The opinion piece by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) scientist Howard Matis (May 2) is not accurate regarding what occurred at the Alameda County Board of Education meeting (April 25) when they agreed to review their decision to advise parents and schools about the radioactive contamination at the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) museum.
The children’s museum sits directly downwind from LBNL’s Tritium Labeling Facility, an assembly line industrial scale research facility which uses and loses large amounts of radioactive tritium in its most dangerous form – tritiated water. If as Mr. Matis stated the board had given the LHS a clean bill of health then they would have withdrawn both decisions they made at their 4/11 meeting. The board did rescind their decision for a moratorium on trips, which they never had authority to enforce. Because the levels of radioactive contamination in and around the museum were found high enough to qualify for Superfund Clean-up, and the overwhelming evidence and testimony presented by credible scientists the board voted 5-2-1 to recommend that parents investigate the information and make their own decision. Does this sound like a clean bill of health?
Contrary to Mr. Matis’ claims LBNL presented no nationally known experts. What we got was LBNL’s standard slide show public relations team, the same two EPA reps with the same tired “acceptable risks” speech and LHS staff who under questioning admitted they get significant fees from the schools’ visits. The scientists critical of the contamination from the tritium facility made the following observations:
(1) The LBNL scientists were liars; (2) They did their science backwards-formed a conclusion first and then found evidence to support it; (3) The tritium facility’s inventory records were a shambles with 23,000 curies of tritiated water unaccounted for and presumed dumped on the LHS; and (4) The tritium facility doesn’t have the equipment to gauge how much is returned through reclamation and just pick numbers out of the air which don’t even come close to those at Livermore Lab’s reclamation division.
Also presented was evidence that there was hardly any tritium activity when the EPA took their air tests showing no danger to the public. The EPA refuses to test soil, groundwater plants and trees because that would show more accurately what was released when the facility was in high gear. Recently it has been discovered that there was hardly any tritium on site when the air tests were conducted. This is about as honest as having your car checked for smog with the engine off.
Mr. Matis forgot to mention the usual platitudes about how much he cares about the safety of the children at the LHS. The truth is that he and his cohorts don’t care a whit about these kids, workers or neighbors especially when it hinders the operation of one of their nuclear gizmos. LBNL’s scientists actually do care about exposing themselves to tritium as shown by the elaborate venting system they built which takes the rad-waste hundreds of feet away. It then comes out a stack 20 feet from the fence where the visiting children play in the museum’s rear outside activity area. No wonder the Berkeley City Council has twice called for closure and cleanup of the tritium facility. Mr. Matis might want to reconsider broadcasting insults and innuendo and take a serious look at what this creepy tritium facility is doing to tarnish LBNL’s reputation from some of the great things they have accomplished.
Mark McDonald is a member of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission. He has been involved with radiation pollution issues for over 20 years and currently works with the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste.