Reading Room

Citizens Watch Newsletter November 1999

Independent Experts Come to Livermore:
Radiation and Risk Town Meeting, Brown Bag Events

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1999 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

In December, Bay Area residents will have an extraordinary opportunity to learn about radiation and risk from two internationally-acclaimed experts in the field, Dr. Owen Hoffman and Carolyn Raffensperger.

Joining them for two public presentations in Livermore will be knowledgeable, long-standing community advocates, attorney Andrew Lichterman of Western States Legal Foundation and Marylia Kelley, Executive Director for Tri-Valley CAREs.

Planned are a December 1st Town Meeting and a December 2nd Brown Bag Lunch. If you are interested in how radiation affects human health, these events are for you. You will also learn what questions we in the public should be asking about radiation risk - and why.

"I hope to inspire people to always ask about 'uncertainty'," says Dr. Owen Hoffman, President and Director of SENES of Oak Ridge, Center for Risk Analysis. "Scientific uncertainty defines the limits of confidence we have in a risk assessment. It is the space in which we characterize what we know, and beyond which we characterize what we don't know." According to Dr. Hoffman, any risk assessment that fails to disclose the range of scientific uncertainty is fatally flawed and not useful for decision-making.

Using easy to understand language, Dr. Hoffman will explain the different types of uncertainty encountered in performing a risk analysis and demonstrate how those uncertainties should be incorporated into the assessment.

Carolyn Raffensperger is Executive Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. In January 1998 she was one of more than thirty scientists, lawyers, policy-makers and environmentalists who met and drafted the "Statement on the Precautionary Principle," which is revolutionizing and empowering society's relationship to radioactive pollution and other externally-imposed risks.

The Precautionary Principle states: "When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically."

Key elements of the Precautionary Principle include using caution in the face of scientific uncertainty; exploring alternatives to potentially harmful actions; placing the burden of proof on the proponent of an activity rather than on victims or potential victims of the activity; and using democratic processes to carry out and enforce the Principle - including the public's right to informed consent.

Communities across the country are waking to the realization that for decades scientific uncertainty has been used against them, to allow the nuclear and chemical industries to rush ahead with a "production first" mentality.

Based in science, ethics and democracy, the Precautionary Principle provides a framework for communities to safeguard themselves from dangerous practices.

"We are at an exciting juncture in the history of the world," writes Ms. Raffensperger in the introduction to her book, Protecting Public Health and the Environment: Implementing the Precautionary Principle.

"On the one hand, we are faced with unprecedented threats to human health and the life-sustaining environment. On the other hand, we have opportunities to fundamentally change the way things are done. We do not have to accept 'business as usual.' Precaution is a guiding principle we can use to stop environmental degradation," she explains.

The Town Meeting begins at 7 PM on Dec. 1 at the Livermore City Council chamber, 3575 Pacific Ave. The Brown Bag Lunch will be Noon to 1 PM on Dec. 2 in the Livermore Lab Visitors Center Auditorium, off Greenville Road.

Don't let the revolution start without you.

(Please see the flier and Statement on the Precautionary Principle for event details and additional biographical information on the speakers.)

The CTBT: A Debacle and a Ray of Hope

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1999 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is supported by the vast majority of people living in the U.S. -- numerous polls have pegged support for the CTBT at or above 82%. It is approved about equally by men and women, young and old and Democrats and Republicans alike across the land. Worldwide, the support is even greater. The CTBT is truly a "peoples' treaty," representing the collective will of the planet's inhabitants. Indeed, if not for decades of unflagging advocacy by citizens around the world, the Treaty would not have come this far.

On September 24, 1996 at the United Nations, President Clinton, amidst great fanfare, accepted the honor of inking in the U.S. as the first signatory nation to the CTBT. The Treaty has since been signed by 153 more countries from around the globe, with 51 thus far completing ratification.

On October 13, 1999, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the CTBT on a largely party-line vote of 48 yes - 51 no, with 1 vote for present. By its action, the Senate broadcast a shameful message to the world: The U.S. intends to keep its nuclear arsenal forever, and the rest of you be damned.

It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that all of the guilt for the CTBT rejection rests entirely with one day's vote, one political party, or one branch of Congress, however responsible those elements all may be.

The seeds of the CTBT defeat were sown much earlier -- in 1995 in the complete capitulation of the Clinton Administration to the weapons labs, offering them the nuclear "carrot" of "Stockpile Stewardship" with new weapons capabilities in lieu of full-scale nuclear tests, in the absolute failure of the CTBT debate over the last 5 years to focus on the Treaty's historical roots as a disarmament measure, and in the misplaced complacency of the U.S. public which believed that nuclear issues went away with the announced end of the Cold War. Further, the CTBT's legal and moral connections to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) have gone unexplored in public discourse.

At this early stage, it is difficult to see with certainty the extent of the damage done. Among the most serious consequences is the potential that the international non-proliferation regime will unravel.

When the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995, the U.S. vigorously promoted and signed a set of "Principles and Objectives" for the NPT, including a reaffirmation to carry out our Article VI obligation to achieve nuclear abolition. First among the specific steps to which we committed ourselves at that time was the CTBT. If the U.S. wants the non-nuclear nations of the world to live up to their promise, codified in the NPT, not to acquire nuclear weapons, don't we have an equal obligation to live up to our end of the bargain -- to ratify the CTBT and negotiate disarmament in good faith?

Should the non-proliferation regime hold, however tenuously, there may be an unprecedented opportunity for U.S. non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to work with the world's many, many, righteously-outraged governments -- as well as with other NGOs -- to bring pressure to bear on the U.S. To that end, Tri-Valley CAREs will send a contingent of members and staff to the U.N. this spring to participate in the NPT review conference.

Another silver lining in the dark cloud of the CTBT vote lies in the potential to make the CTBT and nuclear disarmament publicly-debated issues in the upcoming election. It is up to all of us to seize the initiative and set the terms of the discussion this time around.

In short, if we are to win the CTBT in the Senate the next time it is introduced, we must implement a new, vigorous, pro-disarmament strategy, and we must mobilize -- the public favors the Treaty, but has largely sat out the debate thus far.

Meeting on Nuclear Rods

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1999 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

On October 20, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the GE Vallecitos Nuclear Center held a public meeting in Livermore on safety issues. Several community groups, including Tri-Valley CAREs, and Alameda County officials had requested the meeting in order to obtain information about the ongoing irradiated nuclear fuel rod research program at GE Vallecitos and the planned shipment this month of ten additional rods - from the Limerick, Pennsylvania nuclear power plant across the country to the GE Vallecitos plant, located along the boundaries of Livermore, Pleasanton and Sunol.

About 60 community members came, including Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and several other officials and aides. Inga Olson came from Sacramento - which is located along the shipping corridor - to raise transportation safety issues and question the "need" for the shipments. Others at the meeting shared similar concerns.

Bill Webster, who lives next door to GE Vallecitos, complained of too much secrecy and too little democracy. He and others pointed out that GE Vallecitos doesn't even have a number listed in the phone book. Under fire, the GE Vallecitos spokesman, Lynn Wallis, provided a phone number - not for the GE Vallecitos facility, but for the parent company some 50 miles away in San Jose. For the record, that number is (408) 925-2978.

A number of Tri-Valley CAREs members participated in the meeting and asked key questions regarding nuclear waste, risks, pollution, transport and the lack of public information.

How many nuclear rods are slated to come to GE Vallecitos, our members asked? When will the program, and the shipments, end? What will be done with the 64 nuclear rods reported to be stored currently behind the plant? How many years will they end up staying there? How many will join them? What about earthquakes, including on the Verona fault that runs through the facility? What additional waste streams are created by the process of cutting open the rods and conducting various analyses of their contents? What about the cleanup of the "hot cells" in which the rods are analyzed? Will GE Vallecitos offer an information "reading room" and public tours, such as are available for nearby Dept. of Energy labs? Most questions went unanswered.

GE Vallecitos allowed that it might list an address and phone number in the future. The NRC "answered" Joanne Dean-Freemire's request for an information depository for locally-relevant documents at the GE Vallecitos site by telling her that: (1) she could go to one of several information sites in California, though the closest are many hours away in Eureka and San Luis Obispo, and (2) those information sites would be closing at the end of the year. The closest NRC office is in Texas. But we can all look on the web, the NRC blithely assured us. And so it went.

About halfway through the Oct. 20th meeting, Mary Adams, NRC's Team Leader for Special Nuclear Material Licensing, dropped an information "bombshell": The GE Vallecitos plant's nuclear materials license is up for renewal. Ms. Adams explained that NRC had conducted a "public" meeting on the materials license at GE Vallecitos in June. No one from the public came or asked for a public hearing, she said.

Audience members - residents, reporters and elected officials alike - looked at each other, stunned. Not one single person in the audience appeared to have any knowledge of the June meeting. Under questioning, NRC admitted that it had not sent out any press releases or community-accessible public notices.

Therefore, Tri-Valley CAREs is now drafting a petition to NRC to request a public hearing on GE Vallecitos' special nuclear materials license renewal. We expect the petition, albeit late, to be granted based on the prior lack of any real public notice.

The nuclear materials license, if issued, would not come up for renewal again until 2009. Therefore, a public hearing now on the license may be the public's only opportunity for the next 10 years to obtain information about the site and raise concerns or objections.

Why Tri-Valley CAREs?

by Ann Seitz
from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 19099 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

(This is one of a series of vignettes on how and why folks got involved in Tri-Valley CAREs.)

In the fall of 1985 I began to study Geology at CSU, Hayward. Three years later, I transferred to Mills College where, as a junior, I discovered Russian History. Fascinated, I took Comparative Communism, Chinese History and everything else related to the subject. Ultimately, I graduated with a B.A. in Communications and English. After graduation I found no work in that field.

It was time for a reexamination of life. My children were launched and doing well in their lives. I'd always been a wanderer through the forest of Peace and Justice issues, supporting and volunteering for many projects and groups about which I felt strongly. I'd started endowments, given care and succor to the elderly, agitated for free speech and more. Now, I wanted a job, something meaningful, a cause with people I respected and admired. What I didn't realize was that a grassroots, professional and effective organization like Tri-Valley CAREs would fill the bill. One day my Citizen's Watch arrived in the mail, and it became clear.

While reading the newsletter, the entire "glasnost" and "perestroyka" period in the Soviet Union came to mind. I recalled the historic Reagan-Gorbachev Reykjavik, Iceland summit. Gorbachev had proposed the bold and brave move of banning all nuclear weapons. Reagan almost said yes, but then, unable to give up "Star Wars," said no. This was a heartbreaking missed opportunity for the U.S. to lead the world toward peace. I suffered for days from Reagan's foolishness and my inability to affect events. So, when I saw a job listing that day in Citizen's Watch, I answered the ad immediately. Eventually I accepted the Administrative Assistant position, replacing Roxanne Johnson.

While in the makeshift "cage slammer" at Livermore Lab during the Hiroshima demonstration this last Aug. 6th, I knew I'd made the right decision.

Citizen's Alerts

from Tri-Valley CAREs' November 1999 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Thursday, November 18
Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1000 So. Livermore Ave. (at Pacific)
(925) 443-7148 for details

Don't miss out-this is our last monthly meeting of the year. We will focus on the upcoming "Radiation and Risk" events, the NIF public hearing and other exciting opportunities to promote peace and a healthy environment. Come and learn, while sharing ideas in a supportive atmosphere.

November 27 - 30
Tri-Valley CAREs leaflet brigade
Volunteers needed, 2 hour shifts
(925) 443-7148 for details

Help table and hand out leaflets for the upcoming "Radiation and Risk" events. Call Ren?Steinhauer, our Community Organizer, to sign up. We will be at the Nob Hill market in Livermore and the Pleasanton Safeway on Sat., Nov. 27 and Sun., Nov. 28. Volunteers are also needed on Mon., Nov. 29 and Tue., Nov. 30 to leaflet between 11:30 AM and 1 PM at the two Livermore Lab open area cafeterias. (Lunch is extra.)

Wednesday, December 1
Town Meeting
"Radiation and Risk"
7 PM - 9 PM, City Council chamber
3575 Pacific Ave., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Join us for a memorable evening. Come to a Town Meeting and hear from a renowned panel of scientific experts and community advocates. Learn about the health risks of radiation exposure. Learn what questions to ask when an agency uses a risk assessment to "prove" radioactive pollution is all right. Find out about the "Precautionary Principle," and why it will revolutionize the way society thinks about risk in the future. What you hear tonight can save your life. (Please see flier and article for details.)

Thursday, December 2
"Radiation and Risk"
Brown Bag Lunch
Noon - 1 PM, Livermore Lab
Visitors Center Auditorium
Greenville Rd. entrance
(925) 443-7148 for details

Open to all Lab employees and the public, this lunch-time presentation will demonstrate the basics of how to analyze "scientific uncertainty" in risk assessment and how to incorporate the "Precautionary Principle" in decisions. (See insert for details, speakers' bios.)

Thursday, December 2
Tri-Valley CAREs mailing party
7 PM - 9 PM, Tri-Valley CAREs offices
2582 Old First St., Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Many hands make light work. Please join us to prepare our last newsletter of 1999 for mailing. Enjoy snacks and conversation while helping a good cause.

Wednesday, December 8
National Ignition Facility
Public Hearing on the "Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement"
3 - 5 PM & 6:30 - 8:30 PM
Livermore Lab, south cafeteria, open area, enter off East Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details
(877) 388-4930 to sign up to speak

Do you believe the U.S. should move toward nuclear disarmament instead of building new nuclear weapons facilities? Do you think that NIF poses an environmental risk? If so, this is your GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY to object to NIF's construction and operation.

This public hearing is mandated by a court order, issued in the lawsuit brought by Tri-Valley CAREs, NRDC and 37 additional plaintiff groups. Make it count by your presence. We will have "talking points" and other helpful information available for you at the hearing.

Additionally, there will be a public hearing on Dec. 1, 1999 at DOE Headquarters in Washington, DC. Phone the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (202) 833-4668 for more information.

December 30 - January 2
"Millennium 2000: Walking the Ways of Peace"
Religious action for disarmament
Las Vegas and Nevada Test Site
(702) 646-4814 for details

Nevada Desert Experience is sponsoring this event featuring speakers, workshops and a midnight, Dec. 31, candlelight procession onto the test site.

Action Alert -- Call the speaker sign up number today!

Public Hearing on the Construction and Operation of the National Ignition Facility

Public Hearing on the Draft Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Construction and Operation of the National Ignition Facility in an area contaminated by toxics. This review is mandated by a court order -- issued in the lawsuit brought by 39 plaintiff groups to challenge the DOE's environmental review of its "Stockpile Stewardship" program.

Dec. 8, 1999, 3 to 5 PM and 6:30 to 8:30 PM.

Livermore Lab -- south cafeteria, located in an "open area" off East Ave. between Vasco & Greenville.

Speaker sign up:

(877) 388-4930. Reserve your 10 minute (time approximate) slot today.

More information:

Call Tri-Valley CAREs (925) 443-7148

There will be a Washington, DC public hearing on Dec. 1, 1999 at DOE headquarters. For more information about this hearing, call the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability at (202) 833-4668. Or, just call the speaker sign up number -- it is the same for both hearings.

Additional Note:
You may also call the speaker sign up number to inquire about submitting written or verbal comments during the comment period -- even if you cannot attend a public hearing. Public comment period ends Dec. 20, 1999.

"Talking points" and other materials will be available from Tri-Valley CAREs, Western States Legal Foundation and other colleague organizations around the end of November. Feel free to call us for a copy by email, snail mail or fax! Or, simply come by our information table at the Hearing on Dec. 8 and pick one up.

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