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War on the Earth: Atomic Appalachia and the Militarized Southeast


MIC at 50 – Charlottesville, VA,   September 16-18, 2011

Coleman Smith and Clare Hanrahan of New South Network of War Resisters


Militarism is killing us. It is waging a war on the Earth and the devastation wrought is far beyond what can be presented here. We are not academics; we’re activists and organizers who care deeply about our homeland in the Southern US, the region where we live and work, and the most militarized region in the country. We have limited most of our report to the Southeast US and a special place we refer to as Atomic Appalachia. Like Middle Earth in a Tolkien story, Atomic Appalachia is a little known part of our region squeezed in between the Central and Southern Appalachians. It is a region where the impact of militarism is especially evident.

War is an all out assault on life. Every living being is in peril. The systems that sustain life are approaching total collapse from resource depletion, wanton killing and the environmental degradation of centuries of senseless war. The single most egregious and unrelenting source of ecocide is the Pentagon.

It is not just the Pentagon with its lethal global reach, but the insidious corporate/government alliance— a crime syndicate that colludes to profit from and denies responsibility for planetary ecocide.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his prophetic 1961 Farewell Address, warned of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) whose “total influence—economic, political, even spiritual— is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government.” [i]

The US government, Global Corporate, and the Military work together to drive US Foreign economic policy and to fund and promote war with tax payers’ money. Nearly every industry today is connected to the Military Industrial Complex—from weapons manufacturers to infrastructure and logistical support; to university research, think tanks, corporate media, venture capitalists, Big Oil, and private mercenary armies—everyone involved makes big money from war.  Many Corporations are closely connected to the political establishment. They contribute millions to political campaigns to secure lucrative military contracts.

Essentially, war profiteers sell wars to politicians who sell it the public using the cynical rhetoric of freedom, national security, and pride.  One definition of Fascism is the conjoining of State interests with Corporate interests.  Just follow the money and decide for yourself who is, or what is, making the decisions that affect the survival of life on this planet. Capitalism’s destructive and polluting reign spans the entire globe—and it is only getting worse. With each day, more and more species are lost to extinction, forests and mountains are reduced to moonscapes, and polar icecaps melt into the sea.

We can remain in subjugation as the world deteriorates around us, or we can take action against the institutions which control our lives and planet. The decision is ours—individually and collectively.

We see no other path but to resist.

The problem in defense, Eisenhower further warned, “is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.”  We have gone way too far—beyond the limits of law, morality and of sane self interest.  With the Pentagon’s practices of obfuscation and denial, it is a daunting task to uncover and document the staggering facts of just how severe—and in some instances irreversible—is the ecological damage brought on by militarism. What is known of the grim statistics is a stunning indictment of the woefully misnamed Department of Defense.

Militarism defiles the sacred earth, the air, the rivers and springs.  The beautiful Nolichucky River drains the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee and provides drinking water for many Tennessee communities. There are no known sources of enriched uranium in the area other than Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin, Tenn., manufacturer of fuel for the U.S. Navy's fleet of nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. NFS is a subsidiary of the Babcock & Wilcox Company. Its work also includes down-blending highly-enriched uranium to a low-enriched form to fuel TVA nuclear reactors. The plant has a history of serious safety problems.[ii]

According to reports of water & soil testing  over a three-county area downstream  from the plant presented at a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) meeting in Erwin in 2010, “…Most of these samples demonstrate, unequivocally and beyond any reasonable doubt, that there is highly enriched as well as depleted uranium present in the environment." [iii]

Another example of the MIC impacts to rivers is the proposed uranium mining in and around Danville, Va., near the Roanoke River, a national treasure which provides drinking water to more than one million people in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and other communities. As much as 110 million pounds of uranium ore, worth perhaps $10 billion is located beneath Virginia farmland— “the largest unmined uranium deposit in the nation,” [iv]  Leases are out on as many as 65,000 acres. In 1982 Virginia banned uranium mining. At the time, the price of “yellow cake” raw processed uranium was not cost-competitive.  Now it is. 

Every ocean and sea bears the hazardous effect of militarism.  Over 9,000 military, auxiliary, and merchant marine vessels were sunk during World War II. [v] And there is no mitigation plan or risk analysis in place for the looming threats which include unexploded ordinance, leaking oil, hazardous materials, and chemical weapons causing degradation of the marine habitat and coastlines.

A reported eight nuclear submarines have sunk due to fires or explosions, flooding or other accidents. Any removal efforts would be extremely difficult and costly.  Their nuclear reactors litter the ocean floor.

During & after WWII, Chemical weapons were routinely dumped at sea. According to reporter John Bull, in his 2005 article “The Deadliness Below,” the Army dumped at least 64 million pounds of chemical warfare agents in steel containers—as well as a minimum of 400,000 bombs and rockets and 500 tons of radioactive waste—off the country's shores in 26 ocean dump zones created from 1944 to 1970. [vi]

16,000 mustard-gas-filled 100-pound bombs were unloaded into deep water in 1944, only five miles from shore in Hawaii.

Four railroad cars containing mustard gas bombs and mines were dumped off the coast of South Carolina. A few months later, up to 23 barges with German-produced nerve gas bombs were dumped in the same location. Each barge carried up to 350 tons of bombs.

Even the heavens are polluted.  The U.S. Air Force tracks more than 18,000 objects in orbit—bolts, broken satellites, fuel tanks, rocket motors and other junk. [vii]  Debris from the Feb. 2009 collision of an Iridium Company communications satellite with a Russian military satellite added even more space debris. And NASA’s next Mars Science Laboratory Mission, sometime between November 25 and December 15, 2011 will be fueled with 10.6 pounds of plutonium as a heat source while it probes that cold planet.  “Plutonium-238 “is about 270 times more radioactive than Plutonium-239 per unit of weight,” according to Dr. Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear physicist and president the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.[viii]

An accident would be catastrophic.

National Defense? or Full-Spectrum Dominance?  Full-spectrum dominance[ix] is a military concept whereby a joint military structure achieves control over all elements of the battle space using land, air, maritime and space based assets. Full Spectrum Dominance requires Full Spectrum Resistance.

“The south is vital to this plan for the weaponization & Nuclearization of space” says Bruce Gagnon, of the Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. This is evident in Huntsville, Alabama at the Redstone Arsenal, known as the “nerve center for the Army's missile and rocket programs. Redstone is home to the U.S. Army Missile Command, the Army Ordnance Missile and Munitions Center and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

 Following WWII, after 550 families were forcibly displaced to acquire land for the Redstone facility, Nazi Scientists were secretly recruited by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) as part of “Operation Paperclip,”[x]  SS officer Werner von Braun and as many as 700 other German Scientists were brought to the US to exploit Germany’s expertise with supersonic rockets, nerve gas, jet aircraft, guided missiles, stealth technology and hardened armor. In 1950, von Braun and his team were transferred to Huntsville, Alabama, his home for the next twenty years. Between 1950 and 1956, von Braun led the Army's rocket development team at Redstone Arsenal.[xi]

By 1955 these “ardent Nazis” had been granted citizenship and given prominent positions in the American scientific community. Many had been longtime members of the Nazi party and the Gestapo, had conducted experiments on humans at concentration camps, had used slave labor, and had committed other war crimes.  Their Nazi philosophy is deeply embedded within the US Military Industrial Complex.

Rocket Fueled Water.  Not only were our democratic, egalitarian values polluted by Nazi Ideology, but our land, water, and air are contaminated with the products of Rocket Science.

Ammonium Perchlorate is a combination of nitrogen, hydrogen, chlorine and oxygen. It is an essential component of military explosives, bottle rockets, fireworks, highway flares, automobile airbags and old-fashioned black powder.[xii]

A 2003 Environmental Working Group analysis[xiii] of government data, determined that perchlorate had been found in drinking water, groundwater or soil in at least 43 states—more than 4% of public water systems are affected. The most common and most significant perchlorate contamination is from the manufacture, testing, and disposal of solid rocket fuel, explosives, and fireworks. “Perchlorate is an endocrine disrupter, because it can alter hormone levels. Studies show that perchlorate blocks iodine and inhibits iodine uptake in the thyroid gland and disrupts the thyroid’s function...An impairment of thyroid function may impact the fetus or newborn, resulting in changes in behavior, delayed development and decreased learning capability.”[xiv]

A US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 2008 study found that three quarters of nearly 300 commonly consumed foods and beverages are contaminated with perchlorate, a toxic rocket fuel ingredient. Many two-year-olds exceed the EPA's "safe" dose of perchlorate via food and water contamination.[xv]

We Take Care of Our Own?  The US Marine slogan at the Camp Lejeune ,North Carolina base  is tragic given the long time and known exposure between 1957 and 1987 of Marines and their families who drank and bathed in contaminated water.  Is this how We take care of our own?”

The contamination included solvents from a nearby, off-base dry cleaning company, from on-base use of chemicals to clean military equipment, and from between 400,000 and 1.1 million gallons of fuel that leaked from underground fuel storage tanks in and around the main family housing units. Military family water wells were polluted for decades with as many as 70 identified toxins at concentrations 240 to 3400 times permitted by safety standards. With the military’s long history of lost documents, poor management, and deceptive lab testing and results, it is unclear the full extent of the contamination.

Bases, bases—we all fall down!  There are estimated 900-1,000 US military installations around the globe in almost every country.  Major bases, such as Ft. Benning, Ga., Ft. Campbell, Ky., Camp Lejeune and Ft. Bragg, N.C., are city size and contain all the pollution associated with urbanized areas in addition to the military toxics and the negative psycho-social impacts on the mental and physical well being of base personnel and surrounding populations.

Twenty-nine million Americans – that’s about one in every 10 — live within 10 miles of a toxic military site.[xvi] That is, a site that’s already been labeled under the Superfund Program as a top priority for toxic-waste cleanup. There are many, many, more sites that haven’t yet been certified. The military maintains that there must be “national sacrifice zones” where weapons and soldiers can be tested for war. The DOD has admitted to “14,401 toxic hot spots in 1,579 bases in the US.”[xvii]

An oversea example of US military toxics is the problem at Clark Airfield and Subic Naval Station in the Philippines.  After Mt. Pinatubo erupted, the US relocated 20,000 homeless to the abandoned bases where they dug wells and planted crops.  Philippine health officials noticed a sudden rise in stillbirths, spontaneous abortions, birth defects, kidney, skin, nervous system disorders, and increased cancers. They learned later of the heavy metals, acids, solvents, and munitions buried on site ...The Philippine’s request for US help was met with the response … our laws don’t allow us to respond to your request.”[xviii]

Military Addiction to Oil   According to Sharon E. Burke, the Pentagon’s director of operational energy plans and programs, the Defense Logistics Agency delivers more than 170,000 barrels of oil each day to the war theaters, at a cost of $9.6 billion in 2010.[xix] The U.S. military uses enough oil in one year to run all U.S. transit systems for the next 14-22 years.  Another comparison is between the average Civilian’s use of 1.3 gallons per day and the Deployed Soldier’s use of approximately 15 gallons per day. With about 1.4 million active duty personnel, the military population is less than 1/4 of one percent of the US population. The per capita military use of oil at one million barrels a day is a disproportionate ten times that of civilian use.

With occasional, stop-and-go driving, in one year, the average civilian driver produces about 10,000 pounds of greenhouse gasses - mainly carbon.   For the same year, military pollution is equal to that of 14.6 million cars driving 24/7 for the entire year.

Military data at best is an informed estimate. Calculating impact is difficult. How much pollution is produced is influenced by the type of fuel used. Ships and tanks can use “Bunker Fuel” which is 1000 times dirtier than standard diesel.  It produces both SO2 and CO2, leaving a thicker layer of Gasses in the atmosphere, holding in more heat.  Aviation Fuel impacts the environment 2.7 times greater than standard fuel because of the extra NO2, SO2, soot, & H2O vapor it produces.   

The H2O Vapor forms Ice Crystals in the upper atmosphere and is a better insulator and traps heat better than greenhouse gases. JP8 fuel is high powered/highly toxic jet fuel and is used more and more. It’s heavier, evaporates slowly, clinging to skin and clothes much longer than other fuels. Chronic exposure to JP8 fuel impacts liver function, causes emotional dysfunction, abnormal brain function, shorter attention span, lowers sensorimotor speed, compromises immune systems, and increases cancer. The only precaution the DOD recommends for its personnel handling JP8, is to wear rubber gloves.

The Awful Truth  “…Even if every person, every automobile, and every factory suddenly emitted zero emissions,” says environmental writer Barry Sanders, “the Earth would still be heading head first and full speed towards total disaster for one major reason.  The military...produces enough greenhouse gases, by itself, to place the entire globe, with all of its inhabitants large and small, in the most imminent danger of extinction." [xx]

President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal strategy included a deal with conservative Southern Democrats to seed the Jim Crow South with Military bases. As the nation mobilized for war abroad, federal defense dollars flooded southern states in the form of military installations and defense contractors.

The Anniston Ordnance Depot (AOD) began construction in 1941 near Anniston, Alabama, as an ammunition storage site in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The maintenance and storage of chemical munitions began in 1963 and Anniston became a storage site for the US stockpile of Cold War era chemical-warfare munitions, which included lethal nerve, blood, and blister agents contained in rockets, artillery shells, and aerosol canisters.  An astounding 2,254 tons of chemical munitions were stored for decades in trenches, lagoons, landfills and dirt-covered concrete bunkers at the Depot. In the 1970s and 1980s, toxic industrial chemicals stored in unlined pits, were found to be seeping into groundwater.[xxi]

In 1997, the U.S. signed the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty for the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles by 2007. This was extended to 2012. The military decided to use on-site incineration of deadly nerve agents without public representation, violating the National Environmental Protection Act. The Anniston incinerator is the first to be located in a populated area. About 75,000 people live within nine miles of the Depot.

Because even a small accident could be catastrophic 35,000 people were provided with gas masks and kits with duct tape and plastic sheeting.

By 2011, after eight years, nearly 97 percent of all of the chemical weapons stored in Anniston since the 1950s had been burned by Army and Westinghouse contract workers who manned three furnaces in the $855 million dollar incinerator.

America’s Arsenal: A “Top Polluter” The Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas is listed in a Department of Defense report as a “top polluter.” For more than 60 years, the Arkansas arsenal stored approximately 3,850 tons of chemical weapons at its 3,500 acre site, and released a reported 721,364 pounds of chemicals into the air, water and land. In a 2005 fire over 7,500 canisters of white phosphorus burned. Pine Bluff is the only active site at which white phosphorous-filled weapons are manufactured and loaded. Today the depot manufactures chemical, smoke, riot control, incendiary and pyrotechnic mixes and munitions. Multiple and cumulative exposures to toxics exist here as they do in Alabama.

The percentage of African Americans in Pine Bluff is 341% higher than the national average and 28% of the residents live below the poverty level – continuing the practice of environmental racism.

In 2010, the arsenal completed disposal of 12 % of the US chemical weapons stockpile and “recycled” 6.5 million pounds of “decontaminated” steel chemical weapons tanks as part of “the Army’s commitment to protect the environment.”[xxii]

Milan Army Ammunition Plant  Near Jackson, Tennessee, this  WWII relic occupies a 22,540-acre site now operated by American Ordnance Systems, Inc. The plant loads, assembles, packs, reconditions and disposes of munitions, including weaponized uranium ordnance.

Throughout its nearly 60 years of operation, wastewater discharges have contaminated soil, sediment, and ground water with explosive compounds. Plumes of contaminated ground water have migrated into the Memphis Sand aquifer that supplies drinking water for the 9,000 people in the nearby City of Milan.

In a DOD effort to reduce costs, Milan’s military mission will change.  Hundreds of local jobs will be lost and the arsenal will primarily serve as storage facility for depleted uranium and a disassembly plant for uranium weaponry.

In East Tennessee, the Holston Army Ammunition Plant was constructed as Holston Ordinance Works in 1942 as part of the Manhattan Project. It produces explosives and propellants for the first-strike Trident Nuclear Submarines. A single Trident carries 192 nuclear warheads.

The Atomic Age—the most severe and enduring impact on human health & the environment. From 1945 to 1992 there were a reported 1054 US nuclear tests.  Most were detonated at the Nevada Test Site. More than 60 nuclear weapons were dropped on the Marshall Islands. Others were detonated in Alaska, Colorado, Mississippi, and New Mexico. According to World Watch Institute, radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear tests has caused 86,000 birth defects and 150,000 premature deaths.

Atomic Soldiers and Downwind Civilians Sacrificed  Between 1945-1975: U.S. government's human radiation experiments exposed as many as 16,000 civilian U.S. hospital patients, prisoners, disabled children and pregnant women to high doses of radiation without their knowledge or consent.[xxiii]

Over 200,000 “atomic vets” who worked closely with nuclear detonations at the Nevada test site during the 1950s and 1960s were especially vulnerable to radiation fallout.[xxiv]

The National Cancer Institute (NCI), reported that fallout from the 1950's atomic bomb tests irradiated the nation at levels far in excess of what the government has admitted, which could result in 10,000 to 75,000 cases of thyroid cancer among those exposed. There is a 38 year latency for thyroid cancers.  The ultimate effect of atomic testing is still unknown.

