Monday, December 10, 2007

The Curse of Atomic Weapons and Power

December 10th, 2007

Dear Readers,

On average, every working American spends about TWO DAYS A WEEK building, using, or paying for America's weaponry, and the means to convey that weaponry to where it will be used. At least a quarter of all fuel -- including nuclear fuel -- used by this country goes to war-related activities.

It is impossible to be a productive nation when so many raw materials and so much talent and time is spent on destruction.

But the most insidious thing about modern warfare is that it kills civilians -- lots of civilians. People like you and me.

The United States military operates, day or night, war or peace, under dozens of special exemptions to environmental regulations. Regulations which everyone else on the planet MUST adhere to. The result is radioactive and chemical pollution on a global scale -- not just where the wars occur, but also at training areas and manufacturing facilities.

The tools of modern war include Uranium-238 munitions (aka "DU"), now infamous for causing "flaming pee" (a terrible burning sensation when you urinate) and other ailments in our own veterans, and for causing grossly deformed children in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo.

The tools also include U-235 / Pu-239 munitions (aka "nuclear weapons" or "atomic bombs"). Although these "tools" have only been used twice in war so far, in Hiroshima (primarily a U-235 weapon) and Nagasaki (primarily a Pu-239 weapon of slightly greater sophistication), those uses were demonstration projects for the world to see what was to come.

Total destruction. Not just your soldiers killed, but your records destroyed, your buildings burned, your history obliterated, your museums, schools, factories, sewage systems, water systems -- everything, blasted, burned, and worst of all -- irradiated.

Thousands, even millions of people in desperate need of medical care which is utterly unavailable. Suffering beyond words. A holocaust. A war crime.

Nuclear war has been threatened a thousand times since its invention and early use. Our current president has threatened it frequently, which constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in and of itself -- the threat is distressing to those threatened.

Which is all of us. Every nuclear threat has a counterthreat somewhere. Every escalation of a war has a counterinsurgency to match. Every time George Bush gets us into another war, America becomes more vulnerable to retaliation.

The military has long pushed the idea that our mighty armies are the only thing that keeps us free, safe, secure, and comfortable at home.

But I'll wager we were safe because we were the shining city on the hill for so long. The place everyone wanted to be. The place that people wanted to honor with tributes such as the Statue of Liberty -- THAT place was safe! People came here NOT to terrorize us, but to BE us! But we've become greedy, cloistered, cold-hearted, and ignorant.

In addition to bombing two cities in Japan during World War II, the U.S. alone has conducted more than a thousand nuclear "tests." We've irradiated dozens of islands in the Pacific, and parts of Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska, Colorado, and Mississippi, with atomic bomb debris. And that's not counting the "downwind" effect on Utah, Wyoming, and every other state (and every nation).

Additionally, we've piled up nuclear reactor cores -- spent fuel -- at nuclear power plants in dozens of states -- all with an unkept promise that the waste would be quickly removed. For 60 years the nuclear weapons and power industries have looked for a solution, but they keep coming back to: "Drive it 50 miles into Indian territory and dump it" which is all Yucca Mountain really amounts to.

While in transit, the waste is vulnerable to bridge collapses, train derailments and tunnel fires, sabotage, and a thousand other things. The government claims their transport containers are "safe" but they define "safe" very narrowly -- for example, as being able to probably survive a 30 foot drop onto a 6 inch post. Such testing does not reflect the real-world hazards. In their carefully-contrived theoretical "worst case" scenarios, almost no fuel is ever actually released, which means they don't have to calculate what happens if just one hour's worth of one reactor's spent fuel -- about 10 pounds's worth -- ever got out into the environment. The size of the catastrophe from that 10 pounds would depend on the precise location and weather conditions at the time. But one hour's worth of spent fuel could kill MILLIONS if released to the environment. And yet, we keep making more.

We're waiting for a solution to the physically unsolvable -- that is to say, impossible -- problem of storing something that destroys its container by irradiating it (and thus breaking down the molecular and atomic structure of the steel, concrete, glass, or what-have-you). In the meantime, the deformity-causing, cancer-causing, disease-causing, boiling-hot (thermally) concentrations of "hot" (radioactive) isotopes are each glowing, growing targets for retaliatory strikes against America, along with the operating reactors.

As little-known expert Bennett Ramberg put it in a UPI Op-Ed from May 2005: "Nuclear power plants are naked against a Sept. 11, 2001-like air attack." Twenty years earlier Ramberg wrote a whole book on the subject of nuclear terrorism, which was ignored by government and the nuclear industry, and was called: "Nuclear Power Plants as Weapons for the Enemy: An Unrecognized Military Peril." We still ignore him, at our own risk.

In the drive to create a nuclear-powered, nuclear-weaponized society, profits were made all along the way. Lying to ourselves about how corporations make profits on other people's misery does not stop evil from happening. Rather, it enables it.

Uranium-238 munitions, the shells and bombs used by the thousands every day in Iraq, leave a poisonous legacy. America, right now, is poisoning the area known as the cradle of civilization. We grew up calling it Mesopotamia. The name Iraq doesn't convey its 10,000+ year history of human settlement.

An interesting side-effect of our use of Depleted Uranium weapons is that, because of their extraordinarily-long half-life of four and a half billion years, the evidence of our assault on civilians who have not even been born yet, will be detectable (with sophisticated equipment) for about 50 to 100 billion years. The earth is only about 5 billion years old, according to the geological record!

Two, or ten, or a hundred generations from now, or a thousand, anyone will be able to find clear evidence of our use of uranium weaponry. Uranium fragments. Deformities among the local population. All these things will be discernable. Future generations of Americans will probably have to pay reparations for today's use of radioactive tools of war.

