Act Now to Head Off Nuclear Fireworks

While most of the talk about uranium mining in Virginia focuses on Pittsylvania County in Virginia’s southern piedmont — home to the richest deposit of uranium in North America — don’t forget about the northern piedmont. Madison and Orange counties also contain substantial uranium deposits, although not on the same scale, and could be impacted by any regulatory precedents established for Pittsylvania.

The Charlottesville Daily Progress has taken note of the deposits in a recent editorial, observing that the ratio of benefits to drawbacks will be quite different up north than down in Pittsylvania, where communities are still looking to reinvent their mill-town economies after the devastation of their manufacturing base.

Even in Pittsylvania County, environmental concerns are surfacing. The prospect of mining has drawn the attention of the Southern Environmental Law Council and the editorial writers of the Roanoke Times. Environmental sensitivities are far more acute in the northern piedmont, where players like the Piedmont Environmental Council have demonstrated a grassroots prowess in the battle against Dominion and its high-voltage transmission line that could be more than a match for the out-of-state uranium industry. (Note: The PEC sponsors Bacon’s Rebellion.)

Economic opportunities like this don’t come along very often for South/Central Virginia. The elements exist to build a world-class nuclear power cluster around uranium mining/processing and nuclear services along the U.S. 29 corridor. Such a sector would create economically sustainable, value-added, high-paying jobs for a part of the state that desperately needs it.

If things aren’t handled properly, the environmental debate could trigger a public policy melt-down the likes of which Virginia has never seen before. The warning lights are flashing. The Kaine administration needs to make it a high priority now to bring all of the safety and environmental issues into the open, assemble all parties around the table, and start working on a consensus that will both support the development of a wealth-creating nuclear cluster in Southside and protect the environment from radioactive leakage.

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6 responses to “Act Now to Head Off Nuclear Fireworks”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    For those that are interested;

    A little about Uranium mining…

    And, a little about Oak Ridge, Tn.

    I posted the Oak Ridge link because I thought I remember reading that the building used to process Uranium @ Oak Ridge was once the largest building ever built that was under one roof.

    Anyway, how big would such a facility be if one were to be built in The Commonwealth. And, would the material just be extracted in The Commonwealth and processed at another location or woould both occur here in VA?

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    we got a long, long way to go on this…

    why the sudden need for uranium?

    oh.. they’re gonna build some new nukes – and they’ve got this accelerated early-permit approval process.

    That process … was based on the idea that a standard “cookie-cutter” design would be used so that each plant process would not be a unique design…

    .. guess what happened?

    newer, better, safer, and more cost-effective technologies and designs…… and so the NRC is back to looking at each proposal… a longer.. .. more expensive… and less predictable process (for potential investors).

    I have a bit of a problem with the nukes because they apparently cannot be built without taxpayer subsidies and my view is – if we have to have the subsidies – then why not safer and sustainable wind, solar and other renewables.. combined with smarte meters and peak-hour pricing mechanisms?

    I’m coming to the conclusion that the reason why we favor fossil fuels and nukes is because they are existing status-quo investments – and those investments – have tremendous influence on government legislation and policies.

    In other words, the folks who currently own the process – see change – even necessary change – as fundamentally not in their best financial interests…

    I’m not in favor of arbitrarily requiring renewables (which is not going to survive the current energy bill anyhow)… but I’m also not in favor of subsidizing the nukes… I think it’s not only bad/wrong policy but it’s committing us to 50-100 year “stranded” investments..

    Do we really think that say.. 10 or 20 years from now – that there will not be potentially huge breakthroughs in wind/solar/tides that .. might well render nukes obsolete .. but we can’t close them because investors have their money in the nukes?

    And of course, we know what will happen. Those same Nukes that we had to subsidize in the early years, now taxpayers will have to bail out those investors and “buy back” those obsolete nukes.

    bad karma…

  3. “Even in Pittsylvania County, environmental concerns are surfacing”? Wow…there’s really no need to be so condescending toward the residents of Pittsylvania Co./ Southside. They successfully fought the mining of Cole’s Hill several years ago and they’re going to fight it now. They don’t need the all-out contamination of every facet of their existence in order to “reinvent their mill-town economies”.

    The folks I know in that area can’t match your arrogance but they far surpass your ethics. They don’t want radioactive industries (or kids or food or water) at all. They’re not interested in “the development of a wealth-creating nuclear cluster in Southside”…they’re smart enough to see that as long as humans are handling uranium, uranium cannot be made safe, period. Human error is unavoidable and the consequences of such error would be catastrophic for eons to come.

    I live in KY where a gaseous diffusion plant for refining uranium is located. It was touted as ‘safe’ when it was proposed but it’s been everything but. The human and environmental toll has been extraordinary. Yes, the plant is a major employer and yes, it pays good wages. But to work there the employees must adopt the attitude that while they’re most likely cutting their lives short by several years and risking more years of devastating health problems, they’ll be making good money while they’re able to work. That’s a work ethic many of us have trouble wrapping our heads around. What a choice they have had to make.

    It appears to me that those in Southside who are opposed to the uranium mine are not interested in “reinvent[ing] their mill-town economies” at such a high cost. Your support would go much further than your patronization.

  4. To get the “real” picyure on how Southside residnts feel, go to our Blog:

    WE ARE..Southside Concerned Citizens

  5. greenearth Avatar

    reprinted with permission from
    Poison Fire, Sacred Earth,
    pages 16-20
    And so we have now discovered yet a third category of documented and scientifically accepted harmful effects of radiation and that is mental retardation in children who were irradiated while still in the womb. . . .
    When we extract uranium from the ground, we dig up the rock, we crush it and we leave behind this finely pulverized material — it’s like flour. In Canada we have 200 million tons of this radioactive waste, called uranium tailings. As Marie Curie observed, 85 percent of the radioactivity in the ore remains behind in that crushed rock. How long will it be there? . . . . Well, it turns out that the effective half-life of this radioactivity is 80,000 years. That means in 80,000 years there will be half as much radioactivity in these tailings as there is today.
    You know, that dwarfs the entire prehistory of the Salzburg region which goes way back to ancient, ancient times. Even archaeological remains date back no further than 80,000 years. We don’t have any records of human existence going back that far. That’s the half-life of this material.
    And as these tailings are left on the surface of the earth, they are blown by the wind, they are washed by the rain into the water systems, and they inevitably spread. Once the mining companies close down, who is going to look after this material forever? How does anyone, in fact, guard 200 million tons of radioactive sand safely forever, and keep it out of the environment?
    In addition, as the tailings are sitting there on the surface, they are continually generating radon gas. Radon is about eight times heavier than air, so it stays close to the ground. It’ll travel 1,000 miles in just a few days in a light breeze. And as it drifts along, it deposits on the vegetation below the radon daughters, which are the radioactive byproducts that I told you about, including polonium. So that you actually get radon daughters in animals, fish and plants thousands of miles away from where the uranium mining is done. It’s a mechanism for pumping radioactivity into the environment for millennia to come, and this is one of the hidden dangers.
    All uranium ends up as either nuclear weapons or highly radioactive waste from nuclear reactors. That’s the destiny of all the uranium that’s mined. And in the process of mining the uranium we liberate these naturally occurring radioactive substances, which are among the most harmful materials known to science.
    SEE ALSO: Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (Dr. Edwards is CCNR’s President)
    There is a VAST WEALTH of information here. Hightly Recommended!!!
    See a subset of link pointers at Recommended Reading
    NOTE: the following is Dr. Edwards corrections to the transcript of his talk
    (forwarded to the ratitor), which never made it into print.
    Known Facts and Hidden Dangers

    invited address by Dr. Gordon Edwards
    September 14, 1992
    Dr. Gordon Edwards, Quebec, Canada. Mathematician.

