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Nuclear Monitor Issue: 


(March 19, 2007) Late last year, the Bush administration delivered two big gifts to the nuclear power industry, signing deals to help India produce more energy from nuclear reactors and for Westinghouse to build four new reactors in China. Those countries are half a world away from Colorado, but the worldwide resurgence of interest in nuclear power runs risks for the state's public lands, health and safety.

(653.5790) Environmental Working Group - The nuclear industry's efforts to recast itself as a supposedly clean source of energy - a spin echoed by the US administration - has helped spark a uranium boom in the American West. Interior Department records show a sharp increase in mining claims on Western public lands since 2002, driven by a seven-fold increase in the price of uranium.

As recently as 2004, no uranium interests were among the largest mineral claimholders in the West. Now, government data show that uranium interests are among the biggest claimholders across the region - in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

According to Interior records, mining interests staked just 300 claims for uranium in Colorado in fiscal year 2004. But in the two years since, uranium interests have staked almost 3,500 claims in the state. The new claims are concentrated near the historic uranium towns of Nucla and Naturita in Montrose County, and in Rio Blanco and Moffat counties in the state's northwestern corner.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety says several older uranium mines in the state could be producing soon.
The Cotter Corp. has four mines near Naturita that were active until about a year ago. The mines closed in part due to rising fuel prices for transporting the ore to Colorado's lone uranium mill in Cañon City.
International Uranium also has about three or four mines in Disappointment Valley in southwestern Colorado. The mines have permits and are being readied for production.

Beyond Colorado, public land snatched up in this new land rush includes 365 claims staked within 5 miles of the Grand Canyon, many for uranium. A company that has staked dozens of these claims, Quaterra Resources of Canada, has already proposed to drill exploratory holes for uranium just north of the canyon. The operation would include a helicopter pad to carry mining supplies and ore in and out.

The idea of helicopter flights of radioactive material near America's greatest natural treasure, already crisscrossed by dozens of tourist flyovers a day, is disconcerting. But there are broader impacts from uranium mining. Colorado and other Western states are littered with radioactive waste sites that are legacies of previous uranium booms during the 1950s and the 1970s, when nuclear power plants sprouted across the nation and the price of uranium soared.

The Department of Energy has begun a decade-long project to clean up 12 million tons of radioactive uranium mine waste near Moab, Utah, that have contaminated land near the Colorado River. The waste is a threat that could pollute drinking water for millions. Cleanup estimates range between US$412 million and US$697 million (between Euro 308-520).

In a recent series, the Los Angeles Times found that abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo reservation in the Four Corners have led to deaths from lung cancer and a degenerative disease that's come to be called Navajo neuropathy. Among other routes of exposure, the Navajo had unknowingly drunk water from abandoned mine pits and had constructed some of their homes from the radioactive mine waste.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel recently reported that residents of Monticello, Utah, have unusually high rates of cancer they believe were caused by a now-closed uranium mill. Residents recalled replacing their screen doors because the metal mesh would become yellow and corroded. Schools used ground-up uranium waste in kids' sandboxes.

Also complicating the matter is the antiquated federal mining law, written in 1872, that governs much of the new uranium mining. Under the law, filing a claim for as little as US$1 an acre allows companies to mine on federal land - a right the government has rarely challenged despite the fact that metals mining is the nation's leading source of toxic pollution.

Mining interests routinely leave behind multimillion-dollar cleanups, yet - unlike timber, oil and gas and every other extractive industry operating on public land - they pay no royalties to taxpayers. There is no federal fund to clean up abandoned metal mines.

Mining uranium is not the only concern heightened by the nuclear resurgence. We still have no answer to the problems of disposing of the waste from nuclear reactors.
Even if the government's designated national nuclear waste dumpsite at Nevada's Yucca Mountain is opened, storing waste there will mean 50 years of cross-country nuclear waste shipments through major cities. We should ask if spending billions of dollars to subsidize the nuclear industry is a better choice than investing our tax dollars in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Mining is a necessary part of a modern economy. But before permanently scarring some of our most treasured places to feed the nuclear industry, we should first dig deeper into the empty promise of nuclear power.

