Fracking and a Radioactive Silvery-White Monster: Radium Must be Left in the Earth

Posted on November 10, 2012. Filed under: Environment, Humanitarian Issues, Radioactivity, U.S. | Tags: , |

Published on Friday, November 9, 2012 by Common Dreams

Fracking for gas not only uses toxic chemicals that can contaminate drinking and groundwater — it also releases substantial quantities of radioactive poison from the ground that will remain hot and deadly for thousands of years.frackingImage: 8020 Vision

Issuing a report yesterday exposing major radioactive impacts of hydraulic fracturing known as fracking — was Grassroots Environmental Education, an organization in New York, where extensive fracking is proposed.

The Marcellus Shale region which covers much of upstate New York is seen as loaded with gas that can be released through the fracking process. It involves injecting fluid and chemicals under high pressure to fracture shale formations and release the gas captured in them.

But also released, notes the report, is radioactive material in the shale including Radium-226 with a half-life of 1,600 years. A half-life is how long it takes for a radioactive substance to lose half its radiation. It is multiplied by between 10 and 20 to determine the “hazardous lifetime” of a radioactive material, how long it takes for it to lose its radioactivity. Thus Radium-226 remains radioactive for between 16,000 and 32,000 years.

“Horizontal hydrofracking for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region of New York State has the potential to result in the production of large amounts of waste materials containing Radium-226 and Radium-228 in both solid and liquid mediums,” states the report by E. Ivan White. For 30 years he was a staff scientist for the Congressionally-chartered National Council on Radiation Protection.

“Importantly, the type of radioactive material found in the Marcellus Shale and brought to the surface by horizontal hydrofracking is the type that is particularly long-lived, and could easily bio-accumulate over time and deliver a dangerous radiation dose to potentially millions of people long after the drilling is over,” the report goes on.

“Radioactivity in the environment, especially the presence of the known carcinogen radium, poses a potentially significant threat to human health,” it says. “Therefore, any activity that has the potential to increase that exposure must be carefully analyzed prior to its commencement so that the risks can be fully understood.”

The report lays out “potential pathways of the radiation” through the air, water and soil. Through soil it would get into crops and animals eaten by people.

Examined in the report are a 1999 study done by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation “assisted by representatives from 16 oil and gas companies” on hydrofracking and radioactivity and a 2011 Environmental Impact Statement the agency did on the issue. It says both present a “cavalier attitude toward human exposure to radioactive material.”

Radium causes cancer in people largely because it is treated as calcium by the body and becomes deposited in bones. It can mutate bones cells causing cancer and also impact on bone marrow. It can cause aplastic anemia an inability of bone marrow to produce sufficient new cells to replenish blood cells. Marie Curie, who discovered radium in 1893 and felt comfortable physically handling it, died of aplastic anemia.

Once radium was used in self-luminous paint for watch dials and even as an additive in products such as toothpaste and hair creams for purported “curative powers.”

There are “no specific treatments for radium poisoning,” advises the Delaware Health and Social Services Division of Public Health in its information sheet on radium. When first discovered, “no one knew that it was dangerous,” it mentions.

White’s report, entitled “Consideration of Radiation in Hazardous Waste Produced from Horizontal Hydrofracking,” notes that “radioactive materials and chemical wastes do not just go away when they are released into the environment. They remain active and potentially lethal, and can show up years later in unexpected places. They bio-accumulate in the food chain, eventually reaching humans.”

Under the fracking plan for New York State, “there are insufficient precautions for monitoring potential pathways or to even know what is being released into the environment,” it states.

The Department of Environmental Conservation “has not proposed sufficient regulations for tracking radioactive waste from horizontal hydrofracking,” it says. “Neither New York State nor the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would permit a nuclear power plant to handle radioactive material in this manner.”

Doug Wood, associate director of Grassroots Environmental Education, which is based in Port Washington, New York, and also editor of the report, commented as it was issued: “Once radioactive material comes out of the ground along with the gas, the problem is what to do with it. The radioactivity lasts for thousands of years, and it is virtually impossible to eliminate or mitigate. Sooner or later, it’s going to end up in our environment and eventually our food chain. It’s a problem with no good solution – and the DEC is unequipped to handle it.”

As for “various disposal methods…contemplated” by the agency “for the thousands of tons of radioactive waste expected to be produced by fracking,” Wood said that “none…adequately protect New Yorkers from eventual exposure to this radioactive material. Spread it on the ground and it will become airborne with dust or wash off into surface waters; dilute it before discharge into rivers and it will raise radiation levels in those rivers for everyone downstream; bury it underground and it will eventually find its way into someone’s drinking water. No matter how hard you try, you can’t put the radioactive genie back into the bottle.”

