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August 2007 Citizens Watch Newsletter

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Community Victory: No Deadly Pathogens for Site 300

by Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The federal government has dropped Livermore Lab's Site 300 near Tracy from its list of "finalist" candidates to house a massive new bio-warfare agent research facility. Site 300's bio-lab bid was rejected despite a full-on lobbying effort by Livermore Lab management and the University of California.

"Growing public opposition tipped the scale," said Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' executive director. "The decision to eliminate Site 300 from contention represents a huge community victory, one directly attributable to the thousands of individuals who signed petitions, spoke at City Council meetings, wrote letters, phoned federal officials and more."

Celebrating the Victory

Tri-Valley CAREs and its allies helped to generate more than 8,000 letters, emails, petitions and phone calls to the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), the agency funding the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, or NBAF, as the bio-lab is called.

The NBAF is slated to cover more than 30 acres and include the capacity to experiment on large animals in a 500,000 square foot complex the size of 5 Wal-mart stores.

The NBAF will house Biosafety Level-3 and Biosafety Level-4 labs, the latter is the designation reserved for diseases for which there is no known cure. According to government documents, the bio-lab will conduct experiments with the most dangerous pathogens on earth, including such things as avian flu, live anthrax, plague and mad cow disease.

"We demonstrated conclusively that there was no 'community acceptance' here," declared Kelley. "I am thrilled we turned away this dangerous facility. The health of our families and the safety of our environment are the big winners."

Kelley continued, "We prevailed against powerful forces. I salute all of our members and everyone in the community for their many efforts that, ultimately, achieved this victory."

Sites Still on the NBAF List

The locations still on the DHS list of candidate sites are in Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Kansas and North Carolina. Tri-Valley CAREs has pledged to assist groups in those states to oppose the bio-lab.

As staff attorney Loulena Miles explained, "The NBAF is part of the Bush Administration's ill-advised biodefense building boom. Instead of building this and other dangerous bio-labs, we call on the U.S. to conduct an overarching assessment of its current biodefense capability. It is shocking that this step has not been taken. We believe that the NBAF may be unnecessary - and therefore should not be built in anyone's backyard."

Preserving a "Bright Line"

Preventing construction and operation of the NBAF at Site 300 preserves the global "bright line" that currently exists between nuclear weapons research and advanced bio-warfare agent research. It is Tri-Valley CAREs' position that if the U.S. breaches this line by collocating bio-weapon agents at classified nuclear weapons labs, it will weaken the Biological Weapons Convention, the international treaty to prevent the spread of bioweapons.

"Mixing 'bugs and bombs' at nuclear labs will raise other countries' suspicions about U.S. intent, and will have a corrosive effect on universal adherence to the treaty," said attorney Miles. "I am particularly joyful that the rejection of Site 300 for the NBAF preserves this important distinction."

Next Steps

Tri-Valley CAREs anticipates that the decision to eliminate Site 300 from NBAF contention will serve to harden the resolve of Lab management to operate a smaller but still horrifically deadly bio-warfare agent research facility at the Livermore Lab main site at the eastern edge of town.

The main site bio-lab is slated to handle up to 100 liters of live anthrax, plague, Q fever and other biological agents. According to the Dept. of Energy (DOE), the main site bio-facility would aerosolize biological weapon agents and conduct experiments on up to 100 small animals at a time. Further, genetic modification of bio-agents is planned.

Tri-Valley CAREs and colleagues brought litigation in 2003, charging DOE with multiple violations of the National Environmental Policy Act. In late 2006, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the government back to the drawing board by compelling DOE to conduct a "security" analysis, including terrorism, before it could proceed. This spring, DOE issued a draft, revised environmental assessment with the potential impacts of a terrorist attack. Not surprisingly, the draft does a cursory, incomplete and all around lousy job of assessing the impacts. The final analysis is expected by the end of the year.

The DOE could then try to move forward with its main site bio-warfare agent research lab. We will continue our vigilance and, if necessary, our legal efforts.

At the same time, DOE has other, potentially deadly plans for its Site 300 high explosives testing range. Please see the article and sign-on letter in this month's newsletter to oppose open-air blasts at Site 300 with depleted uranium, tritium and other hazardous materials.

As Tracy resident and Tri-Valley CAREs board member Bob Sarvey said, "I am glad that we will not be subjected in the future to bird flu and other pathogens. I am celebrating this victory while continuing to oppose the bomb tests at Site 300. The goal is to obtain cleanup of existing contamination while promoting a transition to safe research at Site 300."

August 6: In the Shadow of the Bomb

by Jedidjah de Vries
from Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

In Hiroshima, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba opened the ceremony this August 6, noting: "The world's only A-bombed nation is duty bound to humbly learn the philosophy of the hibakusha [survivors] along with the facts of the atomic bombing and to spread this knowledge through the world."

Mayor Akiba also spoke of the "obligation to press for nuclear weapons abolition" and of "saying 'No' to obsolete and mistaken U.S. policies."

Here, half a world away, bound by history and moral obligation, we gathered in Livermore. Our town is generally hot in August. This year, however, August 6th dawned like a winter morning, with a chill in the air and the hint of drizzle.

It was 62 years ago, on the morning of August 6, 1945, that the United States dropped the first atomic bomb used in war on the people of Hiroshima, Japan. Today, we find ourselves at Livermore Lab and still in the shadow of the bomb.

More than a 150 people gathered this day at Livermore Lab's West Gate to commemorate the victims and horror of the Hiroshima bomb. Only the tall gate separated us from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is currently designing the first in a series of new U.S. nuclear weapons.

Our commemoration opened with a poem by a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, Sachiko Kondoh, entitled Nuclear Winter. The haunting power of words honestly written hung in the cold air for the rest of the ceremony, serving as a reminder of the destruction wrought by the bomb.

A call and response reading evoked the history of that day and its aftermath, connecting us, and the nuclear lab by which we stood, to the victims and the horror of Hiroshima.

The music of robert temple seemed to melt the gates and bring everyone together.

Our keynote speaker was Chizu Iiyama, former department chair of early childhood education at Contra Costa College, and co-author of the Teacher's Guide, Making Peace: The Legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. She presently serves on the Board of Nikkei Heritage, a publication of the National Japanese American Historical Society.

Standing at the gates of Livermore Lab, telling what happened in Hiroshima, Iiyama presented a powerful challenge to the scientific authority and austerity of the Lab and its continuing development of nuclear weapons. She was followed in the program by the amazing voice and soulful singing of Kaylah Marin.

The bomb was dropped at 8:15 AM.

We marked the moment with the screaming sound of an air raid siren -- followed by a time of silence to honor the memory of the dead and to reflect on the place of nuclear weapons in our present day world.

The microphone was then opened to all who wished to share their thoughts and feelings about Hiroshima and nuclear weapons. Many came up and spoke key truths to power that morning

Daniel Ellsberg, the Defense Dept. planner who released the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, stepped to the microphone and offered his analysis of nuclear weapons in the United States.

The tapestry woven by the collective voices of all who spoke made it clear that nuclear weapons are neither merely a relic of the past nor an abstract issue to be dealt with far away in Washington by others. Instead, people took responsibility to act for nuclear weapons abolition in their own lives - here and now.

Against the backdrop of voices, many lay down on the asphalt in front of the gate and had their bodies outlined in chalk to symbolize the ashen "shadows" left behind by those incinerated in Hiroshima.

The 4-lane roadway at the Lab's west gate was soon covered with the outlines of scores of dead bodies -- men, women and children.

Thirty participants chose to physically oppose the ongoing design of nuclear weapons at Livermore Lab by stepping beyond the chalk outlines to peaceably block the gate. They were arrested, cited and released.

Stopping New, Radioactive Bomb Blaast

by Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

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 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 enclosed letter - 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!

It Can't Happen Here?

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

As we go to press, the news out of Great Britain is that a bio-lab researching vaccines is suspected of releasing Foot and Mouth disease into the ranching community. Dozens of cattle have contracted the disease. The government is killing area cattle in hopes of preventing the outbreak from spreading. In 2001, a Foot and Mouth disease outbreak caused $19 billion in damages to UK's meat and dairy industries.

Alerts 4 U

Thursday, September 6

Tri-Valley CAREs mailing party
2 sessions: 4 PM - 6 PM and 7 PM - 9 PM
Tri-Valley CAREs' offices
2582 Old First Street, Livermore
(925) 443-7148 for details

Help get Citizen's Watch ready for the Post Office. If you can volunteer, we appreciate it. There will be snacks, soft drinks and fun conversation.

Thursday, September 20

Tri-Valley CAREs meets
7:30 PM, Livermore Library
1188 So. Livermore Ave.
(925) 443-7148 for details

We meet on the third Thursday of each month (except December). Old-timers and new members alike are welcome. At our September meeting, we will discuss new nuclear weapons and the upcoming public hearings on Complex 2030 (dates and times are to be announced by DOE). We will discuss hosting a Community Meeting to help you and other members get ready to testify at the DOE hearings. Join us - we are moving the U.S. and the world toward the elimination of nuclear weapons and war. Your participation truly makes a difference!


Tri-Valley CAREs' "garage" sale will be held on Sept. 22 and 23. Donations and baked goods are needed to sell. Shoppers and browsers are wanted, too. See the enclosed flier for details.

Like to get out and run or walk? Have fun while raising money for the cause by participating in a 10k run or 5k walk/run on Oct. 7. The enclosed flier has everything you need to know.

Want to become a more effective advocate? We are planning a Community Meeting to help folks prepare for public hearings on Complex 2030. Come to our Tri-Valley CAREs meeting Sept. 20 to help plan the event. And, circle the date we intend to hold it, Thursday Oct. 4 at 7 PM. Details and location TBD. Stay tuned.

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