[ RadSafe ] FW: [NucNews] America's Greatest Atomic Radiation Crisis
Brennan, Mike (DOH)
Mike.Brennan at DOH.WA.GOV
Mon Dec 3 12:19:39 CST 2007
The line "But the AEC is proclaiming its innocence and declaring that any health hazard which exists is the responsibility of the states." shows how out of date your article is. The AEC morphed into the NRC in 1974. The issues connected with uranium mill tailings have been recognized and addressed for decades.
The main problem with u-mill tailings is when it was used as fill around buildings (mostly houses) and resulted in elevated radon levels. It turns out that houses can have elevated radon levels even without u-mill tailings, and according to the EPA, American Lung Association, Surgeon General, and other knowledgeable national and international groups, radon exposure, usually in the home, is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and the second leading cause of lung cancer over all (behind smoking).
The question crosses my mind, Norm; have you and other members of your group tested your own homes for radon? If not, why not? Do you advocate for legislative action to increase the amount of information the public has concerning radon, and if not, why not? Are you as concerned about something estimated to kill 21,000 people per year in the USA alone as you are about DU? If not, why not?
As for the article, Norm, in addition to being older than the music I listen to (classic rock), it is a pile of doo-doo, written by someone who didn't understand the words, let alone the concepts, of what he was writing about, and who demonstrated such a loose grasp of cause-and-effect as to surprise even someone as jaded as me.
Forwarding things like this to the International Movement for Scaring the Ignorant list serve might enhance your rep with them. Forwarding things like this to RadSafe does not.
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On Behalf Of Norm Cohen
Sent: Sunday, December 02, 2007 9:47 AM
To: Know_Nukes at yahoogroups.com; Radsafe
Subject: [ RadSafe ] FW: [NucNews] America's Greatest Atomic Radiation Crisis
Uranium tailings threaten health out west.
Coalition for Peace and Justice; UNPLUG Salem Campaign, 321 Barr Ave, Linwood; NJ; 08221; 609-601-8583; Cell Phone - 609-335-8176; MySpace http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=60
From: NucNews at yahoogroups.com [mailto:NucNews at yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of NO Nukes South Australia
Sent: Friday, November 30, 2007 7:34 PM
To: NucNews at yahoogroups.com
Subject: [NucNews] America's Greatest Atomic Radiation Crisis
AMERICA'S GREATEST ATOMIC RADIATION CRISIS
By Don Munson
Ever hear of uranium "tailings"? It's a fine, sand-like end product from the dozens of uranium ore-processing plants scattered throughout the Far West. Thought to be of no value, or danger, hundreds of thousands of tons of this material were dumped on the plains, to be snatched up by building contractors who used it on construction jobs-like hospitals, homes, schools and churches.
Now, it's been discovered, the stuff is
radioactively hot and we are facing a catastrophe of monumental proportions.
In just one city, Grand Junction, Colo., an estimated 3,000 "hot" sites have already been reported by the state health department, which says they were built with radioactive waste from a uranium processing plant.
Millions of residents in eight Western states are living on borrowed time while scientists and environmental health specialists struggle to learn if negligently handled radioactive material will kill them.
Snarled in incredible bureaucratic bumbling and buck-passing, a tiny handful of investigators is trying to determine if radiation will produce an atomic by-product catastrophe from Texas to Washington.
They are engaged in a tedious study of the effects of an invisible gas that decays into tiny bits of radioactivity that can enter the lungs and there grow into fatal cancer cells.
What investigators have learned thus far reveals scandalously confused and highly controversial situations springing from countless tons of uranium waste scattered across the western half of the U.S.
As innocent-looking as common sand, the dangerous material has for at least the past 15 years been used in thousands of construction jobs.
Today, hospitals, schools, office buildings and factories, churches, and private homes stand on fills and foundations which are radioactively hot.
As a result, eight state governments are accusing the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission of negligence.
But the AEC is proclaiming its innocence and declaring that any health hazard which exists is the responsibility of the states.
Meanwhile, as bureaucrats squabble, what is now a medical puzzle may burst into a deadly peril.
