DID YOU KNOW?
(by Robin Mills)
1. The Tooth Fairy Project
Strontium 90 mimics calcium. Plants can not tell the difference due to their similiarities. Large quantities of radioactive strontium 90 were spread over our planet by nuclear weapons testing in the 1940's and 1950's. Plants have been bioaccumulating (concentrating) this strontium 90 and then we eat those plants. Our bodies are also fooled by strontium 90. In a breakthrough study done in 1958 by Barry Commoner and others, it was shown that the teeth of every baby in the country had some level of strontium 90 accumulation.
When this information was released, it caused such a stir that it is sometimes cited as the real reason for the above ground test ban treaty. Strontium 90 is a radioactive fission product produced by either nuclear weapons or nuclear bombs. Before the first fissioning in the 1940's, strontium 90 did not exist on our planet. It is a totally man made element with a half life of 28 years. This relatively middle range half life is part of the reason strontium 90 is so dangerous, along with its similiarity to calcium.
Even very small quantities of strontium 90, when incorporated into a persons teeth and bones, would be doing great damage internally. Women also accumulate large quantities of calcium in their breast milk. If strontium 90 is bioaccumulating in womens breasts, it could account for the rise in breast cancer. The only reasonable course of action is to oppose any further production of this dangerous element.
2. The Peace Farm
The Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas is a large federal facility where the United States assembles all of its nuclear weapons. This 3000 acre site is 3600 feet above sea level on the billiard table flat high plains. Average annual rainfall of about 15 inches makes the area a semi-arid grassland that produces crops mostly through irrigation from the Ogallala aquifer.
Since the end of the cold war, instead of assembling nuclear weapons, the facility has been dismantling about 1500 nuclear weapons per year. At the core of each of these dismantled nuclear weapons is the trigger, a hollow sphere of plutonium commonly called a pit. These pits weigh ten to fifteen pounds, so the approximately 15,000 pits currently stored at Pantex equals near to 50 tons of plutonium.
Across the street from Pantex is the 20 acre Peace Farm. The Peace Farm is a watchdog group that formed in 1982. The current director of the Peace Farm is Mavis Belisle, a veteran peace activist originally from the Dallas area. The big issues now for the Peace Farm are safe storage of the plutonium, making sure the weapons are safely dismantled and the ongoing contamination of the Ogallala aquifer.
The Peace Farm helps put out a monthly newsletter, the Nuclear Examiner. It is a membership organization with about a thousand members who each pay $25 per year. Over the past 18 years the Peace Farm has accumulated a 2000 square foot meeting house, a small library building, two old mobile homes, several sheds and a straw bale sculpted artwork surrounding a statue of mother earth. Guests are welcome to come and stay for brief visits if arrangements are made in advance.
Over the past 18 years there have been numerous demonstrations in front of the gates of Pantex, an annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration, hundreds of meeting and hearings have been attended, and the neighbors have been organized to defend themselves against the threat that Pantex represents.
3. Fernald Is Shut Down
Spiderworts are low growing plants with blue and yellow flowers. Japanese researchers noticed that spiderworts around Hiroshima and Nagasaki exhibited an unusual number of defects in the flower staymen. The usually pink staymen had more blue mutations around Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tens of thousands of spiderworts were planted and tested each year, which eventually gave an estimate of the radiation in any area. These spiderworts (tradescantia ohiensis) are essentially radiation sensing devices.
In 1984, after having stopped the Zimmer nuclear plant, local activists were made aware of the Fernald uranium processing facility near Cincinnati. Cows grazed around the plant which is located in rural Hamilton county. The Fernald plant took the uranium hexaflouride that Oak Ridge enriched, and onverted it into uranium metal and shaped it into fuel rods for the plutonium production reactors at Hanford and Savannah River. Fernald was a link in the nuclear weapons pipeline.
Several demonstrations were held at the gate of Fernald in 1984 and 1985, but perhaps the planting of spiderworts first broke the veil of silence around the plant. Members of the Ohio Nuclear Weapons Awareness Group (ONWAG) and University Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment (UCARE) decided to try planting thousands of plants around Fernald over a weekend that included demonstrations against the plant at the gate. We went door to door asking Fernalds neighbors if we could plant a spiderwort in their yards, distributing thousands over a weekend.
