Tag Archives: nuclear waste

‘Poisoning the Pacific’: New book detailing US military contamination of islands and seas | World News | Instant News


In 1968, Leroy Foster was a principal sergeant in the US Air Force, assigned to Anderson Air Force Base at Thrush, an island region of the United States in the Pacific. The day after he arrived on the island, he recalls being ordered to mix “diesel fuel with Agent Orange”, then spraying “by truck all over the base to kill any overgrowth in the forest”.

Before long, Foster developed serious skin complaints and eventually fell ill with Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease. Later, her daughter developed cancer as a teenager, and her grandson was born with 12 fingers, 12 toes, and a heart whisper. Foster died in 2018.

A new book, Poisoning the Pacific, due for release Monday, tells of decades of US military contamination of indigenous lands in the Pacific as well as the oceans themselves, endangering lives and ecosystems across the vast Pacific Ocean.

Written by British journalist Jon Mitchell, Poisoning the Pacific is based on more than 12,000 pages of documents obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and through interviews with local residents, military veterans and researchers.

The book argues that for decades, the US has been treating it territory in the Pacific with neglect, allowing its military to violate customary rights, seize land, and destroy fragile ecosystems.








US military aircraft park at the Andersen Air Force base on the island of Guam, US Pacific Territory. Photo: Erik de Castro / Reuters

Alongside Foster’s case – after years of campaigning the aviator is finally compensated for his exposure on the island – Mitchell’s book details decades of US military operations that polluted the Pacific with toxic substances including radioactive waste, nerve agents, and dioxin-tainted Agent Orange. .

“US authorities have repeatedly tried to cover up the contamination through lies, disinformation and attacks on journalists,” Mitchell told The Guardian. “I have experienced this pressure firsthand.”

Mitchell’s books document several attempts by the US state and defense department to block his work. One FOIA file shows that Mitchell is being watched by the US Marine Corps’ Criminal Investigation Division. The documents include his photo, his biography, and a lecture he gave in Okinawa on military contamination.

“Colleagues warned me not to continue with my investigations. What particularly motivates me to continue filing for FOIA and extracting evidence is the very real impact my research has had on veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Okinawa, ”he said.

“My report has helped these sick men and women receive compensation from the US government. Investigative journalism is ultimately a job that is supposed to help people who have experienced persecution receive the justice they deserve. “

Poisoning the Pacific details the ongoing environmental damage and risks to human health.

The ‘dome’ on the island of Runit in the Marshall Islands – a compact sovereign nation in free relations with the US – is a large concrete grave where the US has stored more than 70,000 m3 radioactive debris, including plutonium-239, left over from US post-war atomic tests. Irradiated land from Nevada was also transported to the island and dumped.

The dome leaks radioactive material into the sea, USA energy department admitted, although it was said the numbers were not dangerous. Successive US governments have said the dome is the responsibility of the Marshall Islands, saying the US has paid more than $ 600 million in radiation-related resettlement, rehabilitation and health care costs to affected communities.

The book documents “the US Army dumped 29 million kilograms of mustard agents and neuroprotective agents, and 454 tonnes of radioactive waste” into the Pacific Ocean, as well as the US military’s use of neuroprotective agents, including sarin, which US government documents confirmation leaked to the neighborhood while scheduled for destruction at Johnston Atoll near Hawaii.





At nine locations stretching from Johnston Atoll in the Pacific to Edgewood, Maryland, the US Army stores 31,280 tonnes of mustard and the nerve agents sarin and VX.



At nine locations stretching from Johnston Atoll in the Pacific to Edgewood, Maryland, the US Army stores 31,280 tonnes of mustard and the nerve agents sarin and VX. Photo: Ronen Zilberman / AP

The debate over the use of a potentially lethal herbicide has been hotly debated.

After the second world war, some five thousand barrels of Agent Purple – the herbicide pioneer Agent Orange – were transported and stored on Guam.

Although the US defense department consistently claims herbicide stockpiles are never used on the island, service members stationed there at the time claim they sprayed and dumped military waste, including damaged herbicide barrels, on the cliffs of Guam.

Researchers, including Guam’s department of public health and social services, reported in 2015 that villages where the herbicide is believed to have been sprayed experienced a higher incidence of infant mortality from birth defects.

In 2017, investigating claims of herbicide use on Guam, the US government itself came into conflict: the the defense department reported that the soil test contained no herbicides, the environmental protection agency reported otherwise.

The health and environmental impacts on Guam reflect what has happened to local residents and US soldiers based in Okinawa, Japan, where the US has maintained a base for decades, and where Mitchell began reporting.

In 2005, the US struck a deal with Japan to transfer thousands of US marines from Okinawa to Guam. Okinawans consistently oppose the US military presence on the island citing harm to their health and environment.

There has been some progress, although limited. Guam senators have backed a bill to include the territory on the list of veterans’ places where Agent Orange is used. In March 2019, a bill that was named after Lonnie Kilpatrick, a service member who fell ill on Guam and died, agreed to compensation for 52,000 veterans who were exposed to herbicides in three US Pacific regions – Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll.

But even in 2020, the voices of indigenous peoples are consistently muted, Mitchell said. In July, the time when military excavations on Guam were revealed dozens of sites containing human remains and cultural artifacts, local residents – especially the indigenous Chamorro – were shocked. But despite concerns fueling a growing movement to demilitarize the Pacific, the US’s newest marine corps base – the first new base in nearly 70 years – officially opened the door earlier this month.

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Rep. Gabbard rejects US claims that the Marshall Islands nuclear waste site is safe World | Instant News


One famous Hawaiian politician has rejected a recent Department of Energy report which concluded that the leaked US nuclear waste warehouse on the Marshall Islands is safe for the people there.

He asked the department to conduct a more independent assessment of the location of waste.

“I think it is time for the Department of Energy to rely on someone with fresh eyes to examine the situation,” US Representative Tulsi Gabbard, one of two members of the Hawaiian Democratic Council, said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Gabbard spoke publicly in Congress on behalf of the Marshall Islands, which the United States used as a testing ground for a number of nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

Leaking of nuclear waste warehouse

He was encouraged to return Medicaid to people from the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau who worked and lived in the United States but did not have access to health care. He also played an important role in asking the Department of Energy to re-examine the safety of Runit Dome, a nuclear waste storage site that leaked in the Marshall Islands, as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

In a call for “fresh eyes” on the waste site, Gabbard referred to Terry Hamilton, who has been a contractor for the Department of Energy for nuclear issues in the Marshall Islands since 1990.

Hamilton was a contributor to the Department of Energy report, which concluded that while rising sea levels could increase storm surges and “cause excessive waves caused by waves at the bottom of the dome,” there is not enough definitive data to determine “how this event might impact the environment.”

Hamilton and his employer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, responded to requests for comment. But in an earlier email, Hamilton said the risk posed by the waste site was low “based on the argument that the total amount of fall contamination contained in Runit Dome was dwarfed by the remaining amount of drop contamination stored in marine sediments in the Enewetak lagoon.”

He added that, although he did not write documents, he provided “reports, publications, and data” which informed the Department of Energy’s conclusions.

Published in early July, the assessment referred to 27 papers and reports, 25 of which were not peer reviewed, including 13 by Hamilton. All published by agents in the US government.

The lack of independent review frustrates Gabbard and some Marshall leaders.

“The Department of Energy is very aware of public distrust of their research on the Marshall Islands, but they have never shown an interest in doing anything about it, which is including independent scientists in their studies or consulting with the Marshall community for their knowledge of the environment,” Rhea Christian- Moss in an email to The Times.

“I’m not sure credibility is their goal,” he said.

Runit Dome, located in Enewetak Atoll on Marshall Island, has more than 3.1 million cubic feet – or 35 Olympic size swimming pools – of ground and radioactive debris produced by the US, including the amount of deadly plutonium produced by 67 bomb tests between 1946 and 1958.

Encouraged by “moral obligation,” the US government cleared irrigated atolls and irradiated land before surrendering the islands back to Marshall in 1980. Marshall had voluntarily moved during the 1940s.

Waste – metal and concrete debris, and irradiated topsoil – were dumped in the atomic bomb crater on Runit Island, and covered with concrete.

Last year, Hamilton told a small audience of politicians and regulators Marshall and America that the dome might leak, and that it was vulnerable to rising sea levels and rising storm surges.

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Tulsi Gabbard’s representative rejects US claims that the Marshall Islands nuclear waste site is safe National | Instant News


One famous Hawaiian politician has rejected a recent Department of Energy report which concluded that the leaked US nuclear waste warehouse on the Marshall Islands is safe for the people there.

He asked the department to conduct a more independent assessment of the location of waste.

“I think it is time for the Department of Energy to rely on someone with fresh eyes to examine the situation,” US Representative Tulsi Gabbard, one of two members of the Hawaiian Democratic Council, said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Gabbard, who gained national attention by launching what some call the quixotic campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, was publicly spoken at Congress on behalf of the Marshall Islands, which the United States used as a testing ground for a number of nuclear weapons during the Cold War.

He was encouraged to return Medicaid to people from the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau who worked and lived in the United States but did not have access to health services. He also played an important role in asking the Department of Energy to re-examine the safety of Runit Dome, a nuclear waste storage site that leaked in the Marshall Islands, as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

“The US government is responsible for this repository and must ensure the protection of our people and the environment from the toxic waste stored there,” Gabbard said in a news release announcing his amendments to the draft defense law.

In a call for “fresh eyes” on the waste site, Gabbard referred to Terry Hamilton, who has been a contractor for the Department of Energy for nuclear issues in the Marshall Islands since 1990.

Hamilton was a contributor to the Department of Energy report, which concluded that while rising sea levels could increase storm surges and “cause excessive waves caused by waves at the bottom of the dome,” there is not enough definitive data to determine “how this event might impact the environment.”

Hamilton and his employer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, responded to requests for comment. But in an earlier email, Hamilton said the risk posed by the waste site was low “based on the argument that the total amount of fall contamination contained in Runit Dome was dwarfed by the remaining amount of drop contamination stored in marine sediments in the Enewetak lagoon.”

He added that, although he did not write documents, he provided “reports, publications, and data” which informed the Department of Energy’s conclusions.

Published in early July, the assessment referred to 27 papers and reports, 25 of which were not peer reviewed, including 13 by Hamilton. All published by agents in the US government.

The lack of independent review frustrates Gabbard and some Marshall leaders.

“The Department of Energy is very aware of public distrust of their research on the Marshall Islands, but they have never shown an interest in doing anything about it, which is including independent scientists in their studies or consulting with the Marshall community for their knowledge of the environment,” Rhea Christian- Moss in an email to The Times.

“I’m not sure credibility is their goal,” he said.

Runit Dome, located in Enewetak Atoll on Marshall Island, has more than 3.1 million cubic feet – or 35 Olympic size swimming pools – of ground and radioactive debris produced by the US, including the amount of deadly plutonium produced by 67 bomb tests between 1946 and 1958.

Encouraged by “moral obligation,” the US government cleared irrigated atolls and irradiated land before surrendering the islands back to Marshall, in 1980. Marshall had voluntarily moved during the 1940s.

Waste – metal and concrete debris, and irradiated topsoil – were dumped in the atomic bomb crater on Runit Island, and covered with concrete.

Last year, Hamilton told a small audience of politicians and regulators Marshall and America that the dome might leak, and that it was vulnerable to rising sea levels and rising storm surges.

Congress, in its approval of the Defense Bill last year, ordered the Department of Energy to provide written reports on the risks posed by Runit Dome to people, the environment and wildlife in the Enewetak lagoon. In addition, the report requires an assessment of how climate change can affect locations.

“I think they would react very differently if it was in their backyard,” he told the report’s authors.

Gabbard said he would continue to press issues with the Department of Energy “and try to get answers that are not discussed in this report.”

Despite the outspokenness of the Marshall Islands and the legacy of US radiation there, Gabbard is often alone in public on this issue. Other key Democrats, including Sens. Mazie Hirono from Hawaii and Jack Reed from Rhode Island, ranking members of the Armed Forces Committee, declined to comment on this story.

(EDITOR: STORY COULD END HERE)

Michael Gerrard, a law professor at Columbia University who has worked with the Marshall government on the issue of climate change and nuclear justice, is also dissatisfied with the Department of Energy’s report.

“The standard practice is to make scientific papers and reports for review by experts who are not affiliated with the authors of the papers,” Gerrard said when asked about the material used by the government to justify his report. “Self-review and affirmation are not accepted.”

(c) 2020 Los Angeles Times

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PHOTOS (for assistance with pictures, call 312-222-4194): Gabbard, Marshall Islands

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.

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