Alaska    California    Kentucky
Tennessee    South Carolina    Washington
U.S. Nuclear Navy    French Occupied Polynesia
Great Britain    Russia
TRAC has conducted radiological studies at three nuclear sites in Alaska: Amchitka, Fort Greeley, and Point Hope.
Amchitka Island: (1996-1997) Under an arrangement with Greenpeace, TRAC conducted a radiological survey around “Cannikin,” the site of the world’s largest underground nuclear explosion in 1971. That study discovered americium-241 leaking into the aquatic environment. TRAC also collected and analyzed samples from around the “Long Shot” and “Milrow” explosion sites. In 1997, the Department of Energy (DOE) invited TRAC’s director, Norm Buske, to oversee a governmental follow-up study. That study confirmed the 1996 discovery and led to the initiation of worker compensation and environmental investigation programs.
Point Hope: (1997) Under an arrangement with Greenpeace, TRAC responded to Native anecdotes that the Department of Energy had left nuclear devices buried at the Project Chariot site, conceivably to serve as nuclear landmines, in case of a Russian invasion. TRAC obtained definition of the anecdote and arranged a dig to confirm or refute the anecdote. The dig results did not support the anecdote.
Fort Greeley: (1998) Under an arrangement with Alaska Community Action on Toxics, TRAC sampled the environs of the Army’s closed SM-1A test reactor. That survey found unexpected transuranic wastes in the old sewer discharge from the reactor. Based on the declassified record of reactor operation, Norm concluded the reactor had sustained an unreported partial-melt accident. The SM-1A reactor was used for the pilot production of nuclear materials for “micro-nuclear” weapons.
Back to Top
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL): (2003 – 2004) The RadioActivist Campaign is conducting a radiological study of LLNL in collaboration with Tri-Valley CAREs. Initial sampling in December 2003 identified previously unreported cesium-137, strontium-90, americium-241, and iron-59. These preliminary data suggest that LLNL’s monitoring program has fundamental deficiencies. TRAC is conducting additional sampling in May 2004 to confirm the preliminary findings. TRAC will draw conclusions regarding LLNL’s radiological impacts after analyzing those samples.
Back to Top
Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant: (1992) TRAC collected samples from around the perimeter of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. TRAC’s analyses of those samples identified uranium-235, which suggested the plant had contaminated its surroundings with fallout from the facility. That fallout threatened human health. The Department of Energy later admitted that the Paducah plant had lofted uranium and other radioactivity into the surroundings. The plant then initiated a large cleanup program.
Back to Top
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL): (2002-2003) TRAC collaborated with Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety and other regional organizations to survey the laboratory's perimeter. That study focused on determining whether any LANL-origin waste was flowing into the Rio Grande. TRAC found very low levels of radioactive cesium-137 in Spring 4A, a half-mile from the Rio Grande, flowing into Pajarito Creek. Pajarito Creek drains into the Rio Grande. This is the first detection of radioactivity flowing from the lab into the river. These low levels serve as an early warning for concerned citizens and government agencies to take preventive action to protect and restore the Rio Grande.
Back to Top
Oak Ridge Reservation: (Present) In November 2004, TRAC conducted its first in-depth radiological survey around the Oak Ridge Reservation to identify areas of concern for the local communities. This is a work-in-progress study expected to be completed in the summer of 2005.
Back to Top
Savannah River Site (SRS): (1989, 2003 - Present) In 1989, TRAC and Greenpeace conducted a radiological survey of the Savannah River Site perimeter. That study focused on the streams that drain the nuclear site into the Savannah River. TRAC found radioactive cesium-137 in the sediments of the Savannah River as far south as Savannah, where the river enters the Atlantic Ocean.
TRAC returned to Savannah River Site in 2003 to conduct a broader pathways study along the entire perimeter of the site. That study found cesium-137 at 50 times the background levels in vegetation collected to the northeast of the site. Based on the distribution and biological absorption patterns, TRAC concluded that SRS had an unreported radioactive fallout event between April 2002 and April 2003. This contamination is a public health concern.
That same study found cesium-137 levels at 1,000 times background level in vegetation collected from Lower Three Runs Creek. Lower Three Runs Creek drains SRS into the Savannah River. Those high levels suggest SRS is disposing of radioactive waste directly into the creek.
