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Home » Controversies about Radon and Radioactivity – Part 2

Controversies about Radon and Radioactivity – Part 2

Experiments on Human Subjects

From 1944 until 1974, the federal government funded radiation experiments on humans. In 1994, President Clinton appointed the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. It reviewed 4,000 recorded human radiation experiments and hundreds of intentional radiation releases, which involved tens of thousands of unsuspecting subjects. A stack of copies of the “Nuremberg Code of Medical Ethics,” which prohibits medical experimentation on people without their consent, was found in Defense Department files, all stamped “top secret.”

Experiments were conducted on children, seriously ill and sometimes comatose patients, African-Americans, and prisoners. The poor were appropriate subjects because, as a professor at Emory University explained, “We felt we had a right to get some return from them, since it wouldn’t be in professional fees and since our taxes were paying their hospital bills.”

Since the very beginning of the Manhattan Project people were injected with plutonium or uranium. Total body irradiation experiments at the University of Cincinnati recorded eight deaths. Radiation doses were given to fetuses and hundreds of women at the Vanderbilt University. Prisoners’ testicles were irradiated in Washington state and Oregon. Orphans at a school in Boston were fed plutonium-laced milk. Johns Hopkins University invented the radium nasal irradiation procedure given to schoolchildren nationwide and to military personnel. At a state school in Massachusetts, institutionalized mentally retarded children were lured into experiments by special treats like extra milk, occasional outings, and membership in a “Science Club.”

On many occasions between 1944 and 1968, radiation was deliberately released mostly from nuclear weapons complexes to observe the impact on the population and environment. In the infamous 1949 “Green Run” release, a huge cloud of radioactive gas was secretly discharged from the Hanford site in Washington state.

Hundreds of uranium miners died unnecessarily of lung cancer. The Atomic Energy Commission deliberately did not advise them on the dangers of radon and proper mine ventilation systems were not installed, but data on their health were secretly collected.

The Human Radiation Experiments by Alan R Cantwell Jr., M.D.

Radioactive Wedding Rings?

(Disclaimer: Not just another excuse to avoid the “big commitment.”)

In the early 1980s, the New York State Health Department discovered that some gold jewelry was radioactive. The likely source of the radioactive gold was a state-owned institute for cancer research. News accounts reported that at least 14 people developed finger cancer and some had suffered finger or partial hand amputations from wearing the radioactive rings.

On a much larger scale, The Washington Post reported in 1999 that radioactive gold recovered from dismantled nuclear warheads made its way into the jewelry industry. The gold and other metals were stripped away from the circuitry and plating of the warheads and smelted at Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky since the 1950s.

A worker found radioactive gold flakes in an old mold used to make gold ingots. The flakes were found to emit radiation at an alarming rate of 500 milirems an hour. In comparison, the average person receives about 250 milirem of radiation per year from all sources, including radon, X-rays, and cosmic radiation.

Gold jewelry made out of such contaminated gold would give the wearer twice as much radiation each hour as most people receive in a year.

Ex-employees, who later sued the plant over exposure to plutonium, claimed that the gold bars were not checked for radiation prior to their release.

Although the recycling of gold at Paducah was a secret, it became public in 1980 when one of the gold bars was stolen by an employee and sold to a jewelry store.

Department of Energy confirmed that gold was recovered from dissembled nuclear weapons at Paducah since the 1950s but stated that it was not contaminated with radioactive material.

Two years later, DOE clarified that millions of pounds of radioactive metals were released into the stream of commerce from the Paducah plant, but the radiation levels were so low that they were unlikely to pose health risks. This included between 2,800 and 5,300 pounds of gold shipped to the U.S. Treasury and some commercial facilities. DOE stated that the potential exposure to the public was less than one-tenth of annual natural background radiation levels.

(Sources: The Washington Post 08/14/1999; Environment News Service August 1999; February 2001)

Radon up your Nose!

