jump to navigation

Inside Fukushima August 20, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Nuclear weapons/power.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Kazuma Obara, a native of Japan’s tsunami-hit Iwate prefecture, is the first photo-journalist to get unauthorized access to the Fukushima plant and photograph conditions for cleanup workers. Yes, they’re still there.

2 Comments so far

Posted by acemoab
Aug 20 2011 – 12:04am

Frightening photos, especially in the black and white versions here. They gave me a very sad deja-vu about pictures of Hiroshima bomb sufferers I saw as a child. There really is not a very thick veneer between “civilized” life and the chaos of horrors like this. Just a thickness of metal in a containment vessel. No more.

Posted by Aaronica
Aug 20 2011 – 10:16am

I am again reminded of my training from the military.   NBCD, Nuclear, biological chemical defence.  Of course of the three biggie WMDs the training for the nuclear part was the quickest.  I quote “if the idiots ever do launch those fucking things, you will bend over, apply your lips to your arse, kiss it goodbye.”

Helen Caldicott Slams Environmental Groups on Climate Bill, Nuclear Concessions December 22, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

Tuesday 22 December 2009

by: Art Levine, t r u t h o u t | Report

Dr. Helen Caldicott, the pioneering Australian antinuclear activist and pediatrician who spearheaded the global nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s and co-founded Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), has joined with left-leaning environmental groups here in an uphill fight to halt nuclear power as a “solution” to the global warming crisis. “Global warming is the greatest gift the nuclear industry has ever received,” Dr. Caldicott told Truthout.

The growing rush to nuclear power was only enhanced, experts say, by the weak climate deal at the Copenhagen 15 climate conference. The prospects for passage of a climate bill in Congress – virtually all versions are pro-nuclear – were enhanced, most analysts say, because it offered the promise that China might voluntarily agree to verify its carbon reductions and it could reassure senators worried about American manufacturers being undermined by polluters overseas. But at the two-week international confab that didn’t produce any binding agreements to do anything, Caldicott and environmental activist groups were marginalized or, in the case of the delegates from Friends of the Earth, evicted from the main hall.
The upshot of the latest trends boosting nuclear power – although no nuclear reactor has been built in America since the 1970s – are indeed grim, she said. “Nothing’s going to work to stop them but a meltdown,” she said, fearing the prospects of such a calamity. “I don’t know how else the world is going to wake up.”
Her fears may sound apocalyptic, but as Truthout will explore in more depth in part II of this article, the dangers of a meltdown, terrorist attack and radiation damage are far greater than commonly known. That’s because of what federal and Congressional investigators, advocacy groups and medical researchers say is a culture of sloppy security, health and safety oversight by a cozily pro-industry Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (An NRC spokesman denied those allegations in a written statement to Truthout.) The quasi-independent agency is funded primarily by fees from nuclear power plants. On top of all that, the Obama administration is planning to offer about $20 billion in loan guarantees to fund two new uncertified and risky reactors designs that have faced safety and cost overrun problems overseas.
Despite nuclear energy’s apparent dangers, Dr. Caldicott was a Cassandra crying out at the Copenhagen conference with little or no attention from the major government and media players there. Caldicott, who was featured on major American TV news shows and magazines during the 80s, who met one on one with President Reagan and addressed about a million people opposing nuclear weapons in New York City in June, 1982, found herself speaking to groups as small as 50 people in Copenhagen. Although still an active lecturer, author and radio broadcaster, she was essentially ignored by the media, even with the six minutes or so she was given to speak to an outdoor rally of 100,000 protesting the global leaders’ inaction inside the main hall. “It was a shemozzle,” she said of her time in Copenhagen.

In her brief speech outdoors in bitterly cold weather, you can see her speaking more slowly than in her usual lecture, so that not one word or grisly fact is missed by her international audience. But you can almost sense her frustration at boiling down into just over six minutes all that she knows about the dangers of atomic weapons and nuclear plants. While inside the Bella Center, no official who really counted was bothering listening to her – or the protesters:

She told the crowd:

The Earth is in the intensive care unit, it is acutely sick. We are all now physicians to a dying planet …
The nuclear power industry has used global warming to say “we’re the answer.” All the money to go into nuclear power, 15 billion dollars per power plant, is being stolen from the solutions to fix the earth – solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, conservation.
The nuclear power industry is wicked. The nuclear power industry was formed by the bomb makers – it’s the same thing. Nuclear power plants are bomb factories – they make plutonium. Two hundred and fifty kilos a year of plutonium that lasts for 250,000 years. You need five kilos to make a nuclear bomb. Any country that has a nuclear power plant has a bomb factory.
If the Second World War were fought today in Europe, none of you would be here; Europe would be a radioactive wasteland because all the nuclear power plants would melt down like Chernobyl. So, war is now impossible in Europe. Do the politicians understand that?
Nuclear power produces massive quantities, hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive waste, which will get into the water, concentrate into the fish, the milk, the food, human breast milk, fetuses, babies, children. Radioactive iodine causes thyroid cancer. Twelve thousand people in Belarus had thyroid cancer. Radioactive Strontium 90 causes bone cancer and leukemia, [it] lasts for 600 years. Cesium 137 – all over Europe now – in the reindeer, in the lands, in the food, lasts for six hundred years, causes brain cancer. Plutonium, the most dangerous substance on Earth, 1 millionth of a gram cause cancer, lasts for 250,000 years. Causes lung cancer, liver cancer, testicular cancer, damages fetuses so they are born deformed.
Nuclear power, therefore, nuclear waste for all future generations will cause cancer in young children because they are very sensitive, [will cause] genetic disease, congenital deformities. Nuclear power is about disease, and it’s about death. It will produce the greatest public health hazard the world has ever seen for the rest of time. We must close down every single nuclear reactor in Europe and throughout the world…
That’s hardly the spirit of acceptance granted the nuclear industry as part of a hoped-for climate deal by world governments and environmental groups.
She was there for the first week as a guest of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a science adviser to the Spanish government. But for a woman whose organization, PSR, won the Nobel Peace Prize and who has been cited by the Smithsonian as one of the most influential women of the 20th century, she was still unable to wangle even a three-minute opportunity to address the delegates. After she returned home to Australia, she saw the dreary news about the chaotic final days of the conference and the loophole-laden climate “accord.”
“I was deeply depressed,” she said. “I hadn’t done anything, and the world hadn’t done anything in the face of an impending catastrophe.”
It also reinforced her anger at those environmental groups that haven’t strongly opposed nuclear power while they’re supporting legislation that sees nuclear energy as a vital element in reducing carbon emissions. “They’ve sold their souls,” she said bluntly, while attacking the ties of some key groups to the energy industry, especially in such alliances as the US Climate Action Partnership that includes such outfits as Duke Power and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The well-funded coalition is widely credited as having set the template for both the main House and Senate climate bills that have passed the full House and the Senate Environment Committee – all containing provisions for nuclear energy.
Al Gore’s advocacy group, RePower America, also includes environmental and industry groups; a spokesperson said it hasn’t issued any statements on nuclear power and declined to answer charges that by failing to actively oppose nuclear power, it was allowing the spread of nuclear plants to undermine renewable solutions to global warming. (In his writings and some interviews, Al Gore has offered some criticisms of nuclear power, but the Nobel Prize winner hasn’t used his international platform to attack its role in pending legislation or potential treaties.)
In her interview with Truthout, she ripped into those environmental groups that didn’t take strong, public stands against climate bills that included nuclear power, even while she, in turn, has been derided as a Luddite or politically naive. “Some of the people within these organizations are not well educated about the biological effects of radiation and mutation, and what actually happens in the human body and the food chain,” she said. “So, they’ve gone soft on opposing nuclear power, and because they’re all very worried about global warming, they’re about to leap from the global warming frying pan to the nuclear fire.”
She continued, “You don’t replace one evil with another. Anyone who promotes an industry that will induce a global nuclear war that will mean the end of most life on earth, the final epidemic of the human race; or anyone who promotes an industry that down the time track will induce hundreds of thousands of cases of childhood cancers and leukemia, and babies being born grossly deformed; or anyone who would promote an industry that actively promotes disease when we’re so worried about cancer and spend all this money trying to cure it – well, they have sold their souls as far as I’m concerned.”
I noted, “They say they’re not promoting it,” they’re just not actively opposing it.
“If you don’t actively oppose it, it will get through. They know that,” she responded – “especially with all the advertising being spent on by the nuclear industry which is a bunch of lies.” She added, “If you talk to the average person, they believe all this stuff. The power of propaganda is enormous.”
But environmental groups contacted by Truthout deny her claim that they’ve “sold their souls” or failed to vigorously criticize the nuclear industry, pointing to letters and testimony to Congressional committees. Tom Cochran, the senior scientist at NRDC’s nuclear program and perhaps the leading progressive expert on nuclear reactors in the country, pointed out, “Our position is that we’re opposed to additional federal subsidies for the construction of new nuclear plants, but NRDC is in favor of getting climate legislation through the House and Senate. In terms of process, we’re happy to move the process along.” He noted, for instance, “We don’t support all the principles of Kerry-Graham-Lieberman,” the most pro-industry proposal so far. “Our position is clear: we do not support additional subsidies.”
When I asked at what funding amount of subsidies the NRDC might be willing to draw a “line in the sand” and oppose the legislation, he replied, “I’m not going to negotiate through your publication.”
Caldicott and other experts say that even the claims that nuclear power is “clean air energy” fall apart when examined carefully. They have pointed out how over the full fuel lifecycle of a plant – from mining uranium to shipping it to “decommissioning” a plant – the nuclear process emits far more carbon and other greenhouse gases than the industry and its cheerleaders (and environmentalist enablers) admit. Indeed, according to one major study she cited, because of the need to find more uranium as higher-grade uranium disappears, using the poorer quality ores would “produce more C02 emissions than burning fossil fuels directly.”
Even so, “there’s a push for nuclear power,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth US. He noted that there were no limits on nuclear power in this latest nonbinding climate agreement – unlike the earlier Kyoto treaty, which the US didn’t sign, that restricted subsidies for nuclear power. And grassroots groups largely aren’t fighting back in a high-profile way against the industry’s drive for a $100 billion bailout in federal subsidies. “Right now, the environmental community wants a climate bill,” said Pica, whose group, along with Greenpeace and a few others, hasn’t supported the legislation moving through Congress, asserting it’s too industry-friendly.
In continuing her decades-long crusade against the health, financial and environmental dangers posed by nuclear energy, Caldicott and her outgunned allies are opposing an array of powerful institutional forces.
They include the Obama administration and its top scientists; an industry that has successfully sold itself as “clean air energy;” the tacit acceptance or muted opposition of such major environmental groups as the Sierra Club and the relative silence on the issue by most influential environmental journalists. All of them are joined in what critics view as a near-“conspiracy of silence” about nuclear power in order to advance the goal of supporting a purportedly carbon-reducing climate bill that can pass Congress.
Indeed, neither most grassroots environmentalists nor members of the broader progressive movement have been engaged to fight a nuclear bailout of $100 billion, if not trillions, in loan guarantees for nuclear plants that would, critics say, dry up funds for renewable industries that could be up and running quickly. In contrast, it takes as long as 10 years to build nuclear plants while the perils of global warming – from rising ocean levels to drought – have already begun.
The largely indifferent response to nuclear power has been in part because activists have taken their cues from leading national environmental organizations and progressive media outlets. And with a few exceptions, such as Mother Jones or Greenpeace, they have not aggressively opposed the advancement of nuclear energy in their eagerness for a climate bill. That stands in sharp contrast to the grassroots environmentalist opposition that coalesced against including a $50 billion bailout in 2007 energy legislation, including a superstar rock video. Despite new petitions today, the organizing against nukes is woefully outdone by supporters of the current climate legislation.
Yet, Helen Caldicott’s passion for stopping nuclear power hasn’t eased, and although she’s older now, she still brings the same fervor and implacable determination to explain the dangers of nuclear energy that she did as a glamorous activist in her 40s speaking to a larger global audience. It was well captured in an Oscar-winning documentary short,If You Love This Planet,”now the title of her syndicated radio show and updated book:

Art Levine, a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly, has written for Mother Jones, The American Prospect, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate.com, Salon.com and numerous other publications. He wrote the October 2007 In These Times cover story, “Unionbusting Confidential.” Levine is also the co-host of the “D’Antoni and Levine” show on BlogTalk Radio, every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. EST. He also blogs regularly on labor and other reform issues for In These Times and The Huffington Post.

