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Nukes On Our Roads
S everal recent accidents on U.S. interstate highways involving trucks carrying radioactive materials have revealed heightened activity in the transportation of such dangerous materials, as well as new growth in the nation’s nuclear infrastructure.
Earlier in the Bush II years, Mary Olsen, of the nuclear watchdog Nuclear Information and Resource Center (NIRS), warned, “New nuclear policies of the Bush administration are making new nuclear programs that in turn are resulting in a massive increase in the number of radioactive cargo shipments over the next several years…and for years to come.”
Last December 21 a flatbed truck carrying 6,000 pounds of uranium flipped on its side while exiting Interstate 95 West in central North Carolina. The truck’s journey had begun at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal near Norfolk, Virginia. Its destination was Global Nuclear Fuel America, a facility in Wilmington, North Carolina that makes nuclear fuel rods for commercial nuclear power plants.
According to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), a nuke industry promoter, after uranium is extracted from the earth, it is filtered, dried, and packaged into a substance called yellowcake, or uranium oxide. This is then taken to a conversion plant where it is turned into uranium hexafluoride. “The uranium hexafluoride,” the NEI states, “is heated to become a gas, then loaded into cylinders where it is cooled and condensed to a solid.”
Next the uranium hexafluoride is sent to an enrichment plant. The United States Enrichment Co. (USEC) in Paducah, Kentucky is the sole such facility in the U.S. There the substance’s uranium-235, which will be used to fuel nuclear reactors, is increased from 1 percent to 3.5 percent of the weight of the substance, with uranium-238 (also known as depleted uranium) being the balance of the enriched uranium. Finally the enriched uranium is sent to a nuclear fuel fabrication plant, like Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) in Wilmington, North Carolina. GNF is a partnership of General Electric, Toshiba, and Hitachi. According to GE, “GNF is comprised of manufacturing and fuel service facilities in the United States and Japan, as well as Spain.” GE and Hitachi are also forming another partnership to facilitate the construction of new nuclear plants around the planet.
In the U.S., 18 sites are being considered for the construction of 30 or more new nuclear plants. On January 8 two Japanese newspapers announced that the Japanese government “will provide trade insurance for [Japanese] firms helping to construct nuclear power plants in the U.S.” One of the newspapers, the Yomiuri Shimbun , said that Japanese plants are expected to help build all the U.S. new nukes “under a Japan-U.S. corporate alliance.” On January 10, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Akira Amari met in Washington to announce their Global Nuclear Energy Partnership under which they will help one another build new nuclear power plants.
Raleigh News & Observer
on December 23 that the truck that flipped was carrying “low-grade
uranium powder.” It also reported, “Tom Rumsey, a spokesperson
for Global Nuclear, said the overturned truck was one of four on
its way to Global Nuclear.… The facility receives up to 15
shipments a month.”
The article stated that the 6,000 pounds of radioactive powder was “in polycarbonate-lined stainless steel drums, which in turn are placed inside heavy metal shipping containers secured to a flatbed trailer.” Lee Cox of the North Carolina Radiation Protection agency told the RNO that “the outermost containers of the overturned truck remained securely bolted to the trailer after the crash.”
“There was no material, no contamination, no risk,” Cox said. However, there was also no mention of the condition of the steel drums inside the shipping containers. A report from Eric McErlain of the Nuclear Energy Institute stated, “A note from our friends at GE: team of GNF was dispatched to the scene and found the containers carrying the uranium were ‘virtually undamaged.’ They were reloaded and arrived at the facility in Wilmington at 6:00 AM [on 12/22].”
McErlain said the cargo was “low grade uranium or low-enriched uranium,” which “when properly fabricated into fuel pellets provides the heat source for nuclear reactors in the United States.”
McErlain’s friends at GE also told him that if the uranium had spilled, “the only risk for exposure is if the powder is inhaled or ingested, which can easily be avoided by the use of standard protective equipment.” Unfortunately most drivers on the nation’s interstates don’t carry such equipment.
McErlain added, “Out of 45 million radioactive material packages that have been shipped since 1971, accidents involved about 3,500. Of these, only 197 containing low level radiation sustained damage or failed, and in some accidents, released a small amount of material.” Even a small amount of radioactive material, however, can pose a large risk to those contaminated by it. Last November Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko found this out after someone slipped a radioactive mickey in his drink in London and he received a lethal dose.
A New York blogger and opponent of the Indian Point nuke plants in that state, who goes by the monicker of Porgie Tirebiter, conducted his own investigation of the accident and posted some very interesting information. Tirebiter began looking into the accident after he saw it reported on CNN, December 21, “with a single photo of the truck lying on its side…more details to follow. Problem is, those details never came forward.”
Tirebiter reported that Lee Cox of NC Radiation Protection told him over the phone that Lt. Mark Dalton of the NC Highway Patrol had declared the accident scene an exclusion zone, thus barring the media. Then Alan Maybry of Global Nuclear told Tirebiter “that the response team for the incident involved several hundred emergency responders.” Tirebiter also reported that one of the responding officials told him that a Homeland Security “incident commander” was at the accident scene.
