Streams

America's Forgotten Nuclear Legacy

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

John Emshwiller, the lead reporter on the Wall Street Journal’s year-long investigation on a nuclear cleanup effort, discusses the enormous job of cleaning up job of nuclear contamination that occurred during the Cold War—Waste Lands: America's Forgotten Nuclear Legacy. Residue, left by the routine processing as well as the occasional mishandling of nuclear material, exists in almost three dozen states. Emshwiller discusses how those cleanup efforts have been carried out and what the public knows about them.

Guests:

John Emshwiller

The Morning Brief

Enter your email address and we’ll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Comments [7]

Kim Visintine, Coldwater Creek - Just the Facts

Dr. Stephen A. Boyd,

Yes, I agree with you, that radioactive materials can be held in your hand and handled in small doses. However, the isotope in question, that was processed for Manhattan Project Nuclear Weapons is actually Uranium 235, which does not naturally occur in North America, and in fact makes up less then 7 percent of the global natural supply of Uranium. It is extremely potent and has a half life of 700 Million years. Is was discarded throughout the US in open fields, close to water sources. Held in the hand it may not be dangerous... however, ingested chronically over years, through wind, water, leeched into vegetation and dairy sources, and consumed it leads to cancers, auto-immune issues and genetic malformations. The government recognizes this and actually created an restitution program for exposed communities out west, titled the RECA Act of 1990. These victims are referred to as Downwinders. Unfortunately, there are many, many more communities in the Midwest and East Coast, that are equally effected from being chronically exposed to ionizing radiation (U235 and the daughter decay products), yet we are not included in the Downwinders Reca Act of 1990. Our loved ones and children are dying from rare cancers (such as appendix). We would like the government to extend their clean up activities and include all exposed areas in the RECA Act. I am a member of the Coldwater Creek Facebook community. We are one of the original exposure sites in St. Louis. We have created a health study outlining these diseases. Please come and view our site and the related diseases... all are associated with radiation exposure, and meet the federally acknowledged 27 cancers associated with radiation. https://www.facebook.com/groups/217215444963933/217345698284241/?notif_t=group_comment

Nov. 06 2013 10:05 PM
Dr. Stephen A. Boyd from NYC

Hello, Leonard -

PLEASE PLEASE inform your guests that they need to be more accurate in their currently questionable statements: 1) radioactive materials (like uranium-238, plutonium-239) are actually NOT very radioactive at all. The point is that the longer the half life, the LESS radioactive a substance is. 2) That said, you should not breathe in the dust (for example, UO2, or PuO), but you can hold them in your hands for your entire lifetime with no ill effects. 3) there are VERY easy ways of remediation and cleaning up these materials. Yes, they are correct in their citation of the astronomically high costs, but most of this goes into safety equipment. 4) the processing of these materials could be even more simply and efficiently remediated with the development and implementation of a nuclear reactor that needs these materials in order to function: a molten-salt reactor.

Nov. 06 2013 12:32 PM
Dr. Stephen A. Boyd from NYC

Hello, Leonard -

PLEASE PLEASE inform your guests that they need to be more accurate in their currently questionable statements: 1) radioactive materials (like uranium-238, plutonium-239) are actually NOT very radioactive at all. The point is that the longer the half life, the LESS radioactive a substance is. 2) That said, you should not breathe in the dust (for example, UO2, or PuO), but you can hold them in your hands for your entire lifetime with no ill effects. 3) there are VERY easy ways of remediation and cleaning up these materials. Yes, they are correct in their citation of the astronomically high costs, but most of this goes into safety equipment. 4) the processing of these materials could be even more simply and efficiently remediated with the development and implementation of a nuclear reactor that needs these materials in order to function: a molten-salt reactor.

Nov. 06 2013 12:31 PM
Andrew from Manhattan

My grandfather worked in Y-12 Bldg 9212 in Oak Ridge, TN for years doing chemical separation of uranium. My grandmother used to joke that the washing machine would probably peg the Geiger counter just from his work clothes.

Nov. 06 2013 12:28 PM
Loren from Manhattan

What mistakes are we doing today that we're going to need to clean up tomorrow?

Nov. 06 2013 12:28 PM
Giles Hashi from NY NY

I know this skews a bit off topic but I would like to know his opinion on the Fukushima Daiashi Clean Up...
Thanks

Nov. 06 2013 12:27 PM
Joel from Westchester

I was in a Columbia U. student film quite a few years ago and was told offhandedly that the building we used to film in was used for the Manhattan Project. It is on W. 125th St. west of the elevated subway for the #1 train.

Nov. 06 2013 12:18 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.