How Chernobyl could happen here April 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Environment.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Harvey Wasserman

www.onlinejournal.com, April 24, 2009

A catastrophe like Chernobyl could happen here. It’s the radioactive core of the second biggest lie in US industrial history.

The atomic pushers say such a disaster is “impossible” at a US reactor. But Chernobyl’s explosion spewed radiation all over the world. And Sunday’s tragic 23rd anniversary reminds us that any reactor on this planet can kill innumerable people anywhere, at any time, by terror, error and more.

It further clarifies why yet another grab at billions of taxpayer dollars for new reactor construction must be stopped NOW!

The BIGGEST lie in US industrial history is that “nobody died at Three Mile Island.” Just before last month’s thirtieth anniversary of the central Pennsylvania meltdown, critical new evidence was completely ignored by the corporate media.

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, a former industry executive, reported in Harrisburg that new findings show far more radiation may have been released than previously estimated. Epidemiologist Stephen Wing of the University of North Carolina joined in a study indicating human health was indeed compromised downwind.

To this day, neither TMI’s owners nor the Nuclear Regulatory Commission knows how much radiation escaped, where it went or whom it impacted. The Gundersen/Wing findings cast new light on the question of building more reactors.

But they got a Stalinesque blackout from ALL corporate media, which parroted the official lie that “nobody was harmed” by the 1979 disaster.

This week comes official Radioactive Lie #2: “Chernobyl can’t happen here.”

Chernobyl Unit 4 exploded in the wee hours of April 26, 1986. It was of a different design than US reactors. But its lid was stronger than about a third of the domes covering plants here. The Soviets who ran it also said Chernobyl could not explode, and that in any event its lid would hold.

On October 5, 1966, the Fermi I fast breeder reactor nearly delivered a far worse explosion. Cooled by highly volatile liquid sodium, it teetered for a month on the brink of a radioactive eruption that could have cratered much of southeastern Michigan and permanently destroyed the biggest fresh water bodies on Earth. The accident was kept under Soviet-style wraps for years.

When TMI melted, a potentially explosive hydrogen bubble formed inside the dome. Officials denied there was a meltdown (there was) but were privately terrified the trapped gas could rupture the containment vessel. The escaping cloud would have contaminated millions along the east coast, from Boston to Washington.

Chernobyl’s cloud blanketed Europe with deadly isotopes. Some came down in California within 10 days, killing countless birds and possibly, in the long run, even more people. The radiation then crossed the entire northern United States, contaminating milk in New England. It returned later for a second pass.

Reactor backers say Chernobyl “only” killed 31 plant workers. But the Soviets denied the accident happened, then ran 800,000 drafted “jumpers” through the radioactive corpse for a futile clean-up. They have been dying in droves for two decades.

Chernobyl’s radiation rained down on a May Day parade among citizens of Kiev who were told nothing about the catastrophe 80 kilometers away. The heartbreaking deformities plaguing the children born thereafter are the starkest reminders of that horrific day. Dr. Alexey Yablokov, former environmental advisor to the late President Boris Yeltsin, and president of the Center for Russian Environmental Policy, has estimated the known death toll at 300,000. The financial costs have topped a half-trillion dollars. The sale of lambs is still banned 2,000 miles away in Wales and Scotland, where radioactive cesium still contaminates sheep farms and grazing land.

The tidal wave of cancers, miscarriages, sterility and worse that still washes over the Ukraine and surrounding regions gets ever more horrifying as time passes. Because Chernobyl 4 was a new “state of the art” unit, its core spewed far less radiation than might come from older reactors at Indian Point, New York, or Oyster Creek, New Jersey, which has just been relicensed to run 20 years beyond its original design specifications.

Chernobyl’s design was peculiar to the Soviets. But to say only it could explode is to argue that hybrid cars can’t run people over, or that since there are no more World Trade towers, terrorists can no longer kill Americans.

On January 31, 1986, four months prior to Chernobyl’s explosion, an earthquake shook the Perry reactor east of Cleveland, which thankfully was not operating at the time. Now it is.

By accident inspectors stumbled onto a football-sized hole eaten by boric acid to within a fraction of an inch through the pressure vessel at Davis-Besse near Toledo. A worker using a candle set a $100 million fire at the Browns Ferry reactor in Alabama. A cooling tower unexpectedly collapsed to the ground at Vermont Yankee. A basketball wrapped in tape was used to stop up a pipe at a reactor in Florida. This March 28, on TMI’s 30th anniversary, an unexplained tremor shut Unit Two at Fermi.

And, of course, the first jet that flew into the World Trade Center passed directly over the two decrepit reactors at Indian Point, as well as the three spent fuel pools and one dormant core shut for lack of an emergency cooling system. No reactor on this planet could withstand a similar terror attack.

Small wonder the reactor industry cannot get private financing or insurance and has no place to go with its radioactive waste. Or why its pushers are yet again demanding $50 billion in loan guarantees for new reactor construction, and still more to perpetrate the myth that nuclear fuel can be reprocessed (to help stop this madness, see www.beyondnuclear.org, www.nirs.org and www.nukefree.org).

Chernobyl remains history’s worst human-made disaster. Something slightly different but even worse could be happening as you read this. Building new reactors, and keeping old ones running, will guarantee it.

The only containment strong enough to make atomic energy truly safe is the political power YOU exert. Chernobyl “can’t happen here” only if the reactors are turned off before they kill again.

Harvey Wasserman edits nukefree.org. This article originally published by freepress.org.

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal

FOOLING WITH DISASTER? Startling revelations about Three Mile Island disaster raise doubts over nuclear plant safety April 3, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Environment, Health.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
A special Facing South investigation by Sue Sturgis
www.southernstudies.org, April 2, 2009

Carter_TMI_4-1-79.gifIt was April Fool’s Day, 1979 — 30 years ago this week — when Randall Thompson first set foot inside the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pa. Just four days earlier, in the early morning hours of March 28, a relatively minor problem in the plant’s Unit 2 reactor sparked a series of mishaps that led to the meltdown of almost half the uranium fuel and uncontrolled releases of radiation into the air and surrounding Susquehanna River.