Tirebiter also uncovered several more significant pieces of information otherwise unreported by the media. Donny Lester, one of the owners of Tri-State Motor Transport, whose truck flipped, “explained that…the fuel was from overseas, had been shipped into America on a cargo vessel…from some foreign country. They would not or could not identify the country of origin for these materials, so I called Lee Cox who verified that the material was from Kurihama, Japan.”
Kurihama is the site of Global Nuclear Fuel-Japan. On March 6, 2006, Business Wire reported that the company “has been awarded a contract by Chuba Electric Company to provide Mixed Oxide Fuel [MOX] for the utility’s Hamoaka nuclear power plant.” Global Nuclear Fuel’s CEO Jack Fuller said, “GNF is deeply honored and excited to receive this landmark order for MOX fuel from Chuba.” MOX is nuclear fuel made of plutonium and uranium. It’s reclaimed, or “reprocessed” from “spent” (commercially spent, highly radioactive, and weapons grade) fuel no longer usable in nuclear reactors—or from radwaste left over from nuclear weapons production.
The AP reported that “Duke Power spokesperson Rose Cummings said the MOX fuel…will be tested at the Catawba Nuclear Station on Lake Wylie…about 20 miles south of Charlotte.” The MOX plan is another phenomena that increases the transportation of radioactive materials on our highways and in our ports. It also demonstrates the globalization of the transportation of these materials by the established nuclear powers.
A nother such disturbing story appeared on January 4. The Associated Press reported, “An Oakland [California] bound truck carrying radioactive material from a nuclear plant in Paducah [Kentucky] was involved in a crash with another vehicle.” The truck was one of four that had just left the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant that morning. Each was carrying 5,000 pounds of uranium hexafluoride, a radioactive compound “used during the uranium enrichment process,” which in turn is “used to fuel nuclear reactors,” the AP reported. Uranium hexafluoride is also used in the production of nuclear weapons, according to NIRS. The local sheriff’s department stated, “There was no chemical spill in the wreck outside the plant on U.S. 60 in West Paducah.” Spokesperson Elizabeth Stuckle of United States Enrichment (USEC), which operates the Paducah plant, said, “The material was headed for the Port of Oakland in California to be shipped to an overseas customer.”
Stuckle told the AP, “USEC ships about 1200 cylinders of the substance on about 300 trucks in a typical year. USEC supplies 27 percent of the world’s uranium, providing fuel for 150 reactors on three continents.” The AP also reported, “USEC contracts with Transport Logistics International, the largest transporter of nuclear material within the United States.”
On January 8, the New Virginian newspaper, located in Virginia’s western Appalachian region, reported that, “Interstate 81 could soon become a major East Coast shipping route for nuclear waste destined for a New Mexico dumping ground.” I-81 runs the whole length of the western side of the state. “Plans call for roughly 147 shipments of leftovers from Cold War-era nuclear weapons tests,” the newspaper reported, “to come from sites in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Department of Energy confirmed.”
The first six shipments are slated to start next year at Babcock & Wilcox’s facility in Lynchburg, Virginia. That company builds nuclear reactors, most infamously the one that suffered a partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979. Lynchburg also hosts Framatome ANP, which, along with Global Nuclear Fuel and Westinghouse, are the U.S. companies that manufacture nuclear fuel rods.
The type of waste to be transported is called transuranic waste, highly radioactive waste that includes, most notably, plutonium, one of the most toxic substances in the world. Despite this, Gary Shirley of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management told the New Virginian : “[Transuranic waste is] a relatively innocuous compound, non-harmful unless you do something stupid…like eat it.” One speck of plutonium breathed into your lungs most likely will doom you to develop cancer.
The destination of these radioactive shipments will be the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico. There it will end up in deep underground caverns. WIPP opened in 1999, and is the nation’s only dump for transuranic radwaste. The New Virginian reported, “So far only two of the more than 5,000 deliveries to WIPP have resulted in more than just fender benders, experts report.” The newspaper reported that a container fell off one truck in Idaho. The driver of another truck had a seizure and the truck ran across the highway into oncoming traffic. Fortunately there were no collisions in the latter incident.
In another instance a truck arrived at WIPP and it was discovered that the radwaste had been loaded wrong, resulting in leakage en route. In fact, all such “nuclear packages” emit radiation because the hot cargo can’t be totally shielded, and if you get stuck in traffic near one, you’ll likely get zapped.
Mary Olson of NIRS has also reported on the transportation of nuclear materials on our roads in support of Bush’s new nuclear weapons programs. These included:
- truck shipments of plutonium from federal nuclear sites in western states to the Savannah River site in South Carolina to make plutonium nuclear fuel or triggers for nuclear weapons
- shipments of plutonium triggers to replace old ones or for new ones at Oak Ridge, Tennessee
- shipments of tritium rods to replace old ones in nuclear weapons, from commercial nuclear plants in Tennessee to the Savannah River site
- transportation of uranium hexafluoride to make nuclear fuel rods for Poseidon and Trident nuclear submarines
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.