depleted uranium

Occupied, Preoccupied

I woke up from a dream in which I was down at Occupy Toronto, so this morning I am preoccupied with thoughts about Occupy.

And my mind is preoccupied with thoughts of all the things I want to do today. It’s Saturday, the first weekend I’ve been at home for three weeks I think & things are a mess here & I want to get sorted out but I think of all those young people down at Occupy Toronto & they’ll be going on another march today & I feel as though I really should be there with them, in solidarity, because I know that all this occupying they’re doing, they’re doing for me too, not just for themselves, that much I know for sure.

And right after I woke up, preoccupied with my dream about Occupy, it came to me how occupied we ALL are, & we’re "occupied" now from the moment of conception.

We’re born occupied – “pre-polluted” (or pre-occupied!) as they say. Toxins in our little bodies from the moment the sperm meets the egg

& we’re born into worlds of privilege or its opposite, & either way, we’re occupied, our minds are occupied

And so many of us are occupied & preoccupied with all our sorrows & our shames, our neuroses & our pain

And we’re born occupied with the idea that we’re “entitled” to this or that (I guess we all wind up feeling entitled one way or another, whether it’s to privilege or to pain) & wouldn’t it be nice if we all just felt entitled to be the very best we can possibly be in a world where the best we can be is the gold standard for every one of us, & the best we can be also miraculously happens to be the very thing that’s best for everyone else in the world too? My best + your best = our best, the world’s best.

Instead of a world in which poverty & greed are always at war, in which the air is full of poisons, & even the wars being fought somewhere “halfway across the world,” across an ocean, involve the use of sick & evil weaponry that sends its poison floating all over the world & drifting down on (& into) all of us.(1)

Our deeply wonderful beautiful world is occupied with radioactive poisons (chemical poisons too of course) & wastes & our very bodies are under full-time assault & most people don’t even realize this nuclear genie that got out of the bottle is poisoning us all every single day in the form of a cancer epidemic that has occupied us all – we are ALL downstream & not just downstream, we’re awash in it, now that cancer is everywhere & has even become such big business, & I wish to goodness I was making this up!

And who is the more colonized? The colonizer or the colonized?

These 1%-ers. I know they’re very very occupied. They’re occupied with greed & lust for power & feelings of entitlement & superiority.

They think they’re “better” than you or me – but then some of us 99%-ers suffer from some of these same dangerous crazy thoughts that occupy us too.

We are all colonized.

“De-colonize your mind,” said a brilliant young man I heard speak at a rousing Grassy Narrows rally last year at Queen’s Park (the provincial legislature building) in Toronto.

Decolonize your mind & grasp that these young occupiers are just our younger selves – less some of the baggage & mind noise & money & illusions & “stuff” we older, “middle-class” types are occupied with. Bogged down with. Weighted down with. Burdened with.

I salute you, young occupiers everywhere.

You are brilliant.

You are brave.

You are speaking for me…& for all of us.

You are "occupying" for me…& for all of us.

Today I am occupied, & preoccupied, & today I need to be selfish & “do my own thing” – so that tomorrow & next week I can have more energy & brilliance to occupy myself with the things that occupy my life.

But I’ll visit you again soon.

Don’t go away!

Don’t give up!

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you… :) :) :)

Janet

p.s. my other postings about Occupy are here & here & I will do another shortly ‘cos guess what? I did wind up going down & not letting myself be so preoccupied with organizing my own little life, & went & hung out for a few hours with the Occupy Toronto crowd. More soon.

p.p.s. there seem to be 2 sites for Occupy Toronto, this one & this one. There is probably lots of Facebook stuff too, I just don’t happen to “do” Facebook myself so I don’t know…


(1) Depleted uranium. Read about it herehere & here

 

Nuclear Waste Conference: Slimed!

<<December 2011: The Ottawa Citizen (Canadian newspaper based in our capital city) is doing a series on nuclear waste.>>

<Sept. 21/11.>

Foolish woman that I am, I recently spent 3 full days (Sept. 12-14th) at a nuclear waste conference held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Apparently I am a glutton for punishment???)

The conference was held at Toronto’s downtown Marriott Hotel, & in a perhaps fitting irony, the many small workshops held each afternoon on different aspects of nuclear waste were conducted in a series of small rooms named Trinity 1 through Trinity 5. Trinity was the name given to the U.S. Manhattan Project’s first atom bomb, set off on July 16, 1945 in the New Mexico desert. Ah, life’s odd little ironies, hmmm?

The official conference title was “Waste Management, Decommissioning and Environmental Restoration for Canada’s Nuclear Activities.” It was organized by the Canadian Nuclear Society (CNS) in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) & co-sponsored by the American Nuclear Society, the Argentina Nuclear Technology Association, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, the Chinese Nuclear Society, the Indian Nuclear Society, the Korean Nuclear Society, the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD & the Romanian Nuclear Energy Association. (Yikes! & you should see the conference sponsors & exhibitors list!? Full program here )

I attended the conference at my own expense, as a retiree. No way do I have the kind of $$ for the regular conference fee they were charging. As pointed out elsewhere on this blog, I’ve been “downwardly socially mobile” all my life & live on peanuts, more or less. (Joyfully, I might add; I’m not complaining! )

The conference was for the nuclear industry, not for members of the public & certainly not for activists…although several of us in the latter category did attend. There were no members of the mainstream press present, & for sure I heard some publicity-worthy remarks made that would have garnered attention had the press been there (it is not an accident that media was/were absent, yes?).

I also spent a half-day the following week at OPG (Ontario Power Generation)’s University & College location in Toronto for a discussion about OPG’s plans to “refurbish” the 4 existing reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station east of Toronto (right on the shores of Lake Ontario), at an estimated cost of $8-14 billion. (Other refurbishments currently underway in Canada, at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick & Bruce Power near Owen Sound are each running $2 billion over budget. Somehow, nuke projects always run late, & over budget, don’t they?? The 2 OPG staff members who gave the presentation about the planned Darlington refurbishment, btw, did not mention the expected price tag, & some of the inconvenient facts that should have come out in response to questions asked, such as, for example, how much waste it will generate, were put off.)

Though not a rocket scientist, I generally manage to learn a thing or two everywhere I go, & these two events proved no exception.

The best way to describe how I felt, though, if I try to articulate what it was like to spend 3 days surrounded by talk of nuclear waste, is … slimed. (1)

Yes, this is a nasty, judgmental & insulting thing to say, & no one knows better than I that the foot soldiers of the nuclear industry (quite a # of whom I know personally) are people too – living, breathing human beings like you & me who care for their families & want to “make a decent living.”

But I’m a truth-teller (it’s right there in my job description!), & the only accurate way to describe how I felt is…slimed.

I’ll be doing several postings about the conference – about things I learned, some things you might want (or more to the point need) to know, & lots of awards for the nuclear industry. I love giving out awards!!  (You can find quite a few here, under the Darlington Hearings heading on this blog).

Nuclear industry types (maybe only the bigshots?? I dunno) are very practiced at speaking out of both sides of their faces. They will say with perfectly straight faces (in this case, to quote Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Prez/CEO Michael Binder) things like “We have a real challenge” (as regards the nuclear operations they oversee) & “We’re not going to tax future generations.”

Say what?????

Nuclear waste by its very definition will tax future generations so far into the future you’d be forgiven for thinking human beings are moral cretins for entertaining for even one moment the notion that creating it is anything less than moronic – perhaps even evil. What kind of human being can utter such things without sprouting an immediate Pinocchio nose on the spot??

There was plenty of this kind of talk during the 3-day conference.

For example, Cameco Corporation’s Karen Chovan said one moment that most of Cameco Corporation’s waste is “low level or even very low level,” yet a moment later spoke of sending their 2010 inventory of depleted uranium (DU) to a recycler in the U.S. You’d have thought she was talking about used diapers, not a horrendous substance being used by the world’s militaries to slice through enemy tanks, leaving its traces inside soldiers’ bodies (& civilian ones, “collateral damage” victims, hmmm?) & causing horrific birth defects &…

Well, my mind boggled. It kept boggling & boggling & boggling.

(More on DU here & here & here)

I heard quite a bit about the Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) site (very near where I lived for 6 years, btw(2)) – a site generously endowed, shall we say, with “legacy wastes” from the early nuclear years (yes, the Manhattan Project & Cold War era) that leach into the Ottawa River (source of drinking water for the 100s of 1000s of citizens of Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, actually), & I also heard about waste sites (so-called “legacy sites”) in Port Hope(2) & Port Granby, Ontario (on the shores of Lake Ontario).

Nuclear industry people will tell you in the first half of a sentence that most of its waste is “low level or even very low level.” Then, in the next breath they will tell you how many millions or billions of dollars (of taxpayers’ money, btw) the Canadian government is giving them to clean up these “legacy” wastes. With – I repeat – straight faces.

A classic example of cognitive dissonance, something I find one encounters quite routinely in the nuclear biz.

“Don’t worry, be happy!! Our wastes are not a problem! It will only cost billions of $$ to clean up our messes!”

Sheesh.

I heard enough nuclear bromides in those 3 days to choke a horse. (Then I heard more during the Darlington refurbishment session.)

Let’s get on with it, shall we? On to the other posts…

Janet

P.S. On the first day of the conference, there was an explosion at a nuclear facility in the south of France. I only heard about this because one of my colleagues at the conference (Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility president Dr. Gordon Edwards) told our group about it. Not one word about this accident came up at the conference. (You can find some info about it hereIf French is not your first language, take advantage of the Google translating option.)

P.P.S. There are 6 posts altogether on this conference. The others are:

 

P.P.P.S. Very important paper on what the nuke industry is up to in the report 'Out of Control - on Purpose."


 

(1) A dear friend of mine tells me her sister used to say “If you sit on a candle, you’re gonna get your arse burned!” These folks in the nuke biz have to be prepared to stand up to the scrutiny the public is more than entitled to put them under, considering the hard truths about nuclear waste – its price tag in $$$ & in unparalleled risks to our fellow humans – both those living now & future generations.

(2) The Chalk River Labs, a sprawling facility built during the 1940s, are downriver from the community of Deep River, a quite stunningly beautiful small town about halfway between Ottawa & North Bay that was established as a bedroom community for the CRL scientists (Manhattan Project era). It is not, shall we say, by accident that the town of Deep River is located upriver (& mostly upwind) from Chalk River Labs…you hear what I’m saying?

(3) Three books I’m aware of that you can read about the Port Hope scene are Blind Faith, by Penny Sanger & Port Hope – Canada’s Nuclear Wasteland & Nuclear Genocide in Canada by Pat McNamara. You will be shocked & appalled at what you learn. But, as Elizabeth Cady Stanton once said, “Truth is the only safe ground to stand on.”

 

Nuclear Free Planet (++ groups list)

** btw, a later post here skips the chat & just lists the groups. As I add in new ones I hear about, I am only adding them into the later post, so please do go there for a more complete list! In Canada, it's Thanksgiving weekend. We're having a gorgeous weekend, weather-wise.

I'll do some family-oriented stuff, & I plan to have a nice long bike ride (or 2) & hit the farmers' market.

& I'll do lots of musing about thankfulness - gratitude, which is the force that more or less fuels my life. Maybe I'll do a blog posting about that too.

For the moment, I am feeling very, very sobered after watching the short video series "Knocking on the Devil's Door: Our Deadly Nuclear Legacy." This is in 8 parts & features a variety of experts on all aspects of the nuclear .... hmmm... the nuclear....well, nightmare is really the only word I can accurately use. (Read a review here )

Folks involved include Dr. Chris Busby, Dr. Helen Caldicott, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Karl Grossman, Kevin Kamps, Cindy Folkers, Greg Palast, Dr. Janette Sherman, Harvey Wasserman, Aileen Mioko Smith, Dr. Michio Kaku & others I've failed to name, for which I apologize.

