"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wadioactive Wabbits ah no waughing matter!

Dear Friends,

No, I haven't lost my mind (contrary to popular opinion); I was just channeling Elmer Fud for a brief moment in response to recent radioactive reports about pesky wadioactive wabbits.

In south central Washington state, tucked away behind barbed wire fences, lies an accumulation of radioactive substances that are byproducts of decades of the U.S. nuclear weapons program; some legacy indeed. The U.S. Government is spending vast sums of money in an attempt to clean up the radioactive contamination; a daunting task considering the extent of contamination of soil, groundwater (seeping into the Columbia River), and the bizarre mix of highly radioactive and reactive substances in the aging underground storage tanks.

Yesterday's headline in the Tri-City Herald, Radioactive rabbit trapped near Richland, is a sobering reminder that radioactive substances, once released into the environment, are difficult, and sometimes impossible) to remove or render "safe". And while the government pays people to keep contaminated animals from escaping the boundaries of one of the planets significantly contaminated places, there is another place where it is more than the occasional radioactive rabbit that is of concern.
The Chernobyl disaster, which for most people is no more than a historical footnote, is still just that - a disaster - for the people living in areas where they continue to be exposed to the residual radiation from the catastrophic events of April 26, 1986. The radioactive Cesium found in that cute, little Hanford bunny (assuming it was Cesium 137) has a half-life of roughly 30 years, and if one ingested rabbit stew made from the little critter one would end up distributing Cesium 137 around the body where it would continually (and fairly intensely) irradiate (from within) muscle cells and organs; think CANCER!

The Cesium 137 released from the Chernobyl accident has most likely affected millions of people downwind of the accident as it was deposited (along with a variety of other radioactive substances) in various concentrations, and silently and invisibly irradiated its victims and increased the risk of radiation-related genetic damage and subsequent cancers and birth defects.

As bad as Chernobyl was, one or more modern thermonuclear weapons detonated anywhere on Earth would unleash an even worse, horrific mixture of deadly radioisotopes that would, beyond the immediate effects in areas of high radioactivity, leave a legacy of chronic health effects affecting countless generations. Any measure that brings stability to the relationship between the nuclear powers and reduces the numbers of nuclear arms reduces the probability of this unthinkable event.

Now that the U.S. elections are over it is high time that the Senate get to work once again on ratifying the New START Treaty. Although the treaty contains only modest reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons stocks, more importantly it improves and extends the verification and monitoring measures of the original START Treaty, which have been important in maintaining nuclear stability after the end of the Cold War.

With U.S. military leaders supporting ratification there is no reason for Republicans to stonewall. It has been nearly a year since the original treaty lapsed, and the clock is ticking; if the Senate doesn't ratify the treaty before year's end the ratification process has to start all over, casting a shadow over its fate, and thus a shadow over the planet.

Even if you previously wrote your Senators in support of the New START Treaty, DO IT AGAIN! Click here to urge them to ratify the New START Treaty now! Keep the heat on; the time for New START is NOW!



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