the secret project. In St. Louis, Mallinckrodt Chemical Works was charged with refining the purest uranium ore then available and by 1958 had processed approximately 50,000 tons.

Anti-nuclear stalwart and native St. Louisan, Kay Drey, puts the quantity into terms that local folks can really metabolize: “One fact is that there was enough nuclear waste left over from the processing of the bomb in St. Louis to fill Busch Stadium.”

As mentioned, workers in this space suffered immeasurably and there are many documented cases of cancers and deaths caused by exposure to radioactive material. For example, Caldicott estimates, “between one-fifth and one-half of uranium miners in North America have died and are continuing to die of lung cancer.”

The refining process created thousands of tons of waste which was initially stored at the airport and eventually deposited directly on the ground at the “Latty Avenue” property in Hazelwood, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. Subsequently, portions of this material was sold to Cotter Corporation and 12-18 inches of Latty Avenue top-soil was transported to West Lake landfill under the deceptive rubric “clean-fill.”

This misrepresented dirt was neither clean nor clear as Alvarez explains, “The top soil at the Latty Avenue site contained high levels of long-lived uranium decay products, after, the removal of a reported 39,000 tons of top soil over a wide area were mixed with the remaining wastes disposed at West Lake. Despite this evidence, how much of the other wastes that were sent to the West Lake landfill remains unaddressed.”

The history of who owned the material after Mallinckrodt Chemical Works, and where and when it was transported, is complex and convoluted. But today, after thousands of hours of research by an inspirational group of St. Louis mothers and activists named Just Moms STL, the documents collected have started to fill in the picture. Sadly, what’s been emerging is more harrowing than ever.

The families and children near the West Lake landfill have experienced a host of maladies ranging from nose bleeds and breathing problems to full blown cancer, tumors, and death. Several studies have shown elevated levels of these health complications and in particular certain rare cancers that are idiosyncratic to exposure to daughter products of uranium weapons processing such as Thorium-230 and Radium, etc.

Because of the complexities of ownership over the years and the propensity to not want to face any scenarios—let alone the worst case ones—the West Lake landfill was excluded from clean-up programs that cover and handle the vast majority of U.S. nuclear sites. And the stuff is just sitting there. No concrete structures, no barrels, just sitting there for 40 years leaching into the ground water, the air, the neighbors.

These victims are heroes in the sense that they have suffered due to the war effort and are continuing to suffer. It is a patriotic duty for us to never leave our heroes behind. It would be a victory for us to gather the necessary resolve to face the fact that this material, born of the unparalleled effort by the Greatest Generation to win World War II, is the responsibility of our nation writ large just as much as the Manhattan Project itself. It would be a victory for us as Americans to acknowledge that a price is still being paid by citizens in defense of our nation—and we mustn’t ignore their plight.

In his report, Robert Alvarez’s main recommendation is that, “like other U.S. nuclear weapons legacy sites in the St. Louis, Missouri area, the U.S. Congress should seek to remove these radioactive materials and assure long-term stewardship responsibilities under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Dawn Chapman, one of the lead organizers for Just Moms STL, observed, “These people are dying from ‘friendly fire,’ if you will, and all over St. Louis you have children laying in coffins…those children, in essence, are in many ways not unlike the victims of WWII.”

It’s about time to capture what was left behind and take care of our own.

Uranium & Thorium polluted sites in Missouri have high cancer rates

July 31, 2015

The problem, critics such as McKeel and Kleba said, is that the study’s design diluted the string of infant deaths into regional data, making the amount seem statistically insignificant. Between October 1999 and October 2000, the Riverfront Times reported, seven of the eight deaths were children at Kleba’s church, all of whom lived near Dardenne Creek.

in an unexpected turn, a 2014 Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services study did indeed find higher rates of cancers in ZIP codes near known contaminated sites in St. Louis County, and the state promptly requested help from the Center for Disease Control to conducted further studies in the area.



St. Louis burning: What killed the babies near Weldon Spring?
Aljazeera America by Ryan Schuessler @RyanSchuessler1 April 30, 2015

State health studies did little to ease residents’, activists’ concerns about potential radiation exposure in metro area This is part two of a three-part series investigating the effects of radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project on St. Louis and its suburbs. Part one examined the health problems impacting those who lived near Coldwater Creek.

DARDENNE PRAIRIE, Mo. — On a Saturday afternoon in late February at the Immaculate Conception Parish of Dardenne, a fresh snow was falling on the graves of more than a dozen infant-sized tombstones. The church bells tolled, signaling the beginning of Mass as parishioners walked briskly through the cold.

It was at this Roman Catholic parish where, some 15 years ago, the small congregation’s streak of infant deaths caught the attention of locals and media, both of whom drew connections to the area’s atomic history that left groundwater in the area contaminated with uranium.

But the state of Missouri said nothing was out of the ordinary. health study published by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in 2001 determined that St. Charles County did not have a statistically significant higher rate of infant deaths. The issue largely fell away from the public’s eye, but many are still not satisfied with the answer they got all those years ago, saying the local cluster was diluted into regional statistics — a critique that has become common when it comes to the state’s health studies near St. Louis-area contaminated sites.

