Warning of Nuclear Risk in Vieques

Marine biologist David Evans, who worked for a company called GEO-Marine from 2001 to 2003 along the Vieques coast, alerted Puerto Rico’s scientific community about nuclear material that may still be found in barrels contained in the USS Killen, a military ship that the U.S. Navy sunk off the Salinas del Sur Bay. Interviewed by Primera Hora, Evans confirmed that he stopped working for GEO-Marine because of ethical issues and since then has been concerned about the contents of the barrels. The ship was used in the Pacific for nuclear experimentation and in the 1970s was brought to the Roosevelt Roads Base in Ceiba and later sunk in shallow waters, half a kilometer from the shore.  

According to the expert, there is cleaning equipment inside some of these barrels, which may contain materials used in nuclear testing. Worse still, the USS Killen was used during military practices in Vieques and contaminated pieces may be strewn throughout bay. Evan expressed serious concerns because the radiological report performed in the area of the vessel did not evaluate the interior of the barrels. Apart from the barrels themselves, says the biologist, he is worried because he knows that parts of the ship are no longer at the site where it was sunk and these pieces may also be contaminated. He explains that, throughout the years, nobody has responded to this question. Puerto Rican chemist Jorge Colón confirms that “no one has ever reported on any studies that look at what these barrels contain,” adding that “It would be good to know.” He explains that “this adds to concerns about the safety of the viequenses when the Navy intends to detonate bombs in the firing area and to burn the highly contaminated vegetation” surrounding it.

Fishermen in Vieques say that the USS Killen is not the only ship that lies on the coast; there are three other boats that may also contain contaminated materials in slightly deeper waters. 

After being decommissioned, the USS Killen was taken to the National Radiological Defense Laboratory (NRDL) at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, for a series of experiments made over two years. It was used during Operation Hardtack in 1958 for target practice with hydrogen bombs. [Three destroyers were used as targets in Operation Hardtack, of which two were towed to Pearl Harbor, and one (USS Killen) was towed to Hunter’s Point.] The “series of tests exposed targets to up to 500 RADs of radiation in less than six hours (exposure to more than one RAD is considered dangerous for humans).”

Apparently, one of the tasks that NRDL completed for weapons testing was building detonation trays constructed of a variety of different materials. The fallout material from the weapons testing was collected in the trays to test the weapons’ effect on the different materials. They also used a number of animals at the weapons sites. The USS Killen was later sunk off of Vieques in Puerto Rico.

For full article, see http://www.primerahora.com/diario/noticia/otras_panorama/noticias/advierten_de_riesgo__nuclear_en_vieques/361209
For more information on the USS Killen and Vieques, see http://www.forusa.org/programs/puertorico/pr_update_1002-3.html

Photo of USS Killen site’s unexploded munitions from http://www.physorg.com/news154171806.html

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