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A Blast from the Past – September 10, 1969 – Project Rulison Fifty Years On – A Series on Project Plowshares – Nuclear Fracking Colorado – Edward Teller’s Defense of Project Plowshares: “We’re Going To Make Miracles”.

August 20, 2019

Stockholm Peace Appeal of 1950. It put pressure on Washington to find a public relations gimmick to soften opposition to nuclear weapons. Project Plowshares was the resulting program.

“Life is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”

― William Shakespeare, Macbeth

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The fiftieth anniversary of Project Rulison, an underground nuclear blast to produce commercially grade natural gas – a kind of nuclear fracking – will take place on September 10, 2019. Some of us involved in protesting the blast will return to Rulison as a part of an effort to make a documentary film on the event. What was Project Rulison and what broader program was it a part of? It was an important moment in the state and nation’s history but so few know anything about it. What follows are a series of articles on flawed attempt to use nuclear bombs for peaceful purposes, of which Project Rulison was an integral episode.

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Project Rulison was an integral part of a much broader program, called “Project Plowshares.” Initiated by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1957, a number of far-reaching plans for the so-called peaceful uses of nuclear energy were then sketched out. They included, among other things, widening the Panama Canal using underground nuclear blasts, mining for copper, building and enlarging harbors in Alaska, extracting oil from shale, and creating cavities into which natural gas would flow that then be sold commercially.

Not one of these projects, thankfully got off the ground. In all of them the danger of long-term radiation contamination were enough to essentially kill each project and eventually, in 1977, Project Plowshares itself was finally formally killed. All three tests involving natural gas extraction were failures, after first being called successes. In the case of Rulison, done on September 10, 2019, the site clean up did not end until 1998, that is close to thirty years after the blast.

The public in the United States in the late 1950s – as elsewhere – was becoming increasingly weary of the consequences of nuclear blasts and becoming more and more suspect that the assurances that nuclear energy could be safely used were unsubstantiated happy talk. An international social movement to end the nuclear arms race, known as the Stockholm Peace Appeal first initiated by the World Peace Council, had struck a chord worldwide despite the fact having been branded as “a propaganda trick in the spurious ‘peace offensive’ of the Soviet Union.”

It enshrined three principles: (1) a total ban on nuclear weapons; (2) the establishment of a control mechanism for the application of the prohibition; and (3) a mandate that all States refrain from launching a first strike, which is a crime against humanity.above ground testing of nuclear weapons. Read more…

August 2019 – A Month of Personal Sadness and It’s Not Over Yet

August 20, 2019

Jorma and Madeline Pesonen – on a ferry to Tallinn, Estonia from Helsinki, Finland. July, 2011

There are the families one is born into…and the one a person makes along the way.

Sadness…

Already four family friends (so far) have died in this month of August, 2019, all from cancer. They made substantial contributions to the common good, to the fate of the earth in their ways, – they did what they could – …and were our friends. Nancy and I miss them all. They are all a part of the fabric of our lives. The fact that they have died won’t change that.

We were in touch with all of them at the end of their life’s journey, doing what we could to “sing their spirits home” – both mourning their loss and celebrating each of their unique lives. And so I recognize them here.
They are:
Harry Patton, our life-long dear friend, Jo Ellen Patton’s brother – Kansas born and bred. Cities – Denver in particular – were too much for Harry and sometime ago, perhaps 25 years he moved to the mountains where he lived in a trailer enjoying the wonders of this state’s breath-taking nature. Harry was very skilled handyman/maintenance man, a careful, talented craftsman. Worked on ranches all over South Park (east of Fairplay) and south of Salida. A gentle soul, very decent and competent. I don’t have a photo of Harry, but I hope to get one and post it.
Jorma Pesonen – In the years we lived in Finland Jorma headed up the Finnish chapter of Amnesty International. Nancy and Jorma’s wife, Madeline, who met in the Helsinki suburb of Kaivoksela where both families lived,  became life-long friends. When we returned to Finland for a month in 2011, we stayed at their apartment and the four of us, Jorma, Madeline, Nancy and I took a memorable 3-4 day trip to Tallinn, Estonia. Nancy and Madeline have stayed in touch by letters, email for the now near thirty years since we left Finland.

Daniel Lowenstein’s work, displayed recently at Westside Books.

