The nuclear fuel chain encompasses the various activities associated with the production of electricity from nuclear reactors. All steps in the chain generate radioactive waste.
#1 Mining and Milling
Uranium mining scars the landscape and devastates the environment. It is commonly done on indigenous and tribal peoples’ lands, destroying their communities.
The byproduct of uranium mining is dangerous dirt called “tailings”, a sandy waste containing heavy metals and radium, which is radioactive. Often the tailings are simply dumped on the land near the mine and left to the elements. A tailings pile may be a large trench or a former mine pit. Wind carries radon gas and radioactive dust from these tailings for many miles. Contaminated rainwater enters the soil, the watershed, and eventually the food chain, endangering health.
The uranium ore is delivered to the mill where it is crushed into smaller particles before being extracted with strong acids or bases. The uranium ore is concentrated into a solid substance called “yellowcake.”
A nuclear reactor requires a higher concentration of the U235 isotope than that which exists in natural uranium ore. So the yellowcake must be “enriched” at large industrial chemical conversion plants. The uranium in yellowcake is converted to uranium hexafluoride (UF6 ), a compound that can be made into nuclear fuel. This conversion process is carbon intensive. It involves large amounts of water and electricity as well as a number of volatile chemicals, creating risks associated with inhalation if a release occurred. In addition, the conversion process uses hydrogen gas which is flammable and could create an explosion hazard.
#3 Fabrication of Fuel
Fuel fabrication is the last step in the process of turning uranium into nuclear fuel rods. The enriched uranium is converted into fuel “pellets” and placed into thin metal rods. Each rod joins hundreds of others in a bundle called a fuel “assembly” to be loaded into the reactor core of the nuclear power plant.
#4 Storage of Used or “Spent” Nuclear Fuel: High Level Radioactive Waste
Nuclear fuel is typically used in the reactor for 3-6 years and then must be removed. The rods are highly radioactive and must be stored under water for cooling and radiation shielding. After years in the over-crowded pools, the spent fuel assemblies are moved into dry storage casks which will deteriorate over time.
There is no permanent solution for its disposal or storage which makes this issue particularly dangerous. Short-term solutions do not address the grave health and environmental effects of nuclear waste that last for a million years.
No Nukes Action – Fukushima, Workers & The Environment
July 11 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm PDT FREE
The Fukushima nuclear disaster is still with us more than 11 years after the radioactive explosions at the plants. The melted nuclear radioactive fuel rods still have not been removed and the Japanese government with the support the US wants to dump over 1.3 million tons of radioactive water in the Pacific Ocean. There are also thousands of residents and clean-up workers who have been contaminated by radiation. These contract clean-up workers have been recruited by the Yakuza from the day laborers and from migrants from overseas and have not received proper health and safety training on dealing with this dangerous nuclear disaster sight . This panel will look at the continuing crisis, the workers, residents and Environment with a panel.
“In the early morning hours of July 16, 1979, less than 4 months after the highly publicized release at Three Mile Island,32 the earthen dam at Church Rock Mill failed (Table 1▶). The amount of radiation released at United Nuclear Corporation was larger than the release at Three Mile Island. The 6-m-wide dam breach sent approximately 1100 tons of radioactive mill waste and 95 million gallons of mine process effluent down Pipeline Arroyo and into the North Fork of the Puerco River.33 This tremendous flow of water backed up sewers, affected 2 nearby aquifers, left pools along the river, and transported contaminants 130 km downstream to a point near Navajo, Arizona.34
With the exception of the 6-person human exposure assessment carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,33 the various exposure pathways and related human health outcomes associated with this spill have yet to be characterized. The Centers for Disease Control study addressed only inhalation of suspended tailings and ingestion of livestock, ruling out other exposure pathways such as consumption of vegetables, ingestion of river water or groundwater, and inadvertent ingestion of contaminated sediment. This assessment failed to incorporate not only all potential exposures but also radiation types.34 A number of subsequent studies carried out in the Puerco River basin have identified contaminated groundwater from the spill as well as downstream transport and deposition of radionuclides from the Pipeline Arroyo areas, suggesting that exposure will continue to occur through these pathways in the future.35–37
Like Sequoyah Fuels Corporation, the Church Rock spill occurred in a low-income, rural, American Indian area, albeit closer to a substantial secondary city, Gallup, NM, which has large Hispanic and White populations. Because the spill happened in the immediate aftermath of nationwide coverage of the Three Mile Island release, the muted coverage and response is particularly striking. It is not clear that there was acute harm from the Church Rock spill, so like Three Mile Island, the main concern is the development of disease over time after exposure. Compared with Sequoyah Fuels Corporation, the Church Rock spill contained more radioactivity because the tailings included radium, thorium, and other uranium decay products that have relatively high specific activities. In contrast to Three Mile Island, the population near Church Rock was already chronically exposed to uranium mine and mill waste through both occupational and environmental routes and continues to be exposed today.38
A series of local struggles and public health studies have refocused local attention on the Church Rock area as well as the entire Eastern Navajo area. The struggles revolve around proposals to restart uranium mining with in situ leach methods. In response, the Navajo Nation voted to ban all uranium mining, a resolution that is currently being challenged by mining companies.39 The studies are community based and involve a collaboration among Eastern Navajo communities, the Southwest Research and Information Center, the University of New Mexico, and others. The focus of research is the health impact of environmental uranium exposure (oral communication, J. Lewis, PhD, University of New Mexico, and C. Shuey, MPH, Southwest Research and Information Center, March–June 2006)…”
Brugge, D., deLemos, J. L., & Bui, C. (2007). The Sequoyah corporation fuels release and the Church Rock spill: unpublicized nuclear releases in American Indian communities. American journal of public health, 97(9), 1595–1600. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2006.103044
Former Prime Minister of Japan Sounds the Alarm on Diablo Canyon Naoto Kan Advises Governor Newsom to Close Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant ASAP
May 2022 – Naoto Kan was Prime Minister of Japan when the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster began. Hearing that California Governor Gavin Newsom is considering extending the operation of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant beyond its current license period, Kan felt compelled to contact the Governor, advising him to shut down the nuclear plant as soon as possible.
