Overview: Mass Radiation Exposure

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Author: Richard Denton, MD

Disclaimer: I am a medical doctor and will concentrate on the medical aspects. I have no conflict of interest as some nuclear physicists might who are paid by the nuclear industry.

Radiation is one of the six crises that this Platform addresses; each one could annihilate civilization as we know it. Radiation could do so in either an acute or chronic manner. The acute effects would come from a major accident, miscalculation, or terrorist attack or an actual nuclear war. The chronic effects are killing by inducing cancers and other medical conditions.

Radiation exposure is of course related to the other five global threat scenarios. Radiation is interconnected as part of a nuclear war that would immediately kill millions from radiation. A nuclear bomb is not just a bigger better bomb but emits radiation that kills locally and at a distance over time. Because of its power, it would put dust and smoke into the stratosphere that would cause a decrease of the sun’s penetration. A “nuclear winter” would result, causing death of millions by famine. Some people suggest that nuclear power is “green” —even the answer to climate change. But nuclear power plants could be a target of terrorists using cyberwarfare or crashing an airliner into a reactor.

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Related Videos and Podcasts

41. Radioactivity Risk
https://youtu.be/sQNmpVfwmnM
• Angela Bischoff, Ontario Clean Air Alliance
• Richard Denton, Co-chair, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
• Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

12. Peace studies
https://youtu.be/KAGED2W_DYs
• Susana Barnes, Adjust Professor of Anthropology, University of Saskatchewan.
• Christopher Hrynkow, Professor of Religious Studies, U. of Saskatchewan
• Florence Stratton, Retired Professor of English, University of Regina
• Peter Venton, Former Economist for the Government of Ontario, Toronto

8. Monitoring Nuclear Power Safety
https://youtu.be/YFBZNZUuI5c
• Angela Bischoff, Clean Air Alliance
• Pippa Feinstein Toronto lawyer, Water Keepers
• Brennain Lloyd, NorthWatch

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Adam Wynne

Professor Metta Spencer recently shared with me a recent episode of the Nuclear Hotseat podcast. The Nuclear Hotseat podcast is produced by Libbe HaLevy. More information about Nuclear Hotseat can be found here: The specific episode was Episode 449: Hemp: Can It Remediate Plutonium? Rockey Flats Project with Tiffany Hansen Link: http://nuclearhotseat.com/2020/01/30/hemp-can-it-remediate-plutonium-rocky-flats-project-w-tiffany-hansen/ While I had not had a chance to listen to this podcast episode, the synopsis of it describes an interesting project at Rocky Flats, Colorado – where hemp is being used to bioremediate and phytoremediate radioactively contaminated soils. Rocky Flats is a former nuclear weapons manufacturing complex near… Read more »

Adam Wynne

On 3 and 4 March 2020, a two-day public hearing will be taking place regarding the renewal of BWXT’s operating license. BWXT operates two uranium processing plants which are up for licensing review – one in Peterborough ON and one in Toronto ON. Both of these are in increasingly dense residential neighbourhoods. The uranium processing plant in Peterborough ON is across the street from the Prince of Wales Public (Elementary) School and has requested to double the size of the plant via a licensing provision that would allow the Toronto operations to move to Peterborough if the Toronto plant closes… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Dr. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR) recently provided this insightful update on the Deep Geological Disposal projects in Ontario – and subsequently Indigenous responses to these projects. Here is Dr. Edwards statement – which was sent to the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR) mailing list on 1 February 2020: “The Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) has voted against Ontario Power Generation’s Deep Geological Disposal (DGR) project, planned to house all of Ontario’s Low and Intermediate Level Waste at a site within a mile of the northwestern shore of Lake Huron. To prevent confusion: there are… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An alarming article from the Erie, Pennsylvania-based Go Erie news outlet on the plans to extend the operation license of Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant in Homestead, Florida. The plant would not be decommissioned and/or shut down until it was 80 years old -significantly past its safe operating period. There is concern that this may lay a dangerous precedent for extending the operating licenses of other nuclear power plants beyond safe parameters and/or limit research interest into other, more environmentally friendly and sustainable energy systems. It is alarming to hear the nearby residents in the article say nuclear is clean… Read more »

Adam Wynne

Check out this interesting interview (by Quick Take (Bloomberg)) which discusses Chernobyl with a former employee and liquidator of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlVV3pgH3ac

Adam Wynne

Dr. Ann Frisch shared this article with me and I thought it would be relevant for this discussion forum. Title: H-Canyon at SRS poses ‘maintenance challenge,’ DOE cleanup chief says Author: Colin Demarest News Agency: Aiken Standard Date: 15 April 2019 Link: https://www.aikenstandard.com/news/h-canyon-at-srs-poses-maintenance-challenge-doe-cleanup-chief/article_ecff0374-5f88-11e9-b58a-6b22c18d785d.html This article pertains to the H-Canyon site of Savannah River – which from my understanding was a hydrogen bomb and plutonium production facility during the Cold War. More recently, it is used as a nuclear chemical separation plant. “White’s H-Canyon comments came as a response to U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who questioned her last week during… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An interesting news briefing indicating First Nations support for alternative plans for storing nuclear waste. Previous plans indicated storage sites along the shore of Lake Huron would be used. What these new plans – and whether they are more environmentally friendly – have yet to be determined. Title: Sault Tribe lauds decision to abandon plan to store nuclear waste near Lake Huron Link: https://www.sootoday.com/sault-michigan/sault-tribe-lauds-decision-to-abandon-plan-to-store-nuclear-waste-on-lake-huron-2068256 “The Sault Tribe, along with the rest of the tribes in Michigan, is pleased to see Ontario Power Generation give up on this terrible idea to build a nuclear waste storage site on the shores of… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An interesting article from Independent Australia on the risk of natural disaster (forest fires) and the transportation of nuclear products – specifically nuclear waste. It focuses on the Australian context, though has applicability for other global scenarios. Link: https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/transporting-nuclear-wastes-across-australia-in-the-age-of-bushfires,13465 Title: Transporting nuclear wastes across Australia in the age of bushfires (8 January 2020) Excerpt: “The radiological risks associated with the transportation of spent fuel and high-level waste are well understood and are generally low, with the possible exception of risks from releases in extreme accidents involving very long duration, fully engulfing fires. While the likelihood of such extreme accidents appears… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An interesting article from the American Security Project about the role of natural disasters and nuclear sites. Link: https://www.americansecurityproject.org/thinking-the-unthinkable-fires-in-russia-fan-nuclear-fears/ Title: Thinking the Unthinkable: Fires in Russia Fan Nuclear Fears (11 August 2010) “The United States has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and years of effort to help Russia secure its nuclear stockpiles from what is euphemistically referred to as “diversion.” But the 600 wildfires raging across the Russian countryside spotlight another risk to the nuclear-industrial complex: natural disaster. Add to the flaming peat and forest infernos, the acrid city smog and the scorched village dwellings the specter of an… Read more »

Adam Wynne

“The animal monitoring at Savannah River and its sister sites underscores a shift in attitude within the nation’s nuclear weapons establishment. For decades during the Cold War, workers gave little regard to the environmental consequences of the weapons operation, often dumping contaminated waste in unmarked pits with no controls to keep it from spreading into soil and groundwater.” Interesting article about monitoring wildlife for radiation near former nuclear processing and weapon production sites. Animals can be good biomarkers if radiation is seeping into adjacent environments – and if so – how. The article offers several case examples, such as: radioactive… Read more »

Adam Wynne

An interesting article from 14 March 2014 about the impact of Chernobyl on surrounding forest ecosystems. Apparently, regions around the Chernobyl disaster have a decreased rate of decay – due to the radiation impeding the activity and growth of fungi, insects, and microbes. Researchers additionally noted that dead trees, leaves, and fallen tree trunks are not decomposing at the same rate – leading to increased risk of intense forest fires. There is applicability for this research for other contexts beyond Chernobyl, such as Fukushima.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/forests-around-chernobyl-arent-decaying-properly-180950075/

Adam Wynne

I have heard that Canada has had a number of uranium mines – some of which were used during the Manhattan Project. Some are still in use, though the industry has declined in recent years. The earliest mines opened in the 1930s. During the mid-twentieth century, it appears as if the standard protocol to “seal” old mines was either flooding the mine and/or boarding it up. Many of these are in remote regions – though not all. Are these “safe” ways to seal mines? Is it possible they are leaching into surrounding environments?