Daniel Lowenstein – not just a Facebook but a real life friend and neighbor. Daniel was an outstanding life-long artist from a highly cultured Denver family. One of the sons of Henry Lowenstein – a Colorado theater icon – Daniel and wife Cathy were a wonderful team, concerned about pretty much all the world’s ills but with great attention to the biggest of them all – climate change. His paintings hung for several weeks at Westside Books. He was also a sculptor and designed theater sets.

Ellen Slatkin – My memory of meeting Ellen and her close friend Barbara Puls is decidely distinct although some 38 years ago.  It was in the summer of 1981. I had just returned from what had been a rough, gut-wrenching trip to Lebanon and Syria the year prior to the 1982 Israeli invasion. Ellen and Barbara – then young college graduates from Simmons College in Boston – came down the aisle in the auditorium on the Auraria Campus where I was giving a slide presentation to say hello, the beginning of deep friendships among the two of them, Nancy and me.
Along with Nancy, Cathy S., David N., Paul K, Dick A, William W. and a few others, for the decade of the 1980s we were the Colorado Chapter of the U.S. Peace Council, a group of people that is still largely in touch with each other as friends. Ellen was a history prof (like myself “a lecturer”) at Metro State University and spearheaded that facility’s chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. She hails from a Jewish family with deep roots in Denver’s vibrant Jewish Community. She was fiercely loyal and dedicated to her family and to anything and all things humane and progressive.
Her funeral, at the BMH Synagogue, is today (August 20, 2019)

Ellen Slatkin (second from the right) with William Watts, Barbara Puls, and David Nefzger at our booth at the People’s Fair, May 1982.

Political upheaval over Tlaib and Omar shows the power of BDS

August 19, 2019

US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar

Political upheaval over Tlaib and Omar shows the power of BDS 

by Philip Weiss

Reposted from MondoWeiss

We are in the middle of a political upheaval on Israel/Palestine in the United States, and Americans who are concerned with Palestinian human rights live for these moments. They are the moments of potential change: When more tarnish is added to Israel’s image, and Americans get a clearer picture of what the Jewish state actually means for non-Jews under its sovereignty.

Since I’ve been covering the issue there have been several such moments. The Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008-09. The Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014. Netanyahu’s showdowns with Obama over settlements, the Iran deal (2011, 2015). The move of the embassy last year with Israel’s slaughter of some 60 nonviolent protesters at the Gaza fence.

Most of these moments have involved a lot of bloodshed. Palestine had to have a lot of martyrs for anyone over here to even start paying attention. 2200 Palestinians died five years ago — over 500 of them children. Hundreds of brave Gazan protesters have died over the last year (with four NY Timescolumnists approving their killings). Read more…

A Blast from the Past – September 10, 1969 – Project Rulison Fifty Years On – A Series on Project Plowshares – Nuclear Fracking Colorado – Two Government Propaganda Films

August 17, 2019
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The fiftieth anniversary of Project Rulison, an underground nuclear blast to produce commercially grade natural gas – a kind of nuclear fracking – will take place on September 10, 2019. Some of us involved in protesting the blast will return to Rulison as a part of an effort to make a documentary film on the event. What was Project Rulison and what broader program was it a part of? It was an important moment in the state and nation’s history but so few know anything about it. What follows are a series of articles on flawed attempt to use nuclear bombs for peaceful purposes, of which Project Rulison was an integral episode.
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Keep adding materials – YouTubes, links to the articles posted on Facebook. Have found several Atomic Energy Commission (essentially) propaganda films, trying to soften the image of the horror of nuclear weapons. According to Project Plowshares, the overarching program that Project Rulison was a part of, ot only can they incinerate people and whole cities, we were told, but they can help mine for natural gas, build canals and do other wonders. Not one of them ever got beyond the experimental stage.
Nukes TestedI am posting two, both which today easily qualify as propaganda films. They are also on links to my blog entries on the subject.
  • The first one is a Department of Energy film specifically on the Rulison blast. It makes it sound so harmless, so simple… Project Rulison. It was, like the others in the series, a  failure, producing levels of radiation (from the gases produced) that made any commercial use of the resulting natural gas unusable
  • The second, “The Magic Atom” was done by the Atomic Energy Commission. It suggests the viability of using nuclear weapons for 1. natural gas production 2. storing oil reserves underground 3. mining copper 4. creating isotopes 4. building canals, ports 5. tunnels through mountains 6. water management… None of which worked. Had Project Rulison been a success, it was estimated (see Chester McQueary’s comments in the High Country News) that the federal government would have used some 800 nuclear blasts to mine natural gas in the Colorado-Wyoming mountains.

