Friday, 19 September 2014
Investigators at the U.S. National Cancer Institute will study the health of residents living near the Trinity nuclear test site in rural New Mexico, where the U.S. conducted the world’s first-ever detonation of an atomic bomb in 1945.
The study, set to begin Sept. 23, will be the most comprehensive look into the long-term health effects of the Trinity test, the Wall Street Journal reports. For years, many of the small town’s residents have experienced unusually high rates of cancer.
“I don’t think there’s a family in this community that hasn’t had a loved one die of cancer,” said Ray Cordova, the mayor of Tularosa, a small town roughly 35 miles from the Trinity site.
Earlier studies failed to consider the scope of risk involved in life near a nuclear test site–in ground, food, water and air contamination. A 2008 unreleased draft report by the National Cancer Institute found that children living near the site had thyroid radiation doses nearly thirty times that of the adults, according to the Wall Street Journal. A CDC report the following year focused on dietary risks, and found that because residents tended to consume homegrown food, they may be subject to higher radiation levels than expected.
Still, no studies have convinced lawmakers that the residents qualify for a federal compensation programs offered to those sickened by the fallout’s radiation: for the past several years, a bill to list residents near the Trinity site under the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act has been rejected repeatedly by Congress. Under Federal law, the villagers could be eligible for $50,000 payments who lived high-risk areas that developed certain types of cancer or other diseases.
Thursday, 18 September 2014
By Ian Youngs Arts reporter, BBC News
Full story & Pictures HERE
|Yoshiko Michitsuji - I Ran Toward My House Through a Sea of Flames, 1974|
|Yasuko Yamagata - Woman and Child Statue, 1974|
Artworks by survivors of the 1945 atomic bomb in Hiroshima are to go on show outside Japan for the first time.
The powerful and often disturbing paintings will feature in an exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery next month.
The pictures depict horrific scenes from 6 August 1945, when the first atomic bomb was dropped from a US aircraft during World War Two.
The images were created after a request by Japanese broadcaster NHK in the 1970s and later toured the country.
|Fumiko Ya - Hospital, 1973-4|
Twelve paintings and drawings by the so-called 'hibakusha', which translates as bomb-exposed people, will be included in The Sensory War 1914-2014 exhibition in Manchester.
They have been selected from more than 2,000 that were sent to NHK in 1974 and which were subsequently exhibited at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and around the country.
Between 60,000 and 80,000 people were killed instantly when the bomb was dropped in 1945. Many more died of the long-term effects of radiation sickness and the final death toll was calculated at 135,000.
The Sensory War exhibition explores "how artists have communicated the impact of war on the body, mind, environment and human senses" since World War One, according to the gallery.
The exhibition runs from 11 October to 22 February 2015.
Full story & Pictures HERE
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Saturday, 13 September 2014
Though it played out on the international stage, the arms race between the United States and the USSR took place mainly in rural, isolated parts of the world. The Americans tested their nuclear bombs on a desolate patch of Nevada. The Russians chose a barren polygon-shaped patch of what is now Kazakhstan.
The photographer Nadav Kander was arrested twice while visiting this so-called Polygon—aka the Semipalatinsk Test Site, a desolate area as big as New Jersey where the USSR detonated almost 500 nuclear bombs between 1949 and the fall of the Soviet Union. Kander was visiting to shoot his latest book, Dust, which documents the places where Russia set up—and later abandoned—its nuclear program.
In some cases, scientists build faux-towns and structures to test the impact of their bombs. In other cases, the towns were real, because the Polygon wasn't actually remote at all. In fact, it was quite close to human settlements, including the formerly closed city of Kurchatov, where The New York Times says Kander was arrested. By setting up the Polygon, the USSR set off a generations-long legacy of explosive cancer rates, birth defects, and other health problems in Kazakhstan, as io9 described last year.
And as the CTBTO explains, the people who lived there were, for all intents and purposes, part of the experiments:
They were normally told to refrain from lighting their iron cooking stoves when testing was taking place in case the fire flared back into the house. They were also warned to stay outside when an explosion was scheduled, since it might topple their house. Historical accounts of residents who were schoolchildren before 1962 indicate that windows were blown out of their schools and that their bodies convulsed when testing occurred.
The area became a closed, secret place which was only "put on the map," so to speak, by the advent of satellite intelligence. Today, you can visit the area with the help of specialized tour outfits.
Though the testing is over, the Polygon still poses a threat to the world today. Because so few records were kept of the test sites, and because of the fall of the Soviet Union and rocky transition into present-day Kazakstan, radioactive material still litters the area. According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the area was so saturated with plutonium and radioactive material, it would have been possible to make a dozen more bombs. And there it lay, free for the taking for anyone willing to look for it.
