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Honoring The Legacy Of Karen Gay Silkwood

by Tomas DiFiore
As the international feminist movement began to gain momentum during the 1970s, the UN General Assembly declared 1975 as the International Women’s Year and organized the first World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City. At the urging of the Conference, it subsequently declared the years 1976-1985 as the UN Decade for Women. On November 13th, the first anniversary of Silkwood's death, the National Organization for Women (NOW) proclaimed Karen Silkwood Memorial Day.

2016 onward- Why you should be concerned about radiation in seafood, or radioactive drinking water: 1) Fukushima 2) EPA in 2016 Makes Changes To Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
Honoring The Legacy Of Karen Gay Silkwood

I have often wondered, why so few pictures of Karen Gay Silkwood, were ever been published? Karen achieved several 'firsts' that are still recognized and celebrated throughout the world. All Karen's possessions in her home were burned and buried. But her organs, and brain, were kept at Los Alamos for years - not even her family knew, until the trial.

The Karen Silkwood case was instrumental in the No-Nukes (movement) decades, in the way networks would be organized to educate create salient public conversations of the dangers of nuclear power, with an involvement time frame, in which funding is sought, legal teams, journalists, investigative reporters, and the network of supporters that takes it to the Senate, the Congress, the newspapers, reporters, radio shows, and concert venues.

Visitors to the courtroom at the time, including representatives of the nuclear industry, called it, the "Scopes trial of the Seventies." John Scopes was a Tennessee schoolteacher fired for instructing students in the theories of evolution, and his 1925 case pitted Bible fundamentalists against vanguard scientists in a famous test of civil liberties. Beyond that, the story of Karen Gay Silkwood, told through subpoenas and depositions, became that of the first Nuclear Energy Industry Whistle Blower.

Documents exposed the possibility of an International plutonium smuggling operation.

It was the time of NOW. It was the time of Unions, and Labor activists, and it happened to be the time of the very first, and eventful 'founding conference for the coalition of labor women'. It was the first time that Union women had come together to talk about their difficulties and problems, as women within the larger Union workforce. NOW, the National Organization of Woman purchased a ticket for Sara Nelson, who flew to Chicago for the conference; 3400 women were in attendance. Sara filmed the conference, and took it on the road showing to over 60 groups seeking financing for a big screen production, or an organizing tool for women around collective bargaining. And NOW asked Sara Nelson to be the Chair of the Labor Comittee. (Sara Nelson, appears in the clip below from a rally/concert at that time)

Labor issues and Civil Rights were front and center in 1975. Enter Kitty Tucker, who at the time was the legislative coordinator for the Washington D.C. chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), who quickly became a walking encyclopedia on Silkwood and began to empathize with her posthumous plight. She came to view Silkwood as a heroine of women's liberation, the labor movement and the antinuclear struggle. And, beyond the symbolism, Kitty Tucker also saw an unsolved murder.

She asked her husband, an environmentalist named Bob Alvarez, for suggestions and took her concern to Sara Nelson, the national labor task-force coordinator for NOW. Kitty Tucker had made a poster titled 'Supporters of Silkwood', and opened Sara's eyes to the dangers of Nuclear power, by telling the curious story of the killing of Karen Silkwood.


As the international feminist movement began to gain momentum during the 1970s, the UN General Assembly declared 1975 as the International Women’s Year and organized the first World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City. At the urging of the Conference, it subsequently declared the years 1976-1985 as the UN Decade for Women.

“On November 13th, the first anniversary of Silkwood's death, NOW proclaimed "Karen Silkwood Memorial Day." Nelson delivered a moving eulogy to a large antinuclear rally in New York. Four days later 300 nuclear critics from the Ralph Nader-sponsored Critical Mass Conference in Washington held a candlelight vigil in Silkwood's memory on the steps of Capitol Hill. Bill Silkwood, Karen's father, addressed the gathering.”

“That same weekend the media began to resurrect the Silkwood controversy. Major-length features appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Star and San Francisco Chronicle, and shorter articles were printed in the Washington Post and New York Times.” Karen Silkwood Vs. Nuclear Power: The Courtroom Reaction; May 17, 1979 Rolling Stone by Howard Kohn.

