Updated: Apr 8
By Nancy Parrish
Kim and Kourtney are worried about nuclear waste — you should be too
I’m not usually much of a Kardashian watcher, but I’ve got to admit — they got my attention with this one. Last weekend Kim and Kourtney Kardashian added another social justice cause to their growing list: the threat that nuclear waste presents to the health of those unlucky enough to live near it. With their children, Kim and Kourtney attended the Santa Susana Field Lab Meltdown Anniversary Event commemorating the 1959 partial nuclear reactor meltdown that still has not been fully cleaned up. Not by NASA, not by the U.S. Department of Energy, and not by Boeing — the only non-governmental organization responsible for the disaster.
Kim and Kourtney first learned of the disaster last November when they, and nearly 300,000 other Los Angeles and Ventura County residents, were forced to evacuate during the Woolsey fire which began at the Santa Susana Field Lab. In the 60 years since the meltdown, the resulting nuclear waste has caused cancer in lab employees and notably higher rates of rare cancers in children in the surrounding area. The Kardashians and nearly half a million other people live within 10 miles of the contaminated 2,800 acre site.
On Twitter, Kim said, “I met families who’s [sic] babies have died from the rare cancer they have from living so close to this toxic site. It’s heartbreaking and they should have cleaned this up decades ago! Boing [sic] and NASA tested rockets at this site & agreed to clean it up by 2017 but haven’t! It’s time!!!”
Kim and Kourtney are right to be concerned about the effects of nuclear waste, but it isn’t just people in Malibu who should be worried. One out of every three Americans live within 50 miles of nuclear waste, yet the federal government cannot reach a consensus on how to combat this increasingly urgent and complex problem.
There are 1,344 hazardous areas, or Superfund Sites, on the National Priorities List in the United States that the government has yet to clean up.In addition to nuclear waste storage facilities and contaminated areas, these include closed military bases, chemical plants, microwave manufacturers, petroleum processors, and wood preservers.
Nonprofit organizations across the country are working to pressure the government and private institutions to take responsibility for the detrimental damage they have caused to the environment and families surrounding nuclear weapons production and testing sites. Here are just five of those sites and how you can get involved in cleanup efforts:
1. Savannah River Site, South Carolina
From the 1950s to 1988, the Savannah River Site (SRS) was home to a U.S. Department of Energy facility that was used to enrich plutonium-239 and tritium for nuclear weapons. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that radioactive isotopes can be found in the surrounding environment — soil, groundwater and even deer and fish may contain dangerous radiation.
Volunteer with and donate to Georgia WAND. They are not only women-led, but led by the communities that are directly affected by the nuclear weapons and nuclear energy industries. Also, be sure to link up with the Savannah River Site Watch. They are currently calling for comments on the proposed and unjustified Plutonium Bomb Plant at SRS.
2. Rocky Flats Plant, Colorado
The Rocky Flats Plant, situated in the densely populated area between Boulder and Denver, manufactured plutonium pits from 1953 to 1992. Though there was a massive cleanup effort in the 90s after the plant was shut down due to criminal violations of environmental law, plutonium levels in the surrounding area have been measured at 100 times the normal amount.
Join the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center as they oppose public recreation in and around the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
3. Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), New Mexico
LANL was a covert facility used to coordinate and produce the first nuclear weapons under the Manhattan Project. Though the LANL is rife with radioactive environmental contaminants, the lab still receives $2 billion annually for nuclear weapons “modernization” work.
Donate to Nuclear Watch New Mexico, an organization that is holding the Department of Energy accountable for the hazardous waste it has spewed from its site.
4. Hanford, Washington
This site was also one of the original components of the Manhattan project to produce the world’s first nuclear weapons, and that they did. The plutonium produced at Hanford was used in the first nuclear bomb test, the Trinity test, and “Fat Man,” the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in WWII. Now, Hanford holds 56 million gallons of high-level nuclear waste in tanks built to last 40 years. The radioactive isotopes in the leaky tanks will last for hundreds of thousands of years. Yes, you read that right.
Join Hanford Challenge, an organization committed to creating a healthy future for Washington, on July 30th for a Public Meeting for an Operating Permit for the Low-Activity Waste and Effluent Management Facilities or weigh in on cleanup by contacting your elected officials.
5. Navajo Nation Uranium Mining, Utah
Radioactive waste is also produced by extracting uranium from the earth. From 1944 to 1986, 4 million tons of uranium was extracted for the production of nuclear weapons on Navajo land. Five times as many members of the Navajo Nation have high levels of uranium in their blood when compared to the average American and Navajo cancer rates doubled from the 1970s to the 1990s.
HEAL Utah, an organization dedicated to tackling Utah’s greatest environmental threats, including nuclear waste, provides many opportunities to make an impact, from hosting a Facebook birthday fundraiser to visiting your members of congress.
The government is not doing its job to protect everyday Americans from the downstream effects of nuclear weapons production and testing. It is up to people like you, like the Kardashians to raise your voice and demand that the government must ensure that nuclear weapons — ostensibly produced to protect American lives — aren’t in fact killing the employees, families, and children who live and work near them.