Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

Atomic Veterans Speak Out 796

Posted by michael
from the lead-lined-jockstrap dept.
GoneGaryT writes "Last night I stumbled across the site for Atomic Veterans, the guys in the forces who were present at the Pacific atmospheric nuclear tests and those who 'cleaned-up' Eniwetok 20 years later. There are scores of testimonies, many from men who have a range of cancers or who have since died from them. The absolute and callous disregard for their health and safety at the time is shocking; I suppose the same kind of thing happened to British, French, Russian and Chinese troops in similar circumstances. The Chernobyl pages discussed here a few months ago were eerie; this site is simply heartbreaking. On the one hand, I hate the idea of this site being Slashdotted, on the other hand, people, you've just got to read some of these testimonies. What happened back then is no joke and I'm not sure if we have half the fallout story even now. For the continental US, see this compilation."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Atomic Veterans Speak Out

Comments Filter:
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:10PM (#9671301)
    I hate to put information about a topic so serious into the half-credible bin, but what sense are we supposed to make out of black and white map that doesn't have any sort of key? I can't tell if the white or the black is what indicates an area was affected... I think it's the white but I'm just guessing.

    Communication helps sometimes.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:41PM (#9671533)
      [writing as anon because of my (vague) contact with the defence industry)

      Actually you could put a lot of informatio into the picture.
      1. It was compiled by a civilian because; the DOE/DOD probably didn't care about the topic of continental radiation.
      2. If that's correct and credible data on fallout, it might suggest that they _did_ monitor the fallout. Maybe they didn't belive that the fallout were dangerous at that time, maybe they thought that building nukes to fight the commies were more important or maybe someone earned way to much money on money on it.
      3. The data was probably classified until late eighties - 1991. So someone decided that some peolpe could die because testing the nukes where more important.

    • by deglr6328 (150198) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:56PM (#9671615)
      That map is interesting but this one [nuclearfiles.org] is even more interesting. It is the total fallout for the US, by county, over the entire continental atmospheric testing period. The doses are somewhat high in places, but not outrageously so when you consider it is summed over a period of ~20(?) or so years. The site nuclearfiles.org is obviously grossly biased but this [nuclearfiles.org] section of it is absolutely fascinating. It contains I-131 fallout maps for justa about every aboveground test done in the US.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:16PM (#9671340) Journal
    The story reminds me of the above mentioned movie. Has a lot of footage of these people. It doesn't talk abouttheir lives, but wherever I watch the movie I know those poor bastards are getting massively irradiated.

    One of the creepiest sections is where chinese troops put gas masks on their horses and charge the mushroom cloud with AK47s blazing. Freaky. It laos has people in lawn chairs watching explosions, and people in trenchs watching explosions, and explosions sinking an entire abandoned Navy and all kinds of crap.

    The other cool thing about the movie is this: it's narrated by Captain Kirk himself.

    RS

    • I would just like to point out that, up until as late as the late 50's, it was believed that radiation was actually good for you. People actually bought Radon Water, because it was "natural" and "good for you." If your interested, the August edition on Popular Science is running a short article on the subject that is really pretty informative (and scary). (sorry, but they don't have it online yet)
      • They used to make illuminated dial watches from radium up until the 1950's. - I remember seeing an interview with a former factory worker who said the girls who painted the numbers and hands on the watch dials would routinely lick the brushes to ensure they kept a nice, crisp point.

        Scientific American once had a facinating article about the history of radium, how it made the transition from a preciously sought after substance, to a deadly waste.

        • Shoe shops used to have X-ray equipment that would let you see the bones of your feet. The last time I saw such a machine was around the mid-1970's. It was a more modern version which had automatically sliding metal blocks to measure the dimensions of the foot as well (A google search for "fluoroscopes" only brings up the old-fashioned machines).

          My parents would never let me use those machines. I remember other parents would let their kids use the machines for minutes on end, until the shop assistant was a
      • by PapayaSF (721268) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:10AM (#9671963) Journal
        I would just like to point out that, up until as late as the late 50's, it was believed that radiation was actually good for you.

        There's a lot of evidence that low dosages of radiation are good for you. Google "hormesis" or check out this article [sciam.com].

        There's also a psychological issue about radiation or toxic exposure. To make up some numbers, let's say 10,000 soldiers get exposed during a nuclear bomb test in the '50s. Let's say that based on normal demographic statistics, 1,000 of them would have gotten cancer 50 years later. However, the radiation exposure increases the number of cancers by 50%, so 1,500 get cancer. In other words, only 1/3 of the men who got cancer did so because of the exposure, but I guarantee you that nearly all of the 1,500 would be sure that their cancer must have been caused by the bomb test.
    • by Strudelkugel (594414) on Monday July 12, 2004 @12:41AM (#9671843)

      Right, that's an amazing sequence, especially when you realize the horse mask is anything but airtight - as if it would really make that much of a difference.

