25 October 2010

Treacherous Uranium - Is this the way to win in Iraq ?

Treacherous Uranium
By Peter G Cohen

Is this the way to win in Iraq?
'The people of Fallujah are experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality, and sexual mutations than those recorded among survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the years after those Japanese cities were incinerated by U.S. atomic bomb strikes in 1945." From the British scientific study quoted by Jim Madison, at UFPPC and published in the International Journal of Environmental Studies and Public Health, "In Fallujah the rate of leukremia is 38 time higher, the childhood cancer rate is 12 times higher, and the breast cancer is ten times more common than in populations in Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait...."

Depleted uranium (DU) was used extensively in the battle of Fallujah in 2004. DU is the uranium 238 left after the minute amount of U235 is extracted for use in nuclear weapons and fuel rods. An alloy of DU is used in armor-penetrating shells because it ignites on contact and burns through armor plate. In the process it releases nano-particles of ionizing radiation that contaminate all living things and the environment with deadly radiation that has a half-life of 4.5 billion years.

The demonstrated public health effects of DU weapons include: diabetes, cancer, birth defects, DNA damage in sperm, infertility in women, infant mortality and low birth weights.

Processing uranium
After Uranium ore is mined, the ore is transported to a mill where it is ground and treated chemically to produce yellow cake, uranium oxide. This process uses enormous amounts of water which is contaminated with acid, unwanted minerals and leftover uranium. This highly toxic sludge is left at the site in tailing pools that are almost as radioactive as the extracted uranium and continue to release the radioactive gas, radon. Tailing dams have leakage problems and contaminate people through drinking water, fish and crops. As the tailing pools dry, fine particles of the radioactive waste are blown about by the wind.

In the United States the health of uranium workers exposed to radiation was finally recognized in 2000 with the establishment of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Plan Act (EEOICPA) This program recognizes that leukemia, beryllium disease and 22 types of cancer are produced by radiation. At this point over 75,000 workers or their surviving families have been compensated, which is about 30% of the applicants. For miners, ore transporters and mill workers there is the Radiation exposure Compensation Act
(RECA) which has compensated over 32,000 workers sick with lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, silicosis, pneumoconiosis, renal cancer and chronic renal disease.

Earth wide
The world now produces over fifty thousand tons of uranium a year, almost 2/3rds of it from Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia. The rest from sixteen other nations. Some are working to lessen the health risks of their miners, others are focused on increasing their production as the market grows. Most nations do not have the
compensation plans or the health studies that we have in the U.S., Canada and Australia, but the dangers of uranium to workers, their families and communities are the same everywhere.

With the growing awareness of climate change, nations around the world are planning to build more nuclear reactors to make electricity without producing the CO2 of fossil fuels. Today there are some 440 nuclear reactors in 30 countries. About 58 additional nuclear reactors are now being constructed in fifteen countries. They will require an additional 13% of enriched uranium, milling water and cooling water. They will add to the existing pools of tailings and highly radioactive fuel rods waiting for a safe system of disposal.

Here in the U.S., some 740,000 tons of depleted uranium in unstable hexafluoride form are stockpiled at Department of Energy sites at Paducah, Kentucky, Portsmouth, Ohio, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Additional enrichment plants are now being built, which will require additional transportation and everlasting safe storage of the DU. After extensive discussion and protest, a trainload of DU was sent to a disposal site in Utah, but Governor Herbert has been able negotiate the end of DU shipments to that state. There is good reason for people to be concerned, the decay of DU causes it to increase in radioactivity for thousands of years.

In spite of all precautions, the spread of nuclear reactors around the world increases the possibility of more nations developing nuclear weapons or of a disastrous, Chernobyl-like accident. The use of uranium in bombs, in making electricity or products such as DU munitions endangers the future of humanity by damaging our DNA, resulting in birth defects, and eroding mankind's most critical and irreplaceable possession, the human gene pool.

Peter G Cohen, artist and activist, has been opposing nuclear weapons for over fifty years. He is the author of http://www.nukefreeworld.com and numerous internet articles. He may be reached at aerie2@verizon.net

No comments:

Post a Comment