Stopping New, Radioactive Bomb Blasts at Site 300 in the Central Valley

Stopping New, Radioactive Bomb Blasts at Site 300 in the Central Valley

by Loulena Miles
from Tri-Valley CAREs' August 2007 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Recently, the public got its first chance to question regulatory officials
and express concern regarding Livermore Lab's proposal to conduct bigger,
open-air bomb blasts at the Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range
near Tracy.

On July 18, technical staff from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution
Control District  met with several dozen community members to provide
information about the permitting process that the agency will undertake
before determining whether or not to grant the Lab a permit for huge, new
bomb tests.

The detonations in question will occur on 4 outdoor "firing tables" at Site
300. No air pollution control technology of any kind will be used. All of
the material in the bomb blasts will be released into the air.

If Livermore Lab gets its way, the annual limit for high explosives
detonated at Site 300 will increase 8-fold, from 1,000 to 8,000 pounds.
And, the daily limit will rise 3-fold, from 100 to 350 pounds. According to
the Lab, these blasts will be so powerful they would blow the walls and
roof out of Site 300's Contained Firing Facility - hence the plan to
detonate them in the open.

What makes these bomb tests so terribly dangerous are the toxic and
radioactive materials that will be in them. According to the permit
application, the test explosions will contain up to 5,000 pounds of
uranium-238, also known as depleted uranium or DU, each year. Uranium-238
has a radioactive half-life of more than 4 billion years. Moreover, if
inhaled or ingested, it poses a triple health threat. Uranium can cause
health problems and death due to its  hazardous chemical and heavy metal
properties as well as its radioactivity.

The Lab's permit application also specifies that it may use up to 200
curies of tritium each year in the blasts. Tritium is the radioactive
hydrogen of the H-bomb. A single curie is a large amount of radiation,
equal to 37 billion radioactive disintigrations per second. Further, the
permit application contains a long list of about 60 additional hazardous
materials that will be in the bomb blasts.  Many of these materials pose a
severe health risk.

During the  meeting, the Air District revealed plans to hire a contractor
to help it evaluate the Lab's permit application.

Both the Air District and Tri-Valley CAREs agree that the Lab's application
triggers the California Environmental Quality Act, our state's most
fundamental environmental law. We told the Air District that an
Environmental Impact Report and public hearings are the appropriate level
of review as specified by the law.

The Air District personnel said they were not yet ready to commit to any
particulars. They are at the early stage of analyzing the question and will
use the services of the yet to be hired contractor to help them determine
the proper level of review, they said. We offered to provide additional
input, and will be following up with them.

The Air District personnel said they would concurrently begin the permit
evaluation process (which will trigger a public notice and a 30-day comment
period), a Health Risk Assessment and an Air Quality Impact Analysis.

Members of the audience asked very thoughtful questions. One woman was a
school nurse and described unusual patterns of skin problems in the
children in Tracy. Another shared her concerns that the air quality in the
Central Valley was already out of compliance with current laws.

Tri-Valley CAREs members talked about the need to clean up existing
pollution at Site 300, not contribute more. Our members also posed numerous
technical questions about how the Air District would conduct the assessment
and how much damage the Lab would be permitted to inflict on the community.

The Sierra Club was also represented. One of its members questioned why the
Air District rules would allow open-air blasts to kill a higher number of
people than a facility that installed air pollution control devices would
kill. The Sierra Club, like Tri-Valley CAREs, is on record opposing the
permit for increased bomb blasts.

As with the recent victory stopping the planned bio-warfare agent research
facility at Site 300, community outcry can make a huge difference. If the
public is silent, it is a near guarantee that we will get dumped on. And,
given the health risks posed by uranium, tritium and the other hazardous
materials in the blasts, that will mean sickness for our families and
contamination for our environment.

Your participation now can help prevent new, bigger bomb blasts. Volunteers
are needed in the greater Bay Area and Central Valley to host house
parties, circulate the enclosed sign-on letter (you can also download it
from and write letters to the editors of your local

Now is the time to let the Air District and elected officials know that you
don't want radioactive and toxic materials blown up and allowed to drift in
the wind across Northern California.

Our promise to you:  If you gather signatures on the letter (at - and mail the letter to us - Tri-Valley CAREs will
make copies and distribute your letter to ALL of the agencies and elected
officials listed on the front. So, please, get started by gathering a few
signatures today!


Marylia Kelley,
Executive Director

Tri-Valley CAREs
2582 Old First Street
Livermore, CA  94551

Ph: (925) 443-7148
Fx: (925) 443-0177
Email: or

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