      Read the history of this shot:CASTLE-BRAVO [nuclearweaponarchive.org]

      Apparently the bomb designers miscalculated something. The yield was supposed to be about 5 megatons. Turned out to be closer to 15. (Miscalculated!) The fallout irradiated other islanders and a fishing boat that were supposed to be safe. I'd say this event qualifies as one of the biggest engineering f-ups in history.

      Here's an interesting animation [cancer.gov] about fallout from the Nevada tests. Guess it's for people who don't like to read. [slashdot.org]

      • Castle Bravo (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Detritus (11846) on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:04AM (#9671940) Homepage
        In defense of the designers, it was the first test of a solid-fuel thermonuclear device. They hadn't foreseen the increased yield caused by the transmutation of lithium-7 to tritium.

        I'm still amazed that they designed and built these weapons with little more than slide rules and primitive computers.

      • There's also the fun little thing known as Tsar Bomba">Tsar Bomba. [nuclearweaponarchive.org] Largest nuke ever tested. 50 Megatons actual, due to some changes made before test - the design was for a 100Mt yield.

        For reference, 100Mt would have been roughly enough to cause 3rd degree burns to everyone inside of West Germany. Except for the ones within 60km of ground zero, who would have just been vaporized.
  • My GrandFather... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aardpig (622459) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:16PM (#9671345)

    ...has a couple of photos of the first British H-bomb test on Christmas Island in his album. He was in one of the observation planes which recorded the test. Luckily, it appears that he was sufficiently far enough away not to be affected by radiation or fallout -- he is 86, and still going strong.

  • Radio Bikini (Score:5, Informative)

    by wwest4 (183559) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:17PM (#9671353)
    For those who are interested in what the natives went through as well as the navy guys, check out Radio Bikini. [imdb.com] There's some good clips of the blasts, too.
  • by TheSystem_ERRor (781001) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:20PM (#9671383)
    My grandfather's ship was nuked. Yup. What happened was they were going to test out the weapon, so they gave the crew a brand new ship, and their old ship, along with others, were docked in a bay and nuked. Then the crew, including my grandfather, swept the radioactive dust off the deck and went back to work. He was fine, but there was a very high cancer rate amoung veterans. He never got cancer in all his life. Also, regarding the spread of radioactive dust in the US, because of this, most people do have harmless accumulations of radioactive isotopes in there bodies.
    • by acceber (777067) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:45PM (#9671566)
      He was fine, but there was a very high cancer rate amoung veterans. He never got cancer in all his life.

      I am currently in remission after having Acute Myeloblastic Leukaemia for the past couple of months. It's interesting how some people who have been exposed to radiation and all sorts of nasties which could potentially develop into cancer, never get it. Whilst others who have been through nothing of the sort get cancer, like myself.

      I live a normal life, the doctors don't know why I got Leukaemia and don't know why lots of other people who come for treatment at the same hospital gets Leukaemia or any other cancer for that matter. There are a lot of people I stayed with who were elderly men and had been exposed to nuclear radiation or war situations where the risk of cells mutating into cancer is higher than the rest of the population.

      Sadly, cancer continues to take a hold on the lives of many people and although a cure is bound to occur sometime in the future, our grandfathers and ancestors who put their lives on the line to save their nations or whatever don't get to see that cure.

      I'm in remission but that doesn't mean I'm cured. The absolute and callous disregard for their health and safety at the time _is_ definitely shocking and when I see that somebody like me who hasn't done anything as brave and courageous as our forefathers, it kinda makes me feel guilty that I am getting better but they had no chance.

  • Numerical Data? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by A1kmm (218902) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:24PM (#9671408)
    This site has a relatively limited number of stories, and the people who posted them are a self-selected group. People who got cancer are more likely to post.

    Of course, any group of people of a size as large as the group who could be considered an "atomic veterans", and of the same sort of age demographic, would have a reasonable number of people who had cancer.

    What would be interesting is a study where individuals were selected randomly from all "atomic veterans", and then a statistical analysis of these, compared to a general group from the population with the same age demographics.

    There is a biological expectation that being an "atomic veteran" would increase your risk of cancer, but looking at this site does not provide much evidence for that point due to the lack of statistical validity.
    • Re:Numerical Data? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:44PM (#9671551) Homepage
      What would be interesting is a study where individuals were selected randomly from all "atomic veterans", and then a statistical analysis of these, compared to a general group from the population with the same age demographics.
      The kind of doses they're talking about are actually too small to make this work. For instance, this [aracnet.com] guy says "...4 years ago, our Health Physics people told me that I had the highest recorded occupational dose of anyone in Canada," which turns out to be 150 mrem. Well, 150 mrem is on the same order of magnitude as natural background for one year. (It depends on things like whether you live in Denver, and whether you have radon in your basement.) The added cancer risk is simply infinitesimal, and this was apparently an unusually high dose.

      People just don't seem to want to admit that radiation exposure is a risk, and that the risk is small and quantifiable. Check out this [wikipedia.org] wikipedia article to learn about the units involved. Most cancer is caused by something other than radiation, and nearly all radiation exposure is natural exposure anyway, at the epidemiologial level.

      I'd be more concerned about the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings...or veterans working in shipyards who got exposed to asbestos... or some of the ones who got a case of acute lead poisoning via a bullet.

      • Re:Numerical Data? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hungus (585181)
        Take a look again the 150 mrem comment is made in a later paragraph where he questions how much he really got. to quote the article

        One question, if anyone out there can help: during the shots, we wore film badges and direct reading dosimeters. However, as our backs were turned at the time of the shot, the badges and DRDs were shielded by our bodies, the equivalent of 8-10" of water. This may have affected the absolute readings of the badges, as I only received 150 mrem according to my military records. I'm

      • Re:Numerical Data? (Score:3, Informative)

        by FredGray (305594)
        4 years ago, our Health Physics people told me that I had the highest recorded occupational dose of anyone in Canada," which turns out to be 150 mrem.

        I would be amazed if that were true. A few years ago, I was talking to a health physics guy at a US national lab. He had previously worked for a contractor that did radiation surveys at a number of US nuclear power plants. He said that, in that business, it was standard practice to push the techs up to the NRC limit of 5000 mrem/year, then send them home

    • Re:Numerical Data? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ScottForbes (528679) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:56PM (#9671618) Homepage
      In 1955 the John Wayne film The Conqueror was shot on location in and around Snow Canyon, Utah... downwind of Yucca Flats, Nevada, where the military had conducted several above-ground atomic tests.

      Of the 220 people who worked on location, 91 contracted cancer by the early 1980s and 46 died of it -- including Wayne, co-stars Susan Hayward and Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. Statistically, only 30 people out of a group that size should have gotten cancer in their lifetimes.

      Source: Cecil Adams, The Straight Dope [straightdope.com].

      • Re:Numerical Data? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by multiplexo (27356) * on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:33AM (#9672066) Journal
        Of the 220 people who worked on location, 91 contracted cancer by the early 1980s and 46 died of it -- including Wayne, co-stars Susan Hayward and Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. Statistically, only 30 people out of a group that size should have gotten cancer in their lifetimes.

        Yes, and of course none of those people were heavy smokers. No, not a one of them (that's sarcasm by the way). Dick Powell used to advertise cigarettes, Wayne was a five pack a day smoker and even Agnes Moorehead (now this would be the name of a porno star, interesting how times change, isn't it?) was known to light up now and then. Of course killing yourself with a pack-a-day habit isn't as interesting as a conspiracy theory. Here's a nice picture [adclassix.com] of Dick Powell advertising Camels. Here's a nice clip [tvparty.com]of a TV commercial featuring the Duke peddling Camels. And Moorehead was 74 when she died of lung cancer. Oh wait, another google search reveals this picture [ioffer.com] of Susan Hayward hawking Chesterfields. Of course this could be a coincidence, perhaps none of these stars smoked at all, perhaps they were just pretending to smoke lots of cigarettes to get money from the tobacco companies. Perhaps they smoked cigarettes but never inhaled! Yes, that's it! It must have been that evil radiation!

        • Re:Numerical Data? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday July 12, 2004 @01:51AM (#9672146) Homepage Journal

          Yes, and of course none of those people were heavy smokers. No, not a one of them (that's sarcasm by the way). Dick Powell used to advertise cigarettes, Wayne was a five pack a day smoker and even Agnes Moorehead (now this would be the name of a porno star, interesting how times change, isn't it?) was known to light up now and then. Of course killing yourself with a pack-a-day habit isn't as interesting as a conspiracy theory.

          The residents of southwestern Utah are predominantly Mormon and therefore predominantly non-smokers. They also experienced (and continue to experience) cancer rates that are more than triple the norm, and the pattern of increased cancer risk closely correlates to the distance from the blast sites and related common weather patterns. Mormons elsewhere generally experience lower than normal cancer rates.

          Also, no "conspiracy theory" is required here: The US government did not truly understand the risks, and neither did the people living downwind. The government was well aware of the short-term dangers of radiation sickness, but didn't really know that lower exposure levels could cause increased cancer risk decades later.

          My father used to go out and watch the blasts for fun, and I'm sure I would have done the same; they were pretty impressive even from two hundred miles away. My dad, by the way, has not had any form of cancer and is still quite healthy. His younger brother had leukemia but beat it with a year of intensive chemotherapy.

    • by jgardn (539054) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Monday July 12, 2004 @12:00AM (#9671642) Homepage Journal
      There's an old phrase for this kind of thing: Pioneers get the arrows. It's the cost of being a pioneer.

      Today, we are playing with technology that we have no experience in. For instance, nanotubes. What are the long-term effects of nanotube exposure? No one can possibly know for sure.

      I had an opportunity to ask one of the grad students at the University of Washington Physics Department about nanotubes. See, he was working with nanotubes. He told me that nanotubes are probably damaging, but the body probably has defenses against it just like it has defenses against very small pieces of dust. He said that it was a privilege to be able to work on such technology, and even if it meant losing ten or twenty years of his life, it would be worth it still.

      I am sure that the early pioneers in teh nuclear and radioactive substance fields felt the same way. Marie Curie would probably do it all over again even if she knew the consequences. I think these people would probably do the same.
    • by The Tyro (247333) on Monday July 12, 2004 @12:02AM (#9671658)
      The theory goes something like this:

      Cancer occurs as a consequence of genetic damage that hits certain critical genes within in a cell, usually those that control cell growth/death. Many genes control cell growth... if one of these genes gets overexpressed, or a suppressor gene or modulator region for one of the aforementioned genes gets damaged or otherwise turned off, you can get cancer... but not always.

      If your own body's immune system recognizes the cancer cell as abnormal and kills it, you dodge the bullet. There's absolutely no way to quantify how often it happens, but it's probably more often than we know.

      Ionizing radiation affects DNA by damaging it. However, your body can often use the matching DNA strand from the other side of the double-helix to repair the damaged region... you have enzymes in your cell nuclei that are specifically for this. You should thank your lucky stars for those enzymes too... there are a few syndromes where those enzymes are deficient or dysfunctional: those poor patients grow cancers like it's their job.
  • Great article! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by orthogonal (588627) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:28PM (#9671444) Journal
    From a reminiscence on the linked site: We were required to lie face down, with an arm over our eyes untill [sic] ten seconds after the blast. I recall being able to see through my arm, like looking at an x-ray!

    The guy talks about the amazing fauna he saw while scuba diving between atomic tests, and the requisite topless natives, and concludes that he wouldn't have missed for anything!

    I suspect others may not share that opinion, of course, and I doubt I would.

    Good find, GoneGaryT, and good work approving it, Michael.

    Slashdot is improved by articles like this.
  • Remember... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lifix (791281) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:35PM (#9671484) Homepage
    Until recently we have not had a thourough understanding of the effects of radiation on the human body and other organisms. To this day there are very few effective treatments for radiation exposure. Most people still aren't aware that the most destructive carcinogen, (the object that causes the most cancers in the USA) is our good old friend the sun. During the tests of the atomic weapons the effects, and the amount of radiation released was unknown. So despite the terrible effects of these weapons had, not only on the people we used them on, but on the people we tested them around, it was not intentional that our soldiers were exposed. *Interesting side note: During WW I women were hired to paint the controlls on the inside of fighter planes. The paint was composed of radium, so that pilots could see the controlls in the dark. The women would like their brushes between painting jobs to keep the tip fine enough for the small writing. When the women died, they had to be buried in lead lined coffins. *
    • Re:Remember... (Score:4, Informative)

      by khallow (566160) on Monday July 12, 2004 @12:35AM (#9671822)
      Most people still aren't aware that the most destructive carcinogen, (the object that causes the most cancers in the USA) is our good old friend the sun.

      Huh. last I heard, the cigarette was far more lethal a cause of cancer than the Sun.

      *Interesting side note: During WW I women were hired to paint the controlls on the inside of fighter planes. The paint was composed of radium, so that pilots could see the controlls in the dark. The women would like their brushes between painting jobs to keep the tip fine enough for the small writing. When the women died, they had to be buried in lead lined coffins. *

      This last part sounds like an urban myth. The radium painters [johnstonsarchive.net] indeed suffered (and the worst cases experienced extremely high rates of bone cancer [triumf.ca] (20 cases of bone cancer out of the 44 worst exposure cases). This doesn't describe the full story. There apparently were other nasty illnesses they could fall prey to. But they were ingesting paints with high concentrations of radium. Someone handling the unshielded coffin of such a victim wouldn't receive significant dosage (IMHO of course), and I don't see any other obvious benefit to a lead-lined coffin. After all, six feet or so of earth is a very effective shield.

      I wouldn't be surprised to find that several of these poor women were buried in lead-lined coffins (perhaps out of ignorance or for propaganda purposes), but you don't need to bury them that way.

    • Re:Remember... (Score:3, Informative)

      by jakoz (696484)
      You may be thinking of Marie Curie, who was buried in this way because of fears about radium contamination.

  • by AtomicBomb (173897) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:36PM (#9671493) Homepage
    I suppose the same kind of thing happened to British, French, Russian and Chinese troops in similar circumstances

    I can recall cases that involved British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers. Last year, there was a documentary about the nuclear test happened in Australia [aic.gov.au]. While Australia herself is nuclear weapon free, it was being used as a testing ground for the British test program... Some veterans were exposed to high radiation doses because of wind shift, miscalculated yield and reasons like that. In theory, the commanders could just place the film badges and dosimeters. But, the military planner at that time really wanted to stretch that a bit further. From memory, PLA did the same thing after the first Chinese atomic test in 1964. Some troops were ordered to drive/ march across the ground zero after some precalculated "safety hours"....

    The Cold War was a crazy time in human history Well, we might be committing something equally ridiculous right now without realising that... I am quite sure the situation is the same in France and USSR. Any example?
    • by sr180 (700526) on Monday July 12, 2004 @12:07AM (#9671685) Journal
      A friend of mine's grandfather was a photographer filming the nuclear testing at Maralinga in South Australia.

      Basically he was told to point the camera at the test site and close his eyes for the flash.

      What was done at these testings we now know to be attrocious. Planes were flying through nuclear clouds and after landing were scrubbed clean by soldiers wearing shorts and boots only. (The test were performed in desert like areas.) Hundreds of officers [news.com.au] were ordered to stand there and watch the nuclear blasts. Nuclear clouds floated over and settled on [news.com.au] the nearby major city (Adelaide pop of 800,000 or so at the time.).

      Civilians [news.com.au] were held on an oval 40 kilometers from the test site.

      "When they went off there would be this almighty flash which could blind you and it was like a hot towel was being put on the back of your neck.

      "After that we were actually told it was all right to turn around to look at them. The last one was hotter than the other two, that's how close we were."

      Soon after the explosions, the Maralinga Village was hit by strong wind gusts which coated buildings and equipment with contaminated radioactive dust.

      Soldiers toured the local test sites within hours of testing.

      Unfortunately at the time very little was known about the dangers. Hence why they were testing. even after almost 50 years the sites have been through a complete cleanup (in the last 10 years) but are still radioactive.

      Residents would picnic and visit [news.com.au] the areas to watch the nuclear testing.

      My friend's grandfather died of cancer. So did many who were at the testing with him. They were exposed to nuclear blasts with out any protections. The worst part is that both the British and Austrlian Governments refuse to have any inquiries into what our Nuclear Veterans suffered, nor will they offer any compensation those those or their families who suffered directly from Nuclear Testing.

  • by jcwren (166164) on Sunday July 11, 2004 @11:51PM (#9671595) Homepage

    The DOE [doe.gov] has some great photos of the various test shots available, at very low cost.

    --jc

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @12:10AM (#9671701)
    I was born in Las Vegas as a result of the 1950's atomic tests. My father was stationed there as a GI in the 50's and moved back as a civilian in 1962.

    My father participated in about 40 above-ground nuclear test while he was in the Army from 1956-58. Initially trained as a smoke generator - "I tipped up a 55-gallon drum of diesel fuel whenever they called for smoke" he was later trained as a radiological monitor with the 1st Radiological Safety Support Unit - they liked to joke that RSSU was "USSR" spelled backwards. Some of the guys in his unit are quoted on the site mentioned in the /. story. One of them even died days after reuniting with some of his long-lost buddies.

    I take great pride in helping my father to arrange a Vegas reunion of the 1st RSSU a few years ago. They weren't your average GI's - most had degrees when they entered the service. To hear them tell stories about getting blown backwards by an H-bomb in the Pacific ("They told us that it'd be bigger than usual") is breathtaking. These guys saw some amazing shit. My father tells about flying with an ignorant chopper pilot who flew them into the edge of the drifting mushroom cloud as they measured radiation levels!

    I should write a book about this stuff. Actually, I should get my father to commit his memories to tape/film. He's living back in Vegas and I wish the gov't regulations didn't forbid me to tape his stories while taking the monthly free tour of the Nevada Test Site. He has a fantastic collection of photos, slides and anecdotes that should be preserved.

    My father holds no grudge against the government as far as the testing goes. As he says, everyone was learning as they went along. "I'm just glad that I was one of the guys lucky enough to have a lead-lined set of fatigues," he says.
  • by pdxdada (684092) on Monday July 12, 2004 @12:35AM (#9671820) Homepage
    is that the creation of the first fision bomb was probably the greatest scientific achievment in human history. The neutron was only discovered in 1930, fission in 1939. From there the first reactor only went on line in December 1942 and the first fission bomb, Trinity was tested less than three years later. In the interviening time some very smart men had to discover isotope separation (extreemly hard as Uranium 235 and 238 are chemically identical), and figure out how to make large remote controlled factories to produce a new element, Plutonium which durring the designing only existed in microgram quantities. Also let's not forget the problems of explosive lenses, and just dealing with a newly discovered mettle which burns violently in air.

    Also for all you out there willing to blame the atomic bombing of Japan on America's megalomania don't forget that this was a joint venture between England, Canada and America. The fact that the bombs were made here was only by virtue of the fact that we were the only country with the economy to do it. Also the whole thing was only possible thanks to some very smart Europeans, notably two Hungarians (Leó Szilárd and John von Neumann) a Dane (Neils Bohr) and an Italian (Enrico Fermi).

