Essays By Hattie Nestel

Making the Connection between Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons:

Why We Walk on Hiroshima Day and Nagasaki Day to Shut Down Vermont Yankee
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  The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 created a human trauma that resonated around the world. The "Atoms for Peace" program announced by president Eisenhower in 1953 was intended to displace the negativity of those bombings and replace it with something positive for humanity. Thus, the age of using nuclear energy to generated electricity for commercial use was born

  The technology for creating nuclear bombs or generating electricity by creating a nuclear chain reaction is much the same. The fuel and fission cycles for peaceful and non-peaceful applications run parallel.

  Every country that possesses civilian nuclear technology will sooner or later be capable of building the bomb. Civilian components of the fuel cycle can be converted to military components. The fact that plutonium is a by-product of nuclear power explains why any country that owns a nuclear power plant has access to nuclear bomb fuel. A mere 10 pounds of plutonium can make an atomic bomb.

  Uranium ore must be mined to acquire the fissile materials to create either a bomb or nuclear power. Most U.S. mines are on Navajo and Laguna Pueblo tribal land in the southwest. The mining creates radium dust which is inhaled in the mines and can be deposited in the bones of the miners causing malignant bone cancer. Millions of tons of radioactive radon 220 leaks into the air near the mines. When inhaled by local indigenous people radon enters the lungs causing lung cancer. Uranium waste ore also contains radium and thorium, alpha and gamma emitters. Gamma emitters act like X-rays, irradiating bodies and continuously exposing reproductive organs. Uranium miners have suffered a very high incidence of lung cancer and their children have high levels of birth defects. In total, over 265 million tons of uranium tailings pollute the American southwest.

  The amount of uranium ore is finite on the planet. Uranium prices worldwide have risen in 600% in the past few years. Mining uranium is fossil fuel intensive and as the uranium ore is depleted mining will require greater expenditures of time and energy.

  Uranium, whether for bombs or power plants, must be enriched. Enrichment is again a dirty and dangerous process using coal which contributes large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The CFC 114 that is emitted from enrichment facilities in Kentucky and Ohio is a potent global warmer and contributes to the destruction of the stratosphere. It is obvious that this is not a clean industry!

  Whether for building bombs or commercial reactors, enriched uranium is transported on public roads around the country releasing radiation and creating dangerous risks associated with highway accidents.

  Nuclear technology, for bombs or power plants is heavily subsidized by taxpayer dollars. By comparison the subsidies for local, sustainable, renewable energies and energy efficiencies and conservation are inadequate to encourage their growth.

  Both nuclear bomb factories and nuclear power plants emit radiation routinely into air and water. There are many examples of massive releases at these facilities over the years. Clean-up is unimaginably expensive and lengthy and dangerous due to the lengthy radioactive half-life of these toxic residues.

  The waste from building bombs or commercial reactors must be stored and safeguarded for hundreds of thousands of years. Those who have profited from these industries will go to their graves rich, leaving the dangers and expenses to countless future generations.

  All exposure to radiation is cumulative and dangerous. Each exposure adds to the risk of developing cancer or mutating genes in the reproductive cells. Plutonium, iodine 131, cesium 137, strontium 90 all impact our health and will be passed onto future generations without end. There is no way to route it out once it enters our gene pool. According to Alice Stewart noted scientist, M.D. and epidemiologist, it will be totally irrevocable.

  John Gofman, Ph.D in Nuclear/Physical Chemistry, discover of Pa-232, U-232, Pa-233 and U-233, was an M.D. in internal medicine and associate director of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory from 1963-1969. He authored 150 scientific publications and numerous books. Gofman conducted extensive research on cancer and leukemia from ionizing radiation and X-ray sources as well as the biological hazards of plutonium.

  Gofman concluded after years of study and research that, "Nuclear power is simply unacceptable for this or for any other society, and there is no credible way that it can ever be made acceptable. I shall state that this conclusion is correct even if we were never to have a major nuclear power plant accident."

  Rosalie Bertell a Ph.D. in mathematics, and a Senior Cancer Research Scientist at Roswell Park Memorial Institute, Buffalo, N.Y. has acted as a consultant for the Citizen's Advisory Committee of the President's commission on the accident at Three Mile Island, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the US Environmental Protection Agency and the National Council of Churches Energy Task Force. Bertell has published over eighty academic papers and articles and been called as an expert witness before the United States Congress in licensing hearings for nuclear power plants. A member of the religious Order of Grey Nuns she has done extensive research on low-level radiation and written an important book on nuclear power and low level radiation, No Immediate Danger?-Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth published in 1985. Dr. Bertell states, "I realized that nuclear energy, both because of its origin and through its implementation, is rooted in war, oppression, secrecy and manipulation, what is sometimes referred to as 'the rule of the fist'. Because of this, I have chosen to highlight the development of nuclear energy policy as a convenience for superpower military strategists, and consider nuclear technology, whether for war or energy, as a single human endeavor." She wanted to "share with others my understanding of the biological effects of exposure to ionizing radiation, an integral part of the technology now being used to produce both nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and the political secrecy which has surrounded each. …The wear and tear caused by radiation results in the gradual accumulation of mistakes in the body's homeostatic mechanisms; for example, we may no longer be able to produce an antibody to counteract some environmental irritant, so we become 'allergic'; or, we cannot produce insulin, so we become diabetic, or, our cells multiply without having sense enough to rest, and we get a tumor. … Nor is radiation damage limited to the subtle harm done to the person exposed. It can also injure the ovum and sperm cells from which all future generations derive." She advises us to learn the jargon, understand nuclear technology and give visible form and expression against nuclear options. She calls this "a time to bloom".

  Dr. George Wald, Nobel laureate in Physiology and Medicine and former Professor in biology from Harvard also weighs in on the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the unacceptability of both. Dr Wald states, "Directly out of the business of nuclear weapons came the business of nuclear power, heralded in our country with the slogan, "Atoms for Peace". Even that innocent-sounding slogan is part of an endless pattern of public deception that surrounds the entire nuclear enterprise. …

  Nuclear power and nuclear weapons are two sides of the same coin. Nuclear power is life-threatening…It is now beyond doubt that ionizing radiation at all levels involve serious risks to health, causing increased chances of cancers, leukemia and genetic effects. There is no threshold….Every dose is an overdose."

  Dr. Bertell advises that a new technology in harmony with life and earth, a new social order which assures a secure future for the world's children must be developed.

  Robert F. Kennedy said, "Each time a person stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others…they send forth a ripple of hope. And these ripples, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

  As we talk, walk and create new initiatives, we will bring forth a new reality -a NUCLEAR FREE FUTURE.


  Secret Fallout: Low-level Radiation from Hiroshima to Three-Mile Island, by Ernest Sternglass, published McGraw-Hill Paperbacks 1981

  The Enemy Within; The High Cost of Living near Nuclear Reactors by Jay Gould-published by Four Walls Eight Windows, 1996

  An Irreverent, Illustrated View of Nuclear Power by John W. Gofman, Published by Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, 1979

  Nuclear Power is Not the Answer by Helen Caldicott, published by The New Press, 2006

  No Immediate Danger? Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth, by Dr. Rosalie Bertell, Published by the Women's Educational Press, 1985


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