29 November 2007

Uranium plant eyed for southern New Mexico

— A French corporation is looking at U.S. locations for a uranium enrichment facility, including an area between Carlsbad and Hobbs.

State Rep. John Heaton said Monday the Areva plant would be similar to one being built near Eunice to make fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

Areva says it hopes to make a decision by early next year.

Slovak police say three accused of trying to sell nuclear material

Slovak police say three accused of trying to sell nuclear material

Ian Traynor in Brussels
Thursday November 29, 2007
Alarms over international nuclear smuggling were raised last night when Slovak police announced that three men had been arrested in Slovakia and Hungary after allegedly trying to sell a kilogram of radioactive material.

A Slovak police spokesman told journalists that the authorities in Slovakia and Hungary had been monitoring the activities of the alleged nuclear traders for several months before arresting them. They were detained in eastern Slovakia and eastern Hungary, near the common borders with Ukraine.

Police declined to provide any details of the radioactive substance, but said they had seized the material and sent it for examination. The location of the operation suggested that the material had been smuggled from the former Soviet Union, either Russia or Ukraine.

Western officials have been concerned for years about the risk of nuclear smuggling from the former Soviet Union, although US-funded safeguarding programmes have been effective in reducing the danger of nuclear trading.

Officials at the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, said they knew little about the reported incident across Austria's border in Slovakia, but that the agency's nuclear security department would be looking into the matter urgently.

Police said they would supply more details about the case today. The main Slovak news agency reported that the material involved was enriched uranium but there were no indications of the degree of enrichment.

Low enriched uranium is used for nuclear power plant fuel, while weapons-grade uranium is highly enriched. In 2002 it emerged that Iran had been conducting an illicit nuclear programme for 18 years, greatly helped by the disgraced metallurgist Abdul Qadeer Khan's Pakistan-based smuggling racket.

Khan was found to have been privately channelling nuclear materials and equipment to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.

Slovak police said that the detained men had been attempting to sell the radioactive material for $1m (£480,000).

27 November 2007

Linda McQuaig comments on Canadian nuclear arms policy

TheStar.com | comment | Canada edges toward deadly nuclear embrace
Nov 21, 2007
- Toronto Star

The growing uncertainty over the status of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is another reminder that these weapons continue to threaten the world, and suggests why Canada should be pushing for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, worldwide.

There has never been a more important time for Canada's voice to be heard in support of nuclear disarmament, but if recent votes at the United Nations last month are any indication, Canada is slowly shifting toward embracing nuclear weapons.

Traditionally, Canada has been a champion of nuclear disarmament. But last month, our position was put to the test on a key UN vote to diminish the risk of nuclear war, and Canada sat silent.

Our ambassador, on instructions from Ottawa, abstained on an important UN resolution "calling on Nuclear Weapons States to lower the operating status of nuclear weapons." This was the first time such a motion had made it to a vote.

The intent of the motion, championed by retired Canadian senator Douglas Roche and his organization, the Middle Powers Initiative, was to lengthen the time required for a nuclear launch, reducing the risk of an accidental or premature launch.

But the Harper government doesn't see it that way. In explaining Canada's silent abstention, our ambassador said that while

"reducing operational readiness remained important ... at the same time, deterrence remained an important element of international security and a fundamental part of the deterrence policy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)."

In other words, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has decided that NATO's nuclear deterrence policy reigns supreme.

At the urging of anti-nuclear organizations such as the Canadian Pugwash Group, last spring then-foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay reported to Parliament that he had raised concerns about NATO's reliance upon nuclear weapons at a meeting of the alliance.

Then the government shifted tactics, and a few weeks later then-defence minister Gordon O'Connor told Parliament:

"We are a member of NATO and we stand by NATO's policies. NATO, at this stage, has no policy of disarming from nuclear weapons."

Not surprisingly, the old policy supporting "the complete elimination of nuclear weapons" was changed on the foreign affairs department website to say that Canada's policy is

"consistent with our membership in NATO."

But the reason for this shift may have less to do with NATO itself than with acquiescence to the United States' interests in keeping the door open to a renewal of nuclear weapons testing.

Equally worrisome this year was Canada's reticence to put its name behind a motion to prevent nuclear weapons testing. Last year, Canada co-sponsored a resolution calling for a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In October, Canada failed to co-sponsor the resolution that stressed

"the vital importance and urgency of signature and ratification, without delay and without conditions, to achieve the earliest entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty."

Thankfully, the resolution passed, 166 in favour to only one opposed (United States) with four abstentions (Colombia, India, Mauritius, Syria).

Ultimately, Canada voted in favour, but could Canada's decision not to co-sponsor the resolution, as it had done in the past, be related to the U.S. plan to develop new nuclear weapons?

This is a troublesome shift in Canada's policy on nuclear disarmament. One can trace its beginnings to 2005 when the Liberals, trying to curry favour in Washington, started getting cold feet on nuclear disarmament.

In her book Holding the Bully's Coat, Linda McQuaig notes positively that, by 2005, Canadian leadership over several years had led to 13 other countries breaking ranks with their NATO allies and voting with Canada in support of a resolution aimed at ending the deadlock that is paralyzing the UN's Conference on Disarmament.

Consistent with its leadership, Canada announced its intention to support another important nuclear disarmament resolution at the UN First Committee, the body responsible for disarmament. Canada's support of the creative and inspired initiative was intended to try to break the impasse on disarmament talks by proposing new, ad hoc committees that would bypass the deadlock.

But with hours to go, Canada pulled the plug on supporting the UN resolution, and as a result other countries followed suit. The reason: Paul Martin's government succumbed to intense pressure from the White House.

McQuaig notes, "tragically, the moment had been lost."

While Martin's failing may have been an aberration, Stephen Harper's Conservatives may be making a more permanent policy shift.

Parliamentarians and Canadians need to raise the alarm about this shift. It is inconceivable that, at a time of renewed threats from nuclear weapons, Canada would be shifting away from an active role in advancing nuclear disarmament.

It is up to those who feel strongly that such a move is disastrous for global security to hold all parliamentarians accountable for allowing this to take place. It's not too late to stop this shift in its tracks.

26 November 2007

John Shirley writes on depleted uranium poisoning

Nukes of the Gulf War

I wrote one of the first articles about Depleted Uranium poisoning (which applied to civilians and enemy soldiers as much as our own people--or more) a few years back. The issue continues--according to a recent AP story: '... six soldiers who have fallen ill since their return from Iraq said Friday that the Army ignored their complaints about uranium poisoning from U.S. weapons fired during combat. They also said they were denied testing for the radioactive substance. "We were all healthy when we left home. Now, I suffer from headaches, fatigue, dizziness, blood in the urine, unexplained rashes," said Sgt. Jerry Ojeda, 28, who was stationed south of Baghdad with other National Guard members of the 442nd Military Police Company." Sgt. Herbert Reed, 50, said that when a dozen soldiers asked for treatment last fall, they initially were turned away....' Here's my original piece, which applies now to our soldiers in Iraq--and to civilians.

by John Shirley

Concealed nerve gas exposure, medical experimentation on soldiers in the field -- could Gulf War military policy get much worse?

How about routine radiation poisoning?

According to the Military Toxins Project, Depleted Uranium (DU), the radioactive byproduct of the uranium enrichment process, is "roughly 60% as radioactive as naturally occurring uranium and has a half-life of 4.5 billion years." The United States has in excess of 1.1 billion pounds of DU waste material.

Waste not, want not. In a perverse twist on recycling, the government currently offers this attractively-dense material free to arms manufacturers. Large and small caliber rounds made of depleted uranium were highly effective in piercing Iraqi armor; tanks incorporating depleted uranium into tank armor effectively resisted penetration. Yet while the Army tested the strategic effectiveness of DU, it skated around health and environmental assessments, as the Army Environmental Policy Institute admitted.

Although munitions such as Tomahawk missiles contain DU in their tips, most DU ammunition was fired from USAF tank-killer aircraft and U.S. tanks employing depleted uranium sabot rounds. The Army reports that it fired 14,000 DU tank rounds during the Gulf War. Over ranges up to and exceeding 3 miles, the Army found DU rounds to be "highly effective in penetrating Iraqi tank armor."

The Air Force's A-10 tank-killer aircraft were used extensively against Iraqi armored vehicles and artillery. The A-10s fired 940,000 of these radioactive rounds -- the equivalent of 564,000 pounds of DU.

When a depleted uranium projectile strikes, up to 70% of the DU penetrator is oxidized and scattered as particulates. According to the U.S. Army, this creates "smoke which contains a high concentration of DU particles. These uranium particles can be ingested and are toxic."

Ironically, while DU armor proved effective in shielding tank crews from impacting rounds, the crews were repeatedly irradiated by their own protection. According to the Military Toxins Project, "the amount of radiation a tank driver receives to his head alone will exceed the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission's] annual standard for public whole-body exposure to man-made sources of radiation. Unfortunately U.S. tank crews were not monitored for radiation exposure during the Persian Gulf War."

American troops came into contact with DU through combat, during the recovery of contaminated U.S. vehicles, and while exploring battlefields after cease fire. Some troops assigned to Kuwait are still being exposed today.

Only after most of the fighting subsided did the Army Armament, Munitions and Chemical Command warn commanders in the Gulf that "any system struck by a DU penetrator can be assumed to be contaminated by DU." Army studies have found that "personnel inside or near vehicles struck by DU penetrators could receive significant internal exposures." Naturally, this didn't deter the military from using the weapons, since the rounds and armor were found to be highly effective. In the long run, thousands of disguisable American and collateral civilian deaths are acceptable trade-offs for short term military-effectiveness statistics, which benefit the Joint Chiefs -- who, after all, are not at risk from exposure.

As of September 1996, most stateside U.S. soldiers still had not been advised of the dangers of handling or working with DU. Although the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration have provided medical exams to more than 85,000 Gulf War veterans with confirmed health problems, only a handful of these veterans have been tested for DU exposure. Many of these have shown elevated levels of DU in their urine several years after the war.

No battlefield cleanup of DU has come about, nor is a cleanup planned. Locals and still-deployed U.S. troops are being exposed to DU on an ongoing basis. DU particles are transported by the wind and water and are presumed to be migrating into food and water supplies. Children routinely play in and around the hulks of irradiated tanks; soldiers brought irradiated souvenirs home from the battlefield.

Some DU ingested through breathing and wounds lodges permanently in bones and tissue, and acts as a chemical and radiological toxin for the remainder of a person's presumably-shortened lifetime. The Military Toxins Project reports that "large numbers of children near contaminated areas have developed leukemias and other health problems" likely associated with exposure to DU.

The customary military foot-dragging has followed calls for studies on the effects of DU exposure, and there are reasons besides the attractiveness of DU devices. The following segment from the Army Environmental Policy Institute report, leaked in late 1995, reveals a more sinister motive: "The potential for health effects from DU exposure is real; however it must be viewed in perspective... the financial implications of long-term disability payments and healthcare costs would be excessive."

DU rounds are being developed for use in the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Vulcan Air Defense Gun and in new combat helicopters. U.S. defense contractors have sold DU weapons to the United Kingdom, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia and half a dozen other countries.

No warnings or protective gear for DU were issued before the Gulf War, just as soldiers were not alerted to or protected from nerve gas toxins despite continuous alarms from detection systems. The DU legacy is yet another example of radical irresponsibility toward the well-being of American soldiers and battle-area civilians.

How did it happen? How did we come to subject tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers to nerve gas, with health effects complicated by questionable medical countermeasures which actually worsened toxicity, and now radiation poisoning, all while keeping countless human guinea pigs in the dark? How is the military able to justify these abuses and their cover-ups?

It appears to be policy. And policy has no conscience.


"Collateral Damage: How U.S. Troops Were Exposed to Depleted Uranium
During the Persian Gulf War," Dan Fahey, Swords to Plowshares Depleted
Uranium Network of the Military Toxins Project.

U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute: Health and Environmental
Consequences of Depleted Uranium in the U.S. Army, Technical Report,
June 1995.

U.S. General Accounting Office, Operation Desert Storm: "Early
Performance Assessment of Bradley and Abrams," January 2, 1992.

The Nation Magazine, October 21, 1996, "The Pentagon's Radioactive
Bullet" by Bill Mesler.

(c) Copyright 1996 ParaScope, Inc.

* * *

John Shirley is the author of numerous books and many, many short stories. His novels include Crawlers, Demons, In Darkness Waiting, and seminal cyberpunk works City Come A-Walkin', and the A Song Called Youth trilogy of Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona. His collections include the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild award-winning Black Butterflies and Really Really Really Really Weird Stories. He also writes for screen (The Crow) and television. As a musician Shirley has fronted his own bands and written lyrics for Blue Õyster Cult and others.

DU dust may kill Americans and children overseas;

Depleted Uranium Dust May Kill Americans–and Children Overseas

DU May be Causing Global Contamination

There are those who believe that the widespread use of Depleted Uranium in weaponry is creating a cloud of low-level (but hazardous) radioactive particles around the world, causing a global epidemic of diabetes and cancer. (DU is used by the US and British military in coating tanks and shells.) One article on the global contamination theory is here: The Queen’s Death Star. And here’s the LATEST development:

They were told depleted uranium was not hazardous. Now, 23 years after a US arms plant closed, workers and residents have cancer - and experts say their suffering shows the use of such weapons may be a war crime. It is 50 years since Tony Ciarfello and his friends used the yard of a depleted uranium weapons factory as their playground in Colonie, a suburb of Albany in upstate New York state. . .Today there are lumps on Ciarfello’s chest - strange, round tumours that protrude about an inch.

‘No one seems to know what they are,’
he says.
‘I’ve also had a brain aneurysm caused by a suspected tumour. I’m constantly fatigued and for years I’ve had terrible pains, deep inside my leg bones. I fall over without warning and I’ve got a heart condition.’
Ciarfello’s illnesses have rendered him unable to work for years. Aged 57 and a father of five, he looks much older.

In a paper to be published in the next issue of the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment, a team led by Professor Randall Parrish of Leicester University reports the results of a three-year study of Colonie, funded by Britain’s Ministry of Defence.

Parrish’s team has found that DU contamination, which remains radioactive for millions of years, is in effect impossible to eradicate, not only from the environment but also from the bodies of humans. Twenty-three years after production ceased they tested the urine of five former workers. All are still contaminated with DU. . .

TV footage shot in Baghdad in 2003 shows children playing in the remains of tanks coated with thick, black DU oxide, while there have long been claims that the DU shells that destroyed Saddam Hussein’s tanks in the 1991 Gulf war were responsible for high rates of cancer in places such as Basra.

For a general article on DU see Nukes of the Gulf War by John Shirley.