Protect future Earth Days by helping stop new nukes

 In Nuclear Weapons

As we just marked the 38th worldwide observance of Earth Day, I thought I’d highlight some of the environmental and health dangers that nuclear weapons pose to all of us. You can help us continue the celebration today by taking the action I’ve featured at the bottom.

Under Bush’s Complex Transformation proposal, a larger plutonium facility would be built at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, allowing the capability to produce up to 50 – 80 plutonium bomb pits each year. These plutonium pits serve as the “triggers” of nuclear weapons. For decades, plutonium pit production for nuclear weapons took place at Rocky Flats in Colorado. The FBI raided the Rocky Flats plant for environmental crimes in 1989. Plutonium pit production resulted in high levels of contamination, with more than 12 metric tons of highly radioactive metal present when the plant was shut down. Without Rocky Flats, the Department of Energy (DOE) is considering Los Alamos for long-term plutonium pit production.

The Hanford Site in Washington produced plutonium for nuclear weapons production during the days of the Manhattan Project and the Cold War, and later hosted a commercial nuclear power plant. A recent article in High Country News details the level of environmental contamination:

The site has more than 170 massive underground steel tanks filled with acids, solvents and heavy metals, including the radioactive elements plutonium, cesium, strontium and uranium. Some 140 of the tanks are single-walled, 40 to 60 years old and "unfit for use." The original agreement called for the tanks to be cleaned out within several decades, says Hedges. But at current funding levels, with an $8 billion cleanup budget shortfall over 10 years, it will take more than a century to empty them.

On top of the 53 million gallons of tank waste, untold amounts of radioactive and hazardous waste languish in unlined landfills, along with 450 billion gallons of liquid waste in ponds, ditches and drain fields. The site has already contaminated 200 square miles of groundwater.

Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Journal recently ran a story on a lawsuit that alleges a man’s death from multiple myeloma (cancer) was caused by playing in contaminated canyons near Los Alamos National Laboratory as a child.

Ryman was nine years old when he and his family moved into a home on Walnut Street in Los Alamos, where his father Elmer worked at the lab, according to the suit.

Between 1950 and 1953, Ryman was exposed to radioactive wastes including plutonium while playing in Acid Canyon, where the lab had dumped waste from Technical Areas 1 and 45 during the early days of operations, the suit alleges.

Ryman was also exposed to radiation from contaminated food, water and air, according to the complaint.

Plaintiff’s attorney Michael Howell of Houston said radiation is one of the few causes of multiple myeloma.

With a price tag of $150 billion, the magnitude of Complex Transformation implies that the US will be relying on nuclear weapons for decades to come. The longer we continue nuclear weapons production, the more we contribute to long-term environmental problems that put our health at risk. Plutonium remains radioactive for a quarter of a million years, which means future generations will inherit the problems created today. I hope you’ll join me in sending a comment to the DOE
by Wednesday in opposition to Complex Transformation.

The April 30th deadline to oppose a nuclear weapons proposal draws near. If you haven’t already, click here to help us hit our goal of 100,000 comments from the public on Complex Transformation, the Bush administration’s and DOE’s dangerous plan to revamp the nuclear weapons infrastructure in order to produce a new generation of nuclear weapons.

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