    Decay Products
    Radon Daughters
    Nuclear Fission
    Fission Products
    Health Effects of Radioactive Materials
    Uranium Tailings

    What do we know about uranium? Well, uranium is the heaviest naturally occurring element on earth. It is a metal, like all other metals, except that it had no commercial value before the mid-twentieth century. Until the last fifty years it was produced only as a byproduct. Thus the entire history of the mining of uranium has taken place during my lifetime. Moreover, a great deal of it has occurred in my homeland, Canada, which was the first country to produce and process uranium as such.
    The first uranium processed by Canada was used to produce nuclear explosives for the atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Indeed, the beginning of the nuclear weapons program marked the beginning of the uranium industry. By 1956, uranium had become the fourth most important export from Canada, after pulp, lumber and wheat; and every ounce of it was used to produce A-bombs and H-bombs for the American — and, to a lesser extent, the British — nuclear weapons programs. It was the only use uranium had at that time.
    Today, Canada remains the world’s largest producer and exporter of uranium, ostensibly for peaceful purposes; that is, as fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. Canada is also one of the very few countries in the world in which uranium mining is currently expanding. In the province of Saskatchewan, there are environmental assessment hearings going on now, this year, having to do with the potential opening of five new uranium mines. This, despite the fact that the price of uranium is lower today than it has ever been. The price has been falling steadily for more than fifteen years, and is now at an all-time low.
    I hope that those attending this conference will write to the Prime Minister of Canada (c/o House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1A 0A6) and to the Premier of Saskatchewan (c/o Saskatchewan Legislature, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada) asking them not to continue the expansion of this industry. Why? Because uranium is the deadliest metal on earth. As you will see, the scientific evidence fully bears out this conclusion. I would now like to explain why.
    Both the commercial value and the dangers of uranium are based on two extra-ordinary characteristics which it possesses. First of all, uranium is radioactive. Secondly, uranium is fissionable. These are two quite different properties, however, and they should not be confused.
    The phenomenon of radioactivity was accidentally discovered in 1896 when Henri Becquerel put a rock in a drawer. The rock contained uranium, and the drawer contained a photographic plate, which was well-wrapped and shielded from the light. Some weeks later, when Becquerel unwrapped and developed the plate, he found rays of light on the photograph emanating exactly from the point of contact where the rock had been resting on it. Being a scientist, he was astounded. He could think of no possible way in which an inert rock could spontaneously be releasing energy — especially such a penetrating form of energy. Moreover, the energy release had taken place in total darkness, in the absence of any external stimulation — there was no chemical reaction, no exposure to sunlight, nor anything else. Becquerel had discovered radioactivity.
    Marie Curie decided to pursue the mystery further. She got some uranium ore from the Erz mountains, not very far from here. She chemically separated the uranium from the rest of the crushed rock (she had to crush the rock and dissolve it in acid to get the uranium out, which is what we still do today in mining uranium) and she found that even after the uranium had been removed, the crushed rock remained very radioactive — much more so than the uranium itself. Here was a mystery indeed. Why is it that eighty-five percent of the radioactivity stays behind in the crushed rock?
    Starting with many tons of rock, Madame Curie proceeded to separate out all the chemical elements she knew. It was painstaking work. Finally she was left with a small beaker of concentrated, highly radioactive liquid. By evaporating the water, she felt sure she would discover whatever was causing this intense radioactivity. But when the liquid was evaporated, the beaker was, apparently, completely empty. She was deeply disappointed. She couldn’t fathom what had gone wrong. But when she returned to the laboratory late at night, she found the beaker glowing brightly in the dark, and she realized that it wasn’t empty after all. In this way, Marie Curie discovered two new elements: radium and polonium. We now know these are inevitable byproducts of uranium.
    By 1906, all the basic facts of radioactivity were known, except for the central mystery as to “why”; this we do not understand. Indeed, science doesn’t really understand why anything is the way it is. All science can do is describe how things behave. Science tells us, for example, that all material things are made up of tiny atoms. The atoms found in most substances are remarkably stable, but in the case of radioactive materials, the atoms are unstable.
    Consider the water in this glass. It is made up of stable atoms. Pure water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and these atoms are, as far as science can determine, eternal and unchangeable. The very same atoms of hydrogen and oxygen that are in this glass of water were around, in some other combinations, in the days of the dinosaurs.
    But radioactive substances have unstable atoms which can and will explode microscopically, and when they do, they give off a burst of energy. This process is called “radioactive disintegration” or “radioactive decay”. When radioactive atoms explode, they give off highly energetic charged particles of two types: alpha and beta. These are particles, they’re not invisible rays. They are like pieces of shrapnel from an explosion. And this microscopic shrapnel does great damage because of the high energy of the particles which are given off.
    Decay Products
    When a radioactive atom explodes, that atom is changed permanently into a new substance. And radium turns out to be one of the results of exploding uranium atoms. So wherever you find uranium on the earth, you will always find radium with it because it is one of about a dozen so-called “decay products” of uranium.
    To be more precise, when uranium disintegrates it turns into a substance called protactinium, which is also radioactive. And when that disintegrates it turns into a substance named thorium, which is likewise radioactive. When thorium disintegrates it turns into radium; when radium disintegrates it turns into radon gas. And when radon gas atoms disintegrate, they turn into what are called the “radon daughters”, or “radon progeny”, of which there are about half a dozen radioactive materials, including polonium.
    Finally, in this progression, you end up with a stable substance, which in itself is highly toxic: lead. But because the radioactivity of the other materials is so much more dangerous than this toxic heavy metal, people don’t even talk about the lead at the end of the chain. They think that once all the radioactivity is gone, what’s left is perfectly safe. It isn’t — but the lead that remains is just a whole lot less dangerous than the radioactive materials that produced it.
    So all the radioactive decay products of uranium remain in the crushed rock when uranium is separated from the ore. That’s why Marie Curie found most of the radioactivity left behind in the residues, including all the radium and all the polonium.
    Well, how did the story of uranium progress? Because uranium was less radioactive than its daughter products, it was not valued commercially. But radium was. And radium began to be used principally for two purposes. One was to burn cancerous growths. I should tell you that both Henri Becquerel and Marie Curie suffered grievous burns which were very difficult to heal and which left permanent scars just as a result of handling radium. Other scientists got the idea that if they embedded a needle containing radium inside a cancerous tumor, it would burn the cancer — and indeed it did. That was the beginning of cancer therapy using radiation, wherein the harmful effects of atomic radiation are directed against cancerous cells instead of healthy cells. Of course, atomic radiation does similar damage to healthy cells.
    Now, the other main use for radium was as a luminous paint, because of the glow-in-the-dark phenomenon that Marie Curie had observed. Believe it or not, the price of uranium in the 1920s was $100,000 a gram — and this is using dollars of the twenties! It was a very expensive commodity, but only very little was needed for any given purpose. Some of it was used to make luminous paint, with which they would paint dials so they could be read even in the dark.