Discovery of International Plutonium Smuggling (US to Israel, South Africa, Iran)

In 1977, Investigative Journalist Howard Kohn, wrote in Rolling Stone Magazine that: National Public Radio had “reported in late December 1974 that the AEC was worried about 40 pounds of plutonium that could not be accounted for at the Kerr-McGee plant. At the same time David Burnham, the reporter who was to meet Silkwood at the Holiday Inn, quoted government sources in the New York Times as saying that up to 60 pounds of plutonium might be missing.”

“In that quantity plutonium is highly valued contraband. It was first discovered in 1940 during the search for the atom bomb and usually occurs as a yellow-green powder or slushy gray liquid. Although it is sometimes available for commercial use under government contract, as at Kerr-McGee, the world's supply is controlled by the U.S., the U.S.S.R. and the other nations of the nuclear elite. Only 12 pounds are needed for a bomb capable of destroying a medium-sized city. The grade of plutonium being processed at Kerr-McGee has a price set by the government of $70 a gram. But on the black market it could sell for five to ten times that much; 60 pounds could be worth $5-$10 million.”

Later, as the investigation led by Senators Ribicoff and Metcalf got close to the truth, the investigation came to a halt. It just went away. There is a great telling of the story by Daniel Sheehan, lead attorney, introduced by Sara Nelson in “The Trajectory Of Justice” classroom discussions. “The Trajectory Of Justice” is a series by the Romero Institute. 6 hours total.

Part One: The Trajectory of Justice 5-1-2012, Sara Nelson introducing the Karen Silkwood case:

“The Trajectory Of Justice” Part Two: The Karen Silkwood Case - Discovery

“The Trajectory Of Justice” Part Three: The Karen Silkwood Case - The Trial

“The Trajectory Of Justice” Part Four: The Karen Silkwood Case - Conclusion

There are ten episodes that make up the “Trajectory Of Justice” series of 8 Legal Cases that changed America.

In December of 2014 came the updated, audiobook release of Richard Rashke's 1981 book, which was also reprinted in 2000.

“The Killing Of Karen Silkwood: The Story Behind the Kerr-McGee Plutonium Case.”

Written by: Richard Rashke
Narrated by: Karen White
Length: 15 hrs and 48 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:11-12-14
The audiobook is extremely well done with a Southern accent.

“Richard Rashke leads us through the myriad of charges and countercharges, theories and facts, and reaches conclusions based solely on the evidence in hand. Originally published in 1981, his audiobook offers a vivid, edgy picture of the tensions that racked this country in the 1970s. However, the volume is not only an important historical document. Complex, fascinating characters populate this compelling insider's view of the nuclear industry. The issues it explores - whistle-blowers, worker safety, the environment, and nuclear vulnerability - have not lost relevance today.”

Understanding the continuing, and worsening, dangers of nuclear power - more audiolinks.

Amidst the summer 2016 Presidential campaigns, the EPA proposed raising the 'allowable' public exposure levels from radiation releases caused by a mishap or disaster.

New Changes To EPA Safe Drinking Water Act:
1) May Allow Higher Residual Radioactivity From Fracking Catastrophies
2) Raises Contamination Levels After Accidents Far Beyond Health and Safety
3) Allows Higher Radioactive Contamination Levels In The SDWA at your tap!

SDWA under attack!
Over 62,405 comments were submitted by close of Public comment period.

Fairewinds Energy Education Arnie and Maggie Gundersen posted this comment to EPA.

“Fairewinds Energy Education has prepared this brief report in response to the EPA’s suggested changes to its Radiation Protective Action Guidelines (PAGs). Specifically, the EPA is suddenly recommending a huge increase to 'allowable' public exposure levels from radiation releases caused by a mishap or disaster at an atomic reactor, waste storage site, fuel production site, etc.”

“Fairewinds Energy Education’s scientific review of the data has found no evidence or basis in science to allow such a health compromising transfer of risk to everyone living in the United States. Therefore, Fairewinds Energy Education strongly objects to the implementation of these proposed rule changes that will compromise public health and safety and benefit atomic corporations by allowing a significant reduction in each corporation’s mandated cleanup of costly radiation catastrophes.”

“The EPA is proposing that levels of 500 millirem per year are acceptable in radioactively contaminated water for general public consumption and an increase to 100 millirem per year of exposure levels to pregnant women and young children. These levels far exceed EPA’s acceptable risk range for cancer causing radiation exposure levels.”