The little plants started a tital wave which forced the plant to close just two years later, 1986. So many of the neighbors were concerned that they formed Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health (FRESH). The leader of FRESH, Lisa Crawford, convinced Senator John Glenn to look into the situation at Fernald. What he found was an admission that 20,000 pounds of uranium had been released (1984), then 200,000 pounds of uranium had been lost (1985), and again 2 million pounds had been misplaced (1986) to the final truth today, over ten million pounds of uranium dust and uranium hexaflouride contaminated the Great Miami River and about ten square miles around it heavily.
The people who live around Ross, Ohio will have to live with that contamination forever. Buildings are being dismantled. A waste vitrification plant blew up after a pressure relief valve clogged with condensed glass. It is a big secret that all the Manhattan project nuclear waste ended up in waste silos at Fernald!, and they are trying to deal with that too.
The reason the little plants worked was that the Fernald workers and owners believed that we had radiation detectors placed all around them. They were surrounded. The truth is we psyched them out. None of us ever went back to test those spiderworts.
4. Nuclear Waste Dump Is Stopped
Sierra Blanca is a small town of about 400 people way out in arid west Texas. After a bitter battle eight years ago, Sierra Blanca became the end of the line for the Poo Poo Choo Choo. New York City produces millions of tons of sewage sludge. They were looking for a place to put it. Currently they ship it by barge to Corpus Christi, then load it on the Poo Poo Choo Choo which takes the sludge to Sierra Blanca. Actually, a 500 acre site northwest of town a few hundred yards.
After the shit came to town, promoters tried for nuclear waste. The state of Texas is in a low level nuclear waste disposal Compact with the states of Maine and New Hampshire, and the state selected an area just southeast of Sierra Blanca for its planned dumpsite. Activists formed the Sierra Blanca Legal Defense Fund to stop the dump.
The dump was supposed to be in a clay lined pit fifty feet deep, 200 feet wide and about 500 feet long. Waste would arrive in barrels and be buried with bulldozers. This part of west Texas gets less than 10 inches of rain a year and is technically part of the Chihuahua desert. The site was also only 5 miles to the border with Mexico, which is what stopped it.
Activists were eventually able to show that the dumpsite violated the environmental provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement and organized the Mexican side of the border to press that point through. The state of Texas abandoned the Sierra Blanca site early this year. No nuclear waste has or will ever be dumped there.
5. Plutonium Fuel Stockholder Actions
Anti-nuclear stockholder actions have been around since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. In the early 1980's there were hundreds of proposals submitted to companies trying to get them to get out of nuclear, deal with the waste and better monitor releases. The number of proposals has dropped off in the 1990's. Recently I attempted several anti-nuclear proposals at nuclear utilities.
In 1997 I was attending an anti-nuclear training session at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER). Pat Birnie was also attending the session. She has been doing anti-nuclear stockholder actions against General Electric for many years. During a special idea session about plutonium (MOX) fuel she suggested we attack the plan by using a stockholder action.
That fall I received some inheritance in the form of utility company stocks, including Commonwealth Edison (10 reactors), Philadelphia Electric (5 reactors) and Duke Energy (7 reactors). At that time, all three utilities were in the running to get the government contract to use the plutonium fuel. Since then the contract has gone to Duke Energy.
The rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission are very specific concerning stockholder actions. Proposals must be submitted six months or more before the company shareholder meeting and can be not more than 500 words long. Groups or individuals must have over $2000. worth of stock and have owned it for more than one year and promise to continue holding the stock through the meeting. Copies of the proposal and a legalistic cover letter must be sent by registered mail to the SEC and the company secretary.
I found several other stockholders who owned stock in these and other companies, and in the fall of 1998 we filed our first action against plutonium fuel. The proposal at Duke Energy went rather well. The company tried to squash the proposal citing technicalities, and we were able to convince the SEC to allow the proposal. We gave a good speech at the stockholders meeting. The proposal got 7.7% of the vote.
There are about 300 million shares and a quarter million shareholders. Our 500 word proposal was printed in the proxy statement that was mailed to all the shareholders. Our 7.7% represented over 19 million shares valued at over a billion dollars (out of a company worth of about $15 billion). So, while we did lose, we got a good forum to present our ideas.
