The Viridian Design Movement

Note 00405: America's Radioactive Involuntary Parks

Key concepts
Department of Energy, radioactive pollution, involuntary parks, remediation, SCIENCE magazine, economics, abandonment, Competitive Enterprise Institute, American environmental policy
Attention Conservation Notice:
wonk-speak written in an august, fully peer-reviewed science magazine.


Look, you can finally buy your own Indian simputer. Let me know if it works.

All the toxins at Love Canal have been grubbed up or covered with waterproof clay. It's now officially safe to live on Love Canal now. Yup, hurry right on over.

Elena's motorcycle rides through the Chernobyl Involuntary Park are becoming a perennial weblogging favorite.

Philip Buehler's "Modern Ruins" project.

Kevin Stewart's involuntary-park watch.

Sean Burke is a Viridian in Alaska who likes to photograph industrial decay.

Science magazine 12 March 2004 Vol 303 No 5664 page 1615


"Avoiding Destructive Remediation at DOE Sites"

by F. W. Whicker, T. G. Hinto, M. M. MacDonell, J. E. Pinder III, L. J. Habegger

F. Ward Whicker, Ph.D, actual no-kidding scientist

The "Risks-Based End States" policy suggestion.

"The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessor agencies pioneered atomic weapons, nuclear energy, and peaceful uses of radioisotopes, but operating practices that began half a century ago left a legacy of environmental contamination (1) at more than 100 sites in 30 states covering two million acres."

"FOOTNOTE (1). This contamination includes chemical and radioactive materials that escaped containment and that resides in >1 x 10(7) m(3) soil and >2 x 10(12) liters of groundwater. Chemical contaminants include fuel, other organic compounds, explosives, and metals. Radioactive contaminants include longer-lived fission products such as 137Cs, 90Sr, and 129I (((cesium, strontium and iodine))) and actinides. e.g. 239OPu (((plutonium))) and uranium isotopes. Radioactive contamination concentrated to more than 100 times the background levels is usually confined to relatively small areas at or near industrial sites (each probably less than <10(3) M(3). Lower levels of contamination can be spread over much larger areas, some of which include natural aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems."

(((Two million acres, over 100,000,000 cubic meters of dirt, and over 20,000,000,000,000 liters of underground water. Kind of a lot, huh?)))

"In 2002, a critical review of DOE's Environmental Management Program concluded that the cleanup program for the nuclear weapons program could cost more than $300 billion, and that more than $60 billion had already been spent without a corresponding reduction in actual risk. (2)

"FOOTNOTE 2. US DOE, 'A review of the Environmental Management Program' (US DOE Washington DC 2002) available at:

(((Where'd the ol' $60 billion go, eh? Federal contractors, you gotta love 'em!)))

"The environmental cleanup program generally involves excavation, transport and disposal of soil, pumping and treating of groundwater, and other engineering and technological measures.


"Although DOE has the ultimate responsibility for environmental remediation, site-specific cleanup goals have been strongly influenced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with input from private groups and local citizens. Cleanup decisions have often been based on the highly conservative assumption that people will live on the land for a lifetime and derive their food and water from the site. Cleanup goals are usually set to achieve an incremental cancer risk of <10(4) or lower for the maximally exposed hypothetical resident. These and other conservative assumptions translate to cleanup of extremely low levels of radionuclides."

((("The maximally exposed hypothetical resident." Well, suppose this angry voter who's a local citizen doesn't even exist? No people, no NIMBY!)))

"The radionuclides of most concern, such as cesium and plutonium, are found primarily in soil or sediment. Unreasonably low cleanup criteria for radionuclide concentrations in these media ((("these media" = dirt))) thus can lead to unnecessary excavation, transport, and disposal elsewhere, all of which magnify costs and cause loss of habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as reduced biodiversity. Excavation and disposal destroy plant cover and remove topsoil, which leads to degradation of biologically rich areas. Such activities can also impact air and water quality in distant areas through wind and water erosion.

"For example, most of the wind-aided dispersion of plutonium-contaminated soil at the Rocky Flats production plant for nuclear weapons components was caused by soil disturbance from remediation activities." (((Cure worse than the disease.)))

"Removal of vegetation cover by wildfire led to soil erosion and transport of cesium to streams at Los Alamos." (((This is an intriguing radioactive plus Greenhouse Wexelblat disaster, given that the massive wildfires at Los Alamos were caused by climate change.)))

"Drawdown of a reservoir caused water erosion of contaminated sediments at the Savannah River Site, where material for nuclear weapons was produced and waste is stored." (((What happens to radioactive sediments during major Greenhouse droughts?)))

(((Now we get to the good part.)))

"One approach to this problem is congressional action that ensures continuing federal control of certain DOE sites and precludes the hypothetical 'site resident' scenario."

(((In other words, future America is speckled all over with congressionally mandated, federally controlled, permanently abandoned, human-forsaken, wildlife-rich, radioactive Viridian Involuntary Parks. It's an official Washington mandate for our vision! And if it's applied to nuclear waste, why not all such contaminated sites? It's easier, safer, and much cheaper for the human race just to give up trying to clean our own fouled nests.)))

"This would minimize costs, environmental damage, and, as explained below, human health risks. It would also allow time for natural processes to attenuate risks. (((Let Mother Nature do the heavy lifting! We're too broke! And besides, we basically stink at the job!)))

"At many sites, radioactive decay of relatively short-lived isotopes will reduce risks significantly within several decades. Furthermore, other natural phenomena will sequester long-lived materials (((the filth get stuck in the dirt))) and allow degradation of organic contaminants over time. (((Bugs eat the stuff.)))


