Drinking Nuclear Waste in Albuquerque: They hope you’ll stay silent

mountains

By Dave McCoy, Citizen Action

Sandia National Laboratory( SNL) and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) are trying to pull off what some people would call an environmental crime. SNL wants to leave high level nuclear, mixed waste in unlined pits and trenches in a dump that is contaminating our drinking water aquifer.  The Environment Department has expressed willingness to grant a certificate that no cleanup of the Mixed Waste Landfill is necessary.  The high level wastes will remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years contaminating soil, air and water. These are among the most dangerous wastes on the planet – Plutonium, Americium, Depleted Uranium, Uranium-235, Mercury, Tritium, Beryllium, Sodium, TCE, PCBs and hundreds of other radionuclides, solvents and heavy metals.

High Level Waste that comes from irradiating nuclear fuel in a reactor is supposed to be contained in a deep geologic repository where it will remain safe for at least 10,000 years.  The Department of Energy, Sandia and the Environment Department know that they are breaking environmental laws and regulations by not keeping these wastes contained and safe for human health and the environment. It’s all about Lockheed Martin/Sandia and the Department of Energy saving and making money.

Sandia and the Environment Department have kept a big secret from the public.  For decades, Sandia and the Environment Department told the public that only low level radioactive mixed waste was put into the Mixed Waste Landfill (MWL).  It was a big lie. Radioactive waste in the dump is from the Nevada Test Site, the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown, Kwajalein atomic bomb tests, Kirtland AFB and commercial nuclear reactor meltdown tests performed at Sandia.

During the 1970s and 80s dozens of commercial nuclear fuel meltdown experiments were conducted in Sandia’s ACRR nuclear reactor.  The meltdown experiments were conducted under various acronyms such as STAR, TRAN, EEOS, DF, FD and Debris Bed.  The public was never informed of the names of these experiments and that high level radioactive wastes from the experiments was disposed of in the MWL dump.  Sandia claimed that only low level mixed waste was in the MWL and the Environment Department gave permission to leave the waste under a dirt cover.

The fresh and irradiated fuel for the meltdown experiments came from around the world.  The fuel was put into steel canisters and subjected to extreme temperatures that melted and puddled inside the canisters placed in the core of the ACRR reactor.  Some fuel was so hot that it vaporized and plated the inside of the canisters.  Some of the extremely radioactive canisters also contained highly corrosive metallic sodium and were placed into pits into the classified area of the MWL.  Some canisters were put into small diameter holes drilled into the bottom of the MWL trenches.  The canisters containing spent fuel and sodium can explode from corrosion that would allow moisture to enter the canister.  Wastes were dumped into trenches and pits in cardboard boxes, plastic bags, and drums that are breaking up and corroding in the dump.  Recent soil gas surveys show that volatile organic such as TCE and PCE have reached the groundwater.

Sandia was required by law to perform a 5-year review in 2010 for the feasibility of excavating these dangerous wastes.  But Sandia and the Environment Department cut a secret, closed door deal to postpone any excavation review for 14 years.  While a lawsuit is pending about the delay, Sandia filed a Certification request, which the Environment Department intends to approve, so that Sandia will never to do any cleanup of the wastes.   The Environment Department knows further that the groundwater monitoring network at the dump has been defective at all times up to the present so that contamination isn’t detected.  (EPA Region 6 2007, EPA Inspector General 2012).  The dirt cover is not protective for the millennia that the dump’s wastes will remain lethal.  (TechLaw, Inc. 2006)

ACTION ALERT: Protect our Aquifer: Demand Nuclear Clean Up

Contact New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) John Kieling at email  john.kieling@state.nm.us

(1) Demand a public hearing on this matter. 

(2) Demand that NMED order denial of the Certificate of Completion and

(3)  NMED order Sandia to clean up and safely store the MWL waste.

For more information contact Dave McCoy, at Citizen Action at www.radfreenm.org or call 505-262-1862

Flash in the Pan: Fat and Flavor

butter

by Ari Levaux

The dark, cold days are here and fat is in season. The just past holidays and the accompanying onslaught of rich feasts present an opportunity to think about fat, and there is much to consider these days. I used to assume that we ate more fat in winter because our bodies wanted to pack on some extra insulation against the cold, but the evidence in support of this seemingly obvious notionthat dietary fat leads to weight gainis being challenged. And beyond the relationship between fat and health, it’s beginning to look like other deeply-held beliefs about fat might be wrong as well.

