The plot will thicken in a few posts time….
Uranium’s Scientific History – Part 2
The following consists of selected quotes from the above source:
By 1906 radium was, due to its extremely low concentration in the ore and the many chemical steps necessary for its extraction, by far the most precious substance in the world. Its price had reached 750000 golden francs per gram, about 10 million present day dollars. It was produced from Bohemian ore in two French factories, which enjoyed a short lived monopoly. In 1907 the Imperial Austrian government placed an embargo on the export of uranium ore and its by-products, and proceeded to build a radium factory in Joachimsthal next to the factory producing coloured uranium compounds.
The Austrians expected to create a monopoly of their own, but thanks to the existing small uranium mines in Cornwall and Portugal, as well as American ore from Colorado, the French were able to stay in the radium industry. However, the First World War disrupted the industry in both countries shortly after a new producer, the United States, entered the market in 1913. By then, a total of about 20grams of radium had been produced in France and Austria.
The US industry was thus able to take over the monopoly. It was based on exploitation of the large Colorado deposits of carnotite, a low grade uranium and vanadium ore easy to process for radium. The extraction took place in Pennsylvania in a refinery belonging to the Standard Chemical Company of Pittsburgh. It put on the market about 200 grams of radium and 600 tonnes of uranium in various compounds between 1913 and 1926. The price of radium decreased from US$160000 to US$120000 per gram. About half this radium went to hospitals and the rest was used in luminous paint for dials.
The American radium-uranium industry retained the monopoly for almost ten years before it reverted to Europe, this time to Belgium. In 1915 a prospector had discovered at Shinkolobwe in the Belgian Congo a deposit of pitchblende and other uranium minerals of a higher grade than had ever been found before anywhere in the world, and higher than any found since. The discovery was kept secret by the Belgian mining trust Union Minière du Haut Katanga which mined the rich resources of copper and cobalt in the region. After the First World War ended a factory was built at Olen near Antwerp, and the secrecy was lifted at the end of 1922 with the announcement of the production of the first gram of radium from the plant using the African pitchblende.
The Belgian production capacity for radium was as large as its cost was low, and this soon convinced the Standard Chemical Company to abandon the race, which it did in 1926. Union Minière then enjoyed a near monopoly in the production of radium and could dictate the price, which was lowered to US$70000 per gram. It refused, however, to reveal its annual production, and even by 1989 has not opened its archives, probably to try to hide the fact that the radium was produced at far lower cost.
This attitude is difficult to understand many decades after radium has ceased to be extracted from uranium ores, and has in turn become a waste product with its presence a source of complication in the disposal of waste from the uranium mining industry. It is now practically worthless, having been superseded for use in radiotherapy by artificial radioelements created in nuclear reactors, especially by cobalt-60, which costs about one US dollar for the radiation equivalent of one gram of radium.
As it became dominant in the radium market, Union Minière also became the largest producer of uranium compounds, on a scale much larger than the needs of the world market. It tried to find a use for uranium in hardening steel alloys, but without success.
The prolonged industrial secrecy of Union Minière regrettably prevents a precise evaluation of the exact amount of radium separated in the world during its half century of glory. However, the total is probably between one and one and a half kilograms. This is a small amount compared to the ten kilograms of unextracted radium contained in today’s annual worldwide uranium production of 30000 tonnes.
During the 1920s and 1930s the Belgian rate of production was limited neither by the capacity of the Congolese mines nor by that of the Olen refinery, but only by the funds available to hospitals and the needs of the market for luminous paint. The Congo mine was closed in 1937, as by that time more than 2000 tonnes of ore containing 65 per cent U3O8 were stockpiled, enough for probably 20 years of world radium consumption.
This stockpile was transferred directly from the Congo to the United States at the end of 1940, and provided the initial supply of uranium for the American atomic bomb project. Meanwhile, about 1200 tonnes of uranium in various compounds stored at the Olen refinery was captured by the Germans after the invasion of Belgium in 1940, only to be recovered in Germany by US troops at the end of the war.
The statement: “This stockpile was transferred directly from the Congo to the United States at the end of 1940”, is simplistic. It’s the American explanation, presumably based on the premise that the US Uranium Project, started in 1939, and the original Presidential and civilian organisation which would command (via its successor orgs) the Manhattan Project. (Groves was not in charge, civilians were and these civilians cooperated with other Allied nations):
“In May 1939, Sengier (Manager of the Congo mine) had learned of the possibility of using uranium in a bomb from some European scientists*,” Dr. Norris said in an e-mail. “In late 1940, with the war well under way, Sengier was concerned that the Germans might invade central Africa and take over the mines. He arranged for some 1,250 tons of high-grade uranium ore in 2,006 drums to be shipped from Africa to New York in September and October 1940, arriving on Nov. 10 and Dec. 19, respectively. They were stored in a vegetable oil warehouse at the Archer Daniels Midland Dean Mill Plant near the Kill Van Kull waterway in the Port Richmond section of Staten Island. They were plainly marked “Uranium Ore, Product of Belgian Congo.” Source: New York Times, March 25, 2011. *Other sources relate how British intelligence, using British scientists, made direct representations to the Belgian government early in 1939 about the need to ship Belgian Congo uranium to the USA.
Further, the USA involvement in the Congo uranium mine is described as : “The Shinkolobwe mine had been closed since 1939 and flooded. The American Army sent a squad from its Corps of Engineers to restore the mine, expand the aerodromes in Léopoldville and Elizabethville, and build a port in Matadi, on the Congo River. Between 1942 and 1944, about 30,000 tons of uranium ore were sold to the US Army.
The American government wanted exclusivity on the Shinkolobwe uranium ore, but Sengier initially refused. With support from the British government, the United States obtained exclusive rights on the Shinkolobwe ore in negotiations with the Belgian government (which was then in exile in London). However, it seems that Sengier alone was at least partially aware of the Manhattan Project, as he got an assurance from Nichols that the ore would be used for war purposes, saying “You don’t need to tell me how you’ll use it. I think I know.” (wikipedia citing Nichols, K. D. The Road to Trinity page 45 (1987, Morrow, New York) ISBN 0-688-06910-X)
“The agreement between the United States, Great Britain, and Belgium lasted 10 years and continued after the war. The uranium agreements in part explain Belgium’s relative ease in rebuilding its economy after the war, as the country had no debt with the major financial powers.” (wikipedia, citing Helmreich, Jonathan E. (1990). “The Negotiation of the Belgian Uranium Export Tax of 1951”. Revue belge de philologie et d’histoire 68 (2): 320–351. doi:10.3406/rbph.1990.3713. ISSN 0035-0818.)
This continuing US-UK-Belgian involvement in the Shinkolobwe uranium mine after world war 2 reveals where the responsibility for the state of the mine today actually lies.
The mine continues as a threat to the people of the Congo. The uranium from the mine continues to be a hazard to the world.
How Britain and the US knew of the significance of uranium in December 1938, prior to the publication of the discovery of uranium by Hahn et. al (December 1938, published 1939 in German) is explained by the Manhattan Project scientist Arnold Kramish in his book “The Griffin – the greatest Untold Espionage Story of World War II”, ISBN-10: 0395363187. The conventional narrative of how the Manhattan gained sufficient uranium for the Hiroshima is a bit shonky.
Throughout the pre-war period, Belgium maintained an important Ministerial post within its government – that of Minister for Colonies, Belgian Congo.
Édouard Gustave Charles Marie Pécher (Antwerp, 24 November 1885 – Brussels, 27 December 1926) was a Belgian lawyer and liberal politician. He was president of the Liberal Party from 1921 until 1926.
Pécher was a doctor in law and became a member of parliament (1912–1919 and 1921–1926) for the district Antwerp. He was for a short while minister of colonies for Belgian Congo (1926). From 1924 up to 1926 he was President of the Liberal Party.
Pecher had a son named Charles. 1939 saw the newly married Charles Pecher enroute, via Canada, to the USA.
He headed first to Harvard, were he worked with Professors Edwin Cohn, Kistiakowsky ** and J. Wyman and then to UC Berkeley, where he worked with E.O. Lawrence at the famous Rad Lab. His speciality? Medicine and radio-isotopes. Specifically radio calcium as a tracer for calcium ions in the nervous system and the metabolism of radio strontium in mammals.
By August 1942 Charles was dead. At the request of the Belgian government, the cause of death (suicide by drug overdose) was suppressed by both Canada and the USA. Even from his family.
Dr. Joseph Hamilton appears to have “commandeered” the Pecher work on radio strontium for the Manhattan Project. Without credit.
As always, the nukers knew what they were doing and did it anyhow.
Next post will consist of Pecher’s papers regarding radio strontium dating from 1939 to 1941. In their entirety.
Meantime, here’s a bit of a reading list:
A Brief Chronology and Reading List of Charles Pecher by Paul Langley
DoB 26 NOV 1913
Place: Antwerp Belgium,
Marriage 1 Aug 1939
Children 1 daughter born Oct 1941
Arrived in US 1939 via UK and Canada.
Arrived at UC Crocker Labs Under J. Lawrence: 1939
Date of death 28 August 1941
Cause of death: suicide.
place of death Joliette, Montreal, Canada, on duty with Belgian army preparatory for departure to the UK.
Burial: L’ Assumption, near Joliette, Canada.
Father: Edward, (Edouard) Francophone Belgian. Elected to Belgian House of Representatives in 1912 as member of the United Liberal Party. Died in 1926. Minister of Colonies. Attained Leadership of Liberal Party at time of his death. Social progressive, despite being a Francophone Belgian, aimed to create an equitable society in which the Flemish population had full social inclusion.
Mother Emilie (Speht)
(sources: J. Lawrence (Science, Obit, v.94, No 2449, 5.12.41); Familysearch.org; Google translation of The Vlaamsche Gazet, March 15, 1912 at http://www.liberaalarchief.be_nieuws_klnieuws1104.htm. Brucer, M. “A Chronology of Nuclear Medicine”. Pecher-Webbles, J., Webbles, C., Obituary to E. Pecher issued to mourners.)
Dr. A. A. Dr Verveen lists the Pecher papers published in Europe :
1. Pecher, Ch., 1936. Гtude statistique des variations spontanОes de
l’excitabilitО d’une fibre nerveuse. C. R. Soc. Biol. 122: 87-91.
(Statistical study of the spontaneous variations in excitability of a
2. Pecher, Ch., 1937. Fluctuations indОpendantes de l’excitabilitО de deux
fibres d’un mРme nerf. C. R. Soc. Biol. 124: 839-842.
(Independent fluctuations in excitability of two fibers in the same nerve).
C. R. Soc. Biol. = Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaires des ScОances et MОmoires
de la SociОtО de Biologie et des ses Filiales et AssociОes.
Their website is: http://www.societedebiologie.com
3. Pecher, Ch., 1939. La fluctuation d’excitabilitО de la fibre nerveuse.
Arch. Intern. Physiol. 49 (2): 129-152.
(Fluctuation in excitability of the nerve fibre).
Arch. Intern. Physiol. = Archive Internationales de Physiologie.
Other relevant information:
University of Hamburg online library:
“Neurotransmitters are stored in small membrane-bound packets called synaptic
vesicles. They have no effect while they remain within the neuron. When a nerve
impulse reaches the end of an axon, it triggers the opening of calcium ion channels
in that part of the cell’s membrane and allows calcium ions to flow into the synaptic
knobs. Calcium ions are potent inducers of exocytosis, the discharge of materials out
of a cell.”
O’Riordan, J. L., “Calcium and the nervous system.” Proc R Soc Med. 1972
October; 65(10): 873–874.
V. Lev-Ram and A. Grinvald
Department of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.
“Activity-dependent calcium transients in central nervous system
myelinated axons revealed by the calcium indicator Fura-2”, Biophysical
Journal, Volume 52, Issue 4, 571-576, 1 October 1987
This link between the nervous system and calcium is pointed out by Carla
Webbles: “Calcium, a synaptic transmitter, is the link between “excitable nerves
[studies] in Brussles, childrens’ nutrition at Harvard and bone cancer palliation at
Berkeley”: Carla Webbles, email, October 28, 2008.
Study, Qualifications, Appointments
1923 Graduated, Athenee Royal of Antwerp
1935 – 1939 Laboratory Assistant in physiology under Professor Rylant. Pecher’s first experiments in biophysics. Formed interest in the biological applications of the newly discovered radioactive substances at this time and place.
1939 Received Doctor’s Degree with great Distinction, University of Brussels.
Awarded the Armand Kleefeld Prize, which is awarded
each year to the medical student who has had the
highest average in his course.
Awarded the fellowship of the Belgian American Foundation to study in the United States. This was achieved because of his interest in the field and his high standing in his course.
1 August 1939 Married Jacqueline.
1939, autumn – Worked at Harvard in association with Professors Edwin Cohn, Kistiakowsky and J. Wyman at Harvard
1940 Appointed Research Fellow, Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
1941 Belgian Government in exile calls up all Belgian nations world wide. Call up notices were issued by April 1941 (http://www.be4046.eu/BE_UKIntro.htm).
28 August 1941. Pecher suicides while on duty with Belgian Army in Canada in preparation for embarkation to UK. Buried in Canada. His wife, Jacqueline, is 7 months pregnant with their only child at this time. At the time he was deeply involved in the use of Radio Strontium 89 as a cancer treatment. Brucer reports that Pecher was despondent at being so close to finding a cure for cancer and not being able to complete his work due to the war. Lawrence (Obit, 1941) wrote that the cancer research would continue. The treatment, as pain palliation for bone cancer, was approved for use in 1993. (FDA approval for GE Metastron). In the interim, Brucer (Chron. Nuc. Medicine) reports that “10,000 papers should have cited Pecher’s work but didn’t.” However, after April – the time the call up notice probably arrived – Charles Pecher lodged a patent for a method of transmitting secret messages via the use of radioactive invisible ink. According to sources close to the family, Charles Pecher was in police custody, and used a gun as the means of suicide.
(Sources: From John Lawrence’s obituary to Pecher, Science,Vol 94, No. 2449, Friday, Dec 5, 1941; the articles cited.)
Associations: Fellow of the Belgian American Education Foundation
Academic and Research Papers published in the USA.
Erf, L. A., Pecher, C., Intro: Lawrence, J. H., Crocker Radiation Laboratory, UC Berkeley, Calif., “Secretion of Radio-Strontium in Milk of Two Cows Following Intravenous Administration”, Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. & Med. Vol. 45, 1125 P, pp 762-764, 1940.
Pecher, C., William H. Crocker Radiation Laboratory, UC Berkeley, Calif., “A Long Lived Isotope of Yttrium”, 14 October 1940 Pys. Rev. 58, 58,843 (1940) (Issue 9 – 1 November 1940), American Physical Society.
Pecher, C.. ; Intro: Lawrence, J. H. ; “Radio Calcium and Radio Strontium Metabolism in Pregnant Mice”, Crocker Radiation Lab, UC, Berkeley, Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. & Med. , 11900, pp91 – 94, Vol 46, April – June 1941.
Pecher, C, .: “Biological investigations with radioactive calcium and strontium”.
Crocker Radiation Lab, UC, Berkeley, Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. & Med. , 11899, pp 86 – 91, Vol 46, April – June 1941.