As a result of Naoto Kan’s experiences managing the triple meltdown catastrophe, he has become vocally anti-nuclear. As he explains in his memoir, My Nuclear Nightmare, “I came to understand that a nuclear accident carried with it a risk so large that it could lead to the collapse of a country.
“Eleven years on, the nuclear disaster in Japan is on-going. The government is set to release millions of gallons of irradiated water into the Pacific Ocean as early as next spring – angering citizens and governments worldwide.
Both Japan and California are seismically active and share coastlines with the Pacific Ocean. Fukushima Prefecture and San Luis Obispo County have many similarities, both communities relying heavily on agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Naoto Kan has a deep understanding of these shared risks and vulnerabilities. Thus, he is sounding the alarm on Diablo Canyon.
Carole Hisasue, Spokesperson for San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, states, “As history has clearly illustrated, nuclear accidents affect the entire world. We will all be safer when Diablo Canyon nuclear plant ceases operation.”
Full text of Naoto Kan’s letter to Governor Newsom:
May 12, 2022
Dear Governor Newsom, I have heard that you have been considering extension of operations at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant which is set to decommission in a few years. I was the Prime Minister of Japan at the time of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident and based on my experiences dealing with that disaster, I advise you to shut down the nuclear plant as soon as possible.
As you know, three nuclear reactors built along the Pacific Coast in Fukushima melted down after the Great Northeastern Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011 and released an enormous amount of radiation.
Until this accident occurred, I never thought a nuclear event in which there would be a meltdown such as this could happen. And yet, in reality, the earthquake cut off external power, the emergency diesel generators were damaged by the tsunami and stopped. All power to control the nuclear plant was lost, three reactors could no longer be cooled and that led to the unthinkable meltdown. An incredible amount of radiation was released and even now, 11 years since then, many of the former residents of the areas around the nuclear plant are still in evacuation.
From my perspective, as someone who has personally experienced this accident, I believe that all nuclear power plants should be decommissioned as soon as possible and that we should move toward renewable energy, such as solar and wind, for all our power needs. This is why I am writing to you today.
I have enclosed the English version of a book I wrote about the Fukushima accident. I hope you can find the time to read it.
“Naoto Kan, who was prime minister of Japan when the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster began, has become a ubiquitous and compelling voice for the global antinuclear movement. Kan compared the potential worst-case devastation that could be caused by a nuclear power plant meltdown as tantamount only to ‘a great world war. Nothing else has the same impact.’ Japan escaped such a dire fate during the Fukushima disaster, said Kan, only due to luck. Even so, Kan had to make some steely-nerved decisions that necessitated putting all emotion aside. In a now famous phone call from Tepco, when the company asked to pull all their personnel from the out-of-control Fukushima site for their own safety, Kan told them no. The workforce must stay. The few would need to make the sacrifice to save the many. Kan knew that abandoning the Fukushima Daiichi site would cause radiation levels in the surrounding environment to soar. His insistence that the Tepco workforce remain at Fukushima was perhaps one of the most unsung moments of heroism in the whole sorry saga.” The Ecologist
On March 11, 2011, a massive undersea earthquake off Japan s coast triggered devastating tsunami waves that in turn caused meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Ranked with Chernobyl as the worst nuclear disaster in history, Fukushima will have lasting consequences for generations. Until 3.11, Japan s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, had supported the use of nuclear power. His position would undergo a radical change, however, as Kan watched the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Power Plant unfold and came to understand the potential for the physical, economic, and political destruction of Japan.
In My Nuclear Nightmare, Kan offers a fascinating day-by-day account of his actions in the harrowing week after the earthquake struck. He records the anguished decisions he had to make as the scale of destruction became clear and the threat of nuclear catastrophe loomed ever larger decisions made on the basis of information that was often unreliable. For example, frustrated by the lack of clarity from the executives at Tepco, the company that owned the power plant, Kan decided to visit Fukushima himself, despite the risks, so he could talk to the plant s manager and find out what was really happening on the ground. As he details, a combination of extremely good fortune and hard work just barely prevented a total meltdown of all of Fukushima s reactor units, which would have necessitated the evacuation of the thirty million residents of the greater Tokyo metropolitan area.
