This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Monitoring Air Quality

"This dropping of the rocket stages is of considerable concern to the Inuit of Canada and Greenland, who only learned about the practice in 2016."
"Given this concentration of biota, the North Water Polynya is an inappropriate location for dropping rocket stages with toxic residual fuel on board." 
"The [incoming rocket] stage does in fact break up during re-entry but the fuel does not burn up and disappear, it turns into an aerosol and then it drifts gradually down onto the Earth over a wide area with very serious health consequences and environmental consequences in Kazakhstan and Russia and quite possibly therefore in Canada and Greenland."
"It’s [UDMH] a devastating chemical, in Russia it is referred to as ‘devil’s breath. It is very volatile, very useful for launching rockets but also it has this very dark and dangerous side in the toxicity."
"You are prohibited under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to cause pollution to the ocean with objects that pass through the atmosphere. There is a specific provision in the Law of the Sea Convention that prohibits pollution through the atmosphere."
"I don’t need to prove that damage is caused. Under international law there is something called the precautionary principle, the burden of proof is on them and not on me. They need to prove that there is no risk of damage and unless they can prove there is no risk of damage, they are not allowed to do this launch."
"The message that the governments involved in this case need to hear is: ‘Look you have technological alternatives, there is no excuse to using this old technology, this old dangerous fuel in 2017'. Switch the type of rocket, pay a little bit of extra money to do this in a safe way, in a way that does not create a risk for the Arctic environment and most importantly for the Inuit who live there."
"There are lots of non-toxic alternatives so the focus of my effort right now is to shame the European Space Agency, to shame the government of the Netherlands to pay a little bit more money to launch this satellite in [an] environmentally risk-free way."
"As part of my research I then discovered that there was a very disturbing set of scientific articles concerning the damage caused by this rocket fuel in Kazakhstan and Russia as a result of rocket stages falling on land in those countries, causing cancer rates that were twice the average in unpolluted areas, causing widespread deaths of fish in lakes in northern Russia. And that’s when I started to connect the dots that this wasn’t just a hypothetical risk but there was a very real risk."
Arctic scholar Michael Byers, University of British Columbia, Canada Research Chair

"[UDMH [rocket fuel]is found around Baikonur] in vegetation, soil and sediments, subsoil and surface waters, in concentrations far in excess of those permissible according to the Russian hygienic standards."
Union for Chemical Safety, 1999 report, Russia
The North Water Polynya, or Pikialasorsuaq « The Great Upwelling » in Inuktitut, is the largest Arctic polynya and the most biologically productive region north of the Arctic Circle. (Source: Inuit Circumpolar Council)
"What is being planned by Russia and European Space Agency to launch a satellite where it will drop a fuel rocket into the North Water between Greenland and Ellesmere Island Canada is very disturbing and scary." 
"Not only do we [Inuit] on both sides of the largest open water depend on the wildlife for sustenance, but the distance between the two countries is very small.  The closest gap further north between the two islands is only 32 kilometers."
"What if we get killed?"
Larry Audlaluk, Inuit hunter, Grise Fiord

"The Pikialasorsuaq Commissioners spent the past 16 months listening to the people who live and use this magnificent Arctic marine region and heard clearly that Inuit do not want any action that would affect the sustained productivity of the Pikialasorsuaq."
Nancy Karetak-Lindell, International Commissioner, Acting Chair, Inuit Circumpolar Council
A Rockot launch vehicle lifts of the Sentinel-3A satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia on Feb. 16, 2016. (Stephane Corvaja/European Space Agency)
The rocket fuel in question, UDMH, at one time was used by space and missile programs globally. As its extreme toxicity was more fully understood, the fuel fell into disfavour and was no longer used by most space programs. In 2004 a report out of the United Nations Development Programme made note of the chemical as "dangerous in all methods of transmission to people". Yet a Rockot launch has been scheduled for October 13, to carry a European Space Agency probe designed to monitor air quality.

If that little note of intention and concern isn't enough in and of itself to reflect a supreme irony, it should, yet the European Space Agency, while acknowledging the danger inherent in the use of the fuel, insists it must proceed with the October launch because the Sentinel-5P probe was built to specifications of the soon-to-be disused rocket, an elderly variant of a Russian nuclear-tipped missile used by Russia to launch satellites into orbit.

The fact that the fuel is responsible for having caused pollution in areas adjacent former Soviet spaceports doesn't appear to unduly unsettle the European Space Agency, no more than it does the Russian agency that uses the highly toxic fuel phased out in most of the rest of the world. The high stupidity of polluting the atmosphere to launch a probe meant to monitor air quality does not appear to have made an impact of absurdity in the great minds that designed this venture.

Each time that Russia launches a space vehicle, tonnes of this polluting fuel is dumped into Canadian waters when UDMH is used to power the first two stages of a "Rockot". As the vehicle gains altitude the initial UR-100N stages are jettisoned into Arctic waters, enabling the vehicle to gain altitude. In June of 2016 a launch resulted in a Rockot dropping its second stage into water between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, in Canada.

An estimated eight tonnes of UDMH could potentially be dropped as unburned fuel with each launch, vaporizing and misting over Nunavut. An area of year-round open water teeming with whales, seal, polar bears and seabirds called the North Water Polynya is where most of those Rockot stages have been landing.

In Russia itself in areas surrounding the Baikonur Cosmodrome at the Kazakhstani spaceport where most of the space launches took place during the former Soviet Union's era, UDMH was present everywhere. A health examination of 48,000 people living in the area of Baikonur concluded that merely 26.5 percent of the adult population presented as "healthy people".  Death rates from blood and liver diseases were seen at 30 percent higher around Baikonur than elsewhere.

Mass die-offs of fish were observed in lakes under the UDMH-burning rockets' flight paths. Although Russia is in the process of phasing out UDMH, its use is continuing, reflecting the inexpensive availability of surplus UR-100N missiles, converted into Rockots.
A polar bear stands on a ice floe in Baffin Bay above the Arctic circle as seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent. The North Water Polynya or Pikialasorsuaq in Inuktitut is a biologically and culturally unique region and is a breeding ground and migration area for animals such as narwhal, beluga, walrus, bowhead whales and migratory birds. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

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