It was the single worst disaster ever to befall the U.S. nuclear power industry, and Thompson was hired as a health physics technician to go inside the plant and find out how dangerous the situation was. He spent 28 days monitoring radiation releases.

Today, his story about what he witnessed at Three Mile Island is being brought to the public in detail for the first time — and his version of what happened during that time, supported by a growing body of other scientific evidence, contradicts the official U.S. government story that the Three Mile Island accident posed no threat to the public.

“What happened at TMI was a whole lot worse than what has been reported,” Randall Thompson told Facing South. “Hundreds of times worse.”

Thompson and his wife, Joy, a nuclear health physicist who also worked at TMI in the disaster’s aftermath, claim that what they witnessed there was a public health tragedy. The Thompsons also warn that the government’s failure to acknowledge the full scope of the disaster is leading officials to underestimate the risks posed by a new generation of nuclear power plants.

While new reactor construction ground to a halt after the 1979 incident, state leaders and energy executives today are pushing for a nuclear energy revival that’s centered in the South, where 12 of the 17 facilities seeking new reactors are located.

Fundamental to the industry’s case for expansion is the claim that history proves nuclear power is clean and safe — a claim on which the Thompsons and others, bolstered by startling new evidence, are casting doubt.

An unlikely critic

randall_thompson_fire.jpgRandall Thompson could never be accused of being a knee-jerk anti-nuclear alarmist. A veteran of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine program, he is a self-described “nuclear geek” who after finishing military service jumped at the chance to work for commercial nuclear power companies.

He worked for a time at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant south of Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania’s York County, but quit the industry six months before the TMI disaster over concerns that nuclear companies were cutting corners for higher profits, with potentially dangerous results. Instead, he began publishing a skateboarding magazine with his wife Joy.

But the moment the Thompsons heard about the TMI incident, they wanted to get inside the plant and see what was happening first-hand. That didn’t prove difficult: Plant operator Metropolitan Edison’s in-house health physics staff fled after the incident began, so responsibility for monitoring radioactive emissions went to a private contractor called Rad Services.

The company immediately hired Randall Thompson to serve as the health physics technician in charge of monitoring radioactive emissions, while Joy Thompson got a job monitoring radiation doses to TMI workers.

“I had other health physicists from around the country calling me saying, ‘Don’t let it melt without me!” Randall Thompson recalls. “It was exciting. Our attitude was, ‘Sure I may get some cancer, but I can find out some cool stuff.'”

What the Thompsons say they found out during their time inside TMI suggests radiation releases from the plant were hundreds if not thousands of times higher than the government and industry have acknowledged — high enough to cause the acute health effects documented in people living near the plant but that have been dismissed by the industry and the government as impossible given official radiation dose estimates.

The Thompsons tried to draw attention to their findings and provide health information for people living near the plant, but what they say happened next reads like a John Grisham thriller.

They tell of how a stranger approached Randall Thompson in a grocery store parking lot in late April 1979 and warned him his life was at risk, leading the family to flee Pennsylvania. How they ended up in New Mexico working on a book about their experiences with the help of Joy’s brother Charles Busey, another nuclear Navy vet and a former worker at the Hatch nuclear power plant in Georgia. How one evening while driving home from the store Busey and Randall Thompson were run off the road, injuring Thompson and killing Busey. How a copy of the book manuscript they were working on was missing from the car’s trunk after the accident. These allegations were detailed in several newspaper accounts back in 1981.

Eventually, after a decade of having their lives ruled by TMI, the Thompsons decided to move on. Randall Thompson went to college to study computer science. Joy Thompson returned to publishing and writing.

Today they live quietly in the mountains of North Carolina where, inspired by time spent seeking refuge with a traveling circus, they have forged a new career for themselves as clowns — or what they like to call “professional fools.” As Joy Thompson wrote in the fall 2001 issue of Parabola, a journal of myth, the role of the fool is to help people “perceive the foolishness in even … the most powerful institutions,” noting the medieval court jester’s role of telling the King what others dare not.

That conviction has led the Thompsons to tell their story today.

“They haven’t told the truth yet about what happened at Three Mile Island,” says Randall Thompson. “A lot of people have died because of this accident. A lot.”

Anomalies abound

That a lot of people died because of what happened at Three Mile Island, as the Thompsons claim, is definitely not part of the official story. In fact, the commercial nuclear power industry and the government insist that despite the meltdown of almost half of the uranium fuel at TMI, there were only minimal releases of radiation to the environment that harmed no one.

For example, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying group for the U.S. nuclear industry, declares on its website that there have been “no public health or safety consequences from the TMI-2 accident.” The government’s position is the same, reflected in a fact sheet distributed today by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency charged with overseeing the U.S. nuclear power industry: TMI, it says, “led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of the nearby community.” [The watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert offers their take on the NRC factsheet here.]

Those upbeat claims are based on the findings of the Kemeny Commission, a panel assembled by President Jimmy Carter in April 1979 to investigate the TMI disaster. Using release figures presented by Metropolitan Edison and the NRC, the commission calculated that in the month following the disaster there were releases of up to 13 million curies of so-called “noble gases” — considered relatively harmless — but only 13 to 17 curies of iodine-131, a radioactive form of the element that at even moderate exposures causes thyroid cancer. (A curie is a measure of radioactivity, with 1 curie equal to the activity of one gram of radium. For help understanding these and other terms, see the glossary at the end of this piece.)

But the official story that there were no health impacts from the disaster doesn’t jibe with the experiences of people living near TMI. On the contrary, their stories suggest that area residents actually suffered exposure to levels of radiation high enough to cause acute effects — far more than the industry and the government has acknowledged.

Some of their disturbing experiences were collected in the book Three Mile Island: The People’s Testament, which is based on interviews with 250 area residents done between 1979 and 1988 by Katagiri Mitsuru and Aileen M. Smith.