Irradiation of people blossomed into big business for Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore since its humble beginnings in 1912. Hopkins then decided to participate in the emerging radioactivity craze and sent one of their experts to Vienna to purchase 200 milligrams of radium. He carried it for a few hours in a lead wrapping in his pocket, but soon developed nausea and skin burns that took weeks to heal. In the 1930s, Hopkins devised an applicator with a capsule containing radon gas that could be inserted into the nose to irradiate and shrink adenoids and cure deafness.

The bid break came during World War II. Before the advent of pressurized planes, about one third of Air Force pilots was grounded by temporary deafness caused by air pressure changes during flight. Submariners and divers had similar problems. Hopkins claimed it had the cure and obtained a contract from the government to set up irradiation programs at military bases. Long-lasting radium replaced radon in the applicators and tens of thousands of servicemen were treated over the next 20 years. At least 5,000 submariners were treated in Groton, CT, and many thousands of civilians after the physician set up lucrative private practice in New London, CT.

From the ’40s to the ’60s, up to 2.6 million American children were treated with Nasal Radium Irradiation, a procedure promoted by Johns Hopkins, for enlarged adenoids or tonsils and mundane problems, such as head colds, stuffy noses, sore throats, and ear infections. The radioactive doses to children were 2,000-13,000 rad to nasopharynx, 100 rad to thyroid, 50-100 rad to the pituitary gland, and 15-40 rad to the brain. This “amazing” treatment reportedly helped children blossom into higher grades, improved their self-esteem, and even their looks.

Although radiation was proven harmful already in 1940s, Hopkins still claimed in 1960: “These treatments have now been given for more than a quarter of a century to hundreds of thousands of patients and no instance of damage from irradiation has yet been reported.”

Decades later, tumors, thyroid and immune disorders, brittle teeth, reproductive problems and various bizarre diseases started to appear. The government appointed an Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, chaired by a professor of bioethics at Johns Hopkins. It decided to provide screening and health care to Veterans who received NRI. But, although the cancer risk to treated schoolchildren is ten times higher, it declined even to notify civilian patients. Johns Hopkins and the government have never admitted any liability.

Fair Treatment The Hartford Courant 4/17/99: Federal government does little for suffering civilians

Nazis – the Health Pioneers?

Smokers who call intolerant non-smokers “Nazis” are not entirely wrong. Adolf Hitler, just like Mussolini and Franco, was a non-smoker and personally directed anti-smoking campaigns.

German scientists recognized already in 1930’s, decades ahead of others, that smoking causes lung cancer. Nazis founded the “National Socialist Institute for the Study of the Dangers of Tobacco” with the mission to protect the mankind against one of its most dangerous poisons. Smoking was branded as socially undesirable and was forbidden in many public places. Tobacco advertising was strictly regulated and athletically or sexually oriented cigarette advertising was prohibited. Smokers, who frequently missed work due to sickness, were forced into nicotine withdrawal clinics. Western agents sent to Nazi Germany had to first sand off tobacco stains from their fingers to avoid detection.

Decades ahead of modern Western governments, the Nazi government pursued public health policies and declared a “War on Cancer.” Nazi propaganda promoted health as everybody’s primary goal and responsibility.

They carried out massive campaigns for early detection of cancer. Women were shown how to examine their breasts for cancer, and men were advised to have their prostate examined as frequently as they check their car engines. The Nazis waged a large-scale anti-smoking campaign.

German scientists recognized that radon causes lung cancer and reduced the radon exposure to miners by proper ventilation. They were also the first to recognize that asbestos causes lung cancer and that asbestosis is an occupational disease. The Nazis invented occupational health and safety. They placed thousands of physicians in factories to monitor the health and safety of German workers.

The Nazis were promoting healthy nutrition: whole-grain bread (baker shops were forced to produce it by law), fruits, vegetables, and less meat. Soy beans became politically correct and earned the nickname “Nazi beans.” They established the mineral water market in Europe.