TRAC is planning a follow-up study at SRS beginning in late 2004. That study will combine technical monitoring with community education and organization to address the Savannah River Site’s radiological impacts on the region.
Back to Top
Hanford: (1983-91, 1998-2004) The RadioActivist Campaign has studied Hanford’s impact on the surrounding environment, with its main study focus on the Columbia River.
In 1983, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposed to dispose of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste below Hanford Site in a Basalt Waste Isolation Project (BWIP). The proposed site was in confined aquifers under Hanford, which would allow contamination from BWIP to eventually migrate into the Columbia River. For BWIP to be approved, the fastest groundwater travel time from BWIP to the river was legally required to be 1000+ years. In collaboration with Greenpece, TRAC began studying groundwater pathways from Hanford into the Columbia River in 1983. In 1986, TRAC estimated groundwater travel time under Hanford by measuring its discharge rate into the river. TRAC’s results showed that groundwater travel time under Hanford were one tenth of DOE’s estimates. TRAC’s findings discredited DOE’s groundwater calculations and helped cancel BWIP.
In 1990, radioactive strontium-90 from unlined trenches next to Hanford’s N-Reactor was seeping into the Columbia River at an alarming rate. If left unchecked, that strontium-90 would have made the entire river unusable as drinking water by 2000. To call attention to the problem, TRAC collected mulberries from the shoreline at “N-Springs,” made them into slightly contaminated jam, and sent bottles to Washington’s governor and the Secretary of Energy. After international media attention, DOE installed a pump-and-treat program for N-Springs and other mitigations that decimated the strontium-90 levels. The source of contamination, N-Reactor, was permanently closed.
In 1991, TRAC decided to check out assertions that agricultural produce from “downwind” of Hanford was allegedly uncontaminated by Hanford radioactivity. TRAC collected and analyzed 50 samples from areas likely to accumulate radioactivity. TRAC found only trace levels of cesium-137, attributable to worldwide fallout from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. TRAC’s results provided public assurance of the quality of the agricultural products from downwind of Hanford.
In 1999, while TRAC was sampling mulberry leaves from the Columbia River shore near the KE-Reactor, the Hanford Patrol crossed their perimeter fences and took TRAC’s director, Norm Buske, prisoner. Norm was charged with criminal trespassing. The river shore is state property, so the charge lacked merit and was settled before trial. For the settlement TRAC obtained an agreement for limited access to Hanford Site for environmental sampling. From 2000 through 2002, TRAC accessed the Site four times. Each access and sampling revealed at least one severe defect in Site management or contamination. TRAC reported the unfavorable results to management, until Hanford management deactivated the access agreement in 2003.
TRAC’s current focus is on the Columbia Riverbed began in 1999, under arrangements with the Government Accountability Project. In 2002, TRAC found that previously unreported radioactivity contaminated 60% of the Hanford Reach and 7 of 10 vital salmon spawning grounds. TRAC hypothesized that contamination was from Hanford’s still-undisclosed uranium-233 production cycle. Follow-up studies in 2002 and 2003 confirmed that hypothesis and found that the radioactivity levels are increasing. In 2003, TRAC reported the first known detection of uranium-233 in the Columbia Riverbed. TRAC is concerned that radioactivity poses a serious threat to the long-term sustainability of the local salmon population.
Back to Top
U.S. Nuclear Navy
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS): (1989, 1993-1986) In collaboration with Greenpeace, TRAC collected sediment samples from Sinclair Inlet in 1989. Results were inconclusive. TRAC returned in 1993 and collected a range of sample media from Sinclair Inlet, yielding probable detection of short-lived cadmium-109. TRAC contested legal site access for sampling in PSNS’s Restricted Area 2, between 1994 and 1996. One site access collection, while TRAC prevailed, found the short-lived fission product, iodine-131, in a kelp sample. This result was confirmed by government agencies, but the source of the iodine-131 was questioned. TRAC followed anecdotal reports of radioactive waste disposal from PSNS at the Olympic View landfill. TRAC detected an activation-product, cesium-134, in run-out water and official site monitoring reported tritium in the water. TRAC sampled terrestrial mosses around PSNS, to identify patterns of airborne radioactive fallout. TRAC was unable to complete that study due to lack of funding.
