Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter November 1998

We've Moved!

Come and visit us at our new location in downtown Livermore

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

As this edition of Citizen's Watch goes to press, we are a happy but tired crew here at Tri-Valley CAREs. We have just finished carrying 1,000 reports, 5,000 files, 9 bookcases, 5 desks and enough lumber to build 4 more very tall shelving units across town to our new office. And, by the time you get this in the mail, we will be up, running and ready for your visit. We are located at 2582 Old First Street, in the heart of the community and within sight of downtown Livermore's signature flagpole.

Over the last 15 years we have amassed quite an array of data, ranging from our own Tri-Valley CAREs fact sheets, booklets and reports to arcane government documents, including recently declassified reports on weapons design activities being carried out under the guise of "Stockpile Stewardship." Thus, a recent goal of Tri-Valley CAREs has been to make all of this information more accessible to activists and to the general public. Now, with our new, expanded office space we are able to have a library and a comfortable reading room for the community.

Moreover, our new space will allow us to more easily conduct community briefings and workshops, host our monthly mailing parties and, on a daily basis, offer desk space to volunteers, members and interns. In other words, we have plenty of room to grow here! Until now, Tri-Valley CAREs had been housed in one or more of its members homes, with its main location in Marylia Kelley's apartment. To say the least, as we continued to expand our research, publishing, outreach and education activities, we had begun to burst at the seams.

We hope you are as excited about the move as we are. It's the start of a new era for Tri-Valley CAREs, and we invite you to share in its "official" inauguration on December 12. The details follow!

Office Warming and Holiday Party

Celebrate our successes in 1998 - and our big move into a charming 1,100 square foot office in downtown Livermore. Our new "digs" encompass the top floor of a converted 1908 Victorian-style house with 12 foot ceilings. See our new research library and reading room. And, most of all, enjoy some holiday cheer and conversation with friends, neighbors & colleagues!

Join us at 7:30 PM on Sat., Dec. 12 at 2582 Old First Street, east of the flagpole in downtown Livermore.

Lawsuit on Withheld Lab Data

by Sally Light
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs will file a lawsuit this week in federal court in Northern California* charging the Department of Energy (DOE) for its failure to provide information requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Two separate FOIA requests by our group, 9 months old and 6 months old respectively, have yet to produce any document despite the 20-day response time required by FOIA.

Tri-Valley CAREs had requested a report on nuclear weapons "pit" production from the Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) in New Mexico, and information about the air filters and maintenance at the main plutonium facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) in California. LANL and LLNL, the nation's two principal nuclear weapons design facilities, are both involved in DOE's ongoing "Stockpile Stewardship" program which, despite its name, involves new nuclear weapons development. The requested information deals with two aspects of the program.

"By remaining silent, the DOE has, in essence, unlawfully denied Tri-Valley CAREs both the information itself and any appeal of its denial," said Steve Sugarman, the New Mexico attorney who will file the suit on behalf of Tri-Valley CAREs. Sugarman recently successfully represented one of our colleague organizations, the Los Alamos Study Group, in a similar suit against DOE. He believes Tri-Valley CAREs' case is strong and is likely to result in another court victory.

By bringing this lawsuit, Tri-Valley CAREs aims not only to obtain the specific information it requested, but also to win a court judgment that will aid other organizations whose FOIA requests are being similarly ignored by DOE.

For many years Tri-Valley CAREs has monitored LLNL, both as to its nuclear weapons work and the toxic wastes it produces. Additionally, we are known for our national and international work on a variety of nuclear weapons issues. Unless we can obtain the data to which we and the public have a right under FOIA, we cannot effectively produce timely technical and policy papers and this monthly newsletter. So, we will insist that DOE be forced to release the requested documents.

Further, we believe the Department needs to be told by the federal court that it must comply at all times with the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, which assures public access to unclassified material. For, if that access is denied, so too is any vestige of informed public participation regarding the U.S. government's nuclear weapons policy likewise denied.

* This is updated from the "hard copy" of the newsletter. For more information, check out our press release on this web page.

Pacific Blue

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Your tax dollars are buying Livermore Lab the world's fastest computer as part of the "Stockpile Stewardship" program. The supercomputer, dubbed "Pacific Blue" will be used to augment actual explosive experiments in the National Ignition Facility currently under construction at the Lab and subcritical tests conducted underground in Nevada in order to upgrade the nation's nuclear weapons design codes and hence its bomb-design capabilities.

Developed by IBM to perform at a peak of 3.9 trillion calculations per second, the computer will simulate a nuclear bomb test, jubilant officials told the news media in a White House ceremony earlier this month. Pacific Blue's typical speed will hover just above the one trillion calculations per second range, said Livermore Lab's head of scientific computing, Mike McCoy.

Pacific Blue cost $96 million, according to DOE. The Department will spend $4 billion on new supercomputer capabilities for its nuclear weapons programs over five years, according to its Fiscal Year 1999 Congressional Budget Request. The "Stockpile Stewardship" program is expected to cost $60 billion for its initial thirteen year start-up.

Pacific Blue is slated to become old news soon, as DOE is expected to announce installation of its "Blue Mountain" computer, for $121 million, at Los Alamos Lab any time now. Through additional contracts with IBM, Intel and Silicon Graphics, DOE hopes to achieve 10 trillion calculations per second within 2 years and 100 trillion within 6 years.

Groups Demand DOE Address Illnesses Around Sites

by Bob Schaeffer
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

In a letter delivered Monday, November 9, a national network of activists, including Tri-Valley CAREs, urged Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Bill Richardson and other Clinton Administration leaders to immediately address widespread health problems in communities near U.S. nuclear weapons research, testing, and production facilities, including Livermore Lab. The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) requested establishment of an official national registry to collect information on disease clusters and creation of health services to provide diagnostic and therapeutic care. Tri-Valley CAREs has been an ANA member organization since 1989.

The ANA letter drew on recent reports in "The Tennessean" and other news media documenting patterns of cancer and other rare diseases around Department of Energy sites. (For details, see last month's Citizen's Watch.)

ANA criticized DOE Acting Asst. Secretary for Environment, Safety & Health Peter Brush for claiming that he was unaware of such problems, noting "he has been present at several meetings ANA has held with ES&H staff... where these very issues have been discussed." Copies of the letter were also sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, Surgeon General David Satcher, and other senior public health officials.

In addition to creation of a disease registry and health services, ANA called on DOE and other federal agencies to:

  • Quickly complete declassification of all data relating to possible health and environmental contamination from U.S. nuclear weapons production activities;
  • Provide information to affected individuals about cumulative doses from all sources including nuclear testing fallout and the resulting risks they face;
  • Create a public and health care provider information service on exposures and resulting public health concerns;
  • Revise radiation protection standards to give potentially affected individuals the benefit of doubt and account for whether people were adequately informed of their exposures and risks;
  • Completely transfer appropriations for health related research from DOE to the Department of Health and Human Services in order to provide a source of funding free from conflicts of interest in which the agency which may have caused the health problems is responsible for monitoring them;
  • Immediately release funds from DOE for the Hanford Medical Monitoring Program, the only working model of a constructive government health response to nuclear weapons contamination, as required by law; and
  • Implement an archival project to record and preserve the histories of people exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons testing and production.

Radiation and Health Findings

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

(1) Community knowledge, input and pressure can improve science by focusing health researchers on problems that otherwise would go unexamined.
(2) Very low exposures to radiation, even lower than so-called "allowable" limits for workers, were found to be associated with higher cancer death rates in some DOE employees.
(3) The evidence suggests that Livermore Lab has emitted more radioactive pollution into the soil, air, water and sewer sludge than Lab scientists had previously calculated.

These are among the key findings presented by a panel of independent experts at the "Radiation and Your Health" series last month.

The three public events were jointly sponsored by Tri-Valley CAREs, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Western States Legal Foundation and the Childhood Cancer Research Institute.

Dr. Steven Wing, a professor of epidemiology at the Univ. of North Carolina, told the audience at the Town Meeting, held in the Livermore City Council Chambers, about residents living around the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. They had stories of burns and blisters on their bodies following the accident in 1979, of pets who suddenly died and of family members who later contracted cancer. Officials told them stress had caused their problems.

The community persisted in its belief that there was more to the story than that, and, when he and his colleagues looked into the records on the residents' behalf, Wing found that the original study's conclusions had been influenced by restrictions on its analysis imposed by the court. Upon reexamination of the data, elevated cancer rates showed up in the location where radiation had blown after the accident. "We never would have looked at this if it had not been for the people who were not satisfied by what they were told," Wing concluded.

The following day, Wing spoke at the Lab on his study of the effects of low dose radiation on worker mortality (death) at DOE's Oak Ridge facility. Wing found that earlier research had relied on a shorter-term follow up period, and had failed to find some dose-response associations because the cancer deaths had not yet occurred. Wing's study period included seven years not in the original.

Perhaps even more importantly, Wing's study suggested that very low doses of radiation were involved with elevated rates of cancer death, particularly when the dose recipient was an older worker. This finding warrants more study as it has profound implications for the levels of radiation considered "allowable" by regulatory agencies. Also, it is relevant for the community as a fetus, children and the elderly are known to be particularly susceptible to adverse health effects from radiation exposure.