Long considered a threat to public health, some recent books, such as Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz, and before that Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, have challenged the idea that dietary fat is the cause of obesity, heart disease and other associated ailments. Big Fat Surprise was lauded by the Economist (among other media), which called it 2014’s “most surprising diet book.” Both Teicholz and Taubes argue that low-fat and non-fat diets, rather than fat, are behind the rise in obesity and related diseases. And Teicholz makes a strong case that fat, especially saturated fat, is actually good for you. As we speak, many government agencies, like USDA, which have long championed low-fat diets, are tip-toeing away from their anti-fat stances.

Other shifts in our understanding of fat are underway as well. One such aspect, much less discussed, is the science of how fat is perceived by the body.

A friend of mine who went to cooking school was fond of saying, “fat is flavor.” This idea has infiltrated the restaurant industry to the point where recipes for many dishes might as well be written as, “Heat edible materials, add butter, and serve.” This isn’t the most nuanced of culinary strategies, but it works.

According to traditional scientific understanding of flavor perception, however, fat doesn’t have any flavor. This isn’t to say that anyone ever claimed fatty foods aren’t deliciousthat is beyond debate. But it was thought that other qualities of fat made this so. It’s long been understood that the texture of fat, and the creamy, viscous, lubricating qualities that it imparts to food, are what makes the food to which it is added taste better and easier to chew and swallow.

But flavor is a specific metric, a combination of tastewhat is perceived by the tongueand smell. And fat, until recently, was thought to contain neither taste nor smell. But thanks to some new research, it looks like the cooks might have been right all along.

Earlier this year, researchers at the Monell Center, a non-profit institute dedicated to research on taste and smell, reported evidence that humans can smell fat. And in the last few years, fat receptors on the human tongue have been discovered and confirmed by other research teams, which indicates humans can taste fat.

If we can taste it and smell it, then it has flavor.

Whether by taste, smell, or texture, our attraction to fats has been widely assumed to stem from the fact that fat is the most calorie-dense type of food we eat. Our hunting, gathering, and often hungry ancestors were programmed to eat as much fat as they could find, goes the logic, and this genetic disposition remains to this day. Fat is also crucially important to brain development in children, and according to Teicholz’s research, a lot of other bodily functions too. In this context, the existence of fat taste receptors makes a lot of sense.

But in a surprising twist, the fats to which these receptors are tuned taste bad, not good. They detect free fatty acids, which are found in large quantities in rancid fats. Rancid fats, which can be poisonous, are worth avoiding, which is why they taste bad.

By contrast, the form of fat that is so pleasing in our mouths (and more subtly, our noses) is a type of fat in which the fatty acids are bound into molecules called triglycerides, which comprise most of the fats we eat.

Thus, it appears we’re programmed to be attracted to the triglyceride form of fat, while being repulsed by free fatty acids. But there’s yet another rub: when we chew those yummy, non-toxic triglycerides, enzymes in our saliva break them down and release the dreaded free fatty acids.

Richard Mattes, a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University, has researched and published extensively on fat perception. He told me he believes there is a delicate balance at work here. A small quantity of free fatty acids, coupled with the glorious mouthfeel (and subtle smell) of triglycerides, tells the body that this is good stuff to eat. But too many free fatty acids triggers a rejection of the food in question.

To a certain extent, Mattes said, we can be trained to tolerate higher levels of fatty acids. Stinky cheeses, he pointed out, have a characteristic foul element to their flavors due to high levels of free fatty acids. But we’re able to learn to accept those free fatty acids in this context because we know that stinky cheese won’t kill us, and actually tastes pretty good if one can get over the fatty acid taste (not to mention the stink).  But the same amount of fatty acids in, say, a glass of milk would be a red flag.

These fatty acid taste receptors aren’t just present in the mouth, but in other parts of the body as well, including muscle, skin, blood, spleen, intestine, and brain cells. Free fatty acids are the breakdown products of triglycerides, and it is thought that these receptors are widely dispersed in the body so the various tissues can detect and appropriately deal with the free fatty acids that result from fat consumption.

So one doesn’t just taste fat in one’s mouth, but in one’s whole body. While we don’t consciously experience pleasure when our spleen detects a free fatty acid, this revelation suggests a broader level of meaning to the idea of taste perception. One thing that all of these new developments haven’t changed is that eating fat makes us happy, which is especially important during this dark, dreary time of year. On that note, could you please pass the mayo?

