Saturday, May 24, 2008


Great video of Family life in Chernobyl before and after the nuclear accident. Music is "Huns and Dr. Beeker - Ghost Town." Very sad.


This is footage from the town of Pripyat - a town evacuated and abandoned after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. The movie's creator, Elena, has an incredible site with pictures and descriptions about the disaster at - I highly recommend it.

Simi Valley Nuclear Disaster

Simi Valley California was the site of the worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history in 1959, and the amounts of radiation leaked to the environment and atomosphere were more than 240 times that of the accident at 3-Mile Island. The area is beautiful today, but what still remains from many decades ago?

Uranium enrichment facility moves closer to reality

by Ruth Campbell
Midland Reporter-Telegram
Published: Friday, May 23, 2008 3:29 AM CDT
-The $1.5 billion Lea County, N.M., facility, located near Andrews' Waste Control Specialists, should start producing in late 2009.

By Ruth Campbell

Staff Writer

Since its groundbreaking in August 2006, Louisiana Energy Services' uranium enrichment facility near Eunice, N.M., has sprung out of the earth and expectations are the $1.5 billion facility will come on line by late 2009.

Dana Starr, communications specialist for the National Enrichment Facility, as it is called, gave a presentation to Midland Rotary Club members Thursday at Midland Center. The plant will produce enriched uranium, which is needed to make fuel pellets that will be sent off to make electricity.

Pellets are shipped in U.S. Department of Transportation approved containers and have GPS tracking systems.

"We have already sold our first 10 years of production of our plant," Starr said.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued LES a license to build and operate the facility June 23, 2006. It is the first one to be licensed in America the last 30 years, she said, noting that progress is being followed closely by the nuclear industry.

The National Enrichment Facility is the first of its kind in the United States, but will be the fourth in the world. The Eunice plant was modeled after one in the Netherlands.

Enrichment services will be available in late 2009, but construction will continue through 2013.

It is owned by Urenco, a consortium of the British, Dutch and German governments.

Currently, the plant has 197 employees working in design, engineering, licensing, operations, maintenance and construction.

"We have successfully attracted 'nuclear' qualified staff across the organization," Starr said. The company said it would hire as many local people as possible, but that has been difficult.

She said National Enrichment Facility expects to be fully staffed by the end of June with 271 employees. There are currently 1,100 construction workers on site, including craft, management and construction workers.

That will decrease to 400. In addition, there are 235 contractors supporting development of programs, procedures and construction including the security force.

NEF has an annual payroll of $14 million and its subsidiary, ET U.S., or Enrichment Technology U.S., has a payroll of $4.5 million. With 65 employees locally, ET U.S. assembles centrifuges used in the plant.

Salaries for major contractors and subcontractors are $13.3 million a month, Starr said.

Overall, LES has paid $7.7 million in New Mexico state taxes from January through April of this year and made $300,000 in charitable donations to organizations in New Mexico and Texas.

The facility came about through the efforts of longtime U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico, who "fought tooth and nail" to bring it to Eunice. Several factors also made the site attractive to LES including the geology with its red-bed clay, community support and tax abatements.

The plant is licensed for 30 years and waste will be stored on site. The company has a memorandum of understanding with Areva, a fuel cycle company that provides services to various U.S. utilities, to remove the uranium hexafluoride -- the active ingredient in the waste -- so the uranium can be put back in the ground, Starr said.

Ruth Campbell can be reached at

Friday, May 23, 2008

SDSU research: Native American tea has health benefits

SDSU: News At State

South Dakota State University research shows that a Native American tea used in traditional medicine can help knock out upper respiratory infections.

In addition the tea is rich in antioxidants that help protect against cancer and other illnesses.

Professor Fathi Halaweish in SDSU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry said those are among the findings from his analysis of a native tea used by communities of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe of the Lake Traverse Reservation in northeastern South Dakota. Though the tea can be consumed routinely, it is also used specifically to treat sore throats.

“I have tried it personally. It does heal your sore throat,” Halaweish said. “It contains some compounds that specifically target the bacteria that are part of the upper sore throat infection. Our research supports the long history the Native American people have for using the plant in this way.”

Currently the work is funded by the Big Coulee District of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, Halaweish said.

Halaweish focuses a part of his research on discovering new drugs by isolating organic compounds from natural sources. Plants have formed the basis for treatment of diseases in traditional medicine for thousands of years, and continue to play a major role in the primary health care of about 80 percent of the world’s inhabitants, he notes.

“We are looking at the potential of this Native American medicine as a nutraceutical product,” Halaweish said.

That means the Native American medicine would not be marketed as a drug, but as a food product that could have medicinal or health benefits.

Halaweish subjected the tea to a series of tests to detect any antibiotic, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic properties. In addition Halaweish did toxicity studies on the cell culture to verify that the herbal tea and the compounds it contains are safe to consume.

Halaweish said he’ll be pleased if the tea proves to be a product that tribal members can produce and market commercially.

“I’m very happy that this will work for the Native American communities, that we can be a part of their vision for marketing some of their Native American plants,” Halaweish said. “This is part of our mission as a land-grant institution, to help out communities in our state.”

Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe community members also use other plants for medicinal purposes. Halaweish said SDSU will continue to study the medicinal properties of herbs used by Native Americans.


"EnergySolutions Inc. [...] says that, for several million dollars, it will gladly import Italy’s waste and bury it in Western Utah." (Hightower article below.)

That may be why (in the NY Times article you forwarded--- see below) Italy is preparing to resume building nuclear power plants.

Thursday, May 22, 2008
Posted by Jim Hightower
Listen to this Commentary

EnergySolutions Inc. That name has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? But whose energy problems is this company trying to solve?

Italy’s, for one. That country has 20,000 tons of nuclear waste that it wants to dump somewhere, so this Salt Lake City corporation says that, for several million dollars, it will gladly import Italy’s waste and bury it in Western Utah. Great. Our country can’t figure out what to do with our own nuclear nasties, yet this corporate huskster would throw open our borders to everyone's trash. Send us your tired, your poor… your nuclear waste!

Not wanting America to be turned into a global dumpster, some lawmakers are trying to ban the importation of radioactive foreign waste. EnergySolutions has responded by applying the handy, dandy solution used for wiping away all corporate problems in Washington: money. In the last four years, company executives and investors have upped their political giving tenfold, dumping nearly $400,000 into congressional campaign coffers. They’ve also ramped up the corporation’s spending on Washington lobbyists, topping a million bucks last year.

When confronted with the obvious charge that they are trying to buy votes, Energy Solutions asserted that it is merely buying “access” to lawmakers. As a corporate spokesman explained, campaign cash “gives us the opportunity to participate with elected officials."

This is Jim Hightower saying … In other words, “the opportunity to participate with elected officials” requires a major cash transaction – a corruption that shuts out ordinary citizens, perverts the public interest, and mocks our democracy. This is a bigger, more toxic problem than nuclear waste, and one solution is to take the corrupt money out of the system with public financing of congressional elections. Learn more at .

“Nuclear waste company in Utah boosts donations,” Durango Herald, April 27, 2008

- - -

At 07:06 AM 5/23/2008, you wrote:

Today's NY Times carries an article reporting that in spite of a 20 year old public referendum, Italy will restart their atomic power plants.

IMHO, this is both forward thinking (the implications of peak oil, they hope to cover their respective asses) and yet short-term benifit oriented as the uranium resources are quite finite. I'm sad to say that this kind of decision will also be our future as availability of oil becomes problematic. We'll desperately toss out our enviornmental and safety concerns to keep the lights on... anything goes when you're desperate. Good news is that we have lots of coal to burn, so what if the air starts taking on the quality of Dickens' England.

Here's the article, though
May 23, 2008
NY Times

Italy Plans to Resume Building Atomic Plants


ROME — Italy announced Thursday that within five years it planned to resume building nuclear energy plants, two decades after a public referendum resoundingly banned nuclear power and deactivated all its reactors.

