Articles

Our Solar Bonanza!

November 27, 2015

By Karl Grossman

Solar Bonanza

We’ve had solar power energizing our house in Sag Harbor on Long Island in New York for six years now—and it’s a bonanza!

Once the photovoltaic panels are up on your roof, nothing more needs to be done. They harvest electricity from the sun even on cloudy days. Never in the half-dozen years have the 38 panels on our roof needed any care. And frequently, looking at the Long Island Power Authority meter attached to the house, I see the numbers going backwards—we’re producing electricity for LIPA for which LIPA reimburses us.

Then there are the two thermal solar panels heating up water and sending it—very well-heated—into the house. The other day, it was 64-degrees outside but the thermometer on the hot water tank in the basement showed water from the thermal panels coming down at 130-degrees. Amazing! And these panels are also care-free.

Meanwhile, the price of solar panels have plummeted since the panels were installed at our house—and efficiencies have gone up, Dean Hapshe of Harvest Power was saying the other day on a visit to check our installation.

Mr. Hapshe of Patchogue, New York is a master teacher of solar installers on Long Island. He entered the solar energy field in 1980 and with his decades of experience has served as an instructor of others in the industry.

When he and his crew put our system in, the cost of the photovoltaic panels, which produce 7,500 watts—an average-size system—was $6 a watt. “Now it’s down to $3.65,” Mr. Hapshe was saying. The efficiency rate has risen to 21%—getting close to the 25% efficiency of solar panels on space systems such as satellites and the International Space Station. That means more electricity is generated for every ray of sunlight.

The thing about solar power is that the sun sends no bills.

And that has been vexing for electric utilities around the nation.

Indeed, the motto of Harvest Power, which is based in Bay Shore, New York is: “Let The Sun Pay Your Electric Bill.”

“Utilities wage campaign against rooftop solar,” was the headline of an article in March in The Washington Post. The story, by Joby Warrick, a Pulitzer Prize-winner who often writes on energy issues, begins: “Three years ago, the nation’s top utility executives gathered at a Colorado resort to hear warnings about a grave new threat to operators of America’s electric grid: not superstorms or cyberattacks, but rooftop solar panels.”

“If demand for residential solar continued to rise, traditional utilities could soon face serious problems from ‘declining retail sales’ and a ‘loss of customers’ to ‘potential obsolescence,’ according to a presentation prepared for the group. “’Industry must prepare an action plan to address the challenges,’ it said. “The warning, delivered to a private meeting of the utility industry’s main trade association, became a call to arms for electricity providers in nearly every corner of the nation.” The article continued, “Three years later, the industry and its fossil-fuel supporters are waging a determined campaign to stop a home-solar insurgency…”

The New York Times, in an editorial last year titled , “The Koch Attack on Solar Energy,” noted how “the Koch brothers and their conservative allies in state government have found a new tax they can support. Naturally it’s a tax on something the country needs: solar energy panels.”

The Times told of how the Koch brothers, their Koch Industries based on oil refining, “have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, which have been adopted by most states. They particularly dislike state laws that allow homeowners with solar panel to sell power they don’t need back to electric utilities.”

On Long Island, support for solar power by LIPA—created with a mission to advance the development of solar and other forms of renewable energy on the island—has gone down and down. The once hefty rebate LIPA provided for solar installations has now descended to a paltry 20 cents a watt.

New York State, however, still provides up to $5,000 in support for an installation, and the federal government offers a tax credit of 30% of the cost of a solar system. But this program needs to be extended at the end of next year.

The capacity and economics of renewable energy are simply wonderful. The New York Times recently ran a front-page story headlined: “In Texas. Night Winds Blow in Free Electricity.” It told of how in Texas “wind farms are generating so much electricity” that it is now being “given away.”

There are those who seek to profit from expensive electricity generated by oil, gas, coal and nuclear power—and they would try to suppress the renewable energy revolution now underway. They must be stopped, and the windfall of safe, green, inexpensive electricity be allowed to flow.

The Politics of Lyme Disease

October 2, 2015

By Karl Grossman

Lyme Disease

There’s a renewed push in the U.S. Congress for legislation to strengthen the federal government’s activities on Lyme disease, now endemic in most of the United States.

Whether the drive can withstand pressure from the health insurance industry—which denies the existence of chronic Lyme disease and so avoids paying for it treatment—is an issue.

In the House of Representatives, Lee Zeldin of Shirley on Long Island—where many people have contracted Lyme disease with Zeldin a victim himself—is co-sponsoring two measures. They are the Tick-Borne Disease Research and Accountability and Transparency Act of 2015 and the 21st Century Cures Act.

Zeldin emphasizes that “I’m not only very well aware of how Lyme disease has affected the lives of many Long Islanders but I also had it.” He regards the bills as potentially a “key for the health of residents of Long Island.”

In the Senate, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, where Lyme disease is also widespread—indeed it’s named for the town in Connecticut from where Lyme disease was first identified—has reintroduced his bill that is now titled the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, Research Act of 2015.

The legislation that overwhelmingly passed the House, and the Blumenthal bill, co-sponsored by both U.S. senators from New York, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, are now in committee, to be amalgamated.

As attorney general of Connecticut, Blumenthal conducted an antitrust investigation into the “guidelines” for Lyme disease treatment of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Adhered to by much of the medical system, they supported the health insurance position that chronic Lyme disease doesn’t exist and long-term antibiotic treatment isn’t necessary. The attorney general’s office found collusion.

As Blumenthal stated in 2008 after IDSA agreed to “reassess” its guidelines:

“This agreement vindicates my investigation—finding undisclosed financial interests and forcing a reassessment of IDSA guidelines. My office uncovered undisclosed financial interests held by several of the most powerful IDSA panelists. The IDSA’s guideline panel improperly ignored or minimized consideration of alternative medical opinion and evidence regarding chronic Lyme disease, potentially raising serious questions about whether the recommendations reflected all relevant science.”

The documentary “Under Our Skin,” winner of numerous film festival awards, also found collusion between the IDSA and health insurance industry—members of the IDSA panel on Lyme disease having financial connections to health insurance companies. It also related the stories of Lyme sufferers cured with long-term treatment and told of doctors who provided long-term Lyme care being severely punished by the medical authorities.

Andy Abrahams Wilson, producer and director of “Under Our Skin” and also a new updated documentary, “Under Our Skin 2: Emergence,” has said that despite the agreement with the attorney general, the IDSA “guidelines were not changed.” In the new documentary “we’re continuing to look at the—let’s call them—chronic Lyme denialists.”

As a U.S. senator since 2011, Blumenthal has tried to deal with the situation with legislation. In that year he first introduced his Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act.

His legislation states: “Although Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught early, the disease often goes undetected because it mimics other illnesses or may be misdiagnosed. Untreated, Lyme disease can lead to severe heart, neurological, and joint problems because the bacteria can affect many different organs and organ systems.”

Under his bill, a Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee would be established to “coordinate all federal programs and activities related to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases…Although Lyme disease accounts for 90 percent of all vector-borne diseases in the United States, the ticks that spread Lyme disease also spread other diseases, such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis.”

The committee would include members of “the scientific community representing the broad spectrum of viewpoints held within the scientific community related to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.” Also, there’d be representatives of “tick-borne voluntary advocacy organizations,” Lyme patients or their relatives, and “representatives from state and local government health departments and local health professionals who investigate or treat patients with Lyme disease.”

Among its activities would be “development of sensitive and more accurate diagnostic tools and tests, including a direct detection test for Lyme disease,” expanding a “national uniform reporting system” for cases of Lyme disease, “creating a national monitoring system for tick populations,” fostering “increased public education” and “creation of a physician education program.” The committee would issue reports on its work each year.

As to the source of Lyme disease, Michael Carroll in his best-selling book, Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory, links Lyme disease to the federal government’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Plum Island is 10 miles from Old Lyme, Connecticut and a mile and a half off the North Fork of Long Island.

Carroll, an attorney, formerly a law firm associate of the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo, notes in his book that Lyme disease “suddenly surfaced in Old Lyme, Connecticut” in 1975 and cites years of experimentation before that with ticks on Plum Island and discusses the possibility of an accidental or purposeful release.

Lab 257 documents a Nazi connection to the original establishment by the U.S. Army of an animal disease laboratory on Plum Island. According to the book, Erich Traub, a scientist who worked for the Third Reich doing biological warfare, was the force behind its founding.

During World War II, “as lab chief of Insel Riems—a secret Nazi biological warfare laboratory on a crescent-shaped island in the Baltic Sea­—Traub worked directly for Adolph Hitler’s second-in-charge, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, on live germ trials,” relates Lab 257. The mission was to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union. This included infecting cattle and reindeer with foot-and-mouth disease. This became the mission, in a Cold War setting, at Plum Island.

And, states Lab 257, “The tick is the perfect germ vector which is why it has long been fancied as a germ weapon by early biowarriors from Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan to the Soviet Union and the United States.”

“A source who worked on Plum Island in the 1950s,” the book says, “recalls that animal handlers and a scientist released ticks outdoors on the island. ‘They called him the Nazi scientist, when they came in, in 1951—they were inoculating these ticks.” Lab 257 goes on: “Dr. Traub’s World War II handiwork consisted of aerial virus sprays developed on Insel Riems and tested over occupied Russia, and of field work for Heinrich Himmler in Turkey. Indeed, his colleagues conducted bug trials by dropping live beetles from planes. An outdoor tick trial would have been de rigueur for Erich Traub.”

Traub was brought to the U.S. with the end of the war under Project Paperclip, a program under which Nazi scientists, such as Wernher von Braun, came to America.

“Traub’s detailed explanation of the secret operation on Insel Riems” given to officials at Fort Detrick in Maryland, the Army’s biological warfare headquarters, and to the CIA, “laid the groundwater for Fort Detrick’s offshore germ warfare animal disease lab on Plum Island. Traub was a founding father,” says Lab 257.

And Plum Island’s purpose, says the book, became what Insel Riems had been: to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union, ­with the Cold War conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union having begun.

Lab 257, published in 2004, also tells of why suddenly the Plum Island laboratory was transferred from the Army to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1954: ­the Pentagon became concerned about having to feed millions of people in the Soviet Union if its food animals were destroyed. The Joint Chiefs of Staff “found that a war with the U.S.S.R. would best be fought with conventional and nuclear means, and biological warfare against humans, ­not against food animals,” says the book. “Destroying the food supply meant having to feed millions of starving Russians after winning a war.”

Also making a link between Plum Island and Lyme disease is an earlier book, The Belarus Secret: The Nazi Connection in America. First published in 1982, it was written by John Loftus, also an attorney. Loftus was formerly with the Office of Special Investigations of the U.S. Department of Justice set up to expose Nazi war crimes and unearth Nazis hiding in the United States.

Given top-secret clearance to review sealed files, Loftus found a trove of information on America’s postwar recruiting of Nazis. He also exposed the Nazi past of former Austrian president and U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and his involvement as an officer in a German Army unit that committed atrocities during the war. Waldheim subsequently faded from the international scene.

In The Belarus Secret, Loftus tells of “the records of the Nazi germ warfare scientists who came to America. They experimented with poison ticks dropped from planes to spread rare diseases. I have received some information suggesting that the U.S. tested some of these poison ticks on the Plum Island artillery range off the coast of Connecticut during the early 1950’s. . . Most of the germ warfare records have been shredded, but there is a top secret U.S. document confirming that ‘clandestine attacks on crops and animals’ took place at this time.”

Loftus points to “the hypothesis that the poison ticks are the source of the Lyme disease spirochete, and that migrating waterfowl were the vectors that carried the ticks from Plum Island all up and down the Eastern Seaboard.”

Loftus adds: “Sooner or later the whole truth will come out, but probably not in my lifetime.”

The Plum Island Animal Disease Center is still in operation. However, the federal government is currently seeking to close it and have its activities transferred to a new laboratory it seeks to build in Kansas which it has named the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Also, following the 9/11 terrorist attack, the government transferred control of Plum Island and the center on it from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Homeland Security.

Officials on Plum Island have, since the departure of the Army, described the center’s work as conducting studies of foreign animal diseases and, as to biological warfare, have said that only “defensive” biological warfare research is done there—linked to diseases that might be introduced by an enemy to kill U.S. livestock.

The federal government wants Plum Island’s operations transferred to the new proposed laboratory in Kansas because the Plum Island center is not a “Biosafety Level 4” facility and also for security reasons.

Biosafety Level 4 is the top level of security in biological research. It is designated for work with the most dangerous agents—those that can cause fatal diseases in humans and, say the rules of the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control, “for which there are no vaccines or treatments.” The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is to be a Biosafety Level 4 laboratory.

Also, there has been concern by the government about security itself for the 840-acre island out in the sea, exposed, amid busy marine traffic lanes, and vulnerable to attack, the Government Accountability Office has stated. In a 2003 report, the GAO said there is a substantial risk that “an adversary might try to steal pathogens” from the center and use them against people or animals in the United States. GAO noted that a camel pox strain researched at the center could be converted into “an agent as threatening as smallpox,” and the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus studied there could be “developed into a human biowarfare agent.”

An attack on Plum Island is not a vaguely hypothetical risk.

Aafia Siddiqui, an al-Qaeda operative, was convicted by a jury in Manhattan in 2010 of attempted murder and is now serving 86 years in federal prison in a case with a Plum Island connection. Found with her when she was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 were poisonous chemicals and notes about a “mass-casualty attack” in the U.S. and a list of targets: Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building—and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. A Pakistani, she has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the U.S.

Lab 257 tells of a 2002 raid by the U.S. of the Afghanistan residence of Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, a nuclear physicist also from Pakistan and involved with al-Qaeda, in which a “dossier” was discovered containing “information on a place in New York called the Plum Island Animal Disease Center.”

Meanwhile, if the Lyme disease legislation is enacted, new and vital federal government action could be coming—on a health scourge that the U.S. government might be responsible for causing.

URL to article: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/10/02/the-politics-of-lyme-disease/


“Radiation is Good for You!” and Other Tall Tales of the Nuclear Industry

September 8, 2015

By Karl Grossman

Articles

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering a move to eliminate the “Linear No-Threshold” (LNT) basis of radiation protection that the U.S. has used for decades and replace it with the “radiation hormesis” theory—which holds that low doses of radioactivity are good for people.

The change is being pushed by “a group of pro-nuclear fanatics—there is really no other way to describe them,” charges the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) based near Washington, D.C.

“If implemented, the hormesis model would result in needless death and misery,” says Michael Mariotte, NIRS president. The current U.S. requirement that nuclear plant operators reduce exposures to the public to “as low as reasonably achievable” would be “tossed out the window. Emergency planning zones would be significantly reduced or abolished entirely. Instead of being forced to spend money to limit radiation releases, nuclear utilities could pocket greater profits. In addition, adoption of the radiation model by the NRC would throw the entire government’s radiation protection rules into disarray, since other agencies, like the EPA, also rely on the LNT model.”

“If anything,” says Mariotte, “the NRC radiation standards need to be strengthened.”

The NRC has a set a deadline of November 19 for people to comment on the proposed change. The public can send comments to the U.S. government’s “regulations” website.

Comments can also be sent by regular mail to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, Attention:Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff. Docket ID. Needed to be noted on any letter is the code NRC-2015-0057.

If the NRC agrees to the switch, “This would be the most significant and alarming change to U.S. federal policy on nuclear radiation,” reports the online publication Nuclear-News“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission may decide that exposure to ionizing radiation is beneficial—from nuclear bombs, nuclear power plants, depleted uranium, x-rays and Fukushima,” notes Nuclear-News. ”No protective measures or public safety warnings would be considered necessary. Clean-up measures could be sharply reduced…In a sense, this would legalize what the government is already doing—failing to protect the public and promoting nuclear radiation.”

In the wake of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. crash program during World War II to build atomic bombs and the spin-offs of that program—led by nuclear power plants, there was a belief, for a time, that there was a certain “threshold” below which radioactivity wasn’t dangerous.

But as the years went by it became clear there was no threshold—that any amount of radiation could injure and kill, that there was no “safe” dose.

Low levels of radioactivity didn’t cause people to immediately sicken or die. But, it was found, after a “latency” or “incubation” period of several years, the exposure could then result in illness and death.
Thus, starting in the 1950s, the “Linear No-Threshold” standard was adopted by the governments of the U.S. and other countries and international agencies.

It holds that radioactivity causes health damage—in particular cancer—directly proportional to dose, and that there is no “threshold.” Moreover, because the effects of radiation are cumulative, the sum of several small exposures are considered to have the same effect as one larger exposure, something called “response linearity.”

The LNT standard has presented a major problem for those involved in developing nuclear technology notably at the national nuclear laboratories established for the Manhattan Project—Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories—and those later set up as the Manhattan Project was turned into the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

On one hand, Dr. Alvin Weinberg, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, declared in New Scientist magazine in 1972: “If a cure for cancer is found the problem of radiation standards disappear.”

Meanwhile, other nuclear proponents began pushing a theory they named “radiation hormesis” that claimed that the LNT standard was incorrect and that a little amount of radioactivity was good for people.

A leader in the U.S. advocating hormesis has been Dr. T. D. Luckey. A biochemistry professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia and visiting scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, he authored the book Hormesis and Ionizing Radiation and Radiation Hormesis and numerous articles. In one, “Radiation Hormesis Overiew,” he contends: “We need more, not less, exposure to ionizing radiation. The evidence that ionizing radiation is an essential agent has been reviewed…There is proven benefit.” He contends that radioactivity “activates the immune system.” Dr. Luckey further holds: “The trillions of dollars estimated for worldwide nuclear waste management can be reduced to billions to provide safe, low-dose irradiation to improve our health. The direction is obvious; the first step remains to be taken.” And he wrote: “Evidence of health benefits and longer average life-span following low-dose irradiation should replace fear.”

A 2011 story in the St. Louis Post Dispatchquoted Dr. Luckey as saying “if we get more radiation, we’d live a more healthful life” and also noted that he kept on a shelf in his bedroom a rock “the size of a small bowling ball, dotted with flecks of uranium, spilling invisible rays” It reported that “recently” Dr. Luckey “noticed a small red splotch on his lower back. It looked like a mild sunburn, the first sign of too much radiation. So he pushed the rock back on the shelf, a few inches farther away, just to be safe.”

At Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), set up by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in 1947 to develop civilian uses of nuclear technology and conduct research in atomic science, a highly active proponent of hormesis has been Dr. Ludwig E. Feinendegen. Holding posts as a professor in his native Germany and a BNL scientist, he authored numerous papers advocating hormesis. In a 2005 article published in the British Journal of Radiology he wrote of “beneficial low level radiation effects” and asserted that the “LNT hypothesis for cancer risk is scientifically unfounded and appears to be invalid in favor of a threshold or hormesis.”

The three petitions to the NRC asking it scuttle the LNT standard and replace it with the hormesis theory were submitted by Dr. Mohan Doss on behalf of the organization Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information; Dr. Carol Marcus of the UCLA medical school; and Mark Miller, a health physicist at Sandia National Laboratories.

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service points out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or EPA is fully supportive of LNT.

The agency’s reason for accepting LNT—and history of the standard—were spelled out in 2009 by Dr. Jerome Puskin, chief of its Radiation Protection Division.

The EPA, Dr. Puskin states, “is responsible for protecting the public from environmental exposures to radiation. To meet this objective the agency sets regulatory limits on radionuclide concentrations in air, water, and soil.” The agency bases its “protective exposure limits” on “scientific advisory bodies, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Ionizing Radiation, and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, with additional input from its own independent review.” The LNT standard, he writes, “has been repeatedly endorsed” by all of these bodies.

“It is difficult to imagine any relaxation in this approach unless there is convincing evidence that LNT greatly overestimates risk at the low doses of interest,” Dr. Puskin goes on, and “no such change can be expected” in view of the determination of the National Academies of Sciences’ BEIR VII committee. (BEIR is for Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation.)

BEIR VII found that “the balance of evidence from epidemiologic, animal and mechanistic studies tend to favor a simple proportionate relationship at low doses between radiation dose and cancer risk.”

As chair of the BEIR VII committee, Dr. Richard Monson, associate dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, said in 2005 on issuance of its report: “The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial.”

A European expert on radioactivity, Dr. Ian Fairlie, who as an official in the British government worked on radiation risks and has been a consultant on radiation matters to the European Parliament and other government entities, has presented detailed comments to the NRC on the petitions that it drop LNT and adopt the hormesis theory.

Dr. Fairlie says “the scientific evidence for the LNT is plentiful, powerful and persuasive.” He summarizes many studies done in Europe and the United States including BEIR VII. As to the petitions to the NRC, “my conclusion is that they do not merit serious consideration.” They “appear to be based on preconceptions or even ideology, rather than the scientific evidence which points in the opposite direction.”

An additional issue in the situation involves how fetuses and children “are the most vulnerable” to radiation and women “more vulnerable than men,” states an online petition opposing the change. It was put together by the organization Beyond Nuclear, also based near Washington, D.C. It is headed “Protect children from radiation exposure” and advises: “Tell NRC: A little radiation is BAD for you. It can give you cancer and other diseases.” It continues: “NRC should NOT adopt a ‘little radiation is good for you’ model. Instead, they should fully protect the most vulnerable which they are failing to do now.”

How might the commissioners of the NRC decide the issue? Like the Atomic Energy Commission which it grew out of, the NRC is an unabashed booster of nuclear technology and long devoted to drastically downplaying the dangers of radioactivity. A strong public stand—many negative comments—over their deciding that radioactivity is “good” for you could impact on their positions.

URL to article: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/09/08/radiation-is-good-for-you-and-other-tall-tales-of-the-nuclear-industry/


Iran Deal, “Hot Cells” and Plutonium

August 4, 2015

By Karl Grossman

Articles

The focus on Iran developing atomic bombs has mainly been on the thousands of centrifuges it has which it could use to produce highly enriched uranium for bomb fuel. But as likely a source of atomic bomb fuel would be the plutonium that could be separated out of “spent” fuel from nuclear power plants — and in 2011 Iran’s first nuclear plant opened, completed by Russia. Moreover, last year Russia signed an agreement to build two more nuclear power plants in Iran “with a possibility of six more after that,” The New York Times reported.

Although enriched uranium was the fuel used in the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, plutonium was the fuel in the atomic bomb that devastated Nagasaki — and virtually all atomic bombs ever since have used plutonium, not enriched uranium.

Gathering plutonium for atomic bombs from spent fuel from a nuclear power plant can be accomplished  by having a “hot cell” —  very common, indeed ubiquitous machine used in nuclear technology — and separating out the plutonium chemically with it.

Hot cells are shielded nuclear radiation chambers. They’re used to protect technicians inspecting nuclear fuel rods from a nuclear plant or processing medical isotopes. But they have long been a concern when it comes to the proliferation of nuclear weapons because of their potential use to carry out the chemical steps of extracting plutonium from reactor fuel.

When I was an anchor of the nightly news at the then Long Island, New York commercial TV channel, WSNL-TV 35 years ago, anchorpeople from all over the U.S. were invited to a three-day symposium on nuclear weapons proliferation held at the Kennedy School at Harvard University. The object was for us to know the facts behind the proliferation issue if and when we needed to report on what could be the terrible outcome of it. The hot cell was a major item discussed. It remains a major proliferation concern.

Russia agreed to complete Iran’s first nuclear power plant, Bushehr I, opened in 2011, on the condition that the spent fuel from it would be sent back to Russia for “reprocessing” and thus, seemingly, the threat of plutonium being extracted from the fuel in Iran would be dealt with. But even with this, there’s the matter of the time it would take for any shipment out of Iran to happen.

As the Arms Control Association in an article on the Iran-Russia arrangement on spent fuel from Bushehr 1 to Russia pointed out, there’s a “question” of “how long it will need to remain in cooling pools located in Iran before being sent to Russia.” It cited “a Russian official’s estimate” that “the fuel needs two years to cool. However, other Russian officials have told their U.S. counterparts that the fuel must stay in Iran between three and five years, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today.”

Having spent nuclear fuel remain in Iran for years could provide plenty of time to separate some of the plutonium out of it. With up to nine nuclear power plants in Iran, Iran would have plenty of spent fuel to use for this purpose.

This underlines weakness of President Barack Obama’s claim at his press conference on July 15, at which he defended his nuclear deal with Iran and maintained that with it Iran “is cut off from plutonium.”

Obama, meanwhile, has held that it is OK for Iran to have a “peaceful” nuclear power program. As he stated in his Cairo speech in 2009, “any nation — including Iran — should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power.”

This ignores a central issue about nuclear technology: there is no “peaceful nuclear power.” Nuclear weapons and nuclear power are two sides of the same coin.

As physicist Amory Lovins and attorney L. Hunter Lovins wrote in their seminal book, Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link: “All nuclear fission technologies both use and produce fissionable materials that are or can be concentrated. Unavoidably latent in those technologies, therefore, is a potential for nuclear violence and coercion which may be exploited by governments, factions…Little strategic material is needed to make a weapon of mass destruction. A Nagasaki-yield bomb can be made from a few kilograms of plutonium, a piece the size of a tennis ball.”

“A large power reactor,” they noted, “annually produces…hundreds of kilograms of plutonium.” Civilian nuclear power technology, they concluded, provides the way to make nuclear weapons, furnishing the material and the trained personnel.

Indeed, that’s how India got The Bomb in 1974. Canada supplied a nuclear reactor to be used for “peaceful purposes” and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission trained Indian engineers. And lo and behold, India had nuclear weapons.

As the late oceanographer Jacques Cousteau emphasized: “Human society is too diverse, national passion too strong, human aggressiveness too deep-seated for the peaceful and warlike atom to stay divorced for long. We cannot embrace one while abhorring the other; we must learn, if we want to live at all, to live without both.”

It was the U.S. with its “Atoms for Peace” program in the 1950s that encouraged Iran to develop nuclear power. After the rupture of relations between the countries with the Iranian revolution of 1979, Russia stepped in, completing Bushehr I.

More details on how plutonium, a manmade element, is created in a nuclear power plant: 97 percent of the uranium fuel in a nuclear power plant is Uranium-238 which does not fission or split. Only 3 percent of the uranium is Uranium-235, which does fission or split, and it is from this reaction that comes the heat used to boil water, turn a turbine and generate electricity. However, much of the Uranium-238 will, in proximity to fission, absorb a neutron and change to another element, Plutonium-239. Plutonium-239 is extremely radioactive and has a half-life of 24,100 years, so it’s radioactive for 240,000 years. It was first produced during the World War II Manhattan Project as an alternative fuel for atomic bombs to uranium, the supply of which was considered limited. Plutonium-239 became the preferred bomb fuel for atomic bombs and plutonium is also used as the “trigger” in hydrogen bombs.

In Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, spent fuel from the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor — believed to be a plutonium production reactor although Iran has claimed it was built for atomic research and also production of isotopes for medical and industrial use — would also be shipped out of Iran for reprocessing. But how long will Arak’s radioactively-hot fuel rods remain in Iran before they can be shipped out?

Obama at his press conference placed great faith in a key U.S. negotiator of his Iran nuclear deal, Ernest Moniz, who he appointed secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy in 2013. He described Moniz at the press conference as a “nuclear expert from MIT.”

Moniz is also a great booster of nuclear power. In a 2011 essay in Foreign Affairs magazine, titled “Why We Still Need Nuclear Power,” he wrote: “In the years following the major accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, nuclear power fell out of favor, and some countries applied the brakes to their nuclear programs. In the last decade, however, it began experiencing something of a renaissance.”  He went on that “the movement lost momentum” with the Fukushima nuclear power disaster in Japan earlier that year with it causing “widespread public doubts about the safety of nuclear power to resurface. Germany announced an accelerated shutdown of its nuclear reactors, with broad public support.”

But, Moniz insisted: “It would be a mistake…to let Fukushima cause governments to abandon nuclear power and its benefits…Nuclear power’s track record of providing clean and reliable electricity compares favorably with other energy sources.” He added that “the public needs to be convinced that nuclear power is safe.”

With Moniz, a nuclear power cheerleader, integral at the negotiation table, how much concern was there, in putting together the nuclear deal, on the proliferation of atomic weaponry from “peaceful” nuclear power?

Obama at the press conference also placed great faith in the monitoring of its compliance by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The establishment of that agency was a direct result of the U.S. “Atoms for Peace” effort. President Dwight Eisenhower’s in speech declaring “Atoms for Peace” made at the UN in 1953 proposed an international agency to promote civilian atomic energy and, at the same time, to control the use of nuclear material — a dual role paralleling that of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. But in 1974, the AEC was abolished after the U.S. Congress concluded its two roles were a conflict of interest.

Still, the IAEA, set up in the AEC’s image and riddled with the same conflict of interest, continues to operate. With its stated mission “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy,” it unabashedly promotes nuclear power — at the same time trying to police that same power.

Admiral Hyman Rickover, “father” of the U.S. nuclear navy and in charge of construction of America’s first nuclear power plant, Shippingport in Pennsylvania, opened in 1957, saw the light regarding nuclear power decades later — and voiced his completely changed position.

In a “farewell address” in 1982, to a committee of the U.S. Congress, Rickover bluntly declared that the world must “outlaw nuclear reactors.”

He said it had been “impossible to have any life on earth: that is, there was so much radiation on earth you couldn’t have any life — fish or anything. Gradually, about 2 billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet and probably in the entire system reduced and made it possible for some for some form of life to begin.”

“Now,” he continued, “when we go back to using nuclear power, we are creating something which nature tried to destroy to make life possible.… Every time you produce radiation, you produce something that has life, in some cases for billions of years, and I think there the human race is going to wreck itself, and it’s far more important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it.”

As for atomic weaponry, Rickover said the “lesson of history” is that nations in war “will use whatever weaponry they have.”

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/iran-deal-hot-cells-and-plutonium/

Obama, the Iran Deal and Plutonium

July 16, 2015

By Karl Grossman

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President Barack Obama insisted at his press conference yesterday, in which he defended his nuclear deal with Iran, that with it Iran “is cut off from plutonium”—the preferred fuel for atomic bombs. Meanwhile, he has also said it is OK for Iran to have a “peaceful” nuclear power program. As he stated in his Cairo speech in 2009, “any nation—including Iran—should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power.”

This ignores a central issue about nuclear technology: there’s no “peaceful nuclear power.” Nuclear weapons and nuclear power are two sides of the same coin.

As physicist Amory Lovins and attorney L. Hunter Lovins wrote in their seminal book, Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link: “All nuclear fission technologies both use and produce fissionable materials that are or can be concentrated. Unavoidably latent in those technologies, therefore, is a potential for nuclear violence and coercion which may be exploited by governments, factions…Little strategic material is needed to make a weapon of mass destruction. A Nagasaki-yield bomb can be made from a few kilograms of plutonium, a piece the size of a tennis ball.”

“A large power reactor,” they noted, “annually produces…hundreds of kilograms of plutonium.” Civilian nuclear power technology, they concluded, provides the way to make nuclear weapons, furnishing the material and the trained personnel.

Indeed, that’s how India got The Bomb in 1974. Canada supplied a nuclear reactor to be used for “peaceful purposes” and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission trained Indian engineers. And lo and behold, India had nuclear weapons.

As the late oceanographer Jacques Cousteau emphasized: “Human society is too diverse, national passion too strong, human aggressiveness too deep-seated for the peaceful and warlike atom to stay divorced for long. We cannot embrace one while abhorring the other; we must learn, if we want to live at all, to live without both.”

It was the U.S. with its “Atoms for Peace” program in the 1950s that encouraged Iran to develop nuclear power. Since the rupture of relations between the countries with the Iranian revolution of 1979, Russia has stepped in. Russia completed what is Iran’s first nuclear power plant, Bushehr I, started in 1975 by German companies that stopped work after the Iranian revolution.

Russia agreed to complete the nuclear power plant, which opened in 2011, on the condition that the “spent” fuel from it—from which plutonium for weapons could be extracted—would be sent back to Russia for “reprocessing.”

(In a nuclear power plant, 97 percent of the uranium fuel is Uranium-238 which does not fission or split. Only 3 percent is Uranium-235 which does fission or split and it is from this reaction that comes the heat used to boil water, turn a turbine and generate electricity. However, much of the Uranium-238 will, in proximity to fission, absorb a neutron and change to another element, Plutonium-239. Plutonium-239 is highly radioactive and has a half-life of 24,100 years, thus it’s radioactive for 240,000 years. Plutonium is a manmade element. Plutonium-239 was first produced in the 1940s during the World War II Manhattan Project, the crash program to make atomic bombs, as an alternative to highly-enriched uranium as a fuel in atomic weapons. The bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima was fueled with highly-enriched uranium (90 percent U-235).The bomb dropped on Nagasaki utilized Plutonium 239—as have virtually all atomic bombs since.)

The plan now is for Bushehr I to be followed by more nuclear power plants in Iran. Russia and Iran last year signed a deal under which Russia would construct two more nuclear power plants on the Bushehr site “with a possibility of six more after that,” the New York Times reported in opening its article on that deal.

In the new deal, spent fuel from the Arak nuclear reactor—believed to be a plutonium production reactor although Iran has claimed it built for research and also production of isotopes for medical and industrial use—would also be shipped out of Iran for reprocessing.

Obama insisted at yesterday’s press conference: “With this deal we cut off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear program”—and he then corrected himself and said—“a nuclear weapons program.”

Still, even with arrangements to send out of Iran spent nuclear fuel from which Plutonium-239 could be obtained for atomic bombs, there’s the matter of the time it would take for any shipment out of Iran to happen.

The Arms Control Association in an article on the original Iran-Russia deal to ship spent fuel from Bushehr to Russia raised the “question” of “how long it will need to remain in cooling pools located in Iran before being sent to Russia.” It cited “a Russian official’s estimate” that “the fuel needs two years to cool. However, other Russian officials have told their U.S. counterparts that the fuel must stay in Iran between three and five years, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today.”

Having spent nuclear fuel remain in Iran for years could provide plenty of time to separate some of the Plutonium-239 out of it and thus serve as a “pathway” to “a nuclear weapons program.” Moreover,  because, as the Lovins wrote, “a few kilograms of plutonium” is all that’s needed for a “Nagasaki-yield bomb,” the hundreds of kilograms of Plutonium-239 routinely produced each year as a byproduct in a nuclear power plant provides a large amount of material to draw from.

Obama at the press conference yesterday also placed great faith in a key U.S. negotiator of the deal, Ernest Moniz, who he appointed secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy in 2013. He described Moniz at the press conference as a “nuclear expert from MIT.”

Moniz is also a great booster of nuclear power. In a 2011 essay in Foreign Affairs magazine, titled “Why We Still Need Nuclear Power,” he wrote: “In the years following the major accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, nuclear power fell out of favor, and some countries applied the brakes to their nuclear programs. In the last decade, however, it began experiencing something of a renaissance.”  He went on that “the movement lost momentum” with the Fukushima nuclear power disaster in Japan earlier that year with it causing “widespread public doubts about the safety of nuclear power to resurface. Germany announced an accelerated shutdown of its nuclear reactors, with broad public support.”

But, Moniz insisted: “It would be a mistake…to let Fukushima cause governments to abandon nuclear power and its benefits…Nuclear power’s track record of providing clean and reliable electricity compares favorably with other energy sources.” He added that “the public needs to be convinced that nuclear power is safe.”

With Moniz, a nuclear power cheerleader, integral at the negotiation table, how much concern would be focused on the proliferation of atomic weaponry from “peaceful” nuclear power?

Obama at the press conference also placed great faith in the monitoring for compliance with the deal by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The establishment of that agency was a direct result of the U.S. “Atoms for Peace” effort. President Dwight Eisenhower’s in speech declaring “Atoms for Peace” made at the UN in 1953 proposed an international agency to promote civilian atomic energy and, at the same time, to control the use of nuclear material — a dual role paralleling that of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. But in 1974, the AEC was abolished after the U.S. Congress concluded its two roles were a conflict of interest.

Still, the IAEA, set up in the AEC’s image and riddled with the same conflict of interest, continues to operate.  With its stated mission “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy,” it unabashedly promotes nuclear power—at the same time trying to police that same power.

Admiral Hyman Rickover, “father” of the U.S. nuclear navy and in charge of construction of America’s first nuclear power plant, Shippingport in Pennsylvania, opened in 1957, saw the light regarding nuclear power decades later—and voiced his completely changed position.

In a “farewell address” in 1982, to a committee of the U.S. Congress, Rickover bluntly declared that the world must “outlaw nuclear reactors.”

He said it had been “impossible to have any life on earth: that is, there was so much radiation on earth you couldn’t have any life—fish or anything. Gradually, about 2 billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet and probably in the entire system reduced and made it possible for some for some form of life to begin.”

“Now,” he continued, “when we go back to using nuclear power, we are creating something which nature tried to destroy to make life possible.… Every time you produce radiation, you produce something that has life, in some cases for billions of years, and I think there the human race is going to wreck itself, and it’s far more important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it.”
As for atomic weaponry, Rickover said the “lesson of history” is that nations in war “will use whatever weaponry they have.”

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/obama-the-iran-deal-and-plutonium/


The Mad Science of Nuclear Airplanes

July 10, 2015

By Karl Grossman

Consider getting on to an airplane with nuclear-powered engines.

Consider the consequences if an atomic airplane crashes.

The Boeing Company last week received approval from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for an airplane engine that combines the use of lasers and nuclear power.

“Boeing’s newly-patented engine provides thrust in a very different and rather novel manner,” heralded Business Insider

It’s a leap into mad science—and backwards to a 1950s notion of nuclear-powered aircraft.

The patent approval to America’s biggest airplane manufacturer comes as solar power and green fuels are being shown to be feasible energy sources for flight—as they are for uses on earth.

Last week an airplane using only solar power, Solar Impulse 2, landed in Hawaii after flying across the Pacific. It’s to go on flying around the world. Also last week, in an expansion of the use of biofuels for aviation, United Airlines announced the start of flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco of jets using fuel derived from farm waste. United further said it will invest $30 million in one of the major producers of jet bio-fuels, Fulcrum BioEnergy.

The Boeing scheme would have lasers in an airplane engine bombard deuterium or tritium causing a nuclear explosion with its force providing thrust.

Business Insider features a video on its website page with its article on the Boeing patent that features, Deepak Gupta, founder of PatentYogi, a YouTube channel. Gupta declares: “This is another cool invention from Boeing. Boeing has patented nuclear power aircrafts. The engines of these aircrafts include a unique propulsion system.”

As Gupta explains the process:

“A stream of pellets containing nuclear material such as deuterium or tritium is fed into a hot-spot within a thruster of the aircraft. Then multiple high powered laser beams are all focused onto the hot spot. The pellet is instantly vaporized and the high temperature causes a nuclear fusion reaction. In effect, it causes a tiny nuclear explosion that scatters atoms and high energy neutrons in all directions. This flow of material is concentrated to exit out of the thruster thus propelling the aircraft forward with great force.”

“And this is where Boeing has done something extremely clever,” Gupta continues. “The inner walls of the thruster are coated with…Uranium-238 that undergoes a nuclear fission reaction upon being struck by high energy neutrons. This releases enormous energy in the form of heat. A coolant is circulated along the inner walls to pick up this heat and power a turbine which in turn generates huge amounts of electric power. And guess what this electric power is used for? To power the same lasers that created the electric power.”

“Soon,” says Gupta, “tiny nuclear bombs exploding inside a plane may be business as usual.” He adds: “I would love to use these non-polluting aircraft.”

Is the Boeing scheme really the basis for mon-polluting aircraft?

No way, says Jim Riccio, nuclear analyst for Greenpeace. “Since the supposed ‘Nuclear Renaissance’ [the effort to build more nuclear power plants] is dead in the west, there are some who are stretching to find applications for nuclear power—and this is a very long stretch.”

“Imagine getting into an airplane that has minor nuclear explosions for propulsion,” said Riccio. And “what about the implications of such an aircraft going down? We just saw an F-16 come down over South Carolina, its jet engine landing in someone’s backyard.”

“Meanwhile, we have breakthroughs in solar energy—to the extent of that solar plane showing solar’s potential,” said Riccio. “Solar energy is being used to accomplish things that nuclear couldn’t, as we watch solar costs plummet and nuclear go through the roof. The future is solar, not nuclear, despite Boeing’s attempt.”

Garry Morgan, long experienced in radiation issues including as a nuclear, biological and chemical warfare specialist in the U.S. Army, notes that “this is not the first time atomic engines for aircraft have been tried.”

In the 1950s the U.S. military developed nuclear-powered aircraft but ran into the huge problem of requiring “heavy shielding” to protect pilots and crew from radioactivity, noted Morgan. He is now director of community radiation and health monitoring for the Bellafonte Efficiency & Sustainability Team—Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation, initiatives of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.

In the military’s Nuclear Energy for Propulsion of Aircraft project of the 50s, ground tests were conducted of atomic airplane engines. A B-36 bomber was renamed an NB-36—NB for Nuclear Bomber—and made numerous test flights with an onboard reactor operating although not used to power engines.

Regarding the Boeing scheme, the result of the Uranium-238 being struck by neutrons would be some it being transformed into Plutonium-239, said Morgan. Plutonium has long been described as the most toxic radioactive substance, and Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,100 years, thus once created it remains radioactive for 240,000 years.

“I don’t understand how they are going to overcome the emissions problems and how the shielding issue would be handled,” said Morgan.

As to a crash of an airplane with atomic engines, “It would be a real mess. You’d have lethal material spread all over the place.”

The patent lists Boeing, based in Chicago, as “applicant” and the “inventors” of the proposed engine as: Frank O. Chandler, director of Advanced Vehicle Subsystems and Technologies at Boeing’s The Phantom Works; Boeing engineer James S. Herzberg; and Robert J. Budica, who has been Boeing’s director of strategic technologies.

“As of now,” says Business Insider, ”the engine lives only in patent documents. The technology is so-out-there that it’s unclear if anyone will ever use it.”

In a 1960 book, Nuclear Flight: The United States Air Force Program for Atomic Jets, Missiles, and Rockets, edited by Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth F. Glantz, then Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Development, Lt. General Roscoe C. Wilson, spoke of nuclear bombers with “unlimited range” being on “missions of several days duration.”

Nukespeak: the Selling of Nuclear Technology in the US by Stephen Hilgartner, Richard C. Bell and Rory O’Connor, published in 1983 with a new e-book edition in 2011, relates:

“Atomic-powered airplanes would make long-distance bombing easier, since the planes were expected to be able to circle the globe without refueling.” As late as 1959, it notes, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were assuring Congress of the military potential of nuclear-powered aircraft and urging that they be built. But nixing the program in 1961—after more than $1 billion in 1950s dollars had been spent—was then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who told Congress that an atomic airplane would “expel some fraction of radioactive fission products into the atmosphere, creating an important public relations problem if not an actual physical hazard.”

URL to article: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/10/the-mad-science-of-nuclear-airplanes/


The Perils of Nuclear-Powered Space Flights

June 29, 2015

By Karl Grossman

NASA has released a study claiming there is a need for continued use of plutonium-energized power systems for future space flights. It also says the use of actual nuclear reactors in space “has promise” but “currently” there is no need for them.

The space plutonium systems—called radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGS)—use the heat from the decay of plutonium to generate electricity in contrast to nuclear reactors, usually using uranium, in which fission or atom-splitting takes place.

The “Nuclear Power Assessment Study” describes itself as being done as a “collaboration” involving “NASA centers,” among them Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “the Department of Energy and its laboratories including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories,” and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

The study, released this month, comes as major breakthroughs have been happening in the use of solar and other benign sources of power in space. The situation parallels that on Earth as solar and wind power and other clean, safe technologies compete with nuclear, oil, coal and other problematic energy sources and the interests behind them.

Examples of the use of benign power in space include the successful flight in May of a solar-powered spacecraft named LightSail in a mission funded by members of the Planetary Society. Astronomer Carl Sagan, a founder of the society, was among those who have postulating having a spacecraft with a sail propelled through the vacuum of space by the pressure of photons emitted by the sun. LightSail demonstrates his vision.

Yet, meanwhile, NASA cancelled its own solar sail mission scheduled for this year. It was to involve the largest solar sail ever flown. In 2010, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency made the first solar sail flight with a spacecraft it named Ikaros. Before the NASA solar flight cancellation, NASA last year declared on its website: “The concept of a huge, ultra-thin sail unfurling in space, using the pressure of sunlight to provide propellant-free transport, hovering and exploration capabilities, may seem like the stuff of science fiction. Now a NASA team developing the ‘In-Space Demonstration of a Mission-Capable Solar Sail’—or Solar Sail Demonstrator for short—intend[s] to prove the viability and value of the technology in the years to come.” NASA said the mission, also called Sunjammer, was cancelled by NASA because of problems ” with the project’s contractor, L’Garde of California.

And also, meanwhile, demonstrating that solar power can be harvested far out in space, the Rosetta space probe of the European Space Agency (ESA), energized with solar power, successfully rendezvoused last year with a comet 375 million miles from the sun. ESA at the start of this mission explained that it did not have the plutonium power systems that NASA had, so instead it developed high-efficiency solar photovoltaic panels for use in space. And they worked enabling Rosetta to meet up with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and send a lander to its surface. Rosetta continues flying alongside the comet.

NASA, too, has a space probe energized with high-efficiency solar photovoltaic panels it developed now on its way to Jupiter in a mission it has named Juno. For decades, NASA insisted that solar power could not be harvested beyond the orbit of Mars and thus plutonium power systems were necessary. This was NASA’s central argument in federal court in 1989 to rebut opponents of its plutonium-energized Galileo mission to Jupiter. Now it has shown it was mistaken. Juno using solar power instead of plutonium RTGs is to reach Jupiter next year.

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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut and Marine Corps major general, remains a big booster of using nuclear-propelled rockets to get to Mars. Work on such a rocket has been going on at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA on its website says that a nuclear-powered rocket “could propel human explorers to Mars more efficiently than conventional spacecraft.”

Through the years, NASA has worked closely with the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and after the commission was disbanded its successor, the Department of Energy, on space nuclear programs. And there’s a program at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop a “robust fission reactor prototype that could be used as a power system for space travel,” according to Technews World

This is occurring despite Russia now abandoning its development of nuclear-propelled rockets for missions to Mars, a project it had earlier much-heralded. Reported TASS in April:

“Russia’s space agency Roscosmos is planning to shut down works on developing a megawatt-class nuclear propulsion system for long-range manned spacecraft.”

But the DOE has resumed production for NASA of the isotope of plutonium—Plutonium-238—used in RTGs. It is a form of plutonium 280 times more radioactive than the plutonium used as a fuel in atomic bombs, Plutonium-239. Reported the journal Nature:

“NASA will be relieved to get this 238 Pu [Plutonium] because it is increasingly anxious about running out. The isotosope is not found in nature, so it has to be made in nuclear reactors…NASA now has just 35 kilograms of plutonium product—a small supply that may not match the demands to send missions to Mars, the moons of Jupiter and beyond.” The restart of Plutonium-238 production involves the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory. 1

“We’ve known for years that the nuclear industry has taken control of the seats at the NASA and DOE planning committees that decide whether solar or nuclear power should be used on space missions,” said Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. “The nuclear industry views space as a new market for their deadly product. Nuclear generators on space missions, nuclear powered mining colonies on Mars and other planetary bodies and even nuclear reactors on rockets to Mars are being sought. Thus there are many opportunities for things to go wrong.”

“Over the years, inside the DOE labs, hundreds of workers have been contaminated while fabricating space nuclear devices. It is not just some theoretical chance of a space launch accident that we are concerned about. We oppose the entire space nuclear power production process,” he said. “It’s all dangerous!”

“Just like here on Earth there is a tug-of-war going on between those who wish to promote life-giving solar power and those who want nukes,” said Gagnon. “That same battle for nuclear domination is being taken into the heavens by an industry that wants more profit—no matter the consequences. The Global Network will continue to organize around the space nuclear power issue by building a global constituency opposed to the risky and unnecessary nukes in space program.” The Global Network is based in Maine.

The new “Nuclear Power Assessment Study” opens by stating: “Human missions to deep-space locations such as extended missions on the lunar and Martian surfaces have always been recognized as requiring some form of nuclear power.” As of now, “nuclear power systems are expected to be required well into the 2030s at the least.”

It says using actual reactors in space “could potentially enable higher power,” but it suggests they be pursued “only if the future need arises and sufficient new funds to develop an FPS [fission power system] flight unit are provided.” It goes on, “Perhaps the largest uncertainty is the cost and schedule for developing a compact FPS for space flight. Only one U.S. reactor has been flown—the SNAP-10A reactor” which powered a satellite launched in 1965. That satellite, with its nuclear reactor onboard, remains1,000 miles overhead in what the study calls a “‘nuclear-safe’ orbit, although debris-shedding events of some level may have occurred.”

The study notes that the “United States has spent billions of dollars on space reactor programs, which have resulted in only one flight” and it says “examinations” of the many “terminated” space nuclear power “efforts have revealed that materials issues and technology challenges produced common pitfalls.”

Still, the study is high in praise of the U.S. space nuclear power program. “Nuclear systems have enabled tremendous strides in our country’s exploration and use of space since 1961.” It speaks of nuclear power being used “to support 31 missions that range from navigational, meteorological, communications and experimental satellites.”

“The launch and use of space nuclear power systems presents unique safety challenges,” it continues. “These safety challenges, or issues, must be recognized and addressed in the design of each space nuclear power system, including consideration of potential accident conditions.”

“Launch and safe flight involve risk of failures or accidents” and “the most critical periods include launch, ascent, and orbital or trajectory insertion.”

“Three accidents involving U.S. space nuclear power systems have occurred [and] all three involved the launch vehicle or transfer stage, and were unrelated to the power system,” the study says. “In each case, the nuclear systems responded as designed and there were no hazardous consequences.”

That claim of no hazardous consequences is not true, as the late Dr. John Gofman, professor at the University of California at Berkeley, long maintained. Of the three U.S. space nuclear accidents, the most serious was the fall back to Earth in 1964 of a satellite with a SNAP-9A plutonium system onboard. The satellite and plutonium system disintegrated in the fall, the plutonium was dispersed worldwide and caused, in Dr. Gofman’s estimation, an increase in the global lung cancer rate. Dr. Gofman, an M.D. and Ph.D., co-discoverer of several radioisotopes, and was a pioneer in the earliest experiments with plutonium.

A 10 percent failure rate in space nuclear power missions has also been the case for Russia and, before it, the Soviet Union. The worst Soviet space nuclear accident occurred in the fall in 1978 of Cosmos satellite 954, with an atomic reactor onboard, which disintegrated as it plummeted to Earth, spreading nuclear debris for hundreds of miles across the Northwest Territories of Canada.

Despite the study’s rosy history of space nuclear power, it also says “it may be prudent to build in more time in the development of schedule for the first launch of a new space reactor. Public interest would likely be large, and it is possible that opposition could be substantial.”

***

The explosion after launch Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on a mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station was an event again underlining the danger of using nuclear power on spacecraft.

Officials were warning people that “potentially hazardous debris could wash ashore.”

Consider if a radioisotope thermoelectric generator was onboard and plutonium was also dispersed. Consider if there were a nuclear reactor onboard or an atomic propulsion system and an array of radioactive poisons contained in the debris.

U.S. Representative Donna Edwards of Maryland, a member of the House Science, Space & Technology Committee, announced that “the launch failure this morning shows us once again that space is difficult—it requires near perfection.”

Inserting nuclear poisons into a danger-prone equation that “requires near perfectioin”—especially when it is unnecessary—is reckless, the consequences potentially devastating.

Estimates in NASA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement, for instance, of the cost of plutonium decontamination if there were an accident when the Curiosity rover was launched in 2011 to Mars were put at $267 million for each square mile of farmland, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.” It was powered with a plutonium-energized RTG, although previously NASA Mars rovers were able to function well with solar power.

When the Cassini space probe was sent off to Saturn in 1997—with three RTGs containing 72.3 pounds of Plutonium-238, the most plutonium ever used on a spacecraft—NASA in its Final Environmental Impact Statement said that if an “inadvertent reentry” of Cassini occurred causing it to disintegrate and release its plutonium, “5 billion…of the world’s population…could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure.”

Noting that “technology frequently goes wrong,” Gagnon of the Global Network Against

Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, says: “When you consider adding nuclear power into the mix it becomes an explosive combination. We’ve long been sounding the alarm that nuclear

power in space is not something the public nor the planet can afford to take a chance on.”

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

URL to article: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/06/29/the-perils-of-nuclear-powered-space-flights/


Our Nuke is Burning!

May 12, 2015

By Karl Grossman

In 1976, Robert Pollard, a rarity among U.S. government nuclear officials—honest and safety-committed—said of the Indian Point nuclear power station that it was “an accident waiting to happen.”

Pollard had been project manager at Indian Point for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from which he resigned at that time charging the NRC “suppresses the existence of unresolved safety questions and fails to resolve these problems.” He joined the Union of Concerned Scientists.

An explosion and fire at a transformer at Indian Point 3 on Saturday is but one of the many accidents that have occurred at the Indian Point facility through the years—none catastrophic as have been the disasters at the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants.

But Indian Point 2 has been in operation for 41 years, although when nuclear power was first advanced in the United States, plants were never seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. So licenses were limited to 40 years.

Indian Point 2 is thus now running without an operating license while the NRC considers an application before it from the plant’s owner, Entergy, to allow it to run another 20 years—for 60 years.

Indian Point 3, where the transformer explosion and fire occurred, has been operational for 39 years and its license expires this year. (Indian Point l was shut down early because of mechanical deficiencies.) Entergy also is seeking to have Indian Point 3’s operating license extended to 60 years.

These old, long problem-plagued nuclear plants, 26 miles up the Hudson River from New York City, are now disasters waiting to happen in a very heavily populated area. Some 22 million people live within 50 miles of the Indian Point site.

This plant is the nuclear plant that is closest to the most densely populated area on the globe,” declared New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Indian Point site on Sunday. Cuomo, who has been pushing to have the Indian Point nuclear plants closed, noted that this was “not the first transformer fire” at them. And the concern is that “one situation is going to trigger another.”

Entergy PR people in recent days have stressed that the transformer explosion and fire occurred in the “non-nuclear part” of Indian Point 3. However, as Pollard noted in a television documentary, “Three Mile Island Revisited,” that I wrote and narrated on that accident, “there is no non-nuclear part of a nuclear plant.”

What could be the extent of a major accident at Indian Point?

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1982 issued a report titled “Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences” or CRAC-2. The research for the report was done at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

CRAC-2—you can read the full report online at http://www.ccnr.org/crac.html —projects that in the event of a loss-of-coolant accident with breach of containment at Indian Point 2, there could be 46,000 “peak early fatalities,” 141,000 “peak early injuries,” 13,000 “cancer deaths” and a cost in property damages (in 1980 dollars) of $274 billion (which in today’s dollars would be $1 trillion)

For an accident at Indian Point 3 in which the transformer explosion and fire happened, because it is a somewhat bigger reactor (generating 1,025 megawatts compared to Indian Point 2’s 1,020) the impacts would be greater, said CRAC-2

For Indian Point 3, in the event of a meltdown with breach of containment, CRAC-2 estimates 50,000 “peak early fatalities,” 167,000 “peak early injuries,” 14,000 “cancer deaths” and a cost in property damage at $314 billion.

Compounding the problem of the Indian Point plants being old—consider driving a 60 year-old car on a high-speed Interstate—they are at the intersection of the Ramapo and Stamford earthquake faults. As a 2008 study by seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found: “Indian Point is situated at the intersection of the two most striking linear features marking the seismicity and also in the midst of a large population that is at risk in case of an accident. This is clearly one of the least favorable sites in our study area from an earthquake hazard and risk perspective.”

“This aging dilapidated facility has endless problems leaking radioactive chemicals, oil and PCB’s into the Hudson River. It’s unconscionable to permit the continued operation of Indian Point,” said Susan Hito-Shapiro, an environmental attorney and member of the leadership council of the Indian point Safe Energy Coalition.

Further, she pointed out this week, Indian Point has been described as “the most attractive terrorist target” in the U.S. because of its proximity to New York City and it also being seven miles from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Indeed, there was consideration by the 9/11 terrorists of crashing into Indian Point. Both captured jets flew over the Indian Point nuclear station before striking the World Trade Center minutes later.

And she described it as “outrageous” that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved an evacuation plan for Indian Point “although it would never work” in the event of an major accident at the plants considering the millions of people who stand to be affected.

The key to New York State’s strategy to shut down Indian Point is the denial by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to give Entergy a “water use permit” to let it continue to send many hundreds of millions of gallons of water a day from the nuclear plants into the Hudson River.

“We need to make sure DEC stays strong,” says Hito-Shapiro.

In light of the historic, reckless, scandalous weakness of the federal government when it comes to Indian Point—and the nuclear power plants of other utilities—strong state action is most necessary.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.  

URL to article: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/05/12/our-nuke-is-burning/


Common Dreams

Oil Wars: Fracking, Manipulation, and the Future of Our Energy System

May 03, 2015

By Karl Grossman

Articles
(Photo: miracc/cc/flickr)

Manipulation of the petroleum market is not new. John D. Rockefeller with his Standard Oil Trust mastered it between the end of the 19th and start of the 20th Century. Rockefeller and his trust succeeded in controlling virtually all the oil industry in the United States and also dominating the international market. The Standard Oil Trust fixed prices, set production quotas and ruthlessly forced out competitors.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1911, in the wake of muckraker Ida Tarbell’s investigative articles and book on the Standard Oil Trust, utilized the Sherman Antitrust Act to break the trust up into 34 pieces. ”For the safety of the Republic,” the court declared, “we now decree that this dangerous conspiracy must be ended.”

The most prominent corporate offshoots of Standard Oil today are ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips. The 34 were supposed to operate independently but, critics have long held, there’s been continued collusion: that the U.S.-dominated oil industry went from being a monopoly to a cartel.

With discoveries of oil in the Middle East in the 1930s and with Standard Oil offshoots deeply involved, the  Arabian American Oil Company—Aramco—was created in Saudi Arabia in 1944. In the 1970s, the Saudi government began acquiring more and more of a stake in Aramco, taking over full control in 1980 of what is now called Saudi Aramco.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries—OPEC—was formed in 1960 to “coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its Member Countries and ensure the stabilization of oil markets in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry.” http://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/about_us/23.htm   

The senior partner in OPEC, now a 12-nation organization, is Saudi Arabia. This figures considering it has the world’s largest proven crude oil reserves at more than 260 billion barrels. 

OPEC sets production targets for its member countries. An early and major flexing of OPEC petroleum power, its system of control, came in 1973 with the “oil embargo” or “oil shock” of that year. It was an OPEC effort to punish the U.S. for its support of Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Other OPEC-induced “oil shocks” have followed.

This historical background brings us to why the price of a barrel of oil has plummeted in half, from a high of $115 a barrel last June—and why you, as a result, are paying less for a gallon of gasoline at the pump.

The key reason is hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—and OPEC’s move to discourage competition to it from fracking.

In recent years there’s been a revolution in petroleum extraction made possible by a new technique of splitting underground shale formations through hydraulic fracking. This has vastly expanded the gas and oil output of the fracking process.

Fracking is a messy and polluting process. Massive amounts of water and 600 chemicals are shot into the ground under high pressure to release the gas and oil. Especially problematic is the leakage of gas from fracking wells into underground water causing not only serious contamination but the phenomenon of what comes out of a water faucet bursting into flames when touched with a match. The 2010 film Gasland, nominated for an Academy Award, and the subsequent Gasland Part II, both written and directed by Josh Fox, documented this fiery aspect of fracking along with the many instances of water pollution  and impact on people’s health caused by the contamination of water. There is also a major problem of fracking causing earthquakes.

Horizontal fracking in shale formations was first developed with federal government support in the United States starting in the 1980s  It has enabled the  U.S. to again become a global giant in petroleum production.

The International Energy Agency last year projected that in 2015, because of fracking, the U.S. would displace Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer.

Fracking, however, is a relatively expensive process—about ten times more costly than the $5 to $6 per barrel cost of drilling oil from conventional wells in Saudi Arabia.

By letting the price of oil drop the Saudi-led move has applied substantial financial pressure—so far—on the fracking industry. With the current price per barrel cost at less than $60 a barrel, fracking has become a problematic undertaking economically. And consequently there have been reductions in and cancellations of numerous fracking operations.

As Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve between 1987 and 2006, put it recently: “At the root of the price collapse was the development in the U.S. of technologies for extracting tight oil, mostly from shale deposits, by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. This reversed the decline in U.S. oil production.” 

“After the oil embargo of the 1970s,” he said, ”OPEC wrested oil pricing power from the U.S.” But now, there’s been a “shale technology breakthrough.”

“As a result, the gap between global production and consumption has widened, precipitating a rise in U.S. and world inventories, and a fall in prices. Saudi Arabia, confronted with an oil supply glut but not wishing to lose market share, abandoned its leadership role as global swing producer and refused to cut production to support prices.”

Explains Jamie Webster, an oil market analyst at HIS Energy in Washington, D.C.: “The faster you bring the price down, the quicker you will have a response from U.S. [fracking] production—that is the expectation and the hope. I cannot recall a time when several [OPEC] members were actively pushing the price down in both word and deed.”

There are other factors, too.  

The plunging price of oil has impacted severely on Russia causing some analysts to see collusion between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to hurt the Putin regime in Russia—and some have extended this to seeing such a conspiracy as also being aimed at major oil producers Iran and Venezuela, too.

Russian President Vladimir Putin himself has raised this prospect declaring in December: “We all see the lowering of the oil price. There’s lots of talk about what’s causing it. Could it be the agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to punish Iran and affect the economies of Russia and Venezuela? It could.”

A few days later, Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro charged: “Did you know there’s an oil war. And the war has an objective: to destroy Russia. It’s a strategically planned war…also aimed at Venezuela, to try and destroy our revolution and cause an economic collapse.”

In the U.S., Martin Katusa, chief energy investment strategist at Casey Research in Vermont, believes, “It’s a three-way oil war between OPEC, Russia and North American shale.”

Is a Saudi Arabian assault on the clean-energy movement a factor, too?

“Now energy experts are seeing evidence that the oil bust is helping Saudi Arabia achieve another long-term goal: undermining global efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels,” wrote Joby Warrick, environmental reporter for The Washington Post  recently.

Among those seeing this is Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD) in Washington. “If a period of low prices gets consumers hooked on cheap gas and inefficient cars, that sustains their market,” he said.

In fact, with the sharp decrease in the price of gasoline, sales of SUVs and other low-efficiency vehicles has been rising.  This past November was the best month for SUV sales since 2001, according to Autodata.

Still, Ken Johnson, vice president of communications for the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington told me: “We have not seen any direct link between the price of oil and the development of solar projects nationwide, which remains quite strong.”

Meanwhile, there’s the question of how low the price of a barrel of oil can get and frackers still making it economically with the price a barrel below what’s been their “break-even” price of $70.

Dan K. Eberhart, CEO of Canary, a Colorado-based drilling services company, says “U.S. producers are getting better and more economical” and the price to frack is falling, and this is “going to help U.S. producers stay competitive in the worldwide oil market.”

Katusa of Casey Research says “the versatility and survivability of a lot of these shale producers will surprise people. I don’t see that the shale sector is going to collapse overnight.”

The fracking industry nevertheless is being hurt badly. “The shale oil revolution is in danger,” was the headline in Fortune. 

“The recent drop in oil prices poses a major challenge to the frackers. But oil producers, Wall Street analysts, and most industry experts claim the setback will be brief and minor. Don’t believe them,” the article continued. “The basic economies of fracking—what it costs to drill versus what oil now sells for—spells big trouble for the shale boom.”

As the Daily Kos headlined its piece on the matter: “97% of fracking now operating at loss at current oil prices.”

Then there’s the issue of how long the U.S. shale boom can last. Fracked wells don’t last long. The International Energy Agency in its 2014 World Energy Outlook projects that as a result, fracking-dominated petroleum production in the U.S. “levels off in the early 2020s and its total production eventually starts to fall back.”

Further, “proved reserves” for petroleum from shale is about 10 billion barrels, according to the U.S. Department Energy, a small fraction of the reserves in the Middle East.

Then there’s the big question of whether oil—from fracking or conventional drilling in the Middle East—can compete with the windfall in renewable energy technologies.

A report recently done for the National Bank of Abu Dhabi by the University of Cambridge and Price WaterhouseCoopers, titled “Financing the Future of Energy,” declares: “The energy system of the past will not be the same as the energy system of the future. It is clear that renewables will be an established and significant part of the future energy mix, in the region and globally.”

“The sharp fall in the oil price in 2014 has raised the question of whether the trend towards a more integrated energy mix and the growth of renewables will continue, or be stalled by more affordable oil and gas,” says the report. “There are strong reasons to believe it will continue.”

Solar photovoltaic power and wind energy have “already a track record of successful deployment. Prices have fallen dramatically in the past few years: solar PV falling by 80 per cent in six years, and on-shore wind by 40 per cent. The speed of this shift towards grid parity with fossil fuels means that, in many instances, perceptions of the role of renewables in the energy mix have not caught up with reality.”

The report notes the bid of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority in December 2014 to build a 200 megawatt solar photovoltaic facility in Dubai “set a new world benchmark for utility scale solar PV costs, showing that photovoltaic technologies are competitive today with oil at US$10/barrel.”

The report goes on that “solar is on track to achieve grid parity in 80 percent of countries within the next two years, so cost is no longer a reason not to proceed with renewables.”

There have been numerous reports in recent years mirroring this analysis.

How will the oil industry respond? As it has through its history—with market manipulation.  Indeed, as the secretary-general of OPEC, Abdulla al-Badri said recently: “Now that prices are around $45-$55 [a barrel], I think maybe they [have] reached the bottom and we [will] see some rebound very soon.” Badri went on that oil prices might get to “more than $200” a barrel, although he wouldn’t give a time frame.

Karl Grossman   

Articles

Karl Grossman has been a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury for 32 years. He is a specialist in investigative reporting. He is the author of Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power. He is the host of the nationally aired TV program, Enviro Close-Up.

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/05/03/oil-wars-fracking-manipulation-and-future-our-energy-system

Judaism and the Pope’s Encyclical on the Environment

June 22, 2015

By Karl Grossman

Articles

“Critics say the pope should stick to religion,” reported the anchor on WCBS “all-news” radio in New York last week about the reaction of some Republican candidates for U.S. president to the encyclical on the environment just issued by Pope Francis.

In fact, the encyclical is rooted in religion with many of its 183 pages devoted to—and this is nice news for Jews—“principles drawn from the Judeo-Christian tradition which can render our commitment to the environment more coherent,” as the pope wrote. Through the centuries, most popes have not exactly given much credit to the teachings of Judaism.

Francis addressed in the encyclical the linkage between Judaism and the environment as has Jewish scholarship in this area.

The press has described the encyclical as being about climate change, and it is. But it’s more extensive—dealing with the environmental crisis of our time and its causes.

Titled on “Encyclical Letter…On Care For Our Common Home,” it’s a significant contribution to understanding the environmental crossroads which we’re at.

A key problem in comprehending the approach of Judaism on the environment, which continued to Christianity, has involved a dubious translation of one word. It’s in the passage in Genesis relating how God said: “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air.”

Although dominion has been the common English translation of the Hebrew word yirdu, it’s a poor translation, Jewish scholars have said.

Rutgers University Professor of Biology David Ehrenfeld and Rabbi Philip J. Bentley wrote about the “inadequacy” of the translation in their essay “Judaism and the Practice of Stewardship.” They note the words of Rashi: “’The Hebrew [yirdu] connotes both ‘dominion’ (derived from radah) and ‘descent’ (derived from yarad); when man is worthy, he has dominion over the animal kingdom, when he is not, he descends below their level and the animals rule over him.’ Here is the whole dimension of meaning which cannot be conveyed by an English translation.”

Further, they cite a lack of context. They speak of “no evidence…that these verses of Genesis were ever interpreted by the rabbis as a license for environmental exploitation.” They say “such an interpretation runs contrary to their teachings and to the whole spirit” of Jewish law and cite numerous passages in the Bible “that stress God as creator and owner, and humankind caretaker or steward of the earth.”

“There are, in Judaism, a number of specific rules—together constituting a kind of ‘Steward’s Manual’—setting forth humanity’s particular responsibilities for its behavior toward natural resources, animals, and other parts of nature,” they continue. “First among these rules is the commandment of bal tashhit” They note the Bible stating that “when thou shall besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shall not destroy” the fruit trees. “From this source is derived the notion of bal tashhit (do not destroy), an ancient and sweeping series of Jewish environmental regulations that embrace not only the limited case in question but have been rabbinically extended to a great range of transgressions including the cutting off of water supplies to trees, the over-grazing of the countryside, the unjustified killing of animals or feeding them harmful foods, the hunting of animals for sport, species extinction and destruction of cultivated plant varieties, pollution of air and water, over-consumption of anything, and the waste of mineral and other resources.”

“It is also the Sabbath alone,” they write, “that can reconcile the Jewish attitude towards nature.” It’s a time that “we create nothing, we destroy nothing, and we enjoy the bounty of the earth. In this way the Sabbath becomes a celebration of our tenancy and stewardship in the world.”

Then there is the Sabbatical year—as we have this year on the Jewish calendar—in which Jews are to have land lie fallow to restore itself. And every 50 years, the Jubilee, when in ancient Jewish tradition land is to revert to its original owners without compensation, underlining God’s declaration in Leviticus that the land is the Lord’s, people are just its stewards. “Judaism,” they conclude, “was one of the first great environmental religions.”

Rabbi Norman Lamm, longtime president of Yeshiva University, in his book Faith and Doubt, in a chapter “Ecology in Jewish Law and Theology,” writes about the Genesis “passage that, it is asserted, is the sanction for the excesses of science and technology, the new ecological villains.” It’s been “proclaimed” as “the source of man’s insensitivity and brutality to the subhuman world” and “equated with the right to foul the air.”

He says: “It does not take much scholarship to recognize the emptiness of this charge against the Bible, particularly as it is interpreted in the Jewish tradition.”  Judaism on many levels, concludes Lamm, “possesses the values on which an ecological morality may be grounded.”

The pope in a chapter of his encyclical on “The Gospel of Creation” writes: “We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man ‘dominion’ over the earth, has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church.”

“The biblical texts are to be read in their context,” emphasizes the pope.

He speaks of Genesis telling “us to ‘till and keep’ the garden of the world. ‘Tilling’ refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for substinence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.”

He cites the admonition in a Psalm of David that “the earth is the Lord’s” and “to him belongs ‘the earth with all that is within it’….Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership,” he writes. And he cites the words of Leviticus: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine, for you are strangers and sojourners with me.”

The pope goes on about the Bible “respecting the rhythms inscribed in nature” in “the Law of the Sabbath. On the seventh day, God rested from all his work. He commanded Israel to set aside each seventh day as a day of rest, a Sabbath. Similarly, every seven years, a sabbatical year was set aside for Israel, a complete rest for the land when sowing was forbidden and one reaped only what was necessary to live on and to feed one’s household. Finally, after seven weeks of years, which is to say forty-nine years, the Jubilee was celebrated…”

The pope at the start of his encyclical writes, “Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet.”

“The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges,” he writes. “Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem, indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.”

“Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeking the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.”

He addresses pollution produced by “dangerous waste…Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

“These problems,” he continues, “are closely linked to a throwaway culture….We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.”

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades, this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon.”

“The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system,” he goes on. “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political…It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

He says: “There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.” And “economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment.”

“The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings.”

“Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster,” he writes. “Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress.”

This Jesuit from Argentina “who has witnessed the decimation of the Amazon rain forests seems destined to remake the papacy into a modern and relevant institution,” the Long Island newspaper Newsday editorialized.

And in doing so, he is, remarkably, acknowledging his faith’s environmental underpinnings in Judaism.

He is calling for an “ecological conversion,” an environmental variant of, as we Jews say, tikkun olam, repairing the world.  http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/judaism-and-the-popes-encyclical-on-the-environment/

Indian Point the nuclear bombshell in New York Citys backyard,
http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2866169/indian_point_the_nuclear_bombshell_in_new_york_citys_backyard.html 


Obama’s Nuclear Reverse

March 30, 2015

By Karl Grossman

Articles

Barack Obama’s embrace of a weak nuclear deal with Iran follows an overall reverse by him on nuclear technology.

Before taking office, candidate Obama was negative about atomic energy and indicated a clear knowledge of its safety and waste problems, expense, and threat to life from accidents.

“I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal and so I am not a nuclear energy proponent,” Obama said at a campaign stop in Newton, Iowa on December 30, 2007. “My general view is that until we can make certain that nuclear power plants are safe, that they have solved the storage problem…and the whole nuclear industry can show that they can produce clean, safe energy without enormous subsidies from the U.S. government, I don’t think that’s the best option. I am much more interested in solar and wind and bio-diesel and strategies [for] alternative fuels.”

As he told the editorial board of the Keene Sentinel newspaper in New Hampshire on November 25, 2007: “I don’t think there’s anything that we inevitably dislike about nuclear power. We just dislike the fact that it might blow up…and irradiate us…and kill us. That’s the problem.”

As he stated at a Londonderry, New Hampshire town meeting on October 7, 2007: “Nuclear power has a host of problems that have not been solved. We haven’t solved the storage situation effectively. We have not dealt with all of the security aspects of our nuclear plants and nuclear power is very expensive.”

Yet, as president, he was calling in his State of the Union speech on January 27, 2010 for “building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.”  And he repeated that declaration.

Moreover, despite his earlier criticism of government subsidies for nuclear power, he has been pushing throughout his presidency for multi-billion dollar loan guarantees for nuclear plant construction, what with Wall Street reluctant to invest money in the technology.

What’s been behind the Obama nuclear flip?

Factors include his top White House aides, pressure from nuclear interests and the ardently pro-nuclear figures he selected as his two successive secretaries of the U.S. Department of Energy and thus his top advisors on energy—one of whom, Ernest Moniz, is deeply involved in the deal-making with Iran.

At The White House in his first term, Obama’s chief of staff was Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago mayor but earlier a member of the U.S. Congress and an investment banker central in creating a utility called Exelon that now operates more nuclear power plants than any other in the United States. It was an $8.2 billion deal Emanuel worked on in 1999 which merged Unicom, the parent company of Commonwealth Edison of Chicago, and Peco Energy.

David Axelrod, a senior political advisor to Obama during his first term and before that his chief campaign strategist, as a PR man served as an Exelon consultant.

Obama has received sizeable campaign contributions from Exelon executives including from John Rowe, its president and chief executive officer who in 2007 also became chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the U.S. nuclear industry’s main lobbying group.

Forbes magazine, in its January 18, 2010 issue, in an article on Rowe and how he has “focused the company on nuclear,” displayed a sidebar headlined, “The President’s Utility.”  It read: “Ties are tight between Exelon and the Obama administration,” noting Exelon political contributions and featuring Emanuel and Axelrod with photos and descriptions of their Exelon connections.

“’We are proud to be the President’s utility,’ says Elizabeth Moler, Exelon’s chief lobbyist,” the article said. “’It’s nice for John to be able to go to the White House and they know his name.’”

Exelon’s website boasts of its operating “the largest nuclear fleet in the nation. The fleet consists of 23 reactors at 14 locations in Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.”

As his first Department of Energy secretary, Obama chose Steven Chu, a product of the string of U.S. government national nuclear laboratories which ever since World War II’s Manhattan Project to build atomic weapons has been promoting nuclear technology for military and subsequently civilian uses. Chu before becoming DOE secretary was director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

As David Lilienthal, first chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, wrote in his  1963 book Change, Hope, and the Bomb: “The classic picture of the scientist as a creative individual, a man obsessed, working alone through the night, a man in a laboratory pushing an idea—this has changed. Now scientists are ranked in platoons. They are organization men. In many cases the independent and humble search for new truths about nature has been confused with the bureaucratic impulse to justify expenditure and see that next year’s budget is bigger than last’s.” He wrote of the “elaborate and even luxurious” U.S. national nuclear laboratories and the push from them to use nuclear devices for “blowing out harbors, making explosions underground to produce steam, and so on” which show “how far scientists and administrators will go to try to establish a nonmilitary use” for nuclear technology.

Chu, like many of the national nuclear laboratory scientists and administrators, has minimized the dangers of radioactivity. And as energy secretary, as he declared in one presentation in 2011: “We are aggressively pursuing nuclear energy. We are, as we have repeatedly said, working hard to restart the American nuclear power industry.”

Chu was succeeded by Moniz in 2013. Moniz was director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative, heavily financed by energy industry corporations, and has long advocated nuclear power.

In a 2011 essay in Foreign Affairs magazine titled “Why We Still Need Nuclear Power,” Moniz wrote: “In the years following the major accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, nuclear power fell out of favor, and some countries applied the brakes to their nuclear programs. In the last decade, however, it began experiencing something of a renaissance….But the movement lost momentum in March, when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the massive tsunami it triggered devastated Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant…The event caused widespread public doubts about the safety of nuclear power to resurface. But, said, Moniz, “It would be a mistake…to let Fukushima cause governments to abandon nuclear power and its benefits.”

Moniz went on: “Nuclear power’s track record of providing clean and reliable electricity compares favorably with other energy sources.”

In nominating Moniz to be his second energy secretary, Obama said, “Most importantly, Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy.”

Obama’s nuclear reverse has sparked years of strong complaints.

Speaking of being “deeply disturbed” by Obama’s push for government subsidies for nuclear power has been Peter Wilk, M.D., former executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, now a board member, who has also held leadership positions with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.  “Not only does this put taxpayers on the hook for billions, it prioritizes a dirty, dangerous, and expensive technology over public health.  From the beginning to the end of the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear reactors remain a serious threat to public health and safety. From uranium mining waste to operating reactors leaking radioactivity to the lack of radioactive waste solutions, nuclear power continues to pose serious public health threats.”

Jim Riccio, nuclear policy analyst for Greenpeace USA., has said that “the president knows better. Just because radiation is invisible doesn’t mean it’s clean.”

Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project of the organization Beyond Nuclear, has spoken of a “widening of a divide as the administration steps back from its promise for a change in energy policy and those of us who are committed to a change.”

“From a health perspective, the proposal of the Obama administration to increase federal loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors poses a serious risk to Americans,” Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, has said. “Adding new reactors will raise the chance for a catastrophic meltdown. It will also increase the amount of radioactive chemicals routinely emitted from reactors into the environment—and human bodies. New reactors will raise rates of cancer—which are already unacceptably high—especially to infants and children. Public policies affecting America’s energy future should reduce, rather than raise, hazards to our citizens.”

But Obama as U.S. president has gone soft on nuclear power and accepting of nuclear technology—as he has on a nuclear weapons deal with Iran.

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/obamas-nuclear-reverse/


Locavore Movement Overlooks Farmworkers

Sierra Club - Atlantic Chapter
Portside Date: February 1, 2015
Author: Karl Grossman
Date of Source: Friday, January 16, 2015
https://atlantic2.sierraclub.org/content/enviro-close-winter-2015

Articles

Locally-grown food from small farms, an alternative to food from “factory farms,” has become, thankfully, popular across the U.S, including the area covered by the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club. On Long Island, where I live, Suffolk County remains the top agricultural county in terms of value of annual produce in New York.

But there’s an issue, charges a Long Island professor, not being addressed: the situation of farmworkers at these farms.

“Food movement advocates and consumers, driven to forge alternatives to industrial agribusiness, have neglected the labor economy that underpins ‘local’ food production,” writes Margaret Gray in her just-published book, Labor and the Locavore (University of California Press).

Thus, the call “to ‘buy local’ promotes public health at the expense of protecting the well-being of the farmworkers who grow and harvest the much-coveted produce on regional farms.”

When it comes to factory farms, the public hasn’t “been reluctant to recognize the exploitation” of workers. But now being “overlooked” is “the role of hired labor in smallerscale agrifood production.”

“Small farms,” she writes in her book, “like their factory farm counterparts, are largely staffed by noncitizens, immigrant workers.” But “the prevailing mentality within the alternative food movement has not absorbed this reality.”

“Food advocates and their organizations display a tendency,” she goes on, “to conflate local, alternative, sustainable, and fair as a compendium of virtues against the factory farm that they so vigorously demonize. Yet this equation discourages close scrutiny of the labor dynamics by which small farms maintain their operations.”

Dr. Gray is a professor of political science at Adelphi University in Garden City on Long Island.

Articles
From WWII through the early 1970s, New York's
agricultural labor pool was made up of
predominantly African Americans from the
South. During the 1980s, that market profile
shifted to Latinos.

The situation for farmworkers has long been a scandal in the U.S. The great journalist, Edward R. Murrow, did one of his most important TV documentaries, “Harvest of Shame,” about the plight of migrant farmworkers. Pointedly broadcast on Thanksgiving Day, 1961, it exposed the conditions for, as Murrow said, the  “humans who harvest the food for the best-fed people in the world.” Paid outrageously small sums, exploited by crew leaders who recruited them, housed in awful dwellings, they constituted “workers in the sweat shops of the soil.” And critically, he stressed, laws that protected other workers specifically excluded farmworkers.

Migrant camps in New Jersey, in Suffolk County and in upstate New York were among those that featured prominently in “Harvest of Shame.” Back then, most of the farmworkers in the New York portion of the Atlantic Coast “migrant stream” were black. “From World War II through the early 1970s, the vast majority...were African Americans from the South,” writes Dr. Gray.

“This was a labor market profile...uniformly evident, whether on Long Island potato fields, Hudson Valley fruit and vegetable farms, Wayne County’s apple orchards, Western New York’s bean fields, North Country dairies, or the Finger Lakes vineyards.” Then, in the 1980s, “Latinos came to dominate the regional agricultural labor market.”

Dr. Gray’s book focuses especially on the Hudson Valley of New York.

“The Hudson Valley, the fabled agricultural region that lies to the north of New York City, is a particularly opposite setting for examining the absence of worker justice within the alternative food movement, as well as the many obstacles that lie in the path of workers’ inclusion in the new food ethic,” she writes. This area’s “cultural identity trades on the the currency of agrarian values and epitomizes precisely those farming sectors that have benefited most from the economic stimulus promised by the alternative and local food movements...The Hudson Valley is thick with food policy centers and is increasingly cited as a model local food system with sustainable relations to populations and resources.”

Farmworkers remain without “the right to organize” unions—“a very significant exclusion,” said Emma Kreyche, organizing and advocacy coordinator for the Worker Justice Center of New York based in Kingston, at a recent symposium at SUNY/College at Old Westbury. It was titled “Healthy Food, Unsustainable Jobs? Farmworkers Fight for Their Rights.”
As examples of the “basic” laws that cover other American workers, she noted that in New York farmworkers “are not entitled to a day of rest, they have no right to have a day off” and do not get overtime pay. Moreover, many of the laws on the books that do cover farmworkers are “poorly enforced.”

Ms. Kreyche distributed a fact sheet put together by the Worker Justice Center of New York (www.wjcny.org [1]) providing details on a “Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act” that has been considered by the New York State Legislature—but not passed.

It would establish an eight-hour workday for farmworkers, allow them overtime pay after eight hours of work, provide one day of rest each week, require they be paid the minimum wage and “prohibit child farmworkers from being paid a wage lower than the minimum wage,” have “the right to organize and bargain collectively for the purpose of representing and protecting their interests,” ensure their housing “meets basic standards under the Sanitary Code,” be eligible for unemployment compensation “when laid off from work or terminated” and receive disability benefits.

Dr. Gray, who also spoke at the symposium, commented about the notion “that local farms are wholesome and industrial factory farms are evil.” The situation, the said, is that generally in all kinds of agriculture, farmworkers are “marginalized, excluded from labor laws and work in paternalistic settings” and thus are “afraid to complain.”

As her book concludes: “Buy local!” Yes, “support local farms,” she writes, but at the same time “build a food movement that incorporates workers.” People, she says, should nicely explain to farmers “your food ethic and how it demands fair labor standards to be observed.”

Journalist Karl Grossman is a member of the Long Island Group and professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury. For nearly 25 years, he has hosted a nationally-aired TV program, Enviro Close-Up.

Source URL: http://portside.org/2015-02-02/locavore-movement-overlooks-farmworkers


The Future of Nuclear Space Flights

November 18, 2014

By Karl Grossman

The recent crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and explosion on launch three days earlier of an Antares rocket further underline the dangers of inserting nuclear material in the always perilous space flight equation—as the U.S. and Russia still plan.

“SpaceShipTwo has experienced an in-flight anomaly,” Virgin Galactic tweeted after the spacecraft, on which $500 million has been spent for development, exploded on October 31 after being released by its mother ship.  One pilot was killed, another seriously injured. Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic founder, hoped to begin flying passengers on SpaceShipTwo this spring. Some 800 people, including actor Leonard DiCaprio and physicist Steven Hawking, have signed up for $250,000-a person tickets to take a suborbital ride. SpaceShipTwo debris was spread over the Mojave Desert in California. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-2816452/Bransons-Virgin-Galactic-quest-space-tourism.html

Three days before, on Wallops Island, Virginia, an Antares rocket operated by Orbital Sciences Corp. blew up seconds after launch. It was carrying 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments to the International Space Station. The cost of the rocket alone was put at $200 million.  NASA, in a statement, said that the rocket “suffered a catastrophic anomaly.”  The word anomaly, defined as something that deviates from what is standard, normal or expected, has for years been a space program euphemism for a disastrous accident.

“These two recent space ‘anomalies’ remind us that technology frequently goes wrong,” said Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. www.space4peace.org “When you consider adding nuclear power into the mix it becomes an explosive combination. We’ve long been sounding the alarm that nuclear power in space is not something the public nor the planet can afford to take a chance on.”

But “adding nuclear power into the mix” is exactly what the U.S. and Russia are planning. Both countries have been using nuclear power on space missions for decades—and accidents involving their nuclear-powered space devices have happened with substantial amounts of radioactive particles released on Earth.

Now, a major expansion in space nuclear power activity is planned with the development by both nations of nuclear-powered rockets for trips to Mars.

One big U.S. site for this is NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “NASA Researchers Studying Advanced Nuclear Rocket Technologies,” announced NASA last year. At the center, it said, “The Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion team is tackling a three-year project to demonstrate the viability of nuclear propulsion technologies.” In them, a “nuclear rocket uses a nuclear reactor to heat hydrogen to very high temperatures, which expands through a nozzle to generate thrust. Nuclear rocket engines generate higher thrust and are more than twice as efficient as conventional chemical engines.”

“A first-generation nuclear cryogenic propulsion system could propel human explorers to Mars more efficiently than conventional spacecraft, reducing crew’s exposure to harmful space radiation and other effects of long-term space missions,” NASA went on. “It could also transport heavy cargo and science payloads.”

And out at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the DUFF project—for Demonstrating Using Flattop Fissions—is moving ahead to develop a “robust fission reactor prototype that could be used as a power system for space travel,” according to Technews World. The laboratory’s Advanced Nuclear Technology Division is running the joint Department of Energy-NASA project. “Nuclear Power Could Blast Humans Into Deep Space,” was the headline of Technewsworld’s 2012 article about it. It quoted Dr. Michael Gruntman, professor of aerospace engineering and systems architecture at the University of Southern California, saying,“If we want solar system exploration, we must utilize nuclear technology.” The article declared: “Without the risk, there will be no reward.”

And in Texas, near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the Ad Astra Rocket Company of former U.S. astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz is busy working on what it calls the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket or VASMIR. Chang-Diaz began Ad Astra after retiring from NASA in 2005. He’s its president and CEO. The VASMIR system could utilize solar power, related Space News last year, but “using a VASMIR engine to make a superfast Mars run would require incorporating a nuclear reactor that cranks out megawatts of power, Chang-Diaz said, adding that developing this type of powerful reactor should be high on the nation’s to-do list.”   Chang-Diaz told Voice of America that by using a nuclear reactor for power “we could do a mission to Mars that would take about 39 days, one-way.” NASA Director Charles Bolden, also a former astronaut as well as a Marine Corps major general, has been a booster of Ad Asra’s project.

Ad Astra and the Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion project have said their designs would include nuclear systems only starting up when “out of the atmosphere” to prevent, in the event of an accident, “spreading radiation back to Earth.”

However, this isn’t a fail-safe plan. The Soviet Union followed this practice on the satellites powered by nuclear reactors that it launched between the 1960s and 1980s. This included the Cosmos 954. Its on board reactor was only allowed to go critical after it was in orbit, but it subsequently came crashing back to Earth in 1978, breaking up and spreading radioactive debris on the Northwest Territories of Canada.

As to Russia now, “A ground-breaking Russian nuclear space travel propulsion system will be ready by 2017 and will power a ship capable of long-haul interplanetary missions by 2025, giving Russia a head start in the outer-space race,” the Russian news agency RT reported in 2012.  “Nuclear power has generally been considered a valid alternative to fossil fuels to power space craft, as it is the only energy source capable of producing the enormous thrust needed for interplanetary travel….The revolutionary propulsion system falls in line with recently announced plans for Russia to conquer space…Entitled Space Development Strategies up to 2030, Russia aims to send probes to Mars, Jupiter, and Venus, as well as establish a series of bases on the moon.”

This year OSnet Daily, in an article headlined “Russia advances development of nuclear powered Spacecraft,” reported that in 2013 work on the Russian nuclear rocket moved “to the design stage.”

As for space probes, many U.S. and Russian probes have until recently gotten their on board electrical power from systems fueled with plutonium— hotly radioactive from the start.

Also, the U.S. has begun to power Mars rovers with plutonium. After using solar power on Mars rovers, in 2012 NASA launched a Mars rover it named Curiosity fueled with 10.6 pounds of plutonium. NASA plans to launch a Mars rover nearly identical to Curiosity, which it is calling Mars 2020, in 2020.

As devastating in terms of financial damage were last week’s explosions of the Virgin Galactic SpaceshipTwo and Antares rocket, an accident involving a nuclear-powered vehicle or device could be far more costly

The NASA Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Curiosity (then called Mars Science Laboratory) mission states, for example, that the cost of decontamination of areas affected by dispersed plutonium would be $267 million for each square mile of farmland, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.”

Odds of an accident were acknowledged as being low. The EIS said a launch accident discharging plutonium had a 1-in-420 chance of happening and could “release material into the regional area defined…within…62 miles of the launch pad” on Cape Canaveral, Florida. The EIS said that “overall” on the mission, the likelihood of plutonium being released was 1-in-220. If there were an accident resulting in plutonium fallout that occurred before the rocket carrying Curiosity broke through Earth’s gravitational field, people could be affected in a broad swath of Earth “anywhere between 28-degrees north and 28-degrees south latitude” on Earth, said the EIS.

Gagnon said at the time: “NASA sadly appears committed to maintaining its dangerous alliance with the nuclear industry…The taxpayers are being asked once again to pay for nuclear missions that could endanger the lives of all the people on the planet. Have we not learned anything from Chernobyl and Fukushima? We don’t need to be launching nukes into space. It’s not a gamble we can afford to take.”
Curiosity made it up, and to Mars.

But in NASA’s history of nuclear power shots, happening since the 1950s, there have been accidents. The worst among the 26 U.S. space nuclear missions listed in the Curiosity EIS occurred in 1964 and involved the SNAP-9A plutonium system aboard a satellite that failed to achieve orbit and dropped to Earth, disintegrating as it fell. Its plutonium fuel dispersed widely That accident spurred NASA to develop solar energy for satellites and now all satellites are solar-powered as is the International Space Station.

And in recent times, solar power has been increasingly shown to be practical even to generate on board electricity for missions far out in space. On its way to Jupiter now is NASA’s Juno space probe, chemically-propelled and with solar photovoltaic panels generating all its on board electricity. When Juno reaches Jupiter in 2016 it will be nearly 500 million miles from the Sun, but the high-efficiency solar cells will still be generating power.

In August, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta space probe, similarly solar-powered, rendezvoused with a comet in deep space, 400 million miles from Earth. http://news.discovery.com/space/asteroids-meteors-meteorites/rosetta-probe-makes-historic-comet-rendezvous-140806.htmb

Advances, too, have been made in propelling spacecraft in the vacuum of space. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in 2010 launched what it termed a “space yacht” it called Ikaros which successfully got its propulsion power from the pressure on its large sails of ionizing particles emitted by the Sun.

Among other ways of propelling spacecraft, discussed at a Starship Congress last year in Texas was a system using orbiting lasers to direct beams on to a spacecraft. The magazine New Scientist said “beam sails are regarded as the most promising tech for a starship.”

A scientist long-involved in laser space power research is Geoff Landis of the Photovoltaics and Space Environment Branch at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland who, in a 2002 NASA publication, “The Edge of Sunshine,” wrote: “In the long term, solar arrays will not have to rely on the Sun. We’re investigating the concept of using lasers to beam photons to solar arrays. If you make a powerful enough laser and can aim the beam, there’s really isn’t any edge to sunshine—with a big enough lens, we could beam light to a space-probe halfway to alpha-Centauri!”

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/18/the-future-of-nuclear-space-flights/


Will Diablo Canyon survive the next big earthquake?

August 27, 2014

By Karl Grossman

Articles

As aftershocks of the 6.0 Napa earthquake that occurred Sunday in California continued, the Associated Press this week revealed a secret government report pointing to major earthquake vulnerabilities at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plants which are a little more than 200 miles away and sitting amid a webwork of earthquake faults.

It’s apparent to any visitor to the stretch of California where the two Diablo Canyon plants are sited that it is geologically hot. A major tourist feature of the area: hot spas.  “Welcome to the Avila Hot Springs,” declares the website of one, noting how “historic Avila Hot Springs” was “discovered in 1907 by at the time unlucky oil drillers and established” as a “popular visitor-serving natural artesian mineral hot springs.”

Nevertheless, Pacific Gas & Electric had no problem in 1965 picking the area along the California coast, north of Avila Beach, as a location for two nuclear plants.

It was known that the San Andreas Fault was inland 45 miles away. Then, in 1971, with construction underway, oil company geologists discovered another earthquake fault, the Hosgri Fault, just three miles out in the Pacific from the plant site and linked to the San Andreas Fault.

In 2008 yet another fault was discovered, the Shoreline Fault—but 650 yards from the Diablo Canyon plants.

The Shoreline Fault, and concerns about the vulnerability of nuclear plants to earthquakes in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, are integral to a 42-page report written by Dr. Michael Peck, for five years the lead inspector on-site for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at Diablo Canyon.

Peck’s report was obtained by the Associated Press, which has done excellent journalism in recent years investigating the dangers of nuclear power, and the AP issued a story Monday on the report.

In the report Peck writes: “The new seismic information resulted in a condition outside of the bounds of the existing Diablo Canyon design basis and safety analysis. Continued reactor operation outside the bounds of the NRC approved safety analyses challenges the presumption of nuclear safety.”

He also states: “The Shoreline [Fault] Scenario results in SSC [acronym in the nuclear field for Structures, Systems and Components] seismic stress beyond the plant SSE [Safe Shutdown Earthquake] qualification basis. Exposure to higher levels of stress results in an increase[d] likelihood of a malfunction of SSCs. The change also increases the likelihood of a malfunction of SSCs important to safety…”

Peck notes that the “prevailing” NRC “staff view” is that “potential ground motions from the Shoreline fault are at or below those levels for which the plant was previously evaluated and demonstrated to have a ‘reasonable assurance of safety.’”

He disagrees and says that the NRC staff “also failed to address the Los Osos and San Luis Bay faults,” faults that the Shoreline Fault are seen as potentially interacting with, and that “new seismic information” concludes that “these faults were also capable of producing ground motions”

Also, he says: “The prevailing staff view that ‘operability’ may be demonstrated independent of existing facility design basis and safety analyses requirements establishes a new industry precedent. Power reactor licensees may apply this precedent to other nonconforming and unanalyzed conditions.”

“What’s striking about Peck’s analysis,” says the AP story, “is that it comes from within the NRC itself, and gives a rare look at a dispute within the agency. At issue are whether the plant’s mechanical guts could survive a big jolt, and what yardsticks should be used to measure the ability of the equipment to withstand the potentially strong vibrations that could result.”

The AP story also says, “Environmentalists have long depicted Diablo Canyon—the state’s last nuclear plant after the 2013 closure of the San Onofre reactors in Southern California—as a nuclear catastrophe in waiting. In many ways, the history of the plant, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco…and within 50 miles of 500,000 people, has been a costly fight against nature, involving questions and repairs connected to its design and structural strength.”

Calling the Peck report “explosive,” the environmental group Friends of the Earth this week described it as having been “kept secret for a year.”

Said Damon Moglen, senior strategy advisor at Friends of the Earth: “Inspector Peck is the canary in the coal mine, warning us of a possible catastrophe at Diablo Canyon before it’s too late. We agree with him that Diablo Canyon is vulnerable to earthquakes and must be shut down immediately.”

Moglen said: “Given the overwhelming risk of earthquakes, federal and state authorities would never allow nuclear reactors on this site now. Are PG&E and the NRC putting the industry’s profits before the health and safety of millions of Californians?”

“Rather than the NRC keeping this a secret,” Moglen went on, “there must be a thorough investigation with public hearings to determine whether these reactors can operate safely.”
Peck is still with the NRC, a trainer at its Technical Training Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Michael Mariotte, president of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, commented Monday that in “plain English” what Peck’s report acknowledges is: “The NRC does not know whether Diablo Canyon could survive an earthquake, within the realm of the possible, at any of the faults around Diablo Canyon. And the reactors should shut down until the NRC does know one way or the other. Of course, if the reactors cannot survive a postulated earthquake, the obvious conclusion is that they must close permanently. The question is whether the NRC will ever act on Peck’s recommendation or whether the agency will continue to sit on it until after the next earthquake.”

Mariotte also says: “The irony is that this should have been the big news a year ago; Peck wrote his recommendation—in the form of a formal Differing Professional Opionion—in July 2013. And the NRC still hasn’t taken action or even responded to it.”

In his report Peck also states that the NRC is supposed to be committed to a “standard of safety” and “safety means avoiding undue risk or providing reasonable assurance of adequate protection for the public.”

Meanwhile, PG&E has not only been insisting that its Diablo Canyon plants are safe, despite the earthquake threat, but has filed with the NRC to extend the 40 year licenses given for their operations  another 20 years—to 2044 for Diablo Canyon 1 and to 2045 for Diablo Canyon 2.

An analysis done in 1982 by Sandia National Laboratories for the NRC, titled “Calculations for Reactor Accident Consequences 2,” evaluated the impacts of a meltdown with “breach of containment” at every nuclear plant in the U.S.—what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants as a result of an earthquake. For the Diablo Canyon nuclear plants, it projected 10,000 “peak early fatalities” for each of the plants and $155 billion in property damages for Diablo Canyon 1 and $158 billion for Diablo Canyon 2—in 1980 dollars.

http://enformable.com/2014/08/will-diablo-canyon-survive-next-big-earthquake/


How Solar Energy Beats Nuclear Power on Earth and in Space

August 4, 2014

By Karl Grossman

A demonstration that in space, as on Earth, solar is an alternative to dangerous nuclear power is to come this week when a solar-powered spacecraft called Rosetta will rendezvous with a comet at 375 million miles from the Sun.

Articles
Artist’s impression of the Philae lander. Credits: ESA–J. Huart, 2013

The Rosetta space probe, energized with solar power, is to meet up Wednesday with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will begin making observations, relaying back to Earth high-resolution images and information from its sensors of the two-and-a-half mile wide comet. Rosetta will subsequently send a lander down to the comet that will drill into it and perform a variety of experiments. For a year, Rosetta will fly alongside the comet, named after the two Ukranian astronomers who discovered it in 1969.

For decades, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and now Russia, stressed the use of atomic energy as a source of power in space—and there have been accidents as a result.

The most serious were the falls back to Earth of a U.S. satellite with a SNAP-9A plutonium-238 radioisotope thermal generator on board in 1964, disintegrating as it fell, dispersing plutonium worldwide, and of the Soviet Cosmos Satellite 954 in 1978, with an atomic reactor on board, also breaking up, and spreading nuclear debris for hundreds of miles across the Northwest Territories of Canada.

The late Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, long connected the SNAP-9A accident and its dispersal of plutonium with a global increase in lung cancer. Canada demanded compensation for the Cosmos-954 accident which the Soviet Union eventually paid, in part.

Now all satellites are solar-powered as is the International Space Station. But there has been a push to continue to use nuclear power on space probes with NASA and formerly Soviet and now Russian space authorities insisting that solar power cannot be harvested far from the Sun.

However, the European Space Agency (ESA) declares on its website:

The solar cells in Rosetta’s solar panels are based on a completely new technology, so-called Low-intensity Low Temperature Cells. Thanks to them, Rosetta is the first space mission to journey beyond the main asteroid belt relying solely on solar cells for power generation. Previous deep-space missions used nuclear RTGs, radioisotope thermal generators. The new solar cells allow Rosetta to operate over 800 million kilometres from the Sun, where levels of sunlight are only 4% those on Earth. The technology will be available for future deep-space, such as ESA’s upcoming Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer.

ESA notes: “ESA has not developed RTG i.e. nuclear technology, so the agency decided to develop solar cells that could fill the same function.”

Rosetta, launched in 2004, “relies entirely on the energy provided by its innovative solar panels for all onboard instruments and subsystems,” says ESA.

NASA has begun to follow ESA’s lead. It went with solar power for its Juno mission to Jupiter that is now underway. Launched in 2011, energized by solar power, the Juno space probe is to arrive at Jupiter in 2016. 

At the distance at which Rosetta will encounter Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko or at which Juno will be doing experiments involving Jupiter or ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer will work, energy from the Sun is but a small fraction of what it is on Earth. Still, it can be effectively utilized. (NASA’s last space probe mission to Jupiter, Galileo, launched in 1989, was plutonium-powered and NASA officials insisted, including in sworn testimony countering a challenge to Galileo in federal court, that this was the only energy choice. There were numerous protests against Galileo and have been to subsequent nuclear space shots led by the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.)

Rosetta is named after the Rosetta Stone, a slab of basalt found in Egypt in 1799 with inscriptions carved on it that enabled the deciphering of hieroglyphics, the ancient language of Egypt. “As a result of this breakthrough, scholars were able to piece together the history of a lost culture,” notes ESA. 

Likewise, “Rosetta’s prime objective is to help understand the origin and evolution of the Solar System,” says ESA. “The comet’s composition reflects the composition of the pre-solar nebula out of which the Sun and the planets of the Solar System formed, more than 4.6 billion years ago. Therefore, an in-depth analysis of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta and its lander will provide essential information to understand how the Solar System formed.”

ESA adds, “There is convincing evidence that comets played a key role in the evolution of the planets, because cometary impacts are known to have been much more common in the early Solar System than today. Comets, for example, probably brought much of the water in today’s ocean. They could even have provided the complex organic molecules that may have played a crucial role in the evolution of life on Earth.”

Rosetta “will be undertaking several ‘firsts’ in space exploration,” says ESA. “It will be the first mission to orbit and land on a comet.” And, Rosetta will be “the first spacecraft to witness, at close proximity” the changes in a comet as it approaches the Sun. Rosetta’s lander “will obtain the first images from a comet’s surface and make the first in-situ subsurface analysis of its composition.”

The Rosetta lander, given the name Philea, is to touch down on the comet’s surface in November and “remain operational through the end of 2015 . . . A drilling system will obtain samples down to 23 cm below the surface and will feed these to the spectrometers for analysis, such as to determine the chemical composition. Other instruments will measure properties such as near-surface strength, density, texture, porosity, ice phases and thermal properties . . . In addition, instruments on the lander will study how the comet changes during the day-night cycle, and while it approaches the Sun.”

The lander is being called Philea for Philea Island in the Nile where an obelisk was found that supplemented the use of the Rosetta Stone in the deciphering of hieroglyphics.

The cost of the mission is 1.3 billion Euros ($1.75 billion at current exchange rates) and ESA asks the question: “Why spend such a huge amount of public money on studying remote stones in space?”

ESA responds: “ESA’s task is to explore the unknown. In the case of Rosetta, scientists will be learning about comets, objects that have fascinated mankind for millennia” and “are thought to be the most primitive objects in the Solar System, the building blocks from which the planets were made. So Rosetta will provide exciting new insights into how the planets, including Earth, were born and how life began.”

There can be things that can still go wrong on the mission. Gases from the comet could affect Rosetta flying with it. Philea could fail to get hooked to the comet, although a “harpoon” system has been devised for it to anchor itself to the comet’s surface.

But if the Rosetta mission is a success it will be a superb example of a space mission that represents no nuclear threat to life on Earth and of a quest with the highest of purposes—exploring the mysteries of the Solar System and the origins of life.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, is the author of The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet and narrator and writer of the television documentary Nukes in Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens (www.envirovideo.com).

http://ecowatch.com/2014/08/04/solar-energy-beats-nuclear-on-earth-in-space/


OpEdNews

Folly Beach

May 17, 2014

By Karl Grossman

Folly Beach. Yes, there really is such a place. It's a poster child for the folly of dumping sand on the shoreline in the expensive and fruitless attempt to try to hold back the ocean and protect beach houses.

In the Long Island, New York village of Quogue, Concerned Citizens of Quogue have included a current article about this beach in South Carolina in their current online newsletter (http://ccquogue.org/) and the group asks the question: "Quogue's Own 'Folly' Beach?"

Happening in Quogue is a conflict emblematic of the struggle involving the coast that's been going on for decades on Long Island, heightened by the impacts of Superstorm Sandy. There's a proposal for $14 million in taxpayer-funded sand dumping along the Quogue shoreline.

Meanwhile, down south comes this news on the Concerned Citizens website.

"Folly Beach--Huge waves kicked up by Friday's storm scoured and swept away newly poured sands on the east end of this island," begins the article from The Post and Courier of South Carolina published last month.

And it wasn't an encore of Sandy that did it, just another blow.

The cost to Folly Beach: some $30 million in dumped sand--gone with the sea.

"In little more than a month," The Post and Courier says, Folly Beach homeowners "have lost much of the sand" dumped just a month earlier on the shore fronting their places.
Some $30 million in sand placed on the Folly Beach shoreline. A month later, it's all gone.

The newspaper quoted the manager of the Army Corps of Engineers' Folly Beach project as saying that placing sand on the shore "doesn't stop erosion. It protects properties. We put the required amount of sand out there. The sand didn't hold up."

And this was not the first time in recent years that loads of sand have been dumped on Folly Beach. It has been done again and again, at huge taxpayer cost. "The last time the work was done, in 2005, the cost was $12 million," about "a third of the current cost," notes The Post and Courier.

This rise in price for coastal sand-dumping is "mirroring the soaring cost of beach nourishment across the country," comments Concerns Citizens of Quogue.

The organization in its current newsletter also brings attention to a letter from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that summarizes comments it has received on the $14 million plan to dump 1.1 million cubic yards of sand on the Quogue oceanfront.

And there is my favorite statement: "The current development pattern on the barrier island in Quogue is unwise and unsustainable. The very large, very expensive, permanent homes which now exist on the oceanfront engender in the owners the understandable desire to protect them, at almost any cost, against the forces of nature, to the detriment of the beach and dunes. In the not so distant past, many people contented themselves with much smaller, less permanent, less valuable beach cottages, structures which they could afford to lose and/or replace if they were damaged by erosion or storms."

The DEC called on Quogue village's "agent" on the sand-dumping project, First Coastal Corporation, to "review this letter" and comments "with the mayor and other village officials" and provide "responses to the issues raised."

The Quogue proposal is overshadowed by the plan of the Army Corps of Engineers to dump sand from Fire Island to Montauk Point, first advanced nearly 60 years ago but failing to occur because of the folly it has always represented. Post-Sandy, however, beachfront homeowners and some politicians are pushing for it anew. A recent cost estimate for the sand-dumping along this 83-mile stretch of Long Island's south shore: $700 million in taxpayer dollars.

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Folly-Beach-by-Karl-Grossman-Engineer_Money-140517-499.html


World's Fair Opens 50 Years Ago -- and I Get Fired for Story About It

April 23, 2014

By Karl Grossman

Fifty years ago this week, the New York World's Fair opened -- and by the end of the week, I was fired for writing about demonstrations on its opening day protesting racism.
"Mr. Moses called and is very upset with you," Wilson Stringer, vice president of the Sunrise Press newspapers, told me. "You're fired."
Robert Moses had been the public works czar of the New York area for decades. He ran to be the state's governor in 1934, and suffered a then record two-to-one defeat. So he amassed power instead by creating state commissions and authorities which he ran.

He pushed the building of parks, a good thing, but also the unbridled construction of bridges, tunnels and highways -- highways that shattered traditional neighborhoods and tied up the New York area with loops of roads like the Long Island Expressway, often dubbed the world's longest parking lot, at the cost of a balanced system of mass transportation. Moses loved the automobile.

It was a road project that Moses announced in 1962 that first caused me to tangle with him. He unveiled a scheme to build a four-lane highway on Fire Island which would have paved over much of the nature and communities on the narrow 32-mile-long ribbon of sand east of New York City. He claimed the highway would "anchor" Fire Island and protect it from storms.

It was my first week on my first job as a reporter for the Babylon Town Leader, a newspaper in the village where Moses lived. He had just announced the Fire Island project.

The Leader, for decades, had challenged Moses and his projects -- quite unlike most of the daily papers in New York City which Moses, as notes the Pulitzer Prize-winning book on him, The Power Broker by Robert Caro, long had in his pocket.

I began writing story after story in the Leader about the impacts of the proposed Moses highway on Fire Island. We pointed out, too, how the highway Moses built to the west, along Jones Beach, rather than anchoring the beach needed to be regularly bolstered with sand pushed along its edges by bulldozers working at night.

Moses had so much power in New York State he seemed unstoppable. So those endeavoring to save Fire Island turned to the federal government -- a Citizens Committee for a Fire Island National Seashore was started. U.S. Interior Secretary Stewart Udall visited Fire Island and embraced the seashore idea.

Also, conservation-oriented Laurance Rockefeller, brother of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, became chairman of the state Council of Parks in 1963 and liked the seashore concept.

Moses was furious. He confronted the governor insisting that the Fire Island highway must happen and that Rockefeller put a lid on his brother -- or he would resign his commission and authority posts. Seemingly he thought New York State would fall apart without him. In this collision, Moses quit his various public positions.

A Fire Island National Seashore, happily, was established in 1964.

Moses, meanwhile, remained in charge of the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.

In 1964, the Babylon Town Leader was bought by the Sunrise Press newspaper chain.

At the Leader, I also covered the civil rights struggle then happening on Long Island. I went to the World's Fair opening day to report on protests led by the then leading activist civil rights organization in the region, the Congress of Racial Equality, protesting racism in hiring by the Fair and racism in general in the New York area.

All the Sunrise Press newspapers ran as a front-page piece the article I wrote about the demonstrators and their being bludgeoned by the Fair's Pinkerton officers. My photos on this accompanied the piece.

But no longer did I have the protection when it came to Moses which I had with the Leader under its former management. Moses complained and I was promptly fired.

I placed ads beginning: "Reporter fired because of Robert Moses." I got another job, at the daily Long Island Press. Moses' power over much of the area's press was reconfirmed on my first day there. An editor told me: "Now you understand you're never to write a story about Moses or any agency he headed." I was hired to cover police and courts and asked what was to be done if there is a fatal auto accident on one of the highways managed by one of Moses' former agencies. "Have another reporter write it," he advised.

Moses is dead. Fire Island has been preserved. The New York World's Fair is a memory -- most of it quickly bulldozed down after it closed.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-grossman/worlds-fair-opens-50-year_b_5195406.html


'G.M. Flaw' and the Deeply Flawed Regulatory System

April 02, 2014

By Karl Grossman

"U.S. Agency Knew About G.M. Flaw But Did Not Act," was the front-page headline of the New York Times this week. The article told of a memo released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that related how scandalously, shamefully the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "ignored or dismissed warnings for more than a decade about a faulty ignition switch" in General Motors cars.

"Federal regulators decided not to open an inquiry on the ignitions of Chevrolet Cobalts and other cars even after their own investigators reported in 2007 "knowing about fatal crashes, complaints and reports of a defect in the autos, said the article. It continued that in 2010 the agency "came to the same decision" -- not to do anything -- "after receiving more reports" about the fatal problem.

A separate article on the front-page of the Times' business section, "Carmakers' Close Ties to Regulator Scrutinized," reported on "former top N.H.T.S.A. officials who now represent companies they were once responsible for regulating, part of a well-established migration from regulator to the regulated in Washington." The "revolving door between the agency and the automotive industry is once again coming under scrutiny as lawmakers investigate the decade-long failure by General Motors and safety regulators to act more aggressively."

In fact, the words "G.M. Flaw" could be substituted for by "G.E. Flaw" in its nuclear plants -- like the G.E. plants at Fukushima and the dozens of the same fault-plagued model that are still operating in the U.S., or the words could be replaced by "Pollution Caused by Fracking" or "Poisons in Food."

From national administration to administration, corporations have run roughshod and those who are supposed to protect us from the danger and death these industries cause have regularly not done their jobs. Sometimes the situation is more pronounced as during the Reagan administration -- a thoroughly obvious time of foxes guarding henhouses.

I wrote a book about this extreme situation. The book jacket highlighted some of the Reagan foxes: Rita LaValle, a PR person for Aerojet General Corp. involved in hazardous waste-dumping and water pollution, who became director of the "Superfund" program; John Todhunter, an opponent of restrictions on pesticides with the chemical industry-financed American Council on Science and Health, who became assistant administrator for pesticides and toxic substances at EPA; Kathleen Bennett, who as a lobbyist for the paper industry fought the Clean Air Act, named assistant EPA administrator for air pollution control programs and supervisor of the Clean Air Act; and on and on.

This sort of thing has an early history. In a chapter titled "Why the Supposed Protectors Don't Protect," I related the story of Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a physician who came to Washington in 1882 to become chief chemist for the Department of Agriculture. The U.S. was undergoing a transition from a rural country to an increasingly industrial society with industries arising that processed food -- food commonly doused with dangerous chemicals. Wiley endeavored to do something about this. He was a leader in working for pure food legislation and between his efforts and those of Progressive Era reformers and the publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle came passage of the landmark Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

The act, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, defined as adulterated foods those containing "any added poisonous or other added deleterious ingredient which may render such article injurious to health." Wiley, who the U.S. government honored in 1956 with a postage stamp picturing him and has described as the "father of food and drug regulation," tried to enforce the law as head of the Bureau of Chemistry of the Department of Agriculture, predecessor agency to the Food and Drug Administration, but found that all but impossible.

As a matter of conscience, Wiley resigned from the U.S. government in 1912 and wrote a book, The History of a Crime Against the Food Law." The law intended to protect the health of people was "perverted to protect adulteration of food," he wrote.

"There is a distinct tendency to put regulations and rules for the enforcement of the law into the hands of industries engaged in food and drug activities," declared Wiley. "I consider this one of the most pernicious threats to pure food and drugs. Business is making rapid strides in the control of all our affairs. When we permit business in general to regulate the quality and character of our food and drug supplies, we are treading upon very dangerous ground. It is always advisable to consult businessmen and take such advice as they give that is unbiased, because of the intimate knowledge they have of the processes involved. It is never advisable to surrender entirely food and drug control to business interests."

Throughout the many decades since, government control, regulation, has been surrendered, in part and sometimes entirely, to business interests. This includes not only the food and drug industries but the auto industry, the nuclear industry, now the gas industry for the toxic process called hydraulic fracturing or fracking, and on and on.

I titled my 1983 book The Poison Conspiracy and began it by writing about how "the world is being poisoned," lives are being lost and protection "by government is a sham." Those in government who are "supposed to protect us...do not because of the power of the industries" they are supposed to regulate. "These corporations have been able to warp, distort and neutralize those social mechanisms of protection."

For example, regarding nuclear power and Fukushima, Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission when the catastrophe began in 2011, was forced out in 2012 because of nuclear industry pressure after calling for the NRC to apply the "lessons learned" from the disaster. "I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima had never happened." Jaczko stated as the other four NRC commissioners rubber-stamped the construction in Georgia in 2012 of two new nuclear plants. Jaczko, said U.S. Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, "led" a "fight" against those in the nuclear industry opposed to "strong, lasting safety regulations." And he paid the price.

And so do we -- whether we drive a G.M. Cobalt car or are impacted by the permitted radioactive emissions or accidental discharges from nuclear power plants or water contaminated by the fracking process or food loaded with genetically modified organisms, GMOs, and chemical poisons.

What's to be done? Our elected representatives aren't innocent in this. There are a few good ones, like Senator Markey, but overall those who on the elective level are supposed to watchdog the lame would-be regulators of the bureaucracies have in large measure been captured themselves by the monied corporate interests. "There is a deeply entrenched network" and the challenge to it "will not be easy," I conclude in The Poison Conspiracy. Most importantly, there needs to be intense grassroots activism to deal with, to remake, a system of government regulation long broken that needs to be, at long last, truly and fundamentally reformed.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-grossman/gm-flaw-and-the-deeply-fl_b_5076146.html


Iran, IAEA and nukes

March 21, 2014

By Karl Grossman

Articles

A group of New York area Jewish newspapers is challenging whether the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can be “trusted to ensure” that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.

“We think not,” declared an editorial in the Manhattan Jewish Sentinel, Long Island Jewish World and The Jewish Tribune which is appearing this week.

The editorial in the newspapers begins with noting an article I wrote that appeared in them two weeks ago about how the IAEA, set up by the United Nations to promote nuclear power, has been in the lead in a cover-up of the impacts of the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe. My piece cited the IAEA declaring in 2011, “To date no health effects have been reported in any person as a result of radiation exposure from the accident,” a claim it holds to today.

“This leads us to Iran,” said the editorial. “The key agency charged with monitoring whether the purpose of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program is to produce atomic weaponry, and not, as its leaders claim, as a source of energy, is this very same IAEA. And that should be ringing some pretty loud alarm bells.”

It continued: “The IAEA was created by the UN after President Dwight Eisenhower appeared before the General Assembly, in 1953, to tout the value of nuclear technology as an energy source while ensuring that it was not misused. The idea was for the IAEA to promote Eisenhower’s vision worldwide, just as the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was doing here at home.”

But, the editorial related, in 1974 “the AEC was abolished after the U.S. Congress concluded that its dual role of promoting and simultaneously regulating nuclear technology constituted a clear conflict of interest.”

“The IAEA plays that same dual role. Yet it continues to be a critical player on the world scene,” stated the newspapers, their long-time publisher and editor-in-chief Jerome Wm. Lippman.

The editorial spoke of the “nuclear boosters” who have run the IAEA including “Hans Blix, who became the agency’s director general after leading a campaign in his native Sweden against efforts to close nuclear power plants there….Blix’s long-time second-in-command was Morris Rosen, who previously was employed by the defunct AEC and, before that, the nuclear division of General Electric. After the disaster at the nuclear plant in Chernobyl, in the former Soviet Union, Rosen opined, ‘There is very little doubt that nuclear power is a rather benign industrial enterprise, and we may have to expect catastrophic accidents from time to time.’”

The editorial cited the 1981 book, The Islamic Bomb: The Nuclear Threat to Israel and the Middle East by Steven Weissman and Herbert Krosny, and how it “addressed the inherent contradiction of having the IAEA serve as a watchdog to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.” The editorial noted that they wrote: “The conflict is obvious. As major promoters of nuclear power, IAEA officials do not like to hear about the dangers of civilian nuclear technology … IAEA officials often sound as if they are more concerned [with making] the world safe for nuclear power than safe from nuclear weapons.”

“Given these troublesome circumstances and the IAEA’s involvement in covering up the true extent of the Fukushima catastrophe,” the editorial concluded, “can it be trusted to ensure that Iran’s intentions are peaceful? We think not.”
In my article I also described how the IAEA captured another UN-founded agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), when it comes to nuclear issues.
The IAEA and WHO, I wrote, in 1959 entered into an agreement—that continues to this day—providing that IAEA and WHO “act in close co-operation with each other” and “whenever either organization proposes to initiate a program or activity on a subject in which the other organization has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement.”

I quoted Alison Katz who for 18 years worked for WHO, speaking on Libbe HaLevy’s “Nuclear Hotseat” podcast last year, that the IAEA-WHO deal has meant that “WHO cannot undertake any research, cannot disseminate any information, cannot come to the assistance of any population without the prior approval of the IAEA…WHO, in practice, in reality, is subservient to the IAEA within the United Nations family.”
On nuclear issues “there has been a very high level, institutional and international cover-up which includes governments, national authorities, but also, regrettably the World Health Organization,” said Katz on the program titled “The WHO/IAEA—Unholy Alliance and Its Lies About Int’l Nuclear Health Stats.”

Katz is now with an organization called IndependentWHO which works for “the complete independence of the WHO from the nuclear lobby and in particular from its mouthpiece which is the International Atomic Energy Agency. We are demanding that independence,” she said, “so that the WHO may fulfill its constitutional mandate in the area of radiation and health.”

“We are absolutely convinced,” said Katz on “Nuclear Hotseat,” “that if the health and environmental consequences of all nuclear activities were known to the public, the debate about nuclear power would end tomorrow. In fact, the public would probably exclude it immediately as an energy option.”

WHO last year issued a report on the impacts of the Fukushima disaster claiming that “for the general population inside and outside of Japan, the predicted risks are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated.”

It is impossible to know now the health impacts of the Fukushima disaster but considering the gargantuan amount of radioactive poisons that have been discharged and continue to be released at the stricken six-nuclear plant site, the impacts will inevitably be great. The claim of there being no consequences to life and the prediction that there won’t be in the future from the Fukushima catastrophe is, I stated, an outrageous falsehood.

I noted the projection of Dr. Chris Busy, scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, of a death toll of more than a million from the radioactivity released.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, a founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, told a symposium, I reported, on “The Medical Implications of Fukushima” in Japan that: “The accident is enormous in its medical implications. It will induce an epidemic of cancer as people inhale the radioactive elements, eat radioactive vegetables, rice and meat, and drink radioactive milk and teas. As radiation from ocean contamination bio-accumulates up the food chain…radioactive fish will be caught thousands of miles from Japanese shores. As they are consumed, they will continue the the cycle of contamination, proving that no matter where you are, all major nuclear accidents become local.”

I cited the analysis of Arnie Gundersen, a former U.S. nuclear industry senior vice president, that “we’re going to see as many as a million cancers” from the Fukushima releases of radioactivity.

Already an excessive number of cases of thyroid cancers have appeared in Japan, an early sign of the impacts of radioactivity. A study last year determined that radioactive iodine fall-out from Fukushima has damaged the thyroid glands of children in California. And the biggest wave of radioactivity in the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima is slated to hit the west coast of North America in coming months. Meanwhile, every bluefin tuna caught in the waters off California in a Stanford University study was found to contain cesium-137, a radioactive poison emitted on a large scale by Fukushima.

The claim of no health impacts from Fukushima, I said in my article, is an attempted Giant Lie—a suppression of information, an effort at dishonesty of historical dimensions—with the IAEA in the middle of it.

The title of the editorial in the Manhattan Jewish Sentinel, Long Island Jewish World and The Jewish Tribune is:“The IAEA in Iran: Wrong watchdog in the wrong place.” To read it, go to http://editions.us.com/lijewishworld_032114/ To read my article on Fukushima in these newspapers, go to http://editions.us.com/lijewishworld_030714/

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/iran-iaea-and-nukes/


Otis Pike and U.S. Intelligence Abuses

January 31 2014

By Karl Grossman

These days it's the scandal involving widespread surveillance by the National Security Administration. Four decades ago it was the investigation of U.S. intelligence agency abuses by a committee chaired by Congressman Otis G. Pike. The panel's report, revealing a pattern similar in matters of arrogance and deception to the disclosures in recent times, was suppressed -- ­scandalously --­by the full House of Representatives.

Pike, who died last week at 92, was the greatest member of Congress from Long Island I have known in 52 years as a journalist based on the island. He was simply extraordinary.

He was able to win, over and over again as a Democrat in a district far more Republican than it is now. His communications to constituents were a wonder­fully constant flow of personal letters. As a speaker he was magnificent­ and eloquent -- and what a sense of humor! Indeed, each campaign he would write and sing a funny song, accompanying himself on a ukulele or banjo, about his opponent. He worked tirelessly and creatively for his eastern Long Island district.

With his top political lieutenants, attorney Aaron Donner and educator Joseph Quinn, and his dynamic wife Doris, and his many supporters -- ­including those in Republicans for Pike­ -- he was a trusted, unique governmental institution on Long Island.

And he was a man of complete integrity. That, indeed, was why, after 18 years, Pike decided to close his career in the House of Representatives.

In 1975, as issues about global U.S. intelligence activities began to surface, Pike became chair of the House Special Select Committee on Intelligence. A U.S. Marine dive bomber and night fighter pilot in the Pacific during World War II, who with the war's end went to Princeton and became a lawyer, he embarked with his committee, Donner its chief counsel, into an investigation of the assassinations and coups in which the Central Intelligence Agency was involved. His panel found systematic, unchecked and huge financial pay-offs by the CIA to figures around the world. And, yes, it found illegal surveillance.

On the Central Intelligence Agency's website today is an essay by a CIA historian Gerald K. Haines, which at its top asserts how "the Pike Committee set about examining the CIA's effectiveness and costs to taxpayers. Unfortunately, Pike, the committee, and its staff never developed a cooperative working relationship with the Agency."

A "cooperative working relationship" with the CIA? Pike's committee was engaged in a hard-hitting investigation, a probe by the legislative branch of government, into wrongdoing by the executive branch. It was not, in examining the activities of the CIA and the rest of what historian Haines terms the "Intelligence Community," interested in allying with and being bamboozled by them.

To make matters worse, leading components of the media turned away from what the Pike Committee was doing. Pike told me how James "Scotty" Reston, the powerful columnist and former executive editor of The New York Times, telephoned him to complain: "What are you guys doing down there!" The Times and other major media began focusing on the counterpart and less aggressive Senate committee on intelligence chaired by Senator Frank Church of Idaho.

Then, in 1976, even though a majority of representatives on the Pike Committee voted to release its report, the full House balloted 246-to-124 not to release it.

What an attempted cover-up! Fortunately, the report was leaked to CBS reporter Daniel Schorr who provided it to The Village Voice which ran it in full.

I still vividly recall sitting with Pike and talking, over drinks in a tavern in his hometown of Riverhead, about the situation. He had done what needed to be done­ and then came the suppression. He thought, considering what he experienced, that he might be more effective as a journalist rather than a congressman in getting truth out.

I knew Otis as a reporter and columnist for the daily Long Island Press. Dave Starr, the editor of The Press and national editor of the Newhouse newspaper chain, always thought the world of Pike. Starr and Pike made an arrangement under which Pike would write a column distributed by the Newhouse News Service. Pike didn't run for re-election for the House of Representatives -- ­and starting in 1979, for the next 20 years, he was a nationally syndicated columnist.

His columns were as brilliant as the speeches he gave as a congressman. They were full of honesty, humor and wisdom, ­as was the man.

Starr, still with Newhouse Newspapers, commented last week on Pike's death: "The country has lost a great thinker, a mover and shaker, and a patriot."

Yes.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-grossman/otis-pike-and-us-intellig_b_4695797.html


The Political TV Commercial as a Pivotal Component in American Presidential Politics and National Leadership by Q Score

November 04 2013

By Karl Grossman

Ever since Madison Avenue advertising man Rosser Reeves convinced Dwight Eisenhower to use him and TV commercials to run for the presidency in 1952, the political TV commercial has become a pivotal component in American presidential politics.

Four years earlier Reeves tried to interest the then Republican candidate, Thomas Dewey, in the approach. But Dewey "did not buy the idea of lowering himself to the commercial environment of a toothpaste ad," related Robert Spero in his 1980 book The Duping of the American Voter, Dishonesty & Deception in Presidential Television Advertising.

The Eisenhower commercials were coordinated with the campaign's slogan -- "I Like

Ike." Indeed, one spot featured a song especially written by Irving Berlin titled "I Like Ike."

There was an early understanding by Reeves that television best communicates feeling and emotion, not information. TV, as media theorists later described it, is a "non-cognitive medium." Thus the Eisenhower ads -- stressing Eisenhower's likeability -- involved feeling and emotion, making the strongest use of the TV medium.

I recall, as a kid, seeing the TV image of Eisenhower back then, grinning.

The intellectual Democrat candidate, Adlai Stevenson, tried to counter the blitz of 15-second Eisenhower spots. Stevenson embarked on a series of half-hour TV presentations, reiterating and expanding on themes he struck in his convention acceptance speech. These lectures, essentially, didn't work.

With television, as Joe McGinniss wrote in his seminal 1969 The Selling of the President, "it matters less" that a politician "does not have ideas. His personality is what the viewers want to share. The TV candidate... is measured... not against a standard of performance established by two centuries of democracy -- but against Mike Douglas. How well does he handle himself? Does he mumble, does he twitch, does he make me laugh? Do I feel warm inside? Style becomes substance. The medium is the massage and the masseur gets the votes."
TV talk show personality Mike Douglas is dead. But the dynamic McGinniss described continues -- indeed has expanded politically.

As observed Richard Reeves in a 1980 television report, "ABC News Closeup: Lights, Cameras... Politics," realizing TV "transmits feelings and emotion better than it transmits information... media consultants tried to motivate Americans to vote the same way that they were motivated to buy toothpaste: with little entertainments."

He cited as an early example of this the infamous spot put together in 1964 by Tony Schwartz for Lyndon Johnson. A little girl plucks petals from a daisy, counting up to nine and then a man's voice counts down from ten to zero -- and suddenly the TV screen fills with the super-scary footage of a hydrogen bomb, and Johnson's voice states: "The stakes are too high... We must either love each other or we must die."

Schwartz later wrote in his book The Responsive Chord: "The task of a media specialist is not to reveal a candidate's stand on issues, so much as to help communicate those personal qualities of a candidate that are likely to win votes." This spot and the strong emotion it was designed to impart were aimed at leaving the viewer feeling that Lyndon Johnson was a person of responsibility, and his opponent, Barry Goldwater, something else.

Further, with this spot, the TV political attack ad, the emotionally-laden negative political TV commercial, had arrived -- to become a mainstay of election advertising.

By the 1980s, Ronald Reagan had become a model for TV-based presidential TV commercials -- and politics. Many voters might have disliked his policies, but a substantial number "liked" Reagan -- based on the image he projected through television.

With the ability to perform on television having become a necessary attribute of a presidential candidate, the Republican Party had chosen an actor to run for president. Reagan had been governor of California but, importantly, Reagan for eight years before that was a TV performer, host of General Electric Theatre, after his Hollywood career hit the skids.

It had come to a point at which Newsday columnist Robert Weimer declared in 1980:

"Why bother with the arduous, uncertain and expensive process of casting ballots at all? Why not simply put presidential candidates into a head-to-head, prime-time competition on election night and let the ratings decide the contest... It's not hard to understand why the candidates have settled on television as their main mode of communication. It reaches the most people with the most impact, even if it does tend to sell only gross attributes. Audience perception of a smile, for example, can determine the outcome of a presidential race...Television is essentially a medium that appeals more to spinal than cerebral receptors. The message that gets through is spare: Ronald Reagan is affable."

We can now analyze presidential candidate after candidate through the prism of political TV commercials and television performance.

It can be very unsettling. Consider what was widely described as a great problem for Al Gore when he ran against George W. Bush in 2000: most folks would rather, it was said, go out for a beer with Bush than Gore. Gore's persona as transmitted through TV was said to be wooden, lacking charisma, Bush somehow connected better. And we got Bush.

Our current president, Barack Obama, is a master of performing on television. As Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen complained on Politico this past February, "The president has shut down interviews with many of the White House reporters who know the most and ask the toughest questions. Instead, he spends way more time talking directly to voters via friendly shows and media personalities. Why bother with the New York Times beat reporter when Obama can go on 'The View.'"

And today, television -- and particularly political TV commercials -- are vital to the rise and continuance in office of candidates for, not just president, but for the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, governorships, mayoral positions, and seats in state legislatures and on city councils.

A political era of dueling political TV commercials is firmly here.

Meanwhile, the notion of the "Q Score" or "Q rating" has arrived.

The term "Q Score" was coined in 1963 by Jack Landis who founded a company Marketing Evaluations, Inc. in Roslyn, N.Y. which continues to use the concept as the central measure in its opinion polling and market research work.

"Q rating" -- defined by Merriam-Webster as a "scale measuring the popularity of a person or thing" -- is said by those dictionary people as having its "first known use" in 1977.
They mean roughly the same: they're measures of likeability. They are the standard for how TV reporters keep their jobs these days, why TV programs are renewed, how products are promoted as well as how would-be holders of the presidency and other offices in the U.S. -- and increasingly leaders in nations around the world -- are selected.

The basis for "I Like Ike" is now widely applied.

And we are left to wonder what kind of "Q Score" or "Q rating" Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson might have had? What have we lost -- and what have we gained?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-grossman/the-political-tv-commerci_b_4196622.html.

The Deadly Secrets of Plum Island

October 25, 2013

By Karl Grossman

Michael Carroll, author of the best-selling book, “Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory,” was back on the East Coast, vacationing with his family, and amazed over recent developments concerning Plum Island.

Carroll, an attorney from Long Island who worked seven years on “Lab 257” which became a best-seller after its 2004 publication, has since moved to California where he and his wife, a California native, established a law practice.

Back on Long Island, where he is a native, Carroll finds as astonishing Representative Tim Bishop’s fight against the plan of the federal government to shut down its Plum Island Animal Disease Center and shift its operations to a new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility it would build in Manhattan Kansas. Bishop, of Southampton, is mainly concerned about the loss of 200 federal jobs at the center which is in his eastern Long Island Congressional district.

“It is utter foolishness to try to save 200 jobs at the price of protecting the entire region from this island and the threat it represents,” said Carroll in a recent interview. An outbreak of disease agents worked with on Plum Island­notably those affecting both animals and people­in the heavily populated area off which the island sits could be “devastating.” Plum Island is just off and midway between the New York-Boston megalopolis and its millions of people, Carroll pointed out. The 843-acre island is a mile-and-a-half off Orient Point in Southold Town on the North Fork of Long Island. Connecticut is less than 10 miles to the north.

A spokesperson for Bishop, Oliver Longwell, responded that Bishop’s “position on the island is indistinguishable from every other elected official who represents Southold Town at all levels of government.”

As to the call by a grouping of Long Island environmentalists for preservation of the island as opposed to the federal government’s consideration of having housing developed on it,  Carroll said that making the island a preserve is all that could be done with Plum Island­but, he emphasized, it will need to be a preserve closed to people. “You can’t let anybody on it,” he said.

“The island is an environmental disaster,” said Carroll. “Every effort to decontaminate Lab 257, the1950s-era germ warfare building on it, has failed,” said Carroll. “They can’t get that building clean.” (Subsequently, a new laboratory building was constructed after the U.S. Department of Agriculture Department took control of the island from the U.S. Army.)

“There is contamination all over the island,” said Carroll. He noted that up until recent years, nothing was ever removed from the island­everything was disposed on it, much of it buried. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have brought charges through the years in connection with the Plum Island waste, cases cited in his book, he went on. “If this was a private business, it immediately would have been shut down,” said Carroll. But only “nominal” fines were meted out.

As to a shift of Plum Island operations to Kansas, that’s “going out of the frying pan into the fire,” said Carroll. “Is there is no better place to study foreign animal diseases than in the middle of America’s farm belt?”

“What research that needs to be conducted should be done nowhere near a human population center or a food production center,” said Carroll.

As for Plum Island, “There’s no way that island can be made fit for human habitation,” declared Carroll.” The island needs to be “forsaken. It’s very sad.”

The federal government, however, believes Plum Island can be habitable as evidenced by it contemplating housing on it with the center’s closing. And real estate mogul Donald Trump has jumped into the situation by saying he would like to buy the island and, he said last month, develop a “really beautiful, world-class golf course” on it.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has written to the General Services Administration, which would manage the planned sale, and the Department of Homeland Security, which after the 9/11 attack took over the island from the Department of Agriculture, calling for a “comprehensive investigation” of Plum Island by the state DEC, and a clean-up plan. This would include “the need to properly close Building 257.” Discussing his letter at a recent appearance at Orient Beach State Park, Cuomo called Plum Island “the island of secrets.”

The Cuomo family is very familiar with Plum Island. Andrew’s father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, with whom Carroll worked as a lawyer in New York City, is quoted on the jacket of “Lab 257” as calling the book a “carefully researched, chilling expose of a potential catastrophe.”

Carroll’s “Lab 257” also documents a Nazi connection to the original establishment of a U.S. laboratory on Plum Island. According to the book, Erich Traub, a scientist who worked for the Third Reich doing biological warfare, was the force behind its founding.

During World War II,  “as lab chief of Insel Riems­a secret Nazi biological warfare laboratory on a crescent-shaped island in the Baltic Sea­Traub worked for Adolph Hitler’s second-in-charge, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, on live germ trials,” states “Lab 257.

The mission was to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union. This included infecting cattle and reindeer with foot-and-mouth disease.

“Ironically, Traub spent the prewar period of his scientific career on a fellowship at the Rockefeller Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, perfecting his skills in viruses and bacteria under the tutelage of American experts before returning to Nazi Germany on the eve of war,” says “Lab 257.”  While in the U.S. in the 1930s, too, relates the book, Traub was a member of the Amerika-Deutscher Volksbund which was involved in pro-Nazi rallies held weekly in Yaphank on Long Island.

With the end of the war, Traub came back to the United States under Project Paperclip, a U.S. program under which Nazi scientists, such as Wernher von Braun, were brought to America.

“Traub’s detailed explanation of the secret operation on Insel Riems” given to officials at Fort Detrick in Maryland, the Army’s biological warfare headquarters, and to the CIA, “laid the groundwater for Fort Detrick’s offshore germ warfare animal disease lab on Plum Island,” says “Lab 257.” “Traub was a founding father.” And Plum Island’s purpose, says the book, became what Insel Riems had been: to develop biological warfare to be directed against animals in the Soviet Union­now that the Cold War and conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union had begun.

The Long Island daily newspaper Newsday earlier documented this biological warfare mission of Plum Island. In a lead story on November 21, 1993, Newsday investigative reporter John McDonald wrote: “A 1950s military plan to cripple the Soviet economy by killing horses, cattle and swine called for making biological warfare weapons out of exotic animal diseases at a Plum Island laboratory, now-declassified Army records reveal.” A facsimile of one of the records, dated 1951, covered the front page of that issue of Newsday.

The article went on: “Documents and interviews disclose for the first time what officials have denied for years: that the mysterious and closely guarded animal lab off the East End of Long Island was originally designed to conduct top-secret research into replicating dangerous viruses that could be used to destroy enemy livestock.”

“Lab 257” has many pages about this based on documents including many that Carroll found in the National Archives.

The book also tells of why suddenly the Army transferred Plum Island to the Department of Agriculture in 1954­the U.S. military became concerned about having to feed millions of people in the Soviet Union if it destroyed their food animals.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff “found that a war with the U.S.S.R. would best be fought with conventional and nuclear means, and biological warfare against humans­not against food animals,” says “Lab 257.” “Destroying the food supply meant having to feed millions of starving Russians after winning a war”

Still, “Lab 257” questions whether there ever was a clean break.

Officials at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center have, however, insisted over the years that the center’s function is to conduct research into foreign animal diseases not found in the U.S.­especially foot-and-mouth disease­and the only biological warfare research done is of a “defensive” kind.

“Lab 257” also maintains that there is a link between the Plum Island center and the emergence of Lyme disease. It “suddenly surfaced” 10 miles from Plum Island “in Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975.” Carroll cites years of experimentation with ticks on Plum Island and the possibility of an accidental or purposeful release.

“The tick is the perfect germ vector,” says “Lab 257,” “which is why it has long been fancied as a germ weapon by early biowarriors from Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan to the Soviet Union and the United States.”

“A source who worked on Plum Island in the 1950s,” the book states, “recalls that animal handlers and a scientist released ticks outdoors on the island. ‘They called him the Nazi scientist, when they came in, in 1951 ­they were inoculating these ticks.” “Lab 257” goes on: “Dr. Traub’s World War II handiwork consisted of aerial virus sprays developed on Insel Riems and tested over occupied Russia, and of field work for Heinrich Himmler in Turkey. Indeed, his colleagues conducted bug trials by dropping live beetles from planes. An outdoor tick trial would have been de riguer for Erich Traub.”

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/10/25/the-deadly-secrets-of-plum-island/


Judaism and Investigative Journalism

August 26, 2013

By Karl Grossman

Articles

I gave a presentation on “Judaism and Investigative Journalism” at Friday evening services last week at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, New York. For 50 years I’ve practiced this specific branch of journalism and have taught it for the past 35 years as a professor at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury.

It’s a form of journalism, called muckraking a century ago in the United States, that goes beyond answering the basic questions reporters are supposed to ask—who, what, when, where, why and how. It’s digging deep.

A definition and I think a good one for investigative reporting comes from Paul Williams, author of Investigative Reporting and Editing, a basic book on the subject, and a founder of the organization Investigative Reporters & Editors. He wrote it is “to tell how things really work.”  Not how some government official or corporate executive might claim but what you, the journalist, uncovers through intensive investigation. Truth with a capital T. You then write or air an expose. This sometimes takes the form of a journalistic crusade.

It’s a form of journalism, I said, highly compatible with Judaism. As Isaiah said: “Seek justice, defend the oppressed.”  Further, investigative reporting fits perfectly with the Jewish tradition of always questioning…and of challenging authority.

It’s a branch of journalism, I noted, loaded with Jews.

It wasn’t happenstance, I said, that Joseph Pulitzer, a Jew from Hungary, was one of the two major publishers in the mainstream press whose papers engaged in muckraking in what was called the Muckraking Era in the U.S. between 1900 and 1914.

George Seldes, from a Jewish utopian agricultural community in New Jersey, who lived through most of the 20th century passing away at 104, is regarded as the father of contemporary independent investigative journalism.

And Seymour Hersh; I.F. Stone; Carl Bernstein; David Halberstam; Fred Friendly, Don Hewitt, creator of 60 Minutes, long the leading investigative TV program in America;Mike Wallace; Daniel Schorr—Schorr wrote, “We Jews are searchers for truth, sometimes called investigative reporting”— Gloria Steinem; Lowell Bergman; Eric Nadler; Bob Simon…

The list goes on.

It’s interesting today, how Jill Abramson, with a background in investigative reporting and now the top editor at The New York Times, the first woman to hold that post, is directing The Times to do more investigative reporting. Still not enough, but more.

Arguably, I said, the most important work of Theodor Herzl could be considered investigative journalism. Writing about the Dreyfus affair in France and virulent anti-Semitism there and elsewhere in Europe, the truth became clear to him as a journalist about how things really worked for Jews in Europe. He concluded that Jews must remove themselves from Europe. And his mighty crusade was for Jews to create their own state.

I spoke about how I got into investigative reporting, in college doing an internship at the Cleveland Press. It was the first newspaper started by E.W. Scripps, the other major mainstream press figure highly active during the Muckraking Era. The culture Scripps created was still very much present at the Cleveland Press in 1960. Every few days it ran an expose. Scripps wasn’t Jewish but in his views could have been. As he declared: “Whatever is—is wrong.” And must be changed. The title of his autobiography:  I Protest. Above the entrance to the paper, etched in stone, were a lighthouse and the words: “Give Light and the People Will Find Their Own Way.”

And every day I saw this happening. The term investigative reporting wasn’t yet used. It came a few years later. But there was a group of reporters at the Cleveland Press who did this. I was a copyboy and working at night, nearly alone in the city room, when there was a phone call advising the paper about some event in Shaker Heights, for example, you passed on a note to the suburban desk. A call about something happening in the city—the note went to the city desk. But if someone called with a horror story, a tale of injustice, inequity, danger—you gave it to this group of investigative reporters.

And the amazing thing to me, an 18-year-old from New York City, was seeing how when the information was documented by one of these investigative reporters and published—half the time the situation was resolved. This was just the neatest thing, I thought, so I headed back east to become an investigative reporter.

My first big story was as a reporter for the Babylon Town Leader and involved New York public works czar Robert Moses’ plan for a four-lane highway on Fire Island. I wrote about how the Moses road would devastate the human and natural communities on the fragile 32-mile long barrier beach. The paper crusaded for a Fire Island National Seashore as a way to stop Moses,. The highway was stopped and the seashore created.

I went to the daily Long Island Press, got promoted to doing investigative reporting there and, over the years, investigated corruption involving public officials, exposed a huge Long Island sand-mining operation in the guise of construction of a deepwater port, broke the story of the oil industry seeking to drill in the Atlantic and probed the consequences of spillage.

After The Press ceased publication, I accepted an offer from the College at Old Westbury to be a professor. I’ve taught investigative reporting there every semester, and I’ve continued to do.it. A major story has involved the use of nuclear power in space. This started with my learning that the next mission of the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle involved lofting a space probe containing plutonium fuel. My book on this: The Wrong Stuff. This led me to investigate Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars program which, I found, was predicated on orbiting battle platforms with onboard nuclear power systems providing the energy for hypervelocity guns and laser and particle beam weapons. My book on this: Weapons in Space.