At a time when the nation's attention is focused on air and earth pollution, little attention is being given to what someday may prove to be the greatest pollution danger of all time.
In Grand Junction, Colo., an estimated 3,000 "hot" sites have already been reported by the state health department, which says were built with radioactive waste from a local uranium processing plant.
State officials claim the plant
let 200,000 to 300,000 tons of hot waste materials be hauled away to various parts of Colorado to be used as fill material.
Nobody-official or otherwise-can estimate how many hundreds of thousands of additional tons are now scattered about in other areas of the Far West.
But it is there, and it is considered a health hazard of monumental proportions.
How it got spread across half the nation to endanger millions of innocent lives is a story tangled by bureaucratic red tape, government evasion and scientific double-talk.
It began in 1961 when uranium mines were going full blast. America was stockpiling the atomic energy source in its race to build up its A-bomb arsenal. As hundreds of thousands of tons of uranium oxide ore were crushed and processed at plants all over the west, a fine sand-like residue was left. Called tailings, the waste was thought to be of no value and of no danger.
Checked by the AEC, the towering piles of sandy material showed what was then believed to be only a very low level of radiation.
Partly because it was a near perfect substitute for building sand to use in back fillings, and partly because it was free for the asking, contractors and private citizens by the thousands swooped down on the piles of gray waste and happily hauled it off to construction jobs.
It found its way under and around every
conceivable type of structure and dwelling; it was spread as a base for concrete sidewalks and highways; it was heaped around retaining walls.
It wound up in flower gardens, in barnyards, in children's sandboxes, and even in a shelter used by a doctor who feared an A-bomb attack and its consequent fallout. It was substituted for hay on the floors of cattle and horse trucks and shipped all over the country.
As a building material, the tailings were a success and continued use seemed likely until a Colorado health department team stumbled on to the dangerous condition in 1966. A radiation reading near a new construction site-showed an alarmingly high level. It was quickly traced to the tailings, and a silent monster was uncovered.
Tailings from uranium contain radium, a much more radioactive element which stubbornly refuses to die and which retains half of its potency for 1,620 years. At the end of that time, it is still half alive and still deadly.
Throughout these 1,620 years, radium decays, releasing radon gas, a gas so insidious that not even concrete can contain it. It seeps through concrete as easily as through a sponge.
By itself, radon is not much of a problem. When released in open air, it quickly dilutes to safe levels. If inhaled by humans, most of the gas is exhaled without danger to the body because it will not cling to the linings of the lungs.
So, as long as the tailings are in open piles, some experts believe, they are not suspected of being a threat to human life. But when radon is trapped it decays into something scientists call "radon daughters", tiny bits of radioactivity which can wrap themselves around dust particles and ride into human lungs. The eventual result is fatal lung cancer. On that point all experts agree.
By state order, the use of tailings in
construction was halted in Colorado in 1966.
However, by that time an incalcuable hazard had been created.
(At Gas Hills, Wyo., Union Carbide processes 1,000 tons of uranium everyday.)
Despite the hazard, no general alarm was flashed.
No warning to the general public was issued. If it was, that warning is now buried in some government file. It never reached the people of Grand Junction. Behind the scenes a bureaucratic wrangle broke out that is still going on.
Colorado state health officials and the AEC at first weren't even sure they had a problem.
Nobody was stricken with a fatal illness directly attributable to the tailings. Nobody was leaving Grand Junction in a panic despite the fact that Robert D. Seik, radiological health officer for the health department, estimated that 3,000 building sites in that city of 23,000 persons are built on or around hot tailings.
Why more action has not been taken is a mystery shrouded in the bureaucratic red tape, because the highest radiation readings taken in Grand Junction are 180 times greater than screening levels set by the health department!
However, in Uravan, a mining village 75 miles south of Grand Junction, two houses have been evacuated because of unsafe levels. Seik says that on the basis of knowledge gathered so far "there is no choice but to go into other cities"
where uranium processing has been done
to determine if safety levels have been exceeded.
These include Durango, Gunnison, Canon City, Rifle, and Naturita. Seik says the greatest hazard is the effect high radiation levels may have on children growing up there. Exposure levels for miners are based on a 40-hour work week but children have a 24-hour-a-day exposure, seven days a week, the health officer admits.
The AEC, which says it issued a routine warning to states about the dangers of tailings back in
1961 has refused to assume responsibility. The commission, a spokesman says, has no control over tailings because the radium they contain is occurring "naturally" and the waste contains less than .05 percent uranium, a cutoff level at which the AEC drops control.
But Seik says that since the AEC regulates the mills from which the tailings originate, and since the material was processed for the AEC, which also inspects the wastes, the AEC should therefore control them.
Seik has told investigators that he has called the Grand Junction radiation to the attention of the AEC's top brass and has been assured by AEC Chairman Glenn Seaborg "there was no short or long term hazard in the tailings piles".
(Note: Glenn Seaborg invented Plutonium, and with partner in crime, Henry Kissinger, would propagate Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Radiation everywhere on Planet Earth.)
Pitching the hot potato of responsibility to each other, neither the AEC nor the state health departments have done much more than wrangle about the potential peril-at least not in proportion to the inherent dangers.
Colorado, the state most heavily affected, has martialed only two full-time investigators, a handful of crude detection devices and an operating budget of about $10,500.
It will be a full year before results of tests now being made are completed. By that time the investigators hope to learn if the Grand Junction levels of radioactivity threaten human life.
Meanwhile, Coloradans and residents of seven other states where uranium is processed are "living on borrowed time", according to G.A.
(Bud) Franz, who has done most of the testing in Grand Junction.
(In Edgemont, S.D:, Mines Development, Inc., processes 650 tons of uranium every day.)
Franz, a balding man in his 30s, is the principal investigator. He was imported from Michigan to do the job. A onetime high school physics teacher, he has no advanced degrees in science and works with crude sampling devices in a barren basement room in the Mesa County Health Department building in Grand Junction.
His project officer is J. B. Baird, a young Texan employed by the Colorado health department and whose duties permit him to devote only about 60 percent of his time to the gigantic task. He also has only a minimum scientific background, a bachelor of science degree from the University of Houston.
Strongly resentful of investigation of their work, Franz and Baird discuss their activities reluctantly. Both refuse details of some of their findings. But this much they will reveal when
Employing a crude machine, which resembles little more than a vacuum cleaner that sucks in air samples, only one man using one machine-Franz-is currently investigating the hot Grand Junction area.
"But we hope to have 10 men soon and a total of
75 in the future" Baird says. "Thus far we have checked out about 350 places where the level is high."
He refuses to reveal the names and addresses of Grand Junction residents who may be living on sites dangerously contaminated by radon gas.
"That's privileged information because it has people's names on it," he snaps when asked to produce a list of potential radiation victims.
"I consider this the same as a doctor-patient relationship."
It is a one-way consideration because thousands of Grand Junction residents who are living on or near the contaminated sites have NEVER been contacted by either state health department investigators or AEC officials.
"We aren't sure that the public should be contacted in big numbers," Baird protests.
Asked how he determines which homes, public buildings and other sites may be radioactively hot, Baird said:
"Mainly we follow up tips. We check on
contractors who may have used tailings, and then we try to get into the buildings to make readings."
Franz admits it will take a year or more to find out exactly what his tests will produce.
"Until then, and until we get better guide lines on the effect of low level radiation, we won't know for sure whether there is a peril or not"
He is not sure how dense the concentrations of radiation he has thus far found really are.
Trying to guess what the real dangers are on the basis of his preliminary tests, he admits, "is like watching the first five minutes of a basketball game an then predicting its outcome."
Franz and Baird would like to keep their work as quiet as possible. So they make no general releases to newspaper radio, or television. They issue no warnings sufficient to cause general alarm.
"We don't feel we have an obligation to keep the public informed because we're not sure how they will react," Baird say defensively.
He is afraid a real estate selling stampede will result that will harm Grand Junction's image as a resort area.
Baird says he feels no obligation to inform the considerable Spanish-speaking population of the area which does not read English-language papers or listen to radio news in English:
"There's always somebody around who can speak English and maybe they'll tell them," he says.