"By the end of this legislature, we will put down the foundation stone for the construction in our country of a group of new-generation nuclear plants," said Claudio Scajola, minister of economic development. "An action plan to go back to nuclear power cannot be delayed anymore."

The change is a striking sign of the times, reflecting growing concern in many European countries over the skyrocketing price of oil and energy security, and the warming effects of carbon emissions from fossil fuels. All have combined to make this once-scorned form of energy far more palatable.

"Italy has had the most dramatic, the most public turnaround, but the sentiments against nuclear are reversing very quickly all across Europe — Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Germany and more," said Ian Hore-Lacey, spokesman for the World Nuclear Association, an industry group based in London.

The rehabilitation of nuclear power was underscored in January when John Hutton, the British business secretary, grouped it with "other low-carbon sources of energy" like biofuels. It was barely mentioned in the government action plan on energy three years earlier.

Echoing the sentiment on Thursday, Mr. Scajola said, "Only nuclear plants safely produce energy on a vast scale with competitive costs, respecting the environment."

A number of European countries have banned or restricted nuclear power in the past 20 years, including Italy, which closed all its plants. Germany and Belgium have long prohibited the building of reactors, although existing ones were allowed to run their natural lifespan. France was one of the few countries that continued to rely heavily on nuclear power.

Environmental groups in Italy immediately attacked any plan to bring back nuclear power. Giuseppe Onufrio, a director of Greenpeace Italy, called the announcement "a declaration of war."

Emma Bonino, an opposition politician and vice president of the Italian Senate, said building nuclear plants made no economic sense because they would not be ready for at least 20 years.

"We should be investing more in solar and wind," she said. "We should be moving much more quickly to improve energy efficiency, of buildings, for example. That's something Italy has never done anything with."

But conditions were very different in the 1980s, when European countries turned away from nuclear power. Oil cost less than $50 a barrel, global warming was a fringe science and climate change had not been linked to manmade emissions. Perhaps more important for the public psyche, almost all of Europe's nuclear bans and restrictions were enacted after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union in which radioactivity was released into the environment.

The equation has changed. Today, with oil approaching $150 a barrel, most European countries, which generally have no oil and gas resources, have been forced by finances to consider new forms of energy — and fast. New nuclear plants take 20 years to build. Also, Europeans watched in horror in 2006 as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia cut off the natural gas supply to Ukraine in a price dispute, leaving it in darkness.

New green technologies, like solar power, wind and biofuel, cannot yet form the backbone of a country's energy strategy, and it is not clear that they will ever achieve that level.

Italy is the largest net energy importer in Europe, but nearly all European countries rely heavily on imported energy — particularly oil and gas.

Enel, Italy's leading energy provider, announced this year that it would close its oil-fired power plants because the fuel had become unaffordable. Italians pay the highest energy prices in Europe. Enel has been building coal plants to fill the void left by oil. Coal plants are cheaper but create relatively high levels of carbon emissions, even using the type of new "clean coal" technology Enel had planned.

A few European countries, like Germany and Poland, could likewise fall back on their abundant coal reserves if they rejected oil and gas — but most of the coal mined in each country is of low grade and pollutes highly.

After the government announcement opening Italy to nuclear power, Enel's managing director, Fulvio Conti, said, "We are ready." But he added that "new regulation and strong agreement on the plan within the country" would be needed.

Enel, which operates power plants in several European countries, already has at least one nuclear plant, in Bulgaria, and has been researching so-called fourth-generation nuclear reactors, which are intended to be safer and to minimize waste and the use of natural resources. Italy's old reactors still exist, but are too outdated to be reopened. New ones would have to be built.

The Italian government laid out few specifics to back its announcement and officials at the Ministry of Economic Development said they were still studying issues like exactly what kind of plants could be built, and whether a new referendum would be required to re-open Italy to nuclear power.

Marzia Marzioli, who leads a citizens' campaign against new coal plants in Italy, said nuclear was equally repellent. "As with coal, nuclear energy is the exact opposite of what we would like for Italy."

"It is a choice that doesn't consider the alternatives," such as solar power, she said.

To build nuclear plants, Italy would almost certainly have to improve its system of dealing with nuclear waste. The plants that were shut down years ago still store 235 tons of nuclear fuel.

Leave Stereotypes at Door of Navajo Museum

Leave Stereotypes at Door of Navajo Museum


The Navajo Nation Museum and Visitor's Centerdiscovernavajo.c0m

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz.—The staff at the Navajo Nation Museum and Visitor's Center knows that stereotypes about Native Americans exist, and they strive to dispel the myths.

"The ethics of the Navajo, the one you don't read about or you don't hear about on TV, it's not in the dictionary, that's the one we try to get across to the people," said Robert Johnson, Navajo cultural specialist. "Yes, there is a lot to learn."

War parties, teepees and brightly colored feathers are some of the Native American stereotypes that exist about the Navajo Nation today, Johnson said. When Navajo Council delegates travel the reservation, they too have to answer to those stereotypes, he said. The delegates decided they needed a bigger museum, a place where people could be educated about Navajo culture.

One museum program, Cultural Outreach, enables Johnson to travel the reservation educating its residents, especially the youth, about Navajo culture and language.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Navajo children from kindergarten to 12th grade have lost 70 to 80 percent of their traditional language and cultural knowledge, Johnson said. The museum and its programs help lower those percentages and spreading knowledge about the Navajo through educating tourists and the children on the reservation, he said.

Johnson travels to schools on the reservation and gives presentations about Navajo culture, traditions, taboos and language.

Johnson explains that the structure of the museum alone is educational to visitors. "This building represents a (Navajo) hogan," Johnson said. "It's all based on the concept of the Navajo way of life ... the design, the structure, everything."

The tribe started the museum in 1961 but had trouble finding a permanent facility. The museum was often moved from one location to the next. Finally, in September 1997, the museum opened its doors for the public to view its new 56,000 square foot facility located off of U.S. Highway 64 and Loop Road.

The museum is designed to take on all the traditional aspects of a hogan, with a hogan fire pit located in the center of the museum. A sunroof directly above the pit represents a hogan's smoke hole. The entrance faces east with the pillars inside the building set in their traditional places in accordance with Navajo culture.

The museum is host to four galleries that are located in four rooms within the museum. The Traders gallery, themed "Legacy of the Dine' Traders," is full of historical black-and-white photographs of Navajo traders.

"A lot of people didn't know that Navajos at one time were self sufficient," Johnson said.

A new theme for a gallery is the beginning of time according to Navajo traditions and stories. "It's all based on what kids or what the tourists would like to know," Johnson said.

The museum also houses the Navajo Nation Library and Research Collection; cultural and educational programs sponsored by a variety of organizations; conference rooms, an auditorium, food service facility and amphitheater. The museum's store features educational materials on Navajo culture.

Admission to the museum is free. Museum hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday until 8 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Sundays. Museum hours are subject to change.

For more information on museum hours and group tours, call 928-871-7941 or write to: Navajo Museum P.O. Box 1840, Window Rock, Ariz. 86515.

Nuclear sub crashes after 'tracing paper blunder'

LONDON (AFP) — A British nuclear submarine crashed into the seabed after tracing paper was used to help plot its course during a training exercise, obscuring vital symbols from student commanders, reports said Friday.

The hunter-killer sub HMS Trafalgar needed five million pounds' worth of repairs after the incident, which occurred off the coast of western Scotland.

Three crewmen were injured after the 5,200-tonne submarine steered into the seabed at a depth of 165 feet (50 metres) off the Isle of Skye in 2002, according to a Ministry of Defence inquiry report cited by press reports.

The trainee officers were undergoing a test called "Pressure Cooker," to simulate a real-life situation. As well as tracing paper, Post-It notes were also stuck on maps while the sub's satellite navigation system was turned off.

The speed of tidal water flow was also miscalculated. "The chart became increasingly untidy... and elementary mistakes were made with the generation of the estimated position," said the report, cited by the Telegraph and Times.

One and a half minutes before the impact, someone in the sub's command room was quoted as saying: "We're going to have to change course. This is too dangerous."

