The Unholy Nuclear Trinity – Energy, Weapons & Waste – Indigenous Impacts

EON’s Mary Beth Brangan and Jim Heddle interview Acoma Pueblo elder Petuuche Gilbert at one of the over 500 abandonded uranium mines that continue to contaminate Navajo tribal lands in New Mexico. Photo by: Libbe HaLevy

Joined At the Hips

Since their conjoined birth in the 1945 Trinity Test in the New Mexico desert that began the Atomic Age, nuclear energy, weapons and waste have been inextricably connected.

Long denied by government and industry sources, that inseparable connection has now been cited by former US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and other nuclear enthusiasts, as a prime rationale for keeping America’s deadly and dying nuclear industry going.

They argue that only by subsidizing a dangerous, obsolete and uneconomic ‘civil’ nuclear energy program, and its trained labor pool and industrial infrastructure, can the US maintain its ‘global nuclear leadership’ and ‘weapons superiority.’

EON’s work has been tracking that lethal connection for decades.

This year – as we have done in many years past – we were honored by Tri-Valley CARE’s Director Marylia Kelly to document the annual Hiroshima Day rally and non-violent direct action at the gate of Livermore Lab, a key node in America’s new nuclear arms race system.

U of C Runs California’s Nuclear Bomb Shop

As a preview, here is a clip of the keynote speaker Daniel Ellsberg, with additional powerful speakers to come soon in the series, as well as a report on the march and demonstration.

SHUTDOWN The Movie – Coming Soon

We are charging toward completion early next year of our forthcoming feature-length documentary SHUTDOWN – which explores the importance of informed citizen action in the face of America’s growing nuclear waste challenge, as aging nuclear reactors are shuttered with nowhere for their tons of accumulated lethal waste to go and the Age of Nuclear Waste begins in earnest.

Please visit for more information.

Don’t Dump on the Southwest!

A national push (by Senator Feinstein, among others) is building for ‘temporary’ Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) sites for the nation’s entire inventory of reactor waste that targets low-income, Hispanic and Indigenous communities in New Mexico and Texas.  We were able to travel to a recent conference in New Mexico to bring their informed, opposing voices to a wider audience.

Here’s a clip from a recent Environmental Justice Panel in Albuquerque featuring Santa Clarita Pueblo downwinder, Tina Cordova, Co-founder of the New Mexico community organization Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC).  She tells of the devastating health impacts of the Atomic Age on her people.
The devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been widely acknowledged, yet it was America’s own people and original inhabitants, the Indigenous Peoples of the southwest, who had the actual first atomic bomb dropped in their land.

The world’s first atomic bomb was detonated on July 16, 1945, in New Mexico—home to 19 American Indian pueblos, two Apache tribes and some chapters of the Navajo Nation. Manhattan Project scientists exploded the device containing six kilograms of plutonium 239 on a 100-foot tower at the Trinity Site in the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) Valley at what is now the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range.  At the time an estimated 19,000 people lived within a 50-mile radius.

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Nuclear power ‘seven decades of economic ruin’, says new report

29.07.2019 – London, United Kingdom Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

New research has found that almost all nuclear power plants built since the nuclear industry’s inception have generated large financial losses.

The report by the German Institute for Economic Research examines 674 nuclear power plants built since 1951. Its authors found that typical nuclear power plants averaged 4.8 billion euros in losses.

Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France (Image by Stefan Kühn on wikimedia commons)

Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France (Image by Stefan Kühn on wikimedia commons)

The report authors argue that new technology for nuclear plants won’t solve the underlying economic difficulties: “Those in favor of nuclear energy like to point out the ongoing technological developments that could lead to it growing more efficient in the future.

“They include ‘fourth generation’ nuclear power plants and mini-nuclear power plants (small modular reactors, SMRs). Anything but new, both concepts have their roots in the early phase of nuclear power in the 1950s. Then as now, there was no hope that the technologies would become economical and established.”

Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, said:

“The history of nuclear power is seven decades of economic ruin and environmental catastrophe. Toshiba’s decision last year to abandon plans to build a reactor at Moorside in Cumbria and Hitachi’s suspension of work this year on the Wylfa Newydd plant in Anglesey simply reflect the economic reality that this report sets out.

“Nuclear power isn’t only expensive, it creates an unsolvable waste problem, and as the TV drama Chernobyl so graphically reveals, nuclear accidents create human misery and environmental destruction.