“According the National Academy of Science Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VII) report, the EPA is bound by the linear non-threshold (LNT) radiation theory. BEIR VII is clear that there is no safe limit for radiation exposure and that radiation damage to civilians increases in a direct proportion to the amount of radiation they receive.”

“A comprehensive review of available bio-logical and biophysical data supports a 'linear-no-threshold' (LNT) risk model, that the risk of cancer proceeds in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.”

“The EPA proposal to increase the PAG limits 100-fold is a direct violation of BEIR VII and the governing federal statute authorizing the EPA. According to BEIR VII, Americans will receive the corresponding 100-fold increase in radiation damage if the EPA is allowed to violate federal law and implement the guideline changes it is promoting.”

Yes, the 'official' public comment period has closed… even though large numbers of organizations in Canada asked for a 60 day extension for public review of the proposed health and safety protections by the EPA.

But it's not over! This Food & Water Watch petition is simple, straightforward!

Comparing Airplanes And Bananas

Referring back to the impacts to the Pacific Ocean food chain and the Southern California Bluefin Tuna episode of confusion in the Press regarding Cs-137: “The amounts the fish carried were minuscule - far less, ounce for ounce, than the amount of naturally occurring radiation in a banana.“

Except that it was Cesium 137 and not naturally occurring Potassium, which is a building block of the human body!

Going back to 2011, 3 months after Fukushima, in an interview with Chris Martensen, Arnie Gundersen discusses types of radiation contamination.
Listen (runtime 22m:26s):

Arnie Gundersen: There are three kinds of radioactive material: there are gamma rays: initially when the nuclear reactors blew they emitted large clouds of xenon and krypton gases. Those are noble gases. They don’t react with your skin or anything but they emit gamma rays. So the readings you saw with people walking around with the Geiger counters were from essentially being in a cloud of gamma rays hitting them from the outside. And that’s significant but it is also dispersed over your entire body. To my mind, the bigger problem, are the two ways that radioactive material decays and those are called beta particles and alpha particles. They don’t travel as far but they have an enormous amount more energy than a gamma ray. So if they lie on your skin, you are just fine. You can wash it off and life goes on. The problem is if they get inside they can selectively go to an organ and bombard a very small piece of tissue with a lot of exposure and potentially cause a cancer and that is what we call a hot particle.

All of these particles are radioactive. But when you talk about contamination it means almost always that one of these particles gets attached to an organ and begins to bombard that organ.
Note: “Arnie Gundersen is an energy advisor with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience. A former nuclear industry senior vice president, he earned his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in nuclear engineering, holds a nuclear safety patent, and was a licensed reactor operator. During his nuclear industry career, Arnie managed and coordinated projects at 70-nuclear power plants around the country. He currently speaks on television, radio, and at public meetings on the need for a new paradigm in energy production.”

2016 onward- Why you should be concerned about radiation in seafood, or radioactive drinking water.

Two weeks ago PEER filed a lawsuit... “It is outrageous that EPA put a plan out for public comment while hiding the key parts of its proposal,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the proposed PAGs have elicited more than 60,000 public comments, with opposition exceeding support by a ratio of roughly ten-thousand-to-one."

PEER - 2016 Lawsuit to Bare Full Range of EPA Radiation Rollback: By Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility - Washington, DC October 24, 2016.

“EPA should withdraw this irresponsible plan radically hiking allowable radioactivity in our drinking water.”

"For the few radionuclides disclosed in the current proposal, the concentrations are up to several thousand times higher than levels EPA has historically said are acceptably safe. For strontium-90, the proposed “acceptable concentration” for adults is 925 times higher than the longstanding Safe Drinking Water Act limits. For iodione-131, the PAG is 3,450 times higher."

For other non-disclosed radionuclides, according to internal EPA documents obtained by PEER in a previous FOIA lawsuit, a person would receive a lifetime dosage from a small glass of water. Those documents state that concentrations proposed during the last days of the Bush administration “would exceed MCLs [Maximum Contaminant Limits of the Safe Drinking Water Act] by a factor of 100, 1000, and in two instances, 7 million.” It is precisely those numbers for the current plan that the PEER lawsuit seeks to produce.