It includes the story of Jean Trimmer, a farmer who lived in Lisburn, Pa. about 10 miles west of TMI. On the evening of March 30, 1979, Trimmer stepped outside on her front porch to fetch her cat when she was hit with a blast of heat and rain. Soon after, her skin became red and itchy as if badly sunburned, a condition known as erythema. About three weeks later, her hair turned white and began falling out. Not long after, she reported, her left kidney “just dried up and disappeared” — an occurrence so strange that her case was presented to a symposium of doctors at the nearby Hershey Medical Center. All of those symptoms are consistent with high-dose radiation exposure.

There was also Bill Peters, an auto-body shop owner and a former justice of the peace who lived just a few miles west of the plant in Etters, Pa. The day after the disaster, he and his son — who like most area residents were unaware of what was unfolding nearby — were working in their garage with the doors open when they developed what they first thought was a bad sunburn. They also experienced burning in their throats and tasted what seemed to be metal in the air. That same metallic taste was reported by many local residents and is another symptom of radiation exposure, commonly reported in cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.

Peters soon developed diarrhea and nausea, blisters on his lips and inside his nose, and a burning feeling in his chest. Not long after, he had surgery for a damaged heart valve. When his family evacuated the area a few days later, they left their four-year-old German shepherd in their garage with 200 pounds of dog chow, 50 gallons of water and a mattress. When they returned a week later, they found the dog dead on the mattress, his eyes burnt completely white. His food was untouched, and he had vomited water all over the garage. They also found four of their five cats dead — their eyes also burnt white — and one alive but blinded. Peters later found scores of wild bird carcasses scattered over their property.

Similar stories surfaced in The People of Three Mile Island, a book by documentary photographer Robert Del Tredici. He found local farmers whose cattle and goats died, suffered miscarriages and gave birth to deformed young after the incident; whose chickens developed respiratory problems and died; and whose fruit trees abruptly lost all their leaves. Local residents also collected evidence of deformed plants, some of which were examined by James Gunckel, a botanist and radiation expert with Brookhaven National Laboratory and Rutgers University.

“There were a number of anomalies entirely comparable to those induced by ionizing radiation — stem fasciations, growth stimulation, induction of extra vegetative buds and stem tumors,” he swore in a 1984 affidavit.

Scientists say these kinds of anomalies simply aren’t explained by official radiation release estimates.

Evidence of harm

wing_tmi_cancer_map.gifThe evidence that people, animals and plants near TMI were exposed to high levels of radiation in the 1979 disaster is not merely anecdotal. While government studies of the disaster as well as a number of independent researchers assert the incident caused no harm, other surveys and studies have also documented health effects that point to a high likelihood of significant radiation exposures.

In 1984, for example, psychologist Marjorie Aamodt and her engineer husband, Norman — owners of an organic dairy farm east of Three Mile Island who got involved in a lawsuit seeking to stop TMI from restarting its Unit 1 reactor — surveyed residents in three hilltop neighborhoods near the plant. Dozens of neighbors reported a metallic taste, nausea, vomiting and hair loss as well as illnesses including cancers, skin and reproductive problems, and collapsed organs — all associated with radiation exposure. Among the 450 people surveyed, there were 19 cancer deaths reported between 1980 and 1984 — more than seven times what would be expected statistically.

That survey came to the attention of the industry-financed TMI Public Health Fund, created in 1981 as part of a settlement for economic losses from the disaster. The fund’s scientific advisors verified the Aamodts’ calculations and launched a more comprehensive study of TMI-related cancer deaths led by a team of scientists from Columbia University. The researchers found an association between estimated radiation doses received by area residents and instances of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lung cancer, leukemia and all cancers combined. Crucially, however, the researchers decided there wasn’t “convincing evidence” that TMI radiation releases were linked to the increase in cancers in the area because of the “low estimates of radiation exposure.” The paper did not consider what conclusions could be drawn if those “low estimates” turned out to be wrong.

By the time the Columbia research was published in the early 1990s, a class-action lawsuit was underway involving about 2,000 plaintiffs claiming that the radiation emissions were much larger than admitted by the government and industry. (The federal courts eventually rejected that suit, though hundreds of out-of-court settlements totaling millions of dollars have been reached with victims, including the parents of children born with birth defects.)

Consulting for the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the Aamodts contacted Dr. Steven Wing, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in Chapel Hill to provide support for the plaintiffs. Dr. Wing was reluctant to get involved because — as he wrote in a 2003 paper about his experience — “allegations of high radiation doses at TMI were considered by mainstream radiation scientists to be a product of radiation phobia or efforts to extort money from a blameless industry.” But impressed with the Aamodts’ compelling if imperfect evidence, Wing agreed to look at whether there were connections between radiation exposure from TMI and cancer rates.

Wing reanalyzed the Columbia scientists’ data, looking at cancer rates before the TMI disaster to control for other possible risk factors in the 10-mile area. His peer-reviewed results, published in 1997, found positive relationships between accident dose estimates and rates of leukemia, lung cancer and all cancers. Where the Columbia study found a 30 percent average increase in lung cancer risk among one group of residents, for example, Wing found an 85 percent increase. And while the Columbia researchers found little or no increase in adult leukemias and a statistically unreliable increase in childhood cases, Wing found that people downwind during the most intense releases were eight to 10 times more likely on average than their neighbors to develop leukemia.

Dr. Wing reflected on his findings at a symposium in Harrisburg marking the 30-year anniversary of the Three Mile Island disaster last week.

“I believe this is very good evidence that releases were thousands of times greater than the story we’ve been told,” he said. “As we think about the current plans to open more nuclear reactors, when we hear — which we hear often — that no one was harmed at Three Mile Island, we really should question that.”

Documenting discrepancies

Randall and Joy Thompson couldn’t agree more. If anything, they think Dr. Wing’s findings understate the impact of Three Mile Island because they’re based on low-ball estimates of radiation releases.

“Given what he was allowed to know or could figure out, he did a slam-bang job of it,” Joyce Thompson says.

