November 26, 2013

Uranium Film Festival Comes to Navajo Nation Dec 2-4

The International Uranium Film Festival makes a stop at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona this December 2nd through the 4th, bringing three days of insightful documentaries that reveal stories of many First Nations and aboriginal peoples worldwide whose historical lands have been used for radioactive minerals mining and nuclear waste disposal - often with little regard for the health, safety, and security of the communities involved. The Southwestern United States was an epicenter of wartime and peacetime uranium mining from the Cold War onwards; the Navajo Nation only one of sadly many who have suffered its lasting ill consequences.
The [International Uranium Film Festival] is the world's only traveling film festival devoted to the entire Nuclear Fuel Chain, from uranium mining to uranium tailings and nuclear waste, from Hiroshima to Fukushima and Fallujah.

The festival will make its way from Albuquerque (Nov. 27-28) to Santa Fe (Nov. 30-Dec. 1), to Window Rock and finally to Washington D.C. and New York City in early 2014. The founder of the IUFF, Norbert G. Suchanek of Germany, will be present at each screening along with Executive Director Marcia Gomes de Oliveira of Brazil and various producers and directors of the films. Each screening is organized by a diverse group of volunteers to bring these films to the wide screen.

Because of the tremendous impact uranium mining has had on Diné peoples, while these films are playing in the theatre of the Navajo Nation Museum, there will be several organizations coming together on the side to dialogue about the uranium legacy issues still plaguing the Navajo Nation and the new uranium mining permit applications threatening nearby communities and Sacred Sites. Community groups, residents and allies will meet for the two and a half days at the museum and in the local area. Online video streaming will be available via during selected hours of the event.
The film festival's schedule and more details are also available on their Facebook page.

July 25, 2013

NEWS: 7/26 Public Celebration to Welcome the Muon g-2 Electromagnet to Fermilab

[UPDATE: The Muon g-2 Ring has arrived at Fermilab as of 4:07am Friday morning! Photo at left courtesy of Reider Hahn, as shown on Fermilab's Scribble feed.] After its long journey, the Muon g-2 electromagnet is in its last few miles of the #BigMove, and Fermilab is hosting a public celebration on Friday, July 26 to welcome the Ring's arrival. Fermilab officials released the following:
We're holding a party tomorrow to welcome the ring. If you plan to come, you should read this. Rain and thunderstorms are forecasted for tomorrow evening. The indoor portion of the muon g-2 event will occur regardless of the weather including hands-on science activities in Wilson Hall and scientists available to answer your questions (beginning at 5:30). The ring will move rain or shine and would be delayed only in the event of lightning. Check back here for updates and if you're planning to come out, bring your rain gear.
Here's a fascinating time-lapse video from Fermilab showing the July 24-25 overnight move in Illinois:

Naperville, IL Community Television, Channel 17 also featured video coverage of the Ring's arrival in nearby Lemont at [Link via Fermilab]

June 18, 2013

Giant Electromagnet Starts Long Trip from Brookhaven to Fermilab

[UPDATE: Storms in the U.S. Northeast region will delay the start of the "Big Move"; details at the Chicago Tribune. The Delaware Online reports,
"Scientists will begin the move next Saturday, taking the magnet from its location on the 5,300-acre Brookhaven campus to the front gate — a distance of about 1.8 miles. The following day, they are expected to move the magnet south along the William Floyd Parkway for 6 miles to Smith Point Park on the Atlantic Ocean. From there, it will be loaded onto a barge and will proceed down the East Coast, around the tip of Florida and up the Mississippi, Illinois and Des Plaines rivers."
Over the next few weeks, you may be fortunate enough to see - but hopefully not be stuck in traffic behind - some eye-poppingly huge particle physics gear traveling down a highway near you. This week, the 50-foot diameter, 15-ton Muon g-2 ("gee minus two") electromagnet was inched out of its current location at Brookhaven National Laboratory on a custom-designed rig, starting a 3200-mile long journey over highways and sea to its new home in Chicago's western suburbs. [Video copyright Emmert International, who are handling the transport logistics of the "big move."]