ll the horror, stupidity of Project Plowshares (the overall program of which Rulison was a part) was killed in 1977 by the Jimmy Carter Administration…

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Part One, Two, Three

A Blast from the Past – Project Rulison Fifty Years On – A Series on Project Plowshares – Nuclear Fracking Colorado – 3 – Chester McQueary’s Account of the September 10, 1969 Blast

August 16, 2019

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The fiftieth anniversary of Project Rulison, an underground nuclear blast to produce commercially grade natural gas – a kind of nuclear fracking – will take place on September 10, 2019. Some of us involved in protesting the blast will return to Rulison as a part of an effort to make a documentary film on the event. What was Project Rulison and what broader program was it a part of? It was an important moment in the state and nation’s history but so few know anything about it. This is the third installment of the series.

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What follows is Chester McQueary’s account of being present at Rulison on September 10, 1969 when the Atomic Energy Commission in concert with CER Geonuclear and Austral Oil detonated a 43 kiloton nuclear bomb approximately 8500 ft below the surface. Twenty-five years after the event, McQueary, at the time of the Rulison blast, employed as an organizer for the American Friends Service Committee published this account of the protest that he had helped spearhead. It was published in the High Country News, to this day one of the more interesting and reliable sources of information and analysis of developments throughout the West. Twenty-five years onward, with an intensified nuclear arms race mushrooming before our eyes daily, this account remains relevant, timely. Not surprisingly to me, of the many articles I have read on Project Rulison, this along with a NY Times piece by Peter Metzger (cited in Part 2) are among the best.

McQueary will be back at Rulison September 9-10 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the blast and reflect on what happened there. 

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He felt the earth move when scientists nuked western Colorado

Chester McQueary – December 12, 1994

Twenty-five years ago Americans walked on the moon for the first time, and a federal agency set off an atomic bomb 8,426 feet underground in rural western Colorado.

I was there at 3 p.m. on Sept. 10, 1969, a stowaway on the surface, you might say, when our government detonated the 43-kiloton bomb. It released 2.6 times the destructive power of the bomb we dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

The Atomic Energy Commission chose this spot in western Garfield County because its scientists believed the blast would rip apart tight sandstone formations and instantly release vast stores of natural gas, free for the pumping.

At federally financed laboratories in Los Alamos in New Mexico and Lawrence Livermore in California, scientists were convinced that atoms could be split just as well for peace as for war. Their proposals included setting off atomic bombs to blast a sea-level Central American canal and a new harbor on the northwest Alaska coast. Bombs would also make the Mediterranean Sea rise and freshen so that water could flow to irrigate the Sahara Desert. Physicist Edward Teller saw bombs as giant shovels, or in the case of western Colorado, huge nutcrackers.

What government scientists refused to consider were unintended consequences: What if the natural gas released were radioactive? Could people stand to live near the thousands of blasts envisioned by the agency if Project Rulison, part of Project Plowshare/Peaceful Atom, succeeded?

Perhaps these were trivial questions for an agency that saw itself as rivaling the biblical creator. As AEC chairman Glenn Seaborg put it, “All of humanity’s efforts to restore the Garden of Eden have been futile so far. Man’s machines have not been powerful enough to compete with the forces of nature.” For Seaborg and his colleagues, atom bombs were God-like tools.

Public hearings were held on the project, and at one, David Evans, an expert on natural gas at the Colorado School of Mines, did some AEC calculations out loud. To develop 317 trillion cubic feet of gas as the agency intended, Evans said, 13,000 underground nuclear explosions might be necessary. No one denied this; no one knew for sure.

Compared to ongoing protests against our involvement in the Vietnam war, hearings on Project Rulison were calm. Still, legal challenges and other tangles delayed the blast on the southwest flank of Doghead Mountain, in the Battlement Creek valley, from May until September.

Then the AEC got serious, designating a five-mile-radius quarantine zone around the site down which the bomb was lowered. Families living inside the zone were paid a pittance to move out of their homes for the day. An AEC spokesman said that the agency’s deep concern for public health and safety would not permit the bomb’s detonation with people inside the quarantine zone.