Pecher, C., “Biological Investigations with radioactive calcium and strontium: preliminary report on the use of radioactive strontium in the treatment of metastatic bone cancer”, 1942. University of California Publications in Pharmacology, 2:117 – 139. (posthumous).
Pecher, C., Biological investigations with radioactive calcium and strontium; Berkeley Los Angeles, University of California press, 1942. Description 2 p.l., 117-149 p. incl. plates, tables, diagrs. 24 cm. (posthumous).
Pecher, C., Berkeley, Calif., assignor to Research Corporation, New York, Patent
Application May 14, 1941, Serial No. 393,416, 4 claims (CL 250-65), Approved, Patented Nov. 17, 1942. Patent Number 2,302,470, “Material and Method for Radiography”, US Patent Office 1942. (posthumous) Use of Yttrium 86. (Includes descriptors regarding Pecher’s synthesis of radio strontium 89 and yttrium 86 using the Cyclotron, and aspects of the use of radio strontium in the experimental treatment of bone cancer. )
Pecher, C., Berkeley, Calif., assignor to Research Corporation, New York, N.Y., a corporation of New York. Patent Application 2 June 1941, Serial No. 396,363, “Means and Method for Transmitting Secret Intelligence”. Patent Granted 10 Sept. 1946, (posthumous) Patent Number 2,407,381.
Other Papers and relevant articles:
Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF SECONDARY RESOURCES AS OF JUNE 16, 1995
U.S. ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION DIVISION OF BIOLOGY AND
MEDICINE WASHINGTON, D.C., “REPORT ON PROJECT GABRIEL”,
AUTHOR CENSORED, (PROBABLY DR LIBBY) JULY 1954
DECLASSIFIED 1987, US DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY ARCHIVES
“The Movement of Calcium and Strontium Across Biological
Membranes – Proceedings from a Conference held at Cornell
University, Ithaca, New York, May 13-16, 1962″, page 246,
Chapter: “Theories of Vitamin D Action”. Academic Press, New York,
1963)By Harold E. Harrison, and Helen C. Harrison, Department of
Pediatrics, Baltimore City Hospitals and Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland:
“Carlsson (1952) and Carlsson and Lindquist (1955) have
shown that the increased serum calcium levels after physiologic doses
of Vitamin D cannot be due entirely to an increased uptake of calcium
from the intestine and therefore, must be the result of mobilisation of
calcium from skeleton, an action previously ascribed to parathyroid
“In 1955 Carlsson and Lindquist publish further work linking the uptake
and release of Strontium 90 into soft tissue to Vitamin D” . Source:
Eur J Nucl Med (2000) 27 (Suppl): S49–S79
European Journal of Nuclear Medicine
Vol. 27 (Supplement), January 2000 – © Springer-Verlag 2000
Milestones in nuclear medicine
V. Ralph McCready
Joint Department of Medical Physics, Institute of Cancer
Research and Royal Marsden Hospital, Sutton,
Surrey SM2 5PT, UK
“Another radiotherapeutic agent used in these early
years was strontium-89, which was given by
Charles Pecher to a patient with osteoblastic metastases
(8 mCi 89 Sr lactate in three doses). The patient’s
pain disappeared and his general condition
improved. Unfortunately Charles Pecher was recalled
for military duty in Belgium and sadly on his
way home he committed suicide. His wife thought
that he did this because he was despondent at coming
so close to discovering a cure for a cancer and
being stopped by the war . He would have been
gratified to see the current clinical results from
Metastron ( 89 SrCl 2 ) for pain relief from skeletal metastases from
carcinoma of the prostate.”
The above short chronology and reading list is the result of collaborative research between E. Cerf-Pecher, Belgium, Prof. A.A. Van Verveen, Emeritus Professor of Physiology, University of Leiden, J. Pecher-Webbles, USA, C. Webbles, USA and myself.