In the book, first published in Japan in 2012, Kan also explains his opposition to nuclear power: I came to understand that a nuclear accident carried with it a risk so large that it could lead to the collapse of a country. When Kan was pressured by the opposition to step down as prime minister in August 2011, he agreed to do so only after legislation had been passed to encourage investments in alternative energy. As both a document of crisis management during an almost unimaginable disaster and a cogent argument about the dangers of nuclear power, My Nuclear Nightmare is essential reading.
There’s a misguided effort being pushed forward by some well-intentioned people who have joined the Nuclear Power Fan Club. These people truly believe that nuclear power will save the planet from climate disaster, and there’s a lot of money to be made.
The newly released Stanford/MIT study recommends exploring the extension of Diablo Canyon’s license to operate in order to combat climate change, but it completely ignores important conditions at Diablo Canyon:
1. Diablo Canyon is situated at the nexus of at least 13 earthquake faults. Two of these, the Hosgri Fault and the Shoreline Fault, are classified by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) as “major” and “active.” Keeping Diablo Canyon operating beyond its planned closure is playing Russian roulette.
2. The Unit 1 reactor vessel was manufactured in 1967. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reported it as “embrittled” several years ago. This reactor vessel has not had a mandated ultrasonic examination in more than twenty years. If Unit 1’s reactor had to be shut down in an emergency, there’s a chance that it could shatter like a glass of boiling water suddenly plunged into ice, resulting in unimaginable consequences.
3. Seasoned, highly skilled workers are retiring and moving on, resulting in loss of institutional knowledge about the unique idiosyncrasies of Diablo Canyon. The effect is already being felt, according to information provided to Mothers for Peace by an unnamed employee.
4. Underground pipes were installed at Diablo Canyon in the 1970s. These pipes are subject to high pressure and cannot be inspected. A severe earthquake is all it would take to interrupt the vital cooling water to the plant. Much maintenance at Diablo Canyon has been deferred because closure is imminent. This facility is OLD. These and other components are ready to retire.
5. The spent fuel pools are overcrowded to at least three times their original capacity. A “beyond design” earthquake (think Fukushima) could crack the pools, cause water to leak out, and the spent fuel could spontaneously ignite – the most unimaginable catastrophe possible. This is a “low probability, high risk” scenario, and it’s not considered by the NRC in spent fuel pool safety analysis because “it won’t happen.” We hope not.
6. There is exactly enough space on the dry cask storage pad to accommodate 138 spent fuel casks containing highly radioactive fuel rods that will be stored after closure in 2025. If the lifetime of the nuclear plant were extended, a whole new dry cask facility would have to be permitted and constructed to accommodate the additional toxic waste. With no federal repository for high level nuclear waste, it’s going to be stored on our fragile coastline into the foreseeable future.
7. There is no guarantee of “steady baseload power” from a 40-year-old nuclear power plant. Unit 2’s failed main generator was replaced for nearly $100 million in 2019, but failed again in 2020, working only 30% of that year and narrowly squeaking by during the peak load energy crunches. The complex and costly repairs of aging systems are likely to multiply in the ensuing years.
One must also consider Climate Impacts and Habitat Loss from Diablo Canyon’s Operation:
1. Diablo Canyon circulates 2.5 BILLION gallons of seawater through its piping every 24 hours in a once-through-cooling (OTC) system. Diablo Canyon’s cooling system is responsible for 80% of the loss of marine life on the California Coast. OTC is no longer allowed in California, but the State Lands Commission extended the land leases to 2024 and 2025 to coincide with Diablo Canyon’s operating licenses. With rapid worldwide depletion of fisheries and aquatic biodiversity, it is unacceptable to allow decimation of marine life in order to produce approximately 8% of California’s energy. Would the Lands Commission allow another exemption and sacrifice ocean life for Diablo Canyon’s operation?
2. The seawater intake structure is vulnerable to rising levels of ocean water brought on by global climate change. This is the water that cools the plant. During seawater’s circulation through the facility, it warms by 19°F before being discharged back into the ocean, contributing to ocean warming. Think about it: 2.5 billion gallons every single day for 40 or more years. The math and the impacts are almost incalculable.
3. Nuclear plants emit huge amounts of heat from nuclear reactions into the atmosphere 24/7. Where does the heat go? Global warming.
4. When uranium is mined, milled, enriched, and transported to nuclear plants, there is a spike in CO2 emissions.
5. Uranium mining has decimated some 27,000 square miles of Navajo (Diné) land spread across Utah, New Mexico and Arizona which is home to more than 250,000 people. Many Navajo people have died from kidney failure and cancer, conditions linked to uranium contamination. And new research from the CDC shows uranium in the bodies of babies born now.
6. When a nuclear plant is built, hundreds of millions of tons of concrete are also manufactured. And when the plant is dismantled, this same concrete, plus steel, electrical wiring, plumbing, and radiologically contaminated material must be hauled away. All of it contributes to climate change.
We can do better. People of the Central Coast have put up with living in a nuclear evacuation zone for the past 40 years. Nuclear power is dirty. It’s dangerous. Don’t buy the hype.
Although the nuclear testing went underground in 1962, even that wasn’t safe.
As Zabarte explained, “Even though it went underground, venting took place and we don’t know where that fallout went.”
That’s borne out by the Mighty Oak incident, a botched test that destroyed $32-million-worth of equipment in April 1986. It was weeks before Chernobyl and experts claim the US government vented the radiation under the cover that everyone would assume it was from the Soviet catastrophe.