Tools which are already illegal by numerous international conventions.

Tools which also sicken and endanger the lives of our own soldiers and their families.

Profitable? VERY! Depleted Uranium is free -- the nuclear fuel reprocessing centers are just DYING to give it away. And it cuts through buildings and enemy tanks (and bodies) like a hot knife through butter. AND THEN IT TURNS INTO POISON GAS! You can find radioactive fragments, and you can detect the uranium with a Geiger Counter, but the bombs and bullets will have mostly vaporized -- become poison gas -- and some of that will spread out globally before getting into crops, drinking water, babies, you and I.

Modern warfare is, more than anything else, an assault -- largely hidden -- on civilians, and on humanity at large. Just as with each breath, we each breath some part of Caesar's last breath, so too the deadly DU dust from EACH war will poison ALL seven billion+ people on the planet, including more than a billion children.

The deadly dust will poison the rich and the poor alike, but the poor will have no access to health care.

We, the American Couch Potato, allow this in our name. Our government is currently the world's greatest terrorist, JUST on the basis of its use of U-238, and threatened use of U-235 and Pu-239 weapons. The shining hill now glows with radioactivity, and its citizens suffer with cancer.

Our inability to admit that radioactive weapons MUST be banned, and that large radioactive targets (aka "nuclear power plants") must ALSO be closed forever, makes us guilty of mass murder by complacency.

None of us are innocent anymore -- except the children of course, who are 10 to 100 times or more, MORE VULNERABLE than adults to nuclear radiation dangers, and who trust us to protect them from ALL the horrors of the real world, even the invisible and insidious ones.

Stop the radiation assault, and you go a long way towards stopping cancer, leukemia, birth defects and other ailments. Those who promote nuclear power promote death, destruction, undemocratic principles, and global suffering. But those who say nothing and simply let it happen are their single biggest and most powerful group of supporters.

When the tsunami occurred in 2004, many people died because they ran out to where fish were flapping, where the water used to be. A tidal wave of ignorance and apathy is occurring on this planet. New technologies COULD replace ALL the nuclear power in use on earth in a matter of MONTHS -- maybe even weeks -- if society put its global industrial strength to work building alternative energy systems with currently-available designs.

But instead, we continue to upgrade old nukes, and even build new nukes. Each one creates about 250 pounds per day of radioactive "spent" fuel. Enormous amounts of fossil fuels and chemicals are used to process the nuclear materials, and to keep the nuclear power plants in "working" order -- producing more waste. Nuclear power is not the solution to global warming or anything else.

There is NOTHING good about nuclear power. Those who run the plants, build the weapons, and process the fuel staunchly defend their "right" to pollute your body with odorless, colorless, tasteless, and extremely carcinogenic radioactive isotopes, and few of us even know it is happening.

Those who DO know can and MUST stop this madness. Cancer rates are soaring; every family suffers.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

The author, an educational software developer, has studied nuclear issues for more than 35 years, and writes frequently about nuclear weapons and nuclear power. He offers a large collection of free, informative nuclear animations at his web site. To receive his newsletters directly, please contact him at:

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December 8, 2007: Child cancer risk higher near nuclear plants: study

A German study has found that young children living near nuclear power plants have a significantly higher risk of developing leukemia and other forms of cancer, a German newspaper reported on Saturday.

"Our study confirmed that in Germany a connection has been observed between the distance of a domicile to the nearest nuclear power plant .... and the risk of developing cancer, such as leukemia, before the fifth birthday," Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper quoted the report as saying.

The newspaper said the study was done by the University of Mainz for Germany's Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BFS). A copy of the report was not immediately available.

The researchers found that 37 children within a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius of nuclear power plants had developed leukemia between 1980 and 2003, while the statistical average during this time period was 17, the paper said.

The newspaper cited an unnamed radiation protection expert familiar with the study who said its conclusions understated the problem. He said the data showed there was an increased cancer risk for children living within 50 kilometers of a reactor.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement that he would examine the study. He said the BFS should also evaluate its findings.

Germany plans to prematurely shut down all of its nuclear power plants by the early 2020s.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau)

Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited

Quotes collected by Ace Hoffman:

"Nuclear war must be the most carefully avoided topic of general significance in the contemporary world. People are not curious about the details." -- Paul Brians (Author; quote is from: Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction)
"When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." -- Sinclair Lewis (first American Nobel Prize winner in Literature, d. 1951)
"There is no such thing as a pro-nuclear environmentalist." -- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa, 1992)
"Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories." -- Sun Tzu (Chinese General b.500 BC)
"The most intolerable reactor of all may be one which comes successfully to the end of its planned life having produced mountains of radioactive waste for which there is no disposal safe from earthquake damage or sabotage." -- A. Stanley Thompson (Pioneer Nuclear Physicist who saw the light)
"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery." -- Octavia Butler (Science Fiction writer)
"If you want real welfare reform, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to reduce poverty, you focus on a good education, good healthcare, and a good job.

If you want a stable middle class, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to have citizens who can participate in democracy, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

And if you want to end the violence, you could build a million new prisons and you could fill them up, but you never end this cycle of violence unless you invest in the health and the skill and the intellect and the character of our children. you focus on a good education, good health care and a good job.

And other than that, I don't feel strongly about anything."

-- Paul Wellstone (US Senator, D-Minnesota, 7.21.44 - 10.25.02)
"Please send this to everyone you know! Together we can force a change." -- Ace Hoffman (original collector of the above quotes, November, 2007)

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Ace Hoffman
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Carlsbad, CA 92018