The result is that uncounted hundreds of persons in the area are living on or around hot tailings, possible future victims of contamination, without having the slightest inkling of danger.
(In Shirley Basin, Wyo., Petrotomic, Co.
processes 1,000 tons of uranium every day.)
When radiation began to be of some concern, particularly as it affects uranium miners, Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz in 1967 issued an order limiting the maximum amount of radiation to which a Western Slope miner could be exposed.
But not so for families living on or near the radioactive tailings.
(In Falls City, Texas, Susquehanna-Western Co.
processes 1,000 tons of uranium every day.)
The family of Jesus Gallegos, 73, lives in the shadow of potential fatal disease. His modest white frame house sits on a small plot of ground which borders the sprawling uranium processing plant o1 American Metal Climax, Inc., the plant from which the Grand Junction tailings originated.
"Nobody ever told us a thing," she declares.
"The only time we have ever had anything to do with Climax was when they wanted to buy some of our property. Nobody from the health department or any other place has ever contacted us; nobody ever took a reading on our house."
And nobody ever informed the Gallegos family that the cement walk they built around their home rests on a bed of hot tailings; nobody ever told the family that the foundations resting on fill dirt hauled from Climax's vast dump of hot waste a couple of hundred feet away may be LETHAL."
"We never had a thing to worry about because we didn't know anything about the situation. Now, I'm scared," Esther Gallegos says, and stares hard at the weather beaten sign which hangs on a fence 50 feet from her front door. The sign has hung there so long she previously considered it part of the scenery. It warns of radiation-a warning long unheeded.
The Gallegos family's situation is not rare in Grand Junction. A lengthy street-by-street survey of neighborhoods surrounding the Climax plant failed to produce a single resident who has ever received a warning from any source-AEC, state health department, or Climax.
(In Point Ray, Tex., Susquehanna-Western processes 1,000 tons of uranium every day.)
No cry is raised in the Grand Junction
area, even by the media, which in other sections of the country might sound strident alarms. In fact, one Western Colorado newsman considered by the AEC to be an "expert" on environment has treated the commission's handling of the situation so kindly the AEC has offered him a $13,000-a-year job as a public relations man.
As Coloradans see it, "there's nothing to get excited about because nothing is happening."
(In Blue Water, N.M., the Anaconda Co. processes 3,000 tons of uranium every day.)
Nothing untoward is happening because the only Colorado testing has been done by a "grab sample"
Franz's testing machine, little more
than a simple air pump which sucks in air and traps airborne particles of dust on a disc of filter paper which is later analyzed at a state university, is the principle weapon of defense.
It is set up in buildings suspected of being radioactive and run for five minutes. The tests give an indication, but not an accurate measure, of radioactivity. The grab samples have been collected in about 15 places. Of these, 122 showed readings higher than the arbitrary screening cutoff point, above which further tests are supposed to be made.
The cutoff point is .Ol "working levels". That is considered safe to work in if it occurs in a uranium mine. When the working level hits .02, the Colorado Bureau of Mines shuts down the operation and labels the mine as dangerously radioactive.
The State health department says the highest grab sample recorded in Grand Junction is 1.88 working levels. Another expert, however, says levels as high as *** 4.0 to 200 *** times what it takes to close down a mine-have been discovered.
He is Dr. Geno Saccamanno, a 53-year-old pathologist who is recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on lung cancer, particularly as it relates to uranium.
Seated in his tiny office in St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, surrounded by case histories and tissue samples of lung cancer victims, Dr.
"Some Grand Junction families have for three generations lived in houses ranging from zero to
0.5 (five tenths) levels of radiation. Others have been in houses with levels as high as 4.0."
"My conclusion, after some study, is that there is no apparent danger at this time. I have no personal knowledge of anyone becoming sick from radiation poisoning from tailings ... no cases of leukemia, cancer of the lungs, etc."
"But much depends upon the individual. Some persons are highly resistant. No one investigating this has gone through enough cases and done enough physical examinations and family histories to draw definite conclusions."
"More cases should be studied. Chromosome studies should be made to see if any abnormalities will result. It's perfectly possible that some future generations will produce some horrible mutants.