"Aside from huge cost savings, the strategy of continued federal control and sensible land use scenarios (((in other words, permanent federally enforced abandonment))) has significant benefits for wildlife, biodiversity, and regional air and water quality. (((Assuming, that is, that the abandoned woods don't catch fire, spewing smoky contaminants downwind Chernobyl-style. It also might be a tad dodgy eating the migratory ducks and catfish that dabbled in those sediments.)))

"Many DOE sites are a mix of operating and inactive industrial facilities and waste management areas (((brownfields and dumps))) surrounded by natural habitats with little or no contamination. For example, only 15% of the 198,000 acre Savannah River Site in South Carolina has been used for site operations; the remainder consists of dense forest and wetland habitats that contrast dramatically with the surrounding mosaic of land disturbed by farming and residential areas. (((No people, no problems!)))

"Similar contrasts exist for the Hanford Site in Washington, the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, the Nevada Test Site, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and other large DOE properties."

(((Get a picnic basket!)))

"Portions of the natural areas that constitute buffer zones for these sites have been marginally contaminated by past releases to air and water (for 137Cs, <100 times the global fallout background) but their value as wildlife habitat is undiminished because radioactive dose rates to plants and animals in such areas are well below existing guidelines based on reproductive success."

(((You know what us deer, mink, fish and coyotes need? We need us a nice little nuclear war! With enough "global fallout background," the entire planet becomes one big involuntary park! Us mammals with a short lifespan will do great, while long-lived creatures (like humans) will end up with bones and livers that glow in the dark!)))

"Ironically, it is largely because of this slight contamination that many areas have remained undisturbed and now support thriving ecosystems with no evidence of effects from radionuclides or chemicals."

(((The only thing "ironic" about this is how long it's taken the atomic mandarins at the DOE to realize that they have to just plain give up. This paper looks like a dynamic plan of action, but it's the exact opposite. It's a plan for benign radioactive neglect.)))

(((This policy will, presumably, require the establishment of a new American "involuntary park service," run by DOE or maybe Homeland Security, who are not park rangers, but armed security guards, whose mission is to keep squatters, poachers, loggers, toxic dumpers, arsonists, nuclear dirty-bombing terrorists, and other miscreants from settling and exploiting these new radioactive Edens. These Involuntary Park Rangers pretty much are the "maximally exposed hypothetical residents," too, so let's hope they get short tours of duty.)))

(((A bit more on America's Nuclear Involuntary Parks today:)))

"(...) Par Pond, a 2500-acre impoundment that was formerly used to cool nuclear reactor effluents at the Savannah River Site(...) an ecosystem that includes about 30 lineal shoreline miles of wetland and littoral vegetation, an abundant and diverse warm-water fishery, alligators, bald eagles, osprey, and a large wintering waterfowl population." (((Radioactive bald eagles. That's America's heritage all over, eh?)))

"(...) Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site near Denver, Colorado, into a wildlife refuge that is now managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (...) Although less than 6500 acres, the Rocky Flats site provides sanctuary for mule and white-tailed deer, coyotes, bald eagles, and the endangered Preble's jumping mouse (...)

"Some may interpret this approach as simply an excuse to avoid more extensive cleanup. (((No! Really? How cynical!))) Further, those having financial interests in the cleanup process may resist the concept for fear of lost revenues (5). There is no question that many DOE sites and facilities will require cleanup and indefinite maintenance and surveillance. However, we believe cleanup decisions, whether in the United States or elsewhere, should be based on scientifically rigorous risk assessment for realistic land-use assumptions that will protect public health, cut costs dramatically, and spare valuable natural ecosystems from needless damage."

FOOTNOTE 5: R. H. Nelson, "From Waste to

Maintaining Biodiversity on Nuclear Bomb-Building Sites" (Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington DC 2001).

(((Small wonder that the Competitive Enterprise Institute would champion this "free-market, limited-government" solution. Here's the plan: the government shrouds the ruined earth with barbed wire while the CEI's industrial backers get away clean, which is just the way they want it. They are quite likely to get their way, too. In the case of nuclear contamination, most of it was done by the government anyhow, so this rather makes sense.

(((By no coincidence whatsoever, these CEI beltway bandits and their "Cooler Heads Coalition" are some of the most notorious Greenhouse denial freaks alive.)))

CEI's extensive list of intellectual crimes:

CEI's evil network of Lysenkoist spin:

CEI's financial backers:

"CEI does not publish a list of its institutional donors, but the following companies and foundations are known to have given $10,000 or more:

Aequus Institute
Amoco Foundation, Inc.
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Carthage Foundation
Coca-Cola Company
E.L. Craig Foundation
CSX Corporation
Earhart Foundation
Fieldstead and Co.
FMC Foundation
Ford Motor Company Fund
Gilder Foundation
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation David H. Koch Charitable Foundation Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation Phillip M. McKenna Foundation, Inc. Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation Philip Morris Companies, Inc. Pfizer Inc.
Precision Valve Corporation
Prince Foundation
Rodney Fund
Sheldon Rose
Sarah Scaife Foundation
Texaco, Inc.
Texaco Foundation

Other known CEI funders include:

American Petroleum Institute
ARCO Foundation
Armstrong Foundation
Burlington Northern Railroad Co. Cigna Corporation
Detroit Farming Inc.
Dow Chemical
EBCO Corp.
General Motors
Jacqueline Hume Foundation
JM Foundation
Vernon K. Krieble Foundation
John William Pope Foundation
Smith Richardson Foundation
Roe Foundation
Alex C. Walker Foundation

(((So == given those forces hidden in Washington's policy woodwork, does this sound like a far-out plan to you? Today's research, tomorrow's reality.)))

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