SEC rules stipulate that a proposal can be resubmitted the next year if it gets over 3%. In the fall of 1999 we submitted another, better worded proposal. We also wrote to many of the big owners of Duke Energy asking them to support the proposal. In the spring of this year we attended our second Duke shareholders meeting.
With this second proposal we got a group of almost a dozen people to join together in submitting the proposal to the SEC and company. We organized to go to the meeting together and in force. Unfortunately, on April 20th, we received only 4.5% of the vote from the shareholders. This unexpected drop in percentage means we can not submit the proposal for a third year. We needed 6% for that.
Our analysis of why we failed this second year is that the company lobbied heavily against us. The vote was not a secret vote. They had all the results and lobbied those individuals and companies that had voted with us the first year, convincing many of our supporters to abandon us. We also did not do a good enough job of communicating with and identifying our supporters and positions. Overall though the action was very cost effective for the number of people we reached with our message.
6. License Extension Stockholder Action
When nuclear power plants get their licenses to operate, it has always been for 40 years. The logic to this is that after that much time the whole plant will have become radioactive from radiolytic byproducts. These radioactive parts are more brittle. Pipes could shatter like glass.
Recently there has been the action from the nuclear industry to extend the licenses of their nuclear plants past the originally planned 40 years to 60 total years. This extra 20 years is called 'License Extension'. Several new england plants tried for license extension and were stopped. In 1998 Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BG&E) applied for a license extension for it's Calvert Cliffs nuclear plants. Unit 1 opened in 1974 and unit 2 in 1976.
In the fall of 1998 I initiated a stockholder action against this license extension. I found two other people with BG&E stock and we submitted a good proposal against license extension. We talked about pipe and reactor vessel embrittlement, the higher radioactivity of the plant and the extra 20 years worth of nuclear waste. Our call for opposition to license extension received 4.3% of the stockholder vote.
There are about 200,000 BG&E stockholders. The anti-license extension proposal was sent to all of them in the proxy statement. The cost effectiveness in reaching all the stockholders with our message was good, but we don't know how many of them actually read the proxy statement.
7. Radioactive Isotopes Are Killing Us
Most matter on our planet is stable elements, including oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and iron. Each element has a number of protons and neutrons which when added up equal the atomic mass number of the element. Thus stable oxygen is 16 Atomic Mass Units (AMU), hydrogen is 1, nitrogen is 14, and carbon is 12. There are also unstable radioactive elements called isotopes.
An atom is radioactive if it decays into some other form over a period of time. There are naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM's), including potassium 40, radon and uranium isotopes, all in very small quantities. Until the 1940's there was no strontium 90, no iodine 131 and no iron 59 anywhere on planet earth. These isotopes are totally man made from the fissioning of uranium and plutonium. Some of these new materials are playing havoc with the human body.
Our bodies selectively absorb nutrients from the environment around us through what we eat and breathe. Never before have human bodies encountered these newly made isotopes. It turns out that strontium 90 is chemically very similar to stable calcium and that our bodies are absorbing and concentrating it like it was calcium. This radioactive material is then inside us doing great damage to the organs in which it is concentrated, breast, bones and sex glands.
There is more than one way this internal radiation is damaging us. Cancers and leukemias are one possible damage. Birth defects and retardation (teratogenic defects) are another source of damage. A reduction in the resistance of our immune systems is a third source of danger. Children and fetuses are much more likely to suffer damage than adults.
The tooth fairy project has detected both plutonium and strontium 90 in the teeth of babies worldwide. This is the result of the spread of these materials by nuclear weapons testing. An estimated five tons of plutonium have been spread over planet earth by the detonation of about 2000 nuclear weapons in the 1940's through 1990's. Many other isotopes also now contaminate our food chain. Strontium 90 has a half life of 28 years while cesium 137 has a half life of 30 years. Technetium 99 and iodine 131 are also isotopes of concern to human health. Radioactive iodine is suspected of causing thyroid cancer, so stable iodine is distributed to the public after a nuclear accident to saturate the thyroid so the radioactive iodine is not absorbed.