Furthermore, said Wood in an interview, in releasing radioactive radium from the ground, “a terrible burden would be placed on everybody that comes after us. As a moral issue, we must not burden future generations with this. We must say no to fracking — and implement the use of sustainable forms of energy that don’t kill.”

The prospects of unleashing, through fracking, radium, a silvery-white metal, has a parallel in the mining of uranium on the Navajo Nation.

The mining began on the Navajo Nation, which encompasses parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, during World War II as the Manhattan Project, the American crash program to build atomic weapons, sought uranium to fuel them. The Navajos weren’t told that mining the uranium, yellow in color, could lead to lung cancer. And lung cancer became epidemic among the miners and then spread across the Navajo Nation from piles of contaminated uranium tailings and other remnants of the mining.

The Navajos gave the uranium a name: Leetso or yellow monster.

Left in the ground, it would do no harm. But taken from the earth, it has caused disease. That is why the Navajo Nation outlawed uranium mining in 2005. “This legislation just chopped the legs off the uranium monster,” said Norman Brown, a Navajo leader.

Similarly, radium, a silvery-white monster, must be left in the earth, not unleashed, with fracking, to inflict disease on people today and many, many generations into the future.

Karl Grossman

Karl Grossman has been a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury for 32 years. He is a specialist in investigative reporting. He is the author of Fracking and a Radioactive Silvery-White Monster: Radium Must be Left in the Earth; Fracking and a Radioactive Silvery-White Monster: Radium Must be Left in the Earth

Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power. He is the host of the nationally aired TV program, Enviro Close-Up.


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Ron Paul: How Long Will the Dollar Remain the World’s Reserve Currency?

Posted on September 5, 2012. Filed under: Markets, U.S. |

By Ron Paul
September 4, 2012

We frequently hear the financial press refer to the U.S. dollar as the “world’s reserve currency,” implying that our dollar will always retain its value in an ever shifting world economy. But this is a dangerous and mistaken assumption.

Since August 15, 1971, when President Nixon closed the gold window and refused to pay out any of our remaining 280 million ounces of gold, the U.S. dollar has operated as a pure fiat currency. This means the dollar became an article of faith in the continued stability and might of the U.S. government.

In essence, we declared our insolvency in 1971. Everyone recognized some other monetary system had to be devised in order to bring stability to the markets.

Amazingly, a new system was devised which allowed the U.S. to operate the printing presses for the world reserve currency with no restraints placed on it– not even a pretense of gold convertibility!

Realizing the world was embarking on something new and mind-boggling, elite money managers, with especially strong support from U.S. authorities, struck an agreement with OPEC in the 1970s to price oil in U.S. dollars exclusively for all worldwide transactions.

This gave the dollar a special place among world currencies and in essence backed the dollar with oil.

In return, the U.S. promised to protect the various oil-rich kingdoms in the Persian Gulf against threat of invasion or domestic coup. This arrangement helped ignite radical Islamic movements among those who resented our influence in the region.

The arrangement also gave the dollar artificial strength, with tremendous financial benefits for the United States. It allowed us to export our monetary inflation by buying oil and other goods at a great discount as the dollar flourished.

In 2003, however, Iran began pricing its oil exports in Euro for Asian and European buyers. The Iranian government also opened an oil bourse in 2008 on the island of Kish in the Persian Gulf for the express purpose of trading oil in Euro and other currencies.

In 2009 Iran completely ceased any oil transactions in U.S. dollars. These actions by the second largest OPEC oil producer pose a direct threat to the continued status of our dollar as the world’s reserve currency, a threat which partially explains our ongoing hostility toward Tehran.

While the erosion of our petrodollar agreement with OPEC certainly threatens the dollar’s status in the Middle East, an even larger threat resides in the Far East.

Our greatest benefactors for the last twenty years– Asian central banks– have lost their appetite for holding U.S. dollars. China, Japan, and Asia in general have been happy to hold U.S. debt instruments in recent decades, but they will not prop up our spending habits forever.

Foreign central banks understand that American leaders do not have the discipline to maintain a stable currency.

If we act now to replace the fiat system with a stable dollar backed by precious metals or commodities, the dollar can regain its status as the safest store of value among all government currencies. If not, the rest of the world will abandon the dollar as the global reserve currency.

Both Congress and American consumers will then find borrowing a dramatically more expensive proposition. Remember, our entire consumption economy is based on the willingness of foreigners to hold U.S. debt.

We face a reordering of the entire world economy if the federal government cannot print, borrow, and spend money at a rate that satisfies its endless appetite for deficit spending.

This article first appeared on Ron Paul’s House website Paul.house.gov.

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The Hurricane That Could Ruin the GOP’s Big Bash in Tampa, Explained

Posted on August 25, 2012. Filed under: Editorial, Politics, U.S. | Tags: , |

In which we answer your questions about Tropical Storm Isaac and the 2012 Republican National Convention.


| Fri Aug. 24, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

There’s a long list of scenarios that could sour the mood at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. “Newt University” could go off the rails. “Violent anarchists” may make an appearance. Fifteen thousand protesters and Occupiers could gum up the GOP’s works. The ban on puppetry might sadden Republican children.

And then there’s the potential hurricane that could be barreling out west toward Tampa, just in time to spoil Mitt Romney’s big kickoff party.

Here’s what you need to know about Tropical Storm Isaac, Mother Nature’s latest display of flagrant liberal bias.

What is Isaac?

It’s a tropical storm that could hit Tampa on Monday, the first day of the GOP nominating convention. Here’s an image from the National Hurricane Center’s Wednesday night forecast showing the fast-moving storm’s probable path (colloquially referred to as the “cone of doom” in Florida):

NationalNational Hurricane Center

Where did the name “Isaac” come from?

Isaac has been used for four distinct tropical cyclones in the Atlantic (tropical storms in 1988 and 2012, and hurricanes in 2000 and 2006). Names for hurricanes and storms are generally retired in the event of direct fatalities or extensive damage.

What are the chances the storm touches down in Tampa?

A direct hit by Isaac would be the first one Tampa has experienced in nine decades. Even including the worst-case scenario—torrential downpours, sizable storm surges, and full-scale hurricane-force winds—forecasters are right now putting the odds of evacuation at around 3 percent. (However, some analysts are giving Isaac a 50 percent chance of harming American oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.)

What has this thing meant for the GOP convention thus far?

Organizers are closely watching developing news of the tropical storm, but have not yet announced plans to cancel, postpone, or move events. The Romney campaign is considering moving Ann Romney’s speech from Monday night to another evening, but that’s reportedly due to lack of TV coverage (major networks will air summer reruns during certain prime-time convention hours), not fear of a major hurricane.

Are people besides convention-goers being affected by this storm?

Yes, very much so, and given the widespread danger Isaac poses in the Caribbean, it seems sort of myopic to focus on the RNC: Puerto Rico has opened 428 shelters, and 50 people have hunkered down so far, according to Gov. Luis Fortuno. (Roughly 4,000 people are already without power, and more than 3,000 don’t have access to clean water.) The Virgin Islands are battening down the hatches as well and were hit with 40-mile-an-hour winds and a 10-foot surge of waves on Thursday.

Haiti, which is still recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake, could very well be in the path of the storm. Here’s a video report:

What role does Walmart play in Florida’s disaster response plan?

Potentially a big one. The state’s director of emergency management, Bryan Koon, is a business school grad whose last job was running disaster response for Walmart and Sam’s Club. His “extensive private-sector experience” must have made him attractive to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a privatization proponent whose personal portfolio has included Walmart stock and who has extolled the corporate chain’s values on multiple occasions. (Walmart also contributed to Scott’s inaugural fund, and gave $15,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.)

While working at Walmart, Koon gave the Federal Emergency Management Agency an interview (its since been wiped from the government agency’s site) that offers some insight into his (and the corporation’s) disaster preparedness philosophy:

We have an extensive database that helps us keep track of what the most popular items are after each type of disaster, which enables us to get the right merchandise to an area more quickly in preparation for or in response to an emergency…

Our ideal situation is one in which private sector, non-governmental organizations and local, state and federal government emergency management organizations…develop inter-operable plans that maximize those strengths and minimizes gaps in coverage…We feel that we are on the right road to get to this eventuality, but it will still be a long trip. It started with Hurricane Katrina, where the folly of planning in a vacuum and hoping for the best was exposed and the benefits of involving the private sector were clearly illustrated.

Koon’s faith in Walmart’s ability to figure out a hurricane isn’t a total aberration; in 2008, multiple media outlets trumpeted “Wal-Mart to the Rescue,” an economist’s study (PDF) that concluded the big-box store performed impeccably in the post-Katrina recovery, thanks to “superior organizational routines that emerge through private ownership and competitive markets.” Few of these media reports pointed out that the author, Stephen Horwitz, is a politically conservative libertarian whose CV includes numerous articles for The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

What have leaders in Florida been saying recently?

“Public safety—that’s going to be the No. 1 priority. We can have the convention again,” Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll said on Wednesday.

“We’d be dealing a lot with storm surge issues down there,” Koon told reporters. “We’re also working on a high number of potential evacuations.”

Here’s footage of a press conference Scott held on Thursday morning:

If this becomes a hurricane, where do folks find shelters?

The Hillsborough County government has a list [PDF] of public hurricane shelters for both low and high intensity storms (all the listed locations are at local public schools).

Is Tropical Storm Isaac a liberal conspiracy?

