[Date Prev][Date Next]
[cdn-nucl-l] FW: "300 protest plutonium shipment" 05/11/99
FYI, this was to address an article in last Friday's Ottawa Citizen:
> To the Editor:
> Regarding Gary Dimmock's article, "300 protest plutonium shipment" (Ottawa
> Citizen, November 5, 1999),
> I was not very impressed by the Akwesasne Mohawks' vows to "block the
> [St.Lawrence] seaway" to stop the shipment of plutonium - to us, up in
> Chalk River.
> Its a pretty poor encore after they've already seized the "moral high
> ground" with their infamous illegal smuggling of vast quantities of cheap
> American cigarettes into Canada in recent years.
> Akwesasne Grand Chief Mike Mitchell says "this fight is about the
> children," while Chief Hilda Smoke called on protesters to pray against
> the planned shipment, saying that "this is about the future, safety and
> health of our community and we all have to come together to put a stop to
> How odd that we didn't hear these same people complain about cigarette
> smoking. According to the Canadian Lung Association, nine of 10
> lung-cancer deaths are caused by smoking, which is also a risk factor for
> many other cancers and diseases. Lung cancer is mostly a preventable
> disease. Although fewer men are smoking, more women - especially those
> between 20 and 25 - are taking up the habit. The expected increase in lung
> cancer is driven by the fact it can take 20 years for the disease to
> develop. Lung cancer is also difficult to detect early and treat. Because
> the lungs are connected with the blood supply, cancer can spread rapidly.
> Half of patients die within six months of diagnosis.
> On the other hand, my own experience with plutonium indicates that it
> causes nowhere near as much harm as cigarette smoking. The "Hands-on
> Radiation Workshop" which I and a few colleagues present out here in Chalk
> River for visiting groups of students and teachers features a variety of
> natural and man-made low-intensity radiation sources, including a
> three-inch strip of plutonium metal, normally used by the Safety and
> Radiological Protection branch for instrument calibration. This is 100%
> plutonium - not the very dilute 3% MOX mixture which is to be shipped
> through Cornwall.
> I recall from one such presentation, one of the teachers looked at the
> plutonium and remarked in disbelief, "so why all the fuss about
> transporting this stuff in Canada ?" Indeed, the Town of Deep River has
> recently passed a resolution endorsing the plan to receive sample
> shipments of MOX fuel for testing at the Chalk River Laboratories.
> Councillor Joe Munch, chair of the town's finance and general government
> committee said "There's much more dangerous stuff being shipped around
> than this." The town's resolution notes that the MOX tests are part of an
> effort to dispose of plutonium from nuclear weapons now stored in the
> United States and Russia and that the fuel samples must be shipped to CRL
> for the tests to take place. "The (MOX) fuel itself presents little risk
> to security, safety, health or the environment," and the risk of shipping
> it is "not incrementally greater" than any other commodity, the resolution
> states. Councillor Denise Walker said that "we accept the shipment of many
> goods through our community - such as logging trucks - without asking for
> special measures to ensure their safety." Walker said the transportation
> plans for the MOX fuel samples go "far beyond" what federal regulations
> Do the Akwesasne Mohawks know about all the other shipments on the Seaway
> and their risks ? I'd be much more concerned about shiploads of chlorine,
> nitrate fertiliser, propane, ammonia and other liquefied gases, petrol,
> explosives for construction and mining, various acids and bases, etc, etc.
> Thanks to pervasive misinformation, in the public eye, plutonium is "the
> most dangerous substance known to man." Many people envision plutonium as
> a glowing, vibrating, green mass causing human and environmental meltdown
> on contact, not unlike the demise of the Wicked Witch of the West in the
> Wizard of Oz, or as the "Alien" creature from space that jumps on you and
> kills you.
> The reality is of course totally different. Especially in the case of MOX
> which, being a ceramic-type oxide of the metal, will not burn in a
> chemical fire, no matter how many times opponents claim that it will (as
> any boy/girl scout knows, ashes don't burn !).
> Plutonium has been used to save lives. There are hundreds of people with
> plutonium-powered cardiac pacemakers. Yet we have no qualms about letting
> people carrying plutonium in their chests travel on our subways, in our
> cars and airliners, and eat at our dinner tables. True, the solid
> plutonium capsule is shielded in its tiny metal container - but so will
> the MOX fuel be shielded, only in a larger and better container - and
> nobody's asking anyone that it be put on their dinner table ! (in this
> case the shielding is not so much for radiation protection reasons as for
> protection against dispersal in case of serious highway crashes).
> In those cases where plutonium, in chemical forms which permitted it to be
> inhaled or ingested accidentally, we have plenty of real experience which
> has been reported in the journal Health Physics (for example, Voeltz
> et-al, "Fifty Years of Plutonium Exposure to the Manhattan Project
> Plutonium Workers," October 1997, Vol.73, No. 4, pp. 611-619) and
> elsewhere, and which clearly debunks the fiction cited in the media.
> Studies of 26 Los Alamos employees who inhaled plutonium between 1944 and
> 1945, and who were examined every five years from 1952 through 1997 have
> been in the public domain for a long time. Nineteen of the workers are
> still alive, with a median age of 75 -- i.e.. above-average life span.
> Four died from prostate cancer (one of the most common cancers in men),
> three from lung cancer (all three were cigarette smokers throughout all
> their adult life), and one from bone cancer. The plutonium exposed
> workers, as a group, did very well compared with similar unexposed workers
> (i.e.. those without any detectable traces of plutonium in their urine,
> etc.), as well as compared to the United States population as a whole.
> There have also been large releases of plutonium to the environment. In
> the 1950s and 1960s, weapons testing resulted in the "largest release of
> plutonium in the history of the earth," over six tons into the atmosphere
> - enough to cause 220 BILLION DEATHS according to the numbers of
> antinuclear activists ("27 micrograms [per] fatal lung cancer"). The last
> time I checked, the earth's population of six billion was still alive.
> In actual fact, lifetime uptake of this plutonium "fallout" by humans, as
> determined from autopsy records, was minimal. Most of it went into the
> oceans, where 96% sank into the sediments. Most of what fell on land was
> retained in the top few feet, with very little uptake in vegetables or
> The accident at Chernobyl was the largest single radiation exposure event
> in history. Although the accident released over 1,200 pounds of plutonium,
> the principal public exposure came from radioactive cesium and iodine.
> According to the investigating agencies of the United Nations, including
> the World Health Organization (WHO), the consequences of that exposure
> to-date amount to some forty deaths, and several hundred cases of
> (curable) thyroid cancer, primarily in individuals in Belarus and Ukraine
> who were young children at the time of the accident, thirteen years ago,
> and who consumed a lot of radioactive iodine-laced milk.
> In Russia, hundreds of workers exposed to higher doses of plutonium at the
> "Mayak" plant, than those at Los Alamos, were involved in another
> case-control study of lung cancer (i.e.. comparing to similar workers with
> no plutonium exposure). It determined that the risk for lung cancer due to
> smoking - 59.6% - was greater than that from plutonium incorporation and
> plutonium pneumosclerosis together - 26.4%.
> Sadly, smoking and lung cancer are still on the rise among women and
> adolescents, in contrast to plutonium hazards, to which people are rarely
> ever exposed these days.
> Jaro Franta
comment: I find it incredibly absurd that Min. R. Goodale will spend all
that time telling people about how safe the plutonium (shipment) is, but is
not able to bring along samples of plutonium, such as we have at CRL, to
demonstrate his point. I asked about this before - apparently its another
case of insurmountable red tape, making it impossible to take even small
samples of the stuff off-site. What a marvelous way to shoot ourselves in
the foot with rediculous regulations.... isn't there anything the CNS can do
(petition the AECB ?) to get over this dumb restriction ?
Apparently in the United States the regulations are a bit different, at
least as pertains to small samples <15g :
> From: Boston, Robert D[SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> Reply To: email@example.com
> Sent: Monday, November 08, 1999 9:42 AM
> To: Multiple recipients of list
> Subject: RE: Fissile DOT Shipment Question
> Generally, if the amount of fissile material is >15g then you will have to
> demonstrate the safety of the fissile material. You will be able to do
> using handbook (or single parameter limits) available in ANSI/ANS 8.1.
> regulations applicable are in 49CFR172 (or 173, its been a little while
> since I've worked with fissile material transport).
> The opinions stated here are clearly my own.
> Robert Boston Nuclear Safety/Operational Readiness
> 850 Energy Drive MS 4160
> Idaho Falls, ID 83401-1563
my own opinions only !!