For some of us who had opposed this bizarre scheme from the start, that statement sounded like a deal we couldn’t refuse. So in early September, 11 of us took the AEC at its word and entered the quarantine zone.

Weather conditions which might have carried vented radiation into Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction or other population centers delayed the $11 million blast day by day for a week. That gave us the chance to become more familiar with the terrain.

Chester McQueary

On Wednesday, Sept. 10, the go-ahead was given, and we scattered over the mountain in twos and threes, so that we could not all be removed in one fell swoop by authorities. We listened on portable radios to the countdown for the blast being broadcast on Rifle’s KWSR.

At 30 minutes before blast time, we set off smoke flares to confirm for AEC officials that we were still on the mountain and inside the quarantine zone. A blue, twin-rotor Air Force helicopter soon hovered 50 feet above the aspen clearing where Margaret Puls and I stood. Men in the open door gestured and shouted inaudibly at us. They could not land on the steep slope safely, and we had no intention of being passively taken off the mountain so the AEC could then claim that they had lived up to their word regarding a human-free quarantine zone. Since they’d known of our presence on the mountain for nearly a week, we wondered if some sort of special forces might suddenly slide down ropes from the helicopter doors.

But the helicopter flew off, and we followed the instructions of scientists we’d consulted: We moved large rocks nearby that could bounce and possibly injure us in the shock wave. Then we lay down positioned so our feet, knees and arms would absorb the shock and motion. Each of us wore a common lab radiation badge encasing a piece of unexposed film in case the blast two miles away vented to the surface.

As the countdown reached zero we lay on the ground, afraid and wondering what would happen.

Then a mighty WHUMP! and a long rumble moved through the earth, lifting us eight inches or more in the air. We felt aftershocks as we lay there looking at each other, grateful that we were still breathing and all in one piece.

Seismic detectors at the National Earthquake Center in Golden registered 5.5 on the Richter scale. When we stood up, we looked around quickly for signs of venting and saw a cloud of dust coming our way from the west. But a closer look with binoculars proved it was dust from one of the many fallen cliff faces. Although many boulders in vulnerable positions in this part of Colorado may have been resting for many centuries, that day they moved. And some far below the surface literally melted in the atomic reaction temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun.

The aftermath

We were never arrested nor confronted, and two friends who had been apprehended and removed by helicopter from the mountain before the blast were released without charges. We assumed the AEC and its corporate partners, CER Geonuclear and Austral Oil, wished to avoid the publicity and further debate that a trial would bring.

Months later Project Rulison was judged a failure. The gas it produced was too radioactive for safe use. Nonetheless, the AEC proceeded with plans for its next project: exploding three 30-kiloton bombs, separated by several hundred feet and detonated milliseconds apart. On May 17, 1973, the 90-kiloton Project Rio Blanco in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin was detonated, this time with a 7.5-mile quarantine zone. Three bombs were not better than one; Project Rio Blanco was another awesome, expensive, dangerous failure.

During the past year, Energy Department Secretary Hazel O’Leary released documents which show that the atomic energy establishment for decades has behaved as if the human population and all living systems are its rightful guinea pigs. From feeding plutonium to unknowing children to deliberate releases of radioactive clouds at Hanford, Wash., and Los Alamos, N.M., to the hundreds of nuclear tests in Nevada and at the Pacific/Eniwetok test sites, the atomic establishment showed it would stop at nothing.

In the long 50 years of the nuclear age, “scientists’ have not had the integrity, courage or decency to acknowledge publicly the enormous damage they have done to present and future generations. Instead they hide behind the wall of secrecy called “national security.” When they are forced into the open by court proceedings or congressional hearings, they routinely weasel-word or lie.

An exception is John Gofman, a scientist and member of the original Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, which developed the atomic bomb.

In an interview with Carole Gallagher, author of the book American Ground Zero, Gofman said, “The nuclear establishment will not tolerate that nuclear radiation is dangerous, and that’s not limited only to the United States. It’s true in the Soviet Union, France, Great Britain. At every opportunity you see them struggling to make it safe on paper. I wouldn’t give you two cents for any of them. They’re the scoundrels of the earth … Basically, I wouldn’t believe anything written by the Department of Defense or the Department of Energy.”