Source: Denver Post, January 27 2007. (re-printed with permission). See also EWG's "Uranium Fever Fuels Sharp Rise in Mining Claims" at Also see EWG's for "How Close Are You?" to a high-level radioactive waste transport route to Yucca Mountain, Nevada in the continental U.S.
Contact: Dusty Horwitt at the Environmental Working Group, 1436 U St. N.W., Suite 100, Washington, DC 20009, USA. Tel: +1-202-667-6982


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(May 7, 2004) Despite four years of public participation, expressions of opposition to and concern with the proposals by US agencies to "harmonize" with international transport recommendations, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Department of Transportation (DOT) adopted new regulations for radioactive transport in January 2004. NIRS and numerous other public interest, environmental and religious groups and individuals across the US are challenging a portion of the rule that reduces public protections by allowing more radioactivity to move on roads, rails, planes and waterways without regulatory control.

(609.5605) NIRS - Among other provisions that weaken public and worker protection from nuclear materials in transit, the regulations exempt various amounts of every radionuclide (radioactive forms of each element) from placarding, manifesting and tracking. A whole new category of exempt quantities "per consignment," which did not exist in previous regulations, is being adopted. In addition, the previously allowed exempt concentration level (70 bequerels per gram or approximately 2 nanoCuries per gram of any one or combination of radionuclides) is being replaced with different levels for each radionuclide. For more than half of the radionuclides, the exempt concentrations will increase, thus increasing the amount of unregulated nuclear material being shipped without any notice or regulatory control.

"At a time of heightened alert and concern about dirty bombs, the federal government is dramatically increasing the amount of nuclear material that can be transported routinely into and through the US without any labeling or controls. This is the exact wrong time for US agencies to let go of nuclear materials and wastes," stated Diane D'Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director at Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "It will make it harder to watch for and detect dirty bombs because there will be more false positives in everyday transport."

"Workers and the public will be exposed to radiation without their knowledge or consent. It is forced radiation exposure," charged David Ritter, Policy Analyst at Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.

Transport workers in both the rail and trucking industries and those involved in cleaning up accidents could be routinely exposed to radiation. First responders, customs agents and those who load and unload shipments will also come into contact with unlabeled nuclear materials. Since the materials could go to municipal and industrial landfills, incinerators and scrap recycling centers, workers at those sites could be regularly exposed to more radiation.

"NRC and DOT's generic exemptions will facilitate the deregulation of nuclear waste and use of contaminated materials to make household items and building supplies. That is the real motivation," said Dr. Judith Johnsrud of the Sierra Club, "to make it easier for other federal and even state nuclear agencies to treat nuclear waste as if it is not radioactive."

Neither NRC nor DOT can provide any meaningful justification for the exemptions for relaxing restrictions on nuclear materials. The exempt amounts are the same as those proposed by international nuclear advocacy organizations (IAEA and Euratom) to allow nuclear waste to be deregulated or "cleared." Once "cleared" from nuclear controls, the radioactive material can enter the marketplace as regular trash or be sold to recyclers to make consumer goods like cars and toys and to build civil engineering projects like roads, playgrounds or parking lots.

"It is not a coincidence. It's a deliberate attempt to by the Bush Administration agencies to bypass the American public's opposition to nuclear waste deregulation and get it into US law," said Michael Welch of the Redwood Alliance. "DOT and NRC are teaming up with the global nuclear power and weapons industry to make it cheaper to run and decommission nuclear reactors and support facilities."

The Environmental Protection Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy are all in the various stages of deregulating nuclear wastes over which they have jurisdiction.

"Removing existing requirements for labeling in transit will make it easier for those agencies to let nuclear wastes to get out into commerce. The public will be exposed both during transport and then again from the products and buildings made from contaminated materials," explained Dan Hirsch, President of the Committee to Bridge the Gap.