It covers all aspects of the nuclear business & explains that the only way nuclear power can be called "safe" is when the 2 ends of the fuel chain are conveniently left out - the mining of uranium at the beginning, & the waste at the end. It also explains the utter corruption of the industry & our governments' utter complicity in that corruption.

Please watch it yourself. (If you are an extremely sensitive person, you may find some scenes in Part 7 very upsetting. Birth defects being caused by depleted uranium. Very difficult to have to face these things that are unfortunately indeed taking place. On our watch.)

Then, please give serious consideration to becoming active for a nuclear-free planet. Lots more help is needed, believe me!

Janet

P.S. Lots of sites you can visit to learn more.(I will add to this list as I learn of more groups.)

Many, many groups & information sources to choose from that you can hook yourself up with!!

P.P.S. Good quotations about nukes here (also a growing list of good films about nukes & other odds & ends of info).

'Quote of the day' w. this post: "The problem of nuclear power is it's not built on concrete, it's built on lies." - Greg Palast, author & investigator

Uranium Mining: Nukes' Little Secret

The nuclear industry has all sorts of secrets (& lies). One of the big ones is the nastiness of uranium mining: the environmental damage it causes, the human health impacts, & the messes it leaves behind.

I'm not particularly knowledgeable about it, so I'm not going to say much. Just going to point readers to a few sites where they can learn more.

The U.S.-based Earthworks group has a 2-pager called "Uranium Mining 101." You can find it here.

Earthworks also has a longer report on uranium mining, called "Nuclear Power's Other Tragedy - Communities Living with Uranium Mining."

There is a very powerful & disturbing 12-minute YouTube about uranium mining in Australia here. I want to praise this tiny film for its hard-hitting lessons & world-renowned experts (Dr. Rosalie Bertell & Dr. Helen Caldicott). I also want to warn potential viewers about its very disturbing images of babies born with severe birth defects caused by in-utero exposure to depleted uranium (a man-made substance that personifies evil, in my view). Well worth seeing & sharing around.

The book "This is My Homeland" (edited by Lorraine Rekmans) is about the impacts of uranium mining on the Anishinabe people of the Serpent River watershed, near Elliot Lake, Ontario (Canada). It's a moving story, well told, in a diversity of voices.

You can also find plenty of information about uranium (& lots of other nuke-related topics) at the Web site of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

Janet

p.s. the 47-minute NFB (National Film Board) documentary "Uranium" is a fabulous resource & introduction to this topic!!! Watch it on-line here

'Quote of the day' w. this post: “You can guarantee that mining uranium will lead to nuclear waste. You can’t guarantee that mining uranium will not lead to nuclear weapons.” Anthony Albanese, Australian Labour Party, quoted in New York Times, Aug. 2, 2006

Chernobyl: 25th Anniversary (++ links)

Today, April 26, 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.

I’ll be attending a candlelight vigil in Toronto tonight. The vigil is being held to commemorate this anniversary, & also to support the people of Japan, now dealing with their own horrendous nuclear disaster. The event has been organized by Greenpeace & will take place at 900 Bay St., where Ontario’s Ministry of Energy is located.(1)

I can still recall when I heard about the Chernobyl accident. My children were young then, & although our little family lived in Durham Region (east of Toronto) in the area of 2 major nuclear plants (Pickering, already functioning & Darlington, under construction & later opened in 1989), we never gave it a thought.

Naïve young parents, hmmm? Unaware of so many environmental risks that we & our children unwittingly faced. Polluted air, pesticide exposures from sprayed lawns & sprayed crops nearby. Well water potentially affected by those same pesticides. Hormone disruptors in plastic toys that we gave our kids & got a kick out of them sucking on when they were really young.

Dear me.

And nuclear plants.

But I digress...

I now work (as a volunteer) to help put an end to the nuclear nightmare. It seems there is no end yet in sight.

Here are a few sites it seems a good idea to promote, on this 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster & only 6 ½ weeks out from Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

 

& finally, information about a book about Chernobyl (a review of which can be found here )

“Ace Hoffman has posted the following amazing offer from the authors of the book Chernobyl - Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment.

This book is “...a comprehensive presentation of all the available information concerning the health and environmental effects of the low dose radioactive contaminants, especially those emitted from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.” - quoted from Dr. Sherman’s Web site

For more information on both Dr. Sherman and the book - Chernobyl - Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, go to Dr. Janette Sherman’s Web site.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chernobyl book available NOW in printed form for only $10.00!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chernobyl - Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment,

by Alexei V. Yablokov, Vastly B. Nesterenko and Alexey V. Yesterenko.

Consulting Editor:  Janette D. Sherman-Nevinger.   327 pages.

Originally published in 2009 by the New York Academy of Sciences at $150.00, the right to reprint has been transferred to the authors and is now available for $10.00, plus postage.  This includes a separate index that was not part of the original book.

Number of Books                         Postage              Total Cost

One        @ $10.00                     $2.77                    $12.77

Five         50.00                            4.72                    54.72

Ten        100.00                            7.45                   107.45

Etc.!

Please order directly from:

GREKO PRINTING

260 W. Ann Arbor Rd.

Plymouth, MI 48170

734-453-0341  (9 to 5, Mon. to Fri., EDT)

E-mail:  TONY@GREKOPRINTING.COM

Include credit card number & expiration date, number of books & address where they are to be sent. Orders from foreign countries welcome! Postage will be additional.

(1) AND, there is a Robert Knoth photo exhibit ‘Chernobyl: Remember & Rethink’ in Toronto from April 14-28 at the Hotshot Art Gallery, 181 Augusta Ave. (Tues-Sat., 11 am – 7 pm). Only 2 more days, as I post this entry.

 

 

Lead 101: Nukes & Lead - 10 Things…

The funny thing about my working on these two issues is, I never actually set out to do so! I just sort of got pulled in, in the past year or so – all the while having meant to devote myself fully to the climate change issue.

Ah well. Life is what happens while you’re making other plans…hmmm?

As explained in ‘Lead 101: 20 things you need to know’, I knew nothing whatsoever about lead until last June. Having now attended 2 events devoted to lead & been in the presence of people who are very knowledgeable about it indeed (nurses, Health Dept. people, a boatload of Ph.Ds & a bunch of MDs), here I am, now, caring a lot about lead.

I couldn’t help but begin noticing, at the Centers for Disease Control "National Healthy Homes & Lead Poisoning Prevention training center” I attended in Chicago in Dec. 2010, that there are several things common to these two issues. Here goes!