    It really is a very sad irony that the most explosive growth in the theory and aplication of physics should happen for the aim of killing large numbers of people. However before anyone starts damning anyone though, remember what they were trying to do: stop the most destructive war in human history.
  • by paxmark1 (636441) on Monday July 12, 2004 @12:45AM (#9671856)
    It is ok to flog this horse one more time. I have been reading about it for 30 years.

    But there have been new atomic veterans and civilians for the last twenty years due to the usage of military stream (contaminanted with Americium, Technicium, Neptunium and various isotopes of Plutonium) depleted Uranium (238) anti-tank ordinance. Tonnes and tonnes onto western states. Vieques Island and parts of Okinawa severely contaminated with Ur238 that has a half life of 4 plus billion years.

    Yes, veterans, like the 15 homeless Korean war vets I lived with for 3 1/2 years and the two to five mentally ill Vietnam war vets I also lived with during that time.

    The chemists always chuckled at the physcicists at Los Alamos whenever they stuck a metal shovel into uranium. An intense fire starts. When depleted Uranium ordinance strikes metal, it ignites so hot that 90+% can oxidize to one micron particles. These exhibit brownian motion - they do a devils dance in the atmosphere for years, decades in arid environments, and can return as aerosol with a whisper of the wind.

    One micron particles of DU 238 ingested give off alpha. That size is almost tailor made for efficacy. This resulted in a spike of specific leukemias and kidney cancers in Basra (Southern Iraq) from 1996 on. I have 6 (5 us and one Mennonite Canadian) friends who saw that cancer ward from 1996 to 2002, and two in June 2003. All came back changed from viewing that pediatric oncology ward.

    Of course, contrary to Pentagon statements in the early 1990's, military instead of commercial Ur238 was used. Plutonium and Neptunium are almost as toxic as botulism toxin. The tie ins between the chemical toxicities and the radioactive mutagenic activity probably has some very strong synergistic effects. Unknown however, it hasn't been studied much.

    It hasn't been studied much in veterans is the case again. There were some mass spec studies done in Canada and Italy on the first Gulf war veterans. That is how the military waste stream was identified, they were not only pissing DU, but also transuranics two years after leaving the theatre.

    For Vietnam war vets - Agent orange and all dibenzofuranes and their ilk have an affinity for DNA (especially after hitting the cytochrome P-450 enzyme chain - arene oxides) and are transmitted via sperm into the next generation. If these new vets are pissing DU it is also going into their sperm.

    No, DU is not the entire answer to Gulf War syndrome. Adrenaline and stress, the touch of nerve gases that went up from bombed chemical arsenals, the anthrax vaccine, some of the insects that bit soldiers and the parasite they vector, etc., etc., all played a factor in Gulf War Syndrome. But DU explains many many symptoms that in retrospect were not exhibited by say, non atomic WWII vets.

    Birth defects and still borns are way way up in all people exposed to DU, including males vets.

    Just as Agent Orange was dismissed for years, and not studied in the US (and the de facto isolation of the nmost promising studies by the isolation of Vietnam) until the later 1990's - depleted Uranium is not being studied seriously here.

    No one else is using DU yet, just the US and UK (and Israel), and now it is probably being added to the new bunker buster bombs (five letters from the Senate Finance chair to me state that the Pentagon hasn't gotten back to him yet whether DU is in the bunker buster bombs). Russia is all set to start bringing on line DU antitank ordinance for sale to any and all however, not quite yet - give them six months to start competing with Alliant Technology.

    No, we have a new generation of atomic vets starting up. How many more?

    You google it, Nukewatch is a good place to start.

    Shalom,

    Mark
    • by Phanatic1a (413374) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:13AM (#9672213)
      You're grotesquely overstating the radiological hazards of U-238.

      Some general information. Naturally-occurring uranium is composed of three different isotopes. It's 99.2745% U-238, .72% U-235, and .0055% U-234. Of these three isotopes, only U-235 will usefully sustain a fission chain reaction.

      To use uranium in the production of nuclear power, it must be enriched. The result of the enrichment process is uranium with a U-235 percentage of from 3-5%, if you're talking about a civilian power plant, or upwards of 90%, if you're talking about a naval reactor.

      What's left over from this process is the depleted uranium. It's called that because it's been depleted of the U-235. In other words, it's actually less radioactive than naturally occurring uranium, one of the most abundant elements on the planet.

      So how radioactive is it? Not very. The measure of radioactivity is the Curie. 1 Ci is equal to 3.7*10^10 radioactive decays per second. In SI units, we use the Becquerel, and 1 Bq is equal to 1 radioactive decay per second, or 1 Bq = 2.703*10^-11 Ci.

      Now, plain, natural uranium has an activity level of 25 Bq/kilogram. Consider for a second how amazingly low that is: in one kilogram of natural uranium, there are only 25 radioactive decays each second. That's about 4 moles of uranium, by the way, so that's roughly 2.4*10^24 atoms.

