Battelle & the Nuclear Complex in Columbus, Ohio
This piece was written for a friend of mine who is putting on a work shop at a radical space in Columbus, Ohio. Her presentation comes at the same time as the peace walkers making their way through Ohio to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York City, May 1st-3rd 2010.
BRINGING NUCLEAR ABOLITION HOME
When we talk about Nuclear Abolition, we often think of very lofty principles. We think of the peace and anti-war movements, we think about global politics, the cold war, we think of mutually assured destruction and deterrence. Nuclear Abolition is about much more than this, however, and to keep Nuclear Abolition in such a lofty theoretical position actually serves to benefit those who hold power over us.
The human and environmental costs of nuclear weapons and nuclear power affects people every day all over the country, as well as the world. Wastes generated from uranium milling, mining, and processing pose direct catastrophic health concerns to the communities that host them. Uranium mining, milling and enrichment happen at different locations all over the country, generally in poor communities of color, or on occupied indigenous lands. This means that uranium must continually be shipped across the country in order to meet the current demand for nuclear energy.
While nuclear power generation itself does not produce CO2 emissions at the nuclear reactor, and thus is being touted as “clean” or “green,” it does leave behind a massive trail of nuclear waste. We can see this in the form of uranium tailings (left over at the mine), irradiated and contaminated water (used extensively in the mining, milling, enrichment, and power generation processes), and spent fuel rods (which generally stay put at the reactor site, the most visible on-site manifestation of nuclear waste). Furthermore, every other step of the uranium fuel cycle requires the use of fossil fuels, such as that used for transportation.
Given this information, Nuclear Abolition is much more about environmental justice for the communities it directly affects than it is about global politics and relations between nations, or the threat of nuclear war. While the threat of nuclear war is a real, the ongoing destruction of people’s bodies and lives within the United States and its occupied territories is an ongoing reality, a war that has been waged every day since the conception of the Manhattan Project and the opening of the first uranium mine in New Mexico in the 1950s. This also means that our ability to act is not restricted to begging our elected federal government officials for abstract notions of peace. We can act strategically in our own communities to demand an end to the oppression brought by nuclear weapons and energy.
THE NUCLEAR COMPLEX IN COLUMBUS, OHIO
Ohio is the site of a few different nuclear projects, situated along the Ohio River, Lake Erie and other bodies of water. The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant is found near Lake Erie on Locust Point outside of Toledo, and the Perry Nuclear Power Plant is about 35 miles outside of Cleveland on Lake Erie. Piketon, Ohio hosts a few different Uranium Enrichment facilities, including two sites licensed by U.S. Enrichment Corporation that enrich using Gaseous Diffusion and Gas Centrifuge technologies. Other nuclear projects, including the Piqua Nuclear Generating Station, have opened and closed in the past 60 years, and leave behind nearly permanent contamination. The Dayton Daily News released an article called “Ohio’s Nuclear Legacy” that offers more detailed information. Columbus, Ohio, hosts its own nuclear sites.
425 West Town Street once hosted B & T Metals Company, which fabricated uranium metal rods for the Manhattan Project in 1943. The site contaminated nearby “building surfaces, drains, equipment, exterior soils and manholes in nearby streets.” The DOE certified cleanup of the site in 2001.
On West Jefferson and King Avenue (see Figure 1),  the Columbus Environmental Management Project is engaging in the decommissioning and clean up of 15 buildings left over from over 40 years of atomic energy research and development performed by Battelle. Battelle (which now goes by the name Battelle Memorial Institute and is registered as a non-profit) engaged in “fabrication of uranium and fuel elements; reactor development; submarine propulsion, fuel reprocessing; and safety studies of reactor vessels and piping.” Clean up of both of these projects were scheduled to be completed by 2005, and the buildings then returned to Battelle “without radiological restrictions.” Waste, which includes uranium and thorium, should have been shipped off site for “disposal.”
The Case School of Applied Science at Ohio State University did research and development with uranium for the Atomic Energy Commission. It was removed for consideration of decommissioning in 1990 because the DOE did not have the authority to proceed with decommissioning.
The Ohio State University operates a 500 kW Nuclear Research Reactor that was built in 1961. The reactor is located at 1298 Kinnear Road. In 1997 the Ohio State University was fined $13,000 by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for “failure to conduct physical inventories of brachytherapy and other sealed and unsealed sources and failure to dispose of accumulated radioactive waste.”
