About three weeks ago, Ralph responded to Tom.
>You say "There have been major accidents at these plants. Workers
>have been exposed to radiation. Radioactive water has been poured into
>public sewer systems." I don't know what major accidents you are
I was busy with some personal business at the time, so am sorry for
the delay in sharing these thoughts on that thread.
Ralph, here is a summary list of the accidents admitted/reported by
the US Atomic Energy Commission/Dept. of Energy at research
facilities, power plants, nuclear bomb test sites and facilities, and
There are many books, interviews, and news articles available on these issues.
One example of radioactive water reaching the water table (I don't
know about sewer systems) has been documented by the State of Oregon
Department of Energy at the Hanford (Oregon) nuclear site. Reactor B
at this site is a plutonium production reactor and until recently was
used to make fuel for nuclear weapons. It was originally part of the
From Dirk Dunning, Oregon DOE's Hanford Program Coordinator, in a
1996 interview in the /Environmental Review Newsletter/:
"What happens to the Hanford site over time? A large amount of the
wastes that have been disposed of or buried or leaked at the Hanford
site through its fifty years has gone to the ground water already.
There is an even larger amount of waste hanging in the soil which may
in the future move into the groundwater and then towards and into the
Columbia River. This is a problem today where some of the material
along the river at the N reactor, at the K reactor, at the H and D
reactors and a couple of other locations is already moving into the
Columbia River. At the N reactor, strontium 90 is entering the river
at levels well above the drinking water limits. At the D and H
reactors, hexavalent chrome is entering the river in an area of
spawning beds for some of the native salmon at levels
toxic to salmon fry.
"We also have an immensely large underground plume of tritium moving
across the site and into the river at the old Hanford town site, at
levels well above the drinking water standard. In all those cases the
levels in the main Columbia River are not significantly elevated, and
are below the drinking water standards. But that does not take into
account the effects as waste enters the river, particularly for the
salmon and many other organisms that live on the edges of the river."
For maps of radioactive waste burials at Hanford, see:
A non-profit organization called the Government Accountability
Project has a site:
that includes various efforts by citizens to hold government agencies
accountable. One is Hanford; another is food safety. Regarding
"The Hanford Nuclear Site in southeastern Washington state stores 54
million gallons of dangerous high-level radioactive waste containing
hundreds of millions of curies from the nation's nuclear weapons
production process in hundreds of massive underground nuclear waste
tanks, a third of which are acknowledged to have failed and leaked.
The problem has become all the more urgent since the government
recently admitted that, contrary to prior assurances, tank waste
containing some of the worst long-lived radionuclides have reached
the groundwater beneath the Hanford Site are migrating towards the
nearby Columbia River."
"Government officials estimate that as much as 450 billion gallons of
contaminated liquid wastes were dumped to the soils. As a result, the
groundwater under more than 85 square miles of the site is
contaminated above current standards. Some of the most radioactive
materials were stored in underground tanks, constructed of concrete
and containing a carbon steel liner. Of the 177 underground tanks, 69
are acknowledged to have failed so far, and to have leaked
radioactive and chemically toxic solutions to the soils, where they
have migrated to the groundwater which feeds the Columbia River."
If you would like to see one of the most perfect examples of
Bureau-Babble I've ever run across in my career, see this, from the
"Past operations in the 200 Areas has resulted in approximately 700
Environmental Restoration (ER) waste sites largely consisting of
waste sites that received liquid wastewater (ponds, cribs, french
ditches) and solid waste (burial grounds)."
Isn't that amazing? Operations resulted in waste sites that received
liquid wastewater. And then:
"The current scope for the project includes characterization to
assess the nature and extent of soil contamination and to select
appropriate remedial actions."
Sounds like just another interesting day's research, eh?
With government agencies using slippery, mealy-mouthed language like
this, while admitting between the lines they've done egregious harm
to people and the land and water, I'm not surprised that Ralph, and
others, aren't aware of radioactive contamination of earth and water,
or the human health consquences of that.
There are many other examples; I include this simply as an exercise
in awareness. There are ways of using a particular national language
that lead me to question the notion that English is just one
language. Many people say that "language by nature lies," but I've
never agreed with that. Language is a tool. It can be used to clarify
or to confuse, to build collaboration or to enhance control. Clarity,
honesty, frankness, and integrity are gifts of the soul, and not all
people choose to unwrap them. And some, alas, are trained from the
cradle to use it to manipulate, rather than to witness. Those who use
it to witness, these days, are often ridiculed (unscientific,
impressionistic, emotional, undocumented, subjective), while master
manipulators are held up as exemplars.
Finally, I want to be honest where I'm coming from here, I've tracked
this issue of citizen exposure to radiation since high
school--nuclear accidents, exposure of people downwind from nuclear
tests, the interaction of weather patterns with test-bomb radiation
plumes, nuclear waste storage, nuclear terrorism, and more. My big
interest in this developed in the mid-70s out of a /Frontline/ report
on missing weapons-grade plutonium at the Kerr-McGee breeder reactor
in Crescent, OK, the emerging stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
/hibakusha/, and the death of Karen Silkwood. I also read Ernest
Sternglass's /Low-Level Radiation from Hiroshima to Three Mile
Island/, published in 1972 (Ballantine). (He published a second
edition in 1981, by McGraw-Hill, updated with TMI stuff.) I was very
pleased to see it now on-line:
Sternglass is/was a professor of radiology at the University of
Pittsburgh and a member of all the appropriate physics, radiology,
and such societies. He may be a heretic
Then, when I was in college, I got to know some nuclear engineers who
worked at the Peach Bottom nuclear station in SE Penna, along the
Susquehanna River. Peach Bottom was one of three generation stations
within an hour or less drive of Chester. These nuclear engineers told
me one night how they loved their job at this remote location because
the twisty, windy road that led up to it was a great place to drive
their sports cars really fast, after getting stoned or drunk. Then
after work, they could do it again. That was a revelation to me.
After that, I made a hobby of visiting these nuclear power plants'
visitor centers and asking innocent questions of their Public
Information Officers, all of whom were chirpy, perky, and about 20
years old. My favorite site to visit was the Salem Nuclear Power
facility, in the SW corner of southern New Jersey. It sits, in fact,
upon Sinnicksen land--land held for a century and a half by the first
of my father's people to land in the New World from Sweden and
Finland in the 1640s--so I've always held a grudge against it. The
cooling towers are visible from the Bombay Hook national wildlife
refuge, across the Delaware Bay. Anyway, my favorite question to ask
in the mid-80s was, wasn't it true that Reactor Number X at Salem was
of the same Babcock and Wilcox design as the reactor at Chernobyl,
which lacked a containment vessel. You should've seen the heads
swivel among the other folks there.
Another time, to test a hypothesis I had about the security at the
place, I walked into the entryway to one of the reactor buildings
like I belonged there. I gave the security guard a big smile, said
something about whatever ballgame was happening or just had happened,
meanwhile fishing around for my security clearance badge, oh DARN,
did I leave it in my locker? I was literally holding the pen to sign
myself in and the security guard had his finger on the buzzer, ready
to unlock the door. Now, I'm sure there was more than one door to get
in, but this guy was going to let me in on the authority of my smile.
Jeez. My mistake? I had my boyfriend with me, and the guard was going
to let him in too, but then my boyfriend chickened out and said, "Are
you sure we're allowed in here?"
By the way, this was also the time in my life when I watched my
father die of asbestos-related cancers, and then I spent 9 years in
court trying to hold the supplying corporations responsible.
So. When people tell me how good GMOs are for me--or antibiotics,
polymers, or anything else for that matter--I have this looooooong
history of knowing that what the science and tech boys tell is is
generally filtered through Marketing first. And that message is
shaped by what's good for Stockholders and Quarterly Profits.
Center for Integrated Ag Systems, UW-Madison
UW voice mail: 608-262-8018
Home office: 415-504-6474 (504-MISH)
Home office fax: Same as above, phone first for enabling
I do not like the word 'bomb.' It is not a bomb, it is a device which is
exploding. --France's ambassador to NZ, Jacques LeBlanc, on
French nuclear testing
To Unsubscribe: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
"unsubscribe sanet-mg". If you receive the digest format, use the command
To Subscribe to Digest: Email email@example.com with the command
All messages to sanet-mg are archived at: