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Nuclear Energy


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Title: Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Energy
  • By Oriel Wilson
  • Race Poverty and the Urban Environment
  • Professor Raquel R. Pinderhughes
  • Urban Studies Program
  • San Francisco State University
  • Spring 2003

Public has permission to use the material
herein, but only if author, course, university
and professor are credited.
  • This presentation focuses on the entire nuclear
    fuel cycle. It is designed to explain the
    negative effects caused by the use of and
    production of nuclear energy. It takes you
    through the cradle to grave lifecycle of nuclear
    energy, paying particular attention to the
    social, environmental, and public health impacts
    of the processes associated with nuclear energy.

  • We will start with a brief introduction, then
    extraction and processing of uranium. We then
    discuss the distribution of uranium to enrichment
    facilities, and the enrichment process. This is
    followed by a more detailed explanation of
    nuclear uses for weapons and electricity
    production. Following each will be a discussion
    of distribution and consumption. Finally, we
    will end with an analysis of nuclear waste.

Brief History
  • Nuclear energy was first discovered in 1934 by
    Enrico Fermi. The first nuclear bombs were built
    in 1945 as a result of the infamous Manhattan
    Project. The first plutonium bomb, code-named
    Trinity, was detonated on July 16, 1945 in New
    Mexico. On August 6th 1945 the first uranium
    bomb was detonated over Hiroshima. Three days
    later a plutonium bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
    There is over 200,000 deaths associated with
    these detonations. Electricity wasnt produced
    with nuclear energy until 1951.

Source The Green Peace Book of the Nuclear Age
by John May
  • Radiation is the result of an unstable atom
    decaying to reach a stable state. Half-life is
    the average amount of time it takes for a sample
    of a particular element to decay half way.
    Natural radiation is everywhereour bodies,
    rocks, water, sunshine. However, manmade
    radiation is much stronger. There are currently
    37 radioactive elements in the periodic table26
    of them are manmade and include plutonium and
    americium (used in household smoke detectors).

Source http//
Types of Radiation
  • There are several different kinds of radiation
    alpha radiation, beta radiation, gamma rays, and
    neutron emission. Alpha radiation is the release
    of two protons and two neutrons, and normally
    occurs in fission of heavier elements. Alpha
    particles are heavy and cannot penetrate human
    skin, but are hazardous if ingested. Beta
    radiation is when a neutron is changed to a
    proton or visa versa, beta radiation is what is
    released from this change. Beta particles can
    penetrate the skin, but not light metals. Gamma
    rays is a type of electromagnetic radiation which
    is left over after alpha and beta are released
    and include X-rays, light, radio waves, and

Source The Green Peace Book of the Nuclear Age
by John May
Penetration of Radioactive particles
Source http//
  • Radiation is sometimes called ionizing radiation
    because ions are created with the passage of the
    alpha, beta, and gamma rays. The effect of
    radiation is on a cellular levelchanging its
    functionality (causing cancer or inherited birth
    defects) or killing it. Depending on the
    information source, radiation doses are measured
    in rems or sievert, in any case 100 rem one
    sievert. An exposure of 100 Sv will cause death
    within days, 10-50 Sv will cause death from
    gastrointestinal failure in one to two weeks, and
    with an exposure of 3-5 Sv will cause red bone
    marrow damage half of the time. Severe affects
    consist of burns, vomiting, hemorrhage, blood
    changes, hair loss, increased susceptibility to
    infection, and death. With lower levels of
    exposure symptoms are cancer (namely thyroid,
    leukemia, breast, and skin cancers), but also
    include eye cataracts. The radiation can also
    affect DNA causing mutations that change
    individuals genes and can be passed on to future
    generations. The current occupational dose
    recommended by the International Commission for
    Radiological Protection is 50 mSv per year. The
    average radiation dose per year for non-nuclear
    workers is about one mSv.

Source The Green Peace Book of the Nuclear Age
by John May and Energy and the Environment by
James A. Fay and Dan S. Golomb.
  • Uranium is usually mined similarly to other
    heavy metalsunder ground or in open pitsbut
    other methods can also be used. After the
    uranium is mined it is milled near the excavation
    site using leaching processes. The mining
    process explained here is a combination of two of
    major mines in Australia. Then we will look at
    the Navajo uranium miners who were some of the
    first uranium miners. Next I will explain some
    of the other community and environmental impacts
    associated with the mining processes.

  • Uranium ore is usually located aerially
    core samples are then drilled and
    analyzed by geologists. The uranium ore is
    extracted by means of drilling and blasting.
    Mines can be in either open pits or underground.
    Uranium concentrations are a small percentage of
    the rock that is mined, so tons of tailings waste
    are generated by the mining process.

Sources http//
and http//
ram.pdf and http//
Milling Leaching
  • The ore is first crushed into smaller bits, then
    it is sent through a ball mill where it is
    crushed into a fine powder. The fine ore is mixed
    with water, thickened, and then put into leaching
    tanks where 90 of the uranium ore is leached out
    with sulfuric acid. Next the uranium ore is
    separated from the depleted ore in a multistage
    washing system. The depleted ore is then
    neutralized with lime and put into a tailings

Sources http//
and http//
  • Meanwhile, the uranium solution is filtered, and
    then goes through a solvent extraction process
    that includes kerosene and ammonia to purify the
    uranium solution. After purification the uranium
    is put into precipitation tanksthe result is a
    product commonly called yellowcake.

Sources http//
and http//
  • In the final processes the yellow cake is heated
    to 800Celcius which makes a dark green powder
    which is 98 U3O8. The dark green powder is put
    into 200 liter drums and loaded into shipping
    containers and are shipped overseas to fuel
    nuclear power plants.

Sources http//
and http//
Mining Leaders
  • Australia and Canada are currently the biggest
    Uranium miners. The aforementioned process that
    takes place in Australia is exported because
    Australia does not have a nuclear energy program.
    The mining in Australian is primarily open pit,
    while the mining in Canada is mostly underground.
    Following is two chartsone is the major uranium
    producing countries, the other is of the major
    corporations that actually do the mining.

Source http//
Production in 2000
Source http//
Other Mining Methods
  • Another method of uranium mining is
    in-situ leaching. This method is used
    because there is reduced hazards to the employees
    of the mines, it is less expensive, and there are
    no large tailings deposits. However, there are
    also several significant disadvantages including
    ground water contamination, unknown risks
    involving the leaching liquid reacting to the
    other minerals in the deposit, and an inability
    to restore the leaching site back to natural
    conditions after the leaching process is done.

Source http//
In-Situ Leaching
Source http//
Community Environmental Impacts
  • Communities located near the mines and the
    workers in the mines are most heavily impacted by
    the uranium mining industry. The Navajo Indians
    in Arizona were the first uranium miners back in
    the 1940s to the 1970s. Early on, little was
    understood about the dangers of uranium exposure,
    and as a result there have been many illnesses
    related to the mining. Despite safety efforts,
    uranium miners are still at risk. In addition,
    tailings dams have broken and contaminated
    drinking water in the communities near the mines.

The Navajo Miners
  • Some of the first uranium miners were Navajo
    Indians in New Mexico and Arizona. In the
    article by Timothy Benally Navajo Uranium Miners
    Fight for Compensation, Benally explains how the
    Navajo people came to know the dangers of uranium
    exposure and how they are getting compensated.
    Vanadium mining started there around 1918, but
    uranium mining did not start until after the
    Second World War. Before uranium was discovered
    there, it was not clear what this element was,
    and as a result the tailings from the Vanadium
    (that contained high levels of uranium) were not
    stored properlyleading to excessive human
    exposure and environmental impacts on the water
    supply and food production. To make things
    worse, once the element was discovered, there was
    a large prospecting movement throughout the
    reservation. In addition, the major corporations
    that ran these mines, the Vanadium Corporation of
    America and the Kerr-McGee, companies paid
    unfairly low wages and did not warn the workers
    of the dangers of the uranium. It was not until
    people got ill and were dieing that the workers
    and their families found out. In 1960 the
    workers and their families started the Uranium
    Radiation Victims Committee, which sought to warn
    other workers and families of the danger of
    exposure to uranium, but because there was little
    alternative employment, many kept their jobs in
    the mines anyway. In 1990, a bill was passed in
    congress to compensate radiation exposure
    victims, and since then the Office of Navajo
    Uranium Workers has sought to identify exposed
    workers and to provide medical care. There are
    currently 2,450 registered workers, and 412
    recorded deaths of workers.