In 1995, the Thompsons — with the help of another health physics expert who was also hired to monitor radiation after the TMI disaster, David Bear (formerly Bloombaum) – prepared a report analyzing the Kemeny Commission findings. Their research, which hasn’t been covered by any major media, documents a series of inconsistencies and omissions in the government’s account.

For example, the official story is that the TMI incident released only 13 to 17 curies of dangerous iodine into the outside environment, a tiny fraction of the 13 million curies of less dangerous radioactive gases officials say were released, primarily xenon. Such a number would seem small compared with, for example, the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl, which released anywhere from 13 million to 40 million curies of iodine and is linked to 50,000 cases of thyroid cancer, according to World Health Organization estimates.

But the Thompsons and Bear point out that the commission’s own Technical Assessment Task Force, in a separate volume, had concluded that iodine accounted for 8 to 12 percent of the total radioactive gases leaked from Three Mile Island. Conservatively assuming the 13 million curie figure was the total amount of radioactive gases released rather than just the xenon portion, and then using the Task Force’s own 8 to 12 percent estimate of the proportion that was iodine, they point out that “the actual figure for Iodine release would be over 1 million curies” — a much more substantial public health threat.

In another instance, the Kemeny Commission claimed that there were 7.5 million curies of iodine present in TMI’s primary loop, the contained system that delivers cooling water to the reactor. But a laboratory analysis done on March 30 found a higher concentration of iodine in the reactor water, which would put the total amount of iodine present — and which could potentially leak into the environment — at 7.65 million curies.

“Thus, while the apparent difference between 7.5 and 7.65 seems inconsiderable at first glance,” the Thompson/Bear report states, “this convenient rounding off served to ‘lose’ a hundred and fifty thousand curies of radioactive Iodine.”

They also offer evidence of atmospheric releases of dangerously long-lived radioactive particles such as cesium and strontium — releases denied by the Kemeny Commission but indicated in the Thompsons’ own post-disaster monitoring and detailed in the report — and show that there were pathways for the radiation to escape into the environment. They demonstrate that the plant’s radiation filtration system was totally inadequate to handle the large amounts of radiation released from the melted fuel and suggest that the commission may have arbitrarily set release estimates at levels low enough to make the filtration appear adequate.

Shockingly, they also report that when readings from the dosimeters used to monitor radiation doses to workers and the public were logged, doses of beta radiation — one of three basic types along with alpha and gamma — were simply not recorded, which Joy Thompson knew since she did the recording. But Thompson’s monitoring equipment also indicated that beta radiation represented about 90 percent of the radiation to which TMI’s neighbors were exposed in April 1979, which means an enormous part of the disaster’s public health risk may have been wiped from the record.

Finally, in a separate analysis the Thompsons point to discrepancies in government and industry accounts of the disaster that suggest the TMI Unit 2 suffered a scram failure — that is, a breakdown of the emergency shutoff system. That would mean the nuclear reaction spiraled out of control and therefore posed a much greater danger than the official story allows.

The Thompsons aren’t the only ones who have produced evidence that the radiation releases from TMI were much higher than the official estimates. Arnie Gundersen — a nuclear engineer and former nuclear industry executive turned whistle-blower — has done his own analysis, which he shared for the first time at a symposium in Harrisburg last week.

“I think the numbers on the NRC’s website are off by a factor of 100 to 1,000,” he said.

Exactly how much radiation was released is impossible to say, since onsite monitors immediately went off the scale after the explosion. But Gundersen points to an inside report by an NRC manager who himself estimated the release of about 36 million curies — almost three times as much as the NRC’s official estimate. Gundersen also notes that industry itself has acknowledged there was a total of 10 billion curies of radiation inside the reactor containment. Using the common estimate that a tenth of it escaped, that means as much as a billion curies could have been released to the environment.

gundersen_pressure_spike_slide.jpgGundersen also offered compelling evidence based on pressure monitoring data from the plant that shortly before 2 p.m. on March 28, 1979 there was a hydrogen explosion inside the TMI containment building that could have released significant amounts of radiation to the environment. The NRC and industry to this day deny there was an explosion, instead referring to what happened as a “hydrogen burn.” But Gundersen noted that affidavits from four reactor operators confirm that the plant manager was aware of a dramatic pressure spike after which the internal pressure dropped to outside pressure; he also noted that the control room shook and doors were blown off hinges. In addition, Gundersen reported that while Metropolitan Edison would have known about the pressure spike immediately from monitoring equipment, it didn’t notify the NRC about what had happened until two days later.

Gundersen maintains under the NRC’s own rules an evacuation should have been ordered on the disaster’s first day, when calculated radiation exposures in the town of Goldsboro, Pa. were as high as 10 rems an hour compared to an average cumulative annual background dose of about 0.125 rems. No evacuation order was ever issued, though Gov. Dick Thornburgh did issue an evacuation advisory on March 30 for pregnant women and preschool children within 5 miles of the plant. The government also did not distribute potassium iodide to the public, which would have protected people from the health-damaging effects of radioactive iodine.

Lessons for the future?

When asked by Facing South to respond to these allegations, a spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not address them directly, instead stating that it continues to stand by the Kemeny Commission report. The NRC further insists that the radiation releases from Three Mile Island had only “negligible effects” on the physical health of humans and the environment, citing other reports from federal agencies [For a PDF of the NRC's response to Facing South, see here.]

But Gundersen and the Thompsons argue such claims don’t address new findings at odds with the government’s account.

“I believe [the] data shows releases from TMI were significantly greater than reported by the federal government,” Gundersen says.

They also say their findings that releases were potentially much larger have important ramifications for current plans to expand the nuclear power industry.

With more than $18 billion in federal subsidies at stake, 17 companies are seeking federal licenses to build a total of 26 nuclear reactors across the country, the first applications since the 1979 disaster. The Atlanta-based Southern Co. plans to begin site work this summer for two new reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia, where state lawmakers recently approved legislation forcing ratepayers to foot the bill for those facilities up front. Florida and South Carolina residents have also begun paying new utility charges to finance planned reactors, USA Today reports. Plans are in the works as well for new reactors in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Harold Denton, a retired NRC official who worked in Three Mile Island during the crisis, recently told Greenwire that changes made after the 1979 disaster “significantly reduced the overall risks of a future serious accident.” But the Thompsons and Gundersen point out that the standards the NRC is applying to the new generation of nuclear plants are influenced by assumptions about what happened at Three Mile Island. They say the NRC’s low estimates of radiation exposure have resulted in inadequate requirements for safety and containment protocols as well as the size of the evacuation zones around nuclear plants.