New Zealand, nuclear-free: (1993) TRAC performed a Technical Evaluation of the Report of the New Zealand Special Committee on Nuclear Propulsion, “The Safety of Nuclear Powered Ships (December 1992).” U.S. nuclear propelled vessels were not allowed into New Zealand ports until 1995. This was partially due to considerations of the risks posed by naval reactors.
Hunters Point Naval Station: (1994) TRAC collected one check sample that tested negative for artificial radioactivity above background.
New London Naval Submarine Base: (1994) TRAC collected nearby aquatic vegetation, which tested negative for artificial radioactivity from the base.
San Diego Naval Station: (1994) TRAC collected one shellfish sample that tested negative for artificial radioactivity above background.
Decommissioned U.S. Navy Site in Great Britain: (1994) TRAC collected one check sample that tested negative for artificial radioactivity above background.
Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base: (1994) TRAC collected one check sample that tested negative for artificial radioactivity above background.
Canaveral Turning Basin: (1994) TRAC collected one check sample that tested negative for artificial radioactivity above background.
Charleston, South Carolina Naval Station: (1994) TRAC collected one check sample that tested negative for artificial radioactivity above background.
Norfolk Naval Shipyard: (1995) TRAC collected one shellfish sample that tested negative for artificial radioactivity above background.
Subbase Bangor: (1996) TRAC collected one two vegetation samples and one oyster sample that tested negative for artificial radioactivity above background.
Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory: (2000) TRAC collected four check samples from Knolls. TRAC found low-levels of strontium-90 that warrant follow-up sampling.
Back to Top
French Occupied Polynesia
Mururoa: (1986-1990) At Greenpeace’s request, TRAC developed a technique to measure radioactivity leaking from the French nuclear test site on Mururoa Atoll, near Tahiti, into the South Pacific. TRAC developed the necessary technology around Hanford, during the late 1980s. TRAC installed a radiological laboratory upon the Rainbow Warrior and sailed to Mururoa with a team of Greenpeace activists in 1990. TRAC detected cesium-134 leaking into international waters, beyond the 12-mile limit. The results provided a factual basis for growing worldwide protests, leading to the permanent closure of the only French nuclear test site in 1995.
Back to Top
Sellafield: (1994) TRAC collected one check sample of grass from pasture and tidal lands across from Sellafield. That sample tested negative for artificial radioactivity above background.
Back to Top
TRAC participated in a U.S./Russian technology transfer program in 2000, arranged by the Government Accountability Project, in collaboration with Siberian Scientists for Global Responsibility and local non-governmental organizations in Russia.
Vladivostok: (1994) In collaboration with Greenpeace, TRAC collected vegetation samples from the bay near the Pacific Fleet base and a forest floor near a submarine repair facility. TRAC’s results detected radioactivity only in the sample collected from the forest floor. That sample tested positive for the nuclear activation product, cobalt-60, which was attributable to an officially reported submarine repair accident.
Chelyabinsk: (2000) TRAC sampled vegetation for artificial radioactivity around the Myak complex near Chelyabinsk. TRAC’s sample results showed that strontium-90 in the Techa River is uptaken by cattle grazing on the banks, posing a health threat to native Tatars living nearby. TRAC identified two other, aquatic pathways of radioactivity from the Mayak facility that were not in the site’s official monitoring program.
Novosibirsk: (2000) TRAC sampled vegetation for artificial radioactivity around the Siberian Chemical Combine at Novosibirsk. TRAC confirmed uranium contamination in a swamp downstream of the industrial complex. Fortunately, the swamp was at least mitigating the spread of radioactivity.
Krasnoyarsk: (2000) TRAC sampled vegetation from the Yenisey River, downstream of the Krasnoyarsk underground nuclear facility. TRAC did not detect artificial radioactivity above background levels. In TRAC’s opinion, the Krasnoyarsk facility was far better managed and monitored than other Russian nuclear sites.
Tomsk: (2000) TRAC sampled vegetation from the River Tom, downstream of the “world’s largest and greatest nuclear facility” at Seversk near the city of Tomsk. TRAC discovered a huge release of phosphorus-32 and strontium-90 into the River Tom, threatening public health. The report of this, the world’s largest radioactive discharge into the aquatic environment received international attention and has led to reduced waste discharge from Seversk.
Back to Top