Source http//
Floyd Frank
  • Floyd lost several brothers and other relatives
    to uranium related illnesses. He witnessed
    calves that had been born defected and sheep that
    have had lung problems. His view is that the US
    government wanted to see what happens to people
    exposed in these conditions. The water has been
    contaminated and, through the tributaries, so has
    the land. He says that the US government will
    only compensate someone if they have lung cancer,
    but he says that his brothers had sores all over
    their bodies .

Source http//
Donald Yellowhorse
  • Donald Yellowhorse is a resident of Cove, Arizona
    . He recalls piles of uranium around his house
    and in his town. He says that some people had
    their foundations of their houses built with the
    rock, and that the debris was dumped directly
    upstream from the drinking water so that everyone
    was exposed. He remembers that the effects
    took some time to notice and that by the time
    effects were observed it was too late to turn

Source http//
Uranium miners today
  • Uranium threatens the health of mine workers
    and the communities surrounding the mines.
    According to the International Physicians for the
    Prevention of Nuclear War, uranium mining has
    been responsible for the largest collective
    exposure of workers to radiation. One estimate
    puts the number of workers who have died of lung
    cancer and silicosis due to mining and milling
    alone at 20,000. Mine workers are principally
    exposed to ionizing radiation from radioactive
    uranium and the accompanying radium and radon
    gases emitted from the ore. Ionizing radiation is
    the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that
    extends from ultraviolet radiation to cosmic
    rays. This type of radiation releases high energy
    particles that damage cells and DNA structure,
    producing mutations, impairing the immune system
    and causing cancers.

Source http//
Australia Tailings Spills
  • According to a Planet Ark article online,
    Australia Uranium Mines Come Under Spotlight,
    Australia currently has four uranium
    minesRanger, Beverley, Honeymoon, and Olympic
    Damand they have plans for six more. The
    article is about an inquiry that the Australian
    government is making into the mining business at
    the request of the Aborigines and environmental
    groups. In 2002 there were two incidents
    involving the Ranger mine in which the stockpile
    with low-grade ore got downstream, and was not
    immediately reported. In May of 2002 the
    Beverley mine spilled uranium-contaminated water
    for the fourth time. The Beverley mine is owned
    by a subsidiary of a US company called General
    Atomics. Even worse than the Beverly mine record
    is that of Olympic Dam in which hundreds of
    thousands of liters of uranium mining slurry was
    leaked from a storage tankfor the seventh time.

Source http//
USA Tailings Spills
  • On July 16, 1979 the largest spill of
    radioactive isotopes in the United States, other
    than weapons testing was in the form of uranium
    tailings erupted from the Church Rock Dam. The
    broken dam released eleven hundred tons of mill
    waste and ninety million gallons of contaminated
    liquid in the Rio Puerco area immediately
    effecting over 350 Navajo ranching families, and
    endangering the water supply of New Mexico,
    Arizona, Las Vegas, and Los Angelesincluding
    Lake Mead. The cause of the breach was a dam
    that was not built to codean accident that could
    have been prevented if the proper authorities had
    done their jobs. The United Nuclear Corporation,
    a corporation with a history of leaks, owned the
    dam. They have acknowledged fifteen tailing
    spills between 1959 and 1977seven of those were
    dam breaksand at least ten of the spills got
    into major water systems.