Other nuclear watchdogs have also raised concerns that the NRC’s standards for protection against severe accidents like TMI remain inadequate. In a December 2007 report titled “Nuclear Power in a Warming World,” the Union of Concerned Scientists notes that the worst accident the current generation of reactors was designed to withstand involves only partial melting of the reactor core but no breach of containment. And the NRC requires operators of plants found to be vulnerable to severe accidents to fix the problem “only if a cost-benefit analysis shows that the financial benefit of a safety backfit – determined by assigning a dollar value to the number of projected cancer deaths that would result from a severe accident – outweighs the cost of fixing the problem,” the report states.

Given their personal experiences, the Thompsons warn that we may be fooling ourselves into believing nuclear power is safer than evidence and history suggest.

“Once you realize how deep and broad the realignment of facts about TMI has been, it becomes really pretty amazing,” Randall Thompson says. “I guess that’s what it takes to protect this industry.”

(Images from top: Photo of President Jimmy Carter leaving Three Mile Island for Middletown, Pa. on April 1, 1979 from the National Archives and Records Administration; photo of Randall Thompson swallowing fire by William Mosher; map showing increases in cancer rates in the TMI area after the disaster courtesy of Dr. Steve Wing; graph showing dramatic spike in pressure inside the TMI containment on March 28, 1979 courtesy of Arnie Gundersen.)

* * *

NUKE-SPEAK: Glossary of terms used in this story

Cesium – an element occurring naturally in rocks, soil and dust. The breakdown of uranium fuel in nuclear reactors produces radioactive forms including cesium-134 and cesium-137, exposure to which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding and death.

Curie – a measure of radioactivity, with 1 curie equal to the activity of one gram of radium.

Erythema – redness of the skin due to capillary congestion, it can be caused by radiation exposure.

Iodine-131 – a radioactive element produced in nuclear reactors. Absorbed into the body, it accumulates in the thyroid gland, which controls metabolism, and can cause cancer and other diseases.

Kemeny Commission – a panel created in April 1979 by President Jimmy Carter to investigate the Three Mile Island disaster. It was chaired by John G. Kemeny, president of Dartmouth College, and released its final report on Oct. 31, 1979.

Noble gases – a group of chemical elements that occur in nature in a number of isotopes, some of which are unstable and emit radiation.

Nuclear fission – the splitting of an atom accompanied by the release of energy. In a nuclear reactor, the fission energy is converted to heat used to generate electricity via steam turbines.

Nuclear meltdown – a severe nuclear reactor problem that occurs when there is a loss of control over the reactor core, causing the radioactive fuel to melt and release highly radioactive and other toxic elements.

Nuclear reactor core - the part of a nuclear reactor containing the nuclear fuel; it is where nuclear reactions take place.

Radiation, ionizing – subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves energetic enough to detach electrons from atoms or molecules. It includes alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays.

Radiation poisoning or sickness – damage to organ tissue due to excessive exposure to ionizing radiation. Acute symptoms include erythema, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss and internal bleeding.

Radium – an extremely radioactive chemical element that was at one time used in self-luminous paints for watch dials, leading to radiation-related illnesses in dial painters.

Rem —  an acronym that stands for “roentgen equivalent in man,” this is a unit for measuring absorbed doses of radiation equivalent to one roentgen of X-rays or gamma rays.

Roentgen — a unit of measurement for ionizing radiation.

Scram – an emergency shutdown of a nuclear reactor, also referred to as a “trip,” achieved by inserting neutron-absorbing control rods into the reactor core.

Strontium – a highly reactive chemical element whose radioactive isotope, strontium-90, is produced by nuclear fission. It takes the place of calcium in bones and can lead to bone disorders including cancer.

Three Mile Island Units 1 and 2 – the two reactors at the commercial nuclear power plant located south of Harrisburg, Pa. on an island in the Susquehanna River. TMI-2 suffered a partial meltdown on March 28, 1979 and is no longer in operation. Originally built by General Public Utilities Corp. and operated by Metropolitan Edison, TMI-1 is now operated by Chicago-based Exelon while Unit 2 is owned by Met-Ed.

Uranium – a radioactive element used by fuel in nuclear reactors.

A Choice Between Peace and Peril February 23, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Posted on Feb 23, 2009, www.truthout.com
AP photo / Hasan Sarbakhshian

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at a ceremony in Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz.

By Chris Hedges

Bibi Netanyahu’s assumption of power in Israel sets the stage for a huge campaign by the Israeli government, and its well-oiled lobby groups in Washington, to push us into a war with Iran.

Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, according to U.S. and European intelligence agencies. But reality rarely impedes on politics. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, along with Netanyahu, all talk as if Iran is on the brink of dropping the big one on the Jewish state.

Netanyahu on Friday named Iran as Israel’s main threat after he was called to form a new government following the Feb. 20 elections.

“Iran is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon and constitutes the gravest threat to our existence since the war of independence,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony at President Shimon Peres’ official residence. “The terrorist forces of Iran threaten us from the north,” the presumptive prime minister said in reference to Lebanon and Syria, where Israel says Tehran supplies arms to Hezbollah and Hamas. “For decades, Israel has not faced such formidable challenges.”

Netanyahu, whose arrogance is as outsized as his bellicosity, knows that for all his threats and chest thumping, Israel is incapable of attacking Iranian targets alone. Israel cannot fly its attack aircraft over Iraqi air space into Iran without U.S. permission, something George W. Bush refused to grant, fearing massive retaliatory strikes by Iran on American bases in Iraq. Israel’s air force is not big enough to neutralize the multiple targets, from radar stations to missile batteries to Revolutionary Guard units to bunkers housing Iran’s Soviet- and Chinese-made fighter jets and bombers, and also hit suspected nuclear targets. The only route to a war with Tehran for the Israeli military is through Washington.

