August 7th, 2007
Dear Ms Harrington,
Regarding your request (shown below, top) to be removed from my email
distribution list, the letter you responded to had PLENTY to do with
nuclear power plants -- as do 99% of my letters (many of which,
frankly, I HAVEN'T been bothering to send to the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission, but I can rectify that).
If the NRC was realistic about the dangers of low-level radiation,
and of war-caused nuclear "accidents," and of human frailty, and of
economic reality, and of alternative energy choices, then YOU would
shut down ALL the NPPs immediately.
Below is an essay about the dangers of low-level radiation -- never
before made public; I've been working on it for months. It is
written for the lay person, so surely any NRC staff member should be
able to read it and understand it, as well.
I ask you personally to read it carefully -- as will hundreds of
others, who will be "cc'd" this letter. It is UTTERLY relevant to
the work of the public affairs office of the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (your office).
After reading it, please tell me what you think about low-level
radiation in light of the points the essay makes. Has it changed
your viewpoint about radiation at all?
When deciding how to respond to THIS letter, I ask you NOT to discuss
the contents of the essay with other Nuclear Regulatory Commission
staff or other government employees, or outside contractors or
contacts of any sort. It is the DUTY of EACH of you to know these
basic facts about radiation. What is written below, or something
very similar, SHOULD be in your employee handbook. YOU -- evidently
by yourself -- are denying my right to speak to the NRC about these
very issues. Justify yourself. Justify your libel of my work.
Because if YOU don't understand the dangers of low-level radiation --
or the connection between nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants,
and how the latter is both a producer of the former, and a TARGET of
the former, then how can YOU possibly tell me my previous essay was
inappropriate for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission? It is this
very lack of understanding that makes the NRC ineffective in
protecting our lives.
Furthermore, the NRC regulates virtually ALL radioactive source
material, including Depleted Uranium, one of the subjects of that
newsletter. The NRC should stop licensing Depleted Uranium to our
munitions manufacturers for use in bombs, bullets and shells, or for
use in armor, helicopter blades, missile control surfaces and
counterweights, and nor should the NRC be licensing its use as an
outer casing for nuclear weapons.
Thank you in advance for your attention in this matter, and I will
NOT be removing the NRC from my email distribution list. I'm trying
to change the NRC most of all, so removing your syndicate -- oops, I
mean agency -- from the list would be utterly inappropriate.
Accompanying documents (2):
1) Your email to me this morning.
2) Essay about protecting human DNA.
At 08:22 AM 8/7/2007 -0400, "Holly Harrington" <HMH1@nrc.gov> wrote:
Re: Resign, Mr. Bush -- Resign!
Please remove us from your e-mail list. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission has nothing to do with nuclear weapons.
Office of Public Affairs
It's all about protecting YOUR DNA:
August 7th, 2007
You are highly organized and very complicated. You are intricate,
delicate, and beautiful. You are unique. One could even say that
God has signed off on YOUR design: His "Certificate of Authenticity"
is your unique DNA sequence. It describes you and only you, and
makes you human.
Estimates vary (some are as low as 10 trillion), but according to
many highly-qualified reference sources, there are about a hundred
trillion ( 1 X 10^14) living cells in your body. Nearly all of them
(except red blood cells and a few other specialized cells) