The Nuclear Economy Drive : What a Difference 2 Decades Make, Dr Gale

Counting The Cost Nuclear Plant Disclosures Shatter Public`s Trust In Government.
April 28, 1991|By ROBERT PETER GALE, Special to the Los Angeles Times

The Chernobyl reactor accident dramatically changed attitudes toward nuclear issues — especially regarding the potential consequences of a nuclear war.

A few years ago a Soviet general told me, “We have looked into hell with Chernobyl.“ Reactions like this surely influenced the Soviet Union`s willingness to negotiate the intermediate nuclear forces reduction treaty and led, ultimately, to ending the Cold War.

With this phase of our postwar history ended, the United States is tallying the cost. Ironically, Americans may have been the major victims. The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency recently disclosed data on the handling of radioactive substances at nuclear weapons plants, especially plutonium production at Hanford, Wash.

The Hanford plant, besides contaminating the air, dumped radioactive materials into the soil that reached the water supply, including the Columbia River, where radioactive fish have been detected.

The result was that almost 250,000 people in Washington, Oregon and Idaho were exposed to forms of radioactive iodine, strontium-89, cesium-137 and other radionuclides.

Some children living downwind of the plant received thyroid radiation doses that can cause hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer.

Especially troubling is a recent disclosure that technetium-99 and iodine- 129 were found in soil samples. If you think plastic-foam boxes are a problem, consider these radioisotopes, which will be around for 2 million to 160 million years.

Making matters worse is a recent Department of Energy report that several radioactive-waste storage tanks at Hanford produce combustible gases and pose an imminent risk of exploding. Similar problems are thought to affect other nuclear weapons production, research and testing sites throughout the United States.

The Department of Energy has recently released data regarding radiation exposure to workers in nuclear weapons plants and at test sites, affecting about 600,000 people. Other civilian exposures occurred at or near sites in Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, Georgia and Ohio.

After 45 years, the burden of proof is shifting from the victims to the government. As many as 2 million Americans may have been exposed to radiation because of the nuclear arms race.

Certainly similar events have occurred in the Soviet Union. Claims of radiation-related ill-health from Soviets living downwind of the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan are remarkably similar to American “down-winders.“ Also, the Soviet authorities recently released data confirming an explosion at the Kyshtym nuclear wastes storage site in the Urals in 1957; scores of towns suddenly disappeared from official maps; a huge area remains contaminated. In September, an explosion in a nuclear fuels plant at Ust-Kamenogorsk released beryllium, a toxic non-radioactive chemical, over a large and densely populated area.

Why has the U.S. government suddenly decided to discuss these issues? Several factors most likely are responsible.

First, the end of hostilities and seeming imminent economic collapse of the Soviet Union make it difficult to justify classifying such data as military secrets.

Next, the environment is rapidly becoming the global political issue for the 1990s.

Finally, these are problems that will not go away with time (the half-life of plutonium-239 is 24,000 years). Better address them now. end quote. Yessir Dr Gale Sir.

Then, 2 decades later

I’ll drink radioactive water, says nuclear safety adviser Dr Robert Gale

by: Rick Wallace, Tokyo correspondent
From: The Australian
March 29, 2011 12:00AM

AN international medical specialist on radiation has played down the risks to human health of the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

Robert Gale, who led the medical response to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, backed the current 20km evacuation zone as “arbitrary but reasonable” and said he was happy to drink iodine-contaminated water even beyond the 300 becquerel per kilogram limit set by the Japanese.

“We live with radioactive water all the time,” Professor Gale said in Tokyo yesterday.

“Would I stop drinking water in Tokyo or take any special precautions? Absolutely not. These limits are arbitrary. They’re meant to protect the most sensitive members of the population. They accept very low levels of risk.”

News that tapwater in parts of Tokyo and other affected prefectures last week rose above the 100 becquerel per litre limit of iodine 131, caused by fallout from the nuclear plant, sparked panic buying of bottled water supplies.

Professor Gale, who is advising the Japanese government on the Fukushima crisis, said that to prevent alarm, it needed to give better context to the information it was releasing on radiation levels.

“I don’t think proper attention has been given by any government – not only by the Japanese government – to the transmission of information to the public as to what these radiation hazards mean,” he said.

The professor criticised foreign governments for imposing different exclusion zones to those ordered by Japan. The US imposed an 80km evacuation zone for its nationals, a move that was soon followed by Britain, Australia and other countries.

end quote.

Why the difference between the USA in 91 and Japan 2011 Gale?

The Japanese government advised parents not to give tap water to infants and young children in Tokyo.

Gale waltzes in and apparently counter-commands it. Meanwhile, in 91 he was all for cleanup and justice for Americans. Oh well.

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