What we have been permitted to know is surely the tip of the iceberg. As Dan Reicher, an assistant to Energy Secretary O’Leary, says, “Every time you turn over a new document, there’s a $5 billion problem.”

Had the Project Rulison and Rio Blanco blasts been judged successful and hundreds or thousands of other explosions followed, some of those $5 billion problems would be right here under our feet and in our food and water. That is, if anyone were still living in this valley or northwestern Colorado at all.

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Part One, Two

The Atom Underground Essentially a government-energy corporation propaganda film done by the Atomic Energy Commission.. There is some interesting info though. Not only was Plowshare suggested for natural gas extraction but also for oil storage… OK. The description of the YouTube file (listed below) is worth reading.

For further information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com

A Blast from the Past – Project Rulison Fifty Years On – A Series on Project Plowshares – Nuclear Fracking in New Mexico and Colorado – 2

August 15, 2019

A Blast from the Past: Project Rulison Fifty Years On – A Series on Project Plowshares – Nuclear Fracking – 2

Part One

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The fiftieth anniversary of Project Rulison, an underground nuclear blast to produce commercially grade natural gas – a kind of nuclear fracking – will take place on September 10, 2019. Some of us involved in protesting the blast will return to Rulison as a part of an effort to make a documentary film on the event. What was Project Rulison and what broader program was it a part of? It was an important moment in the state and nation’s history but so few know anything about it. This is the second installment of the series.

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1.

For many in Colorado – most frankly – the fact that September 10, 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Rulison underground nuclear blast will not resonate much if at all. Too long ago, to obscure a reference. Yet anyone seriously involved in oil and gas exploration probably has knowledge of the place and what transpired there along with anyone who was politically active in Colorado a half century ago. It was the oil and gas industry’s failed effort effort at what the literature refers to as “nuclear fracking.”

Rulison lies west of the continental divide, 192 miles due west of Denver on 1-70. Project Rulison, along with the other like-Atomic Energy Commission (A.E.C.) organized underground nuclear tests, was basically an early method of fracking using nuclear weapons. The other tests were Project Gasbuggy (December, 1967) prior to the Rulison blast and Rio Blanco (May, 1973). A forth project, Project Bronco, was postponed and never took place.

Regardless, something significant happened on that date, in that place. In an attempt to create an underground natural gas reservoir, the federal government, specifically the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Interior, in cooperation with El Paso Energy, detonated a 40 kiloton nuclear explosion underground some 8,400 ft (2,600 meters) below the surface of then 73 year old Claude Hayward’s 292 acre potato patch. (1) Read more…

A Blast from the Past – Project Rulison Fifty Years On – A Series on Project Plowshares – Part One.

August 13, 2019

News article “the day after” the Rulison nuclear blast

A Blast from the Past – Project Rulison Fifty Years On – A Series on Project Plowshares – Part One.

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The fiftieth anniversary of Project Rulison, an underground nuclear blast to produce commercially grade natural gas – a kind of nuclear fracking – will take place on September 10, 2019. Some of us involved in protesting the blast will return to Rulison as a part of an effort to make a documentary film on the event. What was Project Rulison and what broader program was it a part of? It was an important moment in the state and nation’s history but so few know anything about it. If I do, it is because in large measure due to the fact that I was there. What follows – beyond these personal remarks in this introductory entry – are a series of articles on flawed attempt to use nuclear bombs for peaceful purposes, of which Project Rulison was an integral episode.

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According to Margaret Puls, Project Rulison was a federal government program to detonate an underground nuclear blast in the mountains west of Denver, just south of the town of Rulison on Colorado’s western slope, ie, 100 miles or so west of the continental divide. The purpose of the blast was to create a cavity into which natural gas would flow. The federal government would then attempt to sell the natural gas to urban areas throughout the country, but specifically on the West Coast. There’s an idea that is as dumb today as it was then.

A few personal remarks.

In early March of 1969, I descended from what was an interminable Greyhound bus ride from Chicago, across Illinois, Iowa, the never-ending Nebraska to Wyoming, transferring in Cheyenne and arriving in Denver on a sunny late winter morning. Taken back by how different downtown Denver appeared to me, someone who had grown up in NYC, what burst forth from my mouth involuntarily after the first look around was “Hmmm – this isn’t Brooklyn.” Read more…