June Stark Casey
San Francisco / Oakland Bay Area Liaison for Peace Links; Hanford Downwinders
A Hanford Washington Radiation Victim Speaks Out
As a victim adversely affected by the secret human radiation experiments conducted at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State in 1949, I feel very honored to be invited to Japan to the 2000 World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs and to be afforded the opportunity to apologize personally for the unspeakable suffering and horrifying deaths caused by the plutonium bomb manufactured at Hanford and detonated over Nagasaki. Although 55 years have passed, I understand each year over 5,000 Japanese people die prematurely due to the latent adverse health effects of radiation.
We American citizens learned belatedly from recently declassified documents that the Japanese Government was the object of eight actions taken by the United States used to provoke them to attack at Pearl Harbor, called "a day of infamy," but in reality, a Day Of Deceit - the title of a new book by Robert B. Stinnett revealing the truth about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Pearl Harbor, soon to be translated into Japanese. We also learned that the atomic bombs were not necessary to end World War II, as citizens were told at the time. On both sides of the Pacific Ocean, we conference participants must speak the truth, no matter how painful.
In the November, 1999, Ecologist (a special issue devoted entirely to the madness of nuclear energy) Canadian epidemiologist Dr. Rosalie Bertell estimates that 1 billion, 300 million people have been killed, maimed or diseased by the nuclear industry since its inception. The industry's figures massively underestimate the real cost in an attempt to hide its victims from the world.
Physicist Dr. Ernest Sternglass, whom I was honored to meet recently, stated: "Secrecy is the one way an open society can be controlled." Sometimes the greatest crimes are perpetrated by governments and corporations against their own people by using secrecy. I am here to tell you from personal experience about one of those crimes.
It was on Mother's Day of 1986 that I learned that I was among the 270,000 Washington State "Downwinder" residents who were exposed continually and secretly to 1.1 million curies of radioactive iodine 131 released from the General Electric operated Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the 1940s and 1950s. Iodine 131, a known carcinogen, when ingested by cows, forms heavy concentrations in milk.
In 1945, 550,000 curies of radioactive iodine were released at Hanford, exposing 150 million Americans to more than 4 billion picocuries per capita of this lethal radionuclide, an amount comparable to releases from Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster in history - which resulted in a 200 fold increase in thyroid cancer in that area. This was followed by two decades of atmospheric bomb tests recently estimated by the Natural Resources Defense Council to be equivalent to exploding 40,000 Hiroshima bombs.
Federal and state authorities have declared the Columbia River near Hanford the most radioactive river in the world. During the peak years of reactor activity, substantial radiation exposure was possible merely by standing on the Columbia river shoreline. Two thirds of U.S. high-level waste from nuclear weapons production is stored at Hanford. There is more radioactivity at Hanford than would be released in an entire nuclear war. Clean-up at Hanford is now expected to cost $100 billion and take 30 years; parts of Hanford will remain radioactive for thousands of years.
The accidental fire burning 190,000 acres on and around the Hanford Site this past June caused great alarm. And this past May the Forest Service controlled burn which quickly got out of control in and around Los Alamos National Laboratory destroyed over 200 homes and 48,000 acres, 9,000 of which were Laboratory property, increasing beta radiation up to 4 times and alpha radiation up to 20 times.
A recent health survey of residents living near Hanford examined a wide range of illnesses all verified by medical records. Results showed a tripling of breast and lung cancer and ten times the amount each of thyroid disease and leukemia. Along the Hanford Death Mile, 100% of the families have cancer, heart disease or birth defects. In a health survey I conducted among 450 Hanford Downwinders, of those who responded, 40% had genetically-affected children. Nationally, between 1945 and 1965, there was a 40% increase in underweight live births.
I was most adversely affected by a deliberate secret experiment, known as the "Green Run," conducted on December 2, 1949, by G E's Nucleonics Department in which over 11,000 curies of radioactive iodine and 20 thousand curies of xenon were intentionally released into the atmosphere. This was 11,000 times the radiation tolerance threshold set for that period, which was 20 times higher than allowed today. At the time I was a student at Whitman College located 50 miles downwind from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Hanford Radiation Medical Consultants, Dr. Herbert Parker and Dr. Carl Gamertsfelder, the latter whom I have interviewed by telephone, warned that the experiment not be done. Dr. Parker stated that it would "cause deleterious health defects in 10 to 15 years." Yet their medical advice was totally ignored. Dr. Bertell states, "There is no justice issue which does not result in a violation of human health."
A study by the Centers for Disease Control now reveals that 30,000 Washington downwinder children received 20 times more radioactive iodine during the 1940s and 1950s than did Soviets living 3 miles from Chernobyl, because of the variance in wind dispersion and steps taken to protect the Soviet people.
According to Washington State Department of Health radiation specialist Allen W. Conklin, no other group of civilians in the world is known to have been exposed to as much radiation over a longer period of time than those of us who have lived in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Some children received 3,000 rads - the radiation equivalent of 36,000 x-rays. (St. Petersburg [Florida] Times 7/13/90)
According to government documents, radioactive isotopes were released at Hanford to assess the potential of radiological warfare and some believe to determine the destruction and effects on local populations. A secret radiological warfare experimentation program headed by General Curtis Le May in which radioactive fission products could be released in an attempt to poison the water and milk supply was conducted at Hanford up to 1954. Many Washington residents believe the 1949 experiment was part of that radiological warfare program. Shockingly, current environmental laws would allow that same secret experiment to be conducted today.
