You are reading from a free online e-book titled 'Deception, Cover-up and Murder in the Nuclear Age.' The book discusses the Trinity test, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hydrogen bomb testing fallout, U.S. experiments done on Marshall Islanders (Project 4.1), the Irene Allen trial, Cosmos 954, the Fukushima meltdowns, Three Mile Island updates, and so much more. Visit the Table of Contents to find this free content.
Footnotes are located at the end of each chapter - press the (right facing) 'PAGE' button icon until you reach the footnotes page, or locate it via the table of contents
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|Chapter 4 - Nuclear Weapons Complex's Toxic Releases|
On September 6, 1979, the DOE carried out shot 'Hearts,' a 140-kiloton underground nuclear blast intended to create a shock environment to 'destroy' those two unexploded devices, both located in nearby underground test shafts. 'Hearts' was not intended to explode the devices but rather somehow render them safe, or safer. Hearts was 'successful' at destroying 'Transom,' but it took another nuclear blast dubbed 'Azul' on December 14, 1979 to 'destroy' the Peninsula device. (Azul's yield was 'less than 20 kt'.)
It is very difficult to believe that the DOE has 'closed the case' on these two unexploded nuclear bomb devices, or even other partially unexploded nuclear bombs underneath the Nevada floor. After the Transom device failed to produce any nuclear yield, the DOE announced to the Associated Press in 1978 that there was 'no possibility of any additional explosion.' So, what was the reason for 'Hearts'? And how does the DOE definitively know that that the unexploded bombs were 'terminated'? Transom was estimated to produce a 20 to 150 kiloton yield and Peninsula would have produced a blast less than 20 kilotons.
The Western Shoshone
The Nevada National Security Site, like the Nevada Test Site before it, is situated on lands that belong to the Western Shoshone per the Treaty of Ruby Valley of 1862. The treaty gave minor concessions to the United States and her citizens (e.g., the establishment of some mining camps and also for the 'right of way' of railroads) but in the ensuing years the federal government looked the other way as settlers grabbed more and more of the land of New Sogobia without the tribe's permission. The Western Shoshone claim that in the 150 years since signing the treaty they never sold or gave any of their land in Newe Sogobia to the U.S. federal government.
The federal government has greatly dishonored its treaty obligations - it has turned Western Shoshone land into the most nuked place on Earth and federal agents have robbed tribal members of their livestock claiming that their land is now owned by the BLM. The tribal leadership has taken their fight for justice to international governing bodies. On March 10, 2006, a U.N. committee urged the United States government to abort the planned 'Divine Strake' test and to desist from activities that violate Western Shoshone sovereignty. In 2002, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded that the United States, with respect to the 'Dann Sisters' of the Western Shoshone, 'has failed to ensure the Danns' right to property under conditions of equality contrary to Articles II, XVIII and XXIII of the American Declaration in connection with their claims to property rights in the Western Shoshone ancestral lands' and recommended that the U.S. provide the Danns 'with an effective remedy...in connection with their claims to property rights in the Western Shoshone ancestral lands' and 'review its laws, procedures and practices to ensure that the property rights of indigenous persons are determined in accordance with the rights established in the American Declaration, including Articles II, XVIII and XXIII of the Declaration.'
Sometimes all we have to find out about the truth is from the victims themselves. Here are several multimedia resources:
* Award-winning audio-documentary titled "Dirty Harry - When the American Dream Became a Nightmare" (link to dedicated web page with short video intro) that covers the Nevada Test Site downwinders' experience from the 1950s through the 2000s. The documentary, released in 2006, is hosted by Jon Beaupre and was written and produced by Claes Andreasson. The audio is broken into three parts and can be accessed via the above link. Or, to save the files to listen to on-the-go, click the following file-links and download: One * Two * Three *
* 30-minute audio-documentary: The Dragon That Slew St. George (real audio stream) produced by Wayne Brittenden (about Dirty Harry epidsode)
* The 'Downwinder Diaries' (produced by Claus Andreasson) about fallout effects from the Nevada Test Site that begins in the audio documentary 'Mushroom Cloud' at the 22:00 mark (change the 'clip position' slider).