    Now the young women who painted these things began to get sick. This was first reported by an American dentist called Blum, who said that he had some very young women — 19 years old, 18 years old, 20 years old — coming into his dentistry office. Their teeth were falling out, their gums were badly infected and bleeding profusely, they were anemic, their bones were soft, and in some cases their jawbones had spontaneously fractured. Some of them died of severe anemia.
    The only thing these women had in common was that they worked in a radium dial painting factory in New Jersey. Blum called this phenomenon “radium jaw”. A few years later, the women who had recovered from these symptoms started developing problems in the rest of their skeleton. They suffered weakening of the bone, spontaneous fractures of the hip and of other bones, and growths — tumors, some of which were cancerous — in the bones themselves. Now, bone cancer is such an exceedingly rare disease, that there was little doubt that this cancer was caused by exposure to radium.
    It was discovered that simply by wetting the tip of the brush in order to get a nice clean figure on the dials, these women were ingesting minute quantities of radium. And that was sufficient to cause all these symptoms. When autopsies were performed on the corpses of these women, doctors discovered that in their entire skeleton there were only a few micrograms of radium. This quantity was so small, that no conventional chemical analysis could detect it. Nevertheless, this tiny amount of radium had distributed itself so thoroughly through their skeleton, that you could take a picture of any one of their bones just by laying it on a photographic plate in a dark room, It is called an auto-radiograph — that is, an x-ray picture with no x-ray machine.
    So this was our first introduction to the harmful effects of even minute quantities of such substances. By the way, many of the women who survived this phase of the assault later on developed cancers of the head — cancer of the sinuses, cancer of the soft palate, and other types of head cancers. We now know how these were caused. Remember, radium is radioactive — even inside the body. As I told you earlier, when radium atoms disintegrate, they turn into radon gas. So radon gas was being produced inside the bodies of these women. In fact, one test for radium contamination is to check a person’s exhaled breath and see if it has radon gas in it; if it does, that person must have radium in his or her body. In the case of the radium dial painters, the radon gas was being produced in the bones, dissolved in the blood, and pumped by the heart up to the head where it collected in the sinus and other cavities. And there it was irradiating the delicate living tissues and causing head cancers.
    Now, it so happens that for hundreds of years, going back to the 15th century, there had been reports that miners working in the Erz mountains had been dying at a tremendous rate from some unknown lung diseases. We’re talking here about 75 percent mortality in some cases. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the principal disease was diagnosed and found to be lung cancer. At that time, lung cancer was virtually unknown among the surrounding population; yet these miners were experiencing in some cases up to 50 percent lung cancer mortality. The other lung ailments were not lung cancer, but other types of debilitating lung damage.
    By the 1930s it had been established that this epidemic of lung cancer and other lung diseases was caused by breathing radioactive materials in the atmosphere of the mine. In animal experiments, radon gas was identified as the main killer.
    Uranium finally acquired commercial value in 1942, when we discovered that we could make atomic bombs with it. Only then did we start mining uranium for itself and not as a byproduct of something else. A few years earlier, in 1938, it was discovered that uranium is not only radioactive, it is also fissionable, which makes it unique among all naturally occurring radioactive materials. When uranium atoms undergo the fission process, large amounts of energy are released. Unlike the process of radioactive decay, which cannot be turned on and off, nuclear fission can be controlled. The energy release caused by fission can be speeded up, slowed down, started or stopped. It can be used to destroy cities in the form of nuclear weapons, or to boil water inside a nuclear reactor.
    Suddenly, uranium was in demand. We sent miners into the mines in North America at a permissible level of radiation exposure which was comparable to the levels that those miners in the Erz mountains had been getting back in the 19th century. And of course, the results were entirely predictable: an epidemic of lung cancer and other lung diseases. One has to ask therefore: Why were these consequences not predicted and prevented?
    Radon Daughters
    The answer is, in part, that the scientists refused to believe that such a small amount of radon gas could cause such a huge increase in cancer. As it turns out, the scientists were wrong. One of the basic things they overlooked, is that if you take a sample of radon gas — right now, if I filled a tube with radon gas in front of your eyes, and measured the radiation in that tube — within three hours, the level of radioactivity would increase by a factor of about five. Why?
    As the radon atoms disintegrate, they produce other radioactive substances. And so, in fact, you have a multiplication of new radioactive materials which weren’t there to begin with. This is one of the things the scientists overlooked. So that when the miners go into a mine where the radon has been collecting for several hours, it’s five times as radioactive as radon in the laboratory. And those other substances — the radon daughters — are extremely dangerous. The worst of the radon daughters, by the way, is a substance called polonium — the same polonium that Marie Curie discovered so many years ago. Recent scientific evidence shows that polonium is, in many circumstances, at least as toxic as plutonium, and in some cases more toxic.
    Nuclear Fission
    Now, what is that property that made uranium commercially valuable? It’s called fissionability. More precisely, uranium is called a “fissile” material. Let me explain what that means.
    Yes, uranium atoms are radioactive, and so they will disintegrate if you just leave them alone; but what happens if you poke them? What happens if you bombard uranium atoms with tiny particles called neutrons? It turns out that in that case, you can force a much more violent disintegration of the atom, which is called fission. When fission occurs, the uranium atom doesn’t just disintegrate, it actually breaks apart into two or three large chunks. In the process it gives off some extra neutrons, and it also gives off about 400 times as much energy as is produced by a radioactive disintegration event.
    Now, the fact that fission is triggered by a neutron makes it quite different from normal radioactivity. Radioactivity is not triggered, and therefore science does not know how to control it. We have no mechanism for speeding up, slowing down, starting or stopping radioactivity. That’s why radioactive wastes are such a problem. But with fission, we can start it, stop it, and control it, just by maintaining control over the extra neutrons that are produced at each stage. Starting with just one neutron, we can split one uranium atom, and the extra neutrons can go on to split two more uranium atoms, giving even more neutrons which can then split four atoms, which can then split eight atoms, and so on. In this way, forty quintillion uranium atoms can be split with only sixty generations of splittings, all triggered by a single neutron. [A quintillion is a billion billion, or a million million million.] This whole “chain reaction”, as it is called, takes place in less than a thousandth of a second. That is really what constitutes the atomic bomb.
    Fission Products
    You may now realize that all of the radioactive materials which escape from an atomic bomb when it explodes, are basically the broken bits of uranium atoms. These are new radioactive materials, called “fission products”, which are created by the splitting of uranium atoms. There are hundreds of them. They all have different names, and different chemical and biologically properties. Most of them did not exist in nature before the advent of nuclear technology.