Hitler was a vegetarian who called meat soup “cadaver tea.” He was fond of pure olive oil and worried that consumption of whale oils would endanger the world’s whale population. Himmler was strictly against the use of refined flour, sugar and white bread. Rudolf Hess preferred nutritional whole-wheat biscuits and carried his own vegetarian food even when invited for dinner, a habit which annoyed Hitler.

Hess strongly believed in homeopathy and was an advocate of natural healing. Alternative medicine and organic therapies were promoted. A government commission was established to evaluate home therapies as the cure for cancer. Large tracts of land were used for cultivation of herbs and healing plants. The Dachau concentration camp became one of the leading producers of natural herbs and spices in the world, and it also produced large quantities of organic honey.

The Nazimedizin is infamous for terrible experiments on concentration camp prisoners. But in the promotion of public health, prevention of diseases and fighting cancer the Nazis were decades ahead of their time.

The Nazi War on Cancer by Robert N. Proktor

Marie Curie – Love of Radioactivity to the End

Marie Sklodowska Curie was the first woman scientists to win worldwide fame and one of only four persons to have won two Nobel Prizes. In 1903, she shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with her husband Pierre and with Henri Becquerel for investigation of radioactivity, and in 1911 she received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for her discovery of two new elements – polonium and radium. Later on, Curie’s daughter Irene and her son-in-law Frederic Joliot-Curie also won Nobel Prizes, as did her neighbor and a close friend Perrin.

Wilhem Roentgen discovered x-rays in 1895 and frightened his wife with an image of her hand bones complete with a wedding ring. He refused to take out a patent for the benefit of mankind, and at the time of his death was nearly bankrupt. Inspired by Roentgen, Henri Becquerel discovered in 1896 that uranium emits mysterious radiation captured by photographic plates and makes surrounding air conduct electricity. Couple years later, Marie Curie persuaded her husband to abandon his research (he discovered piezoelectricity) and join her in exploring this mystery.

The Curies tested various materials for radioactivity. They found that pitchblende, then a worthless ore residue from the uranium producing plant in Joachimsthal (now in the Czech Republic), induced a current in air 300 times stronger than pure uranium. The Curies reasoned that there must be another very active element in the pitchblende. They called it polonium after Marie’s native Poland, and coined the term “radio-active.” Later that year, one year after their first child was born, they detected trace amounts of an element two million times more radioactive than uranium – radium. After backbreaking manual labor on chemically refining the pitchblende, the Curies managed to separate the new elements polonium and radium. During four years, they refined eight tons of ore to produce one gram of radium. The Curies presented a spec of radium, at that time more precious than diamonds, to their good friend Becquerel. He carried it in his vest pocket until he found it gave him skin burns.

Pierre Curie was killed by a horse-drawn wagon in 1906, but by that time he was already limping from bone deterioration. Marie continued the research of radioactivity. She devoted much of her life to promoting radiation as a cure for cancer. In her honor the unit of radioactivity generated by 1 gram of radium was named “Curie.” As a gift for her scientific discoveries, Marie was presented with a pendant of radium. Madame Curie died in 1934 of leukemia, a cancer now known to be caused by radioactivity. Although her body was covered with lesions, she denied to the end that her beloved radium has killed her.

Years after Madame Curie’s death, photographic films were placed between the sheets of her laboratory books. The photographs showed numerous fingerprints caused by the radioactivity on her hands. Her daughter Irene Joliot-Curie, who became only the second woman to win a Nobel science prize, later also died of leukemia caused by exposure to radioactivity, while her husband met the same fate a couple of years late after calling it “our occupational disease.”

From Ignorance to Safety

1784 William Morgan unknowingly produces X-rays in experiment witnessed by Ben Franklin.

1789 Martin Klaproth announces his discovery of a new element, uranium.

1895 Roentgen discovers x-rays.

1898 Marie and Pierre Curie coin the word “radioactivity” and separate Radium.

1900 Friedrich Ernst Dorn discovers radon, a radioactive product of uranium.

1904 A glass blower at Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park lab is the first person known to have been killed by x-ray exposure. Severely burned in 1896, he still works with x-rays until 1898. His death causes Edison to discontinue radiation experiments.

1912 Arthritis patient dies because of Radium injections.

1921 Suggestion that radium and its emanation might cause lung cancer in miners are taken seriously but not proven.

1927 H. Muller shows genetic effects of radiation.

1929-1930 Fifty percent (!) of uranium miners are dying of lung cancer at the Joachimsthal mine.

1941 The first standard for radon levels (10-11 Ci/L) by National Bureau of Standards.

1958 (England) Alice Stewart publishes first major findings on the carcinogenic effect of diagnostic x-rays on children.

1958 Proposed that lung be regarded as a moderately radiosensitive organ.

1960’s Beginning of population radiation exposure standards.

1986 Report “Lung Cancer Risk from Indoor Exposures to Radon Daughters” published.

1990 “Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation – BEIR V” published.

From Ignorance to Safety

1784 William Morgan unknowingly produces X-rays in experiment witnessed by Ben Franklin.

1789 Martin Klaproth announces his discovery of a new element, uranium.

1895 Roentgen discovers x-rays.

1898 Marie and Pierre Curie coin the word “radioactivity” and separate Radium.

1900 Friedrich Ernst Dorn discovers radon, a radioactive product of uranium.

1904 A glass blower at Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park lab is the first person known to have been killed by x-ray exposure. Severely burned in 1896, he still works with x-rays until 1898. His death causes Edison to discontinue radiation experiments.

1912 Arthritis patient dies because of Radium injections.

1921 Suggestion that radium and its emanation might cause lung cancer in miners are taken seriously but not proven.

1927 H. Muller shows genetic effects of radiation.

1929-1930 Fifty percent (!) of uranium miners are dying of lung cancer at the Joachimsthal mine.

1941 The first standard for radon levels (10-11 Ci/L) by National Bureau of Standards.

1958 (England) Alice Stewart publishes first major findings on the carcinogenic effect of diagnostic x-rays on children.

1958 Proposed that lung be regarded as a moderately radiosensitive organ.

1960’s Beginning of population radiation exposure standards.

1986 Report “Lung Cancer Risk from Indoor Exposures to Radon Daughters” published.

1990 “Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation – BEIR V” published.

Human Guinea Pigs

1943-1947 Polonium injected into incurable patients at Rochester, NY. Doses greater than occupational limits.

1945 Plutonium injected into human subjects at Los Alamos.

1945-1947 18 patients (one a five year old) injected with plutonium at Rochester, NY, Oak Ridge, TN., U. of Chicago, and UCSF. No informed consent; doses much greater than occupational limits.

1961 20 aged volunteers receive injections with radium and thorium in Boston, MA. Potential doses well above occupational limits. No follow-up done.

1963-70 64 volunteer prisoners at Washington State Prison and 67 volunteer prisoners at Oregon State Prison receive testicular irradiation; exposures from 7 to 600 roentgens.

The Nuclear Race

1932 “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” – Dr. Albert Einstein

1933 “The energy produced by the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.” – Lord Ernest Rutherford (after splitting the atom for the first time)

1934 Szilard applies for a patent, “Improvements in the Transmutation of Chemical Elements,” stating “radio-active bodies are generated by bombarding suitable elements with neutrons. Such uncharged nuclei cause the formation of radio-active substances.” He amends his patent to add “the liberation of nuclear energy for power production and other purposes through nuclear transmutation” and describes the concepts of chain reaction and critical mass. Further, “if the mass is larger than the critical value… I can produce an explosion.”

1938 Nobel Prize awarded to Enrico Fermi (Italy) for his work on transuranics. The Fermi family (Enrico’s wife is Jewish) escapes from Italian Nazi persecution to New York.

1939 Hitler annexes Czechoslovakia, the richest known source of uranium.

1939 Enrico Fermi patents the first nuclear reactor (conceptual plans).

1942 (June) Germany – Werner Heisenberg’s fourth experimental atomic pile explodes spewing burning particles of graphite twenty feet in the air and setting the lab on fire. Heisenberg and Robert Doepel are nearly killed.

1942 (Sept) The Manhattan Project is formed to secretly build the atomic bomb before the Germans.

1942 (Dec) The first sustained and controlled chain reaction in an atomic pile at University of Chicago. The reactor is graphite moderated. Fermi oversees the design and building.

1945 USSR occupies Czechoslovakia. Soviet commanders order all German plans, parts, models, and formulas regarding the use of atomic energy, rocket weapons, and radar be turned over to them. USSR infantry and technical troops occupy Jachymov (Joachimsthal), the only European source of uranium.

1945 (July) Trinity Test – the first nuclear bomb explosion at Alamagordo, NM. 19 KT yield. Cattle receive beta-radiation burns.

1945 (Aug 6 and 9) Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombed.

1949 (Aug) USSR explodes its first A-bomb in Kazakhstan.

1949 (Oct) AEC committee headed by Oppenheimer votes against hydrogen bomb. Teller, the “father” of hydrogen bomb, urges construction.

1950 (Jan) Truman orders the construction of hydrogen bomb.

1952 Great Britain explodes its first A-bomb (25 KT) in lagoon of Monte Bello Islands off Western Australia.

1952 US explodes the world’s first hydrogen bomb.

1953 USSR explodes its first hydrogen bomb.

1953 (Dec) Oppenheimer loses security clearance due to contact with Communists in the 1930’s and opposition to H-bomb.

1954 40,000 Soviet soldiers participate in a war game where a nuclear bomb is detonated at 1,150 feet in the air in Kazakhstan. Troops are sent immediately into the contaminated dust.

1957 First British hydrogen bomb destroys Christmas Island in South Pacific.

1960 France explodes its first A-bomb.

1961 USSR explodes a 58 megaton hydrogen bomb in the air over Novaya Zemlya. The largest weapon ever exploded in history.

1963 The limited atmospheric test-ban treaty.

1964 China explodes its first A-bomb.

Irresponsibility and Accidents

1945 (June) Criticality accident at Los Alamos, 14 people exposed, some receive up to 3,000 rem gamma and neutrons.

1945 (Aug) A Los Alamos lab technician conducts an unauthorized experiment and is lethally irradiated; the first American to die of acute radiation sickness.

1949 The Green Run at Hanford reprocesses one ton of uranium too early after irradiation; releases 20,000 Curies of Xenon-133 and 7,780 Curies of Iodine-131; the plume measures 200 by 40 miles.

1949 Officials in Mayak Chemical Combine at Chelyabinsk, USSR, begin dumping wastes from plutonium production into the Techa River. From 1949 to 1956, 2.75 million Curies of radioactivity is dumped into the river without notifying the townspeople downstream. Some exposed to doses as high as 350 rem/yr.

1952 Explosion and meltdown at Chalk River reactor in Ontario, Canada, which made bomb materials for the US. Future U.S. president Jimmy Carter, a nuclear engineer by education, is one of the volunteer workers who participate in the cleanup, going on until he receives his Maximum Permissible Dose.

1953 Experimental reactor criticality accident in USSR, 2 persons exposed.

1954 US hydrogen bomb test (Castle Bravo) over Bikini results in fallout over Marshall Islands, contaminates crew of 23 on Fortunate Dragon, 28 US servicemen, and 239 Marshall Islanders.

1956 Broken Arrow 1, Lakenheath AFB, UK. US B-47 bomber catches fire on landing and crashes into nuclear bomb storage igloo. 3 nuclear bombs, each containing 8,000 lb. of TNT trigger, threaten to explode. Fire crew heroically pour foam on igloo instead of trying to save the four trapped fliers.

1957 Explosion of an underground, high-level nuclear waste storage tank at Mayak Chemical Complex near Chelyabinsk in the Urals (USSR) vents 2 million Curies over 15,000 sq. miles. Population of over 250,000 resettled due to Strontium-90 contamination. The world’s worst nuclear accident until Chernobyl.

