A Sampling Of Nuclear Weapons Production Facilities

Nuclear weapons have enabled an ever-escalating spiral of aggressive nation-to-nation posturing for over 65 years, for control of the very Earth and resources that are being irredeemably poisoned by bomb production itself. The United States has produced over 60,000 weapons, and now does not know what to do with the ones that remain.

Fernald, OH

Many thousands of tons of uranium ‘yellowcake’ were further refined and made into uranium metal before closure. Between 600,000 and 3,000,000 pounds of uranium dust went into air and water. Known contamination of residential wells was kept secret for years—estimated liability payments due to residents in 1992, $73 million. The EPA rates it as one of the 100 most contaminated sites in the U.S.

Oak Ridge, TN, Paducah, KY, and Portsmouth, OH

994 tons of ‘enriched’ Uranium 235 was separated from the more abundant Uranium 238 isotope. The vast majority of material left over, was called ‘Depleted Uranium’ (DU).

Much denser than lead, DU has been disposed of by using it for military shell casings and armor plating in tanks. Thousands of tons of contaminated metals were left behind after the first Gulf War, and have been used repeatedly in Eastern Europe. Many symptoms of Gulf War illness and illness from  more recent conflicts in both veterans and civilian victims are attributable to DU exposure. Now, children of exposed individuals are showing up with severe birth defects and illness. In Falujah, Iraq, where extensive shelling took place with DU munitions, it was reported in 2011 that 14% of all children born has bith defects.

Rocky Flats Plant, CO, and the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, TN

Depleted and enriched uranium metals were formed into nuclear weapons components and triggers. At Y-12, radioactive materials were dumped in unlined trenches and 2.4 million pounds of mercury contaminated local water. Over 189 tons of highly enriched uranium (the equivalent of 9,450 Hiroshima bombs) were left in drums, over 60% of which have never been opened, some for up to 40 years. Contamination at Rocky Flats from fires, and releases to air and water, was so extensive that it was raided and shut down by the FBI in 1989.

Idaho Nat. Engineering Lab, ID

Highly enriched uranium from experimental and naval reactor fuel was recovered for making new reactor fuel at Savannah River. 1,000 pounds of plutonium, 200 tons of uranium and 90,000 gallons of organic solvents were dumped in unlined trenches, ponds and wells, contaminating the Snake River aquifer. From 1957-63, over 6 million curies of radioactivity were knowingly released into the atmosphere. BNFL holds a $1 billion contract for cleanup of INEL. Overseas reactor fuel and plutonium wastes from Rocky Flats are stored on site as well.

Savannah River Plant, SC

5 production reactors produced plutonium and tritium for nuclear weapons. Reactors did not have the safety features required of commercial reactors, resulting in 30 serious incidents between 1957 and 1985. Dumping of wastes has resulted in widespread contamination near a major aquifer. 51 million gallons of high-level waste are stored in tanks.

Pantex, TX

One of the most dangerous operations in the world, high-explosive components for warheads are manufactured, and weapons assembly completed by hand. "Retired’ warheads are also disassembled for storage. Thousands of gallons of chemicals were dumped in the ground between 1954-80, contaminating the Oglalla aquifer, the largest in the U.S. In 1989, 40,000 curies of tritium were released. One DOE senior safety expert says the plant should be shut down immediately until safety problems are corrected. He was being ignored.

Los Alamos Lab, NM, Sandia Lab, NM and CA, Lawrence Livermore Lab, CA

Weapons design, testing and development have led to widespread contamination from tritium, uranium and plutonium. Livermore has emitted over 750,000 curies of tritium into the air, and discharged water 5000 times over EPA limits into city sewers. Los Alamos, where a fire raged through the town and surrounding landscape in the spring of 2000, has one of the world’s largest radioactive dumps and over 2,000 different contaminated sites.