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Nuclear Neighborhoods: 11,000 Generations

A call for art, poetry, photographs, posters, memorabilia
in
Remembrance of the Dawn of the Atomic Age

Gathered below are images, some from the original Particles on the Wall Project and others from Iowa's Nuclear Neighborhood.  The narrative paragraphs are provided as an introduction of the themes to be explored by the Nuclear Neighborhood project.  Some of the images below will be included in the project displays, but we want to build out from these and make the project relevant to Iowa and to be contributed to by Iowans.

The project is seeking works of art, poetry, photographs, and even artifacts that reflect the themes hinted at in the lines below.  This is all fact-based but facts require interpretation in human terms.  There are important concepts  that tables of data alone cannot convey.  We are calling on Iowans to consider submissions to this project.

Contact us at info@psriowa.org to discuss ideas you may have or specifics of making submissions.

Generally, materials will need to be suitable for displaying on a wall and be six square feet or less (i.e., 2 ft x 3 ft).  There will be very limited ability to display submissions, such as sculptures or three dimensional objects on tables. 

Venues will include:

  • The month of August 2013--simultaneous displays on the North Wall on the second floor of the Iowa City Library and the Hardin Medical Library in the main reading room.
  • The month of September 2013 at the Kendall Gallery in the Main lobby of the Iowa Memorial Union.
  • A variety of local businesses, where some items may be sold.

Submission deadline July 20, 2013



"The Secret" of Hanford Released
 

The atomic age was introduced to the world by the detonation an atomic bomb over two Japanese cities in August 1945.  There were 150,000 deaths outright and another 340,000 died over the next four years from delayed effects of radiation exposure.

 
Plutonium bomb, Nagasaki 09AUG1945


Commemorative Stamp
 

Early in the atomic age peaceful uses of the atom (Atoms for Peace program) were promoted, as counterpoint to the horror visited upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Civilian uses of the atom were pursued, but principally to generate electricity using the energy released from atomic fission to boil water and generate electricity.

   

Hanford B Reactor
 
The use of atomic fission to release tremendous amounts of energy has been conflated with beneficial uses of radiation.  While radiation can be immediately lethal, cause cancer, or genetic damage, radiation can be used in beneficial ways including medical therapeutics and diagnostics, food sterilization, scientific measurements, and a variety of industrial  applications.  For these beneficial uses of radiation, a little bit goes a long way.  Radiation resulting from nuclear bombs and from creation of nuclear waste from nuclear power reactors is tremendous.

   

Great Minds in Troubled Times

 
Despite the promise of Atoms for Peace," nuclear weapons development accelerated, with development of ever more powerful bombs.  The main civilian use of splitting the atom is to generate electricity but at the increasingly serious consequence of creation of very highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel that will require one million years to decay to safe levels.  In this beneficial use of the atom, too much radiation is becoming an unbearable burden.

 
Hydrogen Bomb
1000 times stronger than the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombs.

Occupational Hazards
 
Only gradually did the consequences of the atomic age of mining uranium ore on the rights of indigenous peoples, miners, leaving mine tailings in watersheds, enriching uranium-235 to fuel reactors, creating plutonium in military reactors, reprocessing the irradiated fuel to extract and enrich plutonium, workers health, dealing with chemically and radiologically toxic waste streams, and inability to dispose of high level nuclear waste

 
Thorium Processing, Worker at Ames Lab 1950's

Hanford, Site W -- Collage
 
Worse, the military use of the atom by way of using enriched uranium in special military reactors to optimally produce plutonium has created tremendous volumes of high level radioactive waste in liquid form hence the horror of sites like Hanford and Savannah River.  The Hanford site in central Washington state is the worst toxic clean-up site in the Western Hemisphere.  It is this reality that gave birth to the Particles on the Wall project by the Washington Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility as a very human cry from the heart.

   

Map of total radiation fallout on the U.S. from Nevada bomb tests.
 
The atomic age has taken us far down a path from which there is no certain return.  Yet we are still racing down this path, unable to face the a growing pile of waste 70-years high.  We are now all downwinders and downstreamers.  Humankind is facing a legacy of a kind of waste that will require management, for a very long time, be it for 100 thousand or one million years, for human civilizations that is forever.  If we stop now, 11,000 generations will pass before our descendants are free of this burden.

 
Trail of Tears

So far the Crocuses have always bloomed