Mississippi’s Own Atomic Bombs  October 22, 1964, Project Salmon:  The DOE and Atomic Energy Commission detonated a 5.3 KILOTON NUCLEAR DEVICE  underground in south Mississippi, 28 miles southwest of Hattiesburg, reportedly to study seismic wave propagation in the S.E. US. [xxv] The nuclear test site was at the Tatum Salt Dome, about 1,000 feet below ground.  Most of the resulting radioactive waste solids and sludge were put back into the ground where it remains today. Some of the radioactive liquids were injected into a vein of salty water located about 2,500 feet underground. 

A reported 400 residents were evacuated from the area, and paid $10 per adult and $5 per child for their inconvenience.  The zone from which citizens were evacuated stretched five miles downwind of ground zero. Two years later, “The Sterling Event” a 380 ton nuclear device was detonated. These were the only nuclear explosions on U.S. soil east of the Rocky Mountain States. The Sterling bomb delivered the same force as 5,000 tons of TNT.  The Project Salmon blast was about one-third as powerful as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

U.S. government officials erected a large stone monument at the site, with a brass plaque warning future generations not to drill or dig in the vicinity of this test site.

Oak Ridge, Tennessee: Atomic “Secret City”  The Y-12 National Security Complex is the nation's primary storehouse for weapons-grade uranium and the key producer of uranium parts used in every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal. Oak Ridge is part of the national thermonuclear assembly line which includes the Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico, and a facility in Kansas City, Mo. which produces all non-nuclear components. 

 When a uranium-fueled atomic bomb devastated Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, it was powered by the output of Oak Ridge's Y-12 and K-25 plants. Three days later, when a plutonium-fueled bomb struck Nagasaki, the destruction was wrought by Hanford, Washington’s plutonium.

The DOE’s Oak Ridge reservation is a toxic tapestry of some of the worst, longest-lasting poisons known. Oak Ridge has the "highest risk profile" of any DOE cleanup site with at least 711 contaminated sites identified leaking toxic solvents, lubricants, chemicals and metals like uranium, lead, mercury, strontium, thorium and  tritium, into the groundwater.

The bomb plant used tons of mercury in lithium enrichment. Huge quantities of this toxic metal pollute the soil, groundwater, creeks, the Clinch River and downstream reservoirs. Mercury poisoning causes disabilities from leukemia to attention deficit disorder.

Over 300,000 people or half of those who ever worked in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, have been affected by exposure to radiation.

 Life Extension or Generations of Genocide?  According to the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, the US has 1,500 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.

Yet, in 2011, President Obama approved $7.5 billion for a new thermo-nuclear weapons uranium processing facility in Oak Ridge able to produce 80 thermonuclear “secondaries” every year, assuring a stockpile of death for generations to come. The secondary forms the "hydrogen" part of a thermonuclear bomb. Secondaries contain plutonium and uranium, and lithium salt which supply the hydrogen fuel.

This so-called “life extension” of the US nuclear stockpile comes from a President who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in negotiating a nuclear arms reduction “understanding” with Dmitriy A. Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation. 

Building the Y-12 Uranium Processing Facility will disrupt or destroy eight wetlands areas in Oak Ridge and add to the toxic load of that Tennessee mountain community.

US Soldiers & Sailors Used as “Lab Rats”  During the 1960s and early 1970s, the Department of Defense conducted 46 tests known as Project 112 and Project SHAD using Nerve agents, chemical and biological agents on uninformed and unwilling military personnel.

These tests, such as, 'Autumn Gold', 'Copperhead', 'Project Shad', and other un-named tests aboard US Navy vessels, may have, in effect, 'Murdered' hundreds - perhaps thousands - of active duty US Military personnel, and then lied to them and refused them treatment for over 40 years.[xxvi]

32 Broken Arrows: US Nuclear Weapons Accidents (1950-2000)   A B-47 carrying two nuclear capsules on a nonstop flight from MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa in 1956 to an overseas base failed to make contact with a tanker over the Mediterranean for a second refueling. No trace was ever found of the plane or the nuclear cargo.

Two years later, a B-47 collided with an F-86 in a simulated combat mission off the Georgia coast, near Savannah in 1958.   A nuclear weapon on board was jettisoned over water and the plane later landed safely.  Searches failed to locate the weapon.

Near Seymour Johnson Air Force Base around Goldsboro, North Carolina a B-52 on airborne alert in 1961 was damaged during a mid-air refueling. The crew initiated a parachute release of two nuclear weapons. One landed safely with some damage. The second fell free; breaking apart and burrowing deep into a swamp in eastern North Carolina.  Defense Secretary Robert McNamara acknowledged the danger: "The bombs' arming mechanism had six or seven steps to go through to detonate, and it went through all but one…" Officials assessed the possibility of a detonation, abandoned the recovery effort, purchased the land and fenced off the site.

Atoms for Peace  In a 1953 speech before the United Nations General Assembly, President Eisenhower stated that he hoped “to find the way by which the inventiveness of man shall be consecrated to his life.”  The “Atoms for Peace” program represented Eisenhower’s belief that nuclear power could be used for peace, rather than destruction. The program developed into the International Atomic Energy Agency that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. 

But Ike was not right this time. As Ann Harris, a TVA whistleblower told the nuclear regulatory commission at a public hearing, “Atoms for peace and atoms for war have a marriage made in hell.”

The Evil Twins: Nuclear Weapons & Nuclear Power  Most of the potential energy produced by a nuclear power plant has already been used to construct it, and most of the remaining power is lost to inefficiency in long-distance transmission and end use. All that is really produced is a lot of radioactive waste, a lot of money for a few, and weapons grade plutonium. A typical 1000 megawatt reactor produces about 5,000 tons of plutonium a year, enough for 40 nuclear bombs.