That I was engaged in independent research as well collaborative research regarding the importance of the work of Dr Charles Pecher in relation to the military impact and dangers of nuclear emissions from fission technology is attested to by the above collaborators. My work is acknowledged by E. Cerf-Pecher in her book “ Mon Pere Charles Pecher, L’homme de sciences 1913-1941”, Didier Devillez Editeur, ISBN 978-2-87396-132-9, copyright 2011. “Annexe II, The Story in English” of this book is dedicated by the author to the joint contributors as follow: “ To Carla, Bert and Paul” (Ibid, pp 217).
In an email to the E. Cerf-Pecher dated 10/10/2010, Prof. A.A. Verveen wrote: “I am greatly impressed by your work. It made me both very sad as well as happy. You did not know him personally, but you succeeded to resurrect him…..
I am not only sad but also horrified by your father’s tragic fate. This extremely gifted, able and deft man was also a faithful person and just he became cornered in a horrible Kakaesque situation…..
I am 80 years old now. I would have loved to meet Charles Pecher in those former times and to learn to know him…
Thanks to you, your mother, Carla and Paul he came alive within our minds.” A.A. (Bert) Verveen, Prof. Emeritus, University of Leiden, email, 10/10/2010.
(Source: Ibid, back cover.)
It is my view that from 1943 US authorities clamped secrecy on the work of Charles Pecher. This secrecy delayed the use of his medical treatment in the US from 1945 until 1993. The suppressing organizations included the US Atomic Energy Commission, and until 1994, the US Department of Energy. In 1994 the suppression was ended by Presidential Executive Order.
** Kistiakowsky: “George Bogdanovich Kistiakowsky (November 18, 1900 – December 7, 1982) (Ukrainian: Георгій Богданович Кістяківський) was a Ukrainian-American physical chemistry professor at Harvard who participated in the Manhattan Project and later served as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Science Advisor.
Born in Kiev in the old Russian Empire, Kistiakowsky fled Russia during the Russian Civil War. He made his way to Germany, where he earned his PhD in physical chemistry under the supervision of Max Bodenstein at the University of Berlin. He emigrated to the United States in 1926, where he joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1930, and became a citizen in 1933.
During World War II, he was the head of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) section responsible for the development of explosives, and the technical director of the Explosives Research Laboratory (ERL), where he oversaw the development of new explosives, including RDX and HMX. He was involved in research into the hydrodynamic theory of explosions, and the development of shaped charges. In October 1943, he was brought into the Manhattan Project as a consultant. He was soon placed in charge of X Division, which was responsible for the development of the explosive lenses necessary for an implosion-type nuclear weapon. He watched an implosion weapon that was detonated in the Trinity test in July 1945. A few weeks later a Fat Man implosion weapon was dropped on Nagasaki.
NDRC: The NDRC funded research into hundreds of different projects at many different educational and industrial sites around the country. Some of the ones it is best remembered for include:
Atomic bomb research (would later become the Manhattan Project)
DUKW – amphibious vehicle
Radar at the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
At the time of my research, during which Carla contacted me, my motivation was to help Australia’s nuclear veterans obtain justice. By showing that the risks were known from a much earlier date than is commonly acknowledged – the official response is often “oh we were ignorant in 1952” – it could then be shown that Australians were deliberately and knowingly put at risk due to nuclear weapons testing. I failed in that undertaking.
However, it can clearly be shown that nuclear authorities in fact have since the early 1940s that fission products would travel through the food chain to be metabolised and woven into the fabric of the body.
Nothing that anyone such as Yamashita in Japan or Sykes in Adelaide can say about the alleged safety of eating plutonium can change that. In fact such reactionary and extremist statement merely reveal such people are totally unsuitable for their line of work (unless indeed it is as propagandists rather than as doctors) due to total ignorance or deliberately peddling falsehoods. In my opinion.
Nuclear reactors were first built has a means to build a weapon of war. And this is the reason the nations still want them.