Outrageous Thought of the Day: Nuclear Hypocrisy

Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository/U.S. Department of Energy

Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository/U.S. Department of Energy

How absurd is it that we have the government on the one hand pulling back from using a hollowed out mountain in Nevada to store nuclear waste because of a fear (legitimate I grant) that hundreds or thousands of years hence, some earthquake or other catastrophe could cause the stored waste to leak into the water table, while on the other hand we have this same government deliberately taking some of the most dangerous waste–the actual uranium from the used fuel rods–and putting it into bombs, shells and bullets to be splattered and burned all across the landscape?

And I should note that it’s not just remote places like Iraq and Kuwait and Afghanistan that are being covered in super toxic and radioactive uranium dust–and I’m not just talking about the stuff that gets picked up in the wind and carried around the globe, or the stuff that gets inhaled by our troops and carried home internally, bad enough as that is.

The truth is that depleted uranium weapons are being exploded and burned right here in the USA in training operations. The center of Hawaii’s Big Island, for example, which is a military zone, is heavily contaminated by DU ammunition fired by tanks there. The same is true of Vieques Island, long a favored target for the Navy, which for years has fired DU shells from its ships at the populated island, and also launched DU-tipped missiles and dropped DU-loaded “bunker-buster” bombs at it.

While I don’t have direct knowledge, I’d say it’s a safe bet that there are a number of sites on the Mainland US where DU munitions have also been widely used–maybe White Sands Proving Ground the Marine training area near Joshua Tree National Monument in Southern California, or other such training and testing areas.

The simple truth is that our own government, besides committing an ongoing atrocity in the Middle East, is also poisoning our own country with uranium oxide.

Our Nobel Peace Prize president should take note. President John F. Kennedy reportedly moved to halt open air testing of nuclear weapons after looking at the rain falling outside the window of the Oval Office and asking a science advisor whether it was delivering nuclear fallout to his front lawn (he was told that it was). Maybe President Obama should consider that the rain today is delivering uranium dust to his wife’s and daughters’ garden in the back yard of the White House. At least he should take a look at pictures of the horribly deformed babies being born to mothers in Iraq (and of the lucky babies that are stillborn), thanks to the radioactive warfare that the US military has been employing against both that country and Afghanistan–his “necessary” war.

There is another irony here too. The US is expressing concern about Iran enriching uranium, and possibly creating a nuclear bomb, which in the unlikely event that it were ever used, might spread some radioactivity around parts of the Middle east, yet it is the US which already has spread 2000 or more tons of uranium dust all over Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 18 years–far more than any small Iranian bomb could release.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist. He is author of Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (Common Courage Press, 2003) and The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at

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7 Responses for “Outrageous Thought of the Day: Nuclear Hypocrisy”

  1. Roger Helbig says:

    Dave Lindorff has been demonstrating his ignorance of Element 92, Uranium for years now – uranium is not even in the waste that was to be stored at Yucca Mountain. Uranium is not high level radioactive waste. Uranium is a naturally occuring element that occurs everywhere on Earth and is not only in every human, but every animal on the planet. It has been commonly found on the planet ever since the crust formed and rocks began to decompose into soil. The heat from the natural fissioning of uranium in the Earth’s core keeps the core molten and keeps this from being a cold dead rock. Lindorff is a self-promoter – and a very lousy reporter. I bet he will make all sorts of awful claims about me, but none of them are true.

  2. Lt. Col. Roger Hilberg is a shameless shill for the Pentagon, who hides his identy posing as an ordinary civilian. His point here is a red herring. Sure uranium is a naturally occurring element. So is arsenic and asbestos. Both are deadly and so is uranium. The thing is, the uranium that heats the earth is buried safely hundreds of miles below us. The uranium in DU warheads, however, is blasted into a fine ceramic grit of uranium oxide, which can be inhaled and then stay trapped in the small openings of the lung, where they blast damaging alpha particles at the surrounding tissue until one of the cells goes cancerous. This is why miners who dig uranium ore die in high numbers. And it’s why uranium is so carefully kept stored away from humans after it is taken out of reactors when they are refueled.