But it was too late, and the vessel crashed into the increasingly shallow seabed at a speed of 16 miles per hour (26 kilometres per hour).

"On impact, the ship's head was forced to starboard and there was a rapid deceleration, forcing most people to lose their balance and causing at least three minor injuries," said the report.

According to the Times, immediately after the collision the vessel's commander, Robert Fancy, ordered the sub to surface to check there was no damage to the hull or the nuclear reactor.

The vessel was safe, but extensive repairs were needed. In addition the ministry report noted that: "Nuclear submarines should only conduct training of this nature if the arrangements for navigational safety are infallible."

HMS Trafalgar is one of seven Trafalgar-class submarines in the Royal Navy. Some 85 metres (279 feet) long and able to carry 130 crew, they are armed with Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk missiles.

Yucca license process weighed

Industry official says handful of issues key

While critics are expected to raise hundreds of legal challenges to the planned Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, the Department of Energy bid to win a license to build it likely will hinge on only a couple of key issues, an industry official said Thursday.

Steve Kraft, a senior director at the Nuclear Energy Institute, said experts who have followed the Yucca project for years can identify a handful of matters that will provoke the most debate in upcoming hearings before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A couple could turn into showstoppers if critics are able to convince NRC reviewers that the Department of Energy's calculations about the repository's performance are off-base, he said.

"You end up getting it down to a few issues," Kraft said during a briefing at the institute's Henderson office that was held in anticipation that DOE will submit its license application in June.

Those issues include the estimated rate at which nuclear waste canisters will corrode once placed inside the mountain, and the amount of longer-lived radionuclides in tens of thousands of tons of used reactor fuel that will dissolve and be carried off into the environment at higher concentrations than project scientists calculate.

"What if solubility is way higher? That increases dose rates," Kraft said, referring to isotopes of technetium, iodine and neptunium.

As for corrosion of the canisters, he said a successful attempt by Nevada opponents to prove that the metal alloy will corrode "far faster" than DOE predicts could raise doubts with a licensing panel.

"I am willing to bet that performance of solubility and corrosion rates are going to be the big ones," he said.

Bob Loux, the Nevada official who coordinates opposition to the Yucca plan, agreed that corrosion and the movement of radioactive particles through the mountain will be major issues.

But Loux said he would expand the list of potential showstoppers that probably will be aired.

"Clearly the fitness of DOE as an applicant will also be one," said Loux, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects.

Loux said the state believes it can make a strong case that shortcomings in Energy Department quality controls that have been documented over the years by DOE and congressional auditors should raise questions about its ability to manage the project.

Nevada also believes that potential for volcanic activity in the vicinity of the proposed repository, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, might resonate with the NRC, Loux said.

Last year, state scientists raised concerns for earthquake faults, particularly the Bow Ridge Fault, in the vicinity of concrete storage pads that DOE wants to build near the mountain.

That's where thousands of tons of highly radioactive spent fuel would sit to cool off before disposal in tunnels inside the mountain.

Kraft said it could take "a couple decades before it gets to the right heat load" for underground storage.

He expects Nevada will challenge the design for above-ground storage as having the perception of an interim storage site, which by law is not allowed in the state that hosts the permanent repository.

"While it looks like it is interim storage, it is not interim storage," he said.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers or 702-383-0308. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@ or 202-783-1760.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Margine Bullcreek-Arctic Gwich'in, Utah's Goshute Fight Energy Development

SourceCode examines the threat to Native people posed by oil drilling and nuclear power: The Gwich'in Steering Committee is fighting to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and a Skull Valley Goshute member expresses her opposition to nuclear waste dumping on her tribe's Utah reservation.

Obama's Speech on the Crow Reservation

The Barack Obama campaign posted on YouTube the Democratic candidate's speech in Crow Agency, Mont., on the Crow Reservation.

NATIVE VIDEO OF THE DAY picks are publicly accessible YouTube videos created by the YouTube community and selected by Reznet editors and users. Got a great video that you'd like to share? To nominate a video, please email us the link.

EPA Chief Defends Yucca Work

EPA Chief Defends Yucca Work

Posted on: Wednesday, 21 May 2008

By Steve Tetreault


WASHINGTON - The head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday defended the agency's work on Yucca Mountain radiation health rules that remain uncompleted after close to three years of review.

"The reason is very simple. This is very complex," EPA administrator Stephen Johnson said. "We are taking our time to make sure we are doing it in an appropriate way."

The Department of Energy is preparing to submit a construction application early next month for a nuclear waste repository at the Nevada site even as the EPA has yet to finalize its radiation health standard.

The EPA proposed draft regulations in August 2005 as to how much radiation should be allowed to escape the repository and enter the environment as the waste decays over thousands of years into the future.

At a Senate hearing in March 2006, the EPA's acting assistant administrator for air and radiation William Wehrum said agency officials hoped to release a final Yucca Mountain regulation by the end of that year, but nothing was forthcoming.

Since then EPA officials have been mum as to when the final rules would be issued.

The silence has given rise to speculation that the regulations are ready but the Bush administration is holding off on making them public to delay the all-but inevitable lawsuits from repository opponents.

Johnson, speaking to reporters at a roundtable organized by the Platts energy trade publications, said there was no strategic reason for taking so long.

"As any major regulation it is important and necessary for us to reflect on it and go through an interagency process," he said. "We are in the midst of reviewing things."

Johnson said he could not say when the Yucca standard would be made final. It appeared to be at the White House for review within the Office of Management and Budget.

The regulation was received by OMB on Dec. 15, 2006, and its status was listed on the agency's Web site as "review extended."

"My expectation is to have a decision certainly by the time I leave office," said Johnson, who is expected to step aside by the time a new president is inaugurated next January.

The EPA's draft regulation proposed to limit radiation exposure near the repository 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas to 15 millirems a year for 10,000 years, then increasing the allowable limit to 350 millirems a year for up to 1 million years. By comparison, a chest X- ray is 10 millirems.

Energy Department officials said their computer calculations show the Yucca repository could meet that standard. Critics including officials in Nevada charge the standard would not protect public health.

The EPA issued an earlier set of radiation rules in June 2001, after a 22-month review process. Those rules were rejected by a federal appeals court in July 2004, prompting EPA to embark on a rewrite.

First In Nation 'Pollution Fee' Coming To SF

First In Nation 'Pollution Fee' Coming To SF

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District's board of directors on Wednesday approved new rules to charge businesses a fee for the pollution they emit. The group's board of directors voted 15-1 on unprecedented new rules that will impose fees on factories, power plants, oil refineries and other businesses that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.The agency, which regulates air pollution in the nine-county Bay Area, will be the first in the country to charge companies fees based on their greenhouse gas emissions, experts say. The new rules will take effect July 1.he modest fee -- 4.4 cents per ton of carbon dioxide -- probably won't be enough to force companies to reduce their emissions, but backers say it sets an important precedent in combating climate change and could serve as a model for regional air districts nationwide.
The fee will not be imposed on vehicles, district spokeswoman Lisa Fasano said."It doesn't solve global warming, but it gets us thinking in the right terms," said Daniel Kammen, a renewable energy expert at the University of California, Berkeley. "It's not enough of a cost to change behavior, but it tells us where things are headed. You have to think not just in financial terms, but in carbon terms." But many Bay Area businesses oppose the rules, saying they could interfere with the state's campaign to curb greenhouse gas emissions under a landmark global warming law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. The California Air Resources Board, which is charged with implementing the law, is expected next month to issue its preliminary plan to reduce the state's emissions before it approves a final plan later this year. Climate change is "a big issue that needs a comprehensive statewide plan to address it," said Cathy Reheis-Boyd, chief operating officer for the Western States Petroleum Association. "We believe it's premature for local air districts to design local programs before we have a state program."The fees are expected to generate $1.1 million in its first year to help pay for programs to measure the region's emissions and develop ways to reduce them.More than 2,500 businesses will be required to pay the proposed fees. About seven power plants and oil refineries will have to pay more than $50,000 a year, but the majority of businesses will pay less than $1, according to district estimates. The proposed program, which requires companies to measure and report their own emissions, could make it more complicated and expensive to do business in the Bay Area, said Shelly Sullivan, who heads the AB32 Implementation Group, a coalition of business groups working with state regulators to implement California's global warming law. "It's going to make Bay Area businesses less competitive because companies outside the area won't face similar costs," Sullivan said. "There would be a patchwork of plans that would not be consistent." Opponents also question whether the agency, which is charged with regulating air pollutants such as ozone and particulate matter, has the authority to impose fees on greenhouse gas emissions. Bay Area district officials believe the agency has that authority because global warming is raising surface temperatures, which worsens air quality. "We see a direct connection between the climate and air pollution," said Jack Broadbent, the district's executive director. "We believe the changing climate is going to require effort on the federal, state and local level."The mission of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, as stated on their Web site, is to attain and maintain air quality standards, increase public awareness of positive air quality choices and to develop and implement protocol and policies for environmental justice.