Native-American nation’s land was turned into a nuclear test site. Now, they suffer from illnesses
‘The most nuclear bombed nation on the planet’ is the unwanted accolade claimed by the Shoshone Native American tribe. This has had devastating effects for the community, and RT spoke with one campaigner fighting for justice.
“They are occupying our country, they are stealing our opportunities and we are expected to die because of that. We are still trying to grapple with and understand what happened to us, and find ways to stop it, correct it and prevent it happening in the future.”
Ian Zabarte’s voice is angry but does not falter as he describes the stark fate of his people, Native Americans who for decades have been – by any measure – subjected to the most unimaginable horrors, all perpetrated by their government in Washington.
Zabarte, 57, is the Principal Man of the Western Bands of the Shoshone Nation and he is spearheading a campaign to expose what he describes as the “ethnic cleansing” of his tribe.
Shoshone land stretches from Death Valley in the Mojave Desert in eastern California to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming. But in 1951 the US started nuclear weapons testing on Western Shoshone territory, at the Nevada Proving Grounds (now known as the Nevada National Security Site). The Shoshone can now lay claim to be the most nuclear-bombed nation on the planet.
Over a period of just over 40 years, there were 928 tests conducted there – around 100 in the atmosphere and more than 800 underground – resulting in nuclear fallout of around 620 kilotons, according to a 2009 study. In comparison, there were 13 kilotons of fallout when Hiroshima was bombed in 1945.
This is obviously a massive health risk and Zabarte, who lives in Las Vegas but runs a healing center at Death Valley, is understandably angry. Although he’s engaging and friendly, a sense of rage regularly creeps into his voice as he becomes more animated about the injustices his people have endured. But he never lapses into self-pity; there’s always a steely aura of defiance.
The Shoshone signed the Treaty of Ruby Valley in 1863, which handed certain rights to the United States. But they did not give up their land. “We wouldn’t have signed a treaty that would end in our ultimate destruction,” Zabarte told RT.
According to the tribe, Washington’s testing programme has killed thousands of people, with many since developing a range of cancers and illnesses.
Zabarte’s grandfather’s skin fell off due to an autoimmune deficiency, and he died soon after from a heart attack. Other family members have had pacemakers fitted at very young ages, while his cousin’s twins died aged 11.
“My family have a high incidence of thyroid cancer, but we’re not following those individuals – we don’t have the capacity,” he explained.
“The United States doesn’t want to study our own adverse health consequences. [It] would be no different to Nazi Germany studying the health consequences of their testing on Jewish people. That is so far from right. We have to do it ourselves and we need help.”
The Shoshone have no medical equipment or computer databases to track their people. So deaths from suspicious conditions are generally not recorded. In addition, the Shoshone are, by tradition, proud people, so not all of them speak out about their health issues.
Although the nuclear testing went underground in 1962, even that wasn’t safe.
As Zabarte explained, “Even though it went underground, venting took place and we don’t know where that fallout went.”
That’s borne out by the Mighty Oak incident, a botched test that destroyed $32-million-worth of equipment in April 1986. It was weeks before Chernobyl and experts claim the US government vented the radiation under the cover that everyone would assume it was from the Soviet catastrophe.
“The Department of Energy doesn’t consider that an accident because they manually released the gas inside the underground chamber where the weapon detonated. It went around the world and beat the Chernobyl radiation back to the United States,” Zabarte claimed.
Of course, the US is not the only country to have conducted nuclear testing. The United Kingdom also used Western Shoshone land, in 24 tests that were joint operations with the US.France completed 210 nuclear tests in Algeria and the South Pacific from 1960 to 1996. And the Soviet Union used the Semipalatinsk site in Kazakhstan until 1989 to perform its testing.
But, even to this day, lots of secret activities continue on Shoshone land, as proven by JANET flights regularly flying from Las Vegas to the classified Area 51. (The call sign stands for Just Another Non-Existent Terminal).
There’s also the contentious issue of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, first planned in 1987 and later approved by the Obama administration, which the Shoshone have stalled. It’s intended to store high-level radioactive waste.
Zabarte has a US Department of Energy study for the project which he says refers to “cultural triage” defined as “a forced choice situation in which an ethnic group is faced with the decision to rank in importance equally valued cultural resources that could be affected by a proposed development project.”
It goes on to state that this triage could be “emotionally taxing for the Indian person.” The United Nations backed these claims in a 2006 report, and Zabarte believes they perfectly encapsulate the problems faced by his people.
“We have a deliberate act by the United States government to dismantle the living life ways of my people, my family, in relation to our property, our sacred land.
“The United States has developed a systematic process to ethnically cleanse us from that land, so that they take all the profits and give them to other Americans,” he said. “In order to prove genocide we need to consider, what is the intent? It is the culture of secrecy, that is the intent.”
A prime example of how the Shoshone’s life has been eradicated came in 1971 with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses Act. As Zabarte explained: “Politicians in Washington DC defined our Indian horses as wild and started coming after our ranchers, who have a guaranteed right as hunters or herdsmen under the treaty to have livestock.
“The United States Bureau of Land Management determined our horses, our cows, our livestock were destroying the land. But the land was destroyed by nuclear weapons testing fallout and the United States government blamed the Shoshone people.”
