Loulena Miles / Citizen’s Watch (Tri-Valley CAREs’ Newsletter) – 2007-08-19 22:33:26
Radioactive Bomb Blasts Planned at Livermore Lab Site 300
LIVERMORE, CA (Aug 17, 2007) — Recently, the public got its first chance to question regulatory officials and express concern regarding Livermore Lab’s proposal to conduct bigger, open-air bomb blasts at the Lab’s Site 300 high explosives testing range near Tracy.
On July 18, technical staff from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District met with several dozen community members to provide information about the permitting process that the agency will undertake before determining whether or not to grant the Lab a permit for huge, new bomb tests.
The detonations in question will occur on 4 outdoor “firing tables” at Site 300. No air pollution control technology of any kind will be used. All of the material in the bomb blasts will be released into the air.
If Livermore Lab gets its way, the annual limit for high explosives detonated at Site 300 will increase 8-fold, from 1,000 to 8,000 pounds. And, the daily limit will rise 3-fold, from 100 to 350 pounds. According to the Lab, these blasts will be so powerful they would blow the walls and roof out of Site 300’s Contained Firing Facility — hence the plan to detonate them in the open.
What makes these bomb tests so terribly dangerous are the toxic and radioactive materials that will be in them. According to the permit application, the test explosions will contain up to 5,000 pounds of uranium-238, also known as depleted uranium or DU, each year. Uranium-238 has a radioactive half-life of more than 4 billion years. Moreover, if inhaled or ingested, it poses a triple health threat. Uranium can cause health problems and death due to its hazardous chemical and heavy metal properties as well as its radioactivity.
The Lab’s permit application also specifies that it may use up to 200 curies of tritium each year in the blasts. Tritium is the radioactive hydrogen of the H-bomb. A single curie is a large amount of radiation, equal to 37 billion radioactive disintigrations per second. Further, the permit application contains a long list of about 60 additional hazardous materials that will be in the bomb blasts. Many of these materials pose a severe health risk.
During the meeting, the Air District revealed plans to hire a contractor to help it evaluate the Lab’s permit application.
Both the Air District and Tri-Valley CAREs agree that the Lab’s application triggers the California Environmental Quality Act, our state’s most fundamental environmental law. We told the Air District that an Environmental Impact Report and public hearings are the appropriate level of review as specified by the law.
The Air District personnel said they were not yet ready to commit to any particulars. They are at the early stage of analyzing the question and will use the services of the yet to be hired contractor to help them determine the proper level of review, they said. We offered to provide additional input, and will be following up with them.
The Air District personnel said they would concurrently begin the permit evaluation process (which will trigger a public notice and a 30-day comment period), a Health Risk Assessment and an Air Quality Impact Analysis.
Members of the audience asked very thoughtful questions. One woman was a school nurse and described unusual patterns of skin problems in the children in Tracy. Another shared her concerns that the air quality in the Central Valley was already out of compliance with current laws.
Tri-Valley CAREs members talked about the need to clean up existing pollution at Site 300, not contribute more. Our members also posed numerous technical questions about how the Air District would conduct the assessment and how much damage the Lab would be permitted to inflict on the community.
The Sierra Club was also represented. One of its members questioned why the Air District rules would allow open-air blasts to kill a higher number of people than a facility that installed air pollution control devices would kill. The Sierra Club, like Tri-Valley CAREs, is on record opposing the permit for increased bomb blasts.
As with the recent victory stopping the planned bio-warfare agent research facility at Site 300, community outcry can make a huge difference. If the public is silent, it is a near guarantee that we will get dumped on. And, given the health risks posed by uranium, tritium and the other hazardous materials in the blasts, that will mean sickness for our families and contamination for our environment.
Your participation now can help prevent new, bigger bomb blasts. Volunteers are needed in the greater Bay Area and Central Valley to host house parties, circulate the enclosed sign-on letter (you can also download it from www.trivalleycares.org) and write letters to the editors of your local papers.
Now is the time to let the Air District and elected officials know that you don’t want radioactive and toxic materials blown up and allowed to drift in the wind across Northern California.
Our promise to you: If you gather signatures on the letter (at www.trivalleycares.org) – and mail the letter to us – Tri-Valley CAREs will make copies and distribute your letter to ALL of the agencies and elected officials listed on the front. So, please, get started by gathering a few signatures today!
• Marylia Kelley, Executive Director
Tri-Valley CAREs 2582 Old First Street Livermore, CA 94551
Ph: (925) 443-7148 Fx: (925) 443-0177 Web: www.trivalleycares.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com