Nuclear Power Plants and Proliferation

“In terms of weapons, the best disarmament tool so far is nuclear energy. We have been taking down the Russian warheads, turning it into electricity. Ten percent of American electricity comes from decommissioned warheads. We haven't even started the American stockpile.”

Stewart Brand
February 2010
TED Conference Debate: Does the World Need Nuclear Energy?

“The ability to construct a weapon from reactor-grade plutonium was demonstrated decades ago. It is dangerous even to consider it an open question. Hans Blix, director-general of the IAEA, informed our Institute that there is 'no debate' on this point in the Safeguards Department of the IAEA, and that the agency considers virtually all isotopes of plutonium, including high burn-up reactor-grade plutonium, to be usable in nuclear weapons. In June 1994, U.S. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary declassified further details of a 1962 test of a nuclear device using reactor-grade plutonium, which successfully produced a nuclear yield.”

Steven Dolley, Research Director

It is one thing to lie in error or ignorance. One may be young, or new to a field of knowledge. If one is not taking speaking and consulting fees as an expert on the topic, and makes no claims to expertise, no one will think twice about the occasional utterance of pure bullshit. But this is not the case with Stewart Brand. He describes himself as a former member of Greenpeace, a veteran of the environmental movement who now speaks about the heresies of the movement he helped found. He gets to speak at TED conferences and earn a living being one of the select few who lead the conversation on how to save the world. He is a man of science, and as such he should apply the scientific method to his own assumptions. So if he wants to believe that nuclear energy is a fantastic disarmament tool, the first thing he should do is test this idea for negative evidence. Perhaps he has. It is not difficult to do. Reliable sources on the topic are found easily, and when he finds that the UN agency charged with promoting nuclear power disagrees with his assumption, he ought to desist from spreading this wrong information. Only he can answer why he hasn't done his homework, or if he has, why he deliberately lies about this question of nuclear power plants as disarmament tools.

This is not a trivial matter because this lie about nuclear power plants' capacity to “burn up” reactor grade plutonium is repeated often and taught to novices in the nuclear priesthood. They take it in as gospel truth and, like their teachers, are not inclined to question their beliefs as they solidify.
Many others have written about the nuclear proliferation implications of nuclear power plants. To speak of nuclear reactors as a solution to proliferation issues is a bad joke. If nuclear power plants were such a good solution to disposing of bomb-grade plutonium, Israel and the US would give their surplus plutonium to Iran and help them build a reactor to "burn it" up. 
There is a shred of truth in the argument because the bomb-grade fuel that is "burned" in reactors is turned into something more difficult to make a bomb with, but that’s all. The use of bomb-grade plutonium as fuel is not a solution to the ever increasing amounts of nuclear waste, nor will it ever lead to a final disarmament. Decommissioned warheads could just as well be sabotaged with impurities and put in permanent disposal. And we should not overlook the fact that, while some people talk of neutralizing Russian warheads, the US is still producing replacement plutonium pits in Los Alamos in order to refresh the aging inventory of plutonium in its arsenal. Have your weapons if you must, but don’t con us with some fairy tale that proliferation is slowing and disarmament is really happening.

Other sources:

In United States Circumvented Laws To Help Japan Accumulate Tons of Plutonium, Joseph Trento described how the US government at first worried about Japan accumulating plutonium from reactors if the US agreed to share nuclear technology.  Later, the US was a willing accomplice in letting Japan’s plutonium stockpile increase.

Herman Scheer (1944-2010) in The Energy Imperative wrote:

"Clearly, the existing nuclear weaponry or its aspired possession cannot be seen separately from the question of nuclear power. No state which owns and wishes to retain nuclear weapons (and none who is secretly striving for nuclear weapons or, without the knowledge of its own population, want to keep this option open) will be willing to give up its own nuclear power plants. If you have, or want, atomic bombs, not only do you need nuclear power plants, you also need the basis for the an atomic technology industry. For every nuclear power, nuclear technology is a 'double-use technology': having nuclear weaponry without one's own atomic technological potential is unthinkable, and maintaining such a potential solely to build nuclear weapons is almost unaffordable. Thus for as long as we have nuclear weapons, attempts will be made to stimulate a 'renaissance in nuclear power'. But no government will admit to holding on to its nuclear power plants simply to maintain this status. Instead, together with the atomic energy organizations, nuclear powers desperately seek justification for arguing that renewable energy alone is insufficient to meet energy demands. And this is how excellent nuclear scientific knowledge comes to be paired with ignorant arguments against renewable energy. Putting a stop to nuclear energy means nuclear disarmament, otherwise there will be ever greater and more influential attempts to limit renewable energy. Governments that recognize and work towards the target of using renewable energy to meet all their energy needs must also accept the goal of nuclear disarmament. Any other path would be inconsistent or blind to the true circumstances."

-Hermann Scheer, Social Democrat member of the German Bundestag Parliament, President of Eurosolar (The European Association for Renewable Energy) and General Chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy. The Energy Imperative. p. 160-161. Routledge, 2012.


The Real Problem with Renewables

While this is a blog calling for the end of nuclear energy, I've tried to keep an open mind about the pros and cons of all forms of energy, and I haven't been duped by the greens who like to gloss over the problems with renewable energy, but finally I think I have found an argument that really gets to the most serious deficiency of green energy:

from Lee Camp's Moment of Clarity
November 19, 2012:

"We like that there's a risk of chaos and death in tapping oil, coal and nuclear energy, oil spills and explosions, radioactive meltdowns, mine collapses, fracking earthquakes, inflammable tap water... Every two years a solar panel should explode with the force of a neutron star... you know, horrible, horrible stuff because... we want risk, we want death and destruction, screaming and explosions, we want to feel like we captured a dragon that could escape at any moment wreaking havoc on our way of life.. So all I'm saying is: wind and solar and other renewable energies, if you want to save this planet, start killing more people. Then, and only then, will we consider you a player."

Watch the whole four-minute explanation on Lee Camp's brilliant Moment of Clarity channel on Youtube.


No Exit

On February 1, 2010, a luminous sign manufacturer in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada accidentally released tritium gas to the atmosphere. The radiation release was 147 x 10E+12 Becquerels (Bq)! (147,000,000,000,000 – the E+ symbol is a way of showing positive exponents without using superscript). That's 3,973 Curies, if I did my calculations right (1 Curie = 3.7 x 10E+10 Bq).
This event went unreported and unnoticed by the world, probably because not even critics of nuclear power could know what the implications for public health were. The number is large and shocking, but this illustrates once again how confusing these mega-numbers are to anyone who is trying to understand the risks of nuclear energy. The more the number of zeroes goes up, the more numbing and senseless the figures seem to become, and the numbers themselves don’t tell anything about how the particular radionuclide interacts with living things, or how fast it disperses, decays, or leaves the human body. Tritium (a hydrogen atom with two extra neutrons) is an extremely dangerous substance to handle in even small amounts of less than a milligram, and catastrophic accidents are possible, but it has been difficult to prove any harm from the way that it has been handled in the nuclear industry.
The accident in Canada illustrates a point often made by antinuclear activists: there is no place to run, and no way to know for sure what you might be running from or toward. The message is there for you in the tritium-illuminated signs found in most public buildings, reminding you that man-made radioactivity is now everywhere.
The Fukushima accident is said to have released 511 x 10+E18 Bq (six more zeroes than the release of tritium in Canada, but hey, after the first twelve zeroes, who’s counting?) of Iodine 131 to the air, most of which blew out to sea and decayed away within a month. Iodine 131 poses a larger health risk because of its absorption in the thyroid, but there is a lot of guesswork in figuring out how much of the amount released was absorbed by people. One could run from this danger only to be caught downwind from the next accident, whether it comes from a meltdown or a luminous sign factory.
Another interesting dimension of the Canadian accident is that it highlighted an absurdity in the way the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) sets its safety limits. Gordon Edwards reported on this in a recent article for Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. (“Nuclear Regulator Allows ‘Tritium Unlimited.’” Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. September 15, 2012.)

Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, April 2012
He described how on Feb. 1, 2010,  Shield Source Incorporated (SSI), the maker of luminous signs in Peterborough, released 147 x 10E+12 Bq of radiation from tritium gas to the atmosphere, tritium which it buys from Ontario’s nuclear power stations. This was 29% of the company’s permitted annual limit of 500 x 10E+12 Bq. Yet the CNSC also had a derived release limit for the company: 34 x 10E+18 Bq!
Gordon Edwards cites another report done in 2009 by Dr. Ole Hendrickson, writing for Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County (where Peterborough is located):

“CNSC has currently set the derived release limit for HT at 3.4 X 10E+19 Bq/year. This is over 200 times higher than the total global natural tritium production rate, and more than the ten times the total world steady state natural inventory of tritium. Each year during the past five years, in theory, SSI could have emitted more than ten times the world’s current natural tritium inventory. Had they done so, tritium levels in rainfall, and in every water body in the world, would have risen several hundred-fold, reaching levels exceeding those measured at the peak of nuclear weapons testing in 1963. This would have triggered a global health crisis. There would have been a tremendous outcry from scientists, health professionals and civil society around the world. This scenario, of course, is impossible. All the reactors in Canada could not produce enough tritium for SSI to do this. The derived release limit is literally absurd.”

The CNSC says the derived limits “represent an estimate of a release that could result in a dose of 1 mSv to an exposed member of the public” and this forces them, in the case of tritium, to imagine an extremely large release.
Dr. Hendricksen goes on to say, “SSI’s derived release limit is absurd, and has no legal effect. So why have two so-called “limits” for radioactive emissions from a Canadian nuclear facility? The answer is simple… [this practice]… assures the public that radiation releases – whether “routine” or “accidental” – are of no concern. For years, Canada’s nuclear regulatory agency has used derived release limits in this fashion.”
Regardless of the continuation of the derived limits, Gordon Edwards concludes by noting that in May 2012 it was learned that SSI had been violating its license for at least two years, and since then it has not been allowed to engage in tritium handling operations.

About Tritium:

Tritium produced from nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s and 1960s was dispersed into the global atmosphere and reached 120 Bq/L in precipitation in Ottawa in the mid-1960s. Concentrations since then have steadily declined and are now about 2 to 3 Bq/L across Canada.
Tritium exposure can pose a health risk if it is ingested through drinking water or food, or inhaled or absorbed through the skin in large quantities. The Canadian public is not at risk from tritium intakes at current levels. There is no evidence of adverse health effects, based on biological experiments, observations of humans following accidental intakes of tritium, or routine surveillance of radiation workers at these levels.
Tritium taken in as tritiated water has a biological half-life of 10 days, which means half of the tritium is excreted in this time. However, a small amount does become organically bound (bound to proteins, fat and carbohydrates) with an average 40-day half-life.

Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen (H-3), with a half-life of 12.3 years. It is found in small amounts in nature (about 4 kg globally), created by cosmic ray interactions in the upper atmosphere. Tritium is considered a weak radionuclide because of its low-energy radioactive emissions (beta particle energy 0 -19 keV). The beta particles do not travel very far in air and do not penetrate skin, so the main hazard is intake into the body (inhalation, ingestion, or absorption).
Tritium is generated in the fuel of all reactors; however, CANDU reactors generate tritium also in their coolant and moderator, due to neutron capture in heavy hydrogen.

Allowable tritium level in Canadian drinking water: 7,000 Bq/liter. The figures for the EU, Finland and Australia are, in order, 100, 30,000, and 76,000.