The mal-effects I attribute to my exposure to ionizing radiation are severe hypothyroidism, a miscarriage, stillbirth, breast lumpectomy, skin cancer, chronic degenerative spine, thyroid nodules which may become cancerous and permanent hair loss. Esophageal problems make it difficult to keep food down and have necessitated two endoscopies to remove a tumor. The unremitting pain in my spine feels as if someone is torturing me with an electric saw. My shoulders feel as if someone is holding them over hot coals in a barbecue pit.
In August, 1997, I developed in ductile carcinoma in situ, a form of breast cancer which can be very aggressive, necessitating two surgeries, the latter a partial mastectomy. Each year 175,000 women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. My recent mammograms revealed that the cancer may have returned, necessitating a stereotactic biopsy. In a most heart wrenching poem, the Mormon author and naturalist Terry Tempest Williams writes: "We have become a clan of one-breasted women."
I was shocked to learn in an article from the San Francisco Examiner 8/13/97: "The best diagnostic screening method for breast cancer today - X-ray mammography - is four decades old and prone to misdiagnosis. The X-ray film images miss 15% to 20% of cancers, according to the Office on Women's Health. The technology necessary to perfect diagnostic breast screening exists - but not in the right hands. The defense and intelligence communities, with big budgets and national security as their mission, are estimated to be 10 years ahead of the medical field in their development and use of high-tech imaging."
Finding targets to bomb and kill rather than detecting cancer is an unconscionable priority. Women are being brutalized by painful, mutilating, disfiguring, deforming breast surgeries which could be avoided. We condemn female genital mutilation in Third World countries. Are we in the so-called First World any more advanced?
An incident of shocking government deceit was revealed when Admiral Hyman G. Rickover made a notarized confession to his daughter-in-law, Jane Rickover, stating that if the Presidential Kemeny Commission reported the truth regarding the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, it would destroy the nuclear industry. Thus Rickover convinced President Jimmy Carter to lie regarding the severity of the partial core meltdown. Rickover said he later regretted this grave deception to the American people.
Some government officials and defense contractors say nuclear weapons are a necessary evil. May we move beyond that mentality to the belief that evil is never necessary.
How many more children have to be born with no hands like my Whitman College sorority sister's baby? How many more girls must be born with slits for eyes like the 11 year old daughter of a mother I met from Spokane who grew up near Hanford? How many more babies must be born with no eyes, no skulls, no hips, and missing fingers like the babies born within the infamous Hanford Death Mile? How many more little ones will have to have a leg amputated due to leukemia like my father's secretary's 5 year old daughter?
As we rededicate ourselves to this cause, may we remember these radiation victims - the baby born with an oversized head, the woman born with her knees attached to her feet, the Cyclops baby born with one eye in the center of his forehead, and the young artist born with no arms, whom I met as he was painting with a brush in his mouth.
Even after the end of the Cold War, the world is plagued by the existence of nearly 30,000 nuclear bombs. The U.S. submarine-based Trident nuclear weapon system - the most costly and deadly in history - carries missiles armed with warheads that collectively have the destructive equivalent of 85,240 Hiroshima bombs. Michael Sprong of the Trident Resistance Network states, "Nuclear weapons are portable 'death camps' waiting to be delivered to their victims."
Second generation nuclear weapons and the accompanying billions spent on their design and testing perpetuate a radioactive earth where sterility and thirty-two radiogenic cancers continue to maim and kill family and friends whom we hold dear. May this conference help us recognize the fragility of life and the necessity to protect Mother Earth. Her womb is the only home we have. We Hanford Hibakusha hope that compassion and wisdom will grow from our scars. Nuclear barbarism is as heinous as the Nazi death camps, creating a "Silent Holocaust."
The militarization of space, using nuclear reactors and nuclear powered satellites to test Star Wars sensors, is the latest example of nuclear madness. The July 7th failure of a U.S. missile interceptor, carrying a warhead-blasting "kill vehicle" to knock out a modified minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile with a dummy warhead atop its third stage rocket, should alert the U.S. Congress of the unworkability of a national anti-missile defense system. We, at this international conference, must strive to stop the nuclearization of space by our misguided scientists and engineers.
May this world gathering inspire us in the nuclear-free movement to embrace the moral task facing us with unrestrained joy, unbounded enthusiasm and unflagging optimism. May this miracle called Earth awaken the divinity within each of us and empower us to protect our one big family - our mothers in Mozambique and Martinique, our fathers in the Falklands and Figi, our brothers in Bosnia and Bangladesh, our sisters in Soweto and Syria, our nieces in Nagasaki, the Nevada Nuclear Test Site and Hiroshima, our nephews in Nigeria and Nicaragua, our uncles in the Ukraine and Uganda, our aunts in Afghanistan and Angola, our grandparents in Guatemala and Grenada, and our cousins in Cuba, Kazahkstan and Chernobyl.
May this assembly become a global family reunion where squabbles and quarrels are no longer answered by the vicious cycle of violence but are replaced with affectionate embraces and peaceful conflict resolution. With sisterly and brotherly support, prayerful hope, and a deeply grounded faith, may this conference aid us in achieving a paradigm breakthrough -- a peaceful nuclear-free planet where a new ethics and inclusive morality ensure political, economic and social equality for all.
As we enter this magnificent new millennium, let us relinquish our Faustian
fascination with the technology of destruction. For the love of God,
the love of humanity, and for the love of our planet, let the floating
lanterns on the peaceful Motoyasu River near Aioi Bridge, illuminate our
path toward a new way of thinking. May we rededicate ourselves, resolving
with our whole hearts and souls to work on this monumental challenge together.
THE DREAM CAN BE REALIZED.
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