As to terrestrial nuclear power, my first book was Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power. Regarding Long Island, for years I investigated the Shoreham nuclear power plant which was to be the first of seven to 11 nuclear plants on Long Island. My book on this: Power Crazy. Many others were involved—pressing politically, utilizing civil disobedience, among other strategies, but I did much investigative journalism on the scheme, and Shoreham was stopped from operating and the plan for many nuclear plants on Long Island ended.

I’ve done, too, much investigative reporting on TV. For nearly 25 years I’ve hosted the TV program Enviro Close-Up aired through the U.S. I’m the chief investigative reporter for WVVH-TV on Long Island. And in recent years, with the arrival of the Internet, I’ve done extensive investigative reporting on the Web.

At the synagogue Friday evening, I spoke of how I’m still amazed about how the process of investigative reporting works—how the exposure of injustice, inequity and danger works to resolves the situation about half the time.  And if there is no immediate resolution, you keep at it.  I noted the Talmudic injunction that “it is not incumbent on thee to complete the task” but “thou must not…cease from pursuing it.”

The big problem has been getting air or ink considering the dysfunction of much of media. A course I developed at SUNY Old Westbury is Politics of Media. But the Internet has made a great contribution to investigative reporting—suddenly there is this enormously powerful instrument to, so far freely, communicate information globally.

As to deciding on what I investigate and report on, there are so many horror stories out there, I said, that I need to handle what I select through a kind of journalistic triage. I focus on stories involving life-threatening issues. That’s also, I said, about what Jews hold dearest: l’chayim—to life.


http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/judaism-and-investigative-journalism/

Decades of Political Tyranny at the IRS

May 16, 2013

By Karl Grossman

President Barack Obama got it right and wrong Monday when he stated, “If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions.”

He was right in declaring it was “outrageous” for the IRS to target conservative organizations for tough tax treatment. But he was incorrect in saying “it is contrary to our traditions.”

For the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has for decades gone after organizations and individuals that take stands in conflict with the federal government at the time. This has been a tradition, an outrageous tradition.

It is exposed in detail by David Burnham, longtime New York Times investigative reporter, in his 1991 book A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power. He relates how President Franklin D. Roosevelt likely “set the stage for the use of the tax agency for political purposes by most subsequent presidents.” Burnham writes about how a former U.S. Treasury Secretary, banker Andrew Mellon, was a special IRS target under FDR. During the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, he recounts, the focus of the IRS’s efforts “at political control” were civil rights organizations and those against the U.S. engaging in the Vietnam War. Nixon’s “enemies list” and his scheme to use the IRS against those on it is what the current IRS scandal is being most compared.

History Professor John A. Andrew III in his 2002 book Power to Destroy: The Political Uses of the IRS from Kennedy to Nixon—its title drawn from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall’s  dictum “The power to tax is the power to destroy”—focuses further on this tradition. He tells of how John F. Kennedy administration’s “Ideological Organizations Project” investigated, intimidated and challenged the tax-exempt status of right-wing groups including the John Birch Society. Then, with a turn of the White House to the right with Nixon came investigations, he writes, of such entities as the Jerry Rubin Foundation, the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Center for Corporate Responsibility.

During the Reagan administration, I had my own experience with the IRS—ostensibly

because of a book I wrote. Nicaragua: America’s New Vietnam? involved reporting from what was then a war zone in Nicaragua and in Florida—where I interviewed leaders of the contras who were working with the CIA to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government—and Honduras, being set up as a tarmac for U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. I visited a U.S. military base there. The book warned against a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua (subsequently decided against by the Reagan White House after the Iran-contra scandal). The book was published in 1985 and soon afterwards I was hit with an IRS audit. It would be more, I was informed, than my showing up at an IRS office. The IRS was to come to my house for a “field audit.”

The investigator sat on one side of our dining room table and on the other side was me and my accountant, Peter Berger of Shelter Island. What would be an all-day event started with the investigator asking me to detail how much my family spent on food each week and then, slowly, methodically, going through other expenses. Then he went through income. He obviously was seeking to determine on this fishing expedition whether income exceeded expenses. He went through receipts for business expenses including restaurant receipts, asking who I ate with. He sorted through receipts for office supplies. By mid-afternoon, he had gotten nowhere. At that point, having been hours together, a somewhat weird relationship had been formed. And he began to tell me how his dream in college was to become a journalist. He expanded on that, and then asked: “Have you ever faced retaliation?”

“What do you think this is?” I responded.

He was taken back—insisting my name had come up “at random.”

In the end, all he did was trim some of what was listed as business use of my home phone.

Was I being retaliated against for the book I had written?  One would never know. Recently, I ran into accountant Berger, now retired, and he commented about how that day at my house was the strangest IRS audit he had ever been involved in.

The IRS has been beyond reform. Burnham writes in A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power that a “political imperative of not messing with the IRS” has become “close to being a law of nature almost as unbending as the force of gravity.”  It is “rarely examined by Congress.”

President Obama announced yesterday that the acting commissioner of the IRS was asked and agreed to tender his resignation as a result of the scandal. That’s a small start. Far more important is somehow ending the tradition of IRS political tyranny. Fundamental change in the IRS is called for.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/16/decades-of-political-tyranny-at-the-irs/


Obama Goes Nuclear

February 17, 2010

By Karl Grossman

Is there any chance that President Barack Obama can return to his long-held stand critical of nuclear power? Is he open to hearing from scientists and energy experts, such as Amory Lovins, who can refute the pro-nuclear arguments that have apparently influenced him?

Obama’s declaration in his State of the Union speech on January 27 about “building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country” marked a significant change for him. His announcement Tuesday on moving ahead on $8.3 billion in federal government loan guarantees to build new nuclear plants and increasing the loan guarantee fund to $54.5 billion was a further major step. Wall Street is reluctant to invest money in the dangerous and extremely expensive technology.

Before taking office, including as a candidate for president, Obama not only was negative about atomic energy but—unusual for a politician—indicated a detailed knowledge of its threat to life.

“I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal and so I am not a nuclear energy proponent,” Obama said at a campaign stop in Newton, Iowa on December 30, 2007. “My general view is that until we can make certain that nuclear power plants are safe, that they have solved the storage problem—because I’m opposed to Yucca Mountain and just dumping…in one state, in Nevada particularly, since there’s potentially an earthquake line there—until we solve those problems and the whole nuclear industry can show that they can produce clean, safe energy without enormous subsidies from the U.S. government, I don’t think that’s the best option. I am much more interested in solar and wind and bio-diesel and strategies [for] alternative fuels.”

As he told the editorial board of the Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire on November 25, 2007: “I don’t think there’s anything that we inevitably dislike about nuclear power. We just dislike the fact that it might blow up…and irradiate us…and kill us. That’s the problem.”

Yes, that’s the big problem with splitting the atom—one that has existed since the start  of nuclear power and will always be inherent in the technology. Using the perilous process of fission to generate electricity with its capacity for catastrophic accidents and its production of highly toxic radioactive poisons called nuclear waste will always be unsafe. And it is unnecessary considering the safe energy technologies now available, from solar, wind and other clean sources.

Just how dangerous it is has been underlined in a book just published by the New York Academy of Sciences, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment. Written by a team of scientists led by noted Russian biologist Dr. Alexey Yablokov, using health data that have become available since the 1986 accident, it concludes that the fatality total “from April 1986 to the end of 2004 from the Chernobyl catastrophe was estimated at 985,000 additional [cancer] deaths.” This is in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries where Chernobyl’s poisons fell. The toll, they relate, continues to rise.

Chernobyl was a different design from the nuclear plants which the U.S., France and Japan seek now to build but disasters can also happen involving these plants and they, too, produce the highly toxic nuclear waste poisons. The problem is fission itself. It’s no way to produce electricity.

Obama has been aware of this. As he stated at a Londonderry, New Hampshire town meeting on October 7, 2007: “Nuclear power has a host of problems that have not been solved. We haven’t solved the storage situation effectively. We have not dealt with all of the security aspects of our nuclear plants and nuclear power is very expensive.”

He still left the door open to it. His Energy Plan as a candidate stated: “It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power from the table. However, there is no future for expanded nuclear without first addressing four key issues: public right-to-know, security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and [nuclear weapons] proliferation.”

In his first year as president, nuclear power proponents worked to influence him. Among nuclear opponents, there has been anxiety regarding Obama’s two top aides, both of whom have been involved with what is now the utility operating more nuclear power plants than any other in the United States, Exelon.

Rahm Emanuel, now Obama’s chief of staff, as an investment banker was in the middle of the $8.2 billion merger in 1999 of Unicom, the parent company of Commonwealth Edison of Chicago, and Peco Energy to put together Exelon. David Axelrod, now a senior Obama advisor and formerly chief campaign strategist, was an Exelon consultant. Candidate Obama received sizeable contributions from Exelon executives including from John Rowe, its president and chief executive officer who in 2007 also became chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the U.S. nuclear industry’s main trade group.

It’s not only been nuclear opponents who have seen a link between Exelon and the Obama administration. Forbes magazine, in its January 18th issue, in an article on John Rowe and how he has “focused the company on nuclear,” displayed a sidebar headlined, “The President’s Utility.”  It read: “Ties are tight between Exelon and the Obama administration,” noting Exelon political contributions and featuring Emanuel and Axelrod with photos and descriptions of their Exelon connections.

The Forbes article spoke of how last year “Emanuel e-mailed Rowe on the eve of the House vote on global warming legislation and asked that he reach out to some uncommitted Democrats. ‘We are proud to be the President’s utility,’ says Elizabeth Moler, Exelon’s chief lobbyist,” the article went on. “It’s nice for John to be able to go to the White House and they know his name.’”

Chicago-based Exelon’s website boasts of its operating “the largest nuclear fleet in the nation and the third largest in the world.” It owns 17 nuclear power plants which “represent approximately 20 percent of the U.S. nuclear industry’s power capacity.”

The climate change or global warming issue is another factor in Obama’s change on nuclear power. An Associated Press article of January 31 on Obama’s having “singled out nuclear power in his State of the Union address and his spending plan for the next budget,” began: “President Barack Obama is endorsing nuclear energy like never before, trying to win over Republicans and moderate Democrats on climate and energy legislation.”

MSNBC’s Mike Stuckey on February 9 reported about “Obama’s new support for nuclear power, which some feel may be a down payment for Republican backing on a climate change bill.”

After the “safe, clean nuclear power” claim, Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, declared: “Politically, Obama likely was simply parroting the effort being led by Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham to gain support for a climate bill by adding massive subsidies for nuclear power, offshore oil and ‘clean’ coal. But recycling George W. Bush energy talking points is no way to solve the climate crisis or develop a sustainable energy policy…Indeed, Obama knows better. Candidate Obama understood that nuclear power is neither safe nor clean.”

Climate change has been used by those promoting a “revival” of nuclear power—there hasn’t been a new nuclear plant ordered and built in the U.S. in 37 years—as a new argument. In fact, nuclear power makes a substantial contribution to global warming considering the overall “nuclear cycle”—uranium mining and milling, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication and the disposition of radioactive waste, and so on.

Climate change is also one argument for pushing atomic energy of  another major influence on Obama on nuclear power, Steven Chu, his Department of Energy secretary. Chu typifies the religious-like zeal for nuclear power emanating for decades from scientists in the U.S. government’s string of national nuclear laboratories. Chu was director of one of these, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, before becoming head of DOE.

First established during World War II’s Manhattan Project to build atomic weapons, the laboratories after the war began promoting civilian nuclear technology—and have been pushing it unceasingly ever since. It has been a way to perpetuate the vested interest created during World War II.  The number of nuclear weapons that could be built was limited because atomic bombs don’t lend themselves to commercial distribution, but in pushing food irradiation, nuclear-powered airplanes and rockets, atomic devices for excavation and, of course, nuclear power, the budgets and staffs of the national nuclear laboratories could be maintained, indeed increase.

That was the analysis of David Lilienthal, first chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, which preceded the Department of Energy. Lilienthal in his 1963 book Change, Hope, and the Bomb wrote: “The classic picture of the scientist as a creative individual, a man obsessed, working alone through the night, a man in a laboratory pushing an idea—this has changed. Now scientists are ranked in platoons. They are organization men. In many cases the independent and humble search for new truths about nature has been confused with the bureaucratic impulse to justify expenditure and see that next year’s budget is bigger than last’s.”

Lilienthal wrote about the “elaborate and even luxurious [national nuclear] laboratories that have grown up at Oak Ridge, Argonne, Brookhaven” and the push to use nuclear devices for “blowing out harbors, making explosions underground to produce steam, and so on” which show “how far scientists and administrators will go to try to establish a nonmilitary use” for nuclear technology.

Chu, like so many of the national nuclear laboratory scientists and administrators, minimizes the dangers of radioactivity. If they didn’t, if they acknowledged how life-threatening the radiation produced by nuclear technology is, their favorite technology would crumble.

A major theme of Chu, too, is a return to the notion promoted by the national nuclear laboratories in the 1950s and 60s of “recycling” and “reusing” nuclear waste. This way, they have hoped, it might not be seen as waste at all. The concept was to use radioactive Cesium-137 (the main poison discharged in the Chernobyl disaster) to irradiate food, to use depleted uranium to harden bullets and shells, and so on. In recent weeks, with Obama carrying out his pledge not  to allow Yucca Mountain to become a nuclear waste dump, Chu set up a “blue-ribbon” panel on radioactive  waste—stacked with nuclear power advocates including Exelon’s John Rowe—that is expected to stress the “recycling” theory.  

“We are aggressively pursuing nuclear energy,” declared Chu in January as he announced DOE’s budget plan—which included an increase in the 2011 federal budget in monies for nuclear loan guarantees to build new nuclear plants cited by Obama Tuesday. “We are, as we have repeatedly said, working hard to restart the American nuclear power industry.”

The $8.3 billion in loan guarantees Obama announced Tuesday is to come from $18.5 billion in guarantees proposed by the George W. Bush administration and authorized by Congress in 2005. “My budget proposes tripling the loan guarantees we provide to help finance safe, clean nuclear facilities,” said Obama Tuesday, referring to the DOE plan which would add $36 billion and bring the loan guarantee fund to $54.5. And this despite candidate Obama warning about “enormous subsidies from the U.S. government” to the nuclear industry.

The $8.3 billion in loan guarantees is to go toward the Southern Company of Atlanta constructing two nuclear power reactors in Burke, Georgia. These are to be AP1000 nuclear power plants designed by the Westinghouse nuclear division (now owned by Toshiba) although in October the designs were rejected by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as likely being unable to withstand events like tornadoes and earthquakes.

Obama’s change of stance on nuclear power has led to an earthquake of its own politically. MoveOn, the nonprofit advocacy group that has raised millions of dollars for Democratic candidates including Obama, gauged sentiment of his State of the Union speech by having10,000 MoveOn members record their views. Every few seconds they pressed a button signaling their reactions—ranging from “great” to “awful.” When Obama got his line on energy, the overwhelming judgment was awful. “The most definitive drop in enthusiasm is when President Obama talked about nuclear power and offshore drilling,” said Ilyse Hogue, MoveOn’s director of political advocacy. “They’re looking for clean energy sources that prioritize wind and solar.”

“Safe, clean nuclear power—it’s an oxymoron,” said Jim Riccio, nuclear policy analyst for Greenpeace USA. “The president knows better. Just because radiation is invisible doesn’t mean it’s clean.”

“From a health perspective, the proposal of the Obama administration to increase federal loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors poses a serious risk to Americans,” said Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project. “Adding new reactors will raise the chance for a catastrophic meltdown. It will also increase the amount of radioactive chemicals routinely emitted from reactors into the environment—and human bodies. New reactors will raise rates of cancer—which are already unacceptably high—especially to infants and children. Public policies affecting America's energy future should reduce, rather than raise, hazards to our citizens."

As to government loan guarantees, “The last thing Americans want is another government bailout for a failing industry, but that’s exactly what they’re getting from the Obama administration,” said Ben Schreiber, the climate and energy tax analyst of Friends of the Earth.

“It would be not only good policy but good politics for Obama to abandon the nuclear loan guarantee program,” said Mariotte of NIRS.

After Obama’s Tuesday declaration on loan guarantees, Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project of the organization Beyond Nuclear, said: “Unfortunately, the president’s decision is fuel for opposition to costly and dangerous nuclear power. It signals a widening of a divide as the administration steps back from its promise for a change in energy policy and those of us who are committed to a change.”

“We are deeply disturbed by President Obama’s decision,” said Peter Wilk, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Not only does this put taxpayers on the hook for billions, it prioritizes a dirty, dangerous, and expensive technology over public health.  From the beginning to the end of the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear reactors remain a serious threat to public health and safety.  From uranium mining waste to operating reactors leaking radioactivity to the lack of radioactive waste solutions, nuclear power continues to pose serious public health threats.”

Nuclear opponents have been disappointed in a lack of access to the Obama White House of those with a critical view on nuclear power—who could counteract the pro-nuclear arguments that Obama has been fed. Will President Obama open himself to hearing from those who question nuclear power?

Obama has credibility trouble already. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote on January 26:

“Who is Barack Obama? Americans are still looking for the answer…Mr. Obama may be personally very appealing, but he has positioned himself all over the political map…Mr. Obama is in danger of being perceived as someone whose rhetoric, however skillful, cannot always be trusted. He is creating a credibility gap for himself, and if it widens much more he won’t be able to close it.”

http://www.counterpunch.org/2010/02/17/obama-goes-nuclear/

Fracking and Radium, the Silvery-White Monster

November 17 2015

By Karl Grossman

Articles

Fracking for gas not only uses toxic chemicals that can contaminate drinking water and groundwater -- it also releases substantial quantities of radioactive poison from the ground that will remain hot and deadly for thousands of years.

Issuing a report recently, exposing major radioactive impacts of hydraulic fracturing -- known as fracking -- was Grassroots Environmental Education, an organization in New York, where extensive fracking is proposed.

The Marcellus Shale region, which covers much of upstate New York, is seen as loaded with gas that can be released through the fracking process. It involves injecting fluid and chemicals under high pressure to fracture shale formations and release the gas captured in them.

But also released, notes the report, is radioactive material in the shale -- including Radium-226 with a half-life of 1,600 years. A half-life is how long it takes for a radioactive substance to lose half its radiation. It is multiplied by between 10 and 20 to determine the "hazardous lifetime" of a radioactive material, how long it takes for it to lose its radioactivity. Thus Radium-226 remains radioactive for between 16,000 and 32,000 years.

"Horizontal hydrofracking for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region of New York State has the potential to result in the production of large amounts of waste materials containing Radium-226 and Radium-228 in both solid and liquid mediums," states the report by E. Ivan White. For 30 years he was a staff scientist for the Congressionally-chartered National Council on Radiation Protection.

"Importantly, the type of radioactive material found in the Marcellus Shale and brought to the surface by horizontal hydrofracking is the type that is particularly long-lived, and could easily bio-accumulate over time and deliver a dangerous radiation dose to potentially millions of people long after the drilling is over," the report goes on.

"Radioactivity in the environment, especially the presence of the known carcinogen radium, poses a potentially significant threat to human health," it says. "Therefore, any activity that has the potential to increase that exposure must be carefully analyzed prior to its commencement so that the risks can be fully understood."

The report lays out "potential pathways of the radiation" through the air, water and soil. Through soil it would get into crops and animals eaten by people.

Examined in the report are a 1999 study done by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation "assisted by representatives from 16 oil and gas companies" on hydrofracking and radioactivity and a 2011 Environmental Impact Statement the agency did on the issue. It says both present a "cavalier attitude toward human exposure to radioactive material."

Radium causes cancer in people largely because it is treated as calcium by the body and becomes deposited in bones. It can mutate bones cells causing cancer and also impact on bone marrow. It can cause aplastic anemia -- an inability of bone marrow to produce sufficient new cells to replenish blood cells. Marie Curie, who discovered radium in 1893 and felt comfortable physically handling it, died of aplastic anemia.

Once radium was used in self-luminous paint for watch dials and even as an additive in products such as toothpaste and hair creams for purported "curative powers."

There are "no specific treatments for radium poisoning," advises the Delaware Health and Social Services Division of Public Health in its information sheet on radium. When first discovered, "no one knew that it was dangerous," it mentions.

White's report, entitled "Consideration of Radiation in Hazardous Waste Produced from Horizontal Hydrofracking," notes that "radioactive materials and chemical wastes do not just go away when they are released into the environment. They remain active and potentially lethal, and can show up years later in unexpected places. They bio-accumulate in the food chain, eventually reaching humans."

Under the fracking plan for New York State, "there are insufficient precautions for monitoring potential pathways or to even know what is being released into the environment," it states.

The Department of Environmental Conservation "has not proposed sufficient regulations for tracking radioactive waste from horizontal hydrofracking," it says. "Neither New York State nor the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would permit a nuclear power plant to handle radioactive material in this manner."

Doug Wood, associate director of Grassroots Environmental Education, which is based in Port Washington, N.Y., and also editor of the report, commented as it was issued:

"Once radioactive material comes out of the ground along with the gas, the problem is what to do with it. The radioactivity lasts for thousands of years, and it is virtually impossible to eliminate or mitigate. Sooner or later, it's going to end up in our environment and eventually our food chain. It's a problem with no good solution -- and the DEC is unequipped to handle it."

As for "various disposal methods.. .contemplated" by the agency "for the thousands of tons of radioactive waste expected to be produced by fracking," Wood said that:

"none...adequately protect New Yorkers from eventual exposure to this radioactive material. Spread it on the ground and it will become airborne with dust or wash off into surface waters; dilute it before discharge into rivers and it will raise radiation levels in those rivers for everyone downstream; bury it underground and it will eventually find its way into someone's drinking water. No matter how hard you try, you can't put the radioactive genie back into the bottle."

Furthermore, said Wood in an interview, in releasing radioactive radium from the ground, "a terrible burden would be placed on everybody that comes after us. As a moral issue, we must not burden future generations with this. We must say no to fracking -- and implement the use of sustainable forms of energy that don't kill."

The prospects of unleashing, through fracking, radium, a silvery-white metal, has a parallel in the mining of uranium on the Navajo Nation.

The mining began on the Navajo Nation, which encompasses parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, during World War II as the Manhattan Project, the American crash program to build atomic weapons, sought uranium to fuel them. The Navajos weren't told that mining the uranium, yellow in color, could lead to lung cancer. And lung cancer became epidemic among the miners and then spread across the Navajo Nation from piles of contaminated uranium tailings and other remnants of the mining.

The Navajos gave the uranium a name: "leetso," which literally means "yellow earth" and connotes "monster."

Left in the ground, it would do no harm. But taken from the earth, it has caused disease. That is why the Navajo Nation outlawed uranium mining in 2005. "This legislation just chopped the legs off the uranium monster," Norman Brown, a Navajo leader, said.

Similarly, radium, a silvery-white monster, must be left in the earth, not unleashed with fracking to inflict disease on people today and many, many generations into the future.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-grossman/fracking-and-radium_b_2096539.html


Nuclear "Regulatory Capture" -- A Global Pattern

July 13 2015

By Karl Grossman

Articles

The conclusion of a report of a Japanese parliamentary panel issued last week that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster was rooted in government-industry "collusion" and thus was "man-made" is mirrored throughout the world. The "regulatory capture" cited by the panel is the pattern among nuclear agencies right up to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power Company, the owner of the six Fukushima plants] and the lack of governance by said parties," said the 641-page report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission released on July 5. "They effectively betrayed the nation's right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly 'man-made,'" said the report of the panel established by the National Diet or parliament of Japan.

"We believe the root causes were the organizational and regulatory system that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions," it went on. "Across the board, the commission found ignorance and arrogance unforgivable for anyone or any organization that deals with nuclear power." It said nuclear regulators in Japan and Tepco "all failed to correctly develop the most basic safety requirements."

The chairman of the 10-member panel, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical doctor, declared in the report's introduction: "It was a profoundly man-made disaster -- that could and should have been foreseen and prevented."

He also placed blame on cultural traits in Japan. "What must be admitted -- very painfully," wrote Dr. Kurokawa, "is that this was a disaster 'Made in Japan.' Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture; our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the programme'; our groupism; and our insularity."
In fact, the nuclear regulatory situation in Japan is the rule globally.

In the United States, for example, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, never denied a construction or operating license for a nuclear power plant anywhere, anytime. The NRC has been busy in recent times not only giving the go-ahead to new nuclear power plant construction in the U.S. but extending the operating licenses of most of the 104 existing plants from 40 to 60 years -- although they were only designed to run for 40 years. That's because radioactivity embrittles their metal components and degrades other parts after 40 years, potentially making the plants unsafe to operate. And the NRC is now considering extending their licenses for 80 years.

Moreover, the NRC's chairman, Gregory Jaczko, recently resigned in the face of an assault on him by the nuclear industry and his four fellow NRC members led by William D. Magwood, IV. Magwood is typical of most NRC and AEC commissioners through the decades -- a zealous promoter of nuclear power. He came to the NRC after running Advanced Energy Strategies through which he served as a consultant to various companies involved with nuclear power including many in Japan -- among them Tepco, as revealed by Ryan Grim on The Huffington Post.

Before that, Magwood served as director of nuclear energy for the U.S. Department of Energy. He "led the creation," according to his NRC biography, of DOE programs pushing nuclear power, "Nuclear Power 2010" and "Generation IV." Prior to that, he worked for the Edison Electric Institute and Westinghouse, a major nuclear power plant manufacturer.
Jaczko, although a supporter of nuclear power, with a Ph.D. in physics, repeatedly called for the NRC to apply "lessons learned" from the Fukushima disaster to its rules and actions -- upsetting the industry and the other four NRC commissioners. As Jaczko declared in February as the other four NRC commissioners first approved the construction of new nuclear plants since Fukushima, giving the go-ahead to two plants in Georgia: "I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima had never happened."
The NRC was set up to be an independent regulator of nuclear power to replace the AEC which was established by Congress under the Atomic Energy Act of 1946. The AEC was given the dual missions of promoting and regulating nuclear power -- a conflict of interest, Congress realized in 1974, so it eliminated the AEC and created the NRC as regulator and, later, the Department of Energy as promoter of nuclear power. But both the NRC and DOE have ended up pushing nuclear power with revolving doors between them and the government's national nuclear laboratories -- and the nuclear industry.
The International Atomic Energy Agency was established as an international version of the AEC by the United Nations after a speech made at it by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 in which he espoused "Atoms for Peace." Its dual missions are serving as a monitor of nuclear technology globally while also seeking "to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world."
Its first director general was Sterling Cole who as a U.S. congressman was a big booster of nuclear power. Later came Hans Blix after he led a move in his native Sweden against an effort to close nuclear plants there. Blix was outspoken in seeking to spread nuclear power internationally calling for "resolute response by government, acting individually or together as in the [IAE] Agency."
Blix's long-time IAEA second-in command was Morris Rosen -- formerly of the AEC and before that the nuclear division of General Electric (which manufactured the Fukushima plants) -- who said after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster: "There is very little doubt that nuclear power is a rather benign industrial enterprise and we may have to expect catastrophic accidents from time to time."
Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt followed Blix, and as he told an "International Conference on Nuclear Power for the 21st Century" organized by the IAEA in 2005: "There is clearly a sense of rising expectations for nuclear power."
The current IAEA director general is Yukiya Amano of Japan. In Vienna at the heaquarters of the IAEA, marking the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster in March, Amano said: "Nuclear power is now safer than it was a year ago."
Really.
Shuya Nomura, a member of the Japanese investigation commission and a professor at the Chuo Law School, was quoted in the New York Times as saying that the panel's report tried to "shed light on Japan's wider structural problems, on the pus that pervades Japanese society."
Those "wider structural problems" are far wider than Japan -- they are global. The "regulatory capture" cited in the Japanese panel's report has occurred all over the world -- with the nuclear industry and those promoting nuclear power in governments making sure that the nuclear foxes are in charge of the nuclear hen houses. The "pus that pervades Japanese society" is international.
With some very important exceptions, people have not adequately taken on the nuclear authorities. And we all must. The nuclear promoters have set up a corrupt system to enable them to get their way with their deadly technology. They have lied, they have connived, they have distorted governments. The nuclear industry is thus allowed to do whatever it wants. The nuclear pushers must be firmly challenged and they and nuclear power must be stopped.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-grossman/nuclear-regulatory-captur_b_1664340.html

Murdoch Media Empire: A Journalistic Travesty

July 13 2015

By Karl Grossman

The scandal shaking Rupert Murdoch's media holdings in Britain could be expected of a global media empire intoxicated with power and lacking any ethical base.

What is unfolding--revelations of bribery and massive phone-hacking--could go down as the greatest press scandal in the English-speaking world. Overarching it is a media machine built by Murdoch that is the most dishonest, unprincipled and corrupt of any media empire in the history of the English-speaking world (against stiff competition). And it is gargantuan, the largest media empire ever.

"If Rupert Murdoch were the Angel Gabriel, you still wouldn't want him owning the sun, the moon, and the stars. That's too much real estate for even the pure in heart," commented Bill Moyers in 2007. "But Rupert Murdoch is no saint. He is to propriety what the Marquis de Sade was to chastity."

Murdoch has made a travesty of what journalism is supposed to be about. And he has institutionalised this on a global level. He has taken what was the distinguished paper of record of the English-speaking world, The Times of London, and degraded it--making it not a watchdog of power, what the press should be, but an instrument to aid those in power whom he favors.

He took what had been New York City's paper-of-the-people, the oldest continuously published daily in the U.S., the New York Post, and with his obsession for titillation and sensation, made it a disgrace. With his Fox News Channel, exactly the opposite of the "fair and balanced" outlet it claims to be, he and Republican political operative Roger Ailes have developed what is no more than an unbridled propaganda organ for the GOP.

An ideal of the press in the United States, and Britain and most English-speaking nations, is to be a check on power. There are checks and balances between branches of government, and a free press that's supposed to challenge it all.

After many years of restrictions on who could do publishing--more than a century of various forms of licensing and needing royal permission in Britain--in the modern era anyone can do it. That's if they have the money. Then they can own a press and publish a newspaper or magazine, or own a TV station or network or book-publishing company or movie studio or other media institution.

Murdoch, born to wealth, seeking through the press to project his political views, acquired media institution after institution beginning in his native Australia.

This now includes 150 newspapers in Australia including The Australian, the nation's biggest paper. In Britain, The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun (and until the scandal forced him to close it, he owned The News of the World with its 2.7 million circulation). In the U.S., he owns the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal and the rest of Dow Jones & Company holdings.

He has been seeking to use The Wall Street Journal to take on what has been the U.S. paper of record, The New York Times, and become the new premier American newspaper. He owns the giant book-publishing company, HarperCollins. He owns the 20th Century Fox movie studio. He owns 20th Century Fox Television and the Fox Broadcasting Company. He has been trying in Britain to turn what started as his satellite TV network, Sky Television, into a merged company, BSkyB, a scheme now threatened by the scandal. His cable TV assets in the U.S. include Fox News Channel, Fox Movie Channel and Fox Business Network. Murdoch's media holdings also extend to Asia, western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

In 1985 he became a U.S. citizen because the Federal Communications Commission requires U.S. citizenship for holding a majority interest in a U.S. TV station and Murdoch was aiming to center his media empire in the U.S., he became a U.S. citizen. (His News Corp. now owns 27 U.S. TV stations.)

No matter the country in which he has operated, Murdoch has been deeply involved in aggressively manipulating government officials. As Moyers notes, "Politicians become little clay pigeons to be picked off with flattering headlines, generous air time, a book contract of the old-fashioned black jack that never misses: campaign cash...The ambitious can't resist his blandishments, nor his power to get or keep them in office where they can return his favors."

It has been a "cozy relationship that Rupert Murdoch long enjoyed with the British power structure," began an Associated Press article this week.

Investigative reporter Carl Bernstein writes in this week's Newsweek of how under Murdoch "gossip, sensationalism, and manufactured controversy...substitutes" for the "best traditions and values of real reporting and responsible journalism...this journalistic ideal." Meanwhile, "It's hard to think of any other individual who has had a greater impact on American political and media culture in the past half century. But now the empire is shaking, and there's no telling when it will stop."

As Los Angeles Times journalist Tim Rutten wrote this week: "The seeds of Murdoch's British newspapers' abuse of trust and power were sown in a media culture whose essentials--salacious celebrity coverage, gossip, overt partisanship--have infiltrated our own under his influence. The meltdown in London ought to be a wake-up call."

There have been disreputable media barons through the years. William Randolph Hearst's outrageous activities are the subject of what has long been considered America's finest film, Citizen Kane. But the scale on which Rupert Murdoch has operated, his reach through a wide variety of media, his ceaseless crusade for his political agenda, exceeds these moguls of the past. As British journalist William Shawcross wrote in his 1992 biography, Murdoch, Murdoch positioned himself to be "an international Citizen Kane, with influence beyond imagining."

Will the scandal--and especially the criminal investigations and governmental (at long last) inquiries--bring Murdoch and his management circle down and lead to a break-up of his media empire? That would be a great outcome towards the goal of a free and independent media serving the public interest. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-grossman/murdoch-media-empire-a-jo_b_896836.html



280th Anniversary of Landmark Event in History of a Free Press--Trial of John Peter Zenger

July 31 2015

By Karl Grossman

Articles
(image by Gail Jarrow)

This week marks the 280th anniversary of a landmark event in the history of a free press: the trial of John Peter Zenger in New York. Zenger, publisher of the New-York Weekly Journal, was found not guilty of seditious libel by a 12-member jury at a two-day trial that began on August 4, 1735.

The charge was brought by a tyrannical colonial governor of New York, William Cosby, who accused Zenger of printing "false, scandalous, malicious and seditious" articles. The New York-Weekly Journal had been going after the governor, exposing his shady machinations.

Zenger, who had been jailed for nine months, was represented by Andrew Hamilton, considered the foremost lawyer in the colonies. Hamilton took the case pro bono, riding to the rescue from Pennsylvania where he had been former attorney-general.

Hamilton confounded the prosecution by admitting that Zenger had published the offending material, but he took the position that what was involved was the truth. Chief Justice James Delancey, a Cosby henchman, didn't agree with the defense of truth.

But Hamilton's response was that: "Leaving it to judgement of the court whether the words are libelous or not in effect renders juries useless."

On August 5, Hamilton addressed the jury in an eloquent, brilliant summation--parts of which as a journalism professor I read to my students every semester.

Hamilton spoke about how it was "my duty, if required, to go to the utmost part of the land where my services could be of any use in assisting to quench the flames of prosecutions upon informations set on foot by the government, to deprive a people of the right of remonstrating and complaining, too, of the arbitrary attempts of men in power."

He said: "Men who injure and oppress the people under their administration provoke them to cry out and complain, and then make that very complaint the foundation for new oppressions and prosecutions."

Hamilton declared: "The question before the court and you, gentlemen of the jury, is not of small or private concern. It is not the cause of one poor printer, nor of New York alone, which you are now trying. No! It may in its consequence affect every free man that lives under a British government on the main of America."

"It is the best cause. It is the cause of liberty," Hamilton continued. "And I make no doubt but your upright conduct this day will not only entitle you to the love and esteem of your fellow citizens, but every man who prefers freedom to a life of slavery will bless and honor you as men who have baffled the attempt of tyranny, and by an impartial and uncorrupt verdict have laid a noble foundation for securing to ourselves, our posterity, and our neighbors, that to which nature and the laws of our country have given us a right to liberty of both exposing and opposing arbitrary power, in these parts of the world at least, by speaking and writing truth."

The jury, after a short deliberation returned, and jury foreman Thomas Hunt, asked by the court clerk for its verdict, declared: "Not guilty."

There were cheers in the courtroom. Judge Delancey, frustrated and angry, threatened the delighted spectators. The jubilant crowd headed to Black Horse Tavern to celebrate. On his return to Philadelphia, Hamilton was also happily welcomed with a cannon salute.

Author Gail Jarrow in her account of The Trial of John Petr Zenger states that after the Zenger "jury's verdict, British governors were reluctant to charge American printers with seditious libel. They realized that colonial juries would likely refuse to convict anyone for publishing criticisms of royal officials. Because of this, the colonial press became more open and free. During the years leading up to the American Revolution, printers published attacks on British authority as well as calls for independence."

She adds "It was fitting that the Bill of Rights was adopted by Congress in the same building where Zenger had been jailed and tried more than fifty years before." (What's now Federal Hall National Memorial at 26 Wall Street. Tours are given by the National Park Service)

As the New York Times editorialized 30 years ago, on the 250th anniversary of the Zenger trial, it "turned common law on its head and established the freedom of our press."
"The Zenger case planted the seeds that flowered a half-century later in the First Amendment," noted The Times. "It destroyed the pernicious doctrine that criticism of government is seditious even if true. And it showed how juries, backed by public opinion, can enlarge the spirit of the law."

The Times went on: "Across the ages, then, an added toast: to the Zenger jury, for registering the public's understanding of a vital yet always difficult American idea--that the freedom of the press to challenge authority and convey complaints of the citizenry is indispensable in a free society."

Professor Douglas Linder of the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Law has written that "no case in American history stands as a greater landmark on the road to protection for freedom of the press than the trial of a German immigrant printer named John Peter Zenger."

Press freedom, unfortunately, is not the way of the world, far from it. I point my students to the superb journal Index on Censorship which since 1972 has battled for free speech. With its home in Great Britain, Index on Censorship emphasizes how "we fight for free speech around the world, challenging censorship whenever and wherever it occurs. Index uses a unique combination of journalism, campaigning and advocacy to defend freedom of expression for those facing censorship and repression, including journalists, writers, social media users, bloggers, artists, politicians, scientists, academics, activists and citizens. Index believes that free expression is the foundation of a free society and endorses Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression"

And Index on Censorship provides a rundown of actions around the globe limiting free expression--and in so many countries totally suppressing it. Its informative website is at www.indexoncensorship.org/

Ever since Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press nearly 600 years ago now, there have been many in power threatened by people able to communicate freely, and they have worked hard to prevent that. The Zenger trial was a very bright event on a continually difficult journey.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/280th-Anniversary-of-Landm-by-Karl-Grossman-Authority_Free-Speech_Freedom-Of-The-Press_Juries-150731-450.html


Avoiding Nuclear Destruction: By the Skin of Our Teeth

November 24 2015

By Karl Grossman

As Thanksgiving 2010 arrives, thanks should be given for something that never happened decades ago: the use (as planned) of bases built all over the United States armed with BOMARC and Nike Hercules nuclear-tipped missiles.

It was the 1950s and 60s, and the U.S. feared Soviet bombers might strike major American cities and various strategic targets. So a scheme was hatched to deploy nuclear-tipped missiles. These were early anti-aircraft missiles and seen as unable to score direct hits. Thus the plan was to have the nuclear warheads on the BOMARC and Nike Hercules missiles detonate when the missiles reached a formation of Soviet bombers, blowing the formation apart -- although also raining radioactivity down below.

The nuclear warheads on the BOMARC and Nike Hercules missiles had massive power. The tips on the BOMARCs had the equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima had the power of 13 kilotons. The Nike Hercules warheads ranged up to 30 kilotons.

How much radioactive fall-out would have descended on the coastal areas where BOMARC and Nike Hercules bases were located depended on the winds and where the detonations of the nuclear warheads occurred. For bases sited inland, and BOMARC and Nike Hercules bases ringed several inland cities including Chicago, the nuclear warheads would definitely have exploded over populated regions of America. The BOMARC had a range of 250 miles, the Nike Hercules 100 miles.

I had the eerie experience recently of walking around two former nuclear-tipped missile sites -- a BOMARC base in Westhampton and a Nike Hercules base in Rocky Point, both on Long Island, New York. (The BOMARC program was run by the Air Force and named for its developers--BO for Boeing and MARC for Michigan Aerospace Research Center. The Nike program was run by the Army and named for the Greek goddess of victory, although in this scheme it would have been a potentially suicidal victory.)

I was making a TV documentary on the BOMARC and Nike bases set up on Long Island and elsewhere in the New York Metropolitan Area with Soviet bombers headed for New York City as the major concern.
The documentary, which I did as chief investigative reporter for WVVH-TV in New York, has been broadcast in recent weeks, and WVVH has also put it up on YouTube.

Each of the 56 BOMARC missiles in Westhampton had its own building. The missiles were positioned on the floors of the buildings and their roofs would open when they were to be fired. The buildings remain, and they and the machinery in them to open the roofs are very solid. Large amounts of money were spent on this scheme.

With the shift by the Soviets (and the U.S.) to ICBMs, the BOMARC and Nike bases were closed in the 70s. The nuclear-tipped missiles are now all gone, but many of the bases remain -- frightening reminders of a dangerous period.

The Westhampton BOMARC base was given to Suffolk County, which utilizes some of the buildings for storage. The site is also used as a police shooting range. Fittingly, gunfire was in the background as we filmed.
The three-missile Nike Hercules base in Rocky Point is now the site of an Army Reserve Center. The Nike missiles were positioned underground in silos. I stood on one of the welded-shut tops of a silo to explain what had been below.

The words that came to me in visiting the nuclear-tipped missile sites were: by the skin of our teeth. Only by the skin of our teeth, I thought, had we avoided nuclear destruction. So the program is titled, "Avoiding Nuclear Destruction: By The Skin Of Our Teeth."

A book has just been published, "Continental Defense in the Eisenhower Era: Nuclear Antiaircraft Arms and the Cold War" by Christopher J. Bright. He writes about the "effort to facilitate popular acceptance of these weapons... The arms were touted in news releases, featured in films and television episodes... The need for atomic antiaircraft weapons was readily accepted by most Americans, and few objected to their existence or ubiquity."

Nuclear technology is still being heavily promoted. The U.S. as well as the French and Russian governments are pushing for the building of many more nuclear plants -- and inevitably there will be more accidents as bad as or worse than the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. Though ostensibly for civilian use, the reactors would also provide the fuel and give their technicians the expertise for making nuclear weapons -- this is how India got the atomic bomb. The Pentagon, meanwhile, still holds nuclear war to be quite feasible. And U.S. Senator John Kyl, an Arizona Republican, is right now seeking to block ratification of a new nuclear arms pact between the U.S. and Russia, a successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The treaty has done a good job in limiting the nuclear weapons stockpiles of both countries and providing transparency. Will Kyl and his followers kill that?

This, too, is a highly dangerous period.

In front of a BOMARC building, I ended the documentary asking: how long will we be able to survive by the skin of our teeth? We should give thanks this week that somehow we got through the Cold War atomic nightmare. Now we must roll back the new crazy atomic push.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-grossman/avoiding-nuclear-destruct_b_786678.html


Cancer -- The Number One Killer -- And Its Environmental Causes

August 17 2010

By Karl Grossman

The World Health Organization projects that this year cancer will become the world's leading cause of death. Why the epidemic of cancer? Death certificates in the United States show cancer as being the eighth leading cause of death in 1900.

Why has it skyrocketed to now surpass heart disease as number one?

Is it because people live longer and have to die of something? That's a factor, but not the prime reason as reflected by the jump in age-adjusted cancer being far above what could be expected from increased longevity. And it certainly doesn't explain the steep hike in childhood cancers. Is it lifestyle, diet and genetics, as we have often been told? They are factors, but not key reasons.
The cause of the cancer epidemic, as numerous studies have now documented, is largely environmental -- the result of toxic substances in the water we drink, the food we eat, the consumer products we use, the air we breathe. (Some of the pollution is voluntarily caused -- by smoking. But most is involuntary.)

As the President's Cancer Panel declared in May, in a 240-page report titled "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now,"  "The American people -- even before they are born -- are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures." It said: "With the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the unacceptable burden of cancer resulting from environmental and occupational exposures that could have been prevented through appropriate national action."

It pointed to chemicals and radiation as major causes of cancer and stated: "Cancer continues to shatter and steal the lives of Americans. Approximately 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and about 21 percent will die from the cancer. The incidence of some cancers, including some most common among children, is increasing...The burgeoning number and complexity of known or suspected environmental carcinogens compel us to act to protect public health."

The panel urged President Obama "most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation's productivity, and devastate American lives."

In 1980, another presidential panel, the Presidential Toxic Substances Strategy Committee, came to the same conclusion. It declared:

"Of the hazards to human health arising from toxic substances, cancer is a leading cause of concern. Cancer is the only major cause of death that has continued to rise since 1900. It is now second only to heart disease as a cause of death... Some of the increase in cancer mortality since 1900 is a function of the greater average age of the U.S. population and the medical progress made against infectious disease. But even after correcting for age, both mortality (death) rates and incidence (new cases) of cancer are increasing. Many now believe that environmental (nongenetic) factors -- life style and work and environmental exposures -- are significant in the great majority of cancer cases seen."

Meanwhile, through the years solid science done by independent researchers -- not those taking money from the chemical or nuclear industries -- has extensively documented this cancer/environment connection.

"The evidence is there that the majority of cancer cases are environmentally caused," says Dr. David Carpenter, founding dean of the University of Albany School of Public Health and now director of the Institute for Health and the Environment there. Among the research he points to is a 2000 study involving examining health records of 44,788 pairs of twins in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. If genetics were the main cause of cancer, if one twin developed cancer the other probably would, too. This was not found. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that "inherited genetic factors make a minor contribution" in most cancers. "This finding indicates that the environment has the principle role in causing sporadic cancer."

Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, in his book The Politics of Cancer concludes that cancer is a preventable disease "caused mainly by exposure to chemical or physical agents in the environment." The huge problem, he said, is how "a combination of powerful and well-focused pressures by special industrialized interests, together with public inattention and the indifference of the scientific community" has warped public policy and thwarted "meaningful attempts to prevent the carnage." Dr. Epstein now chairs the Cancer Prevention Coalition committed to eliminating those toxins that are causing the cancer epidemic (www.preventcancer.com).

The initiative, Prevention is The Cure, was founded by breast cancer survivor Karen Joy Miller and on its website declares that four decades have passed, "and the wake-up call put forth by Rachel Carson" in her book Silent Spring "and other activists has been blocked by powerful political interests that profit from pollution."

These powerful interests have long had allies in government. The late James Sibbison, who went from being a reporter for the Associated Press to press officer at the Environmental Protection Agency, would tell the story of how immediately after Ronald Reagan became president, orders were given to the EPA press office "never to use the words cancer-causing in front of the word chemical." Now the number of chemicals in commercial use in the U.S. totals 80,000. The EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 has been required to assess all of them. In over 30 years it has gotten around to examining 200.

The poisoning--and consequent cancer -- is not necessary. The report by the President's Cancer Panel emphasize how "the requite knowledge and technologies exist" to provide safe "alternatives" to cancer-causing agents.

But this doesn't suit those doing the polluting -- who have such a hold on government.  
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-grossman/cancer-the-number-one-kil_b_685089.html


Common Dreams

We Must Make the Whole Planet a 'Nuclear Free Zone'

March 11, 2013

By Karl Grossman

With the second anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster this week, with North Korea having just threatened a “pre-emptive nuclear attack” against the United States and a U.S. senator saying this would result in “suicide” for North Korea, with Iran suspected of moving to build nuclear weapons, with the continuing spread of nuclear technology globally, the future looks precarious as to humankind and the atom.

Can humanity at this rate make it through the 21st Century?

We were only able to get through the 20th Century without a major nuclear weapons exchange, without atomic doomsday, by the skin of our teeth.

With more nations having the ability to construct nuclear weapons, and any country with a nuclear power facility having the materiel and trained personnel to make nuclear weapons,­ the likelihood of this luck running out is high.

The only realistic way to secure a future for the world without nuclear war is for the entire planet to become a nuclear-free zone­. No nuclear weapons, no nuclear power.

Radical?  Yes, but consider the even more radical alternative: a world where many nations will be able to construct nuclear weaponry because they possess nuclear power technology. The only real way to end the threat of nuclear weapons spreading throughout the world is to abolish nuclear weaponry and eliminate nuclear power. Consider the alternative: trying to keep using carrots and sticks, juggling on the road to inevitable nuclear catastrophe.

There are major regions of the Earth—the entireties of Africa and South America, the South Pacific and others—that are Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones because of regional treaties recognized by the United Nations. In 1975, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution defining a Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone as an area with the “total absence of nuclear weapons” and establishing “an international system of verification and control…to guarantee compliance with the obligations deriving from [this] statute.” 

But if we are truly to have a world free of the horrific threat of nuclear weapons, the goal needs to be more than zones without them. A world free of the other side of the nuclear coin­ -- nuclear power -- ­is also necessary.

Any nuclear power facility can serve as a nuclear bomb factory.

That’s how India got the atomic bomb in 1974. Canada supplied a reactor for "peaceful purposes" and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission trained Indian engineers. And lo and behold, India had nuclear weapons.

Some will say putting the atomic genie back into the bottle is impossible. However, anything people have done other people can undo, especially if the reason is good. And the prospect of massive loss of life from nuclear destruction is the best of reasons.

There’s a precedent in the outlawing of poison gas after World War I when its terrible impacts were tragically demonstrated. Chlorine gas, mustard gas, phosphene gas killed thousands on both sides of the conflict.

The Geneva Protocol of 1925 and the Chemicals Weapons Convention of 1933 outlawed chemical warfare and to a large degree the prohibition has held.

As for the connection between purportedly “peaceful” atomic energy and nuclear weapons, physicist Amory Lovins and attorney Hunter Lovins spell it out well in their book Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link.  “All nuclear fission technologies both use and produce fissionable materials that are or can be concentrated. Unavoidably latent in those technologies, therefore, is a potential for nuclear violence and coercion which may be exploited by governments, factions,” they write.

"Little strategic material is needed to make a weapon of mass destruction. A Nagasaki-yield bomb can be made from a few kilograms of plutonium, a piece the size of a tennis ball,” they note.  A large nuclear power plant “annually produces hundreds of kilograms of plutonium; a large fast breeder reactor would contain thousands of kilograms; a large reprocessing plant may separate tens of thousands.”

Civilian nuclear power technology, they emphasize, provides the way to make nuclear weapons, furnishing the materiel and personnel.  Nuclear weapons non-proliferation, they say, requires “civil denuclearization.”

As to claims of the energy generated by nuclear power plans being necessary, that’s not  true. Safe, clean, renewable energy­led by solar and wind energy technologies­is available to provide all the power the world needs.

Among entities focusing on this is the organization Go 100% which on its website says: “Across the globe­in regions, cities, communities, businesses, and individual lives­people are proving that 100% renewable energy is not a fantasy for someday, but a reality today….The conventional fossil and nuclear energy system has led to multiple convergent existential crises, including climate change, air and water pollution, destruction of the oceans, the threat of mass extinction, water and food shortages, poverty, nuclear radiation problems, nuclear weapons proliferation, fuel depletion, and geopolitical problems.” Go 100% provides details on the abundant research determining that the world can fully power itself with safe, clean, renewable energy, and what’s happening in nations­, particularly Germany­, now moving toward that goal.

The dangers of nuclear power, in addition to permitting the development of nuclear weapons by any nation that has it­, are immense.

As he retired from the Navy in 1982, Admiral Hyman Rickover, considered the “father” of the U.S. nuclear navy who was also in charge of building the first U.S. commercial nuclear power plant, in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, told a Congressional committee that inherent in nuclear power  is radioactivity which made life impossible on Earth. Until a few billion years ago, Rickover told the panel, “it was impossible to have any life on Earth; that is, there was so much radiation on Earth you couldn’t have any life­, fish or anything." Then, gradually, “the amount of radiation on this planet and probably in the entire system reduced and made it possible for some form of life to begin.”

“Now,” he went on,  by utilizing nuclear power, “we are creating something which nature tried to destroy to make life possible…Every time you produce radiation,” a “horrible force” is unleashed, “in some cases for billions of years, and I think there the human race is going to wreck itself.”

Having seen the light after decades of being deeply involved in nuclear technology, Rickover said: “I’m talking about humanity, ­the most important thing we could do is to start in having an international meeting where we first outlaw nuclear weapons to start off with, then we outlaw nuclear reactors, too.”

As for nuclear weapons, he said: “The lesson of history is when a war starts, every nation will ultimately use whatever weapon has been available. That is the lesson learned time and again. Therefore, we must expect, if another war­, a serious war ­breaks out, we will use nuclear energy in some form” and “we will probably destroy ourselves.”

Planet Earth must be a nuclear-free zone without nuclear weapons and without nuclear power if the human race and other life forms are to survive.

Moniz at Energy: Obama's Department of Fracking and Nukes

March 5, 2013

By Karl Grossman


With the nomination of Ernest Moniz to be the next U.S. secretary of Energy, President Barack Obama has selected a man who is not only a booster of nuclear power but a big proponent of fracking, too. What happened to Obama’s call for “clean” energy in his 2013 State of the Union address?


Moniz, a physicist and director of the MIT Energy Initiative, heavily financed by energy industry giants including BP and Chevron, has long advocated nuclear power. He has continued arguing for it despite the multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex, maintaining that the disaster in Japan should not cause a stop in nuclear power development.


In a 2011 essay in Foreign Affairs magazine titled “Why We Still Need Nuclear Power,” Moniz wrote: “In the years following the major accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, nuclear power fell out of favor, and some countries applied the brakes to their nuclear programs. In the last decade, however, it began experiencing something of a renaissance….But the movement lost momentum in March, when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the massive tsunami it triggered devastated Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant…The event caused widespread public doubts about the safety of nuclear power to resurface. Germany announced an accelerated shutdown of its nuclear reactors, with broad public support.” But, insisted Moniz, “It would be a mistake…to let Fukushima cause governments to abandon nuclear power and its benefits.”


Moniz went on: “Nuclear power’s track record of providing clean and reliable electricity compares favorably with other energy sources.” Foreign Affairs is the publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, which regards itself an elite grouping of government officials, industry executives, scientists and media figures. Moniz is a member.


He also said in the essay that “the public needs to be convinced that nuclear power is safe.”  As U.S. energy secretary, this will likely be a main thrust of Moniz. He would endeavor to lead the 16,000-employee Department of Energy with a budget of $27 billion for 2013 in trying to get the American public to believe in what decades ago the U.S. government promoted as “Citizen Atom.”


Likewise, when it comes to hydraulic fracturing or fracking—the process that uses hundreds of toxic chemicals and massive amounts of waste under high pressure to fracture shale formations to release gas captured in them—Moniz told the Senate Energy Committee in 2011 that the water and air pollution risks associated with fracking were “challenging but manageable” with appropriate regulation and oversight.


Fracking also can also lead to radioactive contamination. Many shale formations contain Radium-226  and other radioactive poisons unleashed in the fracking process.


Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, declared after Obama’s nomination of Moniz on Monday, that the group “has grave concerns about Mr. Moniz’s history of support for both nuclear power and fracking.” Pica described Moniz’s support of nuclear power despite “the unfolding catastrophe” of Fukushima as “frightening.” On Moniz being “a big booster of fracking,” Pica said this has been “seemingly without due regard for the environmental and public health risks and impacts.”


Nevertheless, in Washington Monday, Obama, describing Moniz as a “brilliant scientist,” said: “Most importantly, Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our climate. And so I could not be more pleased to have Ernie join us.”


It’s not as if Obama wasn’t warned about Moniz.


For weeks, as reports spread that Moniz would be replacing Obama’s first energy secretary, the also staunchly pro-nuclear power Steven Chu, former director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the organization Food & Water Watch circulated an online petition for people to send to Obama. It stated: “This is not the person we need as our country’s Energy Secretary at this critical moment. We need a visionary leader who can enact policies that move us away from intensive fossil fuel extraction, such as fracking, and toward a renewable energy future.”  Other groups circulated similar petitions.


And it’s not as if Moniz was unfamiliar to Obama, or Washington. He has been a memberof both Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. And he was an undersecretary in the Department of Energy in the Clinton administration.


Obama’s stance as president on nuclear power has been a change from his position as candidate Obama.  “I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal and so I am not a nuclear energy proponent,” Obama said campaigning in Iowa on 2007.   He went on that unless the “nuclear industry can show that they can produce clean, safe energy without enormous subsidies from the U.S. government, I don’t think that’s the best option. I am much more interested in solar and wind and bio-diesel and strategies [for] alternative fuels.”  As he told the editorial board of the Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire that year: “I don’t think there’s anything that we inevitably dislike about nuclear power. We just dislike the fact that it might blow up and irradiate us and kill us. That’s the problem.”


Nevertheless, in his first State of the Union speech he spoke about “building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country” and kept repeating that pitch. But in recent times, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Obama has increasingly avoided using the words nuclear power—he didn’t refer to it at all in his State of the Union address this January.  Instead he has let Chu, and will let, if he is confirmed, Moniz, do the talking about nuclear power and pushing it as an energy source for the United States.


As to fracking, in his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama said “the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”

 The Huffington Post 

Will the Internet Remain Free?

February 12, 2013

By Karl Grossman

From seemingly out of nowhere, the Internet has become the greatest global platform for free expression the world has ever seen.

But will this last?

An international conference was held in December that pitted nations seeking greater governmental control over the Internet -- led by Russia and China -- against countries advocating a hands-off approach. These included the United States, Canada, Israel, and nations of Western Europe including Great Britain.

The U.S. ambassador to World Conference on International Telecommunications, Terry Kramer, declared: "The Internet has thrived because it has been left in an open environment, and all the commercial opportunities that accrued, and the rights to free speech and democracy, are because it's been left alone."

Kramer, in the telecommunications field for 25 years, was appointed by President Barack Obama to head the U.S. delegation to the 12-day conference held in Dubai. Some 2,000 people from 193 nations participated.

"An attempt to establish global oversight of the Internet has collapsed after many Western countries said a compromise plan gave too much power to United Nations and other officials," reported RTE News, a website out of Ireland, about the conference. It added: "While other countries will sign the treaty, the absence of so many of the largest economies means that the document, already watered down to suit much of the West, will have little practical force."

But the struggle is far from over.

The resolution agreed upon -- although not by the nations opposed -- resolved that the UN secretary-general "continue to take the necessary steps for ITU to play an active and constructive role in the multi-stakeholder model of the Internet."

ITU is the acronym for the International Telecommunications Union which hosted the conference. Although now an agency of the UN, it predates the world body by more than 75 years having been founded in 1865 to help coordinate international standards for telegraph signals. After the Titanic sank in 1912 -- a disaster compounded by problems involving reception of signals from the ill-fated ship, ITU's role greatly increased.

Comparing this "landmark" Titanic-based event with what has been happening with the ITU and the Internet, Professor Patrick S. Ryan wrote an article in the Stanford Technology Law Review last year entitled, "The ITU and the Internet's Titanic Moment."

Ryan, a professor in the University of Colorado at Boulder Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program as well as a "policy counsel" for Open Internet at Google, Inc.,wrote: "While the ITU isn't exactly a household name, it nonetheless may end up making critical--and potentially harmful--decisions that have a profound effect on Internet users around the globe." He said the December ITU conference "together with policy consultations in 2013...may significantly change how the Internet is governed."

Ryan is highly critical of the ITU. "Perhaps the greatest problem with the ITU," he states, "is its lack of transparency. Most democratic governments and processes have some fundamental right to public information and to the system for creating it. Yet the ITU is closed, opaque, and obfuscated in terms of its legislative treaty-making processes and in its standard-setting processes." It is a "large, closed, bureaucratic organization that uses scare tactics in an attempt to reinforce the need for its regulatory involvement."'

But the situation involves far more than the ITU.

At its center is the clash between people expressing themselves freely and those in power threatened by this -- a conflict as old as the printing press.

Indeed, every semester in my classes in Investigative Reporting at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, I give a lecture on this conflict between free expression and power -- a battle that's been never-ending.

In the Internet collision now, the ITU would be a tool used by those in power frightened by the Internet -- and because it's a global medium, their need for an international lid put on this pot of free expression.

Russia's scheme at the conference, according to the Associated Press, was to get a resolution passed with language requiring "member states to ensure the public has unrestricted access and use of international telecommunication services 'except in cases where international communications services are used for the purpose of interfering in the internal affairs or undermining the sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity and public safety of other states, or to divulge information of a sensitive nature.'... The wording of this provision could allow a country to repress political opposition while citing a UN treaty as the basis for doing so."

In my lecture, I go back to the oldest of "old" mass media -- the newspaper -- and its slow growth after Johann Gutenberg invented his printing press around 1440. It took more than a century for newspapers to then come about, and I cite the literature that explains how this first occurred in places with weak or tolerant governance. I quote Edwin Emery from his book The Press and America: An Interpretative History of the Mass Media that: "It is significant that the newspaper first flourished in areas where authority was weak, as in Germany, at that time divided into a patchwork of small principalities, or where rulers were most tolerant as in the low countries."

I discuss the tyrannical control of the press by monarch after monarch in America's mother country, England, and how they kept a tight lid on the press by requiring licensing, and punishing those expressing the slightest dissent.

I quote from that great plea for a free press in England, by poet John Milton, in his Aeropagitica in 1844, in which he said "we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting." There need be free expression, said Milton, and with it would come truth and falsehood, too, but "in a free and open encounter" truth would triumph."

It was under the powerful monarchs of England that a press system began termed "authoritarian" by three communications professors in their 1956 book Four Theories of the Press, a seminal media analysis.

Under the authoritarian press system, they write, the "chief purpose" of the press is "to support and advance the policies of the government in power; and to service the state." Forbidden is "criticism of political machinery and officials in power."

This, unfortunately, is still the media system in many nations of the world today.

Arriving subsequently was what they term the "libertarian" press system. Under it, the function of the press, they relate, is "to inform, entertain, sell -- but chiefly to help discover truth, and to check on government."

The conflict when it comes to the Internet has been going on for some time. "Worldwide Battle for Control of the Internet" was the headline in 2009 of an article in the British magazine, New Scientist.

"When thousands of protesters took to the streets in Iran following this year's disputed presidential election, Twitter messages sent by activists let the world know about the brutal policing that followed," the article started. "A few months earlier, campaigners in Moldova used Facebook to organize protests against the country's communist government, and elsewhere too the Internet is playing an increasing role in political dissent. Now governments are trying to regain control. By reinforcing their efforts to monitor activity online, they hope to deprive dissenters of information and the ability to communicate."

It went on to outline the "Internet clampdown" by "governments across the globe." It cited the work of organizations that have sprung up to keep the Internet free, including the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, a representative of which was quoted in the piece as saying, "Political filtering is the common denominator."

Other organizations include, notably, OpenNet Initative (in which the Berkman Center is one of three participant institutions). The website of OpenNet Initiative chronicles situation after situation of nations censoring the Internet.

China has developed a comprehensive program of rigid Internet censorship

As the New York Times reported in an article in December: "Internet censorship in China is among the most stringent in the world. The government blocks Web sites that discuss the Dalai Lama, the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters, Palun Gong, the banned spiritual movement, and other Internet sites. As revolts began to ricochet through the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, and homegrown efforts to organize protests began to circulate on the Internet, the Chinese government tightened its grip on electronic communications, and appeared to be more determined than ever to police cellphone calls, electronic messages, e-mail and access to the Internet in order to smother any hint of antigovernment sentiment."

"The government's computers intercept incoming data and compare it against an ever-changing list of banned keywords or Web sites," the Times articlecontinued, "screening out even more information. The motive is often obvious: Since late 2010, the censors have prevented Google searches of the English word 'freedom.'"

Russia's rulers, too, regard the Internet as threatening. In November, a law was passed in Russia "blacklisting websites that the government determines have illegal content," Forbes reported. This article quoted a statement about the situation in Russia from Reporters Without Borders: "The Russian state is characterized by a lack of political pluralism and widespread corruption... The Internet, a space where independent voices still find expression, is now being targeted by the authorities, who are trying to develop online filtering and surveillance. Bloggers are the victims of lawsuits and prosecutions."

The pattern of Internet suppression seen in China and Russia is also being pursued by many other nations -- as is presented clearly by the OpenNet Initiative's website and Wikipedia's website "Internet censorship by country."

A key problem involving the "libertarian" press system over the years has been: who can afford to own a press? Yes, the press is ostensibly free, but there's been the question: who has the money to own a newspaper, magazine, TV or radio station or publish books? As the American press critic A.J. Liebling wrote in The New Yorker magazine in 1960: "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."

But now, with a computer and an Internet connection, anybody can "own a press" and be an active participant in media. That is very scary to the rulers of Russia and China and the other nations that stood with them at the ITU conference which included Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Sudan, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates.

They didn't get what they wanted. But this was just one attempt in what will be an ongoing effort to undermine the Internet globally.

 
 

The Huffington Post 

On Energy Secretary Chu's Resignation

February 12, 2013

By Karl Grossman

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced his resignation last week after four years of pushing nuclear power, although he promoted energy efficiency and safe, renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind, too.

But nuclear power remained a major focus of Dr. Chu, a physicist out of the U.S. national nuclear laboratory system. In his letter to Department of Energy employees announcing his departure, Chu listed as among "tangible signs of success" during his tenure the go-ahead for the building of "the first nuclear power plants in the last three decades" in the U.S.

His position on energy as energy secretary was similar to the stand he took in his previous role as director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. There he also promoted energy efficiency and renewables, but nuclear power was a main thrust of his energy stance.

"Nuclear has to be a necessary part of the portfolio," declared Chu, as laboratory director, at an "economic summit" in California in 2008 sponsored by Stanford University. He said in his speech: "The fear of radiation shouldn't even enter into this. Coal is very, very bad."

As energy secretary, speaking at the Vogtle nuclear plant site in Georgia last year, where two of the new plants he cited in his letter are supposed to be built, he said:

"The resurgence of America's nuclear industry starts here in Georgia, where you just got approval for the first time in three decades to build new reactors. The Obama administration is committed to doing our part to help jumpstart America's nuclear industry. The Energy Department is supporting this project with more than $8 billion in conditional loan guarantees. And we have partnered with industry to support the certification and licensing of the new Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design."

Describing nuclear power as a "clean" energy technology, Chu said, "What you are doing here at Vogtle will help us compete in the global clean energy race and provide domestic, clean power to U.S. homes."

And, the year before, in a presentation before the International Atomic Energy Agency, Chu asserted: "Nuclear power will continue to be an important part of our energy mix, both in the United States and around the world." The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster had occurred just six months before, and he also said: "The tragic events at Fukushima make clear that nuclear energy... also brings significant challenges to our collective safety and security."

Some news pieces in recent days about Chu's resignation have mentioned the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project and how -- as the Las Vegas Review Journal accurately put it -- Chu "carried out the Obama administration's plan to shut down" the project.

For Chu, as a nuclear laboratory director, was a supporter of the plan to deposit massive amounts of nuclear waste at the site, as noted by CNN in a 2011 piece.

As energy secretary, Chu switched to the stance of President Obama (and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada). The mountain 100 miles from Las Vegas is riddled with earthquake faults.

In his letter to DOE employees, Chu challenged -- as he pointed out Obama did in his recent inaugural address -- those who deny climate change. "Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science... The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity has had a significant and likely dominant role in climate change," Chu wrote.

He went on to promote "clean" energy as an antidote.

The key problem here, however, is that by including nuclear power in the "clean" energy category, Chu refuses to accept that the nuclear "fuel cycle" involved in nuclear power -- mining, milling, fuel fabrication, enrichment and so on -- is a significant contributor to greenhouse gasses and climate change.

And he refuses to accept that true "clean" energy -- safe renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind -- can provide all the energy we need and not contribute to climate change at all. "A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables" was a 2009 cover story in Scientific American, about one of several major studies done in recent years coming to the same conclusion.

But Chu titled his 2010 essay, on his personal Facebook page, "Why We Need More Nuclear Power." He insisted that "we need nuclear power as part of a comprehensive solution." He asked for comments. One reader, Matthew Cloner, commented on March 12, 2011: "I'm afraid that I cannot agree with you in your position, Dr. Chu. As the recent disaster in Japan unfolds before our eyes, it is very obvious that nuclear power is both extremely dangerous and environmentally unsound as an energy source."

But it's hard for Chu and many other scientists out of the national nuclear laboratory system to acknowledge the deadliness of the technology that is the basis for most of their work.

These laboratories connect with the early laboratories set up during the World War II Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bombs. Chu's former laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley, was then called the Radiation Laboratory. It describes itself as the "oldest" of the national laboratories. It and the other national nuclear laboratories were long run by the Atomic Energy Commission, which the Manhattan Project was turned into after the war. Then, because the AEC was such a zealous advocate of nuclear power, while supposedly a regulator of the technology, the AEC was eliminated by Congress in 1974 and a Nuclear Regulatory Commission and then a Department of Energy were created.

The DOE was given the mission of promoting nuclear power -- a mission that Chu pursued as energy secretary. It also replaced the AEC in running the national nuclear laboratories.

Chu's position -- "The fear of radiation shouldn't even enter into this. Coal is very, very bad" -- doesn't acknowledge how radiation-causing nuclear technology as well as coal are both unnecessary, that "100 Percent of the Planet" can he powered by safe, really clean, renewable energy sources.

Who will replace Chu when he leaves the DOE helm at month's end? Obama's appointee could be more of the same.

Among the names seen as a possibility is that of Carol Browner. Working out of the White House, she was Obama's energy "czar" between 2009 and 2011, and administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton administration. She is a nuclear power booster. Browner stressed at a New Millennium Nuclear Energy Summit in Washington in 2010 that the U.S. was "once at the forefront" of the nuclear industry. "We need to recapture that dominant position, and there's every reason to think we can," she declared.

By selecting Browner or another nuclear proponent, Obama would be sending the U.S. in the wrong energy direction -- a direction not good for public health nor safely powering society and not good, either, to deal with climate change.

Zealots of the Atom The Nuclear Cult

Nuclear scientists and engineers embrace nuclear power like a religion. The term “nuclear priesthood” was coined by Dr. Alvin Weinberg, long director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the laboratory’s website proudly notes this.  It’s not unusual for scientists at Oak Ridge and other U.S. national nuclear laboratories to refer to themselves as “nukies.” The Oak Ridge website describes Weinberg as a “prophet” of “nuclear energy.”

June 18, 2013

By Karl Grossman

This religious, cultish element is integral to a report done for the U.S. Department of Energy in 1984 by Battelle Memorial Institute about how the location of nuclear waste sites can be communicated over the ages. An “atomic priesthood,” it recommends, could impart the locations in a “legend-and-ritual…retold year-by-year.” Titled “Communications Measures to Bridge Ten Millennia,” the taxpayer-funded report says: “Membership in this ‘priesthood’ would be self-selective over time.”

Currently, Allison Macfarlane, nominated to be the new head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says she is an “agnostic” on nuclear power—as if support or opposition to atomic energy falls on a religious spectrum.  Meanwhile, Gregory Jaczko, the outgoing NRC chairman, with a Ph.D. in physics, was politically crucified because he repeatedly raised safety concerns, thus not revering nuclear power enough.

Years ago, while I was working on a book about toxic chemicals, the publisher asked that I find someone who worked for a chemical company and get his or her rationale. I found someone who had been at American Cyanamid, the pesticide manufacturer, who said he worked there to better support his growing family financially.

But when it comes to nuclear power, it’s more than that—it’s a religious adherence. Why?  Does it have to do with nuclear scientists and engineers being in such close proximity to  power, literally?  Is it about the process through which they are trained—in the U.S., many in the nuclear navy and/or in the insular culture of the government’s national nuclear laboratories? These laboratories, originally under the Atomic Energy Commission and now the Department of Energy and managed by corporations, universities and scientific entities including Battelle Memorial Institute, grew out of the World War II Manhattan Project crash program to build atomic bombs. After the war, the laboratories expanded to pursue the development of all things nuclear. And is it about nuclear physics programs at universities serving as echo chambers?

Whatever the causes, the outcome is nuclear worship.

And this is despite the Chernobyl or Fukushima Daiichi catastrophes. It’s despite the radioactive messes exposed at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility and at Los Alamos and other national nuclear laboratories most of which have been declared high-pollution Superfund sites where cancer on-site and in adjoining areas is widespread. It’s despite the  continuing threat of nuclear war and the horrific loss of life it would bring and nuclear proliferation spreading the potential for atomic weapons globally. Still, they press on with religious fervor.

“Most of them are not educated about radiation biology or genetics, so they are fundamentally ignorant,” says Dr. Helen Caldicott, a founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility whose books include Nuclear Madness. “They are ‘brought up’ in an environment where they are conditioned to support the concept of all things nuclear.” Further, “nuclear power evokes enormous forces of the universe, and as Henry Kissinger said, ‘Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” And “they practice denial because I think many of them in their heart really know that what they are doing is evil but they will defend it assiduously, unless they themselves or their child is diagnosed with cancer. Then many of them recant.”

Linking the “nuclear priesthood” to the Manhattan Project is Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “The scientists involved weren’t really sure what they were unleashing, and had to have a certain amount of faith that it would work and it would not destroy the world in the process. After they saw the destructive power of the bomb, they were both proud and horrified at what they had done, and believed they had to use this technology for ‘good.’ Thus nuclear power was born,” says Mariotte. “The problem is when you have this messianic vision that you are creating good out of evil, it is very difficult to turn around and realize that the ‘good’ you have created is, in fact, also evil.”

Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste watchdog at Beyond Nuclear, says ever since the first test of an atomic device, “the diabolically-named ‘Trinity’ atomic blast, when Manhattan Project scientists placed bets on whether or not it would ignite the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s been clear something pathological afflicts many in the ‘nuclear priesthood.’ Perhaps it’s a form of ‘Faustian fission’—splitting the atom gave the U.S. superpower status with the Bomb and then over a 100 commercial atomic reactors, so the ‘downsides’ have been entirely downplayed to the point of downright denial. Perhaps the power, prestige and greed swirling around the ‘nuclear enterprise’ explains why so many in industry, government, the military, and even apologists in academia and mainstream media, engage in Orwellian ‘Nukespeak’ and monumental cover ups….The ‘cult of the atom’ has caused untold numbers of deaths and disease downstream, downwind, up the food chain, and down the generations from ‘our friend the atom’ gone bad.”

A parallel situation exists in Russia, the other nuclear superpower. Dr. Alexey Yablokov, a biologist, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and environmental advisor to Presidents Yeltsin and Gorbachev, says the nuclear scientists there refer to themselves “atomschiky” or “nuclearists” and “think and act as a separate, isolated caste.” From the beginning of nuclear technology in the Soviet Union, they “were enthusiastic about the great, the fantastic discoveries of splitting the atom and developing enormous power. This ‘secret knowledge’ was magnified by state secrecy and a deep belief—in the Soviet Union as in the United States—of atomic energy ‘saving the globe’…There is a remarkable similarity in the argumentation of these groups here and in the United States. Step-by-step, they turned to an atomic religion, closed societies, a ‘state inside a state.’”

Dr. Heidi Huttner, who teaches sustainability at Stony Brook University, explains:

“As in so many parts of our industrialized and mechanized culture, there is no thought of consequences, or connections to the larger web of science, health, and human and nonhuman life…The nuclear culture becomes absolutely caught up in its own language and story. This self-enclosure feeds, validates and perpetuates itself. Without an outside critique or ‘objective’ third eye, any such culture loses the ability to self-regulate and self-monitor.  This is where things become dangerous.”

Russell Ace Hoffman, author of The Code Killers, Why DNA and Ionizing Radiation Are a Dangerous Mix, says: “It is a cult. It fits all the classic definitions of a cult. It’s an elitist, war-mongering, closed society of inbred, inwardly-thinking, aggressively xenophobic, arrogant pseudo-nerds stuck in ideas that are at least half a century out of date…Another cult-like behavior is they don’t care about the suffering of their victims.  Not one bit.”

Dr. Barbara Rose Johnston, an anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Center for Political Ecology in Santa Cruz, recounts spending three days at a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored conference for people involved in the atmospheric monitoring program at the nuclear weapons test site in Nevada. “Many of the scientists and technicians in attendance were from southern Utah and St. Georges County area where the heaviest atomic fallout from the Nevada test site occurred…I did not find a single man who saw a connection between fallout and cancer rates, despite the fact that most had suffered. My initial reaction was that these folks truly ‘drank the Kool-Aid’—true believers through and through.”

“The nuclear industry requires buying into an orthodoxy,” explains nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson. “I know, as I was in it as a senior VP.” He tells of how, after he voiced concerns and criticism, an industry lawyer “told me, ‘Arnie, in this industry, you are either for us or against us, and you just crossed the line.’ The same thing happened to [outgoing NRC Chairman] Jaczko  I know of one nuclear engineer with 40 years of experience who committed suicide five days after Fukushima because he simply could not accept that his life’s work was based on erroneous assumptions.  He had worked on the Mark 1 design [the GE design of the Fukushima Daicchi plants].”

Alice Slater, New York representative of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, says the “nuclear scientists are out of touch with reality. They talk about ‘risk assessment’—as though the dreadful, disastrous events at Chernobyl and Fukushima are capable of being weighed on a scale of ‘risks and benefits.’ They’re constantly refining their nuclear weapons—Congress has budgeted $84 billion for over the next 10 years to maintain the …’reliability of the nuclear arsenal,’ and $100 billion for new ‘delivery systems’—missiles, submarines and airplanes. After the horrendous effects on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, everyone knows these catastrophic weapons are unusable and yet we’re pouring all this money into perpetuating the national nuclear weapons laboratories. They’re not including the Earth in their calculations and the enormous damage they are doing. They’re involved in the worst possible inventions with lethal consequences that last for eternity. Still, they continue on. They’re holding our planet hostage while they tinker in their labs without regard to the risks they are creating for the very future of life on Earth.”

Dr. Chris Busby of the Health and Life Sciences faculty at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and author of Wings of Death, Nuclear Pollution and Human Health, says:

“What we are seeing with nuclear scientists is a desperate need to control their environment and their lives and the forces that may affect their lives by creating a virtual universe which they can deal with by mathematics and by drawing straight lines on paper.”

It’s the “cult of the nuclearists,” says Busby. And this construct of the nuclear scientists seeking to “control nature with mathematical equations that make them feel safe” sets up a “collision with reality”—and a “way we are going to destroy ourselves.”  The belief in nuclear power is “far beyond anything scientific or rational,” says Busby, who has a Ph.D. in chemical physics.

Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, says the “religious passion for nuclear technology” started with the “guilt” of those in the Manhattan Project. “Those in the ‘nuclear priesthood’ knew that these horrible bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives and they wanted to make up for that…They developed atomic energy for warfare and then thought it had other uses—and they would do anything to make that work.” But the civilian nuclear technology they devised was also deadly, and this realization was too “devastating to be accepted” by the “nuclear originators” or those who followed who “spend their days with their buddies, their colleagues, all thinking the same way.”

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, in his 1955 book The Open Mind, wrote: “The physicists felt a peculiarly intimate responsibility for suggesting, for supporting, and in the end, in large measure, for achieving the realization of atomic weapons….In some sort of crude sense…the physicists have known sin.”

Whether out of indoctrination, misguided belief, an obsession to “control nature,” the lure of the cult, closeness to power, job security, or their seeking to perpetuate a vested interest, the “nuclearists” have a religious allegiance to their technology. On a moral level, they have indeed sinned—and continue to do so. On a political level, they have corrupted and distorted energy policy in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. On an economic level, they are wasting a gargantuan portion of our tax dollars.

Choices of energy technology should be based on the technology being safe, clean, economic and in harmony with life. Instead, we are up against nuclear scientists and engineers pushing their deadly technology in the manner of religious zealots.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

 

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Karl Grossman The Internet Newspaper: News, Blogs, Video, Community

Investigative reporter

 

Nuclear "Regulatory Capture" -- A Global Pattern

Posted: 07/13/2012 2:28 pm
 
  

The conclusion of a report of a Japanese parliamentary panel issued last week that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster was rooted in government-industry "collusion" and thus was "man-made" is mirrored throughout the world. The "regulatory capture" cited by the panel is the pattern among nuclear agencies right up to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power Company, the owner of the six Fukushima plants] and the lack of governance by said parties," said the 641-page report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission released on July 5. "They effectively betrayed the nation's right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly 'man-made,'" said the report of the panel established by the National Diet or parliament of Japan.

"We believe the root causes were the organizational and regulatory system that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions," it went on. "Across the board, the commission found ignorance and arrogance unforgivable for anyone or any organization that deals with nuclear power." It said nuclear regulators in Japan and Tepco "all failed to correctly develop the most basic safety requirements."

The chairman of the 10-member panel, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical doctor, declared in the report's introduction: "It was a profoundly man-made disaster -- that could and should have been foreseen and prevented."

He also placed blame on cultural traits in Japan. "What must be admitted -- very painfully," wrote Dr. Kurokawa, "is that this was a disaster 'Made in Japan.' Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture; our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the programme'; our groupism; and our insularity."

In fact, the nuclear regulatory situation in Japan is the rule globally.

In the United States, for example, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, never denied a construction or operating license for a nuclear power plant anywhere, anytime. The NRC has been busy in recent times not only giving the go-ahead to new nuclear power plant construction in the U.S. but extending the operating licenses of most of the 104 existing plants from 40 to 60 years -- although they were only designed to run for 40 years. That's because radioactivity embrittles their metal components and degrades other parts after 40 years, potentially making the plants unsafe to operate. And the NRC is now considering extending their licenses for 80 years.

Moreover, the NRC's chairman, Gregory Jaczko, recently resigned in the face of an assault on him by the nuclear industry and his four fellow NRC members led by William D. Magwood, IV. Magwood is typical of most NRC and AEC commissioners through the decades -- a zealous promoter of nuclear power. He came to the NRC after running Advanced Energy Strategies through which he served as a consultant to various companies involved with nuclear power including many in Japan -- among them Tepco, as revealed by Ryan Grim on The Huffington Post.

Before that, Magwood served as director of nuclear energy for the U.S. Department of Energy. He "led the creation," according to his NRC biography, of DOE programs pushing nuclear power, "Nuclear Power 2010" and "Generation IV." Prior to that, he worked for the Edison Electric Institute and Westinghouse, a major nuclear power plant manufacturer.

Jaczko, although a supporter of nuclear power, with a Ph.D. in physics, repeatedly called for the NRC to apply "lessons learned" from the Fukushima disaster to its rules and actions -- upsetting the industry and the other four NRC commissioners. As Jaczko declared in February as the other four NRC commissioners first approved the construction of new nuclear plants since Fukushima, giving the go-ahead to two plants in Georgia: "I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima had never happened."

The NRC was set up to be an independent regulator of nuclear power to replace the AEC which was established by Congress under the Atomic Energy Act of 1946. The AEC was given the dual missions of promoting and regulating nuclear power -- a conflict of interest, Congress realized in 1974, so it eliminated the AEC and created the NRC as regulator and, later, the Department of Energy as promoter of nuclear power. But both the NRC and DOE have ended up pushing nuclear power with revolving doors between them and the government's national nuclear laboratories -- and the nuclear industry.

The International Atomic Energy Agency was established as an international version of the AEC by the United Nations after a speech made at it by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 in which he espoused "Atoms for Peace." Its dual missions are serving as a monitor of nuclear technology globally while also seeking "to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world."

Its first director general was Sterling Cole who as a U.S. congressman was a big booster of nuclear power. Later came Hans Blix after he led a move in his native Sweden against an effort to close nuclear plants there. Blix was outspoken in seeking to spread nuclear power internationally calling for "resolute response by government, acting individually or together as in the [IAE] Agency."

Blix's long-time IAEA second-in command was Morris Rosen -- formerly of the AEC and before that the nuclear division of General Electric (which manufactured the Fukushima plants) -- who said after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster: "There is very little doubt that nuclear power is a rather benign industrial enterprise and we may have to expect catastrophic accidents from time to time."

Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt followed Blix, and as he told an "International Conference on Nuclear Power for the 21st Century" organized by the IAEA in 2005: "There is clearly a sense of rising expectations for nuclear power."

The current IAEA director general is Yukiya Amano of Japan. In Vienna at the heaquarters of the IAEA, marking the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster in March, Amano said: "Nuclear power is now safer than it was a year ago."

Really.

Shuya Nomura, a member of the Japanese investigation commission and a professor at the Chuo Law School, was quoted in the New York Times as saying that the panel's report tried to "shed light on Japan's wider structural problems, on the pus that pervades Japanese society."

Those "wider structural problems" are far wider than Japan -- they are global. The "regulatory capture" cited in the Japanese panel's report has occurred all over the world -- with the nuclear industry and those promoting nuclear power in governments making sure that the nuclear foxes are in charge of the nuclear hen houses. The "pus that pervades Japanese society" is international.

With some very important exceptions, people have not adequately taken on the nuclear authorities. And we all must. The nuclear promoters have set up a corrupt system to enable them to get their way with their deadly technology. They have lied, they have connived, they have distorted governments. The nuclear industry is thus allowed to do whatever it wants. The nuclear pushers must be firmly challenged and they and nuclear power must be stopped.

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Karl Grossman The Internet Newspaper: News, Blogs, Video, Community

Professor of journalism, SUNY/College at Old Westbury

Nuclear Power Can Never Be Made Safe

Posted: 04/26/11 04:35 PM ET 

 

With the ongoing disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, some people ask: can nuclear power be made safe? The answer is no. Nuclear power can never be made safe.

This was clearly explained by Admiral Hyman Rickover, the "father" of the U.S. nuclear navy and in charge of construction of the first nuclear power plant in the nation, Shippingport in Pennsylvania. Before a committee of Congress, as he retired from the navy in 1982, Rickover warned of the inherent lethality of nuclear power -- and urged that "we outlaw nuclear reactors."

The basic problem: radioactivity.

"I'll be philosophical," testified Rickover. "Until about two billion years ago, it was impossible to have any life on Earth; that is, there was so much radiation on earth you couldn't have any life -- fish or anything." This was from naturally-occurring cosmic radiation when the Earth was in the process of formation. "Gradually," said Rickover, "about two billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet ... reduced and made it possible for some form of life to begin."

"Now, when we go back to using nuclear power, we are creating something which nature tried to destroy to make life possible," he said. "Every time you produce radiation" a 'horrible force' is unleashed. By splitting the atom, people are recreating the poisons that precluded life from existing. "And I think there the human race is going to wreck itself," Rickover stated.

This was Rickover, a key figure in nuclear power history, not Greenpeace.

The problem is radioactivity -- unleashed when the atom is split. And it doesn't matter whether it's a General Electric boiling water reactor such as those that have erupted at Fukushima, or the Westinghouse pressurized water design, or Russian-designed plants like Chernobyl, or the "new, improved" nuclear plants being touted by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a nuclear scientist and zealous promoter of nuclear technology. All nuclear power plants produce radiation as well as radioactive poisons like the Cesium-137, Iodine-131 and Strontium-90 that have been -- and continue to be -- spewed from the Fukushima plants.

Upon contact with life, these toxins destroy life. So from the time they're produced in a nuclear plant to when they're taken out as hotly radioactive "nuclear waste," they must be isolated from life -- for thousands, for some millions of years.

In the nuclear process, mildly radioactive uranium is taken from the ground and bombarded by neutrons -- and that part of the uranium which can split, "fissile," Uranium-235, is transformed into radioactive twins of safe and stable elements in nature: There are hundreds of these "fission products." The human body doesn't know the difference between these lethal twins and safe and stable elements. Also produced are alpha and beta particles and gamma rays, all radioactive.

In addition, much of the larger part of uranium, Uranium-238, which cannot split, grabs on to neutrons and turns into Plutonium-239, the most radioactive substance known.
In this atom-splitting, too, heat is produced -- which is used to boil water. Nuclear power plants are simply the most dangerous way to boil water ever conceived.

Why use this toxic process to boil water and generate electricity? It has far less to do with science than with politics and economics -- from the aftermath of the Manhattan Project to today. During the World War II Manhattan Project, scientists working at laboratories secretly set up across the U.S. built atomic weapons. By 1945, it employed 600,000 people and billions of dollars were spent. Two bombs were dropped on Japan. And, with the war's end, the Manhattan Project became the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and more nuclear weapons were built. But what else could be done with nuclear technology to perpetuate the nuclear undertaking?

Many of the scientists and government officials didn't want to see their jobs end; corporations which were Manhattan Project contractors, notably General Electric and Westinghouse, didn't want to see their contracts ended. As James Kunetka writes in his book City of Fire (about Los Alamos National Laboratory), with the war over there were problems of "job placement, work continuity... more free time than work... hardly enough to keep everyone busy."

Nuclear weapons don't lend themselves to commercial spinoff. What else could be done with atomic technology to keep the nuclear establishment going? Schemes advanced included using nuclear devices as substitutes for dynamite to blast huge holes in the ground -- including stringing 125 atomic devices across the isthmus of Panama and setting them off to create the "Panatomic Canal," utilizing radioactivity to zap food so it could seemingly be stored for years; building nuclear-powered airplanes (this didn't go far because of the weight of the lead shielding needed to protect the pilots) -- and using the heat built up by the nuclear reaction to boil water to produce electricity.

All along, the nuclear scientists -- such as Chu now -- attempted to minimize, indeed deny, the lethal danger of radioactivity and, like Nuclear Pinocchios, they pushed their technology.
Nuclear power plants -- all 443 on the earth today -- should be closed and no new ones built. As Rickover declared, nuclear reactors must be outlawed.

During the Bill Clinton campaign years ago, the slogan was, "It's the economy, stupid." With nuclear power plants, "It's the radioactivity" -- inherent in the process and deadly.

Instead we must fully implement the use of safe, clean, renewable energy technologies like solar, wind (now the fastest growing energy source and cheaper than nuclear) and geothermal and all the rest which, major studies have concluded, can provide all the energy the world needs -- energy without lethal radioactivity, energy we can live with.

The NRC's Latest Crazy Idea, An 80-Year License to Kill?

June 4, 2012
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be holding a meeting this week to consider having nuclear power plants run 80 years—although they were never seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems.

By Karl Grossman

“The idea of keeping these reactors going for 80 years is crazy!” declares Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and former senior policy advisor at the U.S, Department of Energy and a U.S. Senate senior investigator. He is also an author of the book Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation. “To double the design life of these plants—which operate under high-pressure, high heat conditions and are subject to radiation fatigue—is an example of out-of-control hubris, of believing your own lies.”

“In a post-Fukushima world, the NRC has no case to renew life-spans of old, danger-prone nuke plants. Rather, they must be shut down,” says Priscilla Star, director of the Coalition Against Nukes.

“This is an absurdity and shows the extent to which the NRC is captured,” says Jim Riccio, nuclear policy analyst at Greenpeace. “Nuclear regulators know that embrittlement of the reactor vessels limits nuclear plant life but are willing to expose the public to greater risks from decrepit, old and leaking reactors. As we learned from Fukushima, the nuclear industry is willing to expose the public to catastrophic risks.”

Nevertheless, on Thursday at its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, the NRC is to hold a meeting with the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute, which does studies for the nuclear industry, “to discuss and coordinate long-term operability research programs,” says the NRC, which could lead to it letting nuclear plants run for 80 years.

For more than a decade, the NRC has been extending the operating licenses of nuclear plants from 40 years to 60 years. And just as the NRC has never denied a construction or operating license for a nuclear plant anywhere, anytime in the U.S., it has rubber-stamped every application that has come before it for a 20-year extension of the plant’s original 40-year license. It has now approved 60-year operating licenses for 73 of the 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S.

When the NRC in 2009 OK’d extending the operating license to 60 years of the oldest nuclear plant in the U.S., Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Jeff Titel, president of the New Jersey Sierra Club, declared: “This decision is radioactive. To keep open the nation’s oldest nuclear power plant for another 20 years is just going to lead to a disaster. We could easily replace the plant with 200 windmills that will not pose a danger.” With the same General Electric design as the six Fukushima nuclear power plants, the plant is 60 miles south of New York City.

The first nuclear plants given permission by the NRC to operate for 60 years were the two Calvert Cliffs plants located on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay near Lusby, Maryland, 45 miles southeast of Washington, D.C. That came in 1999. The NRC license extension program is “blind to how these machines are breaking apart at the molecular level…they embrittle, crack and corrode,” said Paul Gunter, then with the Nuclear Information and Resource Service and now director of the Reactor Oversight Project of the organization Beyond Nuclear. The NRC in its “rigged game” is driving the nation toward a nuclear disaster, said Gunter. “The term ‘nuclear safety’ is an oxymoron. It’s an inherently dangerous process and an inherently dangerous industry that has been aging.”

The Associated Press conducted “a yearlong investigation of aging issues at the nation’s nuclear power plants” and, in a report in June 2011 by Jeff Donn, declared: “Regulators now contend that the 40-year limit was chosen for economic reasons and to satisfy safety concerns, not for safety issues. They contend that a nuclear plant has no technical limit on its life. But an AP review of historical records, along with interviews with engineers who helped develop nuclear power, shows just the opposite: Reactors were made to last only 40 years. Period.”  http://www.patriotledger.com/mobile/x706705448/Regulators-extending-life-spans-of-40-year-nuclear-plants

Moreover, “the AP found that the relicensing process often lacks fully independent safety reviews. Records show that paperwork of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission sometimes matches word-for-word the language used in a plant operator’s application.” Also, under the NRC’s “relicensing rules, tight standards are not required to compensate for decades of wear and tear.”

Getting operating license extensions “is a lucrative deal for operators,” said the AP.

With operating license extensions, operators of nuclear power plants can wring out as much profits as they can. And not only do they want their plants to operate beyond their 40-year design basis, but they have been asking—and getting approval from the NRC—to have their plants generate more electricity than they were designed to provide, to run hotter and harder. The NRC calls this “uprating”—and has obliged the industry on this, too, simultaneous with extending the operating licenses of nuclear plants.

Alvarez commented last week: “Would you want to drive around in an 80-year-old automobile souped-up to go twice as fast as it was supposed to?”

“They are pushing these machines at levels and for time periods for which they were not envisioned operating,” said Alvarez. Much of “this 80-year business,” he added, involves a concern by the nuclear industry that “they’re not going to build any new reactors anytime soon”—thus the push to keep existing plants running. And, a “root cause” is that those behind nuclear power “operate in isolation, secrecy and privilege and only talk to themselves. They form an echo chamber. They cast out those who do not agree. These are the prime ingredients of corruption of science and safety.”

By extending the operating licenses of nuclear plants , the NRC is inviting catastrophe. It’s asking for it. The gargantuan problem is that the “it” is atomic catastrophe which, as the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster and last year’s Fukushima catastrophe have demonstrated, impacts on huge numbers of people and other forms of life.

It’s high time the NRC be abolished along with the toxic technology it promotes: nuclear power. And we fully embrace and implement safe, clean renewable energy technologies here today, led by solar and wind energy, rendering deadly dangerous nuclear power totally unnecessary.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

 

The Hormesis Scam

Radiation is Good for You?

 
July 25, 2011
 

By Karl Grossman

 

Among the nuttiest theories about radiation is that it is good for you.
Yes, radiation is good for you – it exercises the immune system.

That’s what some nuclear scientists claim. They call it the "hormesis radiation" theory. These scientists don’t just want to minimize or even flatly deny the deadly impacts of radioactivity – they want people to think it’s healthy.

An advocate of the "hormesis radiation" theory was scheduled to peddle the theory tomorrow before the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site-Citizens Advisory Board.

The DOE’s Savannah River Site is a radioactive mess — 310 square miles in South Carolina — thatincludes the Savannah River National Laboratory and five now closed nuclear reactors. It’s been used through the years to produce plutonium and tritium for nuclear weapons, plutonium-based MOX fuel for nuclear power plants and plutonium to power NASA space probes, and do other things nuclear. It is in an area of South Carolina which has a large minority population. It’s been designated a high-pollution Superfund site.

But Dr. Clinton R. Wolfe, executive director of Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness, wasn’t planning to simply comfort the 25-person advisory board with the "hormesis radiation" theory as regarding the radioactive muddle where they reside.

The topic of his talk was; "A Perspective on Radiation Exposure and the Fukushima Disaster." People in South Carolina indeed around the world have become more aware of and concerned about radioactivity because of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex disaster.

Wolfe, like many in his group, is a product of the system of DOE national nuclear laboratories. He was at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the atomic bomb was developed, specializing in work with plutonium, then worked for Westinghouse, a nuclear industry giant where he led research on nuclear power plant corrosion issues, according to his biography on his group’s website, and ended up at the Savannah River National Laboratory. After being deeply involved in nuclear technology both its military and civilian sides he took his position at Citizens for Nuclear Technology which, its website says, is committed "to being a credible, consistent voice on behalf of beneficial nuclear technologies and the Savannah River Site." He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Wolfe telegraphed what he intended to talk about tomorrow in an op-ed piece in The State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper.

Wolfe began by explaining, "’Hormesis,’ a Greek word meaning ‘impel, urge on,’ refers to the phenomenon by which gradually adding a toxic substance to an organism produces an initial beneficial effect?.The concept of small doses of radiation having beneficial effects on living organisms fits this model." He said there "are considerable data on laboratory animals and selected populations of humans from epidemiological studies that show beneficial effects of low levels of radiation."

He continued that "even if you don’t believe that some low levels of radiation are good for you, perhaps we can stop the hysteria about low levels causing harm. Based on what we know to date, there’s no reason to think that even the most highly irradiated workers at Fukushima will suffer harmful health effects."