      By comparison, the C-14 isotope of carbon is present to such a degree in organic matter that a random block of the stuff has an activity level of 6 pCi/g. Potassium-40 is also present in organic matter, to the tune of 11 pCi/g. Hell, take a 70 kilogram adult, and total up the naturally occurring radioisotopes in his body (the uranium, the thorium, the K-40, the radium, the C-14, the tritium, the polonium), and you'll see that a human being has an activity level of over 19,000 Bq, or 278 Bq/kg.

      Human beings are over 11 times as radioactive as natural uranium, and even more radioactive than U-238.

      So stop hysteria-mongering.
    • by bani (467531) on Monday July 12, 2004 @02:46AM (#9672337)
      plutonium and neptunium are _not_ chemically toxic in any way. in biological systems they are chemically inert as no cells are capable of processing it, and it cannot substitute for any element used in biological systems (unlike radium, which can substitute for calcium).

      they are however _radiologically_ toxic.

      as for the "toxic as botulism toxin", i call bullshit again. eat 1 mg of plutonium and 1 mg of botulism toxin and see who dies first.

      but don't just take my word for it. try here [nationmaster.com].
      • by dekeji (784080) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:55AM (#9672550)
        What is "bullshit" is your reasoning from first principles:

        plutonium and neptunium are _not_ chemically toxic in any way. in biological systems they are chemically inert as no cells are capable of processing it, and it cannot substitute for any element used in biological systems (unlike radium, which can substitute for calcium).


        Substances don't have to be "processed biologically" or "substitute for any element" in order to be toxic or dangerous. Even something like microscopic gold particles or noble gasses can be toxic.

        but don't just take my word for it. try here.

        Yes, and that web site states "Extremely small particles of plutonium on the order of micrograms can cause lung cancer if inhaled into the lungs." Whether that makes Plutonium more toxic than botulism toxin or not is a matter of semantics. I suspect a microgram of botulism toxin won't kill you no matter how you are exposed to it.

        And the same web site states: "The chemical and radiological toxicity of plutonium should be distinguished from the danger of plutonium." So, contrary to your ramblings, the very web site you point to attributes both chemical and radioactive toxicity to Plutonium.

        I don't know the actual danger from ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise coming in contact with Plutonium. But neither do you, nor anybody else. What I do know is that ignorant fools like you are responsible for exposing people to risks that people never agreed to being exposed to willingly. You seem think that just because you are unimaginative and stupid enough to figure out how something could be dangerous, it's OK to dump the stuff on the world. That kind of hubris is why so many people distrust science and scientists so much.

        The conservative and prudent thing to do is that, when we have a choice, and we do when it comes to weapons, energy, and products, we don't risk exposing people to substances unless those substances have been proven safe beyond a reasonable doubt.
        • Funny.

          There's actually quite a bit of data about the danger of ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise coming into contact with plutonium. I'd start with ATSDR's PDF on plutonium biological effects [cdc.gov].

          And to start, I'd note that pretty much the entirety is consumed by discussions of the radiological toxic effects of plutonium, because the chemical toxicity is pretty much negligible by comparison.

          Before you talk out of your ass and say things like "No one knows the danger of inhaling or contacting plutonium", ma
  • Green Run (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) on Monday July 12, 2004 @12:49AM (#9671878)
    Clearly the servicemen got the short end of the stick. Not nearly so bad as the civilians downwind of Hanford and Oakridge. Green Run was a deliberate release of extremely large amounts of radioactive materal, mostly iodine-131 to study how well the plume could be tracked

    In a three-year period covered by the report, the Hanford iodine-131 emissions totaled 450,000 curies of which 340,000 were released in 1945. The panel had not yet examined releases after 1947 n including the December 1949 "Green Run", a deliberate experiment which released thousands of curies of radioactive iodine and other fission products.

    340,000 curies. Let's put that in perspective. How much radioiodine was released during the Three Mile Island incident? I'll tell you. 15 curies. The Green Run story is ready for prime time
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2004 @12:56AM (#9671909)
    for list of all nuclear explosions in history 1945-1998:
    http://www.okgeosurvey1.gov/level2/nuk e.cat.index. html
    put THAT in your database and smoke it

    for photography of effects on children and newborns in Iraq from
    depleted uranium from first Gulf War and updates:
    http://www.savewarchildren.org/
    http:// www.savewarchildren.org/exhibitPictures.htm l

    Japanese photograher Takashi Morizumi::1
    http://www.chimerafilms.co.uk/childre n6.html
    "American troops guarding the Ministry of Oil
    Received:16:23JST, 21/06/03
    "Looters ransacked most of the government buildings after the war, but
    this building was always under the U.S. protection. I burst out laughing
    when I saw the American soldiers on guard here. Isn't it a little
    too obious? This scene sympolises one of the objectives of the war."