Netanyahu’s resolve to strike Iran means that we will soon hear a lot about the danger posed by Iran—full-page ads in American newspapers from Israel lobby groups have appeared in the past few days. Allowing this rhetoric to cloud reality, as we did during the buildup to the war with Iraq, would shut down the best chance for stability in the Middle East—a negotiated settlement with Iran. This may not finally stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, but a stable relationship with Iran would do more to protect Israel and our interests in the Middle East than massive airstrikes and a war that would bleed into Iraq and Lebanon and see Iranian missiles launched against Israeli cities.

“If you go into a problem with a mistaken assumption, you come out with a bad policy,” said Sam Gardner, a retired colonel of the U.S. Air Force who has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, Air War College and Naval War College, and who opposes the Israeli campaign to strike Iran.

Iran’s nuclear program is currently monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran had amassed about 2,227 pounds of low-enriched, or reactor-grade, nuclear fuel by late January, according to the latest updates from the arms control watchdog for the United Nations. To produce the 55 pounds of highly enriched, or weapons-grade, uranium needed for an atomic warhead, Iran would need 2,205 to 3,748 pounds of low-enriched uranium. It apparently has this amount—which is why Netanyahu refers to Iran as “an existential threat” to the Israeli state. But Iran has made no move to enrich the uranium and until it does cannot be accused of having a nuclear weapons program. Iran also does not have enough high-speed centrifuges at its facility in Natanz to further refine the uranium, according to the United Nations.

Iran has turned to its old nemesis Russia for assistance as Israel has become more strident. The work on the Bushehr nuclear reactor will soon be assisted by 3,000 Russian technicians. And Russia has promised to sell the S-300 missile to Iran to boost that nation’s air defense systems. The Russian Federation Security Council and the State Council’s new national security strategy statement says that the primary focus of the struggle over the next decade will be on hydrocarbons. The Middle East and Central Asia are mentioned specifically. In these areas, according to the document, the struggle could develop into a military confrontation. And, while the document does not mention the United States, there is no other rival military force in the region that can match the Russian machine. The more we push Iran the more Iran flees into the arms of the Russians and the closer we come to a new Cold War struggle for control of diminishing natural resources. Iranian officials have barred inspections of facilities producing centrifuge parts, a move which worries arms control specialists. Iran may be planning to build an undeclared centrifuge facility separate from Natanz. Iran has also barred inspectors from its heavy-water reactor near Arak, an action that has concerned inspectors who hope to examine the site for possible telltale “clandestine” features that could be used in a weapons program. These signs would indicate that Iran could begin a nuclear weapons program. But as of now there is no such program. We should stop speaking as if one exists.

The destruction of Iraq as a unified state has left Iran the power broker in the Middle East. This was the result of our handiwork and the misguided militarism of Israeli politicians such as Netanyahu. Iran, like it or not, holds the power to decide the outcome of several conflicts that are vital to American security. It has enormous influence with Hamas and Hezbollah and can accelerate or diminish the conflict between Israel and these groups. It and the U.S. are now the major outside forces in Iraq. The Shiite-led Baghdad government consults closely with Iran and for this reason has told the Iranian resistance group the MEK that it has 60 days to leave Iraqi territory and may see its leaders arrested and tried for war crimes. Once American forces leave Iraq, it is Iran, more than any other nation, that will determine the future of any Iraqi government. And, finally, Iran has for centuries been embroiled in the affairs of Afghanistan. It alone has the influence to stabilize the conflict, one that increasingly threatens to spill over into Pakistan. Afghan politicians have sharply criticized the Iranian government for deporting more than 30,000 Afghans who had fled to Iran since October. Many, unable to find work or return to their villages, have signed up to fight for the Taliban, according to U.S. intelligence reports.

Iran has endured our covert support for armed militant groups from the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO) to the Free Life Party of Kurdistan to the repugnant Jundullah, also known as the Army of God, a Sunni fundamentalist group that operates with U.S. support out of Pakistan. Jundullah has carried out a series of bombings and ambushes inside Iran. The militant group has a habit of beheading Iranians it captures, including a recent group of 16 Iranian police officials, and filming and distributing the executions. Iran has coped with nearly three decades of sanctions imposed by Washington. The U.S. support for the militant groups and the sanctions, meant to help change the regime in Tehran, have failed.

There is a lot riding on whom President Obama names as his special envoy to Iran. If, as expected, it is Dennis Ross, a former official of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, we will be in deep trouble. Ross, who is expected to be placed in charge of the Iranian portfolio this week, is a vocal supporter of Israel’s call for increased pressure on Iran. He is distrusted, even despised, in the Muslim world and especially in Tehran. With good reason, he is not viewed as an impartial broker.

Ross has called for more draconian sanctions against Iran, something Russia or the five companies that provide Iran’s refined petroleum products are not likely to support. (The companies include the Swiss firm Vitol, the French giant Total and the Indian firm Reliance.) Ross backs the covert support for proxy groups and, I would assume, the alleged clandestine campaign by Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists. Mossad is rumored to be behind the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran’s Isfahan uranium plant, who died in mysterious circumstances from reported “gas poisoning” in 2007, according to the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. “Other recent deaths of important figures in the procurement and enrichment process in Iran and Europe have been the result of Israeli ‘hits,’ intended to deprive Tehran of key technical skills at the head of the program, according to the analysts,” the paper reported.

It remains unmentioned that Israel, which refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—signed by Iran—is in possession of 200 to 300 nuclear warheads, perhaps the single most important factor in the Middle East nuclear arms race.

“For the US to shape a peaceful relationship with Iran will be difficult under any circumstances,” Stephen Kinzer, author of “All the Shah’s Men,” wrote recently. “If the American negotiating team is led by Ross or another conventional thinker tied to dogmas of the past, it will be impossible.”

Obama has an opportunity to radically alter the course we have charted in the Middle East. The key will be his administration’s relationship with Iran. If he gives in to the Israel lobby, if he empowers Ross, if he defines Iran as the enemy before he begins to attempt a negotiated peace, he could ignite a fuse that will see our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan evolve into a regional conflagration. This may be the most important decision of his presidency. Let’s pray he does not blow it.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 208 other followers