    It is true uranium is not going to be stored in Yucca Mountain, but that’s not because it’s not dangerous. In fact, it’s so dangerous it’s stored elsewhere, like at Hanford, or reprocessed to make new fuel rods. But a hell of a lot of it is simply sold cheaply to the Pentagon, which then turns it into weapons to be fired off in third world countries, or here in the US in places like the central plain of Hawaii’s Big Island, or at other military target ranges.

    Helbig doesn’t address the issue of the danger of uranium oxide, because it is simply terribly toxic and radioactive and carcenogenic, and he knows it. Instead he sets up straw men and then claims to have “exposed” an article.

    The important thing to know is that Helbig is part of a Pentagon disinformation campaign to prevent people from challenging the use of depleted uranium as a weapon. His deceitful failure to identify himself as an Air Force Lt. Col. should be enough evidence for readers, but I’ve had more experience with this lying jerk. He went after one of my sources, a Dr. Doug Rokke, who worked on DU issues at the Pentagon and was honored for his work. Helbig lyingly tried to claim Rokke was not a military officer, not a PhD, and never worked on DU during and after the Persian Gulf War. Dr. Rokke proved all those things to me with documents.

    Helbig is simply a Pentagon disinformation shill and a paid liar.

    Dave Lindorff

  3. B Mused says:

    I don’t know whether Roger Helbig is a “disinformation shill and a paid liar, ” as Lindorff asserts, but Lindorff is able to weave his own disinformation as regards Yucca Mountain. He suggests great danger and calamity if a future earthquake or other catastrophe were to cause nuclear waste buried at the repository if it is ever built at Yucca. He postulates that the waste would “leak” into the water table. First, he overlooks the fact that the waste is contained in robust metal canisters. Second, the waste itself is a solid form– it is not going to “leak.” Yes, thousands of years from now, if a waste package is breached, some radionuclides could sssssssslowly leach through the rock in which the repository would be built and it could reach the water table. But, the Department of Energy has submitted in its license application computer model results that conclude that the radiation dose levels set by EPA for the facility will not be exceeded. It will be up to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to be convinced that DOE’s forecast meets the law and regulations for this important project.

  4. Missing the Point says:

    The thesis of the article has nothing to do with Yucca Mountain. The author is pointing out the hypocrisy between our foreign policies (our incessant interest in other people’s affairs) and our deep founded lack for self reflection as it relates to our own actions.

    These comments are muddied in personal attacks. Stick to the facts.

  5. Forrest says:

    I feel sorry for us all then. There are plenty of people like you who “don’t get it”. For those who think nuclear energy is a great thing, I hate to burst your bubble. Nuclear energy is not clean; mining the uranium permanently alters the environment. The left over tailings sit around in ponds until some disaster strikes, at which point they are released into the nearest stream bed.. Don’t believe it will happen? It already has. One Churchrock nuclear spill was enough – those uranium tailings are now spread as a fine dust along the bottom of the puerco river and workers in the area are advised to wear masks to prevent inhaling dust off the dry stream bed. I suppose since nobody but the Navajo tribe was affected (the water table was contaminated – it is no longer safe to consume ground water in the Little Colorado region) this is not such a big deal to most… No. It won’t be until Lake Mead is too contaminated for the city of LA to safely drink from it that anyone will really start to care..

    Nuclear energy is dirty business… Mining the uranium takes its toll on the environment and makes once beautiful places hazardous to visit. After the fuel is spent the problem remains – what do we do with it? Stick it in a tailing pond with the rest of the useless ore? Bury it in a mountain in a supremely shortsighted move? Can you see a hundred years into the future? Two hundred? It is simply irresponsible to take these kinds of risks – risks which may culminate in a disaster decision makers won’t be alive to witness, but one which our children will thank us for…

  6. Roger Helbig is paid from a discretionary fund to conduct disinformation. There is mounting interest in trying US Government and Pentagon officials in the Hague for genocide. Helbig spreads lies and and accuses others of having his own incompetence with Uranium, Plutonium and enriched Uranium – a dirty bomb, aka a J-DAM. Helbig is not a civilian, he’s a Pentagon Spook, Psychological Operations.

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