·      Uranium enrichment is needed for both nuclear power and nuclear weapons production. When uranium is enriched up to 5% U-235, it is reactor-grade. When enriched to around 90% U-235, it is weapons-grade or highly-enriched uranium (HEU.)

·      Reprocessing irradiated nuclear fuel results in large inventories of plutonium which feeds nuclear weapons proliferation.

Al Gore stated,”….During my eight years in the White House, every Nuclear Weapons issue we dealt with was connected to a nuclear reactor program.”

Nuclear Power:  Dirty, Dangerous and Expensive  The USA has over 70,000 tons of nuclear waste—deadly for tens of thousands of years—with no place for permanent storage.  The 104 USA nuclear reactors add 2000 tons each year of high level radioactive waste. Ninety-five percent of high-level radioactive waste comes from irradiated fuel in the core of nuclear power reactors. Each 1000 megawatt nuclear power plant produces about 30 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste.  According to the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, “All six of the nation’s licensed nuclear waste dumps have or are leaking”

South Carolina: Barnwell’s Low Level Radioactive Waste Dump   For 35 years Barnwell South Carolina was the only low-level radioactive waste dump east of the Rockies. Radioactive waste is stored in steel drums, encased in concrete vaults and buried. 

In the sense that “Depleted Uranium is not so depleted, that it is just not efficient enough for reactor fuel, “Low Level” is a misleading and inaccurate label. Workers can still be seriously irradiated by the contents of this lower and medium level RAD Waste.

RAD Waste: Move it? Where—Yucca Mt., NV? or Sandy Mush, NC?  After the proposed waste burial site at Yucca Mountain was cancelled, attention has turned again to the continental base granite in the Appalachians of the eastern United States.

It would take 9,600 rail and 1,100 heavy-haul highway shipments over 20 years, to move the first 70,000 tons of nuclear waste to the Savannah River site for reprocessing, to retrieve the weapons grade plutonium. This would bring 240,000 times the measurable radioactivity already buried at Barnwell.  If reprocessed in South Carolina, the nearest likely location for a permanent repository of the highly radioactive waste is in Western North Carolina, a twenty-minute drive from Asheville.

North Carolina: Asheville the Nuclear Crossroads

Three fatal flaws of Nuclear Waste:

·            Inadequate Emergency Response

·            Risk of Terrorism and Sabotage

·            Radiation Exposure from Routine Shipments

The transport of 10,000 loads of high level nuclear waste would come right through Asheville, North Carolina. This is a powerful motivator for its inhabitants to educate themselves, organize, and prepare resistance to the real possibility of this radioactive poison transport. The new measure of radioactivity is:

One Truckload = Four Barnwells

One Railcar =  Sixteen Barnwells

South Carolina: Savannah River Site—Most Contaminated in the World  Since the 310 square mile Savannah River Site (SRS) began operations in 1951 to manufacture tritium and weapons grade plutonium for the US nuclear weapons program, SRS has generated over 140 million gallons of liquid radioactive waste.  The SC counties around the SRC have the highest cancer mortality rate in the state due to exposure to ionizing radiation.  SRS has dumped 104 million gallons of this liquid waste into the air via evaporation processes.

The current SRS mission involves waste management and vitrification, special nuclear material (SNM) storage, research and development, and technology transfer. SRS also recycles tritium from the weapons stockpile. SRS is currently gearing up to reprocess RAD waste primarily from commercial reactors to recapture weapons grade plutonium. Its name has undergone a metamorphosis from SRS to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership to a reincarnation as the US Energy Freedom Center. Since the nuclear industry considers reprocessing to be recycling, these jobs are listed as “Green”.

Educate, Organize, Agitate, Activate   There is a rising number of activists, as well as everyday citizens, in Atomic Appalachia, who are confronting the nuclear weapons and power complex. One place where citizen action has been strong is TVAs Watts Bar Nuclear Reactor & Tritium Production Plant in East Tennessee. Beyond the health, safety, and economic issues already stated, the production of Tritium is of concern:

            Tritium is the radioactive isotope of hydrogen produced in nuclear reactors or high-energy accelerators.

            Tritium production for nuclear weapons violates International Non-proliferation Treaties.

            Tritium production is essential for maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

            Tritium boosts explosive power of nuclear weapons.

            Tritium produced at Watts Bar reactor is shipped in casks for separation at the Tritium Extraction Facility, Savannah River Site.


All production facilities release tritium into the environment. Tritium primarily enters the body when people swallow tritiated water;   Tritium also can be inhaled as a gas in the air, and absorbed through the skin. As with all ionizing radiation, exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing cancer.

The South as Sacrifice Zone?     Mississippi, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama are cheap-labor “right to work” states. These are the economies that were devastated during the Civil War, came back only after the United States began mobilizing for WWII.[xxvii]

According to Dr. Robert D. Bullard, writing in his book Dumping In Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality, “Environmental risks were offered as unavoidable trade-offs for jobs and a broadened tax base in economically depressed communities.”   

Mississippi:  Grand Gulf Nuclear Station  This nuclear reactor is located near Port Gibson, Mississippi, 25 miles south of Vicksburg, on the east bank of the Mississippi River. In 1983-1984, the first two years in which the existing Grand Gulf reactor operated, significant rises were observed in local rates of infant deaths (+35.3%) and fetal deaths (+57.8%). Local infant mortality remained elevated for the next two decades. These changes are consistent with the large declines in local infant death rates observed near closed nuclear reactors in the first two full years after shutdown.[xxviii]

After the 2011 floods, plant workers at the Grand Gulf nuclear station pumped water containing radioactive tritium into the Mississippi River for days before they discovered the toxic release and shut off the pumps.

As radioactive water, tritium can cross the placenta, posing some risk of birth defects and early pregnancy failures.

Dumping and Burning in Tennessee  Tennessee is the only state that allows commercial burning of radioactive waste, licensing six incinerators. For at least 20 years, and without any public disclosure, Tennessee and the DOE’s “Bulk Survey for Release Program” (BSFR) have allowed radioactive waste to be dumped into 5 state landfills.   Five million pounds was dumped in Tennessee landfills in 2007 alone. The source of the waste is considered “proprietary” information.

Radioactive waste transport and burning runs a high risk of releasing low levels of radiation which increases the risk of lung cancer, leukemia, and other disease.

Energy Solutions, Inc. in Oak Ridge will be incinerating 1,000 tons of German radioactive waste, and has applied to import 20,000 tons of Italian nuclear waste for processing, including burning, melting and compaction. Increased incineration at Energy solutions, Inc. is predicted to increase the downwind cancer risk within a two-hour radius from one in every 10,000-100,000 to one in every 70.

There’s no safe level. Even a little bit increases a person’s risk. Seventy-five percent of U.S. “low-level” radioactive waste—41 million pounds per year—comes to Tennessee.

Memphis, Tennessee: US Army Defense Depot   The environmental crisis in this South Memphis African American neighborhood is an example of a national pattern of environmental racism. Serious illnesses and cancers in the community are linked to contamination from the WWII era Defense Depot. Some children have contracted cancer and experience other serious health problems.

In 1995 Doris Bradshaw founded Defense Depot Memphis Tennessee-Concerned Citizens Committee to educate and mobilize her neighbors about the contamination in drainage ditches and from food grown in areas near these ditches; from contaminated groundwater; and from mustard gas destroyed and disposed at the Depot in 1946, as well as other chemical agents disposed at nearby Dunn Field.

“The way they have treated people of color throughout the U.S. is the way they are treating countries of color throughout the world,” Doris Bradshaw asserts.  Family members and neighbors have been sickened and died from cancers directly caused by exposure to the now closed Depot's toxins.

Estimates range from 187 to 289 different compounds including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, trichloro-ethylene, carbon tetrachloride, pesticides, dioxin, chlorodane, PCBs and discarded mustard gas bombs pollute the South Memphis African-American neighborhood.

Round and Round and Round We Go   “The State of Tennessee is licensing processors that can make the determination of “free release” radioactive materials and wastes for reuse, recycling or regular landfills,” according to a 2007 Nuclear Information and Resource Service report.[xxix]  DOE is allowing radioactivity generated by its own activities to go to unregulated disposal, recycling and reuse, the report warns. Manmade radioactivity could be getting into everyday consumer products, including construction supplies and equipment, playgrounds, furniture, toys, and personal items, without warning, notification or consent.

Studsvik Memphis: Nuclear Waste Processing    The Swedish company Studsvik, formerly RACE, processes radioactive waste from hospitals, laboratories and nuclear power plants.  African American employees were exclusively assigned the most hazardous work—to cut apart a damaged and highly-radioactive reactor.  Workers’ dosimeters were manipulated by management to mask the actual exposure levels African-American workers received. The company agreed to pay $650,000 to settle a race discrimination lawsuit charging it with exposing African-American workers to higher radiation levels than white workers, according to a report by the Institute for Southern Studies.[xxx]Every single federal agency that regulates radiation exposure (the EPA, the DOE, the DOD, the NRC and HHSD) admits today that even the smallest doses poses a risk of cancer,” says John LaForge of the group Nukewatch.

Erwin, Tennessee: Nuclear Fuel Services    The 65 acre, privately owned NFS, about 120 miles north of Knoxville is the largest employer in Unicoi County. It has a history of fines and enforcement actions by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

“National security” concerns kept the public in the dark about a March 2006 spill of highly enriched uranium that could have caused a deadly, uncontrolled nuclear reaction. Local authorities were not informed of the spill.  NFS Supplies nuclear fuel to the U. S. Navy Trident Submarine fleet and converts weapons-grade uranium into commercial reactor fuel.

Kings Bay, Georgia: Trident II Nuclear Submarine   Fueled from uranium enriched in Tennessee, Trident II submarines are an offensive, first-strike weapons platform, with an explosive force 1,536 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb.  There is no weapon system in the US arsenal with the operational risks of a Trident submarine. No weapon has as much explosive material, in the form of solid rocket propellant, and the number of nuclear warheads tightly packed in a confined vessel.

The sound at Saint Mary’s Georgia, near Kings Bay must be dredged several times a year to accommodate the mammoth sub which is as tall as a five-story building and nearly two football fields in length. The dredging impacts aquatic life in the sound, disrupting feeding behavior.

The ELF extremely low frequency radio waves used to communicate with deeply submerged Trident submarines harms marine life causing internal bleeding and ear-drum hemorrhaging in sea turtles, dolphins, whales and other sea creatures.

Military sonar is so powerful it can rupture the lungs, brains and ears of marine mammals, permanently deafening fish and disable divers a hundred miles away. Mass marine mammal strandings worldwide are being linked to powerful naval sonar. The unwise and immoral use of these and other technologies is beginning to plague us with the scale of its destruction.

Florida: Radioactive Baby Teeth Study   The Baby Teeth study specifically measured levels of radioactive Strontium-90 (Sr-90), a known carcinogen released by nuclear facilities. The chemical structure of Sr90 is so similar to that of calcium that the body gets fooled and deposits Sr-90 in the bones and teeth, where it remains continually emitting cancer-causing radiation. During pregnancy, Sr-90 is transferred from the mother to the fetus and ends up in the baby's teeth and bones.  To determine where radioactivity was absorbed from the environment, we need to know where the mother lived during pregnancy and where the baby was born.

In Florida, the highest levels of radioactive Strontium-90 were found in the six S.E. Florida counties closest to the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear reactors. Strontium in baby teeth increased 37% from mid-1980s to mid 1990s.

Virginia: North Anna Nuclear Generating Station 2011   The September 2011, 5.8-magnitude earthquake in the Piedmont region of Virginia shifted 25 massive concrete containers holding high-level nuclear waste.  The nuclear plant is 12 miles from the epicenter in Louisa County.

The water used to cool steam from the reactors is pumped back into the lake at high temperatures, a kind of thermal pollution that can harm flora and fauna in violation of federal law.  It’s easier to pay a fine than fix the problem.

 Currently, "spent" fuel assemblies are stored at the Surry and North Anna nuclear power plants. Rods are kept in pools of water for 5-10 years to keep this thermally hot, radioactive waste from melting.  They are eventually transferred to "dry casks" for storage outdoors on a concrete pad. Storage at nuclear power plants was expected to be a short-term solution, but a long-term storage facility has not been opened yet. Rather than build new pools to accommodate the waste at North Anna and Surry, Virginia Power obtained the first Federal approval to use dry storage technology and opened the first dry cask storage facility in the nation at Surry, followed by one at North Anna. It was these dry cask storage units which shifted during the earthquake.

Genocide for Generation after Generation after Generation after…   Just down the road from the Nuclear Fuel Services complex in Erwin, Tennessee is Jonesborough’s Aerojet Ordnance Tenn., Inc. which produces uranium weapons coated with the radioactive waste from fuel production for nuclear reactors and atomic bombs. Hundreds of tons of exploded uranium weapons create genetic damage for generations. Generally referred to as “Depleted Uranium” or DU weapons, this material may only be slightly less enriched than is usable as reactor fuel and still packs a powerful dose of radiation when released to the environment.

These bullets, shells and bombs, when exploded, reach temperatures over 3,000 degrees centigrade and become a lethal uranium aerosol that “never stops indiscriminately maiming and killing.  The contamination persists for billions of years, both on the battlefield and at US manufacturing and storage sites. Research has confirmed that uranium oxide (UO) particles, when inhaled, migrate up the olfactory nerve to the brain. They are so small they can even enter the body through the skin destroying cells in the brains, bones, and testicles or ovaries of anyone contaminated with the radioactive particles.

The Department of Defense and Department of Energy have accumulated over 500,000 tons of so-called depleted uranium, which it offers free of charge to weapons makers throughout the world. This provides a convenient pathway for disposal of an otherwise costly waste problem.

Uranium workers have significant mortality risks from cancer and non-cancerous diseases.  Some Workers involved in making DU received very large radiation doses. In some instances workers were knowingly put at risk without their knowledge.

Weaponized Uranium Warfare

·       Gulf War I:  315 - 350 tons of uranium weapons.

·       Gulf War II: Estimated DU use 5 times Gulf War I.

·       The U.S. has sold DU weapons to 29 countries.

 A minimum of 500 to 600 tons of DU dust now litter Afghanistan. Several times more are spread across Iraq.

So-called “depleted uranium” has a half life of 4.5 billion years. The US is spreading this eternal devastation in direct violation of the Geneva Convention which prohibits intergenerational impact from weapons. The unprecedented atomic devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, murdering hundreds of thousands, pales in comparison to the impact of modern weapons of mass destruction.

According to Arthur N. Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law, “…Out of the 580,400 soldiers who served in GW1 (the first Gulf War), of them, 11,000 are now dead!  By the year 2000, there were 325,000 on Permanent Medical Disability.” This astounding number of ‘Disabled Vets’ means that a decade later, 56% of those soldiers who served have some form of permanent medical problems!”[xxxi] or what we euphemistically call Gulf War Syndrome. 100’s of tons of radioactive dust is spread across the world’s battlefields

The numbers of American troops to be sickened by DU from Gulf War II will be staggering. As they gradually sicken and suffer a slow burn to their graves, the Pentagon will, as it did after Gulf War I, deny that their misery and death is a result of their tour in Iraq (Worthington, 2003).

American War Christianity:  An American Religious Jihad?A pollution of the Spiritual and Religious Environment.  Chuck Fager, Director of Quaker House in Fayetteville, NC, near Fort Bragg,  has written about what he calls “American War Christianity,” where “American churches, many actively and others passively, have become tools of militarism’s influence over large segments of the citizenry.”  

Early evidence of American War Christianity appears with Vietnam era active duty military and discharged vets proselytizing within evangelical circles emphasizing a strict obedience and non-questioning of Scripture to “spread the Faith.” Their Jesus is the Prince of War, not Peace, and its gospel message is not to love your enemies, but to hate and kill them, including civilians and children alike.  

American War Christianity can be found around the country, but it has deep roots in Southern White Protestant churches, this conviction holds that the US is God's chosen instrument to bear the sword against evildoers, and thereby advance the gospel wherever we decide it needs to be forcibly planted.    According to Fager, American War Christianity is a key “center of gravity” of U.S. militarism. An active form involves loud pronouncements of wrath on America's designated enemies - “the Commies, those Muslim terrorists, those illegals .”  A near cult-like fervor glorifies in the righteous violence of our armed forces.

The Passive form is seen in thousands of churches, and takes the quieter form of "going along” with whatever the military has been sent to do. Adherents talk primarily of inner peace or peace in the family or church. But this peace slides off when a uniform goes on and it stops at the U.S. Border.  This ideology blends with the militarization of our society, our borders and our school aged children.

Civil Liberties & Loss of Freedoms / Political and Cultural Pollution   The undoing of our democracy is so severe, says Vincent Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights, that without concerted and deliberate action, the principles & values which have defined us before 9/11 may never be regained.[xxxii]

A Few Examples of Political and Cultural Pollution:  After September 11, 2001, G. W. Bush shredded the U.S. Constitution, trampled on the Bill of Rights, discarded the Geneva Conventions, disregarded UN Statutes and publicly embraced torture as legal.  The Obama Administration has done little to reverse course. Homeland Security has become a growth industry.  There is a continuation of extraordinary rendition flights to outsource torture to other countries.  “Illegal immigrants” are propagandized as a national security threat to rationalize the militarization of borders and construction of a barrier fence costing $16 to 21 million dollars per mile.  The privatization of our public commons and designation of “Free Speech Zones” to control protest and dissent is a frequent occurrence.

There is a resurgence of COINTELPRO-type FBI surveillance, raids, and harassment of anti-war and international solidarity activists with “material support of terrorism“ charges, often accompanied by Grand Jury subpoenas to silence and compromise the movement. From Red Scare to Green Scare, all environmental activists are now labeled as Eco-Terrorists. Many activists now carry “Know Your Rights” cards to be ready if questioned by police and standard reference materials in activist trainings include the Center for Constitutional Rights’ pamphlet “When an Agent Knocks.”  

With astounding obedience, We the People have been willing to relinquish our lives, our children’s lives, our values and the very survival of the earth in the name of national security and pride. The Military Industrial Complex has drawn into its deadly grip more and more of the institutions that once were the bulwarks of democracy. It is We the People who must soon, and very soon, find ways to reclaim our power and act together to halt the destruction of the earth.

 “I do not ask that you put bands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that  you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight.”  The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, by Etienne de la Boetie, 16th century French Philosopher.


[i]  Dwight D. Eisenhower Farewell Address delivered January 17, 1961.  Cited September, 2011.

[ii]  Rich Jones, “Review By NRC Cites Safety Issues At Plant In Erwin,” The Greeneville Sun, April 8, 2011.

[iii]  INTERIM REPORT: Results for Isotopic Studies of Uranium in Environmental Samples from the Vicinity of the Nuclear Fuel Services Facility, Erwin, TN,” November 11, 2010. Prepared by: Michael E. Ketterer, PhD, Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Box 5698, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff AZ 86011-5698.

[iv]  “Uranium could become explosive issue in Virginia,” Associated Press, The Augusta Chronicle, February 17, 2008.

[v]   “A Proposed Annex to the Wreck Removal Convention Treaty to Address Environmental Hazards of Sunken World War II Naval Vessels, “ LT Craig R. Petersen, USCG, University College University of Denver Capstone Project for Master of Environmental Policy and Management, May 15, 2007.

[vi]   “Special Report: The Deadliness Below: Of Clamshells, Artillery Shells,”  John M.R. Bull, Daily Press,.  Oct. 30, 2005.,0,4442836.storygallery

[vii]   “A New Way to Track Debris in Orbit,” William Matthews, Defense News, February 16, 2009.

[viii]   “The Juno Mission: NASA’s Solar Probe,” Karl Grossman, Counterpunch, Aug. 3, 2011.


[ix]  “Joint Vision 2020 Emphasizes Full-spectrum Dominance,” Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service, June 2, 2000.


[xii]  Environmental Working Group, Perchlorate.

[xiii]  “Rocket Fuel in Drinking Water,  New data show widespread nationwide contamination,” Bill Walker, Renee Sharp, Environmental Working Group, March 2003.

[xiv]   Fact Sheet, Utah Department of Environmental of Environmental Quality, October, 2010.

[xv]  “Children consuming contaminated tap water and food at risk; EPA tap water safety standards are critically needed,” Anila Jacob, Jane Houlihan, Environmental Working Group, January 2008.

[xvi]  Representative Bart Stupak, House Energy and Commerce Committee, June 12, 2006

[xvii]  “Environmental Destruction Caused by U.S. Military Bases and the Serious Implications for the Philippines,” Jorge Emmanuel, Presented at Crossroad 1991: Towards a Nuclear Free, Bases Free Philippines An International Conference, May 14 - 16, 1990, Manila, Philippines.

[xviii]   Barry Sanders. "The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism." AK Press. 2009.



[xix]   “New Office Aims to Reduce Military’s Fuel Usage,” Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service, July 22, 2010.

[xx]  Barry Sanders. "The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism." AK Press. 2009.

[xxi]  Encyclopedia of Alabama, Anniston Army Depot, w. Jayson Hill, January 20, 2010.

[xxii]   Green and Strong: U.S. Army Project Reduces Waste, Recycles More Than Six Million Pounds of Steel.” PRNewswire. July 25, 2011.

[xxiii] "The Plutonium Files," Eileen Welsome, Delta books, 1999

[xxiv]  The Human Radiation Experiments:  How scientists secretly used US citizens as guinea pigs during the Cold War, Alan R Cantwell Jr., M.D. New Dawn Magazine. (cited September 2011).

[xxvi]   Michael Renner, of the World Watch Institute writing in the 1997 book War and Public Health.

[xxvii]   “The 10 States With the Worst Economies In America,”  AlterNet /Joshua Holland , August 30, 2011 

[xxviii]   Mangano, J.J.” Improvements in local infant health after nuclear power reactor closing” Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology 2(1):32-36, 2000.

[xxix]  “Out of Control—On Purpose: DOE’s Dispersal of Radioactive Waste into Landfills and Consumer Products,” diane D’ Arrigo and Mary Olson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, May 14, 2007.

[xxx]  Radioactive racism at Tennessee nuclear waste processing company,” Sue Sturgis, Facing South, Jan. 26, 2010.

[xxxi]   “Mushrooming depleted uranium (DU) scandal blamed for Sec of Veterans Affairs departure ,” Arthur N. Bernklau, Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter No. 169, March 2005.

[xxxii]   “The 9/11 Decade and the Decline of US Democracy,” Vincent Warren, Center for Constitutional Rights, cited September, 2011.


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