China: Most Polluted?

The growth in China's carbon dioxide emissions is far outpacing previous estimates, according to analysis by economists at the University of California, Berkeley and San Diego.
SLIDESHOW: UC Researchers: China Most Polluted Place On Earth?
Previous estimates, including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the region that includes China will see a 2.5 to 5 percent annual increase in CO2 emissions, the largest contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases, between 2004 and 2010.The new UC analysis puts that annual growth rate for China to at least 11 percent for the same time period.Bay City News contributed to this report.

Nuclear waste site to be near Texas-NM border

Nuclear waste site to be near Texas-NM border

By Enrique Rangel | A-J AUSTIN BUREAU

Thursday, May 22, 2008
Story last updated at 5/22/2008 - 2:08 am

AUSTIN - Starting next year, residents of Andrews County and southeastern New Mexico likely will live with nuclear waste buried in their large but sparsely populated area.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality agreed on Wednesday to let Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists dispose of radioactive waste in a dumping site 3.5 miles from the Texas-New Mexico border and 30 miles from the town of Andrews, the county seat.

"We're very pleased. We're very excited," Rod Baltzer, president of Waste Control Specialists told reporters after the commission voted 2-1 to authorize his company to dispose of the nuclear waste.

"It's been a long process. It's been open and transparent. We've been very up-front with the community, and we think the results show that today," Baltzer said.

The Sierra Club and residents of Eunice, N.M., which is five miles from the proposed dumping site, were disappointed with the commission's decision.

"We will look at appealing the decision, first with the commissioners, and if they deny it, then to a district court," said Sierra Club spokesman Cyrus Reed.

The law allows 30 days to file for an appeal, he said.

Reed also said Commissioners Buddy Garcia and Bryan Shaw, who voted in favor of Waste Control Specialists, should have voted to send the case to an administrative judge to hear the challenge presented by the environmental group.

That is what Commissioner Larry Soward had proposed.

"This is one of the few facilities nationwide, and it seems to me we need a process that truly allows to debate this issue and I don't think it should stop at the state line," said Soward. "We lose nothing in the scheme of things if we send this to a hearing."

Garcia and Shaw said the issue has been thoroughly reviewed and voted on in favor of Waste Control Specialists.

Andrews Mayor Bob Zap said after the hearing that he and other residents in the community of 9,652 were equally supportive of the company.

"Our town, from the very beginning, looked at this and asked questions. ... We studied it. We worked closely with them. We reviewed everything," Zap said. "We're really supportive of everything that's being done and supportive of the way WCS has handled it and will continue to handle it. We don't have any questions or doubts."

State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, whose Senate District 31 includes Andrews County, was equally supportive.

"WCS has earned the support of Andrews County officials, city of Andrews officials and citizens from Andrews, Lea County, N.M., and surrounding communities, who are here today in support of WCS," Seliger wrote to the commission. "Their support was earned through good science, good geology and open communications."

Baltzar said the next step is to build large containers where the nuclear waste will be deposited, which should take about six months, then another six months to bury it. The whole process should be completed by October 2009.

"This is an incredibly safe process," he said. "The geology out in West Texas is dry (and) there is no aquifer underneath this facility."

"Red Team" Penetrates Nuke Lab's Security, Reaches "Superblock"

"Red Team" Penetrates Nuke Lab's Security, Reaches "Superblock"

Global Research, May 21, 2008
During a mock exercise at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), an antiterrorist "red team" breached security and penetrated Building 332, the so-called "Superblock" where some 2,000 pounds of plutonium and weapons-grade uranium are stored. Lab security personnel failed miserably, TIME magazine reported.

Situated in Livermore, California, LLNL is about an hour's drive from San Francisco; approximately seven million people live within a 50 mile radius of the weapons facility. But as the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) disclosed in March,

...the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has given Livermore Lab a waiver so that it does not have to meet the current security requirements devised by the intelligence community. The encroaching residential community surrounding the Lab has made it impossible to properly protect the Lab's weapons quantities of plutonium and highly enriched uranium. ("U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Livermore Homes and Plutonium Make Bad Neighbors," POGO, March 17, 2008)

Reporting on the exercise, TIME's Adam Zagorin writes,

The attack team's objective is usually to penetrate the "Superblock," after which the attackers are timed to determine whether they can hold their ground long enough to construct a crude "dirty bomb" that could, in theory, be detonated immediately, or can buy themselves enough time to fabricate a rudimentary nuclear device, approximating the destructive power of the low-yield weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. A third option in the simulation is for the attackers to abscond with the nuclear material into the heavily populated San Francisco Bay area. ("Security Flaws Exposed at Nuke Lab," TIME, May 12, 2008)

April's "force-on-force" exercise pitted two teams in a "real life" test of security procedures. Designed to test nuclear defenses, the "red team" deployed all-terrain vehicles and torches to cut through metal barriers "securing" Building 332 from a hostile assault.

One of the lab's defensive "centerpieces," the Dillon Aero M134D Gun (popularly known as a Gatling gun), capable of firing 4,000 high-velocity rounds per minute failed when the hydraulic system used to raise the gun from its "hiding place inside the back of a small truck failed, making it impossible for the gun to be fired," POGO analysts said.

The use of the weapon itself is not without controversy. Capable of delivering a lethal round a mile away, its deployment by NNSA is particularly troubling since LLNL is surrounded on all sides by the sprawling Livermore community. POGO researchers detailed,

Within that one-mile range of the Lab are two elementary schools, a pre-school, a middle school, a senior center, and athletic fields, making this weapon unacceptable for Livermore. Even in an accidental firing, the Lab would be spraying lethal bullets into the surrounding neighborhoods. This type of accident is not unprecedented. For example, several years ago there was an accidental firing of a mounted, high caliber machine gun at the Y-12 Complex. The gun, similar in firepower to the Gatling guns, sprayed a building at the facility with bullets, which penetrated walls.

To make matters worse, while security personnel failed to deter the "attackers," LLNL's recent exercise hardly simulated "real-world" conditions, not least of which is the inevitable shock and confusion that would occur among "defenders" during the opening round of a surprise attack.

To whit, lab security teams are always given advance notice of the operation; the tests are conducted at night or on weekends, when few of the lab's thousands of employees are present. Consequently, "defenders" do not simulate potential hostage-taking scenarios that in all probability would accompany belligerent action by terrorists.

But as POGO senior investigator Peter Stockton told The Washington Times: "It is important to emphasize that Livermore's security problems are not the fault of the guard force, who have complained about their lack of training and poor tactics. In fact, two security officers were fired for raising these problems."

Is there a pattern here? As with other spectacular failures by the Bush administration and their corporate cronies, why not, if you'll pardon the pun, shoot the messenger? After all, its less politically risky than bringing high-end lab executives and senior managers to account.

In 2005 the Department of Energy "approved the doubling of the amount of plutonium stored at Livermore, less than five months after a scientific panel recommended, for security reasons, that nearly all of it be moved to a safer, more remote site," TIME revealed.