    "Gulf War Syndrome"-- often claimed to be from DU, then
    usually denied by the US. Will there more US veteran
    cases from the lastest? Still a mystery...

    RADIATION EXPOSURE COMPENSATION Program
    http://www.angelfire.com/tx/atomicveteran /

    Atomic Veterans Radiation News
    http://www.tpromo.com/usvi/atomic/

    http://www.vethealth.cio.med.va.gov/atomicvets.h tm "Approximately
    195,000 U. S. service members have been identified as participants in the
    post-World War II occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan following
    the atomic bombing of Japan. In addition, approximately 210,000 mostly
    military members are confirmed as participants in U.S. atmospheric
    nuclear weapons tests between 1945 and 1962 in the United States and the
    Pacific and Atlantic oceans prior to the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty.
    Largely as a result of epidemiological studies of Japanese atomi..."

    http://www.ratical.org/radiation/KillingOurOwn/
    Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America's Experience with
    Atomic Radiation. 1982 Wasserman and Soloman

    http://archives.cjr.org/year/94/2/radiation.asp
    Columbia Journalism Review
    March/April 1994 THE RADIATION STORY NO ONE WOULD TOUCH
    by Geoffrey Sea
    " In California, Dorothy Legarreta, who had worked on the Manhattan
    Project as a laboratory technician, organizes the National Association
    of Radiation Survivors (NARS) and starts to write a book about human
    experimentation. In 1982, while examining the papers of Joseph Hamilton
    -- the scientist in charge of radiation experiments at the University of
    California -- at the library of the University of California at Berkeley,
    she comes across a 1950 memo written to Shields Warren, then director
    of the Atomic Energy Commission's Division of biology and medicine. The
    memo advised that large primates -- chimpanzees, for example -- be
    substituted for humans in the planned studies on radiation's cognitive
    effects (the very same program of experimentation that Dr. Saenger was
    to execute). The use of humans, Hamilton wrote, might leave the AEC
    open "to considerable criticism," since the experiments as proposed had
    "a little of the Buchenwald touch."

    "After Legarreta finds the so-called Buchenwald memo, Hamilton's
    papers are removed from public access by University of California
    administrators. Soon after this, Legarreta files a Freedom of Information
    Act request with the Department of Energy, asking for all documents
    concerning experiments in which humans were intentionally exposed to
    radioactive materials through injection or ingestion. Later that year,
    NARS receives a two-foot-high carton of documents in response -- documents
    that, for the first time, expose the widespread human experimentation
    program of the U.S. government. ....
    "1988: Dorothy Legarreta is killed in a mysterious car crash,
    reminiscent of the death of Karen Silkwood. Legarreta's briefcase --
    listed on the accident report as being found -- is missing. The tow-truc
  • by SanGrail (472847) on Monday July 12, 2004 @03:32AM (#9672484)
    What I find appalling is the lack of information on what happened to people who live/lived in areas of the Pacific where nuclear testing was conducted.

    The biggest problems have been from Bikini Atoll, but there's also been a lot of cancer, birth defects etc round Mururoa Atoll (French testing) - which also gets next to no publicity.

    Actually, I should start with what I know, for people who have no idea what I'm talking about -
    when the bombs were dropped on Bikini Atoll, no one evacuated a nearby atoll despite knowing the windpatterns would drop fallout (there was alot of ignorance about the effects though) nuclear 'snow' or fallout covered the island, in fact, locals, not knowing what it was, went out to 'play' in it. Not to mention, the original inhabitants of Bikini Atoll were relocated *back* to the atoll, where they remained for several years - unknown to them, part of a study on the effects of radiation.

    Other than really high rates of cancer etc (among the whole region - 'strange' & deformed fish are found very far from the testing sites after tests), one of the most well known effects has been the so called "Jellyfish babies".

    I'm sure you can guess by the name that the effects are quite horrific.
    It basically covers a range of deformities, but generally refers to the birth of well, I hesitate to use the word 'children' - with missing limbs and/or heads, often with weird skin colourings (I mean discolourations, but apparently they can be surreally vivid).
    Often they're born dead, sometimes they'll survive for a few minutes or hours. Midwives know not to let the mother see them.
    As far as I know, there very little official records being kept, and very little investigation.

    Oh, great - and now I find a link!

    This echo's a lot of what I've heard, with some more detail:
    http://www.antenna.nl/wise/374-5/3678.htm l
  • The neutron bomb (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gary Destruction (683101) * on Monday July 12, 2004 @06:07AM (#9672948) Journal
    It's probably one of the least known of the existing nuclear arsenal, but it's also the cleanest, most efficient and deadliest. It destroys human flesh with neutron and gamma radiation while leaving cities and their power grids fully intact. And its radiation can penetrate armored structures and go deep into the ground. As far as I know, it's never been used or tested (on anyone). But unlike it's nuclear siblings, it's radiation decays quickly and doesn't cause a nuclear winter.

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

Working...