    You see, uranium travels in many disguises. In every sample of uranium ore, one finds radium — but radium is, in a certain sense, just a transformation of uranium. Speaking loosely, one could say that it is a disguised form of uranium. It is just one of the many elements in the chain of decay. Similarly with polonium. Similarly with radon gas. These are all just different manifestations of uranium, so to speak, resulting from radioactive decay.
    And similarly with the fallout from atomic bombs; all those radioactive materials which are released by nuclear explosions — such as iodine-131, strontium-90, cesium-137, krypton-85, and all the rest — they are all broken bits of uranium atoms. They are additional disguises for uranium, resulting from nuclear fission.
    The radioactive poisons that were released from the Chernobyl reactor are also broken bits of uranium atoms. Incidentally, 80 percent of the total radiation dose delivered by the Chernobyl accident worldwide was caused by the escape of just a couple of kilograms of radioactive materials from the damaged nuclear plant. It doesn’t take much…. To this day, the sheep in Wales are unsuitable for human consumption because of contamination by one particular by-product of the Chernobyl accident called cesium-137. But every atom of cesium-137 from Chernobyl started out as an atom of uranium.
    These radioactive materials, which are called fission products — the ones in the bomb fallout and which in nuclear reactors — should not be confused with the other radioactive materials I told you about earlier, which are the decay products of uranium. The decay products of uranium are due to radioactive disintegration. They are about two dozen in number, and they occur in nature because uranium does. When you talk about fission products, however, you are dealing with completely different substances. They are created only inside nuclear weapons or nuclear reactors. They are the leftover pieces of uranium atoms which have been violently broken apart by the fission process. There are over 300 of them altogether, when you consider that — being radioactive — each of the fission products also has its own decay products!
    Health Effects of Radioactive Materials
    And so this one material, uranium, is responsible for introducing into the human environment a tremendously large range of radioactive materials which are all very inimical to biological organisms. These are not invisible rays, they are materials. They get into our water, our food, and the air we breathe. They’re exactly like other materials except for the fact that they’re radioactive.
    Take, for instance, radioactive iodine. It behaves just like ordinary iodine, which is not radioactive. Why is there iodine in our table salt? Well, it’s one of the few examples of preventative medicine we have. The iodine, when it’s eaten in the table salt, goes to the thyroid gland, and there it helps to prevent a disease of the thyroid gland called “goiter”. Radioactive iodine does exactly the same thing. If a child or an adult gets radioactive iodine in the diet, the radioactive iodine goes to the thyroid too, and it also helps to prevent goiter. But while it’s there, the atoms explode, and the shrapnel rips through the cells of the body, and in the process breaks thousands of chemical bonds randomly.
    It’s like throwing a grenade into a computer. The probability of getting an improvement in a computer by throwing a grenade into it is very small, and similarly with radiation events and human cells. Now, the cells that die are really no problem, as long as not too many of them die. They can be replaced. The ones that are particularly dangerous are the ones that survive. Those damaged cells can develop into cancers. You can also have damage to germ cells — eggs and sperm — leading to genetically damaged children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.
    As Alice Stewart mentioned in her talk, there are two categories of human illness that everyone agrees can be caused by exposure to atomic radiation even at very low levels. They are (1) cancers of all kinds, and also (2) genetic mutations — which can be caused right down to the lowest levels of radiation exposure. Most scientists believe that these harmful effects are linearly related to the dose, so that if the dose is doubled, the number of cancers and genetic defects will also be doubled, and if the dose is cut in half, only half as many cancers and genetic defects will be seen. It is important to realize that if a damaging dose is spread out among a very large population, so that each individual receives only a very small portion of the total dose, the number of cancers and genetic defects is in no way diminished. Thus, in the case of radioactive pollution, dilution is no solution at all.
    However, there is one other effect of radiation at low levels which wasn’t mentioned in the previous talk, and I would like to just mention it here. It has now been confirmed by the scientific community — only in recent years, by the way — that mental retardation is caused by radiation exposure in the womb. This type of biological damage also seems to be linear, that is, proportional to dose, right down to the lowest levels of exposure. There doesn’t seem to be any cut-off point. And so we have now discovered yet a third category of documented and scientifically accepted harmful effects of radiation and that is mental retardation in children who were irradiated while still in the womb.
    Uranium Tailings
    Now, if I could just wrap up, I have to tell you something extremely important. The title of my talk was “Known facts and hidden dangers”. I’ve told you a bit about the known facts. Now for at least one of the hidden dangers.
    When we extract uranium from the ground, we dig up the rock, we crush it and we leave behind this finely pulverized material — it’s like flour. In Canada we have 200 million tons of this radioactive waste, called uranium tailings. As Marie Curie observed, 85 percent of the radioactivity in the ore remains behind in that crushed rock. How long will it be there? Well, it turns out that the effective half-life of this radioactivity is 80,000 years. That means in 80,000 years there will be half as much radioactivity in these tailings as there is today.
    You know, that dwarfs the entire prehistory of the Salzburg region which goes way back to ancient, ancient times. Even archaeological remains date back no further than 80,000 years. We don’t have any records of human existence going back that far. That’s the half-life of this material.
    And as these tailings are left on the surface of the earth, they are blown by the wind, they are washed by the rain into the water systems, and they inevitably spread. Once the mining companies close down, who is going to look after this material forever? How does anyone, in fact, guard 200 million tons of radioactive sand safely forever, and keep it out of the environment?
    In addition, as the tailings are sitting there on the surface, they are continually generating radon gas. Radon is about eight times heavier than air, so it stays close to the ground. It’ll travel 1,000 miles in just a few days in a light breeze. And as it drifts along, it deposits on the vegetation below the radon daughters, which are the radioactive byproducts that I told you about, including polonium. So that you actually get radon daughters in animals, fish and plants thousands of miles away from where the uranium mining is done. It’s a mechanism for pumping radioactivity into the environment for millennia to come, and this is one of the hidden dangers.
    All uranium ends up as either nuclear weapons or highly radioactive waste from nuclear reactors. That’s the destiny of all the uranium that’s mined. And in the process of mining the uranium we liberate these naturally occurring radioactive substances, which are among the most harmful materials known to science. Couple this with the thought that nuclear technology never was a solution to any human problem. Nuclear weapons do not bring about a sane world, and nuclear power is not a viable answer to our energy problems. We don’t even need it for electricity. All you need for conventional electricity generation is to spin a wheel, and there’s many ways of doing it: water power, wind power, geothermal power, etc. In addition, there are other methods for producing electricity directly: solar photovoltaics, fuel cells, and so on. What we have here, in the case of nuclear power, from the very beginning, is a technology in search of an application.
    So, I think that we as a human community have to come to grips with this problem and say to ourselves and to others that enough is enough. We do not want to permanently increase our radiation levels on this planet. We have enough problems already.

    Thank you.
    Gordon Edwards, Ph.D.,
    mathematician — consultant — activist and president
    Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility
    c.p. 236, Station Snowdon, Montreal QC, H3X 3T4 Canada
    internet: e-mail:
    phone/fax: (514) 489 5118

  6. greenearth Avatar

    Nukes Kill; Here’s How
    16 Dirty Secrets About Nuclear Power
    1) Isn’t France almost entirely dependent on nuclear power?
    Sure, they have something between 70% and 80% nuke-generated electricity (the exact figure depends on who you ask). It’s not particularly cheap for the French, by the way, and that should tell you something. But more to the point; could they have gone with renewables and still achieved their electricity goals (and their rates would now be vastly cheaper)? Certainly!
    From (ocean) wave power off the coast of Brittany to in-stream and small-scale hydro in the French Alps and the Pyrenees (and five other mountain regions in France), and bio-fuels, sunshine, and wind everywhere, and lousy conservation standards to begin with, there is no question France could get along without nukes entirely, as could anyone else. France has used extraordinary measures to stop the anti-nuclear viewpoint from being heard. And one more point: AREVA, France’s nuke power company, is even more secretive than our nuke mega-corporations, and their nukes have had serious problems which could have, with a little different luck, resulted in meltdowns. And AREVA buys up wind power and other clean energy companies all over the world, yet remain focused on nuclear!
    2) Don’t nuclear submarines prove the technology works?
    Even if every nuclear submarine worked perfectly (they don’t), the spent fuel from nuclear subs and other military nuclear vessels adds about 30% to the world’s nuclear waste stream. The United States has launched nearly 200 nuclear submarines, but the reactors actually charge batteries, which power electrical motors, the same as on the old diesel subs. Staying submerged for months at a time, while theoretically possible, is seldom done and of little practical value in today’s military threat scenarios.
    Whenever we lose a nuke-powered sub (and it’s happened twice to us, and about half a dozen times to the Russians) we lose the reactors and their radioactive fuel, to be dispersed into the waters. The Kursk’s reactors were reportedly recovered (though undoubtedly, the highly radioactive cooling fluid was dispersed), but I don’t think any other lost sub reactors have been recovered. Plus, Russia has hundreds of rusting subs that are releasing radioactive and other poisons into the oceans and will do so at ever-increasing rates unless we somehow force the Russians to clean them up and remove them from the water. Russia’s already proven they won’t do it themselves.
    Plus, at least in America, ex-nuke-submariners think they are ENTITLED to a job in a civilian nuke plant when they quit the service after securing a pension and life-time health benefits (such as they are) from the Navy. And there is good reason to believe the scuttlebutt that is rampant about ex-nuke-submariners dying of brain tumors and the like at MUCH higher rates than the rest of the population. That is their true sacrifice, but their promotion of nuclear power is by far the most damaging thing they have done (considering, for example, that they have never launched a single nuclear weapon at an enemy (thank goodness).
    3) Nukes are getting safer all the time, aren’t they?
    Actually, they are getting LESS safe. They are getting older, and the crews that run them didn’t build them and haven’t looked at the original plans even once in their lives. Any specific nuclear power plant is way too complex for any one person to understand, and their training is too specific, anyway. So one “expert” really just knows a piece of the puzzle, and leans on other experts to “solve” the whole puzzle for humanity, and excuse their own dirty part of the whole dirty job. Thus they convince themselves that nukes are safe and low levels of radiation might even be (in their opinion) GOOD FOR YOU. The old nuke power plants are rusting, becoming more and more embrittled, and parts that have lasted for 30+ years (and were designed to last only 20) are failing left and right. The companies all have a “replace on failure” policy for most components, since it would be impossible to guess what’s going to break next. And as for future possible generations of new reactors, they have their own problems INCLUDING unexpectedly rapid embrittlement of the cladding for the radioactive fuel pellets, which could lead to the very catastrophic failures they claim can’t happen. And the new reactors are no better protected from terrorism than the old ones — a fact of life, but then, so are TSUNAMIS and they are IGNORED, as well (yes, some coastal reactors have sea walls, but they are pitifully small).

    4) Can’t nuclear power solve the problem of Global Warming?
    No. First of all, nuclear power doesn’t produce MUCH of our energy mix. Only about 7% of America’s energy usage is from nukes, if even that (it depends, of course, on how you measure it). The “20%” figure you might often hear is the percentage of ELECTRICITY nuclear produces, but electricity is a relatively small portion of our total energy usage.
    Second of all, the global warming problem is (finally) considered IMMINENT. But no workable plan for building new nuclear power plants can possibly contribute more than a small percentage of the needed energy. The plants are too big, the lead time too long, the difficulties of building them away from population centers and then running high-power lines all doom the technology even if numerous other important reasons are ignored.
    Third, and most damaging, is that when you take into account: 1.) Caring for the nuclear waste afterwards; 2.) Caring for cancer victims; 3.) The energy needed to mine the uranium; 4.) The energy needed to clean up after an accident and all the other costs; Nuclear simply doesn’t produce ANY net energy for the country! Not one watt! So how can it solve the global warming problem?