“Our new Prime Minister should learn these lessons and adopt a fresh approach to energy that centres on clean and economically viable renewable technology.”

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

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24 Questions That Show Nukes Are NOT The Answer

July 29th, 2019 by   —

1. How many more decades of uranium does the planet have left?

There are about 8 decades of supply remaining.

“Uranium abundance: At the current rate of uranium consumption with conventional reactors, the world supply of viable uranium, which is the most common nuclear fuel, will last for 80 years.” If nukes were fully built out to provide our full energy needs, we would have about 5 years of uranium remaining on the planet.

Note that nukes are not renewable energy. Anything that has to be mined is, by definition, not renewable.

Image via Land Art Generator Initiative

2. How much are US taxpayers paying to store nuclear power waste?

Billions of dollars and counting.

“The Maine Yankee nuclear power plant hasn’t produced a single watt of energy in more than two decades, but it cost U.S. taxpayers about $35 million this year,” the LA Times reports.

“Almost 40 years after Congress decided the United States, and not private companies, would be responsible for storing radioactive waste, the cost of that effort has grown to $7.5 billion, and it’s about to get even pricier.

“With no place of its own to keep the waste, the government now says it expects to pay $35.5 billion to private companies as more and more nuclear plants shut down, unable to compete with cheaper natural gas and renewable energy sources.”

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Finding a repository for San Onofre plant’s nuclear waste is a difficult task

Putting aside the criticism from some advocacy groups about restarting transfers at all, the move brings up a larger question: Where will the waste at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, known as SONGS, eventually go?

Some of the options are fairly well known, such as reviving a controversial site in Nevada, while others are more obscure, such as a proposal to send the waste down deep boreholes.

But regardless of the pros and cons of each proposal, getting consensus and putting a plan into action can be elusive in a nuclear sector where the confluence of science, industry and politics all too often leads to stalemate.

“Finding solutions is hard,” said David Victor, the chairman of the SONGS Community Engagement Panel. “If it were an easy problem, we would have solved it by now.”

SONGS is located right above the beach at San Onofre and although the plant has not generated electricity since 2012, it is home to 3.55 million pounds of radioactive waste that dates from the time when the plant was active.

Many in the San Diego area worry about the waste (or, as nuclear proponents prefer to call it, spent fuel) resting so close to the ocean and busy Interstate 5 — and located in a populous region with a history of seismic activity.

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Dark Dawning: The Age of Nuclear Waste Begins – Updated

Dark Dawning: 

The Age of Nuclear Waste Begins

Will the privatization of radioactive waste management lead to its criminalization?

By James Heddle – EON

[ An earlier version of this report is published at Columbus Free Press ]

I feel that we got the final wake-up call at Fukushima and that we need to phase out and shut down the 104 reactors in America.  I will put it very bluntly:  We need to kill them before they kill us.
  – S. David Freeman, ninety-something former TVA head who holds the record for shutting down utility reactors than any other administrator

The Age of Nuclear Energy is winding down.  The Age of Nuclear Waste is just beginning.  – Gordon Edwards, Co-Founder, President Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

The New Radioactive Gold Rush – Privatizing Nuclear Waste Management

Since Friends of the Earth Senior Consultant David Freeman made the above statement in a 2011 interview, seven U.S. reactors have been shutdown. 

As of this writing, there are 97 nuclear reactors operating in 29 U.S. states.  By 2018 approximately 80 thousand metric tons of spent nuclear fuel had accumulated at reactor sites around the US, with 2 thousand metric tons being added each year.

According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), such high-level radioactive wastes produce fatal doses of radiation with just a short period of exposure.  Even non-lethal exposures can cause cancers and other diseases years later – an effect called ‘latency.’  Resulting DNA damage will be passed on to all future generations.  Women and girls are most susceptible to damage.

No permanent storage facility for all this high-level radioactive waste currently exists.  Aside from so far unsuccessful efforts in the Congress to revive the failed Yucca Mountain project, there is no plan to construct one.

Barring state subsidies to keep the aged, rickety, uneconomic U.S. reactor fleet going at taxpayer expense, or mind-boggling 20- or even 60-year license extensions from the industry-captured NRC, at least fifteen more old, embrittled nukes are slated for shutdown in the coming months and years.

With nowhere else to go, all their accumulated waste will have to remain stored on-site for the indefinite future
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