A grouping of safe-energy and environmental organizations took issue with Wolfe’s plan to pitch "hormesis radiation" to the Savannah River Site-Citizens Advisory Board.

They wrote a letter to the Department of Energy complaining that there would be "no accurate, science-based counterbalancing presentation that radiation at all doses can be harmful," the agency’s "allowance for the presentation of a pseudo-scientific presentation to be irresponsible and believe that such a presentation may well give the false impression that hormesis is being endorsed by DOE."

The letter discussed international and U.S. scientific bodies and reports that have concluded that there is "no threshold" for radiation exposure that any amount can harm a person?and noted that the DOE itself "also affirms challenges to the hormesis theory."

"Given that the hormesis theory does not comport with DOE policy and that a presentation about it is scheduled without equal time being given to an explanation of the linear no-threshold radiation dose model accepted by the scientific community, we request that you take steps to make sure that a presentation on the rejected hormesis theory does not remain on the Citizen Advisory Board’s agenda at its upcoming meeting."

The letter also noted that Wolfe "does not appear to have requisite credentials in the medical or health physics fields."

It was signed by: Tom Clements of Friends of the Earth, Michele Boyd of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Susan Corbett of the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club, Glenn Carroll of Nuclear Watch South, Mary Olson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Bobbie Paul of Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, David Kyle of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, Brett Bursey of the South Carolina Progressive Network and Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch of New Mexico.

The DOE then cancelled Wolfe’s talk.

"The public interest groups interested in the truth stopped the talk from going forward," comments Clements of Friends of the Earth.

Wolfe is not the only nuclear scientist pushing the hormesis radiation-is-good-for-you-theory. A leader in promoting it has been Dr. T. D.. Luckey, the author of Hormesis and Ionizing Radiation and Radiation Hormesis. He contends: "We need more, not less, exposure to ionizing radiation. The evidence that ionizing radiation is an essential agent has been reviewed?There is proven benefit."

Luckey, whose Ph.D. is in biochemistry/nutrition, also states: "The trillions of dollars estimated for worldwide nuclear waste management can be reduced to billions to provide safe, low-dose irradiation to improve our health. The direction is obvious; the first step remains to be taken."

Luckey did some of his research as a visiting scientist at another national nuclear laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory.

A medical expert on the impacts of radiation, Dr. Steven Wing of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, where he is a professor of epidemiology, comments that "Luckey and the others advocating hormesis are without foundation."

Wing’s Ph.D. is in epidemiology, defined as the branch of medicine that deals with the study of the causes, distribution and control of diseases in populations.

He declares that the push for "radiation hormesis" is "related to the conflicts of interest" involving these individuals connected to "universities, government agencies, industry and government laboratories that profit from nuclear weapons and the nuclear power industry."

                                                                                                 ***

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet (Common Courage Press) and wrote and presented the TV program Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens (www.envirovideo.com).

 

Obama and the Nuclear Rocket

Weekend Edition, June 12-13, 2010 

By Karl Grossman

The Obama administration is seeking to renew the use of nuclear power in space. It is calling for revived production by the U.S. of plutonium-238 for use in space devices—despite solar energy having become a substitute for plutonium power in space.

And the Obama administration appears to also want to revive the decades-old and long-discredited scheme of nuclear-powered rockets—despite strides made in new ways of propelling spacecraft. Last month, Japan launched what it called its “space yacht” which is now heading to Venus propelled by solar sails utilizing ionized particles emitted by the Sun. “Because of the frictionless environment, such a craft should be able to speed up until it is traveling many times faster than a conventional rocket-powered craft,” wrote Agence France-Presse about this spacecraft launched May 21.

But the Obama administration would return to using nuclear power in space—despite its enormous dangers.

A cheerleader for this is the space industry publication Space News. “Going Nuclear” was the headline of itseditorial on March 1praising the administration for its space nuclear thrust. Space New declared that “for the second year in a row, the Obama administration is asking Congress for at least $30 million to begin a multiyear effort to restart domestic production of plutonium-238, the essential ingredient in long-lasting spacecraft batteries.”

The Space News editorial also noted that “President Obama’s NASA budget [for 2011] also includes support for nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric propulsion research under a $650 million Exploration Technology and Demonstration funding line projected to triple by 2013.”

Space News declared: “Nuclear propulsion research experienced a brief revival seven years ago when then-NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe established Project Prometheus to design reactor-powered spacecraft. Mr. O’Keefe’s successor, Mike Griffin, wasted little time pulling the plug on NASA’s nuclear ambitions.”

Being referred to by Space News as “spacecraft batteries” are what are called radioisotope thermoelectric generators or RTGs, power systems using plutonium-238 to provide on board electricity on various space devices including, originally, on satellites.

But this came to an end when in 1964 a U.S. Navy navigational satellite with a SNAP-9A (SNAP for Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power) RTG on board failed to achieve orbit and fell to the Earth, disintegrating upon hitting the atmosphere.  The 2.1 pounds of plutonium fuel dispersed widely. A study by a group of European health and radiation protection agencies subsequently reported that “a worldwide soil sampling program carried out in 1970 showed SNAP-9A debris present at all continents and at all latitudes.” Long linking the SNAP-9A accident to an increase of lung cancer in people on Earth was Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, who was involved in isolating plutonium for the Manhattan Project.

The SNAP-9A accident caused NASA to turn to using solar photovoltaic panels on satellites. All U.S. satellites are now solar-powered.

But NASA persisted in using RTGs on space probes—claiming there was no choice. This was a false claim. Although NASA, for instance, insisted—including in sworn court depositions —that it had no alternative but to use RTGs on its Galileo mission to Jupiter launched in 1989, documents I subsequently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from NASA included a study done by its Jet Propulsion Laboratory stating that solar photovoltaic panels could have substituted for plutonium-fueled RTGs.

And right now, the Juno space probe—which will getting its on board electricity only from solar photovoltaic panels—is being readied by NASA for a launch next year to Jupiter. It’s to make 32 orbits around Jupiter and perform a variety of scientific missions.

Meanwhile, in recent years facilities in the U.S. to produce plutonium-238—hotspots for worker contamination and environmental pollution—have been closed and the U.S. has been obtaining the radionuclide from Russia. Under the Obama 2011 budget, U.S. production would be restarted. Last year, Congress refused to go along with this Obama request.

As for rocket propulsion with atomic energy, building such rockets was a major U.S. undertaking 50 and 60 years ago, under a program called NERVA (for Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application) followed by Projects Pluto, Rover and Poodle. Billions of dollars were spent and ground-testing done, but no nuclear rocket ever got off the ground. There were concerns over a nuclear rocket blowing up on launch or crashing back to Earth. The effort ended in 1972 but was revived in the 1980s under President Reagan’s Star Wars program. The “Timberwind” nuclear-powered rocket was developed then to loft heavy Star Wars equipment into space and also for trips to Mars. Most recently, Project Prometheus to build nuclear-powered rockets was begun by NASA in 2003, but ended in 2006, the cancellation referred to in the Space News editorial.

Obama’s choice to head NASA, Charles Bolden, favors nuclear-powered rockets—but he acknowledges public resistance. In a recent presentation before the Council on Foreign Relations, he opened the door to having a nuclear-powered rocket launched conventionally and moving in space with nuclear power.

Bolden, a former astronaut and U.S. Marine Corps major general, spoke in the May 24th address, of work by another ex-astronaut, Franklin Chang-Diaz, on a nuclear-propelled rocket. “Chang-Diaz is developing what’s called a VASIMIR rocket,” said Bolden. “It’s an ion engine, very gentle impulse that just pushes you forever, constantly accelerating. And this, theoretically, is something that would enable us to go from Earth to Mars in a matter of some time significantly less than it takes us now.”

But, he said, “most people…in the United States are never going to agree to allow nuclear rockets to launch things from Earth.”  Yet “once you get into space, you know, if we can convince people that we can contain it and not put masses of people in jeopardy, nuclear propulsion for in-space propulsion” would enable a faster trip to Mars. He said, “You don’t want to have to take eight months to go from Earth orbit to Mars.”

Having nuclear power systems only activated once up in space was a system followed by the Soviet Union—because of it having suffered many launch pad explosions. Still, the scheme wasn’t accident-free. The worst Soviet space nuclear device accident involved its Cosmos 954 reconnaissance satellite. Its on board nuclear reactor was only activated after launch when the reactor was in orbit. But then there was a malfunction causing Cosmos 954 to tumble out of control and hurtle back to Earth, breaking up and spreading hotly radioactive debris over 124,000 square miles of the Northwest Territories of Canada.

President Obama, in a speech on “Space Exploration in the 2lst Century” given April 15 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, didn’t mention nuclear-powered rockets (not even those that would only be activated after launch). He did announce that “we will invest more than $3 billion to conduct research on an advanced heavy lift rocket—a vehicle to efficiently send into orbit the crew capsules, propulsion systems and large quantities of supplies needed to reach deep space. In developing this new vehicle, we will not only look at revising or modifying older models; we want to look at new designs, new materials, new technologies that will transform not just where we can go but what we can do when we get there. And we will finalize a rocket design no later than 2015 and then begin to build it.”

“At the same time, after decades of neglect, we will increase investment—right away—in other groundbreaking technologies that will allow astronauts to reach space sooner and more often, to travel farther and faster,” he said.

“How do we supply spacecraft with energy needed for these far-reaching journeys? These

are questions that we can answer and will answer. And these are the questions whose answers no doubt will reap untold benefits right here on Earth.”

“And by 2025,” Obama said, “we expect new spacecraft designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the Moon into deep space. So we’ll start—we’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars.”

“I want to repeat this,” Obama asserted. “Critical to deep space exploration will be the development of breakthrough propulsion systems and other advanced technologies.”

With Obama on the platform was U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida—who he introduced at the start of his speech. Nelson in 1986 was a passenger on the space shuttle (before the 1986 Challenger disaster ended the shuttle passenger program) and he is a member of Senate Science and Transportation Committee. Although Obama was not specific on the kind of spacecraft he envisioned for trips to Mars, later that day on “Hardball With Chris Matthews” on MSNBC, Nelson was—and it was Chang-Diaz’s nuclear rocket. “One of my crewmates,” said Nelson, speaking of former astronaut Chang-Diaz who was with him on the 1986 shuttle flight, “is developing a plasma rocket that would take us to Mars in 39 days.”

The object of Administrator Bolden and Senator Nelson’s technical affections, Chang-Diaz, a Costa Rican-native, the first naturalized U.S. citizen to become a U.S. astronaut, founded the Ad Astra Rocket Company after retiring from NASA in 2005. He is its president and CEO. In an interview with Seed.com last year, he said the engine for his VASIMIR (for Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket) could work with solar power. The engine uses plasma gas heated by electric current to extremely high temperatures.

But larger versions are needed for space travel and they require nuclear power, said Chang-Diaz. “What we really need is nuclear power to generate electricity in space. If we don’t develop it, we might as well quit, because we’re not going to go very far. Nuclear power is central to any robust and realistic human exploration of space. People don’t really talk about this at NASA. Everybody is still avoiding facing this because of widespread anti-nuclear sentiment.”

“People have fears of nuclear power in space,” continued Chang-Diaz, “but it’s a fear that isn’t really based on any organized and clear assessment of the true risks and costs.”

Comments Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space: “Despite claims that ‘new’ and innovative technologies are under development at NASA, the story remains much the same—push nuclear power applications for future space missions. Obama is proving to be a major proponent of expansion of nuclear power—both here on Earth and in space. His ‘trip to an asteroid and missions to Mars’ plan appears to be about reviving the role of nuclear power in space. The nuclear industry must be cheering.”

KARL GROSSMAN, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, has focused on investigative reporting on energy and environmental issues for more than 40 years. He is the host of the nationally-aired TV program Enviro Close-Up (www.envirovideo.com) and the author of numerous books.  

Extra!

Money Is the Real Green Power: The Hoax of Eco-Friendly Nuclear Energy

January-February 2008

by Karl Grossman


Nuclear advocates in government and the nuclear industry are engaged in a massive, heavily financed drive to revive atomic power in the United States-with most of the mainstream media either not questioning or actually assisting in the promotion.

"With a very few notable exceptions, such as the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. media have turned the same sort of blind, uncritical eye on the nuclear industry’s claims that led an earlier generation of Americans to believe atomic energy would be too cheap to meter," comments Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "The nuclear industry’s public relations effort has improved over the past 50 years, while the natural skepticism of reporters toward corporate claims seems to have disappeared."

The New York Times continues to be, as it was a half-century ago when nuclear technology was first advanced, a media leader in pushing the technology, which collapsed in the U.S. with the 1979 Three Mile Island and 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant accidents. The Times has showered readers with a variety of pieces advocating a nuclear revival, all marbled with omissions and untruths. A lead editorial headlined "The Greening of Nuclear Power" (5/13/06) opened:

Not so many years ago, nuclear energy was a hobgoblin to environmentalists, who feared the potential for catastrophic accidents and long-term radiation contamination. . . . But this is a new era, dominated by fears of tight energy supplies and global warming. Suddenly nuclear power is looking better.

Nukes add to greenhouse

Parroting a central atomic industry theme these days, the Times editors declared, "Nuclear energy can replace fossil-fuel power plants for generating electricity, reducing the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute heavily to global warming." As a TV commercial frequently aired by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the nuclear industry trade group, states: "Nuclear power plants don't emit greenhouses gases, so they protect our environment."

What is left unmentioned by the NEI, the Times and other mainstream media making this claim is that the overall nuclear cycle--which includes uranium mining and milling, enrichment, fuel fabrication and disposal of radioactive waste--has significant greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

As Michel Lee, chair of the Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy, wrote in an (unpublished) letter to the Times, the

dirty secret is that nuclear power makes a substantial contribution to global warming. Nuclear power is actually a chain of highly energy-intensive industrial processes. These include uranium mining, conversion, enrichment and fabrication of nuclear fuel; construction and deconstruction of the massive nuclear facility structures; and the disposition of high-level nuclear waste.

She included information on independent studies that document in detail the extent to which the entire nuclear cycle generates greenhouse emissions.

Separately, Lee wrote to a Times journalist stating that the "fiction" that nuclear power does not contribute to global warming has been a prime feature of the nuclear industry's and Bush administration's PR campaign that unfortunately . . . has been swallowed by a number of New York Times reporters, op-ed columnists and editors."

Greens for hire

In "The Greening of Nuclear Power," the Times, like other mainstream media touting a nuclear restart, also spoke of environmentalists changing their stance on nuclear power. "Two new leaders have emerged to encourage the building of new nuclear reactors," according to the editorial. They happen to be Christine Todd Whitman, George W. Bush's first Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and Patrick Moore, "a co-founder of Greenpeace." The Times heralded this as "the latest sign that nuclear power is getting a more welcome reception from some environmentalists."

However, "both Whitman and Moore . . . are being paid to do so by the Nuclear Energy Institute," noted the Center for Media and Democracy's Diane Farsetta (PRWatch.org, 3/14/07). In her piece "Moore Spin: Or, How Reporters Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear Front Groups," Farsetta also reported:

A Nexis news database search on March 1, 2007 identified 302 news items about nuclear power that cite Moore since April 2006. Only 37 of those pieces-12 percent of the total-mention his financial relationship with NEI.

Whitman and Moore were hired as part of NEI's "Clean and Safe Energy Coalition" in 2006, which is "fully funded" by the institute, Farsetta noted. As for Moore and Greenpeace, his "association . . . ended in 1986, and he has now spent more time working as a PR consultant to the logging, mining, biotech, nuclear and other industries . . . than he did as an environmental activist."

According to Harvey Wasserman, senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and co-author of Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America's Experience With Atomic Radiation (Brattleboro Reformer, 2/24/07), "Moore sailed on the first Greenpeace campaign, but he did not actually found the organization." Wasserman went on to cite an actual founder of the organization, Bob Hunter, describing Moore as "the Judas of the ecology movement."

Scarce high-grade fuel

Insisting that "there is good reason to give nuclear power a fresh look," "The Greening of Nuclear Power " further claimed, "It can diversify our sources of energy with a fuel-uranium--that is both abundant and inexpensive."

This, too, was bogus. The uranium from which fuel used in nuclear power plants is made--so-called "high-grade" ore containing substantial amounts of fissionable uranium-235--is, in fact, not "abundant." As Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation told BBC News (11/29/05), "another dirty little secret" of nuclear power is that "startlingly, there's only a few decades left of the proven high-grade uranium ore it needs for fuel." This has been the projection for years.

Indeed, this limit on "high-grade" uranium ore is why the industry projects that, in the long-term, nuclear power will need to be based on breeder reactors running on manmade plutonium. But use of plutonium-fueled reactors has been stymied because they can explode like atomic bombs-they contain tons of plutonium fuel, while the first bomb using plutonium, dropped on Nagasaki, contained 15 pounds. Because it takes only a few pounds of plutonium to make an atomic bomb, they also constitute an enormous proliferation risk.
Blaming Jane Fonda

"The Jane Fonda Effect" (9/16/07), a Times Magazine column by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, blamed nuclear power's stall on the 1979 film The China Syndrome, starring Jane Fonda, which opened days before the Three Mile Island partial meltdown. "Stoked by The China Syndrome, it caused widespread panic," wrote Dubner and Levitt, even though, they maintained, "the accident did not produce any deaths, injuries or significant damage."

In fact, the utility that owned Three Mile Island has for years been quietly paying people whose family members died, contracted cancer or were otherwise impacted by the accident. While settlements range up to $1 million, the utility company continues to insist this does not acknowledge fault. The toll of Three Mile Island is chronicled in my television documentary Three Mile Island Revisited (EnviroVideo, 1993) and Wasserman's book Killing Our Own (which includes a devastating chapter, "People Died at Three Mile Island"), among other works.

But Dubner and Levitt continue undeterred, declaring, "The big news is that nuclear power may be making a comeback in the United States." They acknowledge the Chernobyl accident, stating that it "killed at least a few dozen people directly." They admit that it "exposed millions more to radiation," but keep silent about the consequences of this in terms of illness and death. This atomic version of Holocaust denial flies in the face of voluminous research on the disaster that puts the number of dead in the hundreds of thousands.

At least 500,000 people--perhaps more--have already died out of the 2 million people who were officially classed as victims of Chernobyl in Ukraine, said Nikolai Omelyanets, deputy head of the National Commission for Radiation Protection in Ukraine (Guardian, 3/25/06). Dr. Alexey Yablokov, president of the Center for Russian Environmental Policy, calculates a death toll of 300,000. In the book Chernobyl: 20 Years On, which he co-edited, Yablokov writes, "In 20 years it has become clear that not tens, hundreds of thousands, but millions of people in the Northern Hemisphere have suffered and will suffer from the Chernobyl catastrophe."

The New York Times Magazine also published "Atomic Balm?" (7/16/06), by Jon Gertner; the subhead read, "For the first time in decades, increasing the role of nuclear power in the United States may be starting to make political, environmental and even economic sense." Gertner used the term nuclear "renaissance," and again forwarded the claim that "the supply [of uranium] is abundant."

Gertner told of how the "lifespan" for nuclear plants was set at 40 years because this was considered "how long a large nuclear plant could safely operate." This has" proved a conservative estimate," he states--without providing a factual basis. So the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been "granting 20-year extensions" to the 103 U.S. nuclear plants so they "can run for a total of 60 years." (Consider the safety and reliability of 60-year-old cars speeding down highways.)

"Even with such licensing renewals, though, it's doubtful the current fleet of plants will run for, say, 80 years," he continued, and "that means the industry, in a way, is in a race against time. It needs to build new plants because the absence of nuclear power would probably pose tremendous challenges for the United States."

The New York Times also allows its nuclear advocacy to slip into its news stories. In an article (11/27/07) about the French nuclear power company Areva signing a deal with a Chinese atomic corporation, Times reporter John Tagliabue wrote of Areva chief executive Anne Lauvergeon's "long path from dirty hands to clean energy." The ""dirty hands referred to a youthful interest in archaeology; that nuclear power is "clean energy" appears to require no explanation.

Another story, datelined Fort Collins, Colorado (11/19/07), reported on two energy projects proposed for what the paper calls "a deeply green city." Describing the plans as "exposing the hard place that communities like this across the country are likely to confront,"  Times reporter Kirk Johnson wrote: 
"Both projects would do exactly what the city proclaims it wants, helping to produce zero-carbon energy. But one involves crowd-pleasing, feel-            good solar power, and the other is a uranium mine, which has a base of support here about as big as a pinkie. Environmentalism and local politics have collided with a broader ethical and moral debate about the good of the planet, and whether some places could or should be called upon to sacrifice for their high-minded goals."

Other revivalists

Other media promoting a nuclear revival-their words prominently featured on NEI's website-include USA Today (3/5/06): "The facts are straightforward: Nuclear power . . . creates virtually none of the pollution that causes climate change and delivers electricity cheaper than other forms of generation do." And the Augusta Chronicle (8/21/06): "Nuclear power--for decades perceived as an environmental scourge--is emerging as the cleanest and most cost-efficient source of energy available, a fact conceded even by environmentalists." And Investors Business Daily (12/1/06): "We can worry about imaginary threats of nuclear energy or the real dangers of fossil fuel pollution."

Glenn Beck of CNN Headline News also joined the chorus of support (5/2/07): "Look, America should embrace nuclear power, even if it's [just] to get off the foreign oil bandwagon." This is also common nuclear disinformation, that nuclear power is needed to displace foreign oil. The only energy produced by nuclear power is electricity--and only 3 percent of electricity in the U.S. is generated with oil.

There are a few exceptions in the mainstream media, notably the other Times, the Los Angeles Times. "The dream that nuclear power would turn atomic fission into a force for good rather than destruction unraveled with the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979 and the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986," the paper stated (7/23/07) in an editorial headlined: "No to Nukes: It's Tempting to Turn to Nuclear Plants to Combat Climate Change, but Alternatives Are Safer and Cheaper." Those who claim nuclear power "must be part of any solution" to global warming or climate change make a weak case, said the L.A. Times, citing

the enormous cost of building nuclear plants, the reluctance of investors to fund them, community opposition and an endless controversy over what to do with the waste. . . . What's more, there are cleaner, cheaper, faster alternatives that come with none of the risks.

Staggering numbers

As to the risks, the mainstream media's handling--or non-handling--of the U.S. government's most comprehensive study on the consequences of a nuclear plant accident is instructive. Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences 2 (known as CRAC-2) was done by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the 1980s. Bill Smirnow, an anti-nuclear activist, has tried for years to interest media in reporting on it--sending out information about it continually.

The study estimates the impacts from a meltdown at each nuclear plant in the U.S. in categories of "peak early fatalities," "peak early injuries," "peak cancer deaths" and "costs [in] billions." ("Peak" refers to the highest calculated value--not a worst case scenario, as worse assumptions could have been chosen.) For the Indian Point 3 plant north of New York City, for example, the projection is that a meltdown would cause 50,000 "peak early fatalities," 141,000 "peak early injuries," 13,000 "peak cancer deaths," and $314 billion in property damage--and that's based on the dollar's value in 1980, so the cost today would be nearly $1 trillion. For the Salem 2 nuclear plant in New Jersey, the study projects 100,000 "peak early fatalities," 70,000 "peak early injuries," 40,000 "peak cancer deaths," and $155 billion in property damage. The study provides similarly staggering numbers across the country.

"I've sent the CRAC-2 material out for years to media and have never heard a thing," Smirnow told Extra!:

Not anyone in the media ever even asked me a question. There's no excuse for this media inattention to such an important subject, and it shows how they're falling flat on their faces in not performing their purported mission of educating and informing the public. Whatever their reason or reasons for not informing their readers and listeners, the effect is one of helping the nuclear power industry and hurting the public. If the public was informed, this new big pro-nuke push would never happen.

Also in the way of sins of omission is the media silence on "routine emissions"--the amount of radioactivity the U.S. government allows to be routinely released by nuclear plants. "It doesn't take an accident for a nuclear power plant to release radioactivity into our air, water and soil," says Kay Drey of Beyond Nuclear at the Nuclear Policy Research Institute. "All it takes is the plant's everyday routine operation, and federal regulations permit these radioactive releases. Rarely, if ever, is this reported by media"  The radioactive substances regularly emitted include tritium, krypton and xenon. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sets a "permissible" level for these "routine emissions," but, as Drey states, "permissible does not mean safe."

Hidden subsidies

Another lonely voice amid the media nuclear cheerleaders is the Las Vegas Sun, which recently has been especially outraged by $50 billion in loan guarantees for the nuclear industry to build new nuclear plants included in the 2007 Energy Bill. The Sun demanded (8/1/07): "Pull the Plug Already."

In reporting on the economics of nuclear power, mainstream media virtually never mention the many government subsidies for it, while continuing to claim that it's "cost-effective" (Augusta Chronicle, 8/21/06). One such giveaway is the Price-Anderson Act, which shields the nuclear industry from liability for catastrophic accidents. Price-Anderson, supposed to be temporary when first enacted in 1957, has been extended repeatedly and now limits liability in the event of an accident to $10 billion, despite CRAC-2's projections of consequences far worse than that.

Writing on CommonDreams.org (9/11/07), Ralph Nader explored the economic issue. "Taxpayers alert!" he declared:

The atomic power corporations are beating on the doors in Washington to make you guarantee their financing for more giant nuclear plants. They are pouring money and applying political muscle to Congress for up to $50 billion in loan guarantees to persuade an uninterested Wall Street that Uncle Sam will pay for any defaults on industry construction loans. . . . The atomic power industry does not give up. Not as long as Uncle Sam can be dragooned to be its subsidizing, immunizing partner. Ever since the first of 100 plants opened in 1957, corporate socialism has fed this insatiable atomic goliath with many types of subsidies.

Ignored alternatives

Yet another claim by mainstream media in pushing for a nuclear revival is the success of the French nuclear program. 60 Minutes (4/8/07) did it in a segment called "Vive Les Nukes." (See FAIR Action Alert, 4/18/07.) Correspondent Steve Kroft started with the nuclear-power-doesn't-contribute-to-global-warming myth:

With power demands rising and concerns over global warming increasing, what the world needs now is an efficient means of producing carbon-free energy. And one of the few available options is nuclear, a technology whose time seemed to come and go, and may now be coming again. . . . With zero greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. government, public utilities and even some environmental groups are taking a second look at nuclear power, and one of the first places they're looking to is France, where its been a resounding success. 

In fact, wind power could supply more energy to the U.S. grid than nuclear does today, and when combined with a mix of energy efficiency and other renewable energy sources, could provide a continuous energy supply that would help us make dramatic reductions in global warming.

Dismissal of renewable energy forms is another major facet of mainstream medias drive for a nuclear power revival. As the St. Petersburg Times put it (12/08/06), "While renewable sources of energy such as solar power are still in the developmental stage, nuclear is the new green." Renewables Are Ready was the title of a 1999 book written by two UCS staffers. Today, they are more than ready. "Wind is the cheapest form of new generation now being built," wrote Greenpeace advisor Wasserman (Free Press, 4/10/07). He pointed to an array of wind, solar, bio-fuels, geothermal, ocean thermal and increased conservation and efficiency.

Wasserman has also written about another element ignored by most mainstream media (Free Press, 7/9/07): "The switch to renewables defunds global terrorism. Atomic reactors are pre-deployed weapons of radioactive mass destruction. Shutting them down ends the fear of apocalyptic disaster by both terror and error. He stressed, again, that safe, clean energy is here and we could replace everything with available technology that could easily supply all our needs while allowing a sustainable planet to survive and thrive."

The one green thing

What are the causes of the media nuclear dysfunction? The obvious problem is media ownership. General Electric, for one, is both a leading nuclear plant manufacturer and a media mogul, owning NBC and other outlets. (For years, CBS was owned by Westinghouse; Westinghouse and GE are the Coke and Pepsi of nuclear power.) There have been board and financial interlocks between the media and nuclear industries. There is the long-held pro-nuclear faith at media such as the New York Times. (See sidebar.)

There is also the giant public relations operation--both corporate, led by the NEI, and government, involving the Department of Energy and its national nuclear laboratories. "You have the NEI and the nuclear industry propagandizing on nuclear power, and journalists taking down what the industry is saying and not looking at the veracity of their claims," Greenpeace USA nuclear policy analyst Jim Riccio told Extra!.

And then there's lots of money. FAIR recently exposed (Action Alert, 8/22/07) how National Public Radio, which broadcasts many pro-nuclear pieces, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from nuclear operator Sempra Energy and Constellation Energy, which belongs to Nustart Energy, a 10-company consortium pushing for new nuclear power plant construction.

The only thing green about nuclear power is the nuclear establishment's dollars.

Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury. Books he has written about nuclear technology include Cover Up: What You ARE NOT Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power. He has hosted many television programs on nuclear technology onEnviroVideo.com

Extra!


The NYTs Nuclear Promised Land


January/Feburary 2008

By Karl Grossman

Sidebar to "Money is the Real Green Power" (Extra! 1-2/08)

The New York Times is not alone in promoting a revival of nuclear power. But as the U.S. paper of record, it sets the media tone. Its pro-nuclear editorial culture began decades ago when the Manhattan Project and its corporate contractors (notably General Electric and Westinghouse, which became the major manufacturers of nuclear power plants) sought to perpetuate what was established during World War II, by making other things atomic.

Because of the Times' importance, Manhattan Project director Gen. Leslie Groves personally arranged for its reporter, William Laurence, to join the project. Laurence was responsible for the first piece of nuclear media disinformation; he wrote a press statement to cover up the first test of an atomic device, claiming there had been an ammunition dump explosion. Laurence later, as the only "journalist" that had been at the 1945 Trinity test, wrote that it was like being "present at the moment of creation when the Lord said 'let there be light.'" 

After atomic bombs dropped on Japan, the Times both ran and distributed free to the nation's other newspapers a 10-part series written by Laurence glorifying the Manhattan Project, notes News Zero: The New York Times and The Bomb by Beverly Keever (Common Courage Press). Radioactivity was all but unmentioned in the series. 

And the Times science reporter continued for years to wax poetic about atomic technology. "From the dawn of the atomic-bomb age, Laurence and the Times almost single-handedly shaped the news of this epoch and helped birth the acceptance of the most destructive force ever created," writes Keever, professor of journalism at the University of Hawaii. Laurence would describe nuclear power as "making the dream of the Earth as a Promised Land come true."

 

COVER STORY
E The Environmental Magazine
November-December 2001

The Nuclear Phoenix

The Bush Administration is Pushing Ahead with a Full-Scale Revival of Atomic Power


by Karl Grossman

The last time anyone ordered a new nuclear power plant in the United States was in 1978, but if you think that means nukes are dead forever, guess again. The Bush Administration and the nuclear industry are making an intense push to rehabilitate nuclear power in the U.S. “It’s like reviving Frankenstein -- this is the sequel,” says Robert Alvarez, executive director of the Standing for Truth About Radiation (STAR) Foundation and co-author of Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation.

Diane D’Arrigo of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) uses another word when describing the Administration’s work. Says D’Arrigo: “It’s the push to relapse.”

Ever since the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl shattered public trust in atomic power, advocates in government and industry have been laying the groundwork for a nuclear energy comeback. An unbridled drive has started under George W. Bush in what “may be the most ardently pro-nuclear power Presidency in U.S. history,” says Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based NIRS. The Bush Administration’s stance is aggressive, and it minimizes the dangers of nuclear power. As Bush’s Secretary of Treasury, Paul O’Neill, told The Wall Street Journal, “If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear power really is good.” 

In Bed with the Industry

The Bush Administration struck a close working relationship with the nuclear industry well before taking office. The administration’s energy “transition” advisors included Joseph Colvin, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), which describes itself as “the policy organization of the nuclear energy and technologies industry”; J. Bennett Johnston, who as a U.S. Senator was a leading pro-nuclear power figure in Congress and who now runs a consulting firm that assists the nuclear industry; Thomas Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, former head of the American Nuclear Energy Council (forerunner of NEI) and a reported “Bush buddy” going back to their days together at Yale; and representatives of four nuclear utilities. There were no advisors representing renewable energy or environmental organizations.

Two weeks after being sworn in, Bush set up a “National Energy Policy Development Group” and appointed as its chairman Vice President Dick Cheney. Its members included O’Neill and other top administration officials. Ten weeks after it was organized, the group issued a report declaring its support for “the expansion of nuclear energy in the United States as a major component of our national energy policy.” The plan would substantially increase the use of nuclear power both by building new nuclear power plants -- many to be constructed on existing nuclear plant sites -- and extending the 40-year licenses of currently operating plants each by another 20 years.

“Many U.S. nuclear plant sites were designed to host four to six reactors, and most operate only two or three; many sites across the country could host additional plants,” says the energy policy group’s report. “Building new generators on existing sites avoids many complex issues associated with building plants on new sites.” It could also greatly amplify the impacts of an accident, notes Paul Gunter, head of NIRS’ Reactor Watchdog Project. If one nuclear plant in a cluster of facilities undergoes a catastrophic accident, there is the potential, says Gunter, for a “cascading loss amplifying the release of radiation.”

According to the policy report, “the licensing of as many as 90 percent of the currently operating nuclear plants may be renewed.” There are 103 nuclear plants now in the U.S. They are, on average, 19 years old. Of the longevity of nuclear plants, “No one foresaw them running for more than 40 years,” says Alvarez of STAR, who was also senior policy advisor at the Department of Energy (DOE) from 1993 to 1999. The effects of intense radioactive bombardment, especially on metals, have been seen as limiting the operating life of nuclear plants. And then there’s the standard deterioration that occurs when any machine gets old. “These reactors are just like old machines, but they are ultra-hazardous,” says Alvarez. By pushing their operating span to 60 years, he says, “disaster is being invited.”

New Nukes?

The Bush Administration’s policy also supports “advanced” nuclear power plants -- supposedly new-and-improved nukes. “Advanced reactor technology promises to improve nuclear safety,” it says. One example the report provides is “the gas-cooled, pebble bed reactor, which has inherent safety features.” In fact, says Gunter, the pebble bed reactor is not new; it’s just “old wine in a new bottle.” It’s a hybrid of the gas-cooled, high-temperature design that “has appeared and been rejected in England, Germany and the U.S.” And far from being “inherently safe,” a reactor of similar design, a THTR300 in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, spewed out substantial amounts of radioactivity in a 1986 accident, leading to its permanent closure.

David Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), says that the pebble bed reactor uses blocks of graphite to slow neutron action, although “graphite is a form of carbon, which can ignite in a reactor fire. It was the graphite that kept burning at Chernobyl for 10 days, releasing much of the radiation.”

Also, the pebble bed would produce 10 times more high-level waste per amount of electricity generated as compared to existing plants, says Lochbaum, who worked in the nuclear power industry for 17 years and became a whistleblower before coming to UCS. Further, Exelon, the builder of the pebble bed reactor, wants five such units operated from a single control room, which is a dubious proposition, says Lochbaum. He also notes that the pebble bed systems’ designers “reduced costs by eliminating a key safety feature -- the reactor containment building.”

The Bush National Energy Policy, with its reliance on more nuclear power and greater fossil fuel generation, comes at a time when safe, clean, renewable energy sources have arrived. The need is for broad-scale implementation. Wind power, solar energy, hydrogen fuel technologies including fuel cells, among other renewable energy sources, are more than ready after years of dramatic advances. Coupled with energy efficiency, they can be tapped and widely used.

A coalition of renewable, safe-energy advocates -- including the Safe Energy Communication Council, Greenpeace USA, Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, Global Resource Action Center for the Environment and NIRS -- says of the National Energy Policy: “The Bush/Cheney Administration is recklessly promoting the building of new nuclear plants to address an energy crisis that in large part is being manufactured by the energy corporations that will benefit from building new power plants….We believe that instead of promoting dangerous and dirty forms of energy, the United States should be a world leader in promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency. Let us not sell our children’s future.”

But the Bush Administration is not to be turned around. As Cheney, in one speech, said of nuclear power: “If we are serious about environmental protection, then we must seriously question the wisdom of backing away from what is, as a matter of record, a safe, clean and very plentiful energy source.”

Or, as he declared in another speech, “We’re now at about 20 percent of our electricity being generated by nuclear. We’d like to increase that….If you’re really concerned about global warming and carbon dioxide emissions, then we need to…aggressively pursue the use of nuclear power, which we can do safely and sanely, but for 20 some years [it] has been a big no-no-politically.”

Not surprisingly, the nuclear power industry stands solidly alongside President Bush. Says NEI President Colvin, “The administration’s support for nuclear power as a proven energy technology that protects our air quality is a tremendously positive development for our nation….The industry looks forward to working with the White House and Congress to make this long-term vision a reality.”

Pushing Ahead

To fast track its vision of our radioactive future, the Bush Administration advocates a “one-step” licensing process for nuclear plants. It was part of an Energy Policy Act bill overwhelmingly approved by Congress in 1992 and signed into law by the former President George Bush. “One-step” licensing allows the NRC to hold a single hearing for a “combined construction and operating license.” No longer can nuclear plant projects be slowed down or stopped at a separate operating license proceeding, at which evidence of construction defects can be revealed. As the New York Times described the passage of the 1992 Energy Policy Act, “Nuclear power lobbyists called the bill their biggest victory in Congress since the Three Mile Island accident.”

That Energy Policy Act was approved by a Democratic-controlled Congress. As NIRS reported in its Nuclear Monitor in 1992: “As the bill wound its way through the Senate and House, the nuclear industry won nearly every vote that mattered, proving that Congress remains captive to industry lobbying and political contributions over public opinion.”

That remains the situation today. Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program documents how the NEI regularly showers Congress -- including members of both major parties -- with political contributions. And when the nuclear industry gives, members of Congress act, notes Public Citizen, which charts the record of politicians on key nuclear issues. Likewise, nuclear industry money pours into Presidential campaigns.

The Republican Bush-Cheney posture on nuclear power is hard-line, but that doesn’t mean the Democratic alternative was (or is) much different. The NEI’s website includes a page of “Endorsements of Nuclear Energy,” and among those quoted are Al Gore: “Nuclear power, designed well, regulated properly, cared for meticulously, has a place in the world’s energy supply,” he reportedly said in a speech at the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev in 1998. And Gore’s former running mate, Senator Joseph Lieberman, is quoted as saying at a Senate hearing in 1998: “I am a supporter of nuclear energy. I believe it can be part of the solution to solving the world’s energy, environment and global warming problems.” 

Basically, there is a difference in degrees and rhetoric between the politicians from the major parties, says Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. And “the Clinton Administration is by no means blameless” in the push to revive the moribund nuclear industry, she says, especially because of its support for development of “advanced” nuclear plants.

The Bush National Energy Policy says that because of “one-step” licensing, which it terms the “reformed licensing process,” getting new nuclear plants built and operating will now be streamlined. And, to make sure public involvement is minimal in the process, the NRC is now seeking to undo the public’s right to formal trial-type hearings on nuclear plant licensing. It plans to “deformalize” the hearings by eliminating due process procedures. Documents would be restricted to what the NRC staff and company deem relevant. Instead of cross-examining witnesses, interested parties will have to submit written questions as suggestions for the NRC’s presiding officers to ask at their discretion at a hearing. Says Mariotte, “The administration should learn from Seattle, Prague and Quebec that when people are shut out of public policy pro-cesses, the streets are their only alternative.”

Redefining Safety

Also to help in a nuclear power comeback is the effort to alter the standards for radiation exposure. As more has been learned about radioactivity, the realization has come that there is no “safe” level. This is called the “linear no-threshold theory,” and it has been adopted by the NRC and other U.S. government agencies. 

Now nuclear advocates in government and industry want to alter the standards premised on a contention that low doses of radiation are not so bad after all. They are “engaged in an all-out assault on radiation protection standards,” says D’Arrigo. There is even interest in a long-rejected notion called “hormesis,” which claims that a little radiation is good for people and helps exercise the immune system. The instrument for this change is a new Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) panel of the National Academy of Sciences, which is to make recommendations to the federal government. “The only way to convince the public that additional radiation is acceptable is to put together a skewed panel,” says D’Arrigo. The new BEIR panel, she says, is thus stacked with high-level radiation advocates.

Nuclear waste is another obstacle the nuclear proponents in government and industry are seeking to get around. “If we don’t deal with the waste problem,” acknowledged Cheney in a speech, “then my guess is we won’t get the investment in new facilities in the nuclear arena…. It’s within our grasp as a government ... to move forward, to get the issue addressed and get it off the table so that utilities are prepared to invest in nuclear.”

How is this being done? For high-level nuclear waste, there are drives to open Yucca Mountain in Nevada (100 miles northwest of Las Vegas) as a repository and also to use Utah’s Skull Valley Goshute Reservation and possibly other Native American reservations.

The huge problem with Yucca Mountain, which the government began exploring as a repository in the 1980s, is that it is on or near 32 earthquake faults and has a “history and prospects of volcanoes and a likelihood of flooding and leakage,” says D’Arrigo. Nevertheless, the Bush Administration is still seeking to “ram through” Yucca Mountain, says Mariotte. Resistance from people in Nevada and their elected representatives is so far blocking the scheme.

In 1997, tribal leaders of the Goshute Reservation “leased land to a private group of electrical utilities for the temporary storage of 40,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel,” according to the Goshute’s website. But some members of the tribe are fighting the deal in court, demanding to know who got what for what. Utah government officials are also challenging the arrangement. Governor Mike Leavitt says, “We intend to leave no stone unturned to make sure this waste does not come to Utah. The state’s authority and responsibility to protect its citizens and the environment is clear.”

But clear to advocates in government and the nuclear industry is that working with ostensibly sovereign American Indian reservations is a way to unload atomic garbage. Critics describe it as a new form of environmental racism -- “nuclear racism” -- seeking to take advantage of the poverty of Native Americans.

The drive to “recycle” low-level nuclear waste has been percolating for years. In 1980, the NRC first proposed that irradiated metal scrap could be converted, stressing that “radioactive waste burial costs could be avoided, [and] the resulting use of smelted scrap could be made into any number of consumer or capital equipment products such as automobiles, appliances, furniture, utensils, personal items and coins.” Some thought the push for radioactive quarters and hot Pontiacs was too crazy to be true.

But now the scheme is coming down the pike full-speed with the DOE, Department of Transportation and the NRC moving to facilitate the “recycling of contaminated metal and other radioactive wastes,” as the DOE recently announced. Says D’Arrigo: “Bush wants more nuclear power, and we are being told we’ll have to do our part by accepting atomic waste in our daily use items.”

Those behind the nuclear push are moving to extend a key piece of U.S. law that facilitated the nuclear power industry in the first place: the Price-Anderson Act. This law drastically limits the amount of money people can collect as a result of a nuclear power plant disaster. It was originally enacted in 1957 after nervous utilities and insurance companies balked at building nuclear power plants. “The potential for catastrophe is apparently many times as great as anything previously known in industry,” said Herbert W. Yount, vice president of Liberty Mutual Insurance, before the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, from which Price-Anderson emerged. The committee was part of the earliest promotion for a nuclear establishment of government and corporations that had grown out of the World War II-era Manhattan Project. With the war over, nuclear scientists, government bureaucrats and corporate contractors involved in the Manhattan Project—like Westinghouse and GE—sought to perpetuate their nuclear activities through electricity generation. 

In what was supposed to be a temporary measure to boost the nuclear power industry, the Price-Anderson Act passed, limiting liability in the event of a nuclear plant accident to $560 million, with the federal government paying the first $500 million. It was supposed to last for only 10 years, but Price-Anderson has been repeatedly extended. Now the Bush Administration and the atomic industry are seeking to use it as a financial umbrella for the push to revive nuclear power.

“The renewal of Price-Anderson is only to build new reactors,” says Mariotte.“That’s the issue. Existing nuclear plants are covered by the present law.”

The Bush Administration and nuclear industry are proposing that the current liability limit of $9 billion be extended for another 10 years. The initial $560 million cap rose to, in recent years, $9 billion. Still, notes Alvarez, this is all just a fraction of what the NRC itself has concluded would be the financial consequences of a nuclear plant accident. Those figures are contained in a 1982 report prepared for the NRC by the DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories entitled Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences for U.S. Nuclear Power Plants. It calculates (in 1980s dollars) costs as a result of a nuclear plant disaster as high as $314 billion at the Indian Point 3 nuclear plant north of New York City and $174 billion for the Millstone 3 nuclear plant in Connecticut. The report projects “early fatalities” with figures as high as 100,000 dead for the Salem 1 nuclear plant in New Jersey and 72,000 dead for the Peach Bottom 2 nuclear plant in Pennsylvania.

What are the chances of such a disaster occurring? In 1985, the NRC was asked by a House oversight committee chaired by Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA) to determine the probability of a “severe core melt accident” for reactors now operating and those expected to operate during the next 20 years. The NRC concluded: “The crude cumulative probability of such an accident would be 45 percent.”

To that danger now has to be added the possibility of a World Trade Center-style airborne terrorist attack on American nuclear plants. Tom Clements, who heads the Nuclear Control Institute, says existing plants are vulnerable to such an attack, “which would be many times worse than what we’ve seen in New York because it could result in radiation and fallout over a vast area.” And so the nightmare of our affair with nuclear power continues.

KARL GROSSMAN, a George Polk Award-winning journalist, teaches investigative and environmental reporting at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury.

E Magazine, Vol III, Number 3

Of Toxic Racism and Environmental Justice

May/June 1992

By Karl Grossman

It was a seminal event: The First National People of Color EnvironmentalLeadership summit held in Washington, DC in October 1991.  More than 600
African, Latino, Asian, and Native Americans from every state, and people from other nations, too, struck out at "environmental racism" and launched a new movement -- for "environmental justice."

From the conference, sponsored by the Commission for Radical Justice (CRJ), came a "call to action," charging that people of color face a disproportionately greater level of environmental pollution, and setting forth a platform for this new movement which "raises the life and death struggles of indigenous and grassroots communities of color to an unprecedented multinational integrated level."

"We, the people of color, gathered together," declared a 17-point statement adopted at the five-day gathering, "to build a national and international
movement of all peoples of color to fight the destruction and taking of our lands and communities...to respect and celebrate each of our cultures, languages and beliefs about the natural world and our roles in healing ourselves; to insure environmental justice; to promote economic alternatives which would contribute to the development of environmentally safe livelihoods; and, to secure our political, economic and cultural liberation that has been denied for over 500 years of colonization and oppression, resulting in the poisoning of our communities and land and the genocides of our peoples, do affirm and adopt these principles."

When this is realized and people of all classes and colors come together to fight pollution, says CRJ, the struggle for the environment will be far more
winnable.  And that is what the summit and the new energies it produced could be pivotal in bringing about.

"History was certainly made at the summit," says the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., CRJ's executive director and a conference co-chair.  At it, the notion was "shattered that a multi-racial movement is impossible in the U.S. because of the prevalence of racism which attempts to pit some people-of-color communities against (others)."  He spoke of a "spiritual bond" he felt through the summit that "helped to engender mutual respect and unity."  "This country needs a multi-racial movement for a change," said Chavis.

Chavis was the first person to use the term "environmental racism" with the 1987 issuance of a CRJ report entitled: Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States -- A National Report on the Racial and Socio-Economic Characteristics of Communities with Hazardous Waste Sites.  CRJ was founded in 1963 in response to the assassination of Black activist Medgar Evers, the Birmingham, Alabama church bombings and other tensions that gripped America as the modern civil rights movement began.  As the civil rights arm of a major U.S. Protestant denomination (the United Church of Christ), it has focused on many issues, but its environmental involvement began in 1982 when residents of predominately black Warren County in North Carolina asked for help in their fight against the state's siting there of a PCB dump.  Civil disobedience followed.  More than 500 were arrested, including Chavis.

"We began to ask why North Carolina chose a predominately black community to dump PCB's," recounted Chavis.  He began considering the connection between that siting, the Savannah River nuclear facility (long a source of radioactive leaks, also sited in a largely black area in South Carolina), and the "largest landfill in the nation," located in Emelle, Alabama, a community that is 80 percent black.  "Evidence of a systematic pattern," said Chavis, "led us to do a national study."

CRJ correlated the location of thousands of what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deemed "commercial hazardous waste facilities" (places
for treating, storing, or disposing of hazardous wastes) and "uncontrolled toxic waste sites" (closed and abandoned sites) and determined what was suspected: These places were often located in communities where non-whites are concentrated.

"We found it had to do with race," said Chavis.  Warren County's blacks were largely poor, but Emelle, Alabama, he noted, is home to many middle class blacks.  Race, not income, is the prime determinant in siting polluting facilities.  Their report also concluded:

 For commercial facilities....

* Communities with the greatest number of commercial hazardous waste facilities had the highest composition of ethnic residents.

* Although socio-economic status played an important role in the location of such facilities, race proved still more significant.  This
represented a consistent national pattern.

* Three of the five largest commercial hazardous waste landfills in the U.S. were located in predominantly black or Hispanic communities.

 For uncontrolled toxic waste sites:

       * Three of every five Black and Hispanic Americans lived in communities with one or more such sites.

* Blacks were heavily over-represented in metropolitan areas with the largest number of these sites.

* Los Angeles, California had more Hispanics living in communities with these sites than any other U.S. metropolitan area.

* Approximately half of all Asian/Pacific Islanders and American Indians lived in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites.

As Chavis prepared to present his report at the National Press Club, "I was trying to figure out how I could adequately describe what was going on," he
recalled.  "It came to me --- environmental racism."

Chavis defines environmental racism as "racial discrimination in environmental policymaking and the enforcement of regulations and laws, the
deliberate targeting of people of color communities for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of poisons and
pollutants in our communities, and the history of excluding people of color from leadership in the environmental movement."

On the latter point, former New Mexico governor Toney Anaya, an Hispanic-American and co-chair of the summit, says: "Environmental groups are
typically male-Anglo-dominated." And at the gathering, minorities made it clear that "We're going to be part of this process, too."  The aim was "empowerment."

Getting that message at the meeting were Sierra Club executive director Michael Fisher, and John Adams, director of the Natural Resources Defense
Council (NRDC).  Most such large, national environmental groups have had scant minorities in staff and leadership positions compared to their U.S. population numbers, and have paid inadequate attention to the relationship(s) between racism and the environment.  "We know we've been conspicuously missing from battles of environmental justice," said Fischer.  "We're here to reach across the table and build a bridge of partnership...or we risk becoming irrelevant."  Adams stated that the conference marked "a major turning point in the environmental movement...I can tell you, it'll change NRDC."

The tales of environmental racism, as told by people of color all across America, are horrific.  Increasingly, they are now fighting back.  Indeed, a CRJ paper issued at the summit stated: "There exists a prevalent perception among the general public that people of color have not expressed concern for the
environment and have not been active in addressing environmental issues.  This is a gross misconception...rooted in the narrow definition of environmental
issues advanced by traditional environmentalists and the media.  People of color have taken on environmental issues as community, labor, economic,
self-determination, and civil and political rights issues."


THERE ARE NO GARDENS IN ATGELD Gardens.  Residents of this 10,000-person project in Southeast Chicago say they wouldn't dare eat anything grown there -- it is surrounded with the most toxic facilities in all of Chicago and, no surprise, has one of the highest cancer rates in the U.S.  Hazel Johnson, mother of seven, tells of "lots of cancer, respiratory problems, birth deformities, babies born with brain tumors.  My daughter was five months pregnant.  The doctors found the baby had no behind, no head.  It had to be aborted."  Mrs. Johnson is sure that problems are the result of a surrounding hazardous waste incinerator that gives off PCB's; seven landfills, several chemical plants; a paint factory; lagoons filled with contaminants; and a sludge-drying facility which smells like "bodies decomposing."  Such facilities are concentrated here because it is largely inhabited by Blacks and Hispanics, says Mrs. Johnson, who's been fighting back as head of People for Community Recovery.  Working closely with Greenpeace, its tactics have included civil disobedience.

The African-American community of West Harlem in New York City has a sewage plant which regularly malfunctions as it processes 180 million gallons of sewage daily; two huge bus depots; a marine transfer station where garbage is collected for placement on barges; a six-lane highway; a commuter rail line where last year a young boy was killed; a highway that serves as a major route for hazardous waste through the city; and a crematorium.  "The stereotype of what environmentalism means is wildlife and open space preservation," says Peggy
Shepard, a leader of West Harlem Environmental Action.  "But urban environmental problems have existed for years."  Harlem has gotten these "exploitative" facilities because of its residents' color, she charges.  Her group fights back through litigation and political organizing, and seeks assistance from "larger environmental groups.  But when you don't have an integrated staff, organizational priorities aren't necessarily the priorities of communities of
color," she says.  "There has not been sufficient movement on urban environmental problems: incinerators, sewage treatment plants, polluting
factories, devastating occupational exposure."

More than 100 oil refineries and petrochemical plants line an 80-mile strip along the lower Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge,
Louisana.  They have so poisoned the land, air, and water that the area Blacks who predominate it call it "Cancer Alley," noted Pat Bryant, executive director of the Gulf Coast Tenant's Association (GTCA), at the summit.  A quarter of America's petrochemicals are produced in a corridor which is essentially a "national sacrifice area," he said.  The placement of toxic facilities in Black areas of the south goes back "hundreds of years," says Darryl Malek-Wiley, GTCA's research director.  The "industrial age" has given such sitings new and more terrible forms.  GTCA provides environmental courses and assists people fighting environmental hazards in their communities.  In 1989, it organized the "Great Louisana Toxics March," and is presently organizing to block siting of a new plastics plant.

Richard Moore is co-director of the Southwest Organization Project and was on the summit's national planning committee.  In his largely Hispanic neighborhood of Albuquerque, New Mexico, there is a a landfill, a pig farm, a dog food plant, a sewage treatment plant, and industrial facilities for Texaco,
Chevron, and GE.  "We have many people with cancer and leukemia in this neighborhood," he says, "sick children, many with blue baby syndrome.  We
shouldn't have to live in these conditions, amid these poisonous chemicals."

Says Moore: "We don't have the complexion for protection."  His organization is multi-ethnic, and covers all of New Mexico.  It stresses
door-to-door activity to build "strong organizations," and helps people exercise political muscle by doing non-partisan voter registration.  "We not only
register people, we turn them out to vote.  We also hold candidate accountability sessions, demonstrations, marches, petition drives, community
meetings, and meetings with public officials. You name it, we've done it, and it's borne fruit."  The group co-founded the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, which encompasses seven states.

Native Americans get dumped on, too.  Those concentrated in northeast Oklahoma are heavily impacted by a Seyquoyah Fuel Corporation facility that
produces nuclear plant fuel.  Seyquoyah has a long record of accidentally releasing radioactive waste.  And, with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
approval, it deliberately channels out 8 million gallons annually of its radioactive waste as a liquid fertilizer it calls "raffinate."  The company sells the fertilizer, and also uses it on 10,000 surrounding acres where cattle graze and where hay and corn are grown for feed.  Lance Hughes, director of
Native Americans for a Clean Environment (NACE) in Talequah, Oklahoma, tells of the "unusual cancers" and birth defects from "genetic mutation" in the area.  "It's pretty sad --- babies born without eyes, with brain cancers."  Wildlife is also born deformed: "We found a nine-legged frog, a two-headed fish and a four-legged chicken," says Hughes.  "The name of the game has been changed, but I would call it the same --- genocide."  NACE has been fighting back with litigation, education, and political action.

There are tens of thousands of Asian women employed in Silicon Valley, California.  Immigrant Asian women are sought for this work because of a
stereotypical view that they will be submissive, "won't rock the boat," says Young Shin, director of Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA), based in Oakland.  Meanwhile, the women --- mainly from Hong Kong, China, Korea, and Vietnam --- are desperate for work.  "They work in an environment using highly toxic chemicals," said Ms. Shin.  She tells of one woman who, after years in an electronics plant, came home one night, "collapsed and was paralyzed.  She's been bedridden ever since."  A connection to working conditions is suspected.

AIWA also assists the many Asian garment workers in the San Francisco area.  They labor in 1990's versions of turn-of-the-century "sweatshops," said Ms. Shin.  "The lighting is poor, eyesight suffers, many women have back problems."  Here, too, employers seeking a "vunerable" segment of the population target Asian women to labor under such conditions.  "It's environmental racism," says Ms. Shin.  For nine years, her group has educated Asian women about the poisons in their work places and helped them to "exercise their rights."


"IT'S NOT A POVERTY THING.  IT'S NOT a class thing," said Dr. Robert D. Bullard, a leading thinker on race and the environment, at the summit.  "It's racism, pure and simple."

Bullard, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside, is the author of the 1990 book Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and
Environmental Quality, which corroborates the CRJ report.  

He began researching environmental racism in 1978, while assisting his wife, an attorney, in a lawsuit to challenge the planned siting of a municipal
landfill in Northwood Manor, a Black "solid middle class" Houston, Texas neighborhood.  He quickly discovered that, since the 1920's, all five of
Houston's landfills and six of its eight incinerators were sited in Black neighborhoods.  

In a 1987 article in the Mid-American Review of Sociology, Bullard said: "Many industrial firms, especially (companies) that have a long history of
pollution violations, have come to view the Black community as pushovers, lacking community organization and environmental consciousness."  Further,
"Black and lower-income neighborhoods often occupy the 'wrong side of the tracks,' and subsequently receive different treatment when it comes to
enforcement of environmental regulations."  But, "Black communities, especially in the South, are just beginning to integrate environmental issues into
traditional civil rights agendas...Black organizations (are broadening) their definitions of civil rights to include air and water quality, hazardous wastes,
and other environmental issues."

Bullard's Dumping in Dixie concludes: "Limited housing and residential options, combined with discriminatory facility practices, have contributed to
the imposition of all types of toxins on Black communities...Industries have generally followed the path of least resistance, which has been in economically
poor and politically powerless Black communities."  And because of housing bias, "increased income has not enabled many Blacks to escape the threat of unwanted land use."

Bullard also tells of how Blacks in Houston, and Dallas; Alsen, Louisana; Institute, West Virgina; and Emelle, Alabama "have taken on corporate giants who would turn their area into toxic wastelands."  He is enthused by the emergence of "literally hundreds of environmental justice groups made up of people of color."


ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM HAS BEEN going on a long time, says Charles Lee, CRJ's research director and an Asian American.  Lee tells the story of the "worst recorded occupational disaster in U.S. history," at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia.  "During the 1930's, hundreds of African-American workers from the South were brought in by the New Kanawha Power Company, a subsidiary of Union Carbide, to dig the Hawk's Nest tunnel.  Over two years, 500 workers died and 1,500 were disabled from silicosis, a disease similar to Black Lung.  Men literally dropped dead on their feet breathing air so thick with microscopic silica that they could not see more than a yard in front of them.  Those who came out for air were beaten back with ax handles.  At subsequent congressional hearings, New Kanawha's contractor revealed, 'I knew I was going to kill these
niggers, but I didn't know it was going to be this soon.'"

Lee says environmental racism is best seen in such historical contexts: "Exploitation of people of color has taken the form of genocide, chattel
slavery, indentured servitude and racial discrimination --- in employment, housing, and practically all aspects of life.  Today we suffer from the remnants
of this sordid history, as well as from new and institutionalized forms of racism, facilitated by the massive post-World War II expansion of the
petrochemical industry."

Another way of committing environmental murder is nuclear technology.  

Gregory Johnson is co-director of the Washington DC-based Blacks Against Nukes, an educational center of environmental safety information.  Johnson speaks of the nuclear industry's drive to co-opt and exploit African-Americans.  It routinely contributes to Black organizations and puts Blacks on its boards while claiming nuclear power creates jobs in Black communities.  "They speaknothing of radiation hazards and nuclear waste which, like chemical waste, is diproportionately dumped in communities of color."  As for jobs, many are for"nuclear jumpers"--- people who "go into plants and are paid to expose themselves to radioactive substances.  They will be paid $100 to twist a screw. But these jobs don't last long.  One is allowed only so much exposure to nuclearmaterials."

CRJ five years ago demanded change.  Their report firmly concludes that"hazardous wastes in Black, Hispanic, and other racial and ethnic communities should be made a priority issue at all levels of government.  This issue is not currently at the forefront of the nation's attention.  Concerned citizens and policymakers who are cognizant of this problem must make this a priority."  It called for the U.S. president "to mandate federal agencies to consider the impact of current policies and regulations on racial and ethnic communities"; state governments "to evaluate and make appropriate revisions in their criteria for the siting of new hazardous waste facilities, to adequately take into account the racial and socio-economic characteristics of potential host communities"; the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Conference of Black Mayors and the National League of Cities "to convene a national conference to address these issues from a municipal perspective"; and civil rights and political organizations to "gear up voter registration campaigns as a means to further empower racial and ethnic communities to effectively respond to hazardous waste issues..."

Government has been moving at a snail's pace.  EPA director William Reilly did not even appear at the summit --- a spokesperson said his schedule was "prohibitive."  The EPA has "utter disrespect for what is happening in our communities," declared Rev. Chavis, after sending Reilly a "blistering letter."

The EPA, however, four months afterwards, in January 1992, announced it was researching to see whether there was a concentration of toxic facilities in minority communities --- a fact CRJ had long ago established --- as part of its new emphasis on "environmental equity."  That came with press disclosure of an EPA draft report which said, "Although there are clear differences between ethnic groups for disease and death rates, there are virtually no data to document the environmental contributions to these diseases."  George Colling of the Sierra Club commented, "No new data is needed, just a political will and commitment in the face of intensive lobbying by companies that are making money."

Indeed, Robert Wolcott, the EPA official heading the committee, asked, "How many times does a tree have to fall before you admit you heard it."

SOME MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL groups are moving to clean up their racial and ethnic acts, jointly setting up an "Environmental Consortium for Minority Outreach" in Washington, DC.  Says Frederick P. Sutherland, executive director of the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund: "We're very sensitive to this issue, and we're moving heaven and Earth to bring minorities into staff and leadership positions."

In 1990, coalitions of minority activists --- led by Moore and Chavis --- sent letters to national environmental organizations protesting the lack of
minority representation on their staffs.

Some notable groups, Greenpeace, the National Toxics Campaign (NTC) and Earth Island Institute (EII), have stressed minority involvement and
environmental racism all along.  John O'Conner, NTC's founder and executive director, says: "For the environmental movement to be successful...it must include all races, ethnic groups, rich and poor, Black and White, and young and old.  Once our movement to clean up the nation is truly a reflection of all
people in the country, we will succeed."

For two years, EII's president has been Carl Anthony, a Black architect long interested in environmental issues.  He is a professor at the College of
Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley where he teaches a course in Race, Poverty, and the Environment.

Most environmental groups have had an "elitist perspective," says Anthony.  But now he sees change because of a "grassroots constituency which is
challenging them.  EII is very interested in issues at two ends of the spectrum: global warming, ozone, global resource depletion; and the negative environmental impacts on communities of poor people and people of color.  To bring these two concerns together," says Anthony, "we have to develop a new kind of leadership in communities of color, to address the needs of our communities...in making a transition to more sustainable urban patterns."

Anthony, present at the summit, described as "really incredible" its diversity.  "I think it has set the stage for the 1990's," he said.  "It has set
out the challenges and opportunities for communities of color and the nation as a whole."

George T. Frampton, Jr., president of The Wilderness Society, a major environmental group which is attempting to become more inclusive, says: "One
inescapable truth about the degradation of our environment has received very little attention: those least able to get out of harms's way are people of color.  A monochromatic movement cannot ultimately mobilize the broad-based political support required for the radical environmental policies that our
society so urgently needs."


THERE ARE SOME IN WHITE AMERICA who would deny environmental racism exists.  The Houston Post editorialized: "Environmental Racism? Crying Wolf Will Hurt Real Discrimination Charges."  The newspaper claimed that "if examined closely, it appears that toxic dumps follow cheap land.  White people also have been victims...Just look at Brio, Love Canal, and Times Beach."  As for the conference, "These folks are crying wolf.  That's too bad --- because pretty soon, legitimate charges of racism may be at risk of going unheeded, simply because so many people claim racism around every corner.  It often isn't there."

Leading up to the summit were other important events tackling environmental racism.  At the National Minority Health Conference in 1990, in Atlanta, the Washington, DC-based Panos Institute issued a report, We Speak for Ourselves: Social Justice, Race, and Environment.  "Organizing for environmental justice among people of color," said the report, "has grown from a small group of activists in the 1970's to a movement involving thousands of people in neighborhoods throughout the U.S.  Although these groups might not be identified as 'environmental,' they have nevertheless made environmental issues a priority in their work..."

At that gathering, sponsored by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and others, and attended by 300 community leaders, physicians, and government officials, Dr. Aubrey F. Manley, deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said, "Poor and minority people should not have to bear the responsibility for a mess they haven't made."  

In 1990, CRJ organized a workshop on race and environment for the Congressional Black Caucus whose members, incidentally, area rated by the League of Conservation Voters as having among the best pro-environmental voting records.

Also in 1990, Jesse Jackson, along with NTC's John O'Conner and Earth Day organizer Dennis Hayes, made a week-long tour of environmental racism hotspots, ending in "Cancer Alley."  "There is a relationship between environment and empowerment," declared Jackson on that tour.  "Corporations must not be allowed to use job blackmail to poison poor people, be they black, brown, yellow, red,
or white.  We demand that all corporate poisoners stop the poisoning of our communities.  We can have safe jobs without pollution if we organize."

AIWA's Young Shin declared during the summit that the "racist policies of industry" must be changed in order to "achieve environmental justice.  We need the support of a progressive, all-inclusive environmental movement."

That course has now been set.

(KARL GROSSMAN is a journalism professor at the State University of New York,Old Westbury.)

 

MinutemanMedia 

NASA FINALLY ADMITS PLUTONIUM DANGERS


OCTOBER 4, 2006

By Karl Grossman

For years, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said it couldn’t be done. Beyond the orbit of Mars, NASA said, solar energy could not be used to generate electricity for onboard power on space missions.

So the agency used the extremely dangerous nuclear substance, plutonium, as fuel in electric generating systems—and people on Earth were put at great risk in the event of an accident.

For instance, in 1997, NASA launched its Cassini plutonium-fueled space probe and in 1999 had Cassini hurtle back at Earth in a “slingshot maneuver” to increase its velocity so it could get to Saturn. If there was what NASA called an “inadvertent reentry” of Cassini into the Earth’s atmosphere during the “slingshot maneuver” just a few hundred miles up, it would disintegrate and “5 billion…of the world population…could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure,” NASA admitted in its “Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission.”

Premature deaths from a Cassini accident were put by Dr. Ernest Sternglass, professor emeritus of radiological physics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, at 20 million to 40 million.

And this is not a sky-is-falling story. Of 28 U.S. space missions using plutonium, there have been three accidents, the worst in 1964 in which a plutonium-powered satellite fell back to Earth, breaking up and spreading the toxic radioactive substance widely. Dr. John Gofman, professor emeritus of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, has long connected that accident to a lung cancer increase on earth.

That caused NASA to develop solar power for satellites—and today all satellites (and the International Space Station) are energized by solar panels. But insisted NASA, in deep space, sunlight is too weak and solar energy could not work; only plutonium could.

Now the leading space industry trade magazine, “Aviation Week & Space Technology,” reveals that solar energy is to be used by NASA to substitute for nuclear power in deep space. The recent article began:

“Budget and technical realities have led NASA to put its once-ambitious space nuclear power plans on a slow track, but development in solar power generation should allow new scientific probes beyond Mars to operate without nuclear energy. The U.S. space agency is already planning a solar-powered mission to study the atmosphere of Jupiter, and has looked at sending probes as deep into space as Neptune using only the Sun’s energy for spacecraft and instrument power…It is all but certain the next U.S. deep-space missions will be solar-powered.”

The piece went on describe the new giant solar energy systems that will be used to harvest solar energy at record efficiencies vast distances from the Sun.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, comments that “for years NASA said that the Global Network didn't know what we were talking about  

when it came to solar power working in deep space. Now NASA is planning to do what we've been saying all along it could do. It just goes to show that if you are willing to stay on-top of an issue for a long time that something good can come from your hard work."

Jeremy Maxand, executive director of the Snake River Alliance, an Idaho group that’s been challenging the use of Idaho National Laboratory to produce plutonium for space power systems, says, “It’s good to see plutonium space batteries following in the steps of the now demoted planet Pluto. We've said since day one that plutonium is unnecessary and dangerous, and that we can do the same job a better way, and now we're seeing what that better way is—solar."

What’s to happen in space is what should also happen on Earth. The Bush administration and nuclear industry are pushing for a “revival” of nuclear power.

We don’t need to take the enormous risk of building new nuclear plants—or having nuclear poisons over our heads. Safe energy technologies are here.

--

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, is the author of “The Wrong Stuff” (Common Courage Press) and narrator of the TV documentary “Nukes In Space” (www.envirovideo.com). 

 

Special to CorpWatch

 

Nuclear Renaissance or Nuclear Nightmare?

Thought the Nuclear Power Industry was Dead? Guess again. The Bush Administration is Breathing New Life into Commercial Nukes.

October 23rd, 2002


By Karl Grossman

Last month, nuclear industry executives and U.S. government officials got together in Washington, D.C. for a conference called "The Nuclear Renaissance"-- a gathering boosting a comeback of commercial nuclear power in the U.S.

"Renaissance" has replaced "revival" as the word being used by nuclear proponents in the U.S. and around the world to describe their desired recovery of the nuclear industry. There has not been an order of a new nuclear power plant in the U.S. since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident shattered public trust in nuclear technology. The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster damaged confidence in atomic energy worldwide. But the nuclear industry and its allies in government are back for a "renaissance."

In March 2003 there will be a Nuclear Renaissance Forum in Chicago sponsored by the nuclear plant manufacturers Framatome and Westinghouse. A few days before last months Washington meeting, the World Nuclear Association Annual Symposium in London featured a session on "Nuclear Renaissance."


Russia and the US have teamed up to launch a new 'Atoms for Peace and Prosperity' Program.

-- Dr. Andrei Gagarinski, Kurchatov Institute, Russia


At the session, Dr. Andrei Gagarinski, director of international affairs at Russias Kurchatov Institute, said his atomic research facility had teamed with the U.S. Department of Energy-owned Sandia National Laboratories to put together "a new Atoms for Peace and Prosperity Program." The program was considered at President George Bushs summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in May, according to Gagarinski.

In the U.K. in August, Robin Jeffrey, chairman of British Energy, called for a "nuclear renaissance" telling the British Nuclear Engineering Society that "working in partnership [we can] create a financial and commercial framework for a programme of new build."

Nuclear Globalization

Meanwhile, as it prepares for its hoped-for "renaissance," the nuclear industry has globalized:

  • British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. has purchased Westinghouse (the worlds largest reactor manufacturer) and ABB/Combustion Engineering (itself the product of an earlier merger of the Swedish ABB and the U.S. corporation Combustion Engineering).
  • Siemens, the largest reactor builder in Germany, and Framatome, with a monopoly on construction of French reactors, announced their intent to merge most aspects of their nuclear businesses.
  • General Electric (the world's second largest reactor manufacturer after Westinghouse) joined with Mitsubishi to build new atomic plants in Japan.
  • Minatom, the giant Russian state-owned nuclear entity, is moving to build new nuclear plants in Russia and internationally.

A handful of giant multinational energy corporations are positioning themselves to become "the robber barons of the 2lst Century," says Michael Mariotte, Executive Director of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service/World Information Service on Energy-Amsterdam (NIRS-WISE Amsterdam). Mariotte added that "perhaps no industry is embracing globalization quite so fervently," in a field "where the stakes are highest, where the threats to all life are most at risk."

Paul Gunter, head of the organizations Reactor Watchdog Project, who attended the "Nuclear Renaissance" conference in Washington, said rather than a renaissance, what is involved is "a relapse into the failed nuclear energy policy" of the past.

George W. Bush: Nuclear President


"If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear is really is good."

-- Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill


The "renaissance" also now comes with what Mariotte says "may be the most ardently pro-nuclear power presidency in U.S. history." The Bush administrations stance on nuclear power is aggressive and minimizes the dangers of atomic technology. As Bushs Secretary of Treasury Paul ONeill has told The Wall Street Journal, "If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear is really is good."

The administration struck a close working relationship with the nuclear industry well before taking office. Its energy "transition" advisors included:

  • Joseph Colvin, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the lead nuclear industry-funded trade group.
  • J. Bennett Johnston who as a senator was a leading
    pro-nuclear power figure in Congress and now runs a consulting firm that assists the nuclear industry.
  • Thomas Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute and former head of the American Nuclear Energy Council, forerunner of the NEI, and a friend of Bush going back to their days at Yale Representatives of four U.S. utilities involved with nuclear power.

Two weeks after being sworn in, Bush set up a "National Energy Policy Development Group" and appointed Vice President Dick Cheney as its chairman. Its members included ONeill and Andrew Lundquist, who also coordinated the energy "transition" team was named executive director.

"The National Energy Policy Development Group supports the expansion of nuclear energy in the United States as a major component of our National Energy Policy," declared the group's report, issued ten weeks later.

"America," said Bush in unveiling the plan, should "expand a clean and unlimited source of energy: nuclear power."

This National Energy Policy whose recommendations were discussed at length at the Nuclear Renaissance conference - would substantially increase the use of nuclear power in the U.S. both by building new nuclear power plants many on existing nuclear plant sites, and extending the 40-year licenses of currently operating plants by another 20 years each.

Nukes: Exception to the War on Terrorism?

Some observers might think the September 11th terrorist attacks -- and the reported plans by Al Qaeda to strike at U.S. nuclear plants -- might hold up plans for a "nuclear renaissance."

But Richard A. Meserve, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), struck positive notes at the Nuclear Renaissance conference at which he was a keynote speaker. The NRC was created in 1975 to impartially regulate nuclear power replacing the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, which Congress deemed to be in conflict of interest being set up to both promote and regulate nuclear power.

"First, the physical protection at nuclear power plants was strong before September 11th. I am aware of no other industry that has had to satisfy the tough requirements that the NRC has had in place for a quarter of a century," stated Meserve.

"Secondly, there have been no specific credible threats of a terrorist attack on nuclear power plants since September 11th," he added.

"Third" Meserve concluded, "in light of the events of September 11th, the NRC has recognized the need to reexamine past security strategies to ensure that we have the right protections in place for the long term."

"The agency could not have presented the situation farther from the truth," noted Gunter of the Reactor Watchdog Project. "Before September 11th, the industry and NRC were mired in an endless dialogue on security deficiencies and the rising cost of safeguarding nuclear power place for the long term."

"The agency could not have presented the situation farther from the truth," noted Gunter of the Reactor Watchdog Project. "Before September 11th, the industry and NRC were mired in an endless dialogue on security deficiencies and the rising cost of safeguarding nuclear power plants" he said. And federal security exercises conducted since 1991 led to "failing grades" half the time, according to Gunter.

Gunter said that after the September 11th attacks, the NRC closed down its formal security exercise program. "The vulnerability of attacks from the air and the water were never evaluated," he explained.

"Contrary to Dr. Meserves remarks, nuclear power plants remain both structurally and programmatically vulnerable to sophisticated and premeditated acts of terrorism," according to the head of the watchdog group.

Corporate Welfare

Also making a presentation at the "Nuclear Renaissance" conference was Westinghouse Vice President for New Plants Ernie H. Kennedy who described "the post-TMI phase" for the nuclear industry as a "collapse of new plant orders, cancellation of existing orders" and "sharply increasing O&M [operation and maintenance] costs." But, he said, the nuclear industry in the 1990s had been busy "getting the house in order" and "preparing for the renaissance 2000s." Now, said Mr. Kennedy, there is "slow but sustained improvement in public acceptance" and "improved political support."

Gail H. Marcus, Bush administration appointee as principal deputy director of the U.S. Department of Energy, who is also president of the pro-industry American Nuclear Society, began her presentation by quoting from report of the National Energy Policy Development Group. She said new nuclear power plants would be built under a "cost-shared" arrangement between the federal government and utilities. This will be combined, she said, with the Department of Energys "Early Site Permit" or expedited nuclear plant process on three projects soon to be advanced.

The "cost-shared" and "Early Site Permit" arrangements will be initially used in construction by:

  • Dominion Energy for new nuclear plant at the current North Anna nuclear plant site in Virginia.
  • Entergy for a new nuclear plant at the Grand Gulf nuclear plant site in Mississippi.
  • Excelon for a new nuclear plant at the Clinton nuclear plant site in Illinois.

Marcus said the new plants were expected to come on line by 2005 and some, or all, of the "advanced" nuclear plant would be deployed by 2010.

The Lone Dissenter

The sponsors of The Nuclear Renaissance Conference -- Framatome, Canadian reactor manufacturer AECL Technologies, Winston & Strawn, a Washington law firm that represents clients involved with nuclear power, and EXCEL, a provider of services for U.S. and international commercial nuclear power facilities -- allowed one anti-nuclear advocate to make a presentation.


"The real question is: How should the nuclear industry be held responsible for the health and environmental disasters that it has created?"

-- Winonah Hauter, Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, Public Citizen


Winonah Hauter, director of the Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program at Ralph Naders Public Citizen, spoke as part of a panel discussion titled "How Should the Environmental Benefits of Nuclear Assets Be Valued?"

"The answer to the question about valuing the benefits of nuclear assets is simple. There are none," Hauter stated. Then she fired off questions of her own.

"The real questions that should have been asked at this conference is: How should the nuclear industry be held responsible for and required to bear the full cost of the health and environmental disasters that it has created? Why are our government agencies lapdogs for the industry? How has the industry bought public policy?"

As to the claim of nuclear proponents at the conference that atomic plants assist in offsetting global warming, Hauter pointed out that the nuclear fuel cycle creates a vast amount of greenhouse gases.

"An elaborate energy-intensive process of uranium mining, milling and enrichment must take place before the fuel rods can even be fabricated. All of these processes use massive quantities of fossil fuels. The manufacture and construction of reactors require more fossil fuels. And [as to] the back end of the fuel cycleif the industry is successful in dumping waste on the unwilling citizens of Nevadait will take more fossil fuel to move thousands of shipments."

"And even if nuclear energy didnt use fossil fuel," she went on "the regular radiation releases from plants would way offset any benefit."

Hauter challenged the industry public relations campaign promoting nuclear energy as a "clean" alternative to fossil fuels. "Nuclear power plants are not cost-effective, which means they can only be built if nuclear corporations are allowed special dispensation from the government. Let me put that more clearly: the industry has to feed at the trough of taxpayer money to survive. So the industry is looking for new ways to justify its existence."

Activists Crash the Party

The Nuclear Renaissance Conference received uninvited guests, too. Activists from Greenpeace crashed the conference with a 200-pound ice sculpture depicting a nuclear plant melting. Carved into the ice statue were the words No New Nukes.

"Greeenpeace is putting plans for any nuclear renaissance on ice" said Jim Riccio, nuclear policy analyst for Greenpeace. "Despite benefiting from millions of dollars of government subsidies, nuclear power plants are still too expensive to build, too dangerous to operate and too vulnerable to potential terrorist attacks."

The activists also distributed a broadside at the conference called The No New Nukes Times. A New York Times-like front page featured stories with headlines such as, "Once Touted As Too Cheap To Meter Now Too Costly to Matter" and "Dr. Strangelove Hands Plutonium Over to Homer Simpson."

Conference attendee Gunter of NIRS/WISE Amsterdam commented that in order to bring about a "renaissance" the nuclear industry faces a number of obstacles. Chief among them he cited "increased public mistrust and growing opposition to a proliferation of new nukes."

"The meltdown of the industry plans hatched in the early 1970s to build a thousand reactors by the year 2000 was in large part the result of a public unwilling to swallow the lies of nuclear industrialists and their political cronies," said Gunter.

"New construction on the enormous scale the industry must contemplate will provide the anti-nuclear movement with the opportunity to raise concerns over the vulnerability and costs of security, the proliferation of an already unmanageable nuclear waste problem and the inherent risk of an accident associated with the most expensive and dangerous process conceivable for boiling water to make electricity" according to the head of the watchdog group.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, is the author of books on nuclear technology including Cover Up: What You ARE NOT Supposed To Know About Nuclear Power and host of numerous television programs on atomic energy available from EnviroVideo.

 

Extra!

Articles, Publisher Has Meltdown; Editor Is Nuked, Karl Grossman

Publisher Has Meltdown; Editor Is Nuked

November/December 1991

By Karl Grossman

An investigative series on the Los Alamos National Laboratory by the Santa Fe New Mexican resulted in the sacking of the daily newspaper's managing editor who edited the series, and a moratorium on nuclear technology stories by the newspaper.

The editor, David N. Mitchell told EXTRA! that due to the legal settlement reached after his dismissal, he was "constrained" from saying that he was fired because of "the publisher's concern that the series this paper did at my direction on the disposal of radioactive and chemical wastes by Los Alamos National Laboratory was unbalanced." But the sequence of events is clear.

The Santa Fe New Mexican conducted a three-month investigation of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)a huge facility created during World War II to develop the atom bomb, now owned by the U.S. Department of Energy. The findings of the investigation ran in 30 articles over six days, in a series entitled "Fouling the Nest" beginning Feb. 17, 1991. "The $2 Billion Mess" was the headline of the first account of the series, subheaded 'Daunting Task to Clean Up 48 Years of Neglect, Accidents Just Beginning.'

The series, written by Thom Coler.Kelly Richmond described contamination of the community and increased leukemia risk. The series said that more than 1,000 Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) workers were exposed to radiation last year, including seven who inhaled or ingested plutonium. Follow-up editorials criticized "business-as-usual" officials and scientists.

Unfortunately for Mitchell, Robert McKinney, the New Mexican's Virginia-based publisher, has long been involved in promoting nuclear technology. McKinney chaired a congressional panel on the "Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy", and represented the U.S. at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Robert McKinney is also known for meddling in news content. A story on affordable housing problems was killed by the out-of-town publisher (Washington Post, 10/5/91), who allegedly told Mitchell there were no such problems in Santa Fe, just "people trying to live beyond their means."

Shortly after the Los Alamos nuclear series ran, an angry McKinney met with laboratory director Siegfried S. Heckler, who had already written a guest column for the paper charging that the "negative tone of this series portrayed an inaccurate view of the laboratory."

This meeting resulted in the inclusion of a 27-page supplement in the New Mexican, prepared by the laboratory, the Sunday after the series ran. "Los Alamos National Laboratory pursues its environmental, safety, health and security responsibilities with the same spirit it applies to its scientific work," it began. The same day, McKinney ran a "publisher's note" explaining that he had "devoted much of his life to 'The Peaceful Atom.'" He called nuclear power "a vast, clean and safe alternative source of energy for our country's future."

Further, a former director of the laboratory, Dr. Harold Agnew, was given another guest column to attack the series, saying he "never realized to what depth reporters would stoop to misrepresent facts in order to promote their own prejudices." He criticized the journalists for using "as references such known anti-nuclear activists as John Gofman, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with other unnamed local self-proclaimed experts. These individuals have made a career out of nuclear-bashing."

As for nuclear contamination, "any activity creates wastes," argued Agnew. "Making a dinner salad, baking a pie, burning coal, cleaning bed pans in a hospital and handling nuclear materials. Nuclear wastes are no more dangerous than many other wastes."

On May 31, the Albuquerque Journal North broke the story of Mitchell's firing. The Santa Fe Reporter (6/5/91), an alternative weekly, uncovered other changes in the wake of the Los Alamos series: "New Mexican reporters have been forbidden to cover stories about the nuclear industry, Los Alamos and even the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad," a hotly controversial proposed nuclear waste depository.

Six months after the series ran, according to the Washington Post (10/5/91), an internal Los Alamos report criticized its own safety record and "essentially confirmed much of what had been in the paper's February series."

In Crosswinds, a monthly New Mexican journal (6/91), Stephen Kress wrote that Mitchell's firing "illustrates the hazards of promoting independent reporting that runs counter to the owner's philosophy." Special projects reporter Thom Cole was shifted to desk duties; co-author Kelly Richmond resigned. At age 55, veteran journalist Mitchell is out of work. "I'm searching for employment," he told EXTRA! If Mitchell or the two investigative reporters hoped to get any formal recognition for their efforts, they're out of luck. Publisher McKinney has ordered that the series not be nominated for any journalism prizes.

Space4peace.org

Nukes-in-Space in Columbia's Wake NASA broadens its nuclear power in space program with Project Prometheus 

February 5, 2003

By Karl Grossman


The Columbia shuttle disaster came just as NASA was pushing to greatly broaden its program to use nuclear power in space. This includes the development of a  nuclear-propelled rocket—a project that NASA spent billions of dollars on in the 1950s and 1960s until it was canceled because of concerns that such a nuclear rocket crashing to earth. The new space nuclear power scheme, called Project Prometheus, is a broadening of the NASA Nuclear Systems Initiative—on which $1 billion is to be spent over five years—that began last year. In addition to a nuclear- powered rocket, NASA is planning an additional plutonium-energized space probe and to put atomic power to other space uses including the launching of planetary rovers with nuclear systems. 

This May and June NASA is planning to launch two rockets from Florida carrying rovers to be landed on Mars equipped with heaters powered by plutonium. The Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power In Space (www.speace4peace.org) has been conducting demonstrations to protest these launches. 

NASA’s Environmental Impact Statement for the Mars Exploration Rover-2003 Project says, “the overall chance of an accident occurring” for each launch “is about 1 in 30” and “the overall chance of any accident that releases radioactive materials to the environment is about 1 in 230.” People “offsite in the downwind direction...could inhale small quantities of radionuclides,” says NASA’s statement. An area as far as 60 kilometers from the launch site could be impacted, says NASA. 

“These and other NASA space shots involving materials must be canceled in the wake of the Columbia disaster and safe space energy systems be used instead,” declares Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network. 

The Nuclear Systems Initiative was described as “a new element” in NASA’s “space science program by O’Keefe in testimony before the House of Representatives Committee on Science last February. 

“Nuclear propulsion greatly increases mission flexibility, enabling new science missions, more in-depth investigations, and greater flexibility in reaching and exploring distant objects,” he told the committee. 

In the weeks before the Columbia disaster, O’Keefe was stepping up the promotion of nukes in space. “We’re talking about doing something on a very aggressive schedule to not only develop the capabilities for nuclear propulsion and power generation but to have a mission using the new technology within this decade,” he told the Los Angeles Times of January 17. 

Last month, ESA got set to launch a solar-powered space probe called Rosetta with all its on-board electricity coming from solar cells with record-high 25 percent efficiency. It was to fly beyond Jupiter to rendezvous with a comet called Wirtanen. 

Problems with an ESA rocket caused the mission to be scrubbed. Rosetta is to be, notes ESA, “the first space mission to journey beyond the main asteroid belt and rely solely on solar cells for power generation, rather than traditional radioisotope thermal generators” (the plutonium systems NASA favors for its space probes). It would gather sunlight way out in space. “After a 5.3 billion km space odyssey, Rosetta will make first contact with Wirtanen about 675 million km from the sun,” explained ESA. “At this distance, sunlight is 20 times weaker than on earth.” NASA has a division—its Photovoltaics and Space Environment Branch headquartered at the John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland—which, like ESA, has been working on space solar energy development. There is no “edge” or limit to solar power, says a scientist at the branch, Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis, on its website. “In the long term, solar arrays won’t have to rely on the sun. We’re investigating the concept of using lasers to beam photons to solar arrays. If you make a powerful-enough laser and can aim the beam, there really isn’t any edge of sunshine.” 

Solar energy technologies are being used now to propel spacecraft. NASA’s Deep Space 1 probe, launched in 1998, is the first space probe to be propelled with solar electric propulsion, a system through which electricity collected by panels is concentrated and used to accelerate the movement of propellant out a thrust chamber. 

There are “solar sails” utilizing ionized particles emitted by the sun, which constitute a force in space. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is considering a launch, at the end of the decade, of a space probe to Pluto using either solar sails or solar electric propulsion. A space device with solar sails built in Russia for the International Planetary Society was launched in 2001. 

In contrast, NASA’s renewed emphasis on nuclear power in space “is not only dangerous, but politically unwise,” says Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York. “The only thing that can kill the U.S. space program is a nuclear disaster. The American people will not tolerate a Chernobyl in the sky. That would doom the space program.” 

“NASA hasn’t learned its lesson from its history involving space nuclear power,” says Kaku, “and a hallmark of science is that you learn from previous mistakes. NASA doggedly pursues its fantasy of nuclear power in space. We have to save NASA from itself.” He cites “alternatives” space nuclear power. “Some of these alternatives may delay the space program a bit. But the planets are not going to go away. What’s the rush? I’d rather explore the universe slower than not at all if there is a nuclear disaster.” 

Dr. Ross McCluney, a former NASA scientist now principal research scientist at the Florida Solar Energy Center, says NASA’s push for the use of nuclear power in space is “an example of tunnel vision, focusing too narrowly on what appears to be a good engineering solution, but not on the longer-term human and environmental risks and the law of unintended consequences. You think you’re in control of everything and then things happen beyond your control. If your project is inherently benign, an unexpected error can be tolerated. But when you have at your project’s core something inherently dangerous, then the consequences of unexpected failures can be great.”  Jack Dixon, for 30 years an aerospace engineer in the U.S., takes issue with those against nuclear power in space for being critical of it for “politically correct,” anti-nuclear reasons. His criticism is cost—what he says is an enormous cost. The solar sail system “may be implemented at about 10% of the cost of nuclear and quickly.” It is “simple and relatively low tech.” 

Yet despite the costs, dangers, and the advances in solar energy technologies and other safe forms of power for use in space, NASA would stress nuclear power. The situation is not so different from how the Bush administration has been pushing to “revive” nuclear power on earth despite the availability today of safe, clean, economic, renewable energy technologies. Like terrestrial atomic power, space nuclear power has a problematic past. 

Early U.S. space satellites were powered by plutonium. The first nuclear satellite was Transit 4A, a navigational satellite launched on June 29, 1961.  It was a time when space and nuclear power were seen by some as coupled. Space exploration “in large measure depends upon the common destiny of space and the atom,” former U.S. Senator Albert Gore—a parent of the former U.S. vice president—declared in a 1962 Senate speech. Importantly, Oak Ridge National Laboratory is in Gore’s home state. Oak Ridge and the other U.S. nuclear laboratories then and to this day have promoted the development of space atomic power as a means of expanding their activities, to bring in more work. Gore, a member of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, advocated nuclear-powered rockets and atomic power “for a wide variety of miscellaneous functions in space.... Nuclear energy is essential for leadership in space.” 

Along with the national nuclear laboratories—set up during the World War II atom bomb-building Manhattan Project and thereafter run by the Atomic Energy Commission, now the Department of Energy—the corporations involved in building space nuclear systems have also been active in promoting their use. The Transit 4A’s plutonium system was manufactured by General Electric.  

Then there was a serious accident involving a plutonium-energized satellite. On April 24, 1964, the GE-built Transit 5BN with a SNAP-9A (SNAP for Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power) system on-board failed to achieve orbit and fell from the sky, disintegrating as it burned in the atmosphere. The 2.1 pounds of Plutonium-238 (an isotope of plutonium 280 times “hotter” with radioactivity than the Plutonium-239 used in atomic and hydrogen bombs) in the SNAP-9A dispersed widely over the earth. A study titled “Emergency Preparedness for Nuclear-Powered Satellites” done by a grouping of European health and radiation protection agencies later reported, “a worldwide soil sampling program carried out in 1970 showed SNAP-9A debris present at all continents and at all latitudes.” 

Long connecting the SNAP-9A accident and an increase of lung cancer on earth has been Dr. John Gofman, professor emeritus of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, who was involved in isolating plutonium for the Manhattan Project and co-discovered several radioisotopes. 

The SNAP-9A accident caused NASA to become a pioneer in developing solar photovoltaic energy technology. In recent decades, all U.S. satellites have been solar-powered. So is the International Space Station. But NASA continued to use plutonium-powered systems for a series of space probe missions claiming solar power could not be effectively gathered by space probes beyond the orbit of Mars. 

The ill-fated shuttle Challenger was to launch a plutonium-fueled space probe in its next planned mission in 1986. The Ulysses space probe, with 24.2 pounds of plutonium fuel, was to be sent off from Challenger, once it achieved orbit for a survey of the sun. 

The most recent NASA nuclear space probe mission was called Cassini. It was launched in 1997 with more plutonium fuel—72.3 pounds—than on any previous space device. NASA conceded the dangers of a Cassini accident in its “Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission.” Although its destination was Saturn, Cassini did not have enough power to get it directly there, so NASA devised a “flyby” or “slingshot maneuver” using the earth. Cassini was to be sent from space hurtling back at Earth and then, just several hundred miles high, whip around Earth to pick up the additional velocity so it could make it to Saturn. The NASA EIS for Cassini said that on this “flyby” if an “inadvertent reentry occurred” and Cassini fell back to earth, it would break up in the earth’s 75-mile high atmosphere (it had no heat shield) and “5 billion of the…world population…could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure” from the plutonium dust that would rain down. In areas seriously contaminated, NASA said actions would include: “Remove and dispose all vegetation, Remove and dispose topsoil. Relocate animals. Bn future agricultural land uses.” For urban environments, “Demolish some or all structures. Relocate affected population permanently.” Dr. Gofman estimated the toll from cancer from such a Cassini accident as 950,000 people dead. Although Cassini did get past the earth successfully on its 1999 “flyby,” six weeks later NASA’s Mars Climate Observer, on a pass over Mars, crashed into the Martian atmosphere and disintegrated. NASA attributed the mishap to human error—one of its teams calculated the planned altitude of the spacecraft in feet, the other in meters, and it came in too low.  The U.S. nuclear-propelled rocket program began at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1950s with building of the Kiwi reactor for what became known as the NERVA— for Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application—program. Projects Pluto, Rover, Poodle and Orion to build nuclear-powered rockets followed. 

Westinghouse was a major contractor in these nuclear rocket efforts. A former Westinghouse president, John W. Simpson, acknowledged in his 1994 book on the history of the company (Nuclear Power from Underseas to Outer Space) how to get the government contracts, “believe me, we pulled out all the stops—not only technical effort but also marketing and political savvy.” 

Ground tests of nuclear rocket components were conducted. But no nuclear-propelled rocket ever flew and because of the catastrophe that could result if a nuclear-powered rocket crashed to earth, the government ended the program. Now in 2003 we would rocket back to the past. 

Gagnon says: “Serious questions need to be asked: Where will they test the nuclear rocket? How much will it cost? What would be the impacts of a launch accident? These nuclearization of space plans are getting dangerous and out of control.” Also, Gagnon sees a military connection, describing the use of nuclear power in space as “the foot in the door, the Trojan horse, for the militarization of space.” Space weapons sought by the military— space-based lasers, hyper-velocity guns and particle beams —would require large amounts of power which the military sees as coming from on-board nuclear power systems, thus the close cooperation between the Pentagon and NASA in space nuclear efforts. Said Gagnon: “We’re not saying there shouldn’t be any space program. It’s a question of what kind of seed do we carry with us out into space.” 

Dr. Dave Webb, who had been a scientist in the British space program and is now principal lecturer at the United Kingdom’s Leeds Metropolitan University’s School of Engineering, and is also Global Network secretary, says, “Star Wars projects like the Space- Based Laser require significant sources of power and it is very useful for the U.S. government to be able to bury some of the costs for the development work in ‘civilian’ or ‘dual use’ programs.” 

“Why on Earth,” asks Alice Slater, president of the New York-based Global Resource Action Center for the Environment and a Global Network board member, “would any sane person propose to take nuclear poisons to a whole new level?” 

“Nuclear power whether in space or on Earth is a risky business,” says Sally Light, long-time executive director of the anti-nuclear Nevada Desert Experience and also a Global Board member, “whether in space or on earth is a risky business. Why is the U.S. blindly plunging ahead with such a potentially disastrous and outmoded concept? We should use solar-powered technologies as they are clean, safe and feasible.” The commitment of huge amounts of money to the Nuclear Systems Initiative, now Project Prometheus, “is unconscionable. Did the people of Earth have a voice in this? One of the basic principles of democracy is that those affected have a determinative role in the decision-making process. We in the U.S. and people worldwide are faced with a dangerous, high-risk situation being forced on us and on our descendents.”

 


Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, is the author of The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat To Our Planet (Common Courage Press).

 

Extra!

SPINNING THE BOMB

November-December 2004

By Karl Grossman

 How the New York Times has for decades downplayed—indeed suppressed—the dangers of radioactivity is detailed in an exhaustive study by a professor of journalism at the University of Hawaii.

Before becoming a teacher, Beverly Ann Deepe Keever was a reporter for Newsweek, the New York Herald Tribune and the Christian Science Monitor whose work included covering the Vietnam War. A Ph.D. in the university’s School of Communications, she begins her just-published News Zero: The New York Times and The Bomb (Common Courage Press), with the birth of the nuclear age and finds that distortions and suppression of nuclear information by the Times started then.