Yet despite this alarming disclosure, the NNSA, allegedly the prime defender of the "homeland" against terrorists intent on deploying weapons of mass destruction, gave their political masters--the nuclear weapons industry--a free pass when it came to (our) safety. This too, is hardly surprising given the make-up of the lab's administrative "team."

As a "public-private partner" of the U.S. national security state, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is run by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, a "limited liability" corporation comprised of five "partners:" the University of California, Bechtel, BWX Technologies, Washington Group International and Battelle--all heavy-hitters in the biotech, construction, defense, energy, nuclear and security worlds. The seven-year contract to oversee operations for the Department of Energy (DoE)--a Bushist satrapy--is worth some $297.5 million.

Readers are certainly familiar with Bechtel's sordid history when it came to "reconstructing" Iraq after America's illegal 2003 invasion and occupation. Three years later, and with contracts in hand worth some $680 million, the construction giant abandoned Iraq with the bulk of its infrastructure projects in tatters--and zero accountability from Congress. And when it comes to the corporation's "expertise" on nuclear "safety," Bechtel's record is less than stellar. As CorpWatch reported back in 2003,

Starting with the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb and engineering the first reactor to generate electricity, Bechtel has been heavily involved in both commercial and military nuclear activities. These have included some of the most notable nuclear mishaps in U.S. history, from California's San Onofre reactor installed backwards, to the botched clean up of Three Mile Island. Now, while the legacy of environmental contamination and worker exposures continue to threaten public health and safety, Bechtel is finding ways to profit from the radioactive mess its projects have created. ("Bechtel: Profiting from Destruction: Why the Corporate Invasion of Iraq Must be Stopped," CorpWatch, June 5, 2003)

BWX Technologies, during an earlier metastasis as The Babcock-Wilcox Company, were the designers of pressurized water reactors, one of which partially melted down during the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.

According to SourceWatch,

BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT) of Lynchburg, VA, "supplies nuclear fuel and reactor components to the U.S. Navy" and "supplies reactor components for the DOE's Naval Reactors Program and creates reactor fuel elements for several national government labs."

In July 2000, the Department of Energy selected BWXT "over the Day & Zimmermann Group, a Philadelphia-based government contractor that owns Mason & Hanger, the company that has held the Pantex contract since 1956," to operate the government's Pantex plant.

According to John A. Gordon, the [former] head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) which oversees the nation's nuclear weapons complex, "BWXT Pantex, which has a proven track record in nuclear facility operations, presented the strongest technical proposal." In its bid for the government contract, BWXT "collaborated with Honeywell, a major aerospace firm, and Bechtel in its Pantex bid."

Located on 16,000 acres in Amarillo, Texas, Pantex is the the only plant in the United States that assembles nuclear weapons for the Department of Defense. Designated a federal superfund site in 1991, corporate "best practices" have resulted in extensive groundwater and soil contamination throughout surrounding communities.

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), revealed that BWXT is similarly "partnered" with the University of California, Bechtel and the Washington Group International in yet another "limited liability" corporation, the Los Alamos National Securities (LANS). Here too, "security breaches" are frequent.

But how better to "punish" well-connected corporatist miscreants in our post-Constitutional "New Order" than to hand out multi-year contracts to "manage" the most deadly and dangerous materials on earth!

As POGO's executive director Danielle Brian told TIME, "suicidal terrorists would not need to steal the fissile material, they could simply detonate it as part of an improvised nuclear device right on the spot."

Talk about hitting the corporate "sweet spot"!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New GI Bill

Yucca father changes his tune

Ex-senator says site’s designation as temporary might have won support

Wed, May 21, 2008 (2 a.m.)

Click here to find out more!


Sun Topics

— The lawmaker perhaps most responsible for turning Yucca Mountain into the nation’s proposed nuclear waste dump said Tuesday the politically opposed project should never have been billed as a place to hold waste indefinitely.

Former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston says the waste repository might have won more public support in Nevada had it been designed as a temporary facility rather than the one now being planned to hold waste for up to 1 million years.

Instead, 20 years later, the plan to entomb highly radioactive nuclear waste 90 miles north of Las Vegas is hopelessly stalled in a protracted legal battle, as well as in the courtroom of public opinion.

“I think it should have been designed differently,” Johnston told a group of nuclear waste haulers Tuesday in Washington, D.C. “I knew we’d run into the kind of problems that we have — where you can’t absolutely prove with certainty what’s going to happen in 10,000 or 100,000 years.”

“The opportunity to bring lawsuits and spread uncertainty about what happens ... years from now is too great,” he added in an interview. “And that is exactly what has happened.”

Johnston’s comments come just weeks before the Energy Department is expected to deliver its long-awaited application to license the site. The Energy Department will try to convince federal regulators, and the public, that the site can safely hold nuclear waste for the unforeseeable future.

The former Louisiana senator’s renewed interest in a temporary holding facility mirrors increased efforts in the nuclear industry to seek alternatives to Yucca Mountain.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s main trade group, has been quietly chatting with small, primarily rural communities to gauge their interest in hosting a temporary waste facility.

Neither Johnston, now a consultant in Washington, D.C., nor representatives from the nuclear industry will admit that Yucca Mountain is dead, as Nevada’s lawmakers often claim.

But they would like to have a backup plan for, say, the next few decades until Yucca Mountain opens.

The latest estimates from the Energy Department are that Yucca could start accepting waste by 2020. The department has spent $9 billion on the site, which was supposed to open in 1998.

Bob Loux, who leads the state’s efforts to fight Yucca Mountain, said the “mind-set of people like Johnston and the industry has all changed. They all realize now it was a huge mistake” to try to force the waste dump on Nevada.

Twenty years ago Johnston, a powerful Democratic committee chairman, led the drive for a permanent waste repository.

But Johnston also knew that trying to convince the public that the mountain could safely hold the waste for almost an eternity would be a tough sell.

Originally, the legislation included plans for what is called “monitored retrievable storage” — what some have called glorified loading docks, where waste could be monitored and retrieved if toxins began polluting the land or water, or if technological advances allowed for it to be recycled, as scientists are trying to do.

But lawmakers from the proposed temporary sites, especially Tennessee, protested, saying temporary would become permanent. No one wanted nuclear waste in his back yard.

Johnston now says that perhaps the time has come to reconsider temporary sites — even at Yucca Mountain.

“Perhaps we ought to go back to MRS,” he told the nuclear waste haulers, using the initials for monitored retrievable storage. “Yucca Mountain is a great place for MRS.”

However, it’s hard to believe Nevada, which has fought becoming a permanent waste site, would support being a temporary one.

In a Landfill, How Long Does Trash Really Last?

This is a little off topic, but it is important news for all of us-

In a Landfill, How Long Does Trash Really Last?

We’ve all been there—at the beach, empty beer bottle in hand, a trash can, but no recycling bin in sight. So we dump the bottle in the normal trash, perhaps feeling guilty we weren’t able to recycle it, perhaps not. Most likely, we rapidly forget about it—out of sight, out of mind, and onto the next beer.

The bottle, like the rest of our trash, may slip easily from our hands and minds, but it doesn’t leave our collective refuse piles so quickly. Landfills, which are lined with clay and plastic, layered with soil, and capped, are not extremely hospitable when it comes to microbial degradation. The three necessary components for decomposition—sunlight, moisture, oxygen—are hard to come by in a landfill; items are more likely to mummify than to break down.

But how long do things last? These rough estimates, compiled from U.S. National Park Service, United States Composting Council, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Sciences, and the New York City government, give an idea of how long our consumables remain after we’ve kissed them goodbye.

Glass Bottle—One Million Years
Okay, we don’t really know whether a glass bottle takes a million years, two million years, or a million years and one day to degrade since no one has been monitoring them for that long. But suffice it to say, when a glass bottle isn’t recycled, it sticks around for a really, really long time. Glass is primarily of composed of silica—the same material as sand—and doesn’t break down even under the harshest environments. Given the relatively inert conditions of a landfill, it’s likely the bottle of beer our forefathers sipped is still at large.