In July 2016, the Pubic comment period closed: Despite public consternation about the plan, EPA had employed troubling hide-the-ball ploys, such as –

• EPA removed from the electronic portal for comments ( the boxes for commenters to include their names, an extraordinary move that reduces specific public input from a range of experts, cities and even states as coming from "anonymous" sources; and

• EPA took the unexplained step of requiring all documents submitted to be in full (no urls) while imposing a limit of ten megabytes per attachment.

“EPA Hiding True Impacts and Limiting Public Comment on Radioactive Water Plan”

"Tritium, the radioactive isotope and bi-product of nuclear power generation, is making headlines with notable leaks at 75% of all the reactors in the United States."

Just like water! Tritium irradiated water!

"Fairewinds Energy Education has reached out to international radiation expert Dr. Ian Fairlie to clear up the false assurances and scientific denial spread by the nuclear industry. Dr. Ian Fairlie, confirms the magnitude and true risk of tritium to the human body in its three various forms: tritiated water, tritiated air, and organically bound tritium."

Listen for 41 minutes as Fairewinds Energy Education with Annie Gunderson speaks with renowned British scientist, Dr. Ian Fairlie, confirming the magnitude and true risk of tritium to the human body in its three various forms: tritiated water, tritiated air, and organically bound tritium. (April 2016)

"Tritium is the radioactive isotope of hydrogen. It is emitted from or created during all nuclear fissions. It is ubiquitous near a power station. It’s either emitted into the air or dumped into the ground or discharged into water courses."

"Tritium is essential to nuclear weapons as a trigger enhancer with a half life of 12 years. Water is H2O. Well, tritiated water, one of those H’s – or sometimes both – is radioactive. You have effectively radioactive water. Air is water vapor. Geiger counters are ineffective when it comes to tritium."

"Most people would say that tritium is a weak emitter. Well, they’re wrong. What they’re doing is they’re being misleading because once tritium is inside you, it doesn’t matter that its range is low. It’s certainly low enough for getting into DNA."

"The biological half life of tritium – tritiated water in humans – is about 10 days. But the biological half life of organically bound tritium, that is when the tritium is bound to carbon – is more like a couple of years. In other words, parts of it are emitted fairly quickly, within say 40, 50, 60 days. But part of it stays around for a long time. For humans, we think it’s about roughly between 2-1/2 to 3 years. So this is a real problem. What it means in practice is that the dose that you get from organically bound tritium is about five times greater than the dose you get from the tritiated water. I’ll repeat that – five times more hazardous."

Visit Fairewinds Energy Education:

Fairewinds Energy Education is an educational hub for fact-based, undistorted nuclear energy information.

Fukushima continues to spew and/or pour out radioactive particles impacting environments globally. Seafood, drinking water, the air we breathe…

Cesium does not wash out of soils. The rains take it deeper, and as the years go by soil becomes more toxic, the plants subsequently take it up, then humans consume hot particles. (data from impacted communities of shore cultures around the Irish Sea – radioactive toxic nightmares from 60 years of discharges by the nuclear reprocessing plants in France and Great Britain - La Hague and Sellafield).

There is an acceptable baseline measurement Chernobyl Cesium-137 in Korean seaweeds. In June 2012 there was 'Breaking News' as South Korea banned 35 Japanese seafood products due to Fukushima radiation fears. South Korea placed a temporary import ban on 35 Japanese seafood products because of fears of lingering radiation contamination from the previous year’s devastating nuclear disaster.

In June 2011, the Korean Government had made a quick wrap of the situation in their report titled: Report of the Korean Government Response to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident. Lots of assurances, that all was well in Korea, “Unnecessary to feel concern about domestic inflow of the radioactivity from Japan”. But the August 2011 Korean government Policy Report 00, using 2008-2009 research from South Korea shows the constant presence of Cesium (normal levels in seaweed).

Buried deep on page 24 is the “Table of the: Analysis Status of Radioactivity Concentrations in the Domestic Environmental Samples in Response to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident (as of May 31, 2011) and after the column for Investigation Results is a column titled 'Remark' (Normal Level). The normal levels for seaweed are known to show the presence of Cesium.”

Honoring The Legacy Of Karen Gay Silkwood
Tomas DiFiore

By invoking the 'Copyright Disclaimer' Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights- Fair use: Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

If you or anyone wish to use copyrighted material from this article for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Tomas DiFiore

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