Source Killing Our Own by Harvey Wasserman and
Norman Soloman. http//
  • uranium mining, a polluting activity that
    devastates large areas. Uranium ore sometimes
    contains as little as 500 grams recoverable
    uranium per 1000 kilograms of earth. So, enormous
    amounts of rock have to be dug up, crushed and
    chemically processed to extract the uranium. The
    remaining wastes, which still contain large
    amounts of radioactivity, remain at the mines.
    These "tailings" are often stored in a very poor
    condition, resulting in the contamination of
    surface- and groundwater.

Source http//
Nuclear Fuel Cycle
  • We will start the nuclear fuel cycle with a brief
    explanation of how nuclear energy works, the
    enrichment process, and then power reactors.
    Following will be information on Three Mile
    Island and Chernobyl, the risk of reactor leaks,
    and the impacts on the communities and the
    environment. Then we will discuss the nuclear
    weapons program, including the use of depleted
    uranium, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, weapons testing,
    and the effects on soldiers, victims,
    communities, and the environment.

Source http//
Key terms
  • Nuclear energysynonymous with atomic energy, is
    the energy produced by fission or fusion of
    atomic nuclei.
  • Atomsare made of three main parts protons,
    neutrons, and electrons . The protons and
    neutrons make up the center of the atom while the
    electrons orbit around the center .
  • Atomic numberthe number of protons in an element
    that identifies it.
  • Isotopeif an atom has a different number of
    neutrons from protons. Isotopes, measured by
    their total weight called mass number are the
    sum of neutrons and protons. Some isotopes are
    unstable and will decay to reach a stable
    statethese elements are considered radioactive.
  • Ionif an atom has a different number of electron
    from protons.
  • Fission occurs when an atoms nucleus splits
    apart to form two or more different atoms. The
    most easily fissionable elements are the isotopes
    are uranium 235 and plutonium 239. Fissionable
    elements are flooded with neutrons causing the
    elements to split. When these radioactive
    isotopes split, they form new radioactive
    chemicals and release extra neutrons that create
    a chain reaction if other fissionable material is
    present. While Uranium, atomic number 92, is the
    heaviest naturally occurring element, many other
    elements can be made by adding protons and
    neutrons with particle accelerators or nuclear
    reactors. In general, the fission process uses
    higher numbered elements.
  • Fusionis the combining of one or more
    atomsusually isotopes of hydrogen, which are
    deuterium and tritium. Atoms naturally repel
    each other so fusion is easiest with these
    lightest atoms. To force the atoms together it
    takes extreme pressure and temperature, this can
    be produced by a fission reaction.

Source The Green Peace Book of the Nuclear Age
by John May and Energy and the Environment by
James A. Fay and Dan S. Golomb.
  • To enrich uranium it must be in the gas form of
    UF6. This is called conversion. The conversion
    diagram shown here is from Honeywell. First the
    yellow cake is converted to uranium dioxide
    through a heating process (this step was also
    mentioned in the mining process). Then anhydrous
    hydrofluoric acid is used to make UF4. Next the
    UF4 is mixed with fluorine gas to make uranium
    hexafluoride. This liquid is stored in steel
    drums and crystallizes.

Source http//
  • Uranium enrichment increases the amount of U235
    in comparison to U238. Domestic power plants use
    a mixture that is 3-5 U235, while highly
    enriched uranium is generally used for weapons,
    some research facilities, and naval reactors.
    Domestic reactors usually require fuel in the
    form of uranium dioxide and weapons use the
    enriched mix in the form of a metal. The
    conversion and enrichment process is very
    dangerous because not only is the uranium
    hexafluoride radioactive, it is also chemically
    toxic. In addition, if the uranium hexafluoride
    comes in contact with moisture it will release
    another very toxic chemical called hydrofluoric
    acid. There have been numerous accidents during
    the conversion and enrichment process. Depleted
    uranium is the waste that is generated from the
    enrichment process.

Source http//
Fuel Fabrication
  • After being enriched, the UF6 is taken to a fuel
    fabrication facility that presses the powder into
    small pellets. The pellets are put into long
    tubes. These tubes are called fuel rods. A fuel
    assembly is a cluster of these sealed rods. Fuel
    assemblies go in the core of the nuclear reactor.
    It takes approximately 25 tonnes of fuel to
    power one 1000 MWe reactor per year. The picture
    on the right is a fuel assembly.

Source http//
  • Radioactive materials are transported
    from the milling location to the
    conversion location, then from the
    conversion location to the enrichment location,
    then from the enrichment location to the to the
    fuel fabrication facility, and finally to the
    power plant. These materials are transported in
    special containers by specialized transport
    companies. People involved in the transport
    process are trained to respond to emergencies.
    In the US, Asia, and Western Europe transport is
    mainly by truck, and in Russia mainly by train.
    Intercontinental transport is usually by ship,
    and sometimes by air. Since 1971 there has been
    over 20,000 shipments with no incidents and
    limited operator exposure.

Source http//
nt.htm Picture http//
Nuclear Reactors
  • There are usually several hundred fuel
    assemblies in a reactor core. There are
    several types of reactors, but they
    all use a controlled fission process with
    a moderator like water or graphite.
    During the fission process, plutonium is
    created and half of the plutonium also fissions
    accounting for a third of the energy. The
    fission process makes heat that is converted to
    energy (see following diagrams). Pictured above
    is the Diablo Canyon reactor in California.

Source http//
Source http//
Source http//
Electricity Consumption
  • 1-3) power is generated or imported. 4) high
    voltage power lines make up the grid that
    connects power generators and neighborhood
    substations. 5) substation steps down the power
    and connects to the distribution system. 6) the
    distribution systems link to most customers.

Source http//
Reactor Types
  • PRWPressurized Water Reactordoes not boil, but
    uses the pressure of the water to heat a
    secondary source of water that generates
    electricity. Most popular (accounts for 65 of
    reactors world wide). Considered a light water
  • BRWBoiling Water Reactorboils water (coolant)
    that makes steam to turn turbines. Conducive to
    internal contamination. Also considered a light
    water reactor.
  • RBMKGraphite-moderated pressure tube
    boiling-water reactor similar to BWR but uses
    graphite and oxygen. Complex and difficult to
  • CANDUCanadian Deuterium UraniumDoesnt use
    enriched fuel. Has lots of tubes and internal
    contamination issues.
  • MagnoxGas cooled reactor. Cooled with carbon
    dioxide or helium, and uses natural uranium. (UK
    and France).
  • AGRAdvanced Gas-cooledalso cooled with carbon
    dioxide or helium. Uses enriched uranium. (UK).
  • Fast Breederhigh temperature gas reactor. Uses
    U235, U238, and Plutonium 239. Very dangerous
    because it uses liquid sodium in the primary
    circuit and in inflammable with air and explosive
    with water.

Pressurized Water Reactor
Source http//
Russian RBMK
Source http//
Reactor Hazards
  • Reactor pose a serious threat radiation
    threatespecially to the employees and
    surrounding communities. Recently the New York
    times featured an article Extraordinary Reactor
    Leak Gets the Industries Attention. The
    implication is that if this reactor can leak, so
    can others. Typically, the reactors develop
    boric acid under their lidswhich eats away at
    the steel encasement (fixable), but this leak is
    in at the bottom of a reactor. In an article
    featured on CorpWatch, Bechtels Nuclear
    Nightmares talks about a reactor that the
    Bechtel corporation built in San Onofrethats
    been shut down since 1992 for lack of safety
    upgrades. The problem is that there is no place
    to permanently send the reactor to and is a risk
    because it was built on a fault line. Three
    Mile Island and Chernobyl are two of the worst
    incidences of reactor breaches and are explained
    in the following slides.

