The Nuclear Waste Scandal

Nightmare Nuclear Waste

Film Review

In the face of growing international concern over the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima,  an excellent 2009 French/German film (with English subtitles) about nuclear waste has been re-released and is making the rounds of cyberspace. This is truly a life and death issue, owing to the research evidence linking high environmental radiation levels (from the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown) to a big spike in European cancer levels. Important facts come out in this film that the nuclear industry and government are doing their best to conceal:

1. The whole issue of nuclear waste is characterized by secrecy, cover-up, lies and deception by the nuclear industry and pro-nuclear governments (including the extremely pro-nuclear Obama administration).

2. As the world waits with baited breath for the nuclear industry to come up with a permanent solution for deadly waste that will take 100,000 years to decontaminate, massive amounts have been dumped in the ocean, released to the air or stored in leaky containers that are contaminating groundwater and rivers. In La Hague France a nuclear energy company called Areva is releasing it into the air and into the English Channel through a drain pipe d water or open air storage pools. In La Hague France a nuclear energy company is releasing it into the English Channel through a drain pipe (as of 2009, when this film was made).

3. The US and Russian government are covering up the devastating health impacts of the world’s two most contaminated nuclear sites: the Hanford nuclear reservation in Eastern Washington and the Chelyabinsk region in the former Soviet Union. The latter experienced massive contamination when a nuclear waste dump at the Mayak nuclear facility exploded in 1957. The very first nuclear disaster in history was covered up by both the Soviets and, at the behest of America’s fledgling nuclear power industry, the CIA

4. There has never been full disclosure about the 100,000 tons of nuclear waste dumped into the ocean prior to 1993 (as the film was made in 2009, this number excludes the four tons daily dumped into the Pacific Ocean at Fukushima), when the practice was banned by international treaty. Nor has there been any effort to investigate where these radionucleotides ended up or whether they have contaminated the food chain.

4. The nuclear industry – and government – are willfully ignoring the “no threshold model” doctors use to evaluate cumulative radiation risk when they assure us that occasional releases from nuclear power plants are no more harmful than a “transatlantic jet flight” (due to higher radiation levels in the outer atmosphere) Under this model every exposure – no matter how small – increases your risk of developing cancer or having children with birth defects.

The Nuclear Nightmare at Hanford

As a former Washington resident, I took particular interest in the segment on Hanford, the desert site where the Manhattan Project secretly produced plutonium for the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Hanford also produced the vast majority of plutonium for America’s cold war arsenal (1950-1980). Most of Hanford’s nuclear waste is stored in 170 temporary underground concrete tanks. These were meant to be temporary until a permanent storage solution could be found. Beginning in 2001 the tanks, which were only built to last twenty years, were found to be leaking radionuclotides into the groundwater adjacent to the Columbia River.

According to the US Department of Energy, which is responsible for the Hanford clean-up, there are no nuclear contaminants in the Columbia River. This is virtually impossible for independent scientists to verify, as anyone trespassing on the Hanford reservation is subject to arrest and prosecution. The filmmakers accompanied an activist who entered the reservation secretly to take soil and water samples. French scientists at CRIIRAD (Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendantes sur la Radioactivité) who tested them found high levels of tritium (exceeding the drinking water standard), Iodine 129, Technetium 99 and Europium 152. The film also talks about an independent study local activists did in 2002, in which the majority of Columbia River fish they sampled contained high levels of Strontium 90.

The People in Muslimovo Who Are Waiting to Die

The situation of Russian farmers living adjacent to the Techa River in Chelyabinsk is far more tragic. After more than fifty years the Techa, which locals rely on to water their crops and pastures, remains contaminated with high levels of Cesium 137, tritium, Strontium 90 and Plutonium 239 and 240 – as do vegetables and milk produced in nearby farms.

The residents are all fully aware of the bleak future they face, as they watch family, neighbors and even their children and grandchildren succumb to cancer. Each family has been offered 20,000 Euros (about $25,000) to abandon their land and homes and voluntarily relocate. This is a paltry sum that would support them a few months at most. The government also tells them not to eat locally grown food. However with incomes averaging 80 euros a month, eating food trucked in from other regions is an unaffordable luxury. As one local woman states, “We have no choice but to stay here until we die.”

12 thoughts on “The Nuclear Waste Scandal

  1. Dr. Bramhall, I am only ‘liking’ this to show my appreciation for you posting this. The majority of us are in actuality, the walking dead. It just breaks my heart to read that people have watched their loved ones die a most horrible death because I know what that’s like only too well. And not only that, but they know that that same horror more than likely awaits them too because they are too poor to move. That is akin to a death sentence and yet, the various governments would have you believe that all is well when it is anything but. I’ve said time and time again, “We don’t matter! We never have and we never will!”

    I don’t even want to get started on how radiated we are. Our doctors tell us that by getting an x-ray, we are only getting exposed to the same amount of radiation that we would be exposed to by going outside and sitting in the sun. I don’t buy that. And even if that were true, it seems to me that continuing to get exposed to radiation is going to lead to the inevitable and that is why I was so furious to wake up in hospital(resulting from a serious vehicle accident) to find out that I had not only been CT scanned, from my head to my pelvis, but I had also been x-rayed. I am a ticking time bomb and don’t I know it.

    So, I truly feel for those people and what they must be going through.

    Again, thanks for posting this.


  2. I, too, am one of the walking dead but I feel it might be easier for me – I’ve come to an age where I feel I’ve lived a full life. I do really worry about my daughter and any grandchildren I might have.

    Doctors are incredibly cavalier about subjecting patients to CT scans. It’s a nonsense to tell patients that xrays are no worse than sitting in the sun. The problem with ionizing radiation is the effect is cumulative. Each new dose adds on to the previous ones – and patients with the highest cumulative exposures are at highest risk of developing cancer.

    I can truly identify with your anger at being CT scanned without your consent. I’ve been aware for the last 25 years that I (along with everyone else) am being systematically poisoned, both by radiation and toxic chemicals in the air, water and food. I got some really good advice at that time from an ex-CIA agent. He said the best way to protect myself against poisoning was to make sure I was as physically, emotionally and spiritually fit as I could possibly be in every other respect.

    Thus far, that advice seems to be working for me – though I’m also careful not to eat any rice, seafood or miso from Japan or any fish from the west coast of North America.


  3. “Each family has been offered 20,000 Euros (about $25,000) to abandon their land and homes and voluntarily relocate.”
    If my family were in such a position, I would not hesitate for one second to relocate.
    “The government also tells them not to eat locally grown food. However with incomes averaging 80 euros a month, eating food trucked in from other regions is an unaffordable luxury. . . . .”
    I wonder why on earth wouldn’t they want to leave if they actually do get the 20,000 Euros to make them leave?


    • I understand why. They have no job guarantee if they leave (especially since many are over 50). After 8-9 months the 20,000 Euros would be gone and they would be homeless and hungry. To the best of my knowledge Russia has virtually no safety net for older people without jobs. If I had to choose between death by cancer or death by slow starvation, I, too, would opt for the former.

      So they remain on their farms where they have a roof over their head and the ability to grow their own (highly contaminated) food.


  4. I am always baffled how it is possible that there are still people around who support increases in nuclear energy. Thank you so much for publishing this film review, dear Dr Bramhall. I want to show you my support by re-blogging this post.


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