Lead & Nukes: 10 common elements

  1. Both are really quite nasty & stubborn issues indeed – yet many, if not most people appear entirely oblivious to the very considerable risks of both nuclear energy & lead.
  2. Once you learn about these risks, you almost wish you hadn’t! These are tough, tough issues to work & wrestle with. Truthfully, they could drive a person just about cuckoo… Luckily, as I like to joke, I didn’t have far to go…
  3. There is no safe level of exposure, either to radionuclides or to lead. The nuclear & lead industries will claim otherwise, & often refer to “safe” levels of exposure. This is (sorry to be impolite; don’t listen, Mom!!) bullshit. There is no safe level of exposure to these toxic substances.
  4. The degree of complexity in both these issues can be very off-putting, to put it mildly. It’s hard for the average person to grasp a lot of the technical detail involved. People in both lead & nuclear industries know this. They don’t just know it; they play on it! They try to intimidate those who question them by reciting complex-sounding “facts” & figures (which are very often neither factual nor accurate) & they use staff with fancy titles & degrees (& salaries!) to carry out & communicate their dirty deeds. I call it deliberate obfuscation, & have seen it in operation on many occasions at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearings. CNSC staff members have Ph.D.’s in Obfuscation. They are experts at it! But you know what? Bullshit is still bullshit!
  5. Our planet – & our bodies – have become unwitting receptacles for the products of these two industries (not just these two, of course, but let’s leave the chemical & pharmaceutical industries for another day, shall we?). If we were to put an immediate halt to both lead & nuclear sources of exposure, we’d still be surrounded by their extremely persistent toxic by-products for many thousands of years (with nuclear wastes, we are talking hundreds of thousands of years; with depleted uranium (DU), we are talking about a half-life of 4.5 billion years!!!). That’s why we have to put a stop to these activities now, & focus on prevention of any further harm. We cannot eliminate or disappear what has already been done, &, I am very sorry to report, it’s extremely substantial. While working on & knowing about all this is not pleasant, exactly, these are compelling reasons to put a stop to the depredations of both of these industries NOW. I mean, last week.
  6. Not content to pollute our bodies, our air, our children & our communities with the toxic by-products of their appallingly dirty industries, both are now in the business – hard as it may seem to believe – of marketing their toxins…in consumer goods! I’m not at all clear what route it is that lead takes to wind up in candy & jewelry & toys & some herbal supplements – but as for nuke wastes being “recycled” into consumer products, the U.S.-based Nuclear Information & Resource Service (NIRS) has known about this for years! Look for excellent fact sheets on their Web site – in particular, one called ‘Reprocessing is Not the “Solution” to the Nuclear Waste Problem’
  7. Sadly, both of these awful industries can always find willing workers to do their dirty work. Salaries are often very good (at least in the nuke biz). We humans – well, we’re kind of … buyable, aren’t we? And don’t get me wrong. I know people in the nuke business; quite a few of them, as a matter of fact. Most of them are very nice people. It’s true! But as I already said somewhere else in this essay, bullshit is still bullshit. Elephants are still elephants. When the emperor has no clothes, he still has no clothes! (btw, I guess I should also add that we can all be grateful that the (awful) nuclear facilities DO have many reliable, responsible, conscientious workers. I have met some of these folks. Kudos to them for doing their best to help prevent any more Chernobyls from happening!! But I wish the darn nuke facilities didn't exist in the first place... & I could go on here, & say much more...but I won't... Well. Except for this - added many days later... The essay here on innocence & evil may be of some relevance.)
  8. Both these industries have “friends in high places.” Oh yes. Lobbyists who pressure our government representatives. Make them “offers they can’t refuse.” Oh yes. They do indeed.(1) It doesn’t pay to be too naïve about our so-called “democracy,” people. Power corrupts, hmmm?
  9. How about this startling fact? The human race could get by just fine without these industries!!!!!! There are ALWAYS alternatives to toxic products. We humans are wildly creative, you know; we can always find non-toxic alternatives. And they almost invariably cost less & save money, along with being better for our health!! (I’m reminded here of Mary O’Brien’s very inspiring presentation on “sunsetting” chlorine.(2))
  10. If we decide as a society to put an end to these two very dangerous, polluting industries (along with others I could name), & go about it thoughtfully & carefully, we will immediately see the obvious need to provide alternate employment for those who are to be displaced. The labour movement has long talked about the concept of “Just Transition.” I first heard this idea mentioned about half an eon ago (at an International Joint Committee meeting, actually); it is not a “new” idea. Just one whose time, surely, has come…ya think??

Janet

P.S. Lots of pithy quotations about the nuclear issue here.

P.P.S. All my lead-related blog posts are listed here.

‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” – Edmund Burke

Runner-up quotes: “The optimism of the action is better than the pessimism of the thought.” – Harold Zindler

“You can blame people who knock things over in the dark, or you can begin to light candles. You’re only at fault if you know about the problem and choose to do nothing.” – Paul Hawken, entrepreneur & author, The Sun (April 2002) – quoted in July/Aug. 2002 issue of Utne Reader

“How much harm does a company have to do before we question its right to exist?” – Paul Hawken

“The Earth is not dying – it is being killed. And the people who are killing it have names and addresses.” – U. Utah Phillips, quoted in Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming, by Paul Hawken <Pg. 115> Nice comments about this book, btw, here. Lotsa quotes from the book here


(1) Check this Resources document – near the bottom is a list of books. A couple of these detail the whole dirty story about industry/government collusion on lead. It ain’t pretty…

(2) Mary O’Brien is a U.S.-based scientist I once (maybe even twice) heard speak at an International Joint Commission (IJC) meeting on the Great Lakes. She gave a rousing presentation entitled “10 Great Things About Sunsetting Chlorine” (or words to that effect). Unfortunately, I am unable to lay my hands on that item – but you can check out her awesome “Campaign Tips” here!

Lives & Half-Lives

I’ve been divorced for 11 years now. My 20-year marriage broke up 15 years ago, at which time I’d spent 14 ½ as a full-time homemaker – wife, mother, active community volunteer, & doing occasional contract jobs. My children were then 14 & 12, & since I’d spent 14 years “at home” with them, with my energies focused primarily on family life, losing not just their father & the marriage but also their full-time presence in my life (due to the new week-on, week-off joint custody arrangement), I came to think of my life as a “half-life.” That’s the way it felt to me then. This wasn’t terribly funny, at the time (I was gobsmacked, as they say), but it was the slightly ironic way I came to view my life, & to describe it to myself, inside my head. I guess it somehow helped me cope with things, thinking of it that way & sort of chuckling about it. (“I know all about half-lives!” I’d say ironically to myself, inside my head…)

Long since “recovered” from those painful, gutwrenching months & years, into my goodness- knows-how manyth re-incarnation (as it were), & with a life now that can fairly be described as full to bursting, the term half-life has taken on an entirely different meaning for me.

I’ve been drawn into nuclear issues of late (quite without really intending to), & as numerous recent blog posts attest(1), I’ve been working recently to help ensure that the plan of Bruce Power (another BP(2),eh?) to ship 16 retired & highly radioactive steam generators from Ontario – across the Great Lakes (source of drinking water for 40 million people) through the St. Lawrence Seaway(source of drinking water for another several million in the Province of Quebec) – & the Atlantic Ocean (source of life & home to a zillion creatures, upon whose life & health we humans rely to a degree that the average person may very well not comprehend), to Sweden for so-called “recycling” is gobsmacked (the way all of our lives are, occasionally, hmmmm??).

Apply the brakes, pulleese!!

Nuclear issues are complex. I myself don’t understand even a small fraction of the guts & internal workings of nuclear technology the way many of my so-awesome fellow activists do.(3)

The nuclear industry, btw, totally counts on all this complexity & all of its obfuscation-inducing fancy terms & jargon to intimidate the “average person” into shutting up & shutting down & (metaphorically) crawling into a corner & saying “Okay, okay, okay – I’m too damn dumb to understand this stuff, so I’ll just let you “experts” be in charge & do what you will.”

I don’t want to get sidetracked here by going into the utter moral bankruptcy of the various agencies involved in the nuclear industry. That would require a whole essay of its own – & maybe it’s been done, & if so, & if I can lay my hands on it, I will return here & provide a link to it. It’s tempting, even, to “go there” – but…not right now, OK? [much later posting called 'How the Nuclear Industry F**ks Us' here]

We all know in our guts that nuclear waste that will remain toxic & dangerous & life-threatening (did I mention DNA-damaging?) for 1000s, 10’s of 1000s & even 100s of 1000s of years isn’t good for us. Right?

Well, duh.

Those retired, radioactive steam generators, for example, contain a very scary list of radioactive contaminants. These include cobalt & cesium & strontium – & also 5 plutonium isotopes & 4 uranium isotopes. (If you go here, you can see the whole list. On that same Web site you can find all kinds of other very interesting information about the steam generators, & about nuclear matters in general.)