    5) What exactly IS radiation and how does it harm us?
    Every element in the universe is made of atoms, and every atom is made of protons and neutrons in the core, then lots of empty space, with the tiny little electrons spinning around the outer edges. The number of protons determines what element something is. Except for hydrogen, which has a lone proton and can have zero neutrons, there are one or more neutrons in the core of each atom. Every element can have several different numbers of neutrons (called different isotopes of an element), but as long as the number of protons stays the same, it’s the same element — with the same chemical and biological behavior as any other atom of that element. All elements above and including element 86 have NO possible stable number of neutrons in their core, meaning, all isotopes of these elements are radioactive. Element 43, which doesn’t exist naturally on Earth, also has no stable isotopes.
    Unstable atoms decay, which means they break down into a stable isotope of some element, or into another unstable isotope of some element. For any particular atom, there is no way to predict WHEN it will decay, but for large aggregates of the same isotope of the same element, the decay rates of the whole group are approximately predictable. The “half-life” is defined as the amount of time it takes for half the atoms to decay, in repeated tests of carefully measured, pure samples of an isotope. It is important to understand that the OTHER half of the sample will then take the SAME amount of time for HALF of THOSE atoms to decay. Thus, after about 20 half-lives, still about a millionth of the radioactive isotope will remain, along with a dirty little rainbow of daughter products, each decaying their way around the periodic table, in big and small leaps, stopping only when they become stable elements such as lead.
    The moment of decay is of particular interest, because various particles and rays shoot out from the decaying atom, damaging other atoms. For example, a NEW electron can be ejected from the core of an atom, simultaneously changing one of the core’s neutrons into a proton and converting the atom into the next element UP in the Periodic Table of the Elements. (For example, converting a radioactive isotope of hydrogen (element 1) that has two neutrons and one proton, into a stable isotope of helium (element 2) with one neutron and two protons.) The ejected NEW electron may be traveling as much as ~95% the speed of light when it is ejected. It is called a beta particle (sometimes it’s called a beta ray). Another type of radioactive decay shoots off TWO protons and TWO neutrons in one clump — which is called an alpha particle (sometimes it’s called an alpha ray) and is ejected with as much as ~5% the speed of light. Still other types of radioactive decays shoot off high energy photons, which are called gamma rays or x-rays. Some radioactive decays shoot off gamma rays along with beta particles or alpha particles.
    It is mainly the shooting particles or energy rays that do the damage to biological systems. Your body is made of highly complex molecules — in fact, the truest wonder of life is that it is so very, very complex. The most complex molecule known, the biggest, most intricate, most amazing molecule of all (a triple crown of molecular development) is YOUR DNA, and you have trillions of copies of it, and EACH ONE needs to remain exactly the same as all the others. No easy trick with RADIATION around! But it’s not just your DNA that needs to be protected. Each of the 50,000+ DIFFERENT kinds of molecules your body manufactures for its own use all need to be protected, too. Many of the molecules your body makes are thousands of individual atoms in size, and if any ONE of those atoms is damaged, the molecule is ruined. Information — perhaps vital information — is lost.
    Radioactive decays are thousands of times STRONGER than the CHEMICAL and ELECTRICAL BONDS which hold your body’s various molecular structures together. When a radioactive decay occurs it can destroy thousands of proteins your body carefully created, or it can damage the RNA — the creators of those proteins — or it can damage a copy of the DNA chain itself.
    It is now absolutely certain and well-known that radiation causes cancer, leukemia, heart disease, birth defects, and thousands of other ailments. Recently, even some official regulatory bodies have accepted the theory that there is NO THRESHOLD below which radiation is not damaging and CANNOT cause “health effects.”
    But the RATE of health effects in the population, and the degree to which a general degradation of YOUR body should be considered a problem (even if it doesn’t kill you outright) is the subject of cover-ups, lies, debates, pseudo-debates, and a thousand other tricks, trials, and tribulations.

    6) Won’t Yucca Mountain solve the nuclear waste problem?
    Or couldn’t we just rocket it to the sun? No, neither solution is adequate. Yucca Mountain is a scientific boondoggle AND at least 15 to 20 years away if it ever opens. The problem is simple to state, but very hard to solve: How can you build a device which will successfully contain something for millions of years, when the thing you wish to contain can destroy any container you build to contain it? Radioactive decays destroy steel, diamond, gold, glass, every alloy known or conceived by physicists and chemists, and — of course — radioactive decays destroy all biological systems.
    The rocket solution is STILL brought up TIME AND AGAIN by otherwise-sane “rocket scientists” and their promoters. But it’s a lousy idea because rockets fail WAY too often, including because of prior rocket failure’s high-speed, microscopic, deadly SPACE DEBRIS in Near Earth Orbit, which the waste would have to successfully pass through. Also, there is WAY too much nuclear waste to expect much of it to get “up there” safely before a truly catastrophic accident occurs, not “vaporizing” (as in “rendering harmless through the process of incineration”) but “particle-izing” the waste (“going particulate” is the actual technical expression). Why does such a lousy idea keep coming up then? Because rationally, all OTHER choices have ALSO failed to pass scientific muster.
    Besides, Yucca Mountain, even if built would not be nearly big enough for all the waste we will generate in the coming decades, it’s barely going to be big enough to hold the current amount we already have!

    7) Science will surely cure cancer some day, and isn’t that the main danger from radiation?
    First of all: DON’T bet YOUR life that science will cure cancer any time soon! Most “progress” has been in identifying cancers early, and identifying environmental risks you CAN individually address. Many laws, in fact, which PURPORT to protect us from CARCINOGENS specifically exclude the regulation of RADIOACTIVE carcinogenic substances!
    There are thousands of different kinds of cancers that have been identified and further sub-categories are being discovered all the time. Cancer research is alive and well (and needs more funding). But its successes have been few.
    Second of all, cancer ISN’T the only disease radiation CAUSES or ENHANCES, because radiation causes the random destruction of your body’s sub-cellular structure, and the creation of thousands — or even hundreds of thousands — of “free radicals” with EVERY atomic breakdown. Understanding how radiation impacts cells is closer to the root of the problem than merely declaring that radiation causes specific cancers, such as “thyroid cancer” and then handing out KI (Potassium Iodide) after an accident. Science isn’t anywhere near solving any of the THOUSANDS of diseases associated with free radical creation in your body.
    DNA damage to multiple (future) generations is a bigger threat to civilization than the combined radiation-induced threats from cancer, heart disease, leukemia, and every other radiation-induced ailment combined! And there is no pill that protects your fetus. Mothers and fathers of the world MUST understand this: Radiation sickens, weakens, and kills YOUR babies! It makes them less like you, and it makes them like you less.

    8) Doesn’t the nuclear industry protect humans from all its radioactive waste?
    NO THEY DON’T! Tritium, for instance, is routinely released from ALL operating nuclear power plants. Some kinds of nuke plants release 20 times (or more) more than other types. Is it ALL okay? Not at all. Tritium standards are absurdly lax. For example, in America the Environmental Protection Agency standard for drinking water is 20,000 picoCuries of tritium per liter. But if you drank water at this level consistently (and you might be doing so right now and not even know it), the water portion of YOUR body would also reach this level, and your body will silently experience tens of thousands of ADDITIONAL radioactive decays every second of your life, above and beyond all your OTHER EXPOSURES. These additional radioactive decays will EACH create thousands of “free-radicals” (which can damage your DNA) or they might damage your DNA directly. Sounds bad? Of course it is — but the EPA basically feels that it’s bad ONLY above 20,000 picoCuries per liter and PERFECTLY OKAY below that! A more realistic figure, that would probably merely bring the protection standard in line with that of other chemical assaults we must invariably put up with (engine fumes, coal power plant fumes (see below) etc.), might be 50 picoCuries per liter — or maybe 5.
    But 20,000 picoCuries per liter of drinking water is just ABSURDLY HIGH and allows U.S. nuclear power plants to release about 1,000 Curies of tritium each year, on average. Any year they release more is forgiven and averaged into prior years, if possible, or future years, if prior releases exceeded even the standard “forgiveness” rate. Get it? No matter what they release, it’s simply duly noted (but the information is seldom released to the public) and the regulatory toadies forgive the nuclear industry for their trespass into YOUR life.

    9) Isn’t our other choice coal, and isn’t that even worse?
    Coal is pretty bad stuff — and there’s 500 years’ worth in the earth, laying around the planet waiting to be mined, whereas there is probably less than FIFTY years’ worth of uranium!
    Coal plants emit Uranium and Thorium — radioactive heavy metals — into the atmosphere in quantities MUCH greater than a properly operating nuclear power plant does. BUT — and this is a BIG, BIG, BUT — they DON’T create or release FISSION PRODUCTS in comparable quantities. Fission products — the daughter elements of atomic decay — include cesium, strontium, and a deadly rainbow of other radioactive elements, which are created when the radioactive fuel is “burned” in the reactor. These elements get into biological systems in a way that heavy metals generally don’t do (although heavy metals are very bad). Fission products BIOACCUMULATE in plants and animals which we then eat. Many fission products are chemically similar to elements that are essential for life. Therefore our bodies readily absorb fission products at specific sites such as our thyroids, gonads, bone marrow, and other organs.
    Additionally, a coal-fired power plant will never be the target of a serious terrorist who is intent on doing the most harm for his or her “investment.” A coal-fired plant will not leave extremely toxic waste — the word “extremely” being key here. A coal-fired plant creates waste, and it is unhealthy — both the part which is released into the atmosphere AND the part that isn’t. BUT these waste streams pale in comparison to a nuclear power plant’s. As proof, just consider what the major fear is from coal, according to all the politicians in Washington these days, and everyone else besides: CARBON DIOXIDE! NOT the heavy metals or even the URANIUM that is also released by coal-fired power plants! In truth, it would be GOOD to reduce ALL emissions from coal plants. But hasn’t CARBON SEQUESTRATION been proven to work — its ONLY REAL PROBLEM is that it REDUCES THE EFFICIENCY of the coal plant — so you burn MORE coal to get the SAME POWER OUTPUT?
    Or is there ANOTHER CHOICE? You bet there is! Solar energy works. Wind power WORKS. Wave energy, tide energy, in-stream river power (no dams) — these ALL work. Yes, I would rather see a hundred coal plants be built than the 30 or so nukes that could produce the same electrical output, BUT those are NOT the real choices.
    10) Don’t some people say that a little radiation might actually be GOOD for you?
    Hmmm… WHO have you been picking this stuff up from? Ask yourself that. The only people I’ve ever found who actually believe that the debris from, for example, a 1963 NASA nuclear space probe, which dispersed plutonium all over the world, is like a VITAMIN to our bodies are invariably directly associated with USING RADIOACTIVE SUBSTANCES IN THEIR WORK. In other words, their jobs depend on the public believing that low levels of radiation is probably HARMLESS, and may even actually be GOOD for you.
    In reality, NO level of radiation is beneficial and all medical radiation is given after a supposedly careful cost-benefit analysis has been done for the patient. In other words, the risk of getting cancer from a USELESS and UNNECESSARY CT scan is utterly unfair: That same risk from a CT SCAN that resulted from a proper initial diagnosis, is fair, regardless of whether a tumor is actually found in any individual case.
    When your regular dentist uses their x-ray equipment as part of your regular check-up, that’s considered a “fair use.” (I would argue that the equipment is much more ionizing than it needs to be.) But when the dentist sends you to another expert, and that expert takes NEW x-rays of the same tooth, from the same angle, rather than using your dentist’s original x-rays, that’s an UNFAIR use, but it happens ALL THE TIME.
    Some people get cancer because of dental x-rays, but it’s considered okay, not because dentists pretend it doesn’t happen (though some do, in fact, do that), but because the dentists believe that, for the population at large, the benefits outweigh the dangers.
    But what if low-level radiation (LLR) is significantly WORSE than calculated by the “experts,” who, invariably, base their guestimates of the danger on faulty HIROSHIMA and NAGASAKI bomb studies of people who have been called the “healthy survivors” by more realistic observers?
    (Note: Males in the northern hemisphere are said to piss out about a million atoms of plutonium every DAY of their LIVES, mostly Pu-238 (with a half-life of about 87.75 years), just from that one 1963 NASA space probe accident (let alone all the other poisons we must ingest). The chance of getting bladder cancer is about one in 30 for American men (it’s about one in 90 for American women). Some portion of that is undoubtedly due to radioactive poisons.)
    11) Aren’t we desperate for energy?
    Yes, we ABSOLUTELY are desperate for energy. CLEAN energy.
    Every study ever done has shown that as populations get more and cheaper, CLEANER energy, they achieve an improvement in living standards “across the board.” Death rates go down, disease rates go down, birth rates even go down — as babies live to age five and beyond, families tend to have LESS children, not MORE! Cheap, clean energy allows the FREE EXCHANGE OF IDEAS via the Internet and cheap exchange of goods via every other transportation method. As living standards go up, the environmental degradation that occurs per human life goes DOWN because people don’t, for example, have to burn down trees for cooking or for heat when electric stoves and heaters powered by renewable energy are available instead. The environmental benefits continue to increase as the available cheap, clean energy increases, until / unless the society reaches a certain “critical” level of affluence and misbehavior, and does not properly REGULATE itself (such as by having gas-powered lawn trimming devices, when electric, renewable-energy-powered devices could be used instead.)
    PROPER energy regulation IS the key to success! But you can’t have proper regulation if government dishonestly, ignorantly, and stubbornly supports nuclear power, against all logic and reason.
    12) What about reprocessing? Can’t we just “recycle” the waste?
    Reprocessing is nothing like recycling aluminum cans!! It’s a filthy process that Jimmy Carter banned when he was president, and it should STAY banned. It involves grinding up hot, poisonous nuclear reactor cores and spilling a little at every step. The process gobbles up enormous amounts of energy, and uses up enormous amounts of chemicals that are spilled into the environment along with many of the “fission products” which “poison” the reactor cores. What they want is the mainly unspent U-235, and a few other isotopes of Uranium and Plutonium, especially Pu-239. What they DON’T want is a rainbow of radioactive isotopes of every element in the Periodic Table — but it’s what they’ve got. So, France, which currently reprocesses reactor cores, pours enormous amounts of radioactive and chemical waste into the North Sea (as do several other countries) and that waste is then spread throughout the planet. THAT’s their idea of “reprocessing” nuclear waste, and they want to bring this awful concept to America in the form of something called GNEP, which stands for Global Nuclear Energy Partnership because America will be the cesspool of the planet, accepting nuclear waste from anywhere. (Transported, usually, by boats, which will sometimes be lost at sea — guaranteed.)
    But the WORST thing about reprocessing the “waste” from nuclear reactors is that you can ALSO separate out some isotopes which can be used in DIRTY BOMBS, and in — you guessed it — ATOMIC BOMBS.
    13) Are nuclear power plants responsible for nuclear weapons proliferation?
    One can start with the simple fact that WITHOUT NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS, THERE WOULD BE NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Hydrogen bombs all use tritium in addition to plutonium and / or uranium, and both the plutonium and the tritium always come from nuclear power plants. Tritium has a half-life of about 12.3 years. You need to keep making more tritium or, after a batch has decayed to too low a grade to be useful, you have to remove it from your nuclear warhead and re-isolate the tritium isotopes you have left over. But you won’t be able to refuel as many warheads as before, if you aren’t making more tritium.
    The main plutonium isotope needed for nuclear bombs is Pu-239, which is ONLY created in nuclear reactors. If you don’t isolate it from other plutonium isotopes, it’s pretty much USELESS as bomb-making material. If you let it decay for a few years, it ALSO becomes useless as bomb-making material until it has been reprocessed.
    So if you want to remove nuclear weapons from the face of the earth, you MUST shut down the reprocessing plants, which are enormous and dirty death-machines which specialize in Weapons of Mass Destruction, AND the nuclear power plants, where many of the raw materials that can be turned into nuclear weapons are made.