Um, no, but we’ll keep you posted if new information comes through suggesting otherwise. In the meantime, here’s Rush Limbaugh (a man famous for branding The Dark Knight Rises an anti-Romney conspiracy) talking about how President Obama is orchestrating the storm-related panic in order to throw the Republican convention into Day After Tomorrowtype chaos:

I can see Obama sending FEMA in in advance of the hurricane hitting Tampa so that the Republican convention is nothing but a bunch of tents in Tampa, a bunch of RVs and stuff. Make it look like a disaster area before the hurricane even hits there.

Is there something about GOP conventions that attract hurricanes?

Not quite, but this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, either. For instance, just back in 2008, Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana while Republicans were beginning their national convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Even though the hurricane ended up missing St. Paul by hundreds of miles, weather concerns caused organizers to cancel or roll back several opening-day events.

And, of course, there are still the ghosts of Hurricane Katrina.

So, is climate change making this worse?

Well, it can’t be helping. Earlier this summer, MoJo‘s Julia Whitty wrote about the reasons (“hotspots” in sea surface temperatures) that 2012 might be a bigger hurricane year for the East Coast.

UPDATE 1 (Friday, August 24, 11:50 a.m. PDT): At maximum sustained winds at 60 mph (the threshold for turning into a hurricane is 74), Tropical Storm Isaac has gained strength, but does not seem to be showing signs of rapid intensification. The Washington Post reports:

Much of southern Florida could receive 6-9” in the next few days, with locally higher amounts. Areas in Haiti and Dominican Republic could see 10-20” of rain, with 6-12” in Jamaica and eastern Cuba. Besides flooding, additional threats include coastal storm surge, tornadoes, and of course, winds from the storm itself.

The storm does appear to be veering West, away from the site of the Republican convention in Tampa. However, National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said Friday that “[n]ot by any stretch of the imagination [is Tampa] out of the woods with this thing.”

Here’s the National Hurricane Center’s updated wind speed probability for the storm, for 8:00 a.m. EDT on Friday:


Asawin Suebsaeng

Interactive Fellow

Asawin Suebsaeng is an interactive fellow at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter. Email tips, insights, and anger to asuebsaeng [at] motherjones [dot] com. RSS | Twitter


Source Article: http://www.motherjones.com

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Ohio: Pinhole leak of radioactive coolant found at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant

Posted on June 8, 2012. Filed under: Environment, Humanitarian Issues, U.S. |

Published: Thursday, June 07, 2012, 11:18 AM Updated: Thursday, June 07, 2012, 6:38 PM
John Funk, The Plain Dealer By John Funk, The Plain Dealer The Plain Dealer
DAVIS-BESSE1.JPGView full sizePlain Dealer fileVapor from cooling tower at The Davis Besse nuclear power plant billows over farmland along Rt. 2 in Oak Harbor, Ohio, in January.

By John Funk Plain Dealer Reporter

Engineers at the Davis-Besse nuclear reactor near Toledo found a pinhole coolant leak in a pipe weld Wednesday evening while inspecting the plant.

Davis-Besse was preparing to resume operations after more than a month-long reactor shutdown for refueling and plant maintenance.

In a report early Thursday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, plant owner FirstEnergy Corp. estimated the leak of radioactive coolant inside the reactor containment building at about one-tenth gallon per minute.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Young said the leaked coolant flowed into a nearby floor drain and was captured for later processing. There were no injuries and no radioactivity escaped into the atmosphere, she said.

The leak did not occur until the cooling system was pressurized in preparation to restart the reactor, she said. Pressurization began on Tuesday.

The engineers were conducting the “walk-down inspection” while the reactor was in “hot standby” mode, with the cooling system running at normal operating pressures and temperatures.

Through the reactor had not yet been re-started, operators on Tuesday had switched on the four massive reactor coolant pumps, which pressurized the system and heated the coolant to about 300 degrees from sheer friction as the pumps pushed it throughout the nuclear core, said Young.

The company’s report to the NRC noted that the coolant was spraying from a pinhole in the socket weld of a three-quarter inch pipe at a 90 degree elbow between a reactor coolant pump and a safety valve.

When the leak was spotted, reactor operators immediately began a shutdown and engineers began repair preparations. The plant reached cold shutdown about 1 p.m. Thursday, said Young. Repairs were expected to be completed over the weekend.

FirstEnergy shut down the 908-megawatt reactor on May 6 for normal refueling, inspections and maintenance. Contractors employing more than 1,000 workers joined Davis-Besse employees to replace 68 of the reactor’s 177 fuel rods.

Contractors also were involved with preventative maintenance of major components including emergency diesel generators, valves and pumps — though not the coolant pumps and plumbing where the leak occurred. Crews also worked on the power plant’s cooling tower to improve efficiency.

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