* Janet Gordon's account of the fallout impacts from Shot Harry. View an interview with her that was part of a documentary about stopping Divine Strake - watch here. Or just listen to the 4 minute 24 second audio-section from the 'Downwinder Diaries' - listen here
Could these devices or other unexploded masses of atomic device material - sometimes called nuclear UXO, or unexploded ordnance - blow up beneath the Nevada desert? There is some debate regarding unexploded nuclear bombs - i.e., one off the coast of Georgia, another off the seabed near Thule, Greenland - over whether or not supercriticality, the condition that's ripe for a runaway, explosive chain reaction, could occur. Supercriticality is the mushroom-cloud, nuclear-explosive result of a runaway chain reaction of atomic disintegrations in a critical mass of fissionable material resulting from an extraordinarily rich environment of neutrons. Even if supercriticality isn't reached in a nuclear 'pile,' fission can occur at a slower rate (than a nuclear explosion) and produce quantities of radioactive products of basically the same concentrations (over time). So, at least it is possible that unexploded critical masses of nuclear bomb material located below the Earth's surface can emit radioactive gasess via re-criticality that could seep up to the ocean or ground surface with uncertain impacts on human health and our food chain.
For reasons we discuss in Chapter 10, there is plenty of reason to believe that most of the nearly 900 underground nuclear tests at the former Nevada Test Site resulted in slight or even great increases in off-site surface contamination of cesium-137 and strontium-90 as the result of the decay of released gasses krypton-90 and xenon-137.
Present day activities
Underground testing was limited - by yield - in 1976 when the Threshold Test Ban Treaty26 went into effect, which capped nuclear tests by the U.S. and the Soviets at 150 kilotons. Nuclear testing was banned altogether in 1992 - the last NTS nuclear test was on September 23, 1992 - when the U.S. initiated a moratorium on all nuclear testing. For three years, that moratorium was annually revisited and renewed by Congress despite opposition from the Pentagon and Republican Senators (who, to this day, still want to conduct weapons effects and weapons design nuclear tests at the NNSS). In 1996, the CTBT was signed and the U.S. has since behaved as if that treaty was in effect (although there is no way to verify if their subcritical tests comply with zero-yield restrictions of the treaty.)
Since 1997, the NTS - now NNSS - has been host to subcritical experiments, and also hydrodynamic plutonium experiments, which are tests that subject plutonium to extreme temperatures and high pressure shock waves. At the U1a facility, NNSS personnel conduct Large Bore Powder Gun experiments and imaging (CYGNUS radiography) experiments, both involving plutonium and other nuclear materials. The large-bore powder guns would be used to fire large projectiles into 'fixed special nuclear material targets.' The NNSA has not specified the number of these types of subcritical experiments that will be conducted annually. Shock physics experiments on plutonium also occur at the Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research Facility (JASPER).27 More on our subcritical page.
In early June 2006, the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) had planned - but was thwarted in its attempts by citizen protests and a lawsuit - to conduct Divine Strake, a conventional explosives test designed to assess the bunker-busting ability of a low-yield nuclear weapon. Divine Strake, which was planned for an area of the Nevada Test Site that is contaminated with radioactive particles deposited from several 1950s above-ground nuclear tests, was twice postponed, then cancelled in February 2007. In the DTRA's press statement announcing the test's cancellation, the DTRA expressed its intent to conduct smaller 'confirmatory experiments' - believed to be small-scale surface explosions at the same or adjacent location - instead of Divine Strake. The DTRA has not mentioned that they would complete environmental studies to ensure that its tests pose no risk to those downwind or give prior notification. Moreover, the language in the DTRA's February 2007 press release does not specify what they mean by experiments that are 'smaller' than Divine Strake, which entailed 700-tons of conventional explosives. Is the DTRA planning several 3-ton tests, or 30-ton tests, or perhaps a single 600-ton test at the NNSS? All three scenarios are not out of the realm of possibility since they all would technically be 'smaller' than the 700-ton Divine Strake test. According to the NTS Ten Year Site Plan, DTRA uses many miles of tunnels at the site 'to conduct experiments and training in support of hard/deeply buried target location and defeat, conventional munitions demilitarization, and other experiments and testing.' (See www.stopdivinestrake.com and our oped 'The Un-killable Nevada Bomb Test' for more about 'Divine Strake' and her babies)
Other surface blasting occurs at the NNSS's Big Explosives Experimental Facility, or BEEF, located in Area 4. BEEF hosts small explosives tests - up to about 3.5 tons - in both open-air and enclosed large bunkers called 'containment vessels.' The BEEF, which also hosts experiments on depleted uranium, is located just a short distance, about one kilometer, from Area T-4, the site of four atmospheric nuclear bomb tests and significant subsurface contamination. Shockingly, BEEF testing may be shaking the ground (a shock wave can be seen in the accompanying picture) at area T-4, which is not cleaned up, and may resuspend the radioactive matter to be carried off-site by winds. (In 2009 the DOE Environmental Management agreed with the State of Nevada to close, instead of fully remediate, the T-4 area.)28
Although not intended to host any sort of explosion, the 'Device Assembly Facility' at the NNSS, a taxpayer blackhole that was never fully used for its intention to dismantle warheads, is designed to collapse in on itself to form a 'radioactivity seal' in the event that a nuclear bomb accidentally goes off.
Although Yucca is dead, nuclear waste storage in shallow and also (mostly) unlined trenches is a mainstay of the 'NNSS economy'. Trucks hauling nuclear waste from other government operations across the U.S. converge at the NNSS almost daily. These trucks are constantly emitting gamma radiation into the environment on our roads and rest stops. Read more on our waste and storage page.
Many of the activities of the DOE in Nevada are carried out by contractors. NNSS offsite monitoring efforts are contracted to the Desert Research Institute and onsite work is contracted out to a consortium of corporations called NSTec.29
In early July 2011, lightning caused two wildfires to flare up on the NNSS. The 'Weston Fire', which burned about 1,300 acres, was the smaller of the two and contained before the 'Timber Fire' (which was located several miles north) was finally under control by the second week of July. The 'Timber Fire' burned through roughly three to four thousand acres of Areas 18 and 30 of the "NNSS." Area 18 was the site of 5 nuclear weapons tests - 4 aboveground in 1962 and 1 underground in 1964 - and thus has surface radiological contamination.30 Also, Area 30 was home to "Project Buggy" - a nuclear excavation experiment - and the "Bossy" nuclear test.
Dante Pistone, spokesman for the NNSS's operations center, told the Las Vegas Review Journal for an article that appeared on July 9, 2011, that the Timber Fire was miles away from any test site, not moving in that direction, and although the air was being monitored for radioactivity, the threat didn't even require firefighters to wear radiation protection equipment. Regarding the radiation situation, stated Pistone: 'It's of no concern to us.' However, the NNSS hasn't been adequately surveyed for surface contamination since the early 1990s, and baseline conditions have changed (due to migration of radioisotopes from natural forces and manmade activities). So, hotspots could have been located miles from the test sites, meaning in the fire-scorched areas. Since data from the monitoring network in the NNSS is kept secret and monitoring equipment capability in offsite areas is inferior to what was used for monitoring even in the 1940s, there is no way to know what Westerners breathed in from the July 2011 fires at the former Nevada Test Site.
Footnotes26 Six years before the signing of the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, or TTBT, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (or NPT) went into effect. The NPT, which was opened for signature in 1968 and in-force on March 5, 1970, sought the end of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament. The nuclear-weapons states - those who possessed nuclear weapons - were required to pursue disarmament while the non-nuclear-weapon-states were prohibited from acquiring nuclear arms. Limited enforcement and inspections, along with the failure of the nuclear states to undertake 'effective measures' for disarmament, has made the NPT largely useless, although experts contend that the NPT prevented a number of would-be nuclear-weapons state from gaining nuclear arms.