E.html Source
Three Mile Island
  • Three Mile Island is a pair of PRWs.
    The second one was built in a hurry for tax
    purposes (started operation on
    December 30, 1798 to meet deadline). On
    March 28, 1979, the Pilot Operated
    Relief Valve was stuck open and caused pressure
    to be released from the primary cooling system.
    The fuel rods came apart and radioactive material
    discharged into the sky. Two days later 3,500
    pregnant women and children were evacuated.
    Although there were no official instructions to
    do so, many others left as well. Numerous
    residents in the aftermath developed various
    cancers and thyroid diseases.

Source The Green Peace Book of the Nuclear Age
by John May picture http//
  • Chernobyl had the RBMK design. In an
    experiment, technicians let the power of
    reactor 4 fall, and on April 26, 1986 the
    result was rapid power levels rising inside
    the core melting fuel and causing a reactor
    containment breachin addition to an internal
    hydrogen explosion. The top of the reactor blew
    off and spewed radioactive material into the
    atmosphere for 10 days.

Source The Green Peace Book of the Nuclear Age
by John May Picture http//
Health Impacts
  • Thirty people died in direct relation to the
    accident. They were the workers in the plant and
    the people who assisted in the cleanup.
    Approximately 2,500 additional deaths were
    related to the accident. Since the accident rates
    of Thyroid cancer has risen significantly. The
    rate of thyroid cancer in children 15 years and
    younger increase from 4 to 6 per million to 45
    per million in the Ukraine region between 1986 to
    1997 (compared to 1981 to 1985). 64 of these
    cases were in the most contaminated regions.

Source http//
Community Impacts
  • 116,000 people were evacuated from 1990 to 1995
    and 210,000 were resettled. Major infrastructure
    had to be rebuilt. There was also a shortage of
    electricity. Agricultural activities had to be
    reduced, which lead to a reduction in income.

Source http//
Environmental Impacts
  • Radioactive fall out spread throughout the
    Ukraine and Europe, and eventually the whole
    northern hemisphere. In the local ecosystem (10
    km radius) coniferous tress and small mammals
    died. The natural environment is recovering but
    there may be long-term genetic effects.

Source http//
Locations of Facilities
Source http//
  • Nuclear weapons fall under two
    categoriesfission weapons and fusion weapons.
    Fission is splitting the nucleus of an atom into
    two or more elements, which causes a huge amount
    of energy to be released. In addition if there
    is left over neutrons they will cause fission in
    other elementssustaining a chain reaction.
    Fusion is almost the reverse because it requires
    the putting together of two nuclei. The Hydrogen
    bomb is a fusion weapon, while weapons that use
    U235 and Pu239 are fission weapons. A
    thermonuclear weapon detonates in three steps
    fission chain reaction, fusion reaction, and then
    fission again. When a thermonuclear weapon
    explodes, there is an explosion of neutrons and
    gamma rays that causes a silent flash of heat and
    light, followed by the extreme pressure of a
    mushroom cloud that raises millions of tons of
    earth resulting in nuclear fallout.

Source The Green Peace Book of the Nuclear Age
by John May
Weapons Production
  • Production plants involved in the manufacturing
    of weapons have also done significant harm to the
    environment and surrounding communities. Because
    the US was in such a hurry to make as many
    nuclear weapons as possible, there are many
    severely contaminated environments surrounding
    these sites. Of special note are Hanover
    Washington (evacuated in 1943), Rocky Flats
    Colorado (plutonium spontaneously igniting cause
    two major fires), and Fernald Ohio (contaminated
    ground water). All three of these sites are
    currently in the process of being cleaned up.

Source Michael E. Long Half-life The Leathal
Legacy of Americas Nuclear Waste National
Geographic July 2002. Source
  • In New Mexico on July 16, 1945 was Trinity test,
    the first atomic explosion. The Trinity test
    spread radioactive material over a 300 square
    mile area, including Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and
    Trinidad (Colorado). Later two bodies were
    discovered 20 miles from the detonation
    locationthe couple had been living in a nearby
    canyon in an adobe house.

