Bulletin of the American Physical Society
APS April Meeting 2023
Volume 68, Number 6
Minneapolis, Minnesota (Apr 15-18)
Virtual (Apr 24-26); Time Zone: Central Time
Session Q07: Environmental and Human Impacts of Nuclear Weapon TestingInvited Undergrad Friendly
Sponsoring Units: FPS
Chair: Laura Grego, Union of Concerned Scientists
Room: MG Salon G - 3rd Floor
Monday, April 17, 2023
3:45PM - 4:21PM
Q07.00001: Impacts of US nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands and at the Nevada Test Site/ArjunMakhijani/to be presented at the meeting of the American Physical Society (Forum on Physics andSociety), April 18, 2023
Invited Speaker: Arjun Makhijani
"The U.S. nuclear testing sites in the Marshall Islands as well as the Nevada Test Site were chosen despite poor meteorological locations and despite the explicit recommendation of Col. Stafford L. Warren, the Chief of Radiological Safety at the July 1945 Trinity Test in New Mexico, to not repeat a test of similar magnitude (~25 kilotons) within 150 miles of human habitation. Far larger tests were carried out in both places, especially the Marshall Islands, with disastrous radiological consequences: much more severe on an individual basis in the Marshall Islands and affecting a far larger population in the United States. The 15 megaton 1954 BRAVO test at Bikini produced high doses, including at near-lethal levels in Rongelap, Ailinginae, and Utrik Atolls. Cancer estimates have significant uncertainties. One study estimated 500 excess cancers in the Marshall Islands, 3 to 4 percent of the entire 1950s population. US cancer incidence estimates: 11,300 to 212,000 excess thyroid cancers, mainly from milk contamination in the 1950s, and 11,000 excess deaths from other cancers. The Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act included people with cancer who lived in parts of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona during atmospheric testing, armed forces personnel and contractors, but not yet those impacted by the Trinity test or by the more intense iodine-131 hot spots (e.g., in Idaho, Montana, and Colorado). Marshall Islands compensation has been more fraught, intertwined with the process of independence from U.S. trusteeship, by exile, and mostly failed resettlement efforts. The United States has funded some compensation and partial clean up. Billions of dollars of claims are outstanding. The United States recognizes only four atolls as impacted, even though the entire country was affected. Many health problems are due to displacement, destruction of traditional livelihoods, and dependence on imported foods. Some the health care was part of scientific studies without informed consent. The humanitarian impacts of testing and use of nuclear weapons, especially atmospheric testing, including disproportionate impacts on women, children, and indigenous people were central to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which went into effect in January 2021."
Monday, April 17, 2023
4:21PM - 4:57PM
Q07.00002: The history of Soviet nuclear testing in Kazakhstan.
Invited Speaker: Togzhan Kassenova
The 40-year period of Soviet nuclear testing in Kazakhstan had a devastating impact on the environment and the local people. This talk will provide an overview of the history of Soviet nuclear tests at the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing site, the human suffering caused by these tests, and describe the Kazakh anti-nuclear movement which pushed the Soviet government to stop nuclear tests.
Monday, April 17, 2023
4:57PM - 5:33PM
Q07.00003: Reconstructing Population Exposure from Past Nuclear Weapon Tests
Invited Speaker: Sebastien Philippe
Over five hundred atmospheric nuclear tests were conducted between 1945 and 1980 to support the development of nuclear weapons worldwide, often exposing local populations to radioactive fallout and leading to possible adverse health effects, including increased risks of developing radiation-induced cancers. While the health effects of such exposures have been recognized, their full extent is still disputed. Many atmospheric tests were conducted amid poor meteorological conditions and led to significant fallout hundreds of miles away. Today, there is still no global map of radioactive contamination, exposed communities, and impacted ecosystems due to fallout from nuclear weapon testing. This talk discusses how combining current understanding of nuclear weapon explosions, modern atmospheric transport simulation techniques, and archival research permits an independent re-evaluation of the radiological consequences of past nuclear tests with potentially significant implications for compensation and remediation. As an example, it discusses the results of a two-year study on the radiological consequences of French atmospheric nuclear testing in the Pacific, involving extensive atmospheric transport simulations of fallout. The study found that 90% of the French Polynesian population living near the test site at the time of atmospheric testing could have received doses greater than current compensation threshold under French law. These results led French President Emmanuel Macron to publicly acknowledge that France had a debt towards French Polynesia, to call for the improvement of victims' compensation, and for the opening of "all" related government archives.
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