2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: marylia@earthlink.net
Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2000 09:15:47 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Sites Poisoned in Atomic Quest
Dear peace and environmental colleagues:

As the 3-part series in USA Today is much, much too long to post, this
short article from our October newsletter may be of interest. This story of
early bomb sites has, like many of our stories,  broad implications for a
number of interrelated issues, including compensation for ill workers and
communities, basic justice, health and the environment. Peace, Marylia

Secret Sites Poisoned in Atomic Quest

adapted by Maryia Kelley from a 3-part series in USA Today
for Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Lewis Malcolm began working at the steel mill in the 1930s and felt "lucky
to have a job." In March 1948, the first rail cars full of uranium and
thorium arrived at the Simonds Saw & Mill Co. in New York. Workers were
told only that they would be rolling a "new metal." In fact, they made the
fuel rods for the plutonium production reactors at Hanford.

"There was a lot of dust. We thought there might be problems... They always
told us there was no danger," Malcolm explained.

Only weeks away from a painful and protracted death from kidney failure,
Malcolm ruminated on his life recently, and said he "wasn't so sure" he had
been lucky those many years ago.

"Most of the guys are dead now. Cancer, kidneys, lung problems, you see a
lot of that," John Smith said of the workers at Ohio's Hanshaw chemical
plant, where uranium was secretly processed during the 40s and 50s for the
nuclear weapons program. Documents  reveal that radioactive dust in the
Hanshaw plant was measured at 200 times the safety limit of the day.
Employee exposures ranged up to 374 times the then-allowed dose limit.

The U.S. employed a vast network of private companies in its quest to
develop the atomic bomb, and in subsequent early-Cold War production. These
secret sites were largely abandoned as the major government-owned,
contractor-operated facilities of the nuclear weapons complex came on line
-- Hanford, Savannah River, Rocky Flats, Livermore Lab and so on.

The contamination at these formerly-used, private sites was an official
secret, the records documenting worker and community risks classified and
hidden from those who were simply left to suffer the consequences. And, the
poison legacy remains to threaten new generations.

USA Today, in a recent series from which this article is drawn, reported on
nearly 100,000 pages of government records, many declassified for the first
time. These documents show that the U.S.  hired around 300 private
companies in its early bomb production enterprise, and that nearly
one-third of them handled large amounts of radioactive and toxic material
even though basic protective equipment and information on hazards was often

While many of the biggest sites are in the Midwest, according to the
Department of Energy some twenty of the 571 formerly-used bomb sites are in

Further, the records show that the government, on many occasions, sent its
health physicists to document worker  risks. They gave false assurances to
the workers, and hid the results which often included exposures hundreds of
times above the already-lax safety standards.

Also documented, and strictly classified, was evidence of widespread
pollution of the air, soil and water around these private facilities.

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, hired by USA Today to analyze worker dose records,
called the situation "appalling," and said that the magnitude of the
exposures calls into question the oft-held assumption that Soviet nuclear
weapons production was more polluting than those same activities in the

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), which assisted USA Today
reporters in the investigation, called on the DOE to provide full
information and compensation to all workers and communities that may have
been harmed. (See also the related story on the Congressional debate over
the substantially more limited compensation being considered for workers on
page 3.)

ANA, a nation-wide network to which Tri-Valley CAREs belongs, also called
on the government to provide a complete inventory of all toxic and
radioactive materials used or currently found at all nuclear weapons sites
- whether government or privately owned.

To the thousands whose lives have been put at risk, and to the unknown
numbers who have paid the ultimate price -- loss of health and their very
lives -- we owe no less than the whole truth.

To future generations, we owe adequate cleanup, our deepest apologies, and
the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Copies of the USA Today 3-part series are available from Tri-Valley CAREs'
office on request.

Marylia Kelley
Tri-Valley CAREs
(Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
2582 Old First Street
Livermore, CA USA 94550

<http://www.igc.org/tvc/> - is our web site, please visit us there!

(925) 443-7148 - is our phone
(925) 443-0177 - is our fax

Working for peace, justice and a healthy environment since 1983, Tri-Valley
CAREs has been a member of the nation-wide Alliance for Nuclear
Accountability in the U.S. since 1989, and is a co-founding member of the
Abolition 2000 global network for the elimination of nuclear weapons, the
U.S. Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the Back From the Brink
campaign to get nuclear weapons taken off hair-trigger alert.

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