Plastic Bags—Unknown, Possibly 500+ Years
Plastic bags also have a hard time decomposing; estimates range from ten to twenty years when exposed to air to 500–1,000 years in a landfill. Since microbes don’t recognize polyethylene—the major component of plastic bags—as food, breakdown rates by this means in landfills is virtually nil. Though plastic bags can photodegrade, sunlight in landfills is scarce. Made with petroleum and rarely recycled, many cities have banned them in order to curb consumption and prevent their long-lasting presence in litter (e.g., the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—an island you don’t want to visit).

Plastic Beverage Bottles—Unknown, Possible 500+ years
Bottles face the same problem as plastic bags. Most soda and water bottles are composed of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a petroleum-based product that tends to last a long time in a landfill. Even newer bottles that claim to be biodegradable or photodegradable may take much longer than advertised. According to the Air and Waste Association, biodegradable plastics made with the addition of starch may just simply disintegrate into smaller non-degradable pieces: they don’t break down; they break up.

Aluminum Can—Eighty to 200 Years
According to the Container Recycling Institute, we sent 55 billion aluminum cans to the landfills in 2004, an amount that has increased by 760 percent since 1972.

Cigarette Butt—One to Five Years
The Ocean Conservancy found that during coastal cleanups, cigarette filters and butts were the number one source of litter. While certainly they’re better off in a landfill than underfoot at the shore, their composition makes them particularly resistant to breakdown both in nature and in a landfill. Though the filters look like cotton, almost all are made of cellulose acetate, which is slow to degrade.

Newspaper—Two to Four Weeks or Longer
Paper, including newspaper, seems like one of those items that although recyclable, would also break down quite nicely when mixed in a landfill. Theoretically it can, but because microbial decomposition is so stifled in landfills, paper takes much longer to decompose there than under normal conditions. Or so discovered William Rathje, a professor of archeology at the University of Arizona, who started the Garbage Project—digging through landfills to find clues about consumer behavior. While there, his team found legible newspapers more than fifteen years old, indicating decomposition in landfills doesn’t occur as it would in a compost heap. They also discovered that newspapers made up the largest single item by weight and volume in the landfills studied.

Apple Core—One to Two Months or Longer
If tossed in a composting bin or outside, an apple core might take weeks or months to break down. However, the Garbage Project discovered easily identifiable food and yard waste that were years old. They estimate that food in landfills does degrade, but at a very slow rate—about 50 percent every twenty years. Even yard waste, by definition biodegradable, was found intact years later.

So what does it all matter if stuff stays in landfills indefinitely? Limited space, for one thing—finding a suitable spot for a landfill can be difficult, especially since they are a classic case of NIMBY (Not in My Backyard). Though they can be covered and made into something else—both John F. Kennedy and La Guardia Airports were built on landfills—the process is long and fairly expensive. Perhaps most importantly, reducing the amount of stuff we consume, reusing what we already have, and of course, recycling, doesn’t just mean less trash, it also means less primary resources—oil, trees, water, etc.—that have to be used in the first place. But while most of us are familiar with recycling programs, the EPA estimates that the bulk of our garbage is made up of items that can be recycled or composted—40 percent of it is paper, 17 percent is yard waste, 8 percent is plastics, and 7 percent is food waste. Seems like something ain’t working. Perhaps to be truly effective, recycling won’t just mean more places to put your beer bottles, it’ll mean making the trash can the alternative, rather than the norm.

Man Found With Explosives at Swedish Nuclear Plant

By Janina Pfalzer and Niklas Magnusson

May 21 (Bloomberg) -- Swedish authorities detained a man at the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in the country's southeast after detecting traces of explosives on a bag he was carrying.

Police are investigating the substance, according to OKG AB, which operates the facility. The explosive material may have carried traces of tiacetone triperoxide, or TATP, OKG told police. The power plant, owned by German utility E.ON AG, was partially sealed off, without disrupting operations.

The man, a contractor welder, was stopped on his way into work in a security check. OKG contacted police shortly before 8 a.m. local time after three tests showed traces of a high- explosive substance, Kalmar county police spokesman Sven-Erik Karlsson said in an interview. Bomb specialists from Malmoe in southern Sweden have been called in to aid the investigation.

``OKG has told us they think it is TATP, but until our bomb technicians get there and analyze the substance we don't know for sure,'' Karlsson said.

The substance was detected on the outside of a bag the contractor was carrying, said Roger Bergman, a spokesman for the power plant operator. The plant received no bomb threat prior to today's incident, he said.

Oskarshamn is located in southeast Sweden, and OKG is majority owned by E.ON. Fortum Oyj of Finland also owns a stake. Oskarshamn's three reactors have a total capacity of 2,215 megawatts, enough to meet some 10 percent of Sweden's electricity needs. One of the reactors is currently offline for maintenance.

Drugs, Alcohol

Sweden has 10 nuclear reactors in total that account for about half of its generation capacity. In July 2006, the Forsmark plant reported a fault and had to be shut down when a back-up power failure led to an emergency shutdown of the reactor. Other plants were also forced to shut down for tests and improvements.

Vattenfall AB, the region's largest utility, sent home six workers at Forsmark in 2006 because they had used drugs and alcohol. The incidents and the discovery of an inferior ``safety culture'' prompted Vattenfall to strengthen its nuclear safety policies. Saab AB, a Swedish defense company, is in the process of improving security at Oskarshamn.

While Sweden voted in a 1980 referendum to phase out nuclear power by 2010, a 1995 government investigation found that such a move would be impossible both economically and environmentally. The country instead opted to close down the Barsebaeck plant in southern Sweden and boost output at the other plants. They are likely to run to as long as 2025, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

White House denies Iran attack report

The White House on Tuesday flatly denied an Army Radio report that claimed US President George W. Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term. It said that while the military option had not been taken off the table, the Administration preferred to resolve concerns about Iran's push for a nuclear weapon "through peaceful diplomatic means."

A US Navy aircraft carrier.

Army Radio had quoted a top official in Jerusalem claiming that a senior member in the entourage of President Bush, who concluded a trip to Israel last week, had said in a closed meeting here that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action against Iran was called for.

The official reportedly went on to say that "the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice" was preventing the administration from deciding to launch such an attack on the Islamic Republic for the time being.

The Army Radio report, which was quoted by The Jerusalem Post and resonated widely, stated that according to assessments in Israel, the recent turmoil in Lebanon, where Hizbullah has de facto established control of the country, was advancing an American attack.

Bush, the official reportedly said, considered Hizbullah's show of strength to constitute evidence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's growing influence. In Bush's view, the official said, "the disease must be treated - not its symptoms."

However, the White House on Tuesday afternoon dismissed the story. In a statement, it said that "[the US] remain[s] opposed to Iran's ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon. To that end, we are working to bring tough diplomatic and economic pressure on the Iranians to get them to change their behavior and to halt their uranium enrichment program.

US President George W. Bush during his Knesset address.
Photo: AP

It went on: "As the President has said, no president of the United States should ever take options off the table, but our preference and our actions for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that regard."

In an address to the Knesset during his visit here last week, Bush said that "the president of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages."

"America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions," Bush said. "Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

Nuclear waste lawsuit to be filed again

Ex-employees of EnergySolutions allege misdeeds

Those who filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit against EnergySolutions say they hope their fourth attempt at their suit will be successful.

U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins dismissed the group's last False Claims Act suit but in a ruling last month allowed the three men to modify and refile, to the protest of EnergySolutions attorneys.

All three men are former employees of EnergySolutions, then Envirocare. They claim the company, which stores low-level nuclear waste, made false claims for payments under contracts with the U.S. government when it certified that it had complied with federal and state regulations for disposing hazardous wastes at its facility in Clive, Tooele County.

While working at the company, the three employees say they documented numerous instances in which radioactive waste was improperly disposed of. The cells, which encase the waste, were poorly constructed and had cracks in them, the men allege.

EnergySolutions has denied the allegations and points out the lawsuit has been thrown out of court three times already.

