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Radioactivity causes more concerns

Mark McDonald
Wednesday July 17, 2002

To the Editor: 

The latest rant by Elmer Grossman (July 9), Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s (LBNL) most enthusiastic cheerleader, is long on bluster and name-calling but short on accuracy. His beloved Tritium Facility was actually defunded by the National Institute for Health because the technology was dangerous and out-moded, worthwhile publishable research had ceased and the site had caused a Super-Fund eligible radioactive mess.  

Undaunted, Grossman is still spouting his old tirade about seven studies which has been debunked for some time. The five studies funded by the federal and state governments are laughable for their omissions and manipulations, and just quote LBNL numbers for emissions and recycling of tritium, a deadly hydrogen isotope which is directly linked to cancers like leukemia, infertility and other genetic mutations.  

The city funded Straume report notes higher levels of cancer in affected neighborhoods and the Franke study only looked at the Tritium Facility’s last two years of operation when tritium work was drastically reduced. This was because LBNL’s records for all previous activity was so bungled that probably we will never know what happened to huge quantities of unaccounted tritium that was delivered to the facility but not recycled. 

Presumably that went out the window with the rest which could explain the high contamination levels that started the whole controversy. Franke did say that the number of tritium monitors was grossly inadequate and what they had was not operating correctly. Also stated was that LBNL itself had 119 stacks dumping radioactive poisons into the Berkeley air, most of which are unmonitored. 

Grossman never mentions that the tritium stack is 25 feet from the fence of the Lawrence Hall of Science. We must be the only city in the world that sends their children to a radioactive museum. 

Grossman should be happy since the tritium facility never actually closed but has been converted to a chemical and rad-waste incineration/processing center. This has occurred without any permits or review as required by law because LBNL gave itself an exemption.  

The Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste (CMTW) did accuse LBNL’s representative of lying when she testified to the Berkeley Council that waste treatment/incineration would stop on April 1 (previously they had said early January). CMTW has lab documents dating back to last October containing plans to process rad-waste there for years and possibly indefinitely. 

Now the lab has begun hauling thousands of truckloads of hazardous and radioactive debris from their Bevatron, a huge demolition project and once again they have issued themselves an exemption so as to avoid the normal permit-review process, designed to protect the community.  

Although they are denying it now, LBNL was targeting landfills in Richmond and Livermore to receive the cancer-causing hazardous waste and radioactive debris they consider below regulatory concern. 

I am not aware of anyone calling Grossman a fascist but he does seem to have little patience for the American democratic process where the powerful have to answer to their victims. The nuclear establishment has a long court-proven history of lying to communities about radioactive pollution and the associated risks. Grossman yearns for the early days when they operated with little or no concern for the environment or the unlucky suckers who got caught up in their zany schemes.  

It’s taken a long time, but it is no longer acceptable to treat acne with x-rays, inhale radium for sexual prowess, inject innocents with plutonium or x-ray pregnant women. Grossman and his ilk who shill for LBNL’s unrestrained pollution of Berkeley are a menace to the public. Any reader who shares these concerns please call your city councilmember as LBNL’s overpaid lobbyists have been overly active lately. 


Mark McDonald