There is no economy or sustainable lifestyle, and the nearest town is 80 miles away. “I have nothing on my reservation to go back to,” said Zabarte, who can trace his direct descendants to the Kawich region, which houses Area 51. “They stole my horses, they stole my livelihood. There are no jobs, there are no opportunities; the United States has stolen our economy, our hunting, our fishing… and made us trespassers in our own country.”
But the reservation only makes up a tiny part of the entire Shoshone land. The rest is used by the American government and population, sometimes unwittingly. People are buying houses and living on land that the Shoshone feel they should control – but all tax from economic activity goes to the US. The Shoshone have no claim over it.
“The United States cannot prove ownership to it but they come into our country and they provide tax money to the state of Nevada, and the state of Nevada takes that money and provides it to every other non-Shoshone unit of local government, and we get nothing. That is taxation without representation,” Zabarte said.
Despite the obvious sense of injustice, he feels an obligation to warn Americans who live in or go through the Shoshone nation of the danger it presents.
“My grandfather always said, ‘don’t kick up dust’ because of the radioactive fallout. I care for these people because of that treaty of peace and friendship, and have an obligation to provide aid and comfort to other Americans passing through. But I watch them kick up dust in their off-road vehicles and they are quite likely exposing themselves. There is plutonium in a lot of the roofs of their houses, too.”
The key for Zabarte is awareness. The more people know the history of the land and understand the issue, there greater the chance of meaningful action. That could involve providing medical surveillance and advising the next generation how to protect themselves.
Zabarte is also keen to build momentum so the Shoshone, including his own son, can have access to all of their land and create a functioning economy that fits with their traditions.
“We need to continue to make our people aware the next generation don’t have a safe place to live; we have these tiny reservations and they are colonies created by the United States. They exist only to the extent that the United States provides the funding. We don’t have ways to survive on our own land.”
He is a man on a mission and has sacrificed his life to shoulder this burden. “I have dignity and my family has dignity and that’s what I’m fighting for. These a**holes aren’t going to get away with it.”
Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and the Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney
Since its beginnings, the space industry has used PR, Hollywood, and a parade of stars to carve itself into the public psyche, including targeting children. Aerospace costs have been largely ignored or hidden, but these costs are serious and accelerating.
The ozone layer in the sky continues to deteriorate despite international action such as the ban on CFCs. The Antarctic ozone hole is becoming permanent year-round, and the soothing green and blue on NASA’s maps actually signifies low ozone levels.1 The aerospace industry is a major factor in this problem. Dallas etal. (2020): [O]zone depletion is one of the largest environmental concerns surrounding rocket launches from Earth.”2 Why?
1 – Rockets’ radical emissions cause immediate, almost total ozone destruction for hundreds of square miles and which lasts days.3
2 – Rockets’ exhaust and pollutants introduced into the stratosphere persist there and react with and destroy ozone over the long term.4
3 – The sun creates the ozone layer by changing oxygen into ozone in the stratosphere. But rockets put pollutants such as exhaust, water vapor, black carbon, and fuel components such as alumina into the stratosphere, blocking the sun’s rays. This reduces the sun’s creation of ozone, reducing ozone layer repair and replenishment. The long-lived rocket byproducts persist in the stratosphere for 3-5 years,5 and accumulate with every rocket launch, decreasing ozone regeneration with each launch.6
4 – The shockwave of de-orbitting debris, satellites, and rockets creates nitric oxide which destroys ozone.7
There is no environmental oversight. Researchers including Martin Ross, Darin Toohey, and James Vedda have repeatedly warned the industry,8 but the industry and governments are escalating space funding and programs instead.
Prior to 2021, 2000 satellites were in orbit around the Earth. Then in 2021, 2800 satellites were launched — more than doubling the total in just one year.9 However, the FCC has approved 17,270 low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites. 65,912 more LEO applications are pending. Governments and private companies plan an additional 30,947+. Rwanda has applied to the ITU for a staggering 327,320 satellites (Firstenberg, 2022). These numbers don’t include systems fewer than five satellites, geostationary, or medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites, or rockets into space.
These programs will acceleratingly destroy the ozone layer which is essential to protect the Earth and life.10 NASA discovered in 2007 that UV-C and UV-B were already reaching the Earth and failed to act.11 UV radiation is having lethal effects on species now.
LEO satellites are very short-lived, lasting 5-7 years; the U.S. military plans 3-year duration satellites. These LEOs need frequent replacement via rocket launch.
Aleksandr Dunayev of the Russian Space Agency said in 1991: “About 300 launches of the [space] shuttle each year would be a catastrophe, and the ozone layer would be completely destroyed.”12
Science author Arthur Firstenberg says: “In 2021, there were 146 orbital rocket launches to put 1,800 satellites into space. At that rate, to maintain and continually replace 100,000 low-earth-orbit satellites, which have a lifespan of five years, would require more than 1,600 rocket launches per year, or more than four every day, forever into the future.”13 That’s over five times the amount to totally destroy the ozone layer.
The long-lived rocket pollution in the stratosphere also traps Earth’s natural and human-made heat under a rapidly thickening blanket, preventing the heat from venting into space. This will increasingly raise Earth’s temperature.14 This is a different issue than carbon or methane. However, the increased heat will release methane stored in permafrost and formerly ice-covered regions, and this methane will poison Earth.
These satellite systems are largely intended for 4G/5G global Wi-Fi, military warfighting, and the Internet of Things. They exponentially increase RF-EMF radiation levels in the atmosphere and on Earth. This radiation damages health and causes environmental damage. It damages neurology, DNA, cell membranes, the brain, cognition, learning, memory, immunity, reproduction and fertility, blood, and mitochondria, dysregulates hormones, the blood-brain barrier, and sleep cycles, and causes cancer, stroke, heart attacks, and oxidative stress.15
It disrupts wildlife’s ability to navigate and orient by Earth’s natural EMF fields. Bees, insects, and birds are particularly vulnerable.16 The U.S. Department of Interior warned in 2014 about the devastating impacts to birds from this radiation.17 In 2020, a 5G military/SpaceX “live fire” drill killed up to millions of birds in the Southwest.18 Western governments and the FCC ignore the substantial research showing devastating impacts.
What a disaster.
Another problem: dead spacecraft and debris are rapidly accumulating in the sky, creating collision hazards for other rockets, satellites, and the space stations.19 Every collision creates more debris, leading to more collisions. Unstoppable chain-reaction collisions – Kessler Syndrome — are inevitable. It is increasingly difficult to navigate through these debris fields.
High rates of satellite failure leave dead, unmaneuverable satellites in orbit. The new large constellations will dramatically worsen this problem.20
All of this debris, computers, electronic and chemical waste, radioactive elements, weapons, dead satellites, rocket parts, and dust come down. Aerospace officials and agencies, including the FCC,21 talk nonsense about “disposal” via “safe” de-orbitting and vaporization, as if the waste simply disappears.
The reality is that de-orbitting and vaporization create new problems — exploding burning debris, aerosolizing toxins, metals, paints, fuels, and other chemicals. They fall into the lower atmosphere to pollute the soil, ocean, waters, and air we breathe. “Vaporized” means it explodes into tiny particles and dust.
With these large constellations of short lifespan, increasing failures, and launch rocket debris, a barrage of debris and fall-out and increasing atmospheric dust are just beginning.
All of this debris burns at very hot temperatures as it re-enters the atmosphere, with big and little chunks landing everywhere.22 Exponential increases in fall-out increases the risk for fires, injuries, deaths, and property damage. A large chunk of space debris fell into a Michigan family’s yard and just missed hitting anyone.23 Hot debris fell in Chile last year causing fires.24 A Russian satellite that was supposed to stay in orbit for ten thousand years fell out of orbit this month and possibly landed in the Pacific Ocean.25
In 2020, the FCC proposed an “acceptable” casualty rate of 1 in 10,000 from falling satellites and rockets.26 The FCC also discussed liability and indemnity. However, any liability depends on debris being attributable to a company or government. Otherwise, injured parties would likely have limited or no recourse.
Direct land, air, and ocean pollution from dumping, rocket liftoffs, launch pad runoff and accidents, is another terrible problem.27
No one is discussing this.
The US also wants to put nuclear power into space 28 — reactors in the sky — and awarded a major contract to a team that includes GE, the company which engineered the flawed Fukushima reactors.29 Rockets can explode at launch, malfunction after launch, or fail to reach orbit. This last happened with SNAP 9-A in 1964. As a result, 2.1 pounds of plutonium-238 “vaporized in the atmosphere and spread worldwide… Dr. John Goffman …concluded that the dispersed deadly plutonium-238 was a leading cause of the increase in cancers around the world today.”30 There have been other space nuclear accidents. Officials don’t seem to care.
The militarization of the atmosphere, space, and the moon risk World War III — another problem. 5G in space will control weapons systems on Earth and in the ocean, 31 including military sonar already responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales, and other marine animals.32 Elon Musk/SpaceX in partnership with the US government has endangered Chinese astronauts by getting too close to their space station.33 Musk is the same man who advocates nuking Mars and saying the U.S. can coup whatever country it wants for rare earth minerals such as lithium.34 The military and its contractors are not guided by responsible, calm leaders. The worst is already happening.
Add to that accelerating plans to exploit, extract, militarize, and privatize the sovereign moon which stabilizes Earth’s rotation and climates, creates the tides, and is essential to all life, as I detailed in my previous article.35 Who’s protecting the moon and the Earth?
Military conquest, profiteering through extraction, mining, tourism, and exploitation are the main goals driving the expenditure of public monies and private investment, not pretty space pictures or neutral, scientific “exploration”. The plutonium ecocide of Saturn by the space industry via the Cassini probe should have been a wakeup call to pull the plug on NASA and the aerospace industry before more planets are destroyed including the Earth.
Subsidizing this industry has caused a brain drain into its high-paying jobs, neglecting and hampering work on Earth’s urgent problems. And the aerospace industry has siphoned off billions in public funds that could fund solutions, while causing expensive environmental problems to be dealt with “later”. The $10 billion dollar Webb telescope is one recent example. Decisionmakers are dashing headlong toward the mirage of a new Gold Rush.
It’s time to strip back the curtain and reveal the protected astronauts, aerospace moguls, and rocket scientists. They are not heroes. They are destroying the Earth. The joy rides of William Shatner and Jeff Bezos were sickening.
Those who want to stop climate change and protect the ozone layer must halt the space programs including space tourism and military programs.