“It was never resolved,” said Gerry Kleba, who served as the parish’s priest in 2000 and 2001. In those two years in Dardenne Prairie, Kleba said he buried more infants than he had in his entire run as a priest……

To Kleba, it did not seem like a coincidence that radioactive and chemical waste had seeped into the groundwater near his parish.

In the 1940s, the U.S. military acquired some 17,000 acres of land in St. Charles County, depopulating and demolishing three towns and building an explosives plant that later became a uranium processing plant. The waste was thrown into an old limestone quarry and is known to have contaminated the groundwater, according to U.S. Department of Energy data.

After the site was decommissioned, the 17,000 acres were parceled up — the military retained ownership of some, while some of it became a nature reserve. A few acres even became a high school.

The site was left untouched until 1988, when the Department of Energy began decontamination and cleanup efforts, resulting in nearly 1.5 million cubic yards of waste being stored in a 45-acre, pyramid-like “disposal cell,” now open to the public. Construction of the disposal cell was completed in 2001.

Most of the waste that had been dumped in the quarry — along with the contaminated water in it — was moved to the cell, but groundwater tests show areas are still contaminated……..

“During the course of that investigation[CB1] , it became obvious to me that there was a serious problem related to the impacted groundwater that had uranium in it,” said Daniel McKeel, a retired Washington University pathologist who was involved in investigating contamination-related health effects in St. Charles County in the early 2000s. “It had thorium in it, and that was particularly prevalent at the quarry site which is about six-tenths of a mile from part of where St. Charles County gets its drinking water.”

He added: “There was definite evidence, no doubt about it.”

The Weldon Spring Site remains under the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy, which continues to conduct surface and groundwater tests throughout the area. Some samples at Department of Energy sampling wells continue to test positive for thorium and uranium, in some cases more than 15 times the maximum contamination level for public drinking water set by the EPA.

Thorium and uranium are naturally occurring radioactive metals. Uranium ore was brought from the Belgian Congo to St. Louis during World War Two to be processed in order to develop the first atomic weapons. The waste from that process — forms of thorium and uranium — were discarded throughout the region. Exposure to radioactive materials has been known to cause cancer, among other health effects, including autoimmune diseases, birth defects and infertility.

The site is just over a mile from the well fields that provide the drinking water for the entire county. The water drawn in those wells is routinely tested, but other potential pathways of exposure remained before cleanup began, including stories of young people jumping the fence and swimming in the contaminated quarry.

“I think it’s irresponsible for people to be ignoring this,” Drey said.

Inconclusive state health studies

The state conducted a study in 2001, responding to increased pressure during the string of infant deaths in Dardenne Prairie, but the data showed no statistically significant rates of infant death in the area.

The problem, critics such as McKeel and Kleba said, is that the study’s design diluted the string of infant deaths into regional data, making the amount seem statistically insignificant. Between October 1999 and October 2000, the Riverfront Times reported, seven of the eight deaths were children at Kleba’s church, all of whom lived near Dardenne Creek.

“The further you reach out, the more you dilute [the clusters,]” Kleba said, acknowledging that he is not a trained statistician.

Denise DeGarmo, a political scientist at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, agreed with Kleba. She has analyzed the data used in that study, and came to a similar conclusion.

“I think it was too broad,” DeGarmo said. “I don’t think they were testing in the right way.”

She added: “In my opinion, you don’t need a huge cluster. You shouldn’t have to rely on a huge cluster to investigate these instances. Period.”………. (a long section here on unsatisfactory studies in St Louis)

A change in tune

However, in an unexpected turn, a 2014 Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services study did indeed find higher rates of cancers in ZIP codes near known contaminated sites in St. Louis County, and the state promptly requested help from the Center for Disease Control to conducted further studies in the area.

Wright, Helbling, and others have expressed shock that the state health study still turned up higher rates of cancers, regardless of the exclusion of those who were exposed for many decades before moving out of the area before being diagnosed with cancer, which removes them from the state’s data set.

“In light of public concerns, the extent of past contamination, and the findings of the cancer inquiry, [the Department of Health] believes that the potential public health impacts of radiological contamination at [St. Louis sites] deserve further evaluation,” Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Gail Vasterling wrote in a letter to the CDC.

It appears that the 2014 study has changed the state’s tune on the presence of the waste in St. Louis. A letter the state Department of Natural Resources sent to the Army Corps of Engineers after the study was released described the situation as “urgent.”

“The potential exposure and movement of contaminated materials is of grave concern to the State of Missouri,” the letter said.

The state and county are proposing in-depth studies that would take account of any methodological flaws that have turned up inconclusive results. However, Schanzenbach said such a study would take years and be very expensive.

“How much do we prioritize that [study,] versus, “let’s clean some stuff up?,” Schanzenbach said. “That’s a real conversation that people should be having.”

“I think the extent of the contamination is beyond our ability to imagine it,” said DeGarmo, who has analyzed thousands of pages of documents from the Manhattan Project. “I think it’s much greater than we even have the ability to cognitively think about. The stuff doesn’t stay stable, and nobody was taking care of it. It was sitting out in the open, it leaked into the water, it leaked into the soil, it was blowing around in the wind. If they’re still cleaning it up today, if they’re still remediating and cleaning, and cleaning, and cleaning, it just means they still don’t have a good idea of how far the stuff went.”

She added: “And I think, ultimately, that everyone in St. Louis is in some way exposed.” http://america.aljazeera.com/multimedia/2015/4/st-louis-burning-what-killed-the-babies-near-weldon-spring.html

 

Do not be sucked in by thorium nuclear propaganda

April 28, 2015

Don’t Jump on The Thorium Bandwagon – It’s Not Green, Not Viable, And Not The Answer To Our Energy Problems Prevent Disease.com, Nov 10, 2013 by KELLEY BERGMAN….. thorium still represents a very large threat to the planet whose problems over current nuclear systems exist only in details. It is not eco-friendly by any stretch of the imagination, although it is being promoted as such to nations around the world. It’s not renewable, green or clean and definitely not the answer to the world’s energy crisis as scientists around the world are deceptively claiming.

Due to its extreme density, thorium is being highlighted for its potential to produce tremendous amounts of heat. Many companies have been experimenting with small bits of thorium, creating lasers that heat water, producing steam which can power a mini turbines. According to CEO Charles Stevens from Laser Power Systems (LPS) from Connecticut, USA,, just one gram of the substance yields more energy than 7,396 gallons (28,000 L) of gasoline and 8 grams would power the typical car for a century.

The idea of using thorium is not new. In 2009, Loren Kulesus designed the Cadillac World Thorium Fuel Concept Car.

Dozens of other companies are investing millions and jumping on the thorium bandwagon without any foresight or wisdom into the long-term devasting effects of another nuclear-based problem.

Thorium is now being heavily promoted by the nuclear industry and various lobbies. Its mining is based on exploitation of workers forced to work with bare hands and contamination, sacking and devastation of territories.

What Is Thorium?

Thorium is a radioactive chemical element. It produces a radioactive gas, radon-220, as one of its decay products. Secondary decay products of thorium include radium and actinium. In nature, virtually all thorium is found as thorium-232, which undergoes alpha decay with a half-life of about 14.05 billion years.

As far as nations go, Canada, China, Germany, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States have all experimented with using thorium as a substitute nuclear fuel in nuclear reactors.

Highly Carcinogenic Causing Defomities 

Besides being radioactive, thorium is also a highly carcinogenic heavy metal used in military targeting systems and has been found in honey, milk, and other areas of the food chain where the military has been testing thorium such as Sardinia……

Sardinia is the victim of weapons manufacturers, polluting military activities and a political system that cares about power and money over the health of people and the environment. An epidemic of cancers and birth defects is now evident in this region through their soil, air, food and water contaminated with heavy metals, jet fuel and other poisons.

The nuclear physicist Evandro Lodi Rizzini of Brescia University and CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) found elevated levels of radioactive thorium 232 and cerium (proving that the thorium was man-made) in the tissues of 15 of 18 bodies in the Quirra area of Sardinia where they died of cancer between 1995 and 2000.

On March 24, 2012, prosecutor Domenico Fiordalisi in Lanusei, Sardinia, indicted twenty people on charges of “willful omission of precautions against injury and aggravated disasters or because they falsely certified the absence of pollution with the aim to “hide the environmental disaster.” The documents from Fiordalisi’s investigation have now been turned over to a tribunal for prosecution.

Fiordalisi opened his investigation when he learned the results of cancer research in the Quirra area. In the last 10 years, 65 percent of shepherds were diagnosed with leukemia, lymphomas and autoimmune diseases. He suspected that the materials used in the polygon contaminated soils, pastures, water and air poisoning people, plants and animals as a consequence.

On 8 May 2012, Fiordalisi reported to the Parliamentary Committee of Senators’ Inquiry on DU the results of these investigations led by him. He detailed how chromium, tungsten and thorium and of the extreme danger of the alpha particles generated by this substance.

He explained that thorium is much more harmful than depleted uranium, and that the area of the polygon of Quirra was completly impregnated. This substance has found its way into cheese, worms, mushrooms, sheperds and animals: pigs born with six legs and lambs with a single large eye. He stated that the 1187 milan missles that were launched between 1983 and 1999 which, in the opinion of the nuclear physicist Evandro Lodi Rizzini were responsible for an epidemic of cancers and lymphomas in the military due to the release of radioactive substances.

Dr. Rizzini said, “One micro-gram, that is, one millionth of a gram is sufficient to kill a person. It causes a rise in atomic disintegrations; with a production of 2000 alpha rays a day, nuclear radiation is most damaging.”

The organizations International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons and Mother Earth have good information about depleted uranium.

“With uranium-based nuclear power continuing its decades-long economic collapse, it’s awfully late to be thinking of developing a whole new fuel cycle whose problems differ only in detail from current versions.”
Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, March 2009………….http://preventdisease.com/news/13/111013_Dont-Jump-on-The-Thorium-Bandwagon-Not-Green-Not-Viable-Not-The-Answer.shtml