Source The Green Peace Book of the Nuclear Age
by John May
Hiroshima Nagasaki
  • The Hiroshima bomb was nicknamed little
    boy (on the left) and was detonated on
    August 6, 1945 killing approximately 140,000
    by the end of that yearand an estimated total
    of 200,000 altogether. Fat Man (on the right)
    was dropped three days later on Nagasaki killing
    approximately 70,000 people. Entire families
    were wiped out. The effects of the radiation
    caused birth defects in some of the survivors
    children, while others could no longer have
    babies. The physical, psychological, and
    environmental impacts of these atrocities can
    hardly be put into words.

Source http//
Source http//

Source http//

  • This picture was taken by a US army medic named
    Henry Dittner in October 1945.

Source http//

Weapons Testing
  • Since 1945 there has been 2,050 nuclear weapons
    tests world wide. This picture is of Dog Shot
    in the Nevada desert in 1951. The second series
    of tests, the first series with large scale
    troops present.

Source http//
8.asp, http//
htm (and picture)
Health Impacts
  • The morbidity study for Crossroads contains
    data received from 1,572 veterans of the 42,000
    participating veterans. This represents a sample
    size of 3.74 . The average death age of the 380
    deceased veterans is 57 years. The incident of
    all types of cancers in deceased Crossroads
    Veterans is 59.
  • The Incidence of all types of cancer in the 1572
    reporting Veterans is 35.
  • The leading cancer types, ranging from 23 down
    to 6, are skin, prostate, lymphoma, lung,
    urinary, colon, and esophagus.
  • These percentages for the most part are seen in
    data on Ranger, Greenhouse, Buster-Jangle,
    Trinity, Tumbler-Snapper, Upshot-Knothole,
    Castle, and Redwing. Information from veterans
    from other tests is needed before an analysis can
    be performed.
  • Further study and data is needed to isolate
    target area, ie, tests, units, ships.

Quoted from http//
Environmental Community Impacts
  • Nuclear weapons devastate large areas of land
    with a forceful blast and intense heat. The land
    around the blast zones are contaminated with
    radioactive debris. The mushroom clouds break up
    slowly, and travel with weather patterns which
    distributes fallout across the globe. Many of
    the tests focus in rural, mainly uninhabited
    areas, and as a result disproportionately affect
    indigenous and other peoples living in these
    rural areas. Other important test sites that
    have drastically impacted indigenous peoples
    include the Marshall Islands (US) and Mururoa

Weapons Transportation
  • Another significant threat is planes armed with
    these weapons can (and have) crashed and
    submarines have also sunk into the ocean. In
    addition there have been incidents in which
    material has just been dumped as well. May
    estimates that there are 60 nuclear weapons and
    10 reactors on the ocean floor from submarines,
    plane crashes, and dumping. Although very strong
    casings likely guard them, the casings will
    eventually corrode resulting in radioactive
    contamination of our ocean and marine life.

Source The Green Peace Book of the Nuclear Age
by John May
Depleted Uranium
  • Depleted uranium is whats left over from the
    enrichment process and is radioactive. Uranium
    is a heavy metal that can easily penetrate amour.
    Depleted uranium is currently being used in Iraq,
    and was used in Kosovo, the Gulf War, and Bosnia.
    When a depleted uranium burns, radioactive
    particles are release into the air. Depleted
    uranium is also a toxic hazard.

Source http//
  • Jerry Wheat was hit with friendly fire during the
    Gulf war and suffered mysterious ailments when he
    returned home. When the shrapnel was removed it
    was discovered that is was radioactive.

