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					Give & Take - Spring/Summer 2001                                                                     Page 1 of 4




                          Blowing the Whistle On Russia's Nuclear
                                        Roulette
                                                   by Tom Carpenter

                     Late last summer, an unusual collaboration of Russian and American
                     activists and scientists examined the environmental effects of nuclear
                     weapons production through direct testing and analysis of soils and
                     vegetation around four key facilities in Siberia.

                     The trip,
                     sponsored by
                     the
                     Government
                     Accountability
                     Project (GAP),
                     brought a team
                     of five
                     American and
                     four Russian
  ISAR's             activists and
   Board             videographers
 Members             to several
                     Russian
    HARRIETT
     CROSBY
                     nuclear sites in
  co-founder and     Siberia. The
 president of ISAR
      NANCY
                     American team included physicist Norm Buske, Tom Carpenter, director of
    GRAHAM           GAP's Nuclear Weapons Oversight Program, Chris Chandler, media
    co-founder
IRMGARD HUNT         coordinator for GAP, and Alice Hengesbach of ISAR, who provided
DAVID HUNTER         translation and logistics support. The Russian team was led by Sergey
   W. THOMAS
      KELLY          Paschenko, a physicist and executive director of Siberian Scientists for
     JOAN A.         Global Responsibility, and included physicist Alexei Evgenevich Osochenko
   KURIANSKY
   WILLIAM G.        and several students. Others such as Alexey Toropov, of Tomsk Ecological
     MILLER
  DJ PETERSON        Student Inspection, participated at various points along the way. The venture
 LAEL STEGALL        was videotaped by Moon Callison, a videographer from the Center for
 MARY LOUISE
     VITELLI         Defense Information, as well as Alexei Sanarov, a Russian videographer
                     from Novosibirsk.

                     The trip, primarily educational in nature, included stops at four Siberian
                     nuclear facilities: the Mayak plant, near Chelyabinsk; the Novosibirsk
                     Uranium Chemical Complex; the Krasnoyarsk plutonium production facility;
                     and the Seversk facility near Tomsk. The American team brought radiation
                     monitoring instruments and field equipment, and Norm Buske provided
                     extensive knowledge and experience in conducting environmental sampling
                     and investigations. Buske has spent 20 years monitoring weapons test sites in




http://www.isar.org/isar/archive/GT/GT11carpenter.html                                                6/18/2004
Give & Take - Spring/Summer 2001                                                                Page 2 of 4



              the Pacific and US weapons production facilities such as the Hanford
              Reservation in Washington State.

              One of the primary achievements of the trip for the Americans was
              establishing a good working rapport with Russian colleagues who face
              similar but much more extreme challenges in their efforts to require
              accountability from the nuclear weapons establishment in their country.

              At Mayak, Natalia Mironova of the Movement for Nuclear Safety invited us
              to speak with activists who were conducting an antinuclear camp outside the
              facility when we arrived. We took extensive samples around the perimeter of
              the Mayak site, particularly near Muslyumovo, the last remaining village
              located on the infamous Techa River, which is heavily contaminated with
              cesium-137 and strontium-90.

              Next, we visited the Novosibirsk Uranium Chemical Complex, where we had
              a run-in with the Russian authorities while investigating high levels of
              uranium contamination. The difficulty arose because the boundaries of the
              plant and the rules governing public access were not clearly defined. Our
              monitoring was interrupted by local militia and Federal Security Bureau
              (FSB) officers, who took us into custody after claiming that Russian
              members of our group had crossed into restricted areas. We were held for
              questioning for several hours and then released. When the local paper in
              Novosibirsk ran a front-page article declaring that "spies" had been arrested
              outside the Chemical Complex, we visited their offices and talked with
              reporters, who ran a much more balanced follow-up piece referring to us as
              environmentalists instead.

                                                                              Krasnoyarsk,
                                                                              home of the
                                                                              underground
                                                                              plutonium
                                                                              production
                                                                              complex on the
                                                                              Yenisei River,
                                                                              was our next
                                                                              stop. Before
                                                                              visiting the
                                                                              complex, we
                                                                              made sure we
                                                                              were thoroughly
                                                                              briefed on the
                                                                              plant and its
              boundaries by a local official and scientist. In addition, a local FSB contact
              called to warn us not to stray too close to the plant boundaries lest a guard
              become nervous and shoot us accidentally. Needless to say, we were quite
              careful in our sampling efforts there. Despite this caution, we managed to
              discover shockingly high levels of radioactive contamination in the Tom
              River just outside the Seversk nuclear facility near the city of Tomsk. On
              August 10, our team tested samples near a discharge point from the Tomsk-7




http://www.isar.org/isar/archive/GT/GT11carpenter.html                                           6/18/2004
Give & Take - Spring/Summer 2001                                                                  Page 3 of 4



              facility and found high levels of radioactivity in plant life in the Romashka
              River, which joins the Tom and Ob Rivers to empty into the Arctic Ocean.
              Field detectors showed readings of strontium-90 and phosphorus-32.

              Buske said: "Later lab readings revealed levels of strontium-90 at 250,000
              picocuries per liter -- extraordinary levels if you consider that the permissible
              level in water in the US is 8 picocuries. We were particularly alarmed to see
              fishermen catching fish at the mouth of the Romashka and cattle grazing on
              the banks of the river just downstream."

              Russian Government Denies Findings

              The unexpected findings led us to hold a press conference in downtown
              Tomsk the day after the sampling. Sergey Paschenko, Alexey Toropov, and
              Norm Buske shared the podium. Plant officials did not respond.

              We returned to the US in mid-August, taking individual samples home for
              further studies and analysis. On November 1, GAP and its Russian associates
              released a report on the findings at the Tomsk-7 facility. The report
              demonstrates that dangerous levels of radioactivity from the facility are
              entering the Tom River just north of the city of Tomsk. In a Washington, DC
              news conference, the groups made a joint statement calling for an immediate
              end to the dumping of radioactive contaminants.

              The report states that contamination is greater "than any previously recorded
              river contamination, greater even than readings taken at the height of the
              Cold War before the human and ecological consequences of artificial
              radioactivity in the environment were well known. In the post-Cold War era,
              this pollution of River Tom is in a league by itself. . . ." The reason for the
              high levels are not clear, the report adds. "No present-day operations
              previously described at Tomsk-7 account for the discovered radioactivity."

              The report, widely covered in the international press, met denials from the
              Russian government, which later admitted that plutonium was present in the
              river. An exchange of letters between plant officials and their American
              critics appeared earlier this year in the Moscow Times. Seversk officials
              proclaimed that the "American philanthropists" were simply incorrect. We
              responded by challenging them to conduct joint sampling on a future visit.

              And we do plan to go back. The American team views the trip as a success
              and hopes to build on the relationships we made by organizing future
              exchanges. If possible, we would like to expand the program by establishing
              a permanent presence in Russia, but such a step would require great care. We
              were impressed and excited by our new Russian friends and know we have
              much to learn from each other.

              Tom Carpenter is director of the Nuclear Weapons Oversight
              Program of the Government Accountability Project.




http://www.isar.org/isar/archive/GT/GT11carpenter.html                                             6/18/2004
Give & Take - Spring/Summer 2001                                           Page 4 of 4




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http://www.isar.org/isar/archive/GT/GT11carpenter.html                      6/18/2004

				
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