Jonesborough: Depleted Uranium– A Story That Needs Telling

Linda Modica of Jonesborough, Tenn. Telling the Story of Depleted Uranium

Linda Modica of Jonesborough, Tenn. Telling the Story of Depleted Uranium

“People have to know,” Linda Modica stressed.  On May Day we sat down to a cup of tea together in Johnson City, Tennessee, . We came to learn more about Linda and  her work to expose the deadly truth about the depleted uranium weapons (U238 uranium weapons cores) manufactured at AeroJet Ordinance near her home in Jonesborough.

 “It’s the perfect pollutant,” she continued, sharing with us a book by Afghanistan author and presidential candidate, Mohammed Daud Miraki.  Afghanistan After “Democracy” The Untold Story Through Photographic Images  provides an alternative source of information about how life is in post-democracy Afghanistan, and graphically depicts the human costs of the  “everlastingly killing product” called depleted uranium.

Linda, a Manhattan native, moved to Jonesborough over fifteen years ago with her physician husband who came to teach at East Tennessee State University. Over the years, she said, the rural neighborhood where they lived received quarterly announcements about the testing of the emergency evacuation system at AeroJet Ordinance. It wasn’t until 2006, when Cliff Kindy of the Christian Peacemaker Teams called, that she was finally alerted to the real danger of the facility.

“They put the plant out in the county, in a very rural location, tucked away on a two-lane state road,” she told us. “They have an insidious grip on county government,” she added, telling us that the manager of the munitions plant became  chair of the local Chamber of Commerce. AeroJet is a subsidiaryof Jen Corp of Californina. 

DOE is charged with handling and disposal of the depleted uranium waste from all our nuclear facilities. “There are tons of it,” she told us, “and there is no repository”. DOE has private contractors which ship the DU to Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin, Tennessee which then delivers the radioactive material to the facility in Jonesborough. At AeroJet, the DU is converted into ammunition and other ordnance used in battle. This dense, heavy metal is perfect for use in armor piercing rounds which pass through thick steel plating like it was butter. Upon impact, heat from the kinetic energy vaporizes the DU which is then spread into the air and surrounding environment contaminating the area with radioactive dust for generations, a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.


Linda cites the work of Rosalie Bertell, a Catholic nun from Pennsylvania,  as “unimpeachable” on the issue of depleted uranium. Bertell writes:

DU is a weapon that destroys one’s own military and the generally exposed civilian population, as well as enemy combatants. It renders the postwar civilian environment hazardous for many years to come.”

“The plague is upon us and we have to stop it,” Linda stressed. The strength of her will to carry this fight forward is inspiring.

In 2007, Linda attended the United for Peace & Justice (UFPJ) conference in Chicago. The group chose Oct. 27, 2007 as a day of action against the war. Linda successfully lobbied to have that action focused in Jonesborough, and many of us from throughout the Southeast joined her there.  I told them if they did it in Jonesborough, all the papers will pick up the story. They did.

“Its an Appalachian problem, an Appalachian issue,” Linda told us.  We agreed and promised to stay in touch, to learn more, and to gather support for her efforts. 

To punctuate the reality of the political climate where Linda is living and working, the gunshop we passed on the road out of town said it all. 

In the South, as we’ve heard so many times,  where the most work needs to be done, it is often the most difficult to accomplish.


Parting Shots from Johnson City, Tennessee

Parting Shots from Johnson City, Tennessee


1 comment so far

  1. Laura Sorensen on

    Thank you so much to Linda and everyone involved in the DU issue. As an anti-nuclear activist, I think connecting the dots is so important…..uranium mining…..nuclear energy….nuclear waste….nuclear weapons…counter recruitment….tax boycott…..on and on. I feel like I’ve been living in the dark and every update of Clare and Coleman’s journey has been enlightening to say the least.
    Perhaps some more education around Asheville could bring support to our neighbors in Jonesborough who are less than 70 miles away. There will be a World Affairs workshop/meeting in Black Mountain in June. Any speakers?

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