Since both US agencies share responsibility for radioactive transport in the US, they coordinated adoption of the same exemption regulations. NIRS et al are challenging the rules of both agencies. The DOT is expected to respond to the challenge by May 25, 2004. The case against the NRC is on hold in the 9th Circuit of US Federal Court until the DOT responds.

Source and contact:



Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

North Korea had three nuclear bombs.

(April 16, 2004) The New York Times has reported that A Q Khan, the disgraced father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programs, has revealed to investigators that he saw three nuclear bombs in North Korea five years ago. Pakistan's government is said to have released details of Khan's visit to an underground weapons facility one hour from Pyongyang 3-4 weeks ago as a warning to states within its missile range. The leaking of such sensitive information in Washington appears linked to US Vice-President Dick Cheney's visit to Beijing where he hopes to persuade China to take a tougher stance on North Korea. The Bush administration had previously been frustrated by Beijing's reluctance to apply more pressure on its former ally. Cheney has presented the Chinese with its 'new evidence' but has insisted that the US is still committed to six-party talks but would soon be seeking "real results". (See also WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 602.5572 "North Korea welcomes US delegation")

There are suggestions that Washington may also be seeking to influence the 15 April parliamentary elections in South Korea that are expected to decide the fate of President Roh Moo-hyun, who is mistrusted by the US for his soft line on Pyongyang. Khan's report will be difficult to verify given that Pakistani authorities have refused to allow questioning by the international community. It is also unclear if Khan, who is not a trained nuclear scientist, has the expertise to recognize an actual nuclear weapon as opposed to a mock-up.
The New York Times, 13 & 14 April 2004; The Guardian, 14 April 2004


NIRS & Public Citizen petition NRC.


(April 16, 2004) NIRS and Public Citizen have jointly petitioned the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to participate in the forthcoming licensing procedure for the proposed uranium enrichment plant in New Mexico. The groups are representing their members living near the site of the proposed facility who are concerned with the inconsistencies, misrepresentations and unlawful aspects of the application, including the lack of a strategy to dispose of hazardous and radioactive wastes. NIRS and Public Citizen also cited problems with the application in its treatment of water resources, national security and nuclear proliferation, the need for the facility and the cost of decommissioning the plant once it ceases operating. This is the third attempt by Louisiana Energy Services (LES) at securing a site for its nuclear plant - earlier attempts were withdrawn following intense public opposition.
Joint NIRS, Public Citizen & Southwest Research Information Center News Release, 6 April 2004


French PM pro new nukes.


(April 16, 2004) Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin confirmed his support for the construction of new nuclear power plants on 5 April. He told parliament that France should build the experimental 1600 MWe European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), claiming it was 'our responsibility to ensure the future of the nuclear option' and that he would request a parliamentary debate on the issue 'within the coming weeks'.
WNA News Briefing, 7-13 April 2004


Russian researcher sentenced.


(April 16, 2004) A weapons specialist for the prestigious USA-Canada Institute has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for espionage in a closed trial in Moscow. Igor Sutyagin was convicted of supplying an UK firm, allegedly used as a front for the CIA, with information on submarines and missile warning systems. Sutyagin's defense argued that the researcher's work had been based on publicly available sources and that he had had no indication that the company was as intelligence cover. Human rights activists in Russia and around the world have condemned the verdict and there are reports suggesting irregularities during the trial and political motivation for the trial and conviction. The trail judge is said to have given the jury incorrect instruction by asking them to determine whether Sutyagin had passed on information, which he did not deny, rather than whether he had passed on state secrets.
AP, 5 April 2004; BBC News 7 April 2004


Fund for sick nuclear worker not paying out.


(April 16, 2004) Four years after the US Congress passed a law to aid sick nuclear plant workers, the compensation fund has only managed to process the claim of one worker who was sent a check for US$ 15,000 despite the government earmarking US$74 million for the program. The Energy Department, responsible for the program, claimed during a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee that it would require more time and money to do a better job. Approximately 22,000 eligible workers filed for assistance yet only 372 have received feedback on their applications. Robert Card, the department's undersecretary said the agency needed an another US$ 33 million, in addition to the US$ 26 million already spent on the program this year to speed up the programs pace. Card and his assistant Beverly Cook have since resigned from their posts. Some lawmakers have recommended moving the program to the Labor Department, which already runs a program for compensating workers affected by radiation exposure.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 30 March & 2 April 2004


UK government advisers consider waste disposal options.


