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Entries tagged "Nuclear Energy"Page 1 • 2 Next
May 31, 2012 · By Robert Alvarez
Yesterday, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story asserting that cesium-137 from the Fukushima nuclear accident found in Bluefish tuna on the west coast of the U.S. is harmless.
It's not harmless. The Fukushima nuclear accident released about as much cesium-137 as a thermonuclear weapon with the explosive force of 11 million tons of TNT. In the spring of 1954, after the United States exploded nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, the Japanese government had to confiscate about 4 million pounds of contaminated fish.
Radiation from Fukushima spread far and wide. Like American hydrogen bomb testing, the Fukushima nuclear accident deposited cesium-137 over 600,000 square-miles of the Pacific, as well as the Northern Hemisphere and Europe. With a half-life of 30 years, cesium-137 is taken up in the meat of the tuna as if it were potassium, indicating that the metabolism holds on to it.
According to a previously secret 1955 memo from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission regarding concerns of the British government over contaminated tuna, "dissipation of radioactive fall-out in ocean waters is not a gradual spreading out of the activity from the region with the highest concentration to uncontaminated regions, but that in all probability the process results in scattered pockets and streams of higher radioactive materials in the Pacific. We can speculate that tuna which now show radioactivity from ingested materials have been living, in or have passed through, such pockets; or have been feeding on plant and animal life which has been exposed in those areas."
In 2001, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry noted that "...concentrations of cesium within muscle tissue are somewhat higher than the whole-body average. Cesium has been shown to cross the placental barrier of animals..."
There are several reasons why it's not advisable to eat Bluefin tuna:
- Cesium-137 adds to the contaminant risk of harm to humans eating the Bluefin tuna, especially pregnant women and infants, who are the most vulnerable, and will for some time to come.
- Bluefin tuna is an endangered species because of over-fishing and contamination.
- Bluefin tuna accumulate other contaminants such as mercury from sources such as coal-fired power plants.
If NPR had been around in the 1950's, would it also have trivialized the impacts of open-air hydrogen bomb testing?
December 6, 2011 · By Robert Alvarez
The legacy of human suffering from amassing nuclear arsenals remains ignored in the current debate over eliminating these horrific weapons of mass destruction.
Lest we forget, the Energy Employee Illness Compensation Program Act, which I helped draft and push for, was enacted 11 years ago this week. It was based on legislation first proposed by Senator John Glenn (D-Oh) in 1992. "What good is it to protect ourselves with nuclear weapons," Glenn would often ask, "if we poison our people in the process?"
As of 2010, some 50,000 people have received $6.5 billion for illnesses and deaths following exposure to ionizing radiation, beryllium and other toxic substances while making nuclear weapons.
A lot of credit goes to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson who saw the need for justice for sick workers and their families, ostracized in their communities and driven into poverty from a system that spared no expense to fight their claims in the name of national security. Paul Jacobs, an IPS Fellow, was the first to bring the plight of radiation victims of the nuclear arms race to public attention in the 1950s. Later in 1999 and 2000, Joby Warrick at the Washington Post and Pete Eisler at USA Today played prominent roles in waking up the nation and the Congress to this injustice.
This would not have happened where it not for the pioneering research of Harriet Hardy, Alice Stewart, George Kneale, Thomas Mancuso, Gregg Wilkinson, Carl Johnson, Wilhelm Huper, Frank Lundin, Joe Waggoner, Steve Wing, David Richardson, John Gofman, Karl. Z. Morgan and others, some whose research was suppressed until we brought it to light with the help of the White House. Many of these scientists paid a high price for their quest of the truth about the hazards of nuclear weapons production.
This struggle for justice for people deliberately put in harm’s way in order to amass nuclear arms is not over. For instance, residents living near the Hanford site in Washington State, who were exposed to the radioactive detritus of plutonium production remained trapped in a 25-year-old lawsuit with no end in sight. The Energy department spends about $1 million a year to fight these claims. Moreover, thousands of tribal people, who were found by the Centers for Disease Control in 2002 to be the most highly exposed from Hanford’s radioactive discharges are totally ignored.
The pernicious quest for nuclear arms all in the name of a “greater good”-- has tens of thousands of human faces, who paid a bitter price, which we should not forget.
July 7, 2011 · By Matias Ramos
The effects of radiation released from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant continue to be felt, as the U.S. Congress is readying proposals to deal with the storage of spent nuclear fuel in this side of the world.
Back in March, when news broke that the Fukushima nuclear plant had been hit by the earthquake and tsunami catastrophe , IPS senior scholar Robert Alvarez predicted that the effects of radiation would be episodic and occur over time. Now those episodes are presenting themselves, according to Sandhya Jain at the Daily Pioneer:
Two whales caught 650 km away from the melting reactors have shown intense radiation, and plutonium — just one pound evenly distributed to every person on Earth could kill all — has been found dangerously far from the site.