1.     Tritium emits 10,000 curies/gram, or 3.7 x 10E+14 decays/second
2.     US reactors emit 1/10 of a gram/year, sometimes one gram.
3.     CANDU reactors release 20 times more than US reactors.
4.     One gram of tritium in the body would bring a rapid death.
5.     Amounts released by reactors must be tremendously diluted.
6.     The American EPA standard for tritium is 740 decays/second per liter of drinking water (about 1/10th of the Canadian limit). (1 decay/second equals one Bq).
7.     If a human body holds 40L water, this would equal 30,000 decays/second, assuming a person drank water at the limit to the point that all water in his body was replaced by contaminated water. [Regulatory limits seem to be based on the assumption that this prolonged exposure will never happen. It is assumed that emergencies will be of short duration and people will get alternative sources of water.]
8.     Natural radiation in the body (from radioactive potassium, K-40) = 4,400 decays/second.
source:  Ace Hoffman. The Code Killers. 2008. p. 10. www.acehoffman.org  

“The World’s Leading Manufacturer of Self-Luminous Safety Signs…  no wiring, electricity, maintenance, lamps to replace [with] gaseous tritium light sources (GTLS)… These days it’s all about GREEN environmentally friendly products and there’s nothing GREENER than our self-luminous signs.  Our innovative technology transforms a waste product [tritium] into a commercially viable life safety device whose components, at the end of its’ effective life, can be recycled.”

Further reading:

Tritium leaks at Peterborough airport: Four NGOs call for shutdown, protest re-licensing.” Straight Goods.ca. April 12, 2012.

Gordon Kennedy, “Activists unfurl Welcome to the Tritium Zone banner on Hwy. 7/115.” The Peterborough Examiner. April 20, 2012.

Zach Ruiter, “Nuclear Radiation in Ontario: Tritium Toxic Emissions have Increased Dramatically in Peterborough.” Center for Research on Globalization. April 26, 2012.

Jessica Murphy. "Green groups raise Peterborough radiation fears." The Toronto Sun. April 11, 2012.


Free Stuff!

A group of writers from The Japan Times and The Kyoto Journal have published a book of articles and interviews about Japan’s road to nuclear ruin and its future options for energy alternatives: Fresh Currents: Japan’s Flow from a Nuclear Past to a Renewable Future. The book was financed by donations through an Indiegogo campaign. Digital copies can be downloaded for free and a printed version can be ordered for 2,000 yen.

An excerpt:

Aileen Mioko Smith’s List of…

Ten Strategies Taken by State, Prefectural Governments, Academic Flunkies and Companies in the Cases of Minamata and Fukushima:

Do not take responsibility. Use sectionalism to pin blame on others.
Confuse victims and public opinion, creating the impression that there are pros and cons on each side.
Position victims in conflict with each other.
Do not record data or leave evidence.
Stall for time.
Conduct tests or surveys that will produce underestimated results on damage.
Wear victims down until they give up.
Create an official certification system that narrows down the victim numbers.
Do not release information abroad.
Call on academic flunkies to hold international conferences.

What is the most important thing everyone should know?
“If you don’t have a functioning democracy, the mistakes of the past will just keep being repeated. And not just with nuclear power.”

Eric Johnston. “Aileen Mioko Smith on Post-Fukushima Realities.” Fresh Currents. Kyoto Journal Heian-Kyo Media. October 2012. p. 84-93. www.freshcurrents.com.

Another great free resource is the book published by Ace Hoffman, a writer from California who has worked diligently on nuclear issues for many years, especially on the problems surrounding the San Onofre NPP.  His book The Code Killers... 

... is the perfect solution for the biggest problem encountered in citizen involvement in nuclear issues. The science is just too bizarre, un-intuitive and complex for most people to engage with easily. His book, presented in the design style of a graphic novel, breaks down the complexity into bite-sized chunks. Anyone who reads it can quickly gain basic literacy in nuclear science.


America’s Fukushima

Book review of Full Body Burden, by Kristen Iversen. The story of growing up in Rocky Flats, Colorado, the site of a mismanaged and dangerous nuclear bomb factory on the outskirts of Denver. Plutonium production facilities in a suburban paradise? Maybe not such a good idea.

The Rocky Flats Plant, Arvada, Colorado
There is a common perception that the scale of nuclear fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster is matched only by the Chernobyl accident of 1986. That may be accurate, but there are other travesties of nuclear history that are less well known and possibly equally consequential in terms of their impacts on environmental and human health. These other cases are important for the lessons they can teach about the contentious struggles that occur when a population is exposed to radiation and seeks remedies to the injustice of being poisoned by an industrial crime.
One such case is the sixty-year history of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons factory, presently called, dubiously, The Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge, protecting the “threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.”