(April 16, 2004) Last year the Blair government appointed a committee on radioactive waste management to re-examine all possibilities to find an acceptable solution to the nuclear waste problem. The 14 options considered range from firing nuclear waste into the sun, placing it in Antarctic ice sheets so it sinks by its own heat to the bedrock, putting it under the Earth's crust so it is sucked to the molten core and burying under the seabed. The government estimates that its stockpile of high-level nuclear waste will soon reach 500,000 tons. The committee of Homer Simpson wannabes is apparently still considering all 14 options and has requested an extension of its deadline from end 2005 to mid 2006. We look forward to reading its final report.
The Guardian, 14 April 2004


Nuclear industry looks to Asia for survival.


(April 16, 2004) 18 of the 31 nuclear power units currently under construction worldwide are located in Asia making the continent a haven for predatory European, North American and Russian suppliers. Following accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the number of new nuclear projects under development in the West was drastically reduced leaving the industry in peril. Now, the vultures are circling around Asia seeking new ground on an energy-poor continent. China is expected to build four 1,000 MW plants at a cost of US$ 6 billion as part of its drive to quadruple its nuclear capacity by 2020. The export of such sensitive technologies is prohibited in most nuclear supply countries but given the lack of business elsewhere, governments are re-evaluating their policies in order to secure lucrative contracts for their supplies. Even the U.S. is expected to ease its controls on China at this year and Germany is already considering selling China its Hanau plant.
AP, 10 April 2004; Reuters, 13 April 2004

USA: dark secrets of nuclear weapons work in 1940/50s

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(October 6, 2000) In a three-day exposé, the American newspaper USA Today published in the beginning of September a 10 month investigative report researched and written by journalist Peter Eisler, which laid out the dark secret of the U.S. government secretly contracting with private facilities across the nation to build America's early nuclear arsenal during the 1940's and 50's.

(535.5208) Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety - The exclusive report uncovers big-name chemical firms, private manufacturing facilities, and mom-and-pop machine shops that were hired by what is now called the Department of Energy (or DOE) to work on different aspects of nuclear weapons production. Some 300 companies undertook the dangerous business of handling tons of uranium, thorium, polonium, and other radioactive and toxic substances, including beryllium. Neither the companies nor the government ever told the thousands of workers that they were exposed to hazardous levels of radiation, frequently hundreds of times higher than the limits considered acceptable in those days. At least one-third of those companies did not protect workers with proper equipment or tell them of the hazards of the materials they were working with.

Not only were the workers exposed to health hazards, but many people in the communities surrounding these facilities were also exposed as the companies dumped toxic waste generated from the weapons work into the air, soil and water. Many of the contamination risks remain covered-up even today. Recently, many documents that were previously classified by the federal government, became declassified because of the passage of time, so were available to the investigative journalists. The investigation into nuclear workers lack of protection now became painfully evident.

"These places just fell off the map," says Dan Guttman, former director of the U.S. President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, set up in 1994 to investigate revelations that government-funded scientists exposed unknowing subjects to dangerous isotopes in secret Cold War studies. "People were put at considerable risk. It appears (the government) knew full well that (safety) standards were being violated, but there's been no effort to maintain contact with these people (and) look at the effects."