Those who would protect the environment must stop these programs and do it now.
This is common sense. This is about Earth protection. This is about growing up.
Stop the rockets. Defund the space programs. Protect the Earth now.
The environmental impact of emissions from space launches: A comprehensive review, J.A. Dallas, S. Raval, J.P. Alvarez, Gaitan, S. Saydam, A.G. Dempster, Journal of Cleaner Production, May 10, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.120209
The emissions[Four Main Propellant Types] presented in Table 1 cause prompt and deep ozone loss (approaching 100%) in the immediate plume wake, caused by the radical emissions, over areas of hundreds of square miles lasting several days after launch. These stratospheric ‘‘ozone mini-holes’’ have been well observed in situ by high altitude aircraft plume sampling campaigns.
Beyond the prompt plume wake ozone destruction, second order processing of rocket combustion products occurs during the weeks and months after launch. The plumes are transported and mixed into the global stratosphere and lose their identity as distinct air masses. This intermediate mesoscale phase would be characterized by complex plume-atmosphere interactions among radicals, reservoirs, and sinks. Significant influences from alumina or soot particles are expected, possibly involving the creation of new H2O related particles. The details of this processing will be highly variable according to altitude and even time of day of launch and certainly has a large influence on the steady-state global ozone loss. A few chance observations of aged plumes confirm the importance of the mesoscale processing. No studies have been done on this aspect of rocket emissions. [emphasis added]
“It’s just terrible,” NMSU biologist Martha Desmond told CNN. “The number is in the six figures. Just by looking at the scope of what we’re seeing, we know this is a very large event, hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of dead birds, and we’re looking at the higher end of that.”
Representative chemical, structural, and morphological analyses of the large (>1 μm diameter) solid particles from three impaction collection surfaces have been performed. These collections sampled the stratosphere at approximately 17–19 km in altitude during 1976, 1981, and 1984…This rise in solid particle number density for the stratosphere over the collection period is likely due to the influx of solid rocket exhaust and rocket and satellite debris into the atmosphere in increasingly larger amounts with time. Some of this material is shed from spacecraft during ascent through the atmosphere, but the majority is probably provided during the descent of material from Earth’s growing belt of debris in low Earth orbit.
“My concern with these big constellations is the [overall] failure rates,” says Glenn Peterson, a senior engineering specialist at the Aerospace Corporation near Los Angeles. “If a satellite fails, they can’t bring it down any more.” In its own filing with the FCC, Amazon was asked to project the potential collision risk of its Project Kuiper constellation if up to 15 percent of its satellites failed, a high but not unfathomable number. U.S.-company Iridium Communications, which launched a constellation of 95 satellites into orbit in the 1990s, found that 30 percent of those satellites failed. If 15 percent of Amazon’s satellites failed in orbit, the company has estimated a 17 percent chance that one of them would collide with a piece of space debris—potentially breaking apart to create more space debris and raise overall collision risks.
Example: “…in 1997, parts of a U.S. launch vehicle, including a 450 pound stainless steel propellant tank, ruptured upon impact close to a farmer’s house in Georgetown, Texas. Other parts from the launch vehicle landed around Texas and Oklahoma, such as the titanium helium-pressurized sphere that landed 100 miles away in Seguin, Texas.”
“One approach could be a safe harbor similar to some of the concepts described above, wherein a system satisfying a 1 in 10,000, or other risk metric system-wide would satisfy the safe harbor threshold, such that no further analysis of risk would be required We seek comment on this safe harbor approach and a reasonable risk metric for a safe harbor.”
The following section on indemnification is very revealing about companies’ desire to avoid responsibility for damage.
The technology revolution has now expanded to the ocean in the form of the Internet of Underwater Things (IoUT), aka a Smart Ocean. Plans are underway for the ocean to become an integral part of a worldwide network of “smart” interconnected infrastructure and objects that will complement satellites in the skies, and 4G/5G cell towers and satellite dishes on land. Money is being poured into research and development of new applications and infrastructure to enable seamless connectivity throughout the ocean, Earth, and heavens.
Commercial interests and the armed forces view an internet-connected ocean as essential for their operations. But the impacts on marine life are not being considered. In addition to the noise, pollution, and debris from an ocean bustling with anthropogenic activities, the Internet of Underwater Things will rely primarily on sonar which for decades has been known to adversely impact whales and other marine animals. Recently, scientists have discovered the vital role whales play in ocean ecology and how they help mitigate climate change.
Data Transmission Technology and Possible Applications
Whereas wireless data transmission on land and in space relies primarily on radio waves (RF/Microwave radiation) and laser, these are less suited for underwater applications. In the ocean, sonar is most often used for carrying data.
The Internet of Underwater Things will consist of underwater sensors that communicate with one another and with relay stations on the surface of the water. These stations will in turn communicate with satellites and/or ground-based 4G/5G infrastructure on land.
This vast ocean-based network will be integrated into Systems Warfare (1)— 21st century warfare that weaves together the different branches of the military into one coordinated AI web of destruction. The “smart ocean” will include autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), robots, submarines, underwater drones, torpedoes, bombs and anti-torpedo defense systems.
The IoUT will also play an integral role in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) “arms race” we are currently witnessing play out in the US, China, and other nations.
In what’s known as Dual Use Technology, the Internet of Underwater Things will also be used by the private sector for its purposes: mining for minerals on the ocean floor, seismic drilling, monitoring oil and gas pipelines, global trade, surveying shipwrecks, and scientific research.
Effects of Sonar on Marine Wildlife
As mentioned earlier, the IoUT will operate primarily through sonar waves which are ideally suited for underwater propagation. (Optical communications are being developed for shorter more data intensive communications.)
In much the same way that extremely bright beams of light shined directly into our eyes would hamper our ability to function optimally, or at all, so too sonar waves and anthropogenic noise interfere with whales and other marine mammals’ ability to tend to their needs. High intensity sonar, around 240 decibels, used by the US navy, can cause deafness, bleeding in the brain, stranding, and death in whales. Their experience of high intensity sonar at 240 decibels would be much like our experience of a rocket at takeoff… for extended periods of time.
Disoriented from the unrelenting sound that can permeate the ocean for hundreds of miles (and in the case of low frequency sonar, thousands of miles), in a desperate effort to escape the sound, whales fling themselves onto the shore and die. Lower intensity sonar, though somewhat less harmful, can temporarily and cumulatively impact whales’ ability to communicate, forage, navigate, find mates, and avoid predators.
Whales play a key role in the exquisitely designed eco system that supports all life on Earth. Recently, scientists discovered that excrement from whales, known as “fecal plumes”, create the ideal nutrients and conditions for phytoplankton. These microscopic creatures produce 50-85% of the oxygen on Earth and serve as the “lungs” of the planet.
Both phytoplankton and whales help sequester large quantities of carbon, each in their own way. During their lifetime, whales absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Upon death, they fall to the bottom of the ocean where the carbon gets buried in the soil and will remain for centuries. Due to a whale’s size and lifespan, a single whale absorbs large amounts of carbon. According to Nature’s Solution to Climate Change (2), a great whale sequesters on the average, 33 tons of CO2, while a tree absorbs roughly 40 pounds yearly. Phytoplankton sequester carbon through photosynthesis.
The Military and Our Ocean
“The military base is being replaced by what has been called a ‘high speed, kill web.’ It uses information as a primary weapon of war. It will enable Empire to rain down terror on any spot of the earth: a swarm of drones, hypersonic missiles, submarine torpedoes, bombers; and all with the ease of calling an Uber.” Koohan Paik-Mander U.S. Militarism, Space Tech, and the Climate Crisis at COP26 People’s Summit
“The submarine threat is growing in the seas of the world, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, from the Indian Ocean to the South Pacific. Renewed activity by the Chinese, Russian or American navies, increasing naval defence budgets, construction of submarines of all sizes (mini-submarines, coastal, conventional or nuclear-powered submarines) to create or expand existing fleets: the result is hundreds of submarines traversing the world’s seas at all times, keeping States on the alert to preserve their sovereignty and interests. And underwater weapons are a key element of their naval strategies.” [naval-group[dot]com/en/underwater-weapons-40]
The Internet of Underwater Things will be integrated into the armed forces around the world in what is known as Systems Warfare (1). This 21st century brand of warfare weaves together the different branches of the military into one giant coordinated AI-controlled web of destruction. Systems Warfare is increasingly controlled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and works by using the massive amount of data generated from the Internet of Things on land, in the ocean, in the air, and in space. This data, coupled with the IoUT infrastructure will aid in manning submarines, controlling torpedoes for both offense and defense, and in the detection of stealth underwater vehicles and drones, and Supercarriers, aka the “Menace of the Sea (For more, please see the newest generation of US Supercarriers, aka the “Menace of the Sea”). Data and AI will also assist in executing coordinated attacks from multiple branches of the military simultaneously. (See AEGIS, “Rocket science at sea.”)
With the speed at which technology is evolving, new weapons and systems are manufactured and tested each year. These military exercises, or wargames, involve practicing bombing ships, firing missiles through the ocean, and testing new offense and defense weapon systems. As Koohan Paik-Mander so poignantly explains: “We essentially have nonstop war now taking place in our oceans, and we have for a decade, even with no war officially being waged. But war is being waged…That is a war on all the living spirits that populate the undersea community and enable our oceans to support life on Earth: the whales, dolphins, turtles, crabs, sea horses, jellyfish, algae seaweed, eels, plankton, manta rays and coral.”
Are the downsides of an internet-connected ocean a necessary trade-off for gaining military and commercial advantage? Do we really need more oil to fuel more war? Are more lethal weapons of war, data gleaned from connecting everything to the internet, extraction of “riches” buried deep within the ocean worth the suffering and possible extinction of whales and perhaps myriad other marine life forms so necessary to our eco-system? Is it wise to continue to compete as we unconsciously escort ourselves and all of life toward techno-ecocide?
Perhaps human nature hasn’t really changed that much over the millennia. It’s possible that violence and competition have for many long centuries driven human activity. Or perhaps these have escalated in the last few decades. Either way, what is clear is that the increased magnitude of harm that this mindset engenders now, is threatening the survival of all living beings on the planet.
Earth can no longer sustain our violent, competitive, extractive way of life. We must open to a shift of consciousness if we are to survive. Perhaps it is time we pivot from an ocean of technology to an ocean of consciousness focused on embracing our interdependence on one another and to all living beings in this intricate and awe-filled sacred Web of Life.