Data on Livermore Lab's releases and local cancer studies were also presented, and a workshop was held on the final day. Copies of materials are available on request. The Town Meeting will air on Channel 30 in the Tri-Valley area at 9 PM on Nov. 21 and 22.

Citizen's Alerts

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Thursday, November 19

Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1000 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

Our last meeting of 1998-don't miss it! The meeting will include: Outlining some next steps to our successful "Radiation and Your Health" series; handouts of sample letters and other materials so everyone can readily participate in the "Health Theme Month"; detailing the latest on Livermore Lab's new weapons facilities including NIF and the "Pacific Blue" supercomputer; and, planning a protest of the next subcritical nuclear test. And, on a very, very happy note, we will plan our office-warming, holiday party to be held on Dec. 12 at our accessible new location.

November 21 and 22

"Radiation and Your Health"
9 PM -11:30 PM, Channel 30
in the Tri-Valley area
(925) 443-7148 for details

Have cable? Tune in to Channel 30 at 9 PM on either Sat., Nov. 21 or Sun., Nov. 22, and see our recent Town Meeting on radiation and health in its entirety. Panelists include Marylia Kelley on Livermore Lab's radioactive emissions; Dr. Steven Wing on his recent study that reevaluated data at Three Mile Island and emphasized the importance of community-based knowledge and participation; Stephanie Ericson on emerging opportunities to democratize science; and Pat Sutton on the plutonium-laden sludge spread around Livermore and nearby communities.

Wednesday, December 9

Tri-Valley CAREs' mailing party
7 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs' office
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

We need volunteers to affix labels on next month's Citizen's Watch. Can you spare a couple of hours to help?

Learn, Participate in Health Action Month

by Susan Gordon
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Tri-Valley CAREs and the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a national network of grassroots and national organizations working on issues of nuclear weapons production and nuclear waste, have designated November 1998 as "Radiation Health Effects Awareness Month."

We ask you to join us in efforts to educate ourselves and the public about the health effects of U.S. nuclear weapons.

Radiation releases from nuclear weapons design, production and testing have exposed millions of people world-wide to higher risks for cancer and other potentially fatal diseases. The U.S. government has done little to address past and continuing health risks to the public.

Based on a recent study by the National Cancer Institute, we now know that atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in the U.S. spread radioactive iodine across the entire country putting millions at greater risk for thyroid diseases.

The fallout contained numerous radioactive isotopes, some of which remain active in the environment for long periods. Exposures can occur by inhaling radioactive particles, absorbing the fallout through the skin, and/or ingesting the fallout through contaminated food, water, or other liquids such as milk. The effects of radiation depend on a variety of factors.

One of the primary and undeniable lessons of the nuclear age is that governments which pursue development, production, and testing of nuclear weapons cause harm to their own citizens, as well as to others around the globe. The U.S. government should not remain unaccountable and ignore its responsibility for potential health effects just because many of the casualties of radiation exposure do not become apparent until long after the releases causing the exposures. ANA has developed an information and action kit, available at the upcoming Tri-Valley CAREs' meeting on Nov. 19, to share some simple steps that you can take during Nov. to help on this important issue. By joining in this focused effort, we hope to raise public awareness about the potential health impacts of exposures to radiation from weapons facilities in the U.S., and to press the government to inform those most at risk and provide them with health services. (See related articles on pages 2 and 3.)

Protest Cimarron

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1998 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

No, this is neither about an old movie, nor the river in New Mexico. This is about an underground subcritical nuclear test, code-named Cimarron.

Called "subcritical" because the plutonium in the test will not undergo a sustained nuclear reaction, Cimarron is being readied now by Los Alamos Lab for detonation within the next few weeks at the Nevada Test Site.

However, during partial practice runs, site workers committed safety violations by bypassing three interlocks, thereby potentially allowing the laser and x-ray equipment to operate in unsafe conditions. Los Alamos is prohibited from conducting both its full dress rehearsal and the actual test until it fixes the system, according to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. Call us for updates at (925) 443-7148.

Just Say Cancel It

1) Immediately call and fax messages to DOE. Call (202) 586-6210 or (202) 586-5806. Fax to (202) 586-4403 or (202) 586-1567.

2) Call Clinton at (202) 456-1111.

3) Join us for a demonstration at Bechtel Headquarters at 50 Beale St. in San Francisco at NOON on the day of the test. Bechtel manages the Nevada Test Site for DOE.

Actions are also being planned in New Mexico, Nevada and Japan.

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