If You Love This Planet, Dr. Helen Caldicott

Toxic hell at resurgent nuclear bomb factory


In October 2008, Dr. Caldicott traveled to Oak Ridge, Tennessee as a guest of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA) which educates the public about nuclear weapons through its ongoing campaign Stop The Bombs. Reverend Ralph Hutchison, Director of OREPA, took Dr. Caldicott to the Y12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, which was involved in developing the nuclear weapons that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War. Currently operated by B&W (Babcock and Wilcox) Y12, the plant flaunts its vital role in the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Weapons Complex. According to the USA Today story Nuclear Weapons Decision Awaits Obama, the incoming administration’s assessment of its nuclear weapons strategy next year will determine whether Oak Ridge focuses on maintaining existing warheads and storing uranium from weapons pulled out of a shrinking arsenal — or whether it becomes a cornerstone in a new production enterprise. The Bush administration over eight years has laid the groundwork for creating another huge U.S. nuclear weapons (plus space weapons) stockpile, as outlined in Dr. Caldicott’s 2004 book The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military-Industrial Complex.

Reverend Hutchison, a Presbyterian minister, has lived on the doorstep of the Oak Ridge facility for many years, and he joins Dr. Caldicott on If You Love This Planet to explain the capabilities - and dangers - of the Y12 plant. This complex was the largest building in the world in the 1950’s, and at the height of earlier U.S. nuclear bomb production, used one-fifth of all electricity in the country.

The bulk of this program focuses on the immense and terrifying quantities of toxic waste, radioactive and otherwise, that is and was burned, dumped, buried or otherwise emitted in the surrounding area, and on the contemptible plans to recycle nuclear waste around the world. Learn about the most radioactive lake in the U.S., if not the world, and the 75,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste at the plant, many of which are leaking. Even Dr. Caldicott is horrified to learn about the extent of pollution at Oak Ridge, which she says takes my breath away. Dr. Caldicott and Reverend Hutchison discuss the report detailing the contamination, A Citizens Guide to Oak Ridge (1992) which can be purchased for $5.00 through the Foundation for Global Sustainability. Dr. Caldicott refers to it as one of the more profound documents I have ever read. A short excerpt from a promotional DVD, This is Y12, produced by the Y12 Complex, is played during the interview.

Strongly recommended and relevant viewing: the Emmy-Award-winning 2007 documentary White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which can be purchased here.

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