1957 British plutonium production reactor in Seascale (now Sellafield) catches fire spreading approximately 20,000 Curies of radioactive iodine across Great Britain and northern Europe. Comes within seconds of a meltdown and a large-scale nuclear accident.

1957 B-47 crashes on landing at Homestead AFB, FL, kills the four man crew, trigger explosives on nuclear weapon explode.

1958 Broken Arrow 3, B-47 drops a nuclear bomb from 14,000 ft on garden of a homeowner in Mars Bluff, SC, makes crater 35 ft deep; chemical trigger designed to set off TNT explodes spreading plutonium contamination.

1959 AEC’s Sodium Reactor Experiment reactor, Santa Barbara, CA, 10 of 43 fuel assemblies damaged due to lack of heat transfer, contamination released.

1959 High levels of Strontium-90 caused by nuclear testing reported in US milk and in children’s bones.

1960 Jackson, New Jersey, BOMARC nuclear missile catches fire, plutonium released to atmosphere.

1960 A 19-year old in USSR commits suicide with 10 Curies Cesium-137 source; exposure time 20 hours leads to death 18 days later.

1961 Prompt criticality accident at US Army reactor in Idaho Falls kills three. Recovery exposes 47 persons.

1961 Broken Arrow 4, Goldsboro, NC, B-52 crashes, 5 interlocks fail and the 24 MT nuclear bomb is one interlock away from detonating, crater 50 ft deep, 3 acres in area excavated to look for portion of one weapon, 4 million cu. ft. of earth removed.

1961 Loss of coolant reactor accident on the first Soviet nuclear missile submarine. Crew members die from radiation exposure while rigging a provisional cooling system using a reserve tank and pipes cut off one of the torpedoes. The welding took 90 minutes. Captain Nikolai Zateyev reported that “the ones who got radiation doses began to swell visibly. Their faces grew red. After two hours, watery discharges came from the roots of their hair. Soon it became frightening to look at their eyes and swollen lips. They were completely disfigured. Hardly able to move their tongues, they complained of pain in the entire body.” Eight officers and sailors died within days, six more died within the next several years.

1963 Nuclear submarine USS Thresher sinks in North Atlantic. Government did not admit until 1990’s that it was torpedoed by another US submarine.

1964 US satellite disintegrates over Madagascar and releases 17,000 Curies of plutonium into the atmosphere from its nuclear reactor.

1964-1965 In the Gulf of Abrosimov off Novaya Zemlya, USSR, eight naval reactors are dumped into the sea, including three with fuel still intact.

1979 (March) Equipment failures and human error cause an accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor at Harrisburg, PA. Partial core meltdown. The worst nuclear plant accident in U.S. history.

1986 (April) Runaway reaction during a test at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor near Kiev, now Ukraine, causes explosions that rupture the containment structure and send massive amounts of radiation through the Northern Hemisphere. Soviet troops are dispatched to help fight graphite fire and contain the reactions in the melted core. The worst nuclear accident in history. Over 75 million people exposed to dangerously high levels of radiation. Soviet medical experts predict nearly 30,000 cancer-related deaths over a 50-year period due to fall-out from the accident.

1986 Nuclear powered Soviet submarine suffers explosion and fire in missile tube, kills at least three and sinks with reactor on-board.

1989 42 crewmen die when the Soviet nuclear submarine “Komsomolets” sinks in the Norwegian Sea, leaving the submarine’s reactor and nuclear warheads (two nuclear torpedoes containing 28 lb. of plutonium) 310 miles off Norway.

1989 Federal agents raid Rocky Flats and allege that the plant concealed environmental contamination and improperly stored and disposed of hazardous radioactive wastes. The Energy Secretary halts all plutonium production operations.

1989 “Yellow Children” start appearing in births in Talmenka, Russia. Children have jaundice, congenital defects of nervous system and organs. In one month, 42 of 59 babies born have these symptoms. Suspected fall-out from nuclear bomb tests in Kazakhstan.