Source http//
DU has been blamed for a number of leukemia
cases among former Balkans peacekeepers The
Iraqi authorities claim that DU is responsible
for a marked increase in cancers
Source http//
Nuclear Waste
  • There four different kinds of waste High-level
    (spent fuel and plutonium waste), transuranic
    (contaminated tools and clothes), low and mixed
    low-level (hazardous waste from hospitals), and
    uranium mill tailings. In the US there is
    approximately 91 million gallons of high-level
    waste, 11.3 million cubic feet of transuranic
    waste, 472 million cubic feet of low and mixed
    low level waste, and 265 million tons of uranium

Source Michael E. Long Half-life The Leathal
Legacy of Americas Nuclear Waste National
Geographic July 2002.
  • Many facilities store their own waste on site,
    but they are quickly running out of space. Other
    sites are in the process of being cleaned, but
    there is no place to store the waste. Part of
    the problem is the half-life. Half-life is how
    long it takes for an unstable element to decay
    half way. Uranium 238 takes 4.5 billion years.
    Typically, after ten half-lives the element is
    considered safe. Nuclear waste lacks permanent
    safe storage. Temporary storage is being
    proposed for the Skull Valley Goshute Indian
    reservation, and permanent storage may be in
    Yucca mountain. Mean while waste and tailings
    are pilling up.

Source Michael E. Long Half-life The Leathal
Legacy of Americas Nuclear Waste National
Geographic July 2002.
Skull Valley Goshutes
  • According to the Skull Valley Goshute Indian
    website the Goshute Indians in Utah recently made
    an agreement with a private utility to
    temporarily store 40,000 metric tons of spent
    nuclear fuel. The Goshute reservation is 18,000
    acres, and already surrounded by other polluting
    industries. To the south of the reservation is
    the Dougway Proving Groundsa government chemical
    and biological weapons testing site. Also to the
    south is the Intermountain Power Project, which
    mainly makes coal-fired electricity for
    California. To the east is a government
    depository of nerve gas, and to the northeast is
    a low-level radioactive disposal site and toxic
    waste incinerator. Finally, in the north is a
    magnesium production plant. On the Skull Valley
    Goshute website it is stated that since the
    reservation is already surrounded by hazardous
    facilities, and after careful consideration and
    consultation with the government, scientists, and
    corporations, they have entered into this

Source http//
Moab, Utah
  • This is a picture of a ten-million
    ton pile of uranium tailings.
    The pile is right next to the
    Colorado River, and leaks
    ammonia into it threatening the
    fish. The owners of the pile when
    bankrupt, so no the citizens of Moab are waiting
    for the Department of Energy to clean it up. The
    clean up will cost an estimated 64 million

Source http//
Yucca Mountain
  • Yucca Mountain located in southern Nevada.
    Although this location has not been built yet,
    the plan is to have the waste buried deep in the
    mountain. Waste would be transported from all
    over the country in specially design railroad
    cars and truck trailers. The waste would then be
    repackaged for final burial. This plan is highly

Source http//
07/feature1/zoom3.html Picture

  • Radioactive waste is highly dangerous to humans
    and the environment. Because the waste will
    remain radioactive for so long, it will remain to
    be a threat for thousands of years.

  • Overall, nuclear energy disproportionately
    effects rural communities and the communities
    near nuclear facilities. Uranium mining and
    bombing are particularly detrimental to the
    environment. Further, the effects of radiation
    (cancer, illness, and death) are significant. If
    you find yourself in a situation where you are
    being exposed to radiation, shield yourself from
    the blast, and then move as far away from the
    detonation area as possible (otherwise remain

US locations
Source Killing Our Own by Harvey Wasserman and
Norman Soloman. http//
The Green Peace Book of the Nuclear Age by John
Atomic Veterans website http//
WISE http//

WWW A bomb museum http//
Navajo Indian Miners http//www.inmotionmagazine.c
DU article http//
Arms Control website http//
UK Chernobyl site http//
TMI picture http//
Sources cont.
Source Michael E. Long Half-life The Lethal
Legacy of Americas Nuclear Waste National
Geographic July 2002.
National Geographic waste article (online version
of above) http//
/0207/feature1/zoom3.html Yucca Mountain Picture
Skull Valley Goshutes http//www.skullvalleygoshu
Fernald document
DU article http//
US Nuclear Map http//
World Nuclear Association http//
Source Killing Our Own by Harvey Wasserman and
Norman Soloman. http//
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