The 'need' for private contractors
After World War II, the top-secret program to develop nuclear weapons, the Manhattan Project, continued. The Atomic Energy Commission, predecessor of the present DOE, which was set up in 1946, recognized that the government lacked enough manufacturing facilities and expertise. As a result, contracts were renewed with a small group of companies that had been hired for the Manhattan Project. But with the explosion of the first Soviet atomic bomb, the AEC moved to a far more aggressive weapons production schedule and the number of private companies hired multiplied. Health and safety concerns were less important than building a lot of nuclear weapons in a short time. The AEC began moving away from using private contractors in the early 1950s, building up a network of government-owned facilities. Some subcontractors were still used for certain work, but most work at private sites ended by 1960.
USA TODAY, 5 September 2000

"There's no legitimate reason for this neglect,'' says Guttman, a lawyer and weapons program watchdog who returned to private practice after the committee finished its work in 1995. The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a U.S. organization made up of local groups including CCNS that focus on DOE issues, released the following statement in response to the USA Today article: "Today's revelation that more than 100 'forgotten' nuclear weapons production facilities exposed workers and contaminated the environment demonstrates the nation's ongoing failure to develop a coherent plan to address the Cold War's radioactive legacy."

ANA urged the Clinton Administration and Congress to respond to the USA Today articles without delay. "The message for the U.S. government is really simple," explained ANA Director Susan Gordon. "Tell the truth; redress the harm." ANA called for adoption of "a systematic plan" based on four principles:

  • Full disclosure of all U.S. nuclear weapons production activities -- where they took place, when, who was exposed, and what contamination still exists;
  • Immediate containment of residual radioactive and toxic materials followed by cleanup to protect against further damage;
  • Release of all worker exposure records and government- funded health monitoring of former facility employees and neighbors; and
  • Development of a package including compensation and other remedies to assist those who are sick or whose loved ones have died.

ANA leaders met with DOE Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health, David Michaels to discuss health-related issues. Activists around the nation, including CCNS, are petitioning DOE for hearings to discuss responses to recent reports of widespread worker and community contamination from nuclear weapons production. ANA will also be working with members of Congress to develop legislation to address these problems.

Source and contact: Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), 107 Cienega, Santa Fe, NM 87501, US Tel: +1-505-986 1973; Fax: +1-505-986 0997


WISE Amsterdam and NIRS announce affiliation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(September 15, 2000) On 12 September, WISE-Amsterdam and the US based Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) agreed that the two groups will formally affiliate. The affiliation is the result of a year's worth of discussion and negotiation and was approved unanimously by both the boards of WISE-Amsterdam and NIRS.

WISE-Amsterdam, with a dozen relay offices across the globe, and NIRS, with some 6,000 grassroots members, were both founded in 1978 and have followed parallel tracks over the years, often working closely together on selected issues and events.

The affiliation means that WISE-Amsterdam's and NIRS's activities will be coordinated internationally, which we believe will result in a stronger, more cohesive and effective message.

Over the past years, there has been a wave of mergers and consolidations in the nuclear power industry. The nuclear industry, in many ways a symbol of globalization gone amok, no longer answers to any nation or regulator. The future of the nuclear industry is increasingly being determined at the international level, through treaties, agreements and behind-the-scenes pacts.

The affiliation of WISE-Amsterdam/NIRS means that we will be able to effectively challenge the power of the nuclear industry and be more effective on the international level. By being able to concentrate our resources as needed, we will be more helpful to national groups as well. We think that the affiliation will exceed the sum of the parts.

WISE-Amsterdam currently has a dozen relay offices. WISE-Amsterdam/NIRS has made full funding for these offices a major priority. WISE-Paris, which operates separately from the other WISE offices, does consulting, research and other work on energy and plutonium, and will not be part of the affiliation, although it is highly regarded by us.

The first joint project we are working on is the opposition to the proposed inclusion of nuclear energy as a "Clean Development Mechanism" (CDM) in current international negotiations on the Kyoto climate change Protocol. This climate campaign will reach a head in November in The Hague, Netherlands, where WISE-Amsterdam/NIRS will organize activities. WISE-Amsterdam/NIRS will work on the gamut of nuclear-related issues currently plaguing the globe: from the use of MOX fuel to radioactive "recycling" of low-level waste to nuclear transport issues.

We will use a variety of tactics, ranging from research, legal actions, public education, campaigns, to non-violent civil disobedience, to attain our goals.