You see, nobody knows much about leukemia, for example ... how long it takes to develop, how long it actually takes to kill you."
"But I can tell you this: Once you have
contracted it ... well ..."
And here he gives a helpless shrug.
"The law requires that tailings be confined, be placed under strict guard so there are no accidents. But somebody goofed. You'll find tailings all over Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and other parts of the West."
"The best idea is a cool scientific exploration of the problem. Hopefully, no cases of radiation will have been caused. But if they have been, then every home should be razed and the fills sealed off with some sort of protective covering."
Dr. Saccomanno said he thinks the five minute grab samples made by public health investigators are "totally inadequate".
One of the hidden potentialities of the radiation that worries the pathologist is the possibility that while right now there is no apparent danger, the future could produce horrible results.
(In Moab, Utah, 1,500 tons of uranium are processed by the Atlas Corp. every day.)
The long-range effects of radiation know no boundaries in time and space and AEC safeguards and forecasts are notoriously inaccurate.
For example, radioactive fallout dumped on the Albany-Troy, N.Y., area during a 1953 rainstorm doubled the cases of childhood leukemia over an eight-year period. The fallout originated in Nevada, more than 2,200 air miles away.
Those affected included children born as long as 10 years after the incident. These facts are contained in a report of Prof. E.J. Sternglass of the Department of Radiology of the University of Pittsburgh. He said the fallout came from a 43-kiloton nuclear blast set off in Nevada in April 1953.
His studies showed, he said, a characteristic five-year delay in the onset of the disease from the time of irradiation or conception.
So while nobody is dropping dead right now, what lies ahead for residents of the eight western states where tailings and other uranium deposits exist is, at the least, a potential health hazard of the future. Every new scientific discovery concerning it bodes bad news.
(In Ford, Wash., 450 tons of uranium are processed by the Dawn Mining Co. every day.)
One man who warns of the dangers radioactivity is Dr. Arthur Tamplin of the biomedical research division of the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley.
He says radioactivity pollution is seriously underestimated. And he is vigorously opposed to the AEC's continued dispelling of radioactivity into the atmosphere in any form ... from underground test explosions to exposed tailings piles,
According to Dr. Tamplin, the Atom Energy Commission wants to release far more radiation than is safe. The maximum "safe" exposure set by federal regulation is .17 rads a year-a rad being a scientific unit of measure.
But .17 rads is enough to cause 16,000 additional cases of cancer in the U.S. each year for an undetermined time in the future.
Dr. Tamplin says the reasonable limit of safe radioactivity ought to be zero.
"If any company wants to be permitted, to release any radioactivity at all, it should have to prove conclusively that the danger to the public is outweighed by the benefits,"
Dr. Tamplin recently told the American Cancer Society's annual seminar for science writers.
Of course no such proof has yet been offered by any company.
(In Gas Hills, Wyo., Federal American Partners processes 900 tons of uranium every day.)
Another man who recognizes the dangers is Dr. H.
Paul Metzger, a Boulder Colo., biochemist who has been asked prepare a report for a presidential committee on the hazards arising from the tailings.
In this report may lie definitive information as to the actual dangers. But, at this writing, that report is classified.
Although Dr. Metzger sent in the report last December, he refuses to go into details about the presidential committee's effort because he is not sure the committee ready to release any information. He has passed the buck to the White House, preferring to let the word come from there.
Does his report contain such dynamite that only the White House dares release it? Will it spur the AEC and the eight western states into action?
The answers are buried in the bureaucratic squabbling. The AEC comes in for some harsh criticism from many scientists, and Dr. Metzger is one of them.
He charges the Atomic Energy Commission with dereliction of duty. He say
"I personally have been interested in the whole history of actions by the AEC in this state
(Colorado) and their dereliction of duty."
Dr. Donald I. Walker, director of Region 4 of the AEC's division of compliance, says defensively that the AEC has jurisdiction over uranium only when it exceeds a certain percentage of total solids content.
He denies that the tailings produced by the Climax Uranium Mill at Grand Junction exceed that percentage. But Dr. Metzger disagrees.