27 Details about what will go on at NNSS in the future were outlined in the Ten Year (FY2009-2018) Site Plan for the Nevada Test Site (DOE/NV--1271) here. And in the DOE's Complex Transformation plan. According to that plan the NNSS would be the new host to the High Explosives Facility, where large-scale (15 kilograms or more) open-air explosives testing will occur. Under Complex Transformation, BEEF activities would be expanded to include open-air hydrodynamic testing of nuclear surrogate materials and about five 'full function experiments' will be conducted yearly. Under Complex Transformation, BEEF nuclear materials testing would be held underground in an enclosed bunker or at the U1a facility.
28 In late June 2009, the NNSA closed Area T-4, which is located in Area 4 of the NTS on Yucca Flat and was host to 4 atmospheric nuclear tests. The T-4 area closure was hailed for its impact on saving taxpayers millions of dollars but the soils are not and will be not cleaned up. Area T-4 was part of 16 'tests locations' closed in the summer of 2009. (According to the September 11, 2009 issue of EM Update, the DOE Environmental Management department's newsletter, 'During the summer of 2009...the State of Nevada approved the closure of 16 former atmospheric nuclear weapons test locations.') As long as these areas aren't cleaned up, these areas can still be disturbed by high-winds, wildfires and human-made activities and harm the health of off-site residents.
Our view: There is something amiss when the NNSA administratively (and physically) closes radioactive areas of the NNSS for taxpayer consideration but then goes ahead and helps the Department of Defense blow up radioactive soils and shares in the pot of money spent. The NNSA dipped into the cookie jar (up to $23 million) of the Divine Strake experiment, which would have blown up radioactive dirt from nearby Area 16. The NNSA didn't refuse to help (and get paid by) the DoD on grounds that the money would have been better spent on cleaning up 'closed' areas. Taxpayers should inform the DOE and NNSA that their priorities need 'corrective' action.
The DOE's NNSA adheres to a federal-state agreement with the State of Nevada called the Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order (FFACO) to identify parts of the NNSS harboring potential contamination and 'implement corrective actions based on public health and environmental considerations.' The agreement, among other things, outlines a process that allows the DOE, under the oversight of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, to close certain areas of the test site even without remediation (full clean up) of the soils.
29 Who runs the Nevada Test Site? The NNSS, a DOE facility, is overseen by NSTec, short for National Security Technologies, LLC, a consortium of companies, managed by Northrop Grumman and includes AECOM Technology Corp. of Los Angeles, CH2M Hill Companies Ltd. of Englewood, Colo., and Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. of Erwin, Tenn. In early 2006, NSTec was awarded a $2.5 billion, 5-year (taxpayer-funded) contract (that can be extended for another five years depending on performance) to oversee and manage the NNSS. In December 2008, NSTec was awarded a one-year extension, thereby extending the contract through 2012. In December 2009 (totally unexpected!!) another one-year extension was granted thereby extending the contract through 2013. NSTec's main administrative office is located at 2621 Losee Road, Las Vegas, adjacent to the Nevada Site Office for the NNSA. NSTec has four divisions: Experimentation and Stockpile Stewardship (monitoring and maintaining nuclear weapons), Environmental Management (nuclear material handling and storage), Homeland Security & Defense Applications (national defense matters and security and threat prevention), and Operations and Infrastructure.
In mid-November 2009, the NNSA/NSO began domain forwarding from www.ntscab.com to a subdomain on the NV/DOE website. Prior, www.ntscab.com hosted information on NTS Citizen Advisory Board traffic and visitors' traffic wasn't - to our knowledge - monitored by DOE. Concurrent with the hosting change, all visitors have their every click and every download recorded by the DOE for ' interception, monitoring, recording, copying, auditing, inspection, and disclosure at the discretion of authorized site or Department of Energy personnel.' NSTec personnel may be playing a role in this internet monitoring.
"Residual contamination for atmospheric testing is present in
Areas 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, and 10 of the NTS and on Buckboard Mesa in Area 18." (p.23)
'DANNY BOY and JOHNNIE BOY resulted in Trinity glass debris. LITTLE FELLER I and II resulted in TRU and fission product soil contamination and were also very low-yield effects tests.' (p.16)
[2004 document titled ORAU Team NIOSH Dose Reconstruction Project Technical Basis Document for the Nevada Test Site – Site Description (ORAUT-TKBS-0008-2) - fallout cloud trajectories for some Area 18 shots]
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