GMOs in the News: EPA Approves Dow’s “Enlist Duo”—AGAIN!

corn-field

By Stephanie Davio, Beyond Pesticides

Despite overwhelming opposition, last fall EPA gave Dow AgroSciences the green light to release Enlist Duo™ on a new wave of genetically-engineered (GE) crops in six states (IL, IN, IA, OH, SD, WI). At the same time, EPA announced that it was accepting comments on the expansion of Enlist Duo’s registration to 10 additional states (AR, KS, LA, MN, MO, MS, NE, OK, TN, ND).

Dow’s new formulation is a combination of the herbicides 2,4-D (a legacy chemical that was one-half of Agent Orange) and glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup, the herbicide responsible for widespread “superweed” resistance), posing significant health and environmental threats.

2,4-D is associated with increased cancer risks, especially for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is also a potent neurotoxin and hormone-disruptor. Studies show that exposure to 2,4-D is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, reduced sperm count, and birth defects.

2,4-D also has a tendency to drift, and despite claims by Dow that the version of 2,4-D used in Enlist Duo™ is less prone to move off-site, the risk from increased 2,4-D use threatens non-GE and organic crops, endangered species, clean water, and other non-target sites.

Though environmental and human health groups like Beyond Pesticides have joined together and filed legal challenges to the registration of this toxic chemical in the first six states, EPA continues to move forward without adequate assessment of Enlist Duo’s human health and environmental impacts.

An unprecedented increase in 2,4-D would inevitably pose risks to public health, farmers, and the environment. Comments by the EPA were taken through mid-December. Contact Beyond Pesticides at www.beyondpesticides.org for more information and to learn about the next steps to protect our farmlands and future generations from this toxic “Duo.”

How to Keep Those “Eat Better” New Year’s Resolutions

healthy-bowl

By Katherine Mullé

New Year’s is a time of new resolutions and new goals. Whether you simply feel a little sluggish from all the extra indulgences over the holidays, or you want to make positive and lasting changes to your diet, eating wholesome food can help you cultivate a healthy lifestyle. As a senior at UNM, my ongoing goal is to resist much of the junk food I’m surrounded with, and thankfully having the Nob Hill Co-op right down the road helps encourage me to eat better. But of course, any goal big enough to set as our New Year’s resolution is easier said than done! Here are some tips to cultivating a healthy lifestyle for this New Year (and many more!).

Start small. Don’t quit anything cold turkey, and don’t take on too much right away. Set realistic goals for yourself that present small, not large, challenges to start off. As you see yourself accomplishing your smaller goals, your confidence and determination will build and you’ll likely be excited to stretch your goals further!

Focus on your additions rather than your limitations. Rather than focusing on the foods that you can’t have or want to avoid, focus on what you want to eat more of. Simply drinking more water, jogging for an extra few minutes, eating a few more servings of fruits and veggies, or investing in a few more local and organic items can do wonders for your body. You’ll find that as you start to eat more of the foods that are healthy for you, by default you’ll stop eating the foods that aren’t as healthy (or at least not have as much of them if you eat your veggies first!).

Plan and prepare your food. Having precut fruits and veggies in your fridge or freezer will allow you to reach for a healthy snack rather than something quick, prepackaged and likely unhealthy. In the same way, having a rough idea of what your meals will be for the week will allow you to prepare ahead of time to make sure you have everything you need.

Live in the moment. Don’t berate yourself if you give into temptation at work and eat that donut in the morning or a vending machine snack at lunch, and don’t think it means your whole day is ruined and you’ll have to start again tomorrow. Treat your very next snack or meal as a fresh start. The same concept applies to the year as a whole—if your resolutions aren’t going so well a few months into 2015, don’t give up! You don’t need a new year, month, week, or day to start fresh—you only need a new moment.

Be kind to yourself. Realize that your body is your home. You want to treat it well and feed it the right foods out of love and respect for it. If there’s something about yourself that you would like to change, recognize that you will change (both physically and mentally!) as you start to eat healthier, and that you can truly have the health and lifestyle that you crave! Now that’s a craving worth satisfying.

For more information, tips, recipes, and tools to help you cultivate a healthy lifestyle, visit www.lamontanita.coop or check out our Facebook page. Happy New Year, and happy eating!

Fresh Winter Produce: Veritable Vegetable and Our Shared Values

veggies

By Ro D’Atillo, Nob Hill and Valley Produce Team Leader

One thing that makes La Montanita’s produce department and its wide variety of organic produce different from the natural foods and corporate chain supermarkets is the distributor we use, Veritable Vegetable (VV).   La Montanita is proud of its 20+ year partnership with VV, a women-owned and operated company based in San Francisco. VV buys and sells produce from 200+ small to mid-sized organic farms in California and beyond. Read More