So for 17 years, a coalition of American, Russian, and Kazakh scientists worked on a top-secret mission to map, uncover, and secure the dangerous evidence of the Polygon's former life as the test bed for the USSR's nuclear might. That is a story unto itself—and in fact, it's already been written: Plutonium Mountain: Inside the 17-Year Mission to Secure a Legacy of Soviet Nuclear Testing. Despite the $150 million effort, the area is still highly contaminated (though more secure), and the people who live near it are still struggling with the legacy of the tests, which will likely endure for generations.
All images copyright Nadav Kander, courtesy Flowers Gallery London and New York.
Thursday, 11 September 2014
Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons
(Yuriko Nakao / Courtey Reuters)
After the Cold War, a nuclear-free world appeared to be within reach. However, the lack of a collective sense of ownership allowed the issue to fade from the public consciousness. Despite the establishment of a peaceful post–Cold War order, proliferation continued. Nuclear risks became more diverse. Now the world faces three key challenges.
First, under article VI of the NPT, the fundamental international framework for nuclear issues, parties pledge to “pursue negotiations in good faith” for nuclear disarmament. Yet the world has experienced a massive buildup of nuclear capabilities in a non-transparent manner. Today, there are over 16,000 nuclear weapons in existence -- more than enough to destroy mankind. Many of these weapons systems are said to remain on high alert, and the risk of accidental or unauthorized use continues to represent a tremendous concern.
Second, the world faces a myriad of regional proliferation challenges. In 2003, North Korea unilaterally declared its withdrawal from the NPT. Pyongyang conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013, and it still continues to develop its nuclear and missile programs. Iran’s nuclear program also remains a matter of concern for the international community, although there has been some progress since last year toward a resolution.
Third, terrorist groups and other nonstate actors are increasingly engaging in illegal proliferation activities through ever more sophisticated means. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), more than 100 cases of illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities and events involving nuclear and radioactive materials are recorded annually, with 146 such cases in 2013. Nuclear terrorism is a risk that the world must tackle with the utmost resolve.
Read the rest of this insightfull article by Fumio Kishida writing in Foreign Affairs HERE
Monday, 8 September 2014
KYZYLORDA , Kazakhstan, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- A 100-pound container of radioactive cesium-137, lost in Kazakhstan last week, has been found, the country's Interior Ministry reported.
After a call to police in the city of Kyzylorda, indicating a truck was driving through the city carrying the container, the vehicle was stopped and the driver and a passenger were detained.
Details of the loss of the radioactive material only mentioned it may have fallen off a truck a week ago. The incident sparked a renewed interest in a growing global problem, that of radioactive materials in countries unprepared to secure them and whether the material could eventually be part of radical groups' plans to build radioactive weapons known as "dirty bombs."
There were about 140 reported cases of missing or unauthorized use of nuclear and radioactive material in 2013, The International Atomic Energy Agency said.
Saturday, 6 September 2014
Tests by the state government of Saxony show that more than one in three wild boars gave off such high levels of radiation, thought to be a legacy of Chernobyl, that they were unfit for human consumptio.
Twenty-eight years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, its effects are still being felt as far away as Germany – in the form of radioactive wild boars.
Wild boars still roam the forests of Germany, where they are hunted for their meat, which is sold as a delicacy.
But in recent tests by the state government of Saxony, more than one in three boars were found to give off such high levels of radiation that they are unfit for human consumption.
Outside the hunting community, wild boar are seen as a menace by much of Germany society. Autobahns have to be closed when boar wander onto them, they sometimes enter towns and, in a famous case in 2010, a pack attacked a man in a wheelchair in Berlin.
But radioactive wild boars stir even darker fears.
They are believed to be a legacy of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, when a reactor at a nuclear power plant in then Soviet-ruled Ukraine exploded, releasing a massive quantity of radioactive particles into the atmosphere.
Even though Saxony lies some 700 miles from Chernobyl, wind and rain carried the radioactivity across western Europe, and soil contamination was found even further away, in France.
Wild boar are thought to be particularly affected because they root through the soil for food, and feed on mushrooms and underground truffles that store radiation. Many mushrooms from the affected areas are also believed to be unfit for human consumption.
Since 2012, it has been compulsory for hunters to have wild boar they kill in Saxony tested for radiation. Carcasses that exceed the safe limit of 600 becquerels per kg have to be destroyed.
In a single year, 297 out of 752 boar tested in Saxony have been over the limit, and there have been cases in Germany of boar testing dozens of times over the limit.
The radioactivity causes economic problems as well. Many hunters sell the boar as game, and across Germany hundreds of thousands of euros are paid out each year out in government compensation to hunters whose kills have to be destroyed.
"It doesn't cover the loss from game sales, but at least it covers the cost of disposal," Steffen Richter, the head of the Saxon State Hunters Association, told Bild newspaper.
Germany's radioactive boar problem is not expected to go away any time soon. With the levels of contamination still showing in tests, experts predict it could be around for another 50 years.
Original article Justin Huggler writing in The Telegraph