PSR Leader's statement to Kansas City Council
Ann Suellentrop, MSRN
June 22, 2011
Statement of Ann C. Suellentrop M.S.R.N.
Ordinance: Production of nuclear weapons components prohibited
Kansas City Council - Planning, Zoning & Economic Development Committee
June 8, 2011
My name is Ann Suellentrop and I work for KC Metro Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility or PSR. PSR is a national organization founded in 1961, a medical and public health voice working to prevent the use or spread of nuclear weapons and to slow, stop and reverse global warming and toxic degradation of the environment.
There can no longer exist simply the economic bottom line. There is a triple bottom line we must take into account: the health and environmental effects, as well as the financial aspects, of a project.
The production of nuclear weapons components is a dirty business. That's why Congress set up a program at the turn of the century (called the EEOICPA) that reimburses nuclear workers up to $400,000 and a medical card to pay for expenses related to their illness. There is a list of several hundred workers from the KC Plant who have died at relatively young ages from brain tumors, pancreatic cancer, leukemia and other catastrophic illnesses. We know that workers brought home toxins which even caused the death of their spouses. It is very sad to see the workers at our Town Halls who have worked at the KC Plant their whole lives, and now when they are ready to retire they are on oxygen around the clock and are struggling to pay $3,000 a month for their medications. Some have gone into bankruptcy, had their house foreclosed and had their marriage break up from the stress.
I just want to briefly describe three poisonous substances that are commonly used at the KC Plant, out of the hundreds used there. The first is beryllium. It has been used for decades in the manufacture of parts for nuclear weapons because it is such a hard metal. But people who inhale even a tiny speck of it are put at risk of catastrophic lung disease and cancerous effects on other parts of the body as well. The problem is that the illness berylliosis may not show any symptoms for many years after the exposure.
Bisphenol A or BPA is an organic compound used with a variety of plastic and foam products produced at the Plant. It is an endocrine disruptor which mimics the body's own hormones & affects the reproductive system. It is especially harmful to babies and children.
Benzene is an organic chemical compound, a basic petrochemical. It is used for cleaning at the KC Plant and is associated with cancers and leukemia. The American Petroleum Institute stated in 1948 that is it generally considered that the only absolutely safe concentration for benzene is zero. Benzene targets the liver, kidney, lung, heart and brain and can cause DNA strand breaks and chromosomal damage.
Honeywell, the Federal General Services Administration, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Energy do not have a good record of protecting workers, the soil, air or water at the old plant. Why should we trust them in the new plant? A recent article in the KC Star stated that the KC Plant even today has five times the level of beryllium as do other Dept. of Energy nuclear weapons sites around the country. The EPA declared in 1989 that 15 super fund sites exist at the current Bannister Federal Complex, yet seemingly no one knew this until the Star reported it in February of 2010. And how could a day care center possibly have been built 15 years ago at the Bannister Federal Complex right next to an electrical power substation, which is a known producer of toxic PCBs (polychlorolbiphenols) and of electromagnetic radiation!
According to Dr. Marcus Iszard, a professor of toxicology at UMKC, this shows a pattern of lack of concern. He also noted there is no uniformity of exposure levels reported, no consistency or standard of measurement in reporting by the agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and others that are monitoring the environmental contaminants. Dr. Iszard said, "So it's impossible to say what is and isn't harmful. The only safe level is zero. These are poisons and they will kill you. Not right away but they will kill you. And the workers were not informed or protected. Science and technology constantly change; what we thought was ok a long time ago turned out not to be safe. So what we think is ok today may turn out to be deadly. Also, the effects of combinations of poisons have not yet been studied. If you think it's safe to make parts for nuclear weapons, it's a lack of vision for the future."
There are people who live just 1 mile north of the new KC Plant. I've gone door to door in that neighborhood and there are children, pregnant women and elderly people who live there. You don't have to be a Master's prepared Pediatric Nurse like me to know that these populations are very vulnerable to toxins. We know that miscarriages and birth defects increase on exposure to many substances, medications and poisons. Most of the people I talked to living near the new Plant had no idea what was being built just down the road. People have a right to know what is being done in their neighborhood. And they have a right to say NO when their water, air and soil are threatened by deadly cancer-causing pollutants.
And in this particular case, the City, through the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority, actually OWNS the new KC Plant, so citizens definitely have the right to know what is being done with their taxes and to vote on the matter. It is no longer a Federal issue nor is it privately owned, as was admitted in court last fall by a representative from Zimmer Realty. The PIEA is an instrument of the City; its board members are appointed by the Mayor. It is on the city's website in several places and its offices are located within the city. The agreement between the PIEA and Centerpoint Zimmer is signed by the Kansas City Manager. (see http://www.nukewatch.org/KCNukePlant/DEVELOPMENT_AGREEMT-NNSA_Project.pdf). The agreement describes the KC PIEA: “The PIEA, created by section 100.300, et seq., of the Revised Statutes of Missouri 2000, as amended, (“PIEA ACT”) is transacting business and exercising the power granted by the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority Law by virtue of Ordinance No. 34677, duly passed by the City Council of Kansas City, Missouri on May 10, 1974.” Thus it can be clearly shown that the KC PIEA is an agent of and empowered by the City. This deed also makes it clear that the KC PIEA will own the new Kansas City Plant until the bonds are paid back. By extension that means that KCMO owns the Plant. The taxpayers need to know if the city will be liable for worker illnesses that will occur in the years ahead in a new nuclear weapons parts plant.