Climax's general manager is vehement on the subject.
Anthony Mastrovich takes on his interviewers with the angry indignation of a father defending the virtue of his daughter. A pale middle-aged man, Mastrovich sets his lips grimly, and his eyes flash angrily behind his glasses as he condemns all members of the press as "biased, trying to stir up trouble" ... even before he is asked the first question about Climax's operations.
In Grand Junction he is the kingpin the local operation of a vast, impersonal organization whose holdings stretch from the Rockies to Zambia in Africa. He tangles frequently with local reporters, who call him "a real bear" and less kindly names.
"For the past four years no tailings have left our area. Prior to that," he declares, "when nothing was known of the dangers, we let our tailings be used. Ninety-five per cent of it went to industrial uses, such as fill dirt under U.S.
"The AEC never warned of any danger and neither has the state public health department. We as Climax's management don't believe the state's figures (concerning radiation levels) but, at the same time, we can't arrive at a figure either."
Mastrovich says in joining the long list principals confessing that no one real knows where danger from tailings begins or ends.
His mill is soon to be knocked down, permanently out of business. But not, he says, because it presents any potent health danger. The reason:
pure economics. The mill isn't paying off now.
When the plant is torn down, it will
"stabilized," the Climax manager says. That means the land it now occupies will be contoured, covered with soil and planted with grass ... all according to a Colorado public health department recommendation.
And that, it is generally agreed in Grand Junction, will eliminate the danger at one source. Nobody, however, will hazard a guess at what damage has already been done and what may arise in the future.
Right now the focus of attention is Grand Junction. But Climax's milling capacity is only 500 tons per day, and the operation is scheduled to halt soon.
According to the 1969 AEC annual port to Congress, thousands of tons of ore are processed each day at other mines throughout the West.
Each ton produces its corresponding heap of hot tailings. They are mountainous.
United-Nuclear Homestake Paterners, Grants, N.M., 3,500 tong each day. Utah Construction and Mining Co., Gas Hills, Wyo., 1,200 tons per day...
the same company at Shirley Basin, Wyo. 1,200 tons per day ... Western Nuclear Inc., Jeffrey City, Wyo., 1,200 tons per day ... are a few examples.
As the tailings heaps grow bigger and bigger, so too, does the potential for a catastrophe beyond human imagination. What remains now is a deadly waiting game.
Radium is still half alive after 1,620 years. The average American man lives 70 years-with luck.
** THE END **
Note: This article was from the 1970's.
South Australia is victim of the World's LARGEST intended Einstein Mine:
the BHP Olympic Dam Roxby Downs URANIUM mine.
BHP stands for Broken Hill Proprietary, Big Huge Pig or, in the SA Radioactive Nuclear Mining Disaster case, Big HOT Pig since BHP would utilise HOT Geothermal Energy to mine Uranium, a radioactively HOT heavy metal.
The consequences will be CATASTROPHIC, especially given BHP previous disasters such as the Ok Tedi Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea that destroyed the second largest river in Papua, the Fly River.
(BHP placed the Ok Tedi Mine at the top of the Fly River in the Highlands of Papua where it gets SEVEN METRES RAIN per year. The tailings dams holding cyanide solution broke and the Fly River was destroyed by the poison solution, and full-scale acid rock drainage that occurred when biological organisms changed millions of tonnes of mine silt from Ok Tedi into an acid state that leaches toxic heavy metal poison everywhere.
When Papuans reacted angrily to the disaster, the Puppet Papua government made it ILLEGAL for Papuans to sue BHP, or any other corporate criminals, within or outside Papua New Guinea, in relation to compensaton for the Ok Tedi mining disaster.
The Fly River today, remains a wide raging torrent of muddy silten waste, where once a pristine clean docile wild natural river flowed and supported and sustained BILLIONS of Creatures.
BHP, other mining corporates and all their associates are Major Criminals before Nature. The Human Pigs are extremely guilty of Crimes Against Nature and will eventually pay a maximum price. Mark My Word.) __._,_.___ Messages in this topic (1) Reply (via web post) | Start a new topic Messages
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