P.O. Box 59636
1040 LC Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31-20-6126368
Fax: +31-20-6892179

1424 16th Street NW, #4
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: +1-202-328-0002
Fax: +1-202-462-2183


Thousands exposed to PU at Paducah enrichment plant

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(August 13, 1999) US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson ordered an immediate investigation into reports that thousands of unsuspecting employees at a Kentucky uranium enrichment plant were exposed on the job to cancer-causing plutonium. The Washington Post revealed on August 9, that reprocessed uranium from military nuclear fuel was contaminated with plutonium.

(515.5056) WISE Amsterdam - Richardson will meet with workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and would request a National Academy of Sciences study to probe the links between worker illnesses and exposure to radioactive materials that occurred over decades at the federally owned plant. His remarks came after The Washington Post reported that workers at the Paducah plant had been unwittingly exposed to plutonium and other radioactive metals that entered the plant over decades in shipments of used uranium from military nuclear reactor fuel. The report was based in part on sealed court documents filed as part of a lawsuit by workers and the environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council. The suit alleges that government contractors concealed evidence of the exposure for decades while allowing plutonium and other hazards to spread into the environment. According to Thomas Cochran, a nuclear expert with the NRDC who reviewed conditions at the plant, health and safety practices there were the worst "outside the former Soviet Union."

Paducah workers were exposed to plutonium through shipments of contaminated uranium that arrived at the plant from 1953 to 1976, a period when national security priorities often surmounted concerns over risks to workers and the environment. The plutonium shipments stopped, but contaminants remain spattered over hundreds of acres of buildings and grounds. Workers did not learn of the problems until at least 1990, and some contend they were never told. The US Enrichment Corp., a corporation that took over management of the plant this year after privatisation, contends that all significantly contaminated areas have been cleaned up or marked with warning signs.

Although no comprehensive study of worker medical histories has been conducted, current and former workers at the plant have linked past exposures to a string of cancers and other diseases. Besides the health study by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, the Energy Department will institute a medical surveillance and screening program for employees. A screening of former Paducah workers is just beginning as part of the Former Worker Program, a congressionally ordered study of past exposures of employees in the US nuclear complex. The department's fiscal 2000 budget request will be reassessed and revised as necessary to include money to probe and rectify environmental and health concerns at the government's uranium enrichment plants.

The Post said the Paducah plants issue was an "unpublished chapter in the still unfolding story of radioactive contamination in the chain of factories in the country that produced America's Cold War nuclear arsenal."
Radioactive contaminants from the 300 hectare plant, built in 1952, spilled in ditches and eventually seeped into creeks. Workers claim that former plant managers allowed contaminated waste to be dumped into a state-owned wildlife area and a landfill not licensed for hazardous waste. They further contend that radioactively contaminated gold and other valuable metals may have been shipped out of the plant without being properly tested.


  • Washington Post, 9 August
  • Reuters, 10 August 1999

Contact: Thomas Cochran, NRDC, 1350 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 300. Washington DC 20005, USA Tel: +1-202-289-68869; Fax: +1-202-289-1060 E-mail:

NIRS to begin grant program to Eastern grass-roots groups

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) is launching a new project to assist grassroots anti-nuclear groups in Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States.

(468.4662) NIRS -One part of this project is a direct grant program to grassroots groups based in those countries.

Grants will be in the $500-2,000 range, and the first grants are planned to be made in mid-late Spring 1997. To apply for a grant, please send a one-two page proposal including:

  1. name of organization and contact information
  2. brief description of your organization
  3. description of the project you wish funded
  4. statement describing the importance of this project

Only anti-nuclear activities will be funded. Preference will begiven to action-oriented and organizing projects. Only Eastern-based groups will be funded; western groups working in the East are not eligible. Applications must be in English.

The application deadline date is April 15, 1997.

Send your application by E-mail (preferred) to
or by fax: +1-202-462-2183
or by regular mail to Michael Mariotte, NIRS, 1424 16th Street NW, #404, Washington DC 20036 USA.