In his ruling, Jenkins said the group would have to come back with more details in their suit. "I think we've been able to beef up the allegations of the complaint," said Steve Russell, attorney for the former workers. "What the judge was looking for primarily was evidence that Envirocare, now EnergySolutions, was certifying to the United States that they were doing everything according to their contracts as a prerequisite of being paid."

Russell said initially the group took its information to the U.S. attorney general. "There was a series of meetings with the A.G., the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and others," Russell said. The U.S. government declined to pursue an investigation on the allegations. After that, Russell said the three decided to pursue a whistle-blower suit, which was first filed in 2002.

"We believe we run an exceptionally safe operation and are probably the most regulated private disposal facility of this type in the country," said EnergySolutions spokesman John Ward, who added his company is confident about its safety record.

"The lawsuit has been dismissed three times before. We haven't had a chance to review the latest attempt so we'll just have to wait and see what it says," Ward said.

Russell said the suit is important because the U.S. government is EnergySolutions' biggest client and because more than 90 percent of the country's low-level radioactive waste is stored by the company. "Now we're talking about foreign waste," he said.

"What we're hoping for is to get some light shining on the Envirocare/EnergySolutions facility out there. They're very closed about their operations and their finances. We believe they need to have a bit more oversight out there," Russell said.

The group points to the fact that each time Jenkins has dismissed the suit he has left the door open for the group to refine its claims the re-file. Russell said this, however, may be the group's last chance.

"I think this will be the last shot at it. I doubt, if this one doesn't pass, we'll get another chance," he said.

RADIATION RULES: EPA chief defends Yucca work

Agency's head says guidelines for health take time to be formulated

WASHINGTON -- The head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday defended the agency's work on Yucca Mountain radiation health rules that remain uncompleted after close to three years of review.

"The reason is very simple. This is very complex," EPA administrator Stephen Johnson said. "We are taking our time to make sure we are doing it in an appropriate way."

The Department of Energy is preparing to submit a construction application early next month for a nuclear waste repository at the Nevada site even as the EPA has yet to finalize its radiation health standard.

The EPA proposed draft regulations in August 2005 as to how much radiation should be allowed to escape the repository and enter the environment as the waste decays over thousands of years into the future.

At a Senate hearing in March 2006, the EPA's acting assistant administrator for air and radiation William Wehrum said agency officials hoped to release a final Yucca Mountain regulation by the end of that year, but nothing was forthcoming.

Since then EPA officials have been mum as to when the final rules would be issued.

The silence has given rise to speculation that the regulations are ready but the Bush administration is holding off on making them public to delay the all-but inevitable lawsuits from repository opponents.

Johnson, speaking to reporters at a roundtable organized by the Platts energy trade publications, said there was no strategic reason for taking so long.

"As any major regulation it is important and necessary for us to reflect on it and go through an interagency process," he said. "We are in the midst of reviewing things."

Johnson said he could not say when the Yucca standard would be made final. It appeared to be at the White House for review within the Office of Management and Budget.

The regulation was received by OMB on Dec. 15, 2006, and its status was listed on the agency's Web site as "review extended."

"My expectation is to have a decision certainly by the time I leave office," said Johnson, who is expected to step aside by the time a new president is inaugurated next January.

The EPA's draft regulation proposed to limit radiation exposure near the repository 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas to 15 millirems a year for 10,000 years, then increasing the allowable limit to 350 millirems a year for up to 1 million years. By comparison, a chest X-ray is 10 millirems.

Energy Department officials said their computer calculations show the Yucca repository could meet that standard. Critics including officials in Nevada charge the standard would not protect public health.

The EPA issued an earlier set of radiation rules in June 2001, after a 22-month review process. Those rules were rejected by a federal appeals court in July 2004, prompting EPA to embark on a rewrite.

30 radioactive sources recovered after China quake

Beijing (PTI): China has so far recovered 30 of the 32 radioactive sources which were buried under the debris during the devastating May 12 earthquake, Minister for Environmental Protection Zhou Shengxian said.

He said locations of two other radioactive sources had been detected and they would also be transported to "safe areas" soon.

Altogether, 32 radioactive sources were buried under the debris during the 8 magnitude earthquake that struck last week, he added.

China said all its civilian nuclear facilities and radioactive sources in the earthquake-ravaged southwest Sichuan province were confirmed "safe" and "controllable".

The devastating earthquake has left 34,073 people dead and 245,108 people injured, according to official figures. The toll is expected to climb further with thousands more still buried a week after the disaster.

Chinas Ministry of Defence said on Sunday that all its nuclear facilities in the massive earthquake devastated areas in Sichuan province were "safe and secure".

"I could say in a responsible manner that all the nuclear facilities in affected areas are safe and secure," Major General Ma Jian, Deputy Chief of the Operations Department of the General Staff Headquarters, had said.

China has said it has activated its contingency plans for nuclear and radiation pollution as a precautionary step in Sichuan province.

The local Environmental Protection Bureaus have been issued an "urgent notice" to closely monitor the status of nuclear facilities and ensure a hundred per cent nuclear and radiation safety, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said earlier.

The region has some key atomic sites and the countrys chief nuclear weapons research lab.

Warning: Using a mobile phone while pregnant can seriously damage your baby

Study of 13,000 children exposes link between use of handsets and later behavioral problems

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Sunday, 18 May 2008


Scientists found that mothers who did use the handsets were 54 per cent more likely to have children with behavioural problems and that the likelihood increased with the amount of potential exposure to the radiation

Women who use mobile phones when pregnant are more likely to give birth to children with behavioural problems, according to authoritative research.

A giant study, which surveyed more than 13,000 children, found that using the handsets just two or three times a day was enough to raise the risk of their babies developing hyperactivity and difficulties with conduct, emotions and relationships by the time they reached school age. And it adds that the likelihood is even greater if the children themselves used the phones before the age of seven.

The results of the study, the first of its kind, have taken the top scientists who conducted it by surprise. But they follow warnings against both pregnant women and children using mobiles by the official Russian radiation watchdog body, which believes that the peril they pose "is not much lower than the risk to children's health from tobacco or alcohol".

The research – at the universities of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Aarhus, Denmark – is to be published in the July issue of the journal Epidemiology and will carry particular weight because one of its authors has been sceptical that mobile phones pose a risk to health.

UCLA's Professor Leeka Kheifets – who serves on a key committee of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, the body that sets the guidelines for exposure to mobile phones – wrote three and a half years ago that the results of studies on people who used them "to date give no consistent evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to radiofrequency fields and any adverse health effect".

The scientists questioned the mothers of 13,159 children born in Denmark in the late 1990s about their use of the phones in pregnancy, and their children's use of them and behaviour up to the age of seven. As they gave birth before mobiles became universal, about half of the mothers had used them infrequently or not at all, enabling comparisons to be made.

They found that mothers who did use the handsets were 54 per cent more likely to have children with behavioural problems and that the likelihood increased with the amount of potential exposure to the radiation. And when the children also later used the phones they were, overall, 80 per cent more likely to suffer from difficulties with behaviour. They were 25 per cent more at risk from emotional problems, 34 per cent more likely to suffer from difficulties relating to their peers, 35 per cent more likely to be hyperactive, and 49 per cent more prone to problems with conduct.

The scientists say that the results were "unexpected", and that they knew of no biological mechanisms that could cause them. But when they tried to explain them by accounting for other possible causes – such as smoking during pregnancy, family psychiatric history or socio-economic status – they found that, far from disappearing, the association with mobile phone use got even stronger.

They add that there might be other possible explanations that they did not examine – such as that mothers who used the phones frequently might pay less attention to their children – and stress that the results "should be interpreted with caution" and checked by further studies. But they conclude that "if they are real they would have major public health implications".

Professor Sam Milham, of the blue-chip Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and the University of Washington School of Public Health – one of the pioneers of research in the field – said last week that he had no doubt that the results were real. He pointed out that recent Canadian research on pregnant rats exposed to similar radiation had found structural changes in their offspring's brains.

The Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection says that use of the phones by both pregnant women and children should be "limited". It concludes that children who talk on the handsets are likely to suffer from "disruption of memory, decline of attention, diminishing learning and cognitive abilities, increased irritability" in the short term, and that longer-term hazards include "depressive syndrome" and "degeneration of the nervous structures of the brain".

Obama's new name

Obama's new name
The Associated Press
Article Launched: 05/19/2008

CROW AGENCY, Mont.—Democrat Barack Obama got a brand-new name as he courted native Americans in the West.

The presidential candidate was adopted as an honorary member of the Crow nation, and given the name Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish that translates as "One who helps people throughout the land."

"What an enormous honor this is," said Obama, occasionally stumbling to pronounce the complex native American names.

"I'm still working on it," he said. "I was just adopted into the tribe, so I'm still working on it."

Obama has actively courted the backing of native Americans throughout the region.

"One of the things I've made a point in doing is meeting tribal leaders everywhere I go," Obama said. "The government to government relationship is going to be a top priority of my administration."

Obama's adoptive parents in the tribe are Harford and Mary Black Eagle.

"Barack Black Eagle," mused Obama. "That is a good name."

Obama said growing up in Hawaii gave him gave him a sensitivity to minority issues.

"Where I grew up there weren't a lot of black families, so I know what it feel like to be an outsider," said Obama. "Now that I'm a member of the family I won't break my commitment to my brothers and sisters."

Uranium claims sprout near Grand Canyon /

Increasing interest in nuclear power fuels rush to cash in
Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. -- Thanks to renewed interest in nuclear power, the United States is on the verge of a uranium mining boom, and nowhere is the hurry to stake claims more pronounced than in the districts flanking the Grand Canyon's storied sandstone cliffs.

On public lands within 5 miles of Grand Canyon National Park, there are more than 1,100 uranium claims, compared with just 10 in January 2003, according to data from the Department of the Interior.

In recent months, the uranium rush has spawned a clash as epic as the canyon's 18-mile chasm, with both sides claiming to be working for the good of the planet.

Environmental organizations have appealed to federal courts and Congress to halt any drilling, arguing that mining so close to such a rare piece of the nation's patrimony could prove ruinous for the canyon's visitors and wildlife.

Mining companies say the raw material they seek is important to the environment, too: The uranium would feed nuclear reactors that could - unlike coal and natural gas - produce electricity without contributing to global warming.

And uranium is in short supply. In recent years, mines closed in Canada and West Africa, yet the United States as well as France and other European countries have announced intentions to expand nuclear power. Predictably, the price of uranium has soared - to $65 a pound recently, from $9.70 a pound in 2002.

In the five western states where uranium is mined, 4,333 new claims were filed in 2004, according to the Interior Department; last year the number had swelled to 43,153.

The push to extract more uranium has caused controversy not just involving federal land but private and state land as well. In Virginia, a company's plan to operate in a never-mined deposit spurred a hearing in the Legislature. In New Mexico, a Navajo activist group is challenging in federal court a license issued just over the reservation's eastern border.

Uranium claims are also encroaching on stretches of Western parkland such as Arches National Park, Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park, all in Utah, as well as a proposed wilderness area in Colorado called the Dolores River Canyon.

But by far the most claims staked near any national park are in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon, which draws 5 million people a year. The park is second in popularity only to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

"If you can't stop mining at the Grand Canyon, where can you stop it?" asked Richard Wiles, executive director of the Environmental Working Group.

The energy-versus-environment debate is apparent within the Interior Department, which granted the mining claims through its Bureau of Land Management. Among the mining critics is Steve Martin, superintendent of the Grand Canyon park and an Interior Department employee himself. "There should be some places that you just do not mine," Martin said.

Uranium is "a special concern," he added, because it is a toxic heavy metal and a source of radiation. He worries about uranium escaping into the local water and about its effect on fish in the Colorado River at the bottom of the gorge, and on the bald eagles, California condors and bighorn sheep that depend on the canyon's seeps and springs. More than a third of the canyon's species would be affected if water quality suffered, he said.

Martin is not the only one uneasy about potential water contamination. Add to the list the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which sells wholesale water throughout Southern California from its Colorado River Aqueduct. "In addition to the public health impacts, exploration and mining of radioactive material near a drinking water source may impact the public's confidence in the safety and reliability of the water supply," the district's general manager, Jeffrey Kightlinger, wrote to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.

No one is mining near the Grand Canyon yet, but wooden claim stakes can be spotted throughout the brush-covered plains north and south of the park.

Vane Minerals, a British company, applied last year to start exploratory drilling on seven sites in the Kaibab National Forest, near the canyon's popular South Rim.

Under current mining law the Forest Service had no choice but to allow the drilling, Regional Forester Corbin Newman testified in March to Congress. The mission of a national forest is different from that of a national park, he pointed out. Indeed, signs at the Kaibab Forest's border proclaim that visitors are entering the "Land of Many Uses."

In response to the approval, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club sued in federal court, alleging that the Forest Service didn't thoroughly investigate the environmental effects of drilling and prospective mining. In April, a judge issued a temporary restraining order until the case could be heard, probably in the summer.

Drilling had begun near Deer Tank Wash just off a rutted dirt road about 5 miles from the canyon park's east entrance. Now the only signs of that activity are a 6-inch pipe sticking up from the ground near a large pinon tree, and hay scattered around in the mud.

The wash is prone to flooding, said Taylor McKinnon, a public lands advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Would the water from a flash flood go through the bore hole to the aquifer? We don't know because there wasn't an analysis," he said.

Meanwhile, five additional proposals for exploratory drilling have been submitted to the Kaibab National Forest, according to Newman. And three old uranium mines near the canyon park are on standby, ready to resume operations.

Many of the companies are based abroad, said McKinnon, so their directors don't understand the special place that the Grand Canyon holds in this country's lore: "What if an American company went to drill at Stonehenge?"

But the region is special in another way, said Kris Hefton, chief executive of Vane's American uranium operation. The uranium is found in "breccia pipes," contained geological formations that hold higher-grade deposits than elsewhere in the United States, he said.

Breccia pipe mines can be compact, less than 20 acres in size, and uranium producers say they are among the easiest to restore after mining is done. And because the ore holds so much uranium, it's cheaper to mine. "They're not as susceptible if the price drops," Hefton said, adding that mining can be profitable in the region even if uranium fetches only $20 a pound.

"You won't have to depend on foreign uranium," he said. Although higher-grade deposits are found in Canada, and more mines are opening in the next five years, "You never know what the Canadians will do. It just makes sense to protect our industry from a national security standpoint."

Nevertheless, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., has introduced a bill that would withdraw 1 million acres of federal land around the Grand Canyon park from future mining and mineral leases. The bill would not affect the claims already staked if they are found to contain uranium deposits.

And so uranium mining could end up being part of the view at Gunsight Point, a promontory north of the park at the end of a rutted dirt road on public land. There, two striking gorges merge into one, with a dry wash at the bottom of Snake Gulch coming in from the east and Kanab Creek flowing in from the west.

Overlooking the creek are 14 uranium claims, according to an analysis of Interior Department data by the Environmental Working Group. The claims are held by companies such as Energy Metals and Uranium One Ventures, and by an official with Quaterra Resources Inc., which boasts to investors that it is "one of the largest claim holders in the Arizona Strip District."

On a hazy morning, the canyon is still visible downstream. And Martin, charged with its protection, is apprehensive. His experience with uranium mines is confined to one that operated right at the canyon's edge, grandfathered in because it opened before Congress created the national park in 1919. The U.S. bought the site in 1962, and mining stopped in 1969.

Now the remains of the aerial tram that carried the ore up the canyon's steep slopes can be seen at the South Rim. Special strips have been placed atop the structure to keep California condors from resting there, to protect them from lightning strikes. And a chain-link fence keeps hikers away from mine wastes.

Elevated radiation has been detected in Horn Creek below, and signs have been posted warning visitors not to drink the water. A National Park Service sign at the abandoned facility explains that uranium deposits also lie just outside the park.

"What does the future hold?" the note asks, and concludes: "Mines and other industry near parks often bring unforeseen impacts on park resources."