    14) Why does the industry keep going, if it’s SO bad?
    The nuclear industry relies on lies and obfuscations to hide its true effect on humanity from curious or prying eyes. ANYONE who begins to understand the truth is immediately labeled an “activist” even if they base every comment they ever make on scientific principles which the pro-nukers cannot and WILL NOT ANSWER. People who are labeled “activists” are soon kicked out of their jobs, so that they can no longer be considered experts who are current in the field. They are ridiculed, and destroyed financially.
    The “debate” over nuclear power — the one a democratic people SHOULD have had — NEVER HAPPENED, and next thing we knew, there were more than 100 operating nuclear power plants in America alone. One that was gutted by fire more than 30 years ago, on March 22, 1975 (and nearly melted down, but didn’t, or you would know its name) was reconstructed and restarted recently (June 2007). How? Because the Tennessee Valley Authority, which owns the Browns Ferry site, is as corrupt an organization as you will find on the face of the earth.
    What keeps the industry going is government contracts, government subsidies, government insurance, and tax breaks. The government feeds BILLIONS into the industry, financing the “research and development” of new reactor designs, and the training the commercial reactor operators through the military reactor program. Research reactor institutes are often controlled jointly by the industry and by the government. It’s self-perpetuating.
    But the biggest break the industry gets is, of course, the fact that if you or your children or loved ones get cancer or leukemia, it COULD be due to anything, NO MATTER HOW CLOSE you live to a reactor (or a uranium mine), and no matter how many people around you SEEM to be dying as well. To make matters worse, after a meltdown, most people with radiation-caused illnesses will never be paid a red cent by any insurance company, the reactor or mine owners or operators, or any local, state or federal entity. Check your homeowner’s insurance policy if you have one. Nuclear reactor accidents are specifically excluded! And you need look no further than the nuclear industry’s under-funded, federally-mandated minimalist insurance policy known as The Price-Anderson Act to KNOW that no citizen will be paid their due if they survive after an accident. You’ll get fractions of a penny on the dollar if you live to collect anything at all. You’ll be called stupid for living so close to a reactor, or paranoid for thinking that an accident “X” miles away caused YOUR cancer. “X” could be a little as 11 miles or less!
    15) Is the threat from terrorism real?
    YES, IT’S REAL. There have been NUMEROUS threats from terrorists against OUR nuclear power plants. Books by scientists, written more than 30 years ago, which were ignored then and are ignored now, warned America of the threat. The threat is worse now: The militants are at least as determined as ever, the targets contain MORE radioactive materials than ever, the populations around the (uranium mines) and reactors are vastly greater, and the explosive power and penetrating power of the weapons that might be used are both SIGNIFICANTLY greater. But the nuclear reactors are the same, only older!
    A half-dozen armed guards per reactor won’t stop ANY determined foe. Similarly, the Transportation Security Administration is incapable of guarding the skies completely, especially from RENTED BUSINESS JETS which could be easily hijacked and flown into a reactor or its spent fuel, with devastating results.
    The Pentagon does NOT patrol the airspace above each reactor and even if it did, they couldn’t stop the wide variety of incoming flying objects that can exist — missiles, small and large planes, etc. They can’t stop boat-launched small nuclear weapons attacks against our coastal reactors. They couldn’t stop 9-11; not even close.
    The military has NOT built anti-aircraft missile embankments around the nuclear power plants or even established permanent “no-fly” zones around the plants. And even if they did, it probably wouldn’t help against a determined, 9-11 “inspired” foe.
    Shutting the reactors down permanently improves our survivability significantly. Nothing else makes any sense at all.
    16) Are people who oppose nuclear power simply opposed to ALL technology?
    Not usually, and not in this case. Most of them are just like everyone else. But there is ONE big difference: They’ve studied up on some of the issues presented here. So they’ve decided — on their own — that nuclear power is a silent killer, and that its corporate and government proponents are liars, cheats, scoundrels, and — yes — murderers.
    But that is no reason to hate “technology.” Nuclear technology for energy is mostly 50-year old, has-been stuff anyway. Renewable energy is where all the exciting, great work is being done these days. In fact, most people who oppose nuclear technology think that GOOD technology can and MUST enrich and lengthen our lives.
    The author of this document has been a computer programmer for more than 25 years. He has programmed everything from lasers to classroom lessons, robots, mice, and joysticks. It’s easy to label someone “anti-” and figure they just have an ax to grind. But the reality can be quite different. The author considers himself not only “pro-technology” but “pro-DNA,” instead of the more common phraseology: “anti-nuclear.” The term pro-DNA is correct because the damage to our DNA is the most dangerous thing we have to deal with regarding radioactive poisons in our midst. DNA damage is also among the hardest problems to detect. This essay is a demand for scientific, humanitarian, democratic and financial JUSTICE, nothing more, nothing less.
    Russell D. Hoffman, a computer programmer in Carlsbad, California, and has written extensively about nuclear power. His essays have been translated into several different languages and published in more than a dozen countries.

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