The article also notes that almost three months after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan, workers still do not have access to all the areas needing cleanup. Meanwhile, Richard Black, environmental correspondent at the BBC, recently analyzed the history of nuclear power and found an industry that has created a business model that makes states inheritably connected to all the liabilities, but unable to participate in profit-sharing. In Fukushima, taxpayers will carry almost the entirety of the $100 billion cleanup costs. Black adds:
Accidents as big as Fukushima are, fortunately, very rare.
But even without them, the risk that liabilities will fall on the public purse is higher than for other energy technologies, simply because of the timescale.
That timescale refers to the long time that nuclear waste is bound to outlive any of us. In the U.S. the plan to create a vast national storage site in Yucca Mountain was put aside, but a bipartisan duo in the Senate - made up of Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Landrieu (D-LA) - is looking to pass legislation creating new storage sites for nuclear spent fuel. In this push, however, senators hope to avoid re-creating a situation where one site bears the burden of storing the entire nation’s nuclear waste. Their proposal calls for the Department of Energy to create two storage sites on a temporary basis.
Restarting the conversation is a positive first step, and provides a bit of hope for the bill actually making it to the president’s desk at a time where congressional gridlock has prevented action in many critical issues.
June 6, 2011 · By Joy Zarembka
In 1980, Jack Willis and IPS scholar and filmmaker Saul Landau produced the Emmy award-winning documentary, Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang. This powerful film tells the stories of everyday civilians and servicemen who were deliberately exposed to ultimately lethal doses of radiation during 1950s atomic bomb testing. The film also reveals the U.S. government suppression of the health hazards of low-level radiation. In light of the Fukushima disaster, the film remains tragically relevant today.
The first major expose of radiation human experiments was disclosed in the late 1960s by IPS Fellow Paul Jacobs. The experiments that Paul exposed involved giving deadly "battlefield" doses of radiation to poor, mainly black charity cancer patients by a University of Cincinnati radiologist, Eugene Sanger. The Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Defense had wanted to know how much radiation would render a soldier ineffective.
As I watched Saul’s grainy film, and as I learned about Paul’s important research, I wanted to believe that these tragic experiences of the past had at least helped to protect all of us from the dangers of nuclear radiation.
Yet, the radiation threats that Saul and Paul confirmed more than 30 years ago are echoed alarmingly in the new in-depth report by IPS scholar Bob Alvarez.
In the early 1980s, Bob found Paul's files at IPS as part of his research and, subsequently, produced a detailed report, which was used in a 1984 House Energy and Commerce investigation. Bob is now exposing the ongoing, monumental hazards caused by the unsafe practice of storing spent fuel at nuclear reactors across our nation.
The facts and statistics are alarming: More than 30 million highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel rods are submerged in vulnerable storage pools at reactors all over the United States. If compromised, these fuel rods are so deadly that a motorcyclist blasting past them at 60 mph at a distance of one foot would be killed from the effects of that fleeting radiation exposure. Bob has collaborated with Physicians for Social Responsibility on an interactive map that allows anyone to enter their zip code and assess the danger of a potential nuclear accident in their neighborhood.
The spent fuel pools located at U.S. nuclear reactors house some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity in the world yet they are kept in flimsy, hazardous storage units, ripe for catastrophe in case of a natural disaster or even a prolonged electricity outage. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has failed to secure these stockpiles and life-threatening incidents have already occurred at these pools.
As Saul, Paul, and Bob demonstrate, the U.S. government has consistently failed to inform the public about the extremely high risk of radiation. We will continue to do our utmost to educate the U.S. public until our government gets the message.
May 26, 2011 · By Matias Ramos
Starting this Saturday, Link TV will air the Emmy-winning documentary “Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang.” The film, produced by IPS fellow Saul Landau and Jack Willis in 1979, explores the effects of radiation exposure on different groups of Americans. Paul Jacobs, a former Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a journalist, activist and co-founder of Mother Jones magazine, investigated the results of atomic bomb tests on civilians and soldiers who were unwittingly used as guinea pigs.
Unsafe nuclear practices affected many people. Residents of Utah and Arizona living downwind from the Nevada nuclear test sites of the 1950s, U.S. soldiers exposed to military nuclear blasts, and farmers living around a Colorado plant that produced plutonium triggers all got cancer at elevated rates. Because of his work, Jacobs himself was part of the production and a subject of the film. He believed his cancer, which would claim his life during the making of the documentary, had been caused by his work around exposing the dangers of nuclear power and weapons.
The Institute's current work still shows our commitment to clean and safe energy, evidenced by the new report by Robert Alvarez on the dangerous system of storing spent fuel at nuclear reactors. Clearly, nuclear hazards haven't receded. The nation's reckless approach to storing spent nuclear fuel without essential safeguards threatens us all.
In the film, Jacobs confronted the harm of nuclear exposure and the possibility of his own death. He interviewed many who felt the same pain, but he summarized his relentless passion for progressive work as being part of a legacy of change makers committed to building the world for the next generation:
At the time of Jacobs’ death, his fellow Mother Jones co-founder Adam Hochschild wrote:
“When he discovered he had cancer, he went to war against it with the same energy with which he fought every battle of his life. He saw this disease that had had the chutzpa to invade his body almost as a personal enemy.”
To see the full list of show times for Paul Jacobs, click here.