Ask yourself, “When I was a teenager, how many people of my age, in my school or in my neighborhood, do I recall having cancer?” If you were living, like most people, in a reasonably clean environment, the answer is probably none, or one at the most. If there had suddenly been several children and teenagers in your community getting cancer, you might have reasonably suspected that something toxic was in the local environment, and you would have come to this conclusion quickly instead of waiting for the responsible authorities to conduct scientific studies.
Kristen Iversen, in her book Full Body Burden, tells the story of Rocky Flats (twenty-six kilometers northwest of Denver) and her experience of growing up within sight of the bomb factory. In her case, she knew several children and teenagers around her who developed cancer. In addition, as years went by, she observed many adults, including herself and her family members, develop cancer and other illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome and immune system disorders. The Department of Energy and other government agencies have never done health studies on the nearby populations who were most likely to be affected by plutonium contamination. Even though investigations by the FBI and the EPA over the years have confirmed the extent to which the plant was mismanaged and the surrounding area was contaminated, the government has always maintained the line that levels of plutonium in the environment are not high enough to have impacted health. Residents had volumes of anecdotal evidence of deformed livestock and unusually high rates of cancers and other serious illnesses, but this was never enough to prompt the proper studies and official recognition of health effects from the operation of the Rocky Flats bomb factory. Such is the way it goes with all cases of nuclear accidents, and most cases of chemical pollution. The studies most likely to produce unwelcome results are never funded.

I wrote a point form summary (below) of the Rocky Flats story told in Full Body Burden, but other good coverage has been done in the numerous reviews that have been published in recent months (Kirkus Reviews, The Denver Post). If you have read this far, you might be interested enough to take thirty minutes to watch the videos below of physicist and nuclear expert Tom Cochrane describing what he testified in official investigations into the environmental crimes at Rocky Flats. He explains the nature of plutonium and the hazards of handling it, then describes the criminal mismanagement of Rocky Flats that lasted over several decades. His detailed and dispassionate report describes the history in terms of fire safety, waste disposal, plutonium inventory control, and management of nuclear criticality dangers. The first three get a failing grade, while the last squeaks by with a D only because, in spite of the poor controls, good luck prevailed and there never was the serious criticality event that could have left Denver uninhabitable.

Once you know about the crimes against the environment at Rocky Flats, and understand recklessness, cowardice, greed and complacency that caused them, you see in a new light how fatuous it was of American radiation specialists to come to Fukushima offering their so-called years of expertise in radioactive decontamination. All they could offer is the lesson of their negative example and the knowledge gained by trial and error.
Chinook winds blow the plutonium-laden dust far and wide.
Plutonium plume from the 1957 fire at Rocky Flats