“From the dawn of the atomic-bomb age, [William L.] Laurence and The Times almost single-handedly shaped the news of this epoch and helped birth the acceptance of the most destructive force ever created,” writes Keever.

Laurence, the science reporter for the Times, was the granddaddy of embedded reporters—plus. He was hired by the Manhattan Project, the World War II crash program to build an atomic bomb and, while working for the government, Keever relates,  remained on the Times payroll his Times weekly salary going to his wife while he also was paid by the government.

The arrangement was made by the Manhattan Project’s head, General Leslie Groves, and Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger and managing editor Edwin James. “To sell the bomb, the U.S. government needed the Times...and the Times willingly obliged.” It was “hardly the nation’s biggest newspaper then” but its readers were influential. “Government officials handpicked the Times because of the quality of its readers.”

At the Manhattan Project, Laurence participated in “the government’s cover-up of the super-secret Trinity shot.” Held a month before the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in the Trinity test a nuclear device was exploded for the first time.

There was concern about public inquiry over the explosion that lit up the New Mexico night sky so Laurence prepared press releases to “disguise the detonation and resulting radiation.” The “fake news” distributed as a “cover story” was a  release Laurence wrote claiming there had been a “jumbo detonation of an ammunition magazine filled with high explosives at the 2000-square mile Alamogordo Air Base.”

He didn’t stop with this deception. After the bombs fell on Japan, the Times ran and then “on behalf of the government” distributed free “to the press nationwide” a 10-part series Laurence readied while at the Manhattan Project glorifying the making of the atomic bombs and all but ignoring the dangers of radioactivity.

Laurence’s avid pro-nuclear writings continued when he returned to the Times and, Keever finds, this became an institutional stance. The Times “became little more than a propaganda outlet for the U.S. government in its drive to cover up the dangers of immediate radiation and future radioactivity emanating from the use and testing of nuclear weapons.”

It “tolerated or aided the U.S. government’s Cold War cover-up that resulted in minimizing or denying the health and environmental effects arising from the use in Japan and later testing of the most destructive weaponry in U.S. history in Pacific Islands once called paradise….The Times aided the U.S. government in keeping in the dark thousands of U.S. servicemen, production workers and miners, even civil defense officials, Pacific Islanders and others worldwide about the dangers of radiation.”

Other Times writers who participated in the pro-nuclear spin included its military editor, Hanson Baldwin. “In editorials and articles, the Times clearly favored Operation Crossroads,” a major nuclear test in the Pacific, and when President Truman “postponed the first scheduled dates for the test, Baldwin wrote that ‘well-meaning but muddled persons, in and out of Congress, are proposing the permanent cancellation of the tests.’”

The atomic dysfunction of what became the paper of record of the U.S. continued unceasingly. The nuclear testing-caused tragedy “from 1947 to 1991 unfolding in the faraway Marshall Islands,” for instance, was “largely untold by the Times.”

“A huge outcry followed the revelation of a breach of reporting ethics by a single individual when the Times in mid-2003 exposed the plagiarism and fraud committed,” by Jayson Blair, notes Keever, “yet the issues raised” by her research “are far more pervasive and more importantly condoned and institutionalized as part of media management policies and practices. This investigation serves as a wake-up call for journalists of today and tomorrow.”  

 

Karl Grossman is author of Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed To Know About Nuclear Power, host of TV programs on nuclear technology for EnviroVideo (www.envirovideo.com) and professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury.

 

Extra!

Gaga for Galileo

Press Corps Cheerleads for Space Probe Till the End

February 2004

By Karl Grossman

CNN's Frank Buckley (9/21/03) could hardly contain himself. "Dr. Johnson, we admire the heck out of you!" Buckley exclaimed on-air as he finished interviewing Dr. Torrance Johnson, project scientist for NASA's Galileo space probe mission, minutes after it plunged into the atmosphere of Jupiter after an eight-year voyage through the solar system.

Buckley's excitement was characteristic of the media treatment of Galileo's finale: a chorus of cheerleading.

"The Battered but Undefeatable Space Explorer," was the front-page headline of the Christian Science Monitor (9/23/03). "Goodbye to Gallant Galileo," editorialized the New York Times (9/24/03). Alexandra Witze of the Knight Ridder/Tribune news service (9/19/03) wrote, "If any spacecraft deserved a dignified retirement, Galileo is it."

"NASA's Galileo spacecraft was purposely destroyed Sunday, ending its scientific career in a blaze of glory," stated Leonard David of space.com (MSNBC.com, 9/21/03).

Plutonium blackout

A Nexis survey found no reporting by any media about the dangers presented by the 49.25 pounds of radioactive plutonium-238 that fueled Galileo's nuclear electric system (manufactured by General Electric, half-owner of MSNBC). Indeed, almost no account made any mention of plutonium at all. An Associated Press dispatch (9/21/03) perfunctorily related that the space probe's electronic instruments were "powered" by plutonium.

There was not a word in or on any media found in Nexis about the litigation and demonstrations against Galileo, sparked by concern that the highly toxic plutonium could be released in an accident on launch or during the two Earth "flybys" NASA had Galileo perform. Although NASA had earlier used other planets for flybys--low, fast passes over a planet to increase a space probe's velocity--NASA in 1990 had Galileo whip by the Earth 600 miles overhead, and in 1992 buzz the Earth 185 miles high. This marked the first time NASA had used Earth as a flyby target for a space probe--with or without nuclear material on board.

The Earth flybys were arranged because Galileo was originally to have been launched on a space shuttle for a trip to Jupiter in 1986, preceded by a shuttle lofting another plutonium-fueled probe, Ulysses, that was to do a survey of the sun. Then came the shuttle Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986; indeed, the next mission of the ill-fated Challenger was to have lofted Ulysses with its 24.2 pounds of plutonium fuel.

In the wake of the Challenger tragedy, astronauts balked at going up on a shuttle that carried in its cargo bay the liquid-fueled rocket that was to take Galileo directly from Earth to Jupiter. A less volatile--and also less powerful--solid-fueled rocket was substituted, and the Earth flybys were arranged-"slingshot" maneuvers that permitted Galileo to reach Jupiter with a weaker propulsion.

It was quite a gamble: NASA documents acknowledged that only after the second flyby and "escape of the spacecraft from the Earth's gravitational pull" did the plutonium on Galileo "no longer present a potential risk to the Earth's population." If Galileo dipped into the 75-mile-high atmosphere during a flyby, it would have disintegrated--it had no heat shield--and the plutonium would vaporize as dust falling to Earth, an enormous lung cancer threat.

But not only was this aspect of the Galileo mission totally ignored by media as the Galileo mission concluded, but in reporting Galileo's finale, media swallowed NASA's line about directing Galileo into Jupiter's atmosphere.

Contaminated probe

NASA's line was that it decided to send Galileo into Jupiter to protect Europa, a moon of Jupiter with features scientists say are similar to those of an early Earth. CNN's Buckley said to Galileo scientist Johnson (9/21/03): "You didn't want to potentially contaminate Europa? Is that right?"

"Galileo to Exit in Blaze of Glory, Protecting Potential Life on Jupiter Moon," was the headline in Newsday (9/20/03), with the story, by Bryn Nelson, telling how "NASA engineers chose the crash course with Jupiter . . . negating even the slightest chance that [Europa] could be contaminated."

In fact, from the start the plan was to send Galileo into Jupiter. Moreover, in another aspect of the story unreported by media in September, Galileo was the first space probe launched by NASA that was not sterilized before launch. Up until that point, the U.S. adhered to the Outer Space Treaty, which it helped initiate, and its provision that "parties to the treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination." But NASA decided not to sterilize Galileo to save money.

It would only have taken some Internet checking of science publications a few years back to retrieve an article such as "The Dirty Jupiter Space Probe" by Linda Strand in Science Digest (8/92). "This is the first time that a U.S. spacecraft has been sent into an environment that is potentially habitable for terrestrial microorganisms without being sterilized. And some scientists are seriously concerned about contamination," Strand wrote. She observed that on Galileo, "beneath its sparkling exterior are billions and billions of bacteria. And in 1998 [the original date for Galileo to be sent into Jupiter] these biological agents will be put to the ultimate test as they dive with the probe headlong into the Jovian atmosphere." She reported, "For all its impressive airs, the Galileo probe is, deep in its heart, a garbage can."

Among the scientists particularly concerned about the planned dive of the unsterilized Galileo into the Jovian atmosphere was astronomer Carl Sagan, founder and first president of the Planetary Society. In a paper entitled "Particles, Environments and Possible Ecologies in the Jovian Atmosphere," he and co-author E.E. Salpeter wrote: "The possible existence of indigenous Jovian organisms is also relevant to the question of sterilization of spacecraft intended for entry into the atmosphere of Jupiter." Life in "the Jovian clouds" would not parallel life on Earth but, they postulated, there could be organisms that could be impacted by "terrestrial contaminants" on Galileo.

Michael Benson in a lengthy article on Galileo's end in The New Yorker (9/3/03), although not mentioning that Galileo was the first unsterilized NASA space probe, did report that NASA was sending it into Jupiter because of the microorganism problem--and that "obliteration" in the hot Jupiter atmosphere would solve the problem. Benson wrote: "Obliteration is precisely what NASA intends for the spacecraft." NASA could have left Galileo "to circle Jupiter after running out of propellant" but was concerned that "it might eventually crash into Europa" and "NASA officials decided that it was necessary to avoid the possibility of seeding Europa with alien life-forms. And so the craft has been programmed to commit suicide, guaranteeing a fiery spectacular end."

"We chose," Johnson told CNN's Buckley, "one of the other options we had, which was to send it into Jupiter, where we had already put an atmospheric entry probe into Jupiter, and things burn up in the atmosphere. So that's no problem."

There was no media questioning of whether, in fact, the heat of the Jovian atmosphere would really destroy all the foreign microorganisms.

Correspondents in love

But an unquestioning stance by media toward U.S. space activities has been the norm since the space program began in the 1950s. Insert nuclear power, a subject on which the U.S. press has historically been soft or even derelict in its reporting, and the situation gets worse.

In the wake of the Challenger accident, William Boot, former editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, wrote an article in CJR headed "NASA and the Spellbound Press" (7-8/86)--which charged that the press bore some of the guilt for the disaster because of its boosterish reporting on the space program. "Dazzled by the space agency's image of technological brilliance, space reporters spared NASA the thorough scrutiny that might have improved chances of averting tragedy--through hard-hitting investigations drawing Congress's wandering attention to the issue of shuttle safety," he wrote.

"U.S. journalists have long had a love affair with the space program," Boot continued. "In the pre-[Challenger] explosion days, many space reporters appeared to regard themselves as participants, along with NASA, in a great cosmic quest. Transcripts of NASA press conferences reveal that it was not unusual for reporters to use the first person plural. 'When are we going to launch?'"

"Some new blood" was brought in to report on the space program after the Challenger catastrophe, wrote Boot, indicating that "the days of NASA as a journalist's sacred cow are presumably gone forever." He added: "It is sad that it took the deaths of seven astronauts to goad journalists into assuming the thoroughly skeptical role they should have been playing all along."

In fact, media cheerleading of the space program has never stopped. Boot's hope of NASA no longer being a "journalists' sacred cow" never became reality.

New York Times space reporter John Noble Wilford gave a lecture on "Science and the Media" to scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1990, stressing, "I am a great admirer of science, of scientists." I was in the audience and asked him about the Boot article and its points that space reporters were too cozy with and failed to challenge NASA. Wilford said: "This is one of the problems in journalism, particularly reporters who cover a specific beat. You get to know people, you get to be friendly with some and not so friendly with others. But you get to know them and you get to respect them, and maybe you trust what they say and maybe you do let your guard down and not ask the tough questions."

Later, in an interview, Wilford said: "Some of the things that NASA does are so great, so marvelous, so it's easy to forget to be critical. You go in and watch pictures of the back of Neptune and stand in awe, but then you read about some of the management snafus" and wonder "how did we ever do what we did?"

Wilford's account of Galileo's dive into Jupiter--"Many Miles, Many Moons: A Galileo Album" (9/16/03)--began by speaking of how "several hundred engineers and scientists will gather at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and await the end of the Galileo spacecraft. . . . They freely concede that they will be there at the end as an act of homage." The words plutonium and nuclear were not used, nor did they appear in Wilford's Times articles on the Galileo Earth flybys. Writing on the 1992 flyby (12/8/92), he reported that "Galileo's course was true, with no chance of an errant plunge into Earth's atmosphere." His 1995 piece (12/9/95), when Galileo arrived in the Jupiter system after years of problem-plagued operations, was headlined "Jupiter Rendezvous Is Marvel of Perfection."

Back to the future

The Columbia shuttle tragedy on February 1, 2003, like the Challenger disaster before it, resulted in official revelations of NASA's dysfunctional ways, its bureaucratic bumbling, scientific hubris and "broken safety culture," as concluded the report of the Columbia Accident Investigations Board.

"We get it," NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe immediately told the press upon the issuance of the 248-page report (Washington Post, 8/28/03). And he promised changes including working for better "communications" within NASA and openness of internal criticism. Will it happen? Quite unlikely, especially if media continue to be a lapdog rather than a watchdog for NASA.

Consider how NASA is right now moving to substantially expand its program of using nuclear power in space--to conduct more plutonium-fueled space probe missions like Galileo, and to bring back the scheme of building actual nuclear-propelled spacecraft. And media are paying minimal attention.

Two days after the Columbia disaster, NASA unveiled its broadened space nuclear program--Project Prometheus--to cost $3 billion over five years.

The nuclear dangers represented by Galileo would be multiplied. NASA, in trying to build nuclear-propelled spacecraft, would be rocketing back to the past, bringing back a program of the 1950s and '60s on which billions of dollars were spent. That attempt was finally cancelled, largely out of concern about a nuclear spacecraft falling back to Earth--a key problem still present. What if the Columbia shuttle had been nuclear-powered? A broad swath of nuclear debris would have spread over Texas and Louisiana.

Problems with using nuclear power in space are not theoretical. In 1964, a U.S. satellite carrying a SNAP-9A plutonium-fueled power source fell back to Earth, disintegrating and spreading plutonium worldwide. Dr. John Gofman, professor emeritus of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, has long linked that accident to an increased level of lung cancer on Earth.

The nuclear industry media--not the general media--have noted a main reason why NASA's O'Keefe is gung-ho for nuclear power in space. "As a youngster," related Nuclear Energy Insight (1/03), the publication of the Nuclear Energy Institute trade group, "Sean O'Keefe didn't have to go far to learn about nuclear technology--his family's dinner table was enough. There, O'Keefe's father, a nuclear submariner, regaled his son with descriptions of the complex workings of the sub's propulsion system. Decades later, those dining room tutorials would pay dividends to O'Keefe" as he moves to expand nuclear power in another dimension--space--and "envisions the development of new propulsion systems for spacecraft powered by nuclear technology."

Not mentioned, however, in the nuclear industry media--or general media--is another big element behind the new program: the lobbying of corporations like Boeing and Lockheed Martin that produce the nuclear space systems.

After the Challenger disaster, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, a member of the commission that investigated that disaster, wrote in the commission's report that NASA officials must "deal in the world of reality." Very concerned himself about the odds NASA was placing on a nuclear accident on the Galileo mission, he wrote that NASA "exaggerates the reliability of its product to the point of fantasy. . . . For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled."

Nature cannot be fooled, but the U.S. press sure can, and it's been happily letting itself be fooled when it comes to NASA--then and now.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury, has received the Project Censored Award six times for his reporting on NASA's nuclear space program. He is the author of The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program's Nuclear Threat To Our Planet and writer and narrator of a series of Nukes in Space TV documentaries available from EnviroVideo (1-800-ECO-TVGO)

The New York Times

Target: Plum Island


September 11, 2005

By Karl Grossman

Old Westbury

FOUR years after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States Department of Homeland Security is finally facing reality. That's right, the agency announced last month that it had decided to replace Plum Island Animal Disease Center with a new federal biological and agricultural defense center at a location yet to be determined.

Several local and state politicians are upset. For them the news means a loss of jobs and federal tax dollars for the region. Mayor David Kapell of Greenport has called the loss of the center's 200 jobs a disaster. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Representative Timothy Bishop, Democrat of Southampton, have protested the announcement, saying that the laboratory should remain in operation, and that any new research center should be on Plum Island.

But Plum Island has a major and unfixable problem: it's an easy target for terrorists, indeed a sitting duck - and, frankly, Long Island has room for only one big duck on the East End. In the wake of 9/11, the center, housing highly virulent disease agents a mile and a half off Long Island, constitutes a serious risk not just to New York, but also to Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which are all within 100 miles of Plum Island.

Why not forget about using Plum Island as a biological laboratory and instead build something that Long Island needs - a wind turbine farm? With no one living on 840-acre Plum Island, the turbines could not be considered eyesores, and it would be far better than having a potential terrorist target in such a vulnerable position.

Homeland Security knows that the outmoded laboratory, which it described as too "costly to maintain," is a problem. In the press release announcing the news, it highlighted "growing concerns about accidental or intentional introduction of foreign animal diseases into the country."

A little more than a century ago, the federal government bought Plum Island. Fort Terry, which was built on the island in the late 1890's, served as an artillery post from which the United States military could attack enemy ships heading west to New York City during the Spanish-American War. The fort's mission continued through World War I and World War II, and a maze of trenches from which guns once bristled remains on the east side of the island.

After World War II, with bombers in the sky regarded as more likely instruments of a wartime assault than ships in the water, the guns were removed. In the 1950's, the United States Army set up a laboratory on Plum Island to conduct research into biological warfare. Then in 1954, the Department of Agriculture took over the island and used the facilities to study foreign animal diseases that might accidentally come to America or be used by an enemy aiming to hurt the food supply.

But post-9/11 there are new realities. In the way that terrorists used commercial airliners to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a new concern is that terrorists would turn the stockpiles of disease agents on Plum Island into weapons against Americans. In a 2003 report, the General Accounting Office, now the Government Accountability Office, pointed out that there is a substantial risk that "an adversary might try to steal pathogens" from Plum Island to use them against people or animals in the United States.

The report noted that there were pathogens on Plum Island lethal to both animals and humans. A camel pox strain being researched at the center, it warned, could be converted into "an agent as threatening as smallpox," and the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus being studied could be "developed into a human biowarfare agent." The report also emphasized that the center, which Homeland Security took over from the Agriculture Department in 2003, "was not designed to be a highly secure facility."

This is not idle anxiety. In his book "Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory," which relied heavily on research obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Michael Christopher Carroll wrote that in a 2002 raid of the Kabul, Afghanistan, residence of Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, a nuclear physicist who American officials have identified as an associate of Osama bin Laden, C.I.A. operatives and Army commandos found a "dossier" containing "information on a place in New York called the Plum Island Animal Disease Center."

And it's easy to see why terrorists would find Plum Island an easy target. The main laboratory sits along the island's northern coast. Indeed, the ferries that shuttle passengers between Orient Point and New London, Conn., pass directly in front of the building. From a boat, terrorists armed with shoulder-fired rockets would have a clear shot. Diving a plane into the main lab would be simple. Moreover, terrorists who managed to get on the island would find little resistance. The General Accounting Office report found serious security flaws.

In the post-9/11 era, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Bishop are wrong to want to continue using Plum Island for bio-terrorism research. The location is just too dangerous. Work involving highly toxic pathogens that requires the highest bio-safety level should be done at a heavily guarded facility inland, perhaps constructed underground.

A far better use of Plum Island would be a wind turbine farm. It would create jobs and provide for Long Island's future. The impact of Hurricane Katrina has underlined the folly of our nation's oil dependence. Plum Island, sitting in the Atlantic, constantly being buffeted by ocean winds, could serve as the base for hundreds of wind turbines providing us with large amounts of clean, safe and renewable power.

Karl Grossman is a journalism professor at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury.

 

Review in Science Communication

The E-Bomb: How America’s New Directed Energy Weapons Will Change the Way Future Wars Will Be Fought by Doug Beason, Cambridge, MA De Capo 2005.   

March 2006

By Karl Grossman

I recall as a young journalist four decades ago interviewing a sculptor for a feature story and his telling me how he once contemplated suicide and then, looking at the gun he held in his hand, began to think about the work, the fine craftsmanship, the effort through the years that went into developing devices of death.

His musing interrupted and, fortuitously, ended his suicide attempt.

The E-Bomb: How America’s New Directed Energy Weapons Will Change the Way Future Wars Will Be Fought involves the efforts of recent times to produce killing machines way beyond pistols in their impacts.

Doug Beason is not just the author of the book but “a key architect” during the past twenty-six years of such weaponry. He currently works at the U.S. government’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, the facility that a half-century ago gave us the atomic bomb, and he served under the U.S. president’s science advisor in both the Clinton and first Bush administrations.

A “revolution in military affairs” is before us, writes Dr. Beason, “a revolution in warfare so dramatic, so disruptive, and so profound that it changes the way wars are fought….But this revolution is not built on bombs or bullets” (pp. 4-5). It involves “directed energy...weapons—lasers, high-power microwaves…and particle beams….Directed energy is making world-changing, revolutionary advances from fighting wars to battling terrorism” (p. 9).

“National leaders,” Beason relates, will soon have the ability to instantly deter threats anywhere in the world with infinite precision at the speed of light. The dynamic changes this will make to international relations will reverberate throughout American society. It will transform our way of life. (P. 10).

Now, as an old journalist, I understanding what he is talking about, having done a good deal of research into plans by the United States to arm the heavens using orbiting lasers, hypervelocity guns, and particle beams. In 2001, my book Weapons In Space was published. A major focus of Dr. Beason’s book is space weaponry. His inside account will allow even an average reader to understand the technology of this kind of weaponry.

His work also considers terrestrial conflict; he opens the book with a hypothetical attack on a U.S. embassy. In years past, the Marine guards “only had two options: to shout at the insurgents, pleading with them to stop—or to shoot them” (p. 3).

But directed energy weapons are coming to the rescue.

Suddenly the rioters feel intense heat, as if a gigantic oven had suddenly opened in front of them. Within seconds the pain is unbearable. They cannot think, they cannot reason—they can only react. They turn and flee…from the dipole antenna that directed the…waves from the world’s first nonlethal directed energy weapon, Active Denial.” (P. 3)

Dr. Beason assures us that “Active Denial is being tested today.”

The problem with Dr. Beason’s book is that it is blind to the political and historical realities that follow the introduction of new weapons systems. At his Los Alamos National Laboratory, indeed, there were those who thought fifty years ago that the U.S. would have an exclusive on the atomic bomb. That didn’t last very long.

Every time a new, yet more destructive weapon is developed, others come out with their own versions, and the process goes on and on.  Today, after expending billions of dollars (a lot of that money at Los Alamos), the United States has the technology to move into space with directed energy weapons.

For a while, the U.S. might have an advantage, but to think it will be the only nation up there with weaponry is a huge miscalculation. In response, China and Russia—and who knows what country next—will be up there, too.

Moreover, consider if space is armed and there is a shooting war with laser weapons and hypervelocity guns and particle beams (a preferred energy source for space weapons: on-board nuclear power) exchanging fire. There would be so much debris left orbiting at high speed above the planet that humanity would be precluded for millennia from getting up and out and exploring space. As Edgar Mitchell, a former astronaut who walked on the moon, has said, “Future generations will be precluded from using space at at all…Getting out to deep space would be like swimming in a piranha-full river or running through a hail of bullets" (statement at rally, Kennedy Space Center, 1989).

But the weapons designers have been, and are, myopic. The flow of funds to their government laboratories and corporate treasuries is what counts, along with inventing tools of death for invention’s sake. Morality and reality are not factors. Talk about Active Denial.

They might, like that sculptor, consider the killing devices they have in hand and the diversion of humanity’s energy and talent that’s gone into producing them and decide to forgo their part in what in modern times could be mass suicide.

—Karl Grossman

State University of New York

College at Old Westbury

MinutemanMedia

Bush Opens Outer Space to Combat

October 25, 2006

By Karl Grossman

It was issued quietly: 5 p.m. on the Friday before the long Columbus Day weekend, a release seemingly designed to get little notice. But what it involved deserves major attention: a new US National Space Policy that could set the stage for the heavens being turned into a battleground.

For decades, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 has shaped how nations approach space. Developed by the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union — and now ratified essentially by all the world’s countries — the landmark agreement sets space aside for peaceful purposes.

But the United States became uncomfortable with the treaty in the 1980s during President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" program. That discomfort was marked in the 1990s by US opposition to efforts (still ongoing) led by Canada — and including Russia and China — to ban all weapons in space; the treaty only bans weapons of mass destruction.

There were bellicose declarations in the 1990s, too, from the US Space Command speaking of "dominating the space dimension of military operations to protest US interests and investment."

Moreover, as George W. Bush took office, a commission chaired by his defense secretary-to-be, Donald Rumsfeld, spoke of how "in the coming period the US will conduct operations to, from, in, and through space to support its national interests."

Then the Bush administration began revising the US National Space Policy as issued by President Bill Clinton. A front-page, lead article in "The New York Times" last year reported that the US Air Force was "seeking President Bush's approval of a national-security directive that could move the United States closer to fielding offensive and defense space weapons." 

It told of how one "Air Force space program, nicknamed Rods from God, aims to hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon."

The new policy does not explicitly declare the United States will now move ahead with such space weapons — but it opens the door.

"Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power," it asserts in its introduction. Under "National Security Space Guidelines," it says, "United States national security is critically dependent upon space capabilities, and this dependence will grow." So the United States will "develop and deploy space capabilities that sustain US advantage."

Also, the 10-page policy says the United States "will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit US access to or use of space."

Further, the policy authorizes the use of nuclear power overhead to "enhance space exploration or operational capabilities... The use of space nuclear power systems shall be consistent with US national and homeland security, and foreign policy interests."

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, speaks of the document's "very provocative language.... This is the kind of talk that will create a new arms race in space, clearly just what the military-industrial complex wants." And, he says, "Bush's new space policy enshrines the rejection of an international treaty to ban weapons in space."

The vision of the Outer Space Treaty — to set aside space as a global commons and to prevent the armed conflict that has marked human history on Earth from extending into the heaven — would be altered by the new US policy.

The United States sees its potential military supremacy in space — and seeks to take advantage of this. But that's similar to the US attitude in 1945 when we had the atomic bomb and no one else did. It will not take long if space is opened up to war for other nations, notably Russia and China, to meet the United States in kind. We still have an opportunity now to adhere to and strengthen the Outer Space Treaty and, with verification, continue to keep space for peaceful purposes.

Or we can turn the heavens into a war zone and a place for nuclear activity. We are at a crossroads. The policy must not be slipped through quietly. The people of the United States must have a voice and there should be wide public discussion on this fateful decision.

Karl Grossman, journalism professor at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, wrote and narrated the award-winning TV documentary: "Weapons in Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens." www.envirovideo.com

 

Huff Post Media

Communicating -- or Propagandizing? -- Science

August 23, 2010

By Karl Grossman

Actor Alan Alda has embarked on an initiative to help scientists in "communicating science." Alda and Howard Schneider, founder of the Center for Communicating Science at the new journalism school at the State University of New York's Stony Brook University, spent a day recently at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) working with scientists.

Alda told a packed auditorium of BNL scientists, according to the Long Island newspaper North Shore Sun, that "nothing communicates better than an authentic presentation of yourself--not hidden by jargon in some cases, or by nervousness and that kind of thing. If you can really be there and communicate with the person you are talking to, then you get something happening between you and that person."

Alda's effort with scientists is an extension of his hosting the PBS series "Scientific American Frontiers." For Stony Brook University, having a Center for Communicating Science connects to its long-time main focus of scientific research and, in recent years, co-management of BNL.

BNL was set up in 1947 by the then U.S. Atomic Energy Commission to conduct research into nuclear science and also develop civilian uses for nuclear technology. It was managed from the start by a group of universities including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and MIT, but their contract was terminated in 1997 in the face of a public uproar over tritium leaking from a BNL nuclear reactor into the water table below. Long Island, in the center of which BNL is located, depends on its underground water table as its sole source of potable water. The Department of Energy, which replaced the AEC, charged the schools were derelict in their supervision of BNL; the leakage had been going on for years. DOE then gave Stony Brook University and Battelle Memorial Institute the contract to manage BNL.

However, many BNL scientists argued and still maintain that the DOE move was an overreaction, that although tritium is a radionuclide and causes cancer, the substance is widely used in what are marketed as "self-luminous" exit signs. These signs, they've stressed, are common in schools, stores, shopping centers, theatres and other public places. Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen. It has a 12.3 year half-life meaning it continues releasing radioactivity for more than a century. Among the issues involving tritium exit signs are the dangers of disposal.

To help scientists in "communicating science," to instruct them not to speak in jargon and to be personable, that is fine. There have been great accomplishments in science and getting information out is important.

But, on the other hand, science has become institutionalized over the last half-century and in the name of science some very bad things have been done and continue to be done, a lot of which has not been challenged by media.

Many of us are familiar with President Eisenhower's warning in his farewell address of 1961 about the rise of a "military-industrial complex." What most people do not know is that the original draft of that speech warned not just of a "military-industrial complex" but of a "military-industrial-scientific complex." Only because of the plea of Eisenhower's science advisor, former MIT President James Killian, was the word "scientific" eliminated.

Although allowing the removal of "scientific," Eisenhower went on in the speech with other words on the matter. He said, "Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists and laboratories" and warned that "in holding scientific research and discovery in respect...we must also be alert to the equal and opposing danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite."

David E. Lilienthal, the first chairman of the AEC, used words similar in a 1963 book Change, Hope, and the Bomb. He wrote that "the classic picture of the scientist as a creative individual, a man obsessed, working alone through the night, a man in a laboratory pursuing an idea--this has changed. Now scientists are ranked in platoons. They are organization men. In many cases, the independent and humble search for new truths about nature has become confused with the bureaucratic impulse to justify expenses and see that next year's budget is bigger than last's."

Lilienthal spoke about the "elaborate and even luxurious [national] laboratories that have grown up at Oak Ridge, Argonne, Brookhaven" and the push to use nuclear devices for "blowing out harbors, making explosions underground to produce steam, and so on." They demonstrated "how far scientists and administrators will go to try to establish a nonmilitary use" for nuclear technology.

The press in the United States was envisioned by the founders of the nation as an instrument to check, to watchdog government. A hundred years later, with the rise of huge corporations, the press was flexible enough to expand to not only challenging vested political power but also vested economic power--taking on the robber barons and their corporations during the muckraking era. In our time, the media must take on a new vested power: scientific and technological interests.

Where does the initiative in assisting scientists in "communicating science" stop and public relations and facilitating propaganda begin?

The Huffington Post 

Nuclear Power Through the Fukushima Perspective

October 9, 2013

By Karl Grossman

It started this June in California. Speaking about the problems at the troubled San Onofre nuclear plants through the perspective of the Fukushima nuclear complex catastrophe was a panel of Naoto Kan, prime minister of Japan when the disaster began; Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at the time; Peter Bradford, an NRC member when the Three Mile Island accident happened; and nuclear engineer and former nuclear industry executive Arnie Gundersen.

This week the same panel of experts on nuclear technology -- joined by long-time nuclear opponent Ralph Nader -- was on the East Coast, in New York City and Boston, speaking about problems at the problem-riddled Indian Point nuclear plants near New York and the troubled Pilgrim plant near Boston, through the perspective on the Fukushima catastrophe.

Their presentations were powerful.

Kan, at the event Tuesday in Manhattan, told of how he had been a supporter of nuclear power, but after the Fukushima accident, which began on March 11, 2011, said, "I changed my thinking 180-degrees, completely." He said that in the first days of the accident it looked like an "area that included Tokyo" and populated by 50 million people might have to be evacuated.

"We do have accidents such as an airplane crash and so on," said Kan, "but no other accident or disaster" other than a nuclear plant disaster can "affect 50 million people... no other accident could cause such a tragedy."

All 54 nuclear plants in Japan have now been closed, Kan said. And "without nuclear power plants we can absolutely provide the energy to meet our demands." Meanwhile, in the two-plus years since the disaster began, Japan has tripled its use of solar energy -- a jump in solar power production that is the equivalent of the electricity that would be produced by three nuclear plants, he said. He pointed to Germany as a model in its commitment to shutting down all its nuclear power plants and having "all its power supplied by renewable power" by 2050. The entire world could do this, said Kan. "If humanity really would work together... we could generate all our energy through renewable energy."

Jaczko said that the Fukushima disaster exploded several myths about nuclear power including those involving the purported prowess of U.S. nuclear technology. The General Electric technology of the Fukushima nuclear plants "came from the U.S.," he noted. And, it exploded the myth that "severe accidents wouldn't happen." Said the former top nuclear official in the United States: "Severe accidents can and will happen."

And what the Fukushima accident "is telling us is society does not accept the consequences of these accidents," said Jaczko, who was pressured out of his position on the NRC after charging that the agency was not considering the "lessons" of the Fukushima disaster. In monetary cost alone, Jaczko said, the cost of the Fukushima accident is estimated at $500 billion by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Nuclear engineer Gundersen, formerly a nuclear industry senior vice president, noted that the NRC "says the chance of a nuclear accident is one in a million," that an accident would happen "every 2,500 years." This is predicated, he said, on what the NRC terms a probabilistic risk assessment or PRA. "I'd like to refer to it as PRAY." The lesson of "real life," said Gundersen, is that there have been five nuclear plant meltdowns in the past 35 years -- Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and the three at Fukushima Daiichi complex. That breaks down to an accident "every seven years."

"This is a technology that can have 40 good years that can be wiped out in one bad day," said Gundersen. He drew a parallel between Fukushima Daiichi "120 miles from Tokyo" and the Indian Point nuclear plant complex "26 miles from New York City." He said that "in many ways Indian Point is worse than Fukushima was before the accident." One element: The Fukushima accident resulted from an earthquake followed by a tsunami. The two operating plants at Indian Point are also adjacent to an earthquake fault, said Gundersen. New York City "faces one bad day like Japan, one sad day." He also spoke of the "arrogance and hubris" of the nuclear industry and how the NRC has consistently complied with the desires of the industry.

Bradford said that that the "the bubble" that the nuclear industry once termed "the nuclear renaissance" has burst. As to a main nuclear industry claim in this promotion to revive nuclear power -- that atomic energy is necessary in "mitigating climate change"--this has been shown to be false. It would take tripling of the 440 total of nuclear plants now in the world to reduce greenhouse gasses by but 10 percent. Other sources of power are here as well as energy efficiency that could combat climate change. Meanwhile, the price of electricity from any new nuclear plants built has gone to a non-competitive 12 to 20 cents per kilowatt hour while "renewables are falling in price."

Bradford also sharply criticized the agency of which he was once a member, the NRC, charging among other things that it has in recent years discouraged citizen participation. Also, as to Fukushima, the "accident really isn't over," said Bradford who, in addition to his role at the NRC has chaired the utility commissions of Maine and New York State.

Nader said that with nuclear power and the radioactivity it produces "we are dealing with a silent cumulative form of violence." He said nuclear power is "unnecessary, unsafe, and uninsurable... undemocratic." And constructing new words that begin with "un," it is also "unevacuatable, unfinanceable, unregulatable."

Nader said nuclear power is unnecessary because there are many energy alternatives -- led by solar and wind. It is unsafe because catastrophic accidents can and will happen. He noted how the former U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in a 1960s report projected that a major nuclear accident could irradiate an area "the size of Pennsylvania." He asked: "Is this the kind of gamble we want to take to boil water?"

Nuclear power is extremely expensive and thus uneconomic, he went on. It is uninsurable with the original scheme for nuclear power in the U.S. based on the federal Price-Anderson Act which limits a utility's liability to a "fraction" of the cost of damages from an accident. That law remains, extended by Congress "every ten years or so."

As for being "unevacuable," NRC evacuation plans are "fantasy" documents," said Nader. The U.S. advised Americans within 50 miles of Fukushima to evacuate. Some 20 million people live within 50 miles of the Indian Point plants and New Yorkers "can hardly get out" of the city during a normal rush hour." Nuclear power is "unfinancable," he said, depending on government fiscal support through tax dollars. And it is "unregulatable" with the NRC taking a "promotional attitude." And, "above all it is undemocratic," said Nader, "a technology born in secrecy" which continues. Meanwhile, said Nader, "as the orders dry up in developed nations" for nuclear plants, the nuclear industry is pushing to build new plants in the developing world.

Also at the event in New York City, moderated by Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay and held at the 92nd Street Y, a segment of a new video documentary on nuclear power by Adam Salkin was screened. It showed Salkin in a boat going right in front of the Indian Point plants and it taking nearly five hours for a "security" boat from the plant to respond, and Salkin, the next day, in an airplane flying as low as 500 feet above the plants. The segment demonstrated that the nuclear plants on the Hudson are an easy target for terrorists and, it noted, what it showed was what "terrorists already know."

The San Onofre nuclear power plants were closed permanently three weeks after the June panel event -- and after many years of intensive actions by nuclear opponents in California to shut down the plants, situated between San Diego and Los Angeles. The panel's appearances this week in New York City Tuesday and Boston Wednesday, titled "Fukushima -- Ongoing Lessons for New York and Boston," are aimed at the same outcome occurring on the East Coast.

The forums are online. For links, go to www.Facebook.com/FukushimaLessons.

March 03, 2014
Nuclear Denial

The Giant Lie About Fukushima

by KARL GROSSMAN
  

With the third anniversary of the start of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe coming next week, the attempted Giant Lie about the disaster continues—a suppression of information, an effort at dishonesty of historical dimensions.

It involves international entities, especially the International Atomic Energy Agency, national governmental bodies—led in Japan by its current prime minister, the powerful nuclear industry and a “nuclear establishment” of scientists and others with a vested interest in atomic energy.

Deception was integral to the push for nuclear power from its start. Indeed, I opened my first book on nuclear technology, Cover Up: What You Are NotSupposed to Know About Nuclear Power, with:  “You have not been informed about nuclear power. You have not been told. And that has been done on purpose. Keeping the public in the dark was deemed necessary by the promoters of nuclear power if it was to succeed. Those in government, science and private industry who have been pushing nuclear power realized that if people were given the facts, if they knew the consequences of nuclear power, they would not stand for it.”

Published in 1980, the book led to my giving many presentations on nuclear power at which I’ve often heard the comment that only when catastrophic nuclear accidents happened would people fully realize the deadliness of atomic energy.

Well, massive nuclear accidents have occurred—the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the Fukushima catastrophe that began on March 11, 2011 and is ongoing with large discharges of radioactive poisons continuing to be discharged into the environment.

Meanwhile, the posture of the nuclear promoters is denial—insisting the impacts of the Fukushima catastrophe are essentially non-existent. A massive nuclear accident has occurred and they would make believe it hasn’t.

“Fukushima is an eerie replay of the denial and controversy that began with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” wrote Yale University Professor Emeritus Charles Perrow in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists last year. “This is the same nuclear denial that also greeted nuclear bomb tests, plutonium plant disasters at Windscale in northern England and Chelyabinsk in the Ural Mountains, and the nuclear power plant accidents at Three Mile Island in the United States and Chernobyl in what is now Ukraine.”

The difference with Fukushima is the scale of disaster. With Fukushima were multiple meltdowns at the six-nuclear plant site. There’s been continuing pollution of a major part of Japan, with radioactivity going into the air, carried by the winds to fall out around the world, and gigantic amounts of radioactivity going into the Pacific Ocean moving with the currents and carried by marine life that ingests the nuclear toxins.

Leading the Fukushima cover-up globally is the International Atomic Energy Agency, formed by the United Nations in 1957 with the mission to “seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world.”  

Of the consequences of the Fukushima disaster, “To date no health effects have been reported in any person as a result of radiation exposure from the accident,” declared the IAEA in 2011, a claim it holds to today.

Working with the IAEA is the World Health Organization. WHO was captured on issues of radioactivity and nuclear power early on by IAEA. In 1959, the IAEA and WHO, also established by the UN, entered into an agreement—that continues to this day—providing that IAEA and WHO “act in close co-operation with each other” and “whenever either organization proposes to initiate a program or activity on a subject in which the other organization has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement.”

The IAEA-WHO deal has meant that “WHO cannot undertake any research, cannot disseminate any information, cannot come to the assistance of any population without the prior approval of the IAEA…WHO, in practice, in reality, is subservient to the IAEA within the United Nations family,” explained Alison Katz who for 18 years worked for WHO, on Libbe HaLevy’s “Nuclear Hotseat” podcast last year.

On nuclear issues “there has been a very high level, institutional and international cover-up which includes governments, national authorities, but also, regrettably the World Health Organization,” said Katz on the program titled, “The WHO/IAEA—Unholy Alliance and Its Lies About Int’l Nuclear Health Stats.” Katz is now with an organization called IndependentWHO which works for “the complete independence of the WHO from the nuclear lobby and in particular from its mouthpiece which is the International Atomic Energy Agency. We are demanding that independence,” she said, “so that the WHO may fulfill its constitutional mandate in the area of radiation and health.”

“We are absolutely convinced,” said Katz on “Nuclear Hotseat,” “that if the health and environmental consequences of all nuclear activities were known to the public, the debate about nuclear power would end tomorrow. In fact, the public would probably exclude it immediately as an energy option.”

WHO last year issued a report on the impacts of the Fukushima disaster claiming that “for the general population inside and outside of Japan, the predicted risks are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated.”

Then there is the new prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, who last year insisted before the International Olympic Committee as he successfully pushed to have the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo (180 miles from Fukushima): “There are no health-related problems until now, nor will there be in the future, I make the statement to you in the most emphatic and unequivocal way.”   Abe has been driving hard for a restart of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants, all shut down in the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe.

His is a totally different view than that of his predecessor, Naoto Kan, prime minister when the disaster began. Kan told a conference in New York City last year of how he had been a supporter of nuclear power but after the Fukushima accident “I changed my thinking 180-degrees, completely.” He declared that at one point it looked like an “area that included Tokyo” and populated by 50 million people might have to be evacuated. “We do have accidents such as an airplane crash and so on,” Kan said, “but no other accident or disaster” other than a nuclear plant disaster can “affect 50 million people… no other accident could cause such a tragedy.” Moreover, said Kan, “without nuclear power plants we can absolutely provide the energy to meet our demands.” Japan since the accident began has tripled its use of solar energy, he said, and pointed to Germany as a model with its post-Fukushima commitment to shutting down all its nuclear power plants and having “all its power supplied by renewable power” by 2050. The entire world could do this, said Kan. “If humanity really would work together… we could generate all our energy through renewable energy.”

A major factor in Abe’s stance is Japan having become a global player in the nuclear industry. General Electric (the manufacturer of the Fukushima plants) and Westinghouse have been the Coke and Pepsi of nuclear power plants worldwide, historically building or designing 80 percent of them. In 2006, Toshiba bought Westinghouse’s nuclear division and Hitachi entered into a partnership with GE in its nuclear division. Thus the two major nuclear power plant manufacturers worldwide are now Japanese brands. Abe has been busy traveling the world seeking to peddle Toshiba-Westinghouse and Hitachi-GE nuclear plants to try to lift Japan’s depressed economy.

As for the nuclear industry, the “Fukushima accident has caused no deaths,” declares the World Nuclear Association in its statement “Safety of Nuclear Power Reactors…Updated October 2013.”   The group, “representing the people and organizations of the global nuclear profession,” adds: “The Fukushima accident resulted in some radiation exposure of workers at the plant, but not such as to threaten their health.”

What will the consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster be?

It is impossible to know exactly now. But considering the gargantuan amount of radioactive poisons that have been discharged and what will continue to be released, the impacts will inevitably be great. The claim of there being no consequences to life and the prediction that there won’t be in the future from the Fukushima catastrophe is an outrageous falsehood.

That’s because it is now widely understood that there is no “safe” level of radioactivity. Any amount can kill. The more radioactivity, the greater the impacts. As the National Council on Radiation Protection has declared: “Every increment of radiation exposure produces an incremental increase in the risk of cancer.”

There was once the notion of there being a “threshold dose” of radioactivity below which there would be no harm. That’s because when nuclear technology began and  people were exposed to radioactivity, they didn’t promptly fall down dead. But as the years went by, it was realized that lower levels of radioactivity take time to result in cancer and other illnesses—that there is a five-to-40-year “incubation” period

Projecting a death toll of more than a million from the radioactivity released from Fukushima is Dr. Chris Busby, scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk who has been a professor at a number of universities. . “Fukushima is still boiling radionuclides all over Japan,” he said. “Chernobyl went up in one go. So Fukushima is worse.” 

Indeed, a report by the Institute for Science in Society, based in the U.K., has concluded: “State-of-the-art analysis based on the most inclusive datasets available reveals that radioactive fallout from the Fukushima meltdown is at least as big as Chernobyl and more global in reach.”

death toll of up to 600,000 is estimated in a study conducted for the Nordic Probabilistic Safety Assessment Group which is run by the nuclear utilities of Finland and Sweden.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, a founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, told a symposium on “The Medical Implications of Fukushima” held last year in Japan: “The accident is enormous in its medical implications. It will induce an epidemic of cancer as people inhale the radioactive elements, eat radioactive vegetables, rice and meat, and drink radioactive milk and teas. As radiation from ocean contamination bio-accumulates up the food chain…radioactive fish will be caught thousands of miles from Japanese shores. As they are consumed, they will continue the the cycle of contamination, proving that no matter where you are, all major nuclear accidents become local.”

Dr. Caldicott, whose books on nuclear power include Nuclear Madness, also stated:  “The Fukushima disaster is not over and will never end. The radioactive fallout which remains toxic for hundreds to thousands of years covers large swaths of Japan will never be ‘cleaned up’ and will contaminate food, humans and animals virtually forever.”

Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, has said: “The health impacts to the Japanese will begin to be felt in several years and out to 30 or 40 years from cancers. And I believe we’re going to see as many as a million cancers over the next 30 years because of the Fukushima incident in Japan.” 

At Fukushima, “We have opened a door to hell that cannot be easily closed—if ever,” said Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at the U.S.-based group Beyond Nuclear last year.

Already an excessive number of cases of thyroid cancers have appeared in Japan, an early sign of the impacts of radioactivity.  A study last year by Joseph Mangano and Dr. Janette Sherman of the Radiation and Public Health Project, and Dr. Chris Busby, determined that radioactive iodine fall-out from Fukushima damaged the thyroid glands of children in California.  And the biggest wave of radioactivity in the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima is slated to hit the west coast of North America in the next several months.

Meanwhile, every bluefin tuna caught in the waters off California in a Stanford University study was found to be contaminated with cesium-137, a radioactive poison emitted on a large scale by Fukushima. The tuna migrate from off Japan to California waters. Daniel Madigan, who led the study, commented: “The tuna packaged it up [the radiation] and brought it across the world’s largest ocean. We were definitely surprised to see it at all and even more surprised to see it in every one we measured.” 

There is, of course, the enormous damage to property. The Environmental Health Policy Institute of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) in its summary of the “Costs and Consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster” cites estimates of economic loss of between $250 billion and $500 billion. Some 800 square kilometers are “exclusion” zones of “abandoned cities, towns, agricultural land, homes and properties” and from which 159,128 people have been “evicted,” relates PSR senior scientist Steven Starr. Further, “about a month after the disaster, on April 19, 2011, Japan chose to dramatically increase its official ‘safe’ radiation exposure levels from 1 mSv [millisievert, a measure of radiation dose] to 20 mSv per year—20 times higher than the U.S. exposure limit. This allowed the Japanese government to downplay the dangers of the fallout and avoid evacuation of many badly contaminated areas.”

And last year the Japanese government enacted a new State Secrets Act which can restrict—with a penalty of 10 years in jail—reporting on Fukushima. “”It’s the cancerous mark of a nuclear regime bound to control all knowledge of a lethal global catastrophe now ceaselessly escalating,” wrote Harvey Wasserman, co-author of Killing Our Own, in a piece aptly titled “Japan’s New ‘Fukushima Fascism’.”

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the nation’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission has over the past three years consistently refused to apply “lessons learned” from Fukushima. Its chairman, Dr. Gregory Jaczko, was forced out after an assault led by the nuclear industry after trying to press this issue and opposing an NRC licensing of two new nuclear plants in Georgia “as if Fukushima had never happened.”

Rosalie Bertell, a Catholic nun, in her book No Immediate Danger, wrote about the decades of suppression of the impacts of nuclear power and the reason behind it: “Should the public discover the true health cost of nuclear pollution, a cry would rise from all parts of the world and people would refuse to cooperative passively with their own death.”

Thus the desperate drive—in which a largely compliant mainstream media have been complicit—to deny the Fukushima catastrophe, a disaster deeply affecting life on Earth.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.