The half-lives of these isotopes is a deeply, deeply sobering thing to contemplate.

As Wikipedia explains it, “Half-life is the period of time it takes for a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name was originally used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms (radioactive decay), but may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.The original term, dating to 1907, was “half-life period,” which was later shortened to “half-life” in the early 1950s.”

The half-life of Plutonium-239 is 24,000 years; of Plutonium-240, 6,500 years; of Plutonium-242, 380,000 years.

The half-lives of the uranium isotopes found in the steam generators are as follows: Uranium-234, 250,000 years; Uranium-235, 700,000,000 years; Uranium-236, 23,000,000 years; Uranium-238 (wait for it!), 4,500,000,000 (yes, 4.5 billion) years.

Yikes.

Or rather, YIKES!?!?!?!?!

So BP (Bruce Power) head honcho Duncan Hawthorne (who has stated he feels opponents of his grand plan should be “rebuked”) bandies about the image of a tennis ball. The weight of the nuclear isotopes contained in the steam generators, he says, is 64 grams.

He does not explain that these nuclear contaminants have scary half-lives. (Did I just say scary?? I mean terrifying…)

He does not explain that 32-40 grams of the material is Plutonium-239 (1/2 life: 24,000 years) – an amount that could overdose a million people.

Now do you – or anyone you know – including the average 6 or 8 or 10-year old – think we should be messing around with substances this dangerous??

Shipping them around, risking a sinking? (I hate to tell you this, but there have already been lots of dangerous nuclear cargoes sunk in our no-longer-pristine or even vaguely clean oceans. You can look this up – although you may not want to, & I can’t really say I blame you for not wanting to know. I don’t really want to know either…) But since Duncan Hawthorne’s cavalier attitude toward having a 16-radioactive-steam-generator-filled-ship sink on the journey he is proposing for them seems to be more or less “Let ‘em sink!” it seems to me those of more sober mind ought to put the brakes on his plan…

Should we be adding to the already-serious global problem of radioactively-contaminated metal entering consumer goods? (See ‘Radioactive Cutlery, Anyone?’ for more on this.) Does any one of us really want to discover the toaster we have just bought has nuclear waste in it? Does any of us really want to discover that the metal in our child’s braces has a lot more in it than we’d bargained for? Do we all want to have to start carrying a Geiger counter around with us every time we go out shopping???

Or do we think we ought to leave the steam generators where they are? (& where they have been for quite a few years already, btw.) Store them as safely as humanly possible; watch over them very, very, very carefully. Don’t mess with them any more than we absolutely have to, & for sure, Don’t risk the drinking water of 10s of millions of people with some cockamamie plan to ship them all over the darn place.

Janet

p.s. Why are we even talking about this?????

p.p.s. 'Quote of the day' with this post:  ”Once you know the difference between right and wrong, you have lots fewer decisions to make.” - Joseph Campbell, quoted in the biography “A Fire in the Mind - The Life of Joseph Campbell” by Stephen & Robin Larsen

p.p.p.s. For a thorough understanding of the growing problem of radioactively-contaminated consumer products, please check out the report ‘Out of Control’ on the NIRS Web site.

p.s. # 4. The half-life of Uranium-238 (4.5 billion years) kinda puts my little whine about my “half-life” into perspective, doesn’t it? Gheesh…


(2) The other BP assured the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2009 that an oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon site was “unlikely.” An environmental impact study was therefore waived. Oops. As in, OOPS! As in, more like massive criminal negligence, since "oops" is a word that totally fails to convey the appropriate seriousness of what we are talking about...

(3) I do however understand that the half-life of depleted uranium (4.5 billion years) means that, given its, shall we say, extreme toxicity to all forms of life, we ought not to be playing around with it so cavalierly, the way militaries now so routinely do. We ought not be playing around with it AT ALL. I do also understand that nuclear waste is also not something we should be treating lightly. Duh…