Notes on Rocky Flats history

1.        The facility was operated by Dow Chemical from 1953-75, and Rockwell International from 1975-1989, under contract from the Atomic Energy Commission, (later the Department of Energy). Afterwards, the lengthy process of decommissioning began.
2.        The plant processed large amounts of plutonium to make the triggers for thermonuclear weapons. Workers, the local environment, and residents downwind were contaminated with high levels of plutonium, radioactive substances such as uranium, cesium, strontium, and beryllium, in addition to various non-radioactive hazardous chemicals.
3.        The area is subjected to extremely strong winds called Chinooks. The contaminants travelled far from the local area. Plutonium is most harmful as an internal contaminant, and the most dangerous pathway into the body is through breathing.
4.        Two fires, in 1957 and 1969, spewed large amounts of plutonium into the air and came very close to being catastrophic for the city of Denver.
5.        Production quotas always took precedence over safety, especially when there were bonuses involved for the workers and for contractor revenue.
6.        According to their contracts with the government, the contractors Dow and Rockwell were indemnified against legal claims, so legal costs, damage costs and fines were paid by taxpayers. What they did have to pay amounted to small fractions of the assets of these large corporations.
7.        Awareness of the problems grew during the 1970s, and opposition eventually led to the United States government prosecuting itself. There was a surprise raid at Rocky Flats by the FBI and EPA which was launched under the pretext that the FBI wanted to discuss anti-terrorism protocols with the plant management and the Department of Energy.
8.        After the FBI-EPA investigation, a grand jury convened for three years but in the end, unknown entities within the Justice Department ordered the case closed. The grand jury was denied its duty to hand down an indictment. Rockwell International escaped indictment, the file was sealed and jurors were ordered to not speak, but they did anyway.
9.        MUF. Plutonium Missing or Unaccounted For – this is the acronym for plutonium that might have disappeared through errors of accounting or record keeping, gone to the environment (which also means into persons’ lungs, bones and gonads), to theft, to being mixed with other waste materials, or into ducts and other parts of buildings. In total, the MUF is enough to make numerous weapons.
10.     Successful decontamination tended to be defined by the budget allocated to it. It was supposedly just a fortunate coincidence, according to officials, that the site was cleaned up and declared a wildlife refuge for a fraction of the original estimate.
11.     The government refused to do the most pertinent health studies of the people who lived in the nearby suburban communities.
12.     Thousands of people moved into the area because of real estate greed and bureaucratic denial of the hazards to health. Once people had moved in, concerns about property values and the jobs provided by Rocky Flats turned residents into allies of the entities that were poisoning their children. This continues to be the case now that developers want to build close to the newly opened Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge.
13.     There is still contention over how to define the site. Some say it should be called a sacrifice zone, with signage and public education that tells the world what happened there. Instead, it has been defined as a wildlife refuge. The label “wildlife refuge” is a compromise that keeps people and development out of the contaminated zone but stops short of informing the public of the ongoing danger and the history of the site.
14.     Inside Rocky Flats buildings, and in other similar factories in America and other nuclear states, there are places nicknamed “eternity rooms.” These are places so contaminated that decontamination work is impossible.

The FBI and EPA investigation against Rockwell International and the Department of Energy

1.  The allegations:
a.   concealment of criminal activity
b.   false certification
c.   improper storage
d.   illegal discharge of pollutants
e.   concealed incineration of pollutants
2.  Employees were threatened not to become whistle blowers.
3.  Rockwell sued the DOJ, EPA and DOE, saying it couldn’t deliver the contracted services if the price included conforming to environmental standards.
4.  DOE cancelled the contract with Rockwell.
5.  1989 – Grand Jury trial, lasted 2.5 years.
6.  Jurors were ordered to decide on the suitability of proceeding with indictments.
7.  A worker who testified was deliberately poisoned with plutonium by coworkers who feared for their jobs.
8.  The jury voted to indict on numerous charges, against numerous individuals.
9.  At the conclusion of the grand jury trial, the DOJ prosecutor refused to sign indictments regarding 400 violations.
10.  The prosecutor negotiated a plea bargain instead:
a.  $18.5 million fine – 1/6 of 1% of Rockwell’s annual sales, less than the bonuses paid to Rockwell at Rocky Flats for that year.
b.  Rockwell was reimbursed by taxpayers for $7.9 million in legal fees.
c.  Rockwell was indemnified against future claims and allowed to bid on future government contracts.
d.  The judge ordered the records sealed.
e.  No individuals were prosecuted for crimes.
f.  The jury was ordered to remain silent.
g. The jury wrote a report and asked the judge to make it public, but the request was refused.
h.  Someone on the jury leaked the report to the media anyway.
11. The significant question emerging from this was whether government agencies could be held accountable at all. Considering the old saying “you can’t fight city hall,” it is a much bigger question to ask how individuals can fight a global superpower over the effects of its defense policy of building thousands of nuclear weapons.
12. Government contractors like Rockwell were only fulfilling the obligations of their contracts with the government. How could they be blamed for helping to fulfill government policy?
14. How do you prosecute the government for national policy that lasts over decades?
15. After this case, more workers began to suffer health problems and they brought other lawsuits against Rockwell and the Department of Energy, with only limited success.

   Full Body Burden could have been a typical non-fiction, blow-by-blow account of an environmental and public health tragedy, but Kristen Iversen makes it more powerful and poignant by weaving it with the story of herself and her family coming out of years of denial – denial that weaves together the personal and the political.
In the year and a half that has elapsed since the Fukushima meltdowns, I’ve been perplexed by how much a government can abuse and disdain its own people with so little fear of consequences. I’ve seen 60,000 people march in the streets of Tokyo, and I’ve seen the weekly demonstrations at the Prime Minister’s residence. 10,000 people are trying to force public prosecutors to open a criminal prosecution of TEPCO management.  But still, the majority are silent. In raw numbers, the opposition movement is impressive, but the majority do not want to face up to the reality that their nation has become a nuclear waste depository.
When she was younger, Kristen Iversen was no different than this cowed majority, and this is the most surprising aspect of her story. When she was a college student, her boyfriend argued with her over her political apathy and refusal to join the Rocky Flats protests. She drove by the demonstrators thinking they were just a bunch of students and housewives who want to get their names in the papers. She asked, “Don’t you think the government would tell us if it weren’t safe?” It took years for this defensive stance to break down.
Thus her story, and my daily encounters with Japanese youth, force me to reject the conventional view that youth is a rebellious stage of life. In fact, it’s not and probably never was. Only a minority of young people can afford to be rebellious, which explains why the revolutionaries of history usually came from the comfortable bourgeoisie. For most people, youth is a time of conservatism and ambition. Young people generally have faith in the society they will have to join, and they move into it unquestioningly.
Young people are naïve and lack confidence in their own knowledge. For all they know, those nuclear warheads really are necessary for world peace. And the reality is as incredible as a fantasy that alien invaders built the pyramids. The world is littered with nuclear waste that will last 100,000 years and thousands of bombs pose an existential threat to humanity? Go on. Who would do such a thing? Get out of here.
The young haven’t had decades of life experience to absorb this information. Why would any young person be inclined to swallow the red pill and forever turn away from life’s comfortable certainties? It takes most people a very long time to realize, that no, actually, the government wouldn’t always tell you if it were unsafe.
Young adults have also been worked hard and conditioned to compete and conform, and they want the prizes that have been promised. They want freedom from parents, they want to party, fall in love, get laid, and most of all they want to get their share. They claim these things as if they are rights guaranteed by a UN declaration. If some of them see clearly, they might think, like Jim Morisson, "I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames." But no one gains anything by laying himself down on the railway tracks leading to a plutonium processing facility, whether it is in Rocky Flats, Colorado or Rokkasho, Japan. If inconvenient facts get in the way, they will be denied and ignored. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to lose your illusions. The great achievement of Full Body Burden is that it will help readers accelerate this process.

Plutonium production elsewhere?

The list below is other plutonium production facilities used by all the members of the United Nations Security Council to make plutonium for nuclear weapons. Of the five countries listed, only two of them (China and France) experienced no known incidents that released high levels of radiation to the environment.

The plutonium for the first British hydrogen bomb was made in Chalk River, Ontario, Canada, then production moved to Windscale and Sellafield, UK in the 1950s. Chalk River also provided 250 kg of plutonium for American nuclear weapons, in spite of its stated purpose of existing for the peaceful uses of atomic energy. There were major accidents at Windscale in 1957 and Chalk River in 1952 and 1958.



Soviet Union/Russia
Mayak Production Association (major accidents in 1957 and 1968, and several minor incidents)

United States of America
Rocky Flats, Colorado, Hanford, Washington, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and various other facilities. Major releases of contamination at Rocky Flats in the fires of 1957 and 1969.

Further interest:
The documentary film Dark Circle (1982) on Youtube. About the film.

The Doors. The Cosmic Movie.
Well we're all in the cosmic movie - you know that 
means the day you die you got to watch
your whole life recurring eternally forever, 
so you better have some good incidents
happening there... and a fitting climax. 
I tell you this, I don't know what's
gonna happen man, but I'm wanna have
my kicks before the whole shit house
goes up in flames.