You can monitor the Muon g-2's progress on this live interactive map, updated every few hours, from the Atlantic seaboard down around the tip of Florida, into the Gulf of Mexico, and finally up through Alabama and several Southern states, through St. Louis, to its final destination at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois. Why go to such heroic efforts to relocate the Muon g-2? According to Lee Roberts of Boston University, spokesperson for the Muon g-2 experiment,
"It costs about 10 times less to move the magnet from Brookhaven to Illinois than it would to build a new one, so that's what we're going to do. It's an enormous effort from all sides, but it will be worth it."
Fermilab's website explains the details of the project, and the new research capabilities the equipment will provide:
"The muon, like its lighter sibling the electron, acts like a spinning magnet. The parameter known as "g" indicates how strong the magnet is and the rate of its gyration. The value of g is slightly larger than 2, hence the name of the experiment. This difference from 2 is caused by the presence of virtual particles that appear from the vacuum and then quickly disappear into it again....In measuring g-2 with high precision and comparing its value to the theoretical prediction, physicists will discover whether the experiment agrees with theory. Any deviation would point to as yet undiscovered subatomic particles that exist in nature."
More images and videos of the Muon g-2 Project and the "Big Move" can be found at Fermilab

May 31, 2013

Uranium Film Festival Rio de Janeiro Announces 2013's "Yellow Oscar"-Winning Films

While I haven't yet had the chance to attend one of the touring festivals since their start in 2011, as a former media person with a life-long fascination in all things nuclear, the international Uranium Film Festival holds a very special interest for me. This past Sunday, May 26th capped nine days of film and documentary showings in Rio with the "Yellow Oscar" awards, celebrating offerings of exceptional merit. From the Uranium Film Festival's "Art and Awareness" website section,
[The festival] was founded in 2011 in Santa Teresa, the famous artist quarter in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. The aim of the festival is to inform the public, from a neutral position, about nuclear power, uranium mining, nuclear weapons and the health effects of radioactivity. The horror of atomic bombs and those who suffered from them, and nuclear accidents like Chernobyl or Fukushima should never be forgotten - nor repeated. The correlation between nuclear energy and weapons must be openly discussed. The festival inspires discourse about the health and environmental risks of radioactive materials and waste. We seek to educate and activate the public on these issues. The dynamic media of film is an important tool to bring that information to a diverse international public.
Among this year's Yellow Oscar winners is Nuclear Savage: The Islands of Secret Project 4.1, a documentary by Adam Jonas Horowitz on the devastating effects of U.S. Cold-War nuclear testing on residents of the Marshall Islands, including government footage of nuclear tests and interviews with residents of nearby Rongelap Atoll,which was never evacuated before the March 1954 "Bravo" test - America's largest-ever atomic test explosion, a thousand times more powerful than Hiroshima.

Other winners this year include Atomic Ivan (Russia), for best feature fiction movie; Curiosity Kills (Estonia), for best short comedy; High Power (India), for best short documentary; Abita (Germany), for best animated film, and No to a Nuclear Jordan (Jordan), for the best student film.

Learn more about the Uranium Film Festival and upcoming events at

April 23, 2013

Radioactive Listeria Bacteria: Promising New Weapon Against Pancreatic Cancer

Most of us recognize Listeria as one of the bacteria found in soil, raw and undercooked foods, and unpasteurized dairy products, which can cause serious illness including a high risk of miscarriage in pregnancy. However, researchers at Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine have discovered this pathogen can be tagged with a radioisotope and drafted to fight a dreaded disease: metastatic cancer of the pancreas.

Dr. Claudia Gravekamp and Dr. Ekaterina Dadachova, co-senior authors of the study and professors at Albert Einstein, have developed a method of using a weakened strain of Listeria monocytogenes tagged with a short half-life rhenium isotope to selectively infect tumor cells (Abstract from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). According to Dr. Gravekamp, in a press release from the university,
"We're encouraged that we've been able to achieve a 90 percent reduction in metastases in our first round of experiments...[w]ith further improvements, our approach has the potential to start a new era in the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer."
As Dr. Dadachova also explains in the Albert Einstein College of Medicine press release,
"We chose rhenium because it emits beta particles, which are very effective in treating cancer...also, rhenium has a half-life of 17 hours, so it is cleared from the body relatively quickly, minimizing damage to healthy tissue."

April 08, 2013

"Exposure: Radiation Victims Speak Out" Web Series Reveals Personal Struggles, Triumphs

Over 20 years ago, the Hiroshima newspaper Chugoku Shimbun sent a team of reporters to 15 nations around the world to gather personal accounts of people affected by radiation - from reactor accidents, accidental contamination, to nuclear weapons manufacturing and testing. The interviews were initially published as a series of eight newspaper features titled "Sekai no Hibakusha," or "Hibakusha (figuratively, "atomic bomb survivors") Around the World." This monumental series won a Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association award in 1990, and was subsequently published in book form the following year. Executive Director of the Chugoku Shimbun Yukio Ogata explains,
"Largely as a result of the articles' success in bringing the public's attention to the dangers of radiation, a number of victims of radioactive contamination from areas as far-flung as Chernobyl and Bikini Atoll were able to participate in the world convention held in Hiroshima by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War in October 1989...[T]he convention heard details concerning the damage caused by nuclear testing in Kazakhstan, which until then had been shrouded in secrecy. In turn, this disclosure of widespread destruction of the environment prompted the Chugoku Shimbun to instigate the first-ever investigation of the testing area.

At the same time, the articles served to emphasize the role that Japan could play to help radiation victims around the world. The fact that the articles have prompted the exchange of information concerning the treatment of radiation victims in Japan to help those in a similar plight in other countries is a great source of satisfaction to us at the Chugoku Shimbun. We hope that, in the future, Japan will become known as an information center for radiation victims and the treatment of their illnesses."
In March 2013, the Hiroshima Peace Media Center re-released the entire series of 134 interviews free online as "EXPOSURE: Victims of Radiation Speak Out". From the English-language introduction by Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, Director of the Center on Violence and Human Survival at the CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice notes,
"There is compelling appropriateness in the project's being undertaken by concerned journalists from Hiroshima. From the time the bomb was dropped, the Chugoku Shimbun, as Hiroshima's leading newspaper, has been a prime source of information about the experiences and feelings of the people of that city over subsequent decades. Its editors and writers have taken on what I call a 'survivor mission' on behalf of the city's victims, a commitment to transforming the fear, conflict, and pain of the survivors into an active exploratory enterprise of profound significance.

Their contribution goes even beyond their descriptions of the human effects of radiation. In the way they have approached their study, they have demonstrated what I call a species mentality, a commitment that transcends immediate group or nationality and extends to all of humankind. They evoke in us a sense of shared fate, of universal susceptibility to a technology that knows no boundaries, geographical or temporal. We are all in this together, as potential victims and potential perpetrators as well.
Among the regions and incidents covered in these interviews are Chernobyl, the 1987 Goiânia Accident in Brazil, contamination from the Cold War weapons program at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation site in Washington State.

[Image courtesy Hiroshima Peace Media Center: "The mushroom cloud as seen from Kure, approximately 18 kilometers southeast of Hiroshima. This photo was taken by Masami Oki about 40 minutes after the bomb exploded."]


March 28, 2013

Radioactive Wild Boars Found in Northern Italy

The Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reports that traces of cesium-137 contamination have been found in dozens of wild boars taken by hunters in the northern Valsesia [Sesia Valley] forests, in the province of Vercelli.
[27 A]nalyzed samples of [the] tongue and diaphragm of animals slaughtered during the hunting season 2012/2013 [showed] level[s] of Cesium-137 higher than the threshold specified by Regulation 733 of 2008 as the tolerable limit in the event of a nuclear accident. According to the deputy of the Piedmont Region, Roberto Ravello, alarmism should be avoided because the health risks would be "contained and controlled."
According to Elena Fantuzzi, head of the Institute of Radiation Protection ENEA, the most immediate explanation is that the contamination originated from the 1986 Chernobyl accident. However, she cautions, (translation via GoogleTranslate) "[W]e must also consider the nuclear sites in the area, including the central Trino Vercellese ["Enrico Fermi" nuclear plant] dismantled in 1987 and the experimental site Enea, in Saluggia...[We can not exclude] the trail of toxic waste." Gian Piero Godio, a nuclear expert in the Legambiente Piemonte and Val d'Aosta region adds, "[There may be o]ther explanations....the district of Valsesia has no radioactive source[s]." More: Video news story (in Italian)

March 26, 2013

Chernobyl Database: A New, Useful Research Tool

While having much of the Internet at one's disposal through search engines is a wonderful thing - especially when you know what you're looking for - specialized blogs like the new Chernobyl Database (launched February 2013) also serve a vital purpose: they can help point you in the direction of new research studies and findings you may have been unaware of.

Chernobyl Database, which I believe is based in Japan, focuses fairly narrowly on posting papers studying the effects of radiation and radioactive contamination on the environment and health, but it also ventures deeply by including links to research going back several decades. Entries are primarily in English, with separate categories for articles published in Japanese and Russian. I think you'll find it a valuable resource.