1990 After eating game and fish contaminated with Cesium-137, seven people are hospitalized in Tomsk, Siberia, Russia. Plutonium and uranium cores for weapons are manufactured in this town.

1992 “Big chunks of the republic are so poisoned they will not be suitable for human settlement for a very long time. We are talking decades,” said Russia’s minister for the environment. “We in Belarus lost one in four people during the Great Patriotic War (WW II), while as a result of Chernobyl, one in five citizens – approximately 2 million people, including 800,000 children – now suffer because they live in contaminated zones,” said the chairman of the Belarus State Committee on Chernobyl.

1992 DOE’s Office of Environmental Restoration and Waste Management (EM) and its predecessor agencies have decontaminated and dismantled over 90 contaminated facilities across the US. The organization has cleaned up 11 of 43 sites under its Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program. Under its Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Program, EM has cleaned up 15 of 24 sites and 4,200 of 5,000 vicinity properties.

1992 The Hanford Site changes its mission from nuclear materials production to the clean up of its facilities.

1993 “British Medical Journal” reports an excess incidence of cancer in children aged 0 to 24 over the period 1953-1990 in Seascale, within sight of the Sellafield plant of British Nuclear Fuels.

1993 An “alarming” suicide rate among soldiers and engineers who helped clean up the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is the result of radiated nervous systems, the breakdown of immune defenses and stress. The San Francisco Examiner reports that nearly seven years after the world’s most serious nuclear reactor accident exposed about 500,000 Ukraine residents, reactor workers and cleanup crews to radiation, the death toll stands at 7,000 – of whom 18 percent have taken their own lives, according to statistics provided by the Russian government. Thousands more are suffering from symptoms caused by excessive radiation, says the article. More than 40 percent of all former Chernobyl workers who ask for medical assistance suffer from severe after-effects, such as permanent memory loss and impaired thinking ability.

1993 In a new report, the Russian Federation details how the USSR broke the international rules for thirty years by dumping radioactive waste in the oceans. The amount of radioactive waste includes 2.5 million Curies and 18 nuclear reactors from submarines and an icebreaker. These were mostly dumped in the Kara Sea.

1993 Russia dumps liquid radioactive waste into the Sea of Japan.

1993 French deliberately cause a meltdown under almost identical conditions as at Three Mile Island in the Phebus reactor in the south of France. Close circuit televisions show a bright blue glow as the fuel rods melt. Environmentalists criticize the experiment as dangerous and unnecessary.

1994 Russian scientists disclose pumping 3 billion Curies of radioactive waste under layers of shale and clay for the last 30 years at sites at Dimitrovgrad (near the Volga River), Tomsk (near the Ob River), and Krasnoyarsk (on the Yenisei River).

1995 Russians drinking water from the Techa River (draining from the Mayak plutonium facility near Chelyabinsk) have more lymphatic genetic mutations (T-cell antigen receptors) than people who suffered radiation from atomic bombing of Hiroshima, according to Japanese and Russian scientists. The region’s death rate is higher than its birth rate. The Japanese scientists are from the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima. An international symposium on radiation effects on human health is held in Chelyabinsk to discuss the hazards posed by the Mayak plant to nearby residents.

1995 Artificial reservoirs for liquid nuclear waste in Russia’s Ural region may overflow if left unrepaired, destroying nearby areas around Chelyabinsk with what is called a “nuclear flash flood,” Russian officials warn. The reservoirs at the Mayak chemical plant now hold a total of 400 million cubic meters of liquid nuclear waste, and there is a strong possibility the embankment will give way, inundating towns and villages along the Techa River nearby. No effective measures have been taken to prevent a 33-feet-high flood with a radioactivity as high as 200,000 Curies of Strontium-90 and Cesium-137. Suspension of an atomic power plant project in the region has added to the danger of a nuclear flash flood, since the project was designed to accelerate evaporation of water in the reservoirs by using surplus heat from the power plant.