MORE ON BATTELLE
As noted above, Battelle Memorial Institute began in 1929 as a private company owned by Gordon Battelle. In the 1930s, Battelle owned machine shops in the Columbus area that soon began doing materials research for domestic iron and steel industries. Battelle provided armor plating for US Army Tanks in 1939 during the First World War, and developed fuel for the Nautilus nuclear powered submarine in 1949. Other Battelle designs include: the Xerox machine (1959); the Universal Product Code, or UPC (1964); cruise control (1970); compact disks, photovoltaic cells for solar energy (1974); and fiber optics, along with Mitsubishi & NTT (1987). Today Battelle Memorial Institute, which is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with tax exempt filing status, sees over $5 billion in contracts for research and development every year. Much of that money comes from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Department of Homeland Security.
Battelle conducts oversight and management of a number of national laboratories across the United States:
- Battelle is partnered with Bechtel National, the University of California, BWX Technologies, Washington Group International and Texas A&M University in what is called Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC. In 2007, Battelle and their cohorts formed this Limited Liability Corporation to conduct oversight and management of the Lawrence Livermore National Nuclear Laboratory. Research and development at LLNL focuses on high-performance computers, advanced lasers, and nuclear weaponry.
- Battelle signed onto a team with SUNY-Stony Brook to operate the Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1997. Brookhaven is home to the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, and the Synchrotron Light Source.
- Battelle Energy Alliance began management and operation of the Idaho National Laboratory in 2005, which claims to be the leader of the “national renaissance in nuclear energy.”
- The Battelle National Biodefense Institute currently manages the National Biodefense Analysis & Countermeasures Center, a research and development institute funded by the federal government. This contract through the US Department of Homeland Security began in 2006 with the creation of the NBACC.
- Since 1998, Battelle has helped to manage the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, where it works to develop solar cells, nanostrctures, hyrdrogen energy, and fuel cells.
- Battelle manages the $1.4 billion DOE research project called the Spallation Neutron Source, which is a part of Oak Ridge National Nuclear Laboratory. This project is touted as “the largest civilian science project in the world.”
- Battelle has managed the Hanford National Nuclear Laboratory in Washington State, now called the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, since 1965.
In addition to conducting management and oversight of nuclear laboratories that continue to advance nuclear weapons technology and proliferation, Battelle employees also often graduate from the ranks of the think tank to hold high paying positions in the nuclear industry. Take for example Steve Porter, who was hired to the position of Laboratory General at Los Alamos National Nuclear Laboratory after serving as legal counsel for the laboratory operations sector at Battelle.
Through their experience with the management of nuclear weapons laboratories, Battelle is conveniently poised to take advantage of the nuclear energy market as well. The company continues its nuclear research and development through its work in the nuclear fuel cycle, including: “nuclear science and engineering; detection, processing and reactor system development; high level waste management; nuclear site and carbon offset assessment; nuclear system performance and safety assessment.” Given its stake in the self-proclaimed “nuclear renaissance,” Battelle stands to gain from the nuclear industry’s claim that nuclear energy is “clean, safe, and green.” Battelle also has its hands in a number of other energy markets, including coal, alternative energies, infrastructures and “grids,” and fuel cells.
A visit to Battelle’s website would provide a more accurate picture of all of the areas they cover as far as research and development are concerned; the following is a quick overview of Battelle’s militaristic ventures:
- armor and protective systems
- explosives and energetics
- munitions and weapons
- lightweight advanced armor
- airborn magnetic and electromagnetic sensor systems
- field support for lethality and missile testing
- High Energy Research Laboratory Area
- largest privately owned blast containment facility in the US
- small caliber testing facility
- explosives preparation facility
- hypervelocity impact and altitude facility
- information and knowledge management
- strategy and organization consulting
- undersea technology
- special operations forces support
- improving fleet combat readiness
- submersible navigation, sensor systems and environmental control systems
- undersea warfare: mines, underwater vehicles & robotics, sensors
For more information on the Nuclear Industrial Complex in the United States, visit:
Queeries, comments, and concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org
 From the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: http://www.nrc.gov/info-finder/materials/fuel-cycle/
 “Ohio’s Nuclear Legacy: Troubled Past, Uncerain Future.” Offers articles, maps, and diagrams. Found at: http://www.daytondailynews.com/n/content/oh/index/news/special-reports/piketon/index.html
 Information from the Ohio Field Office Summary, http://www.em.doe.gov/PDFs/PubPDFs/accpath_94-97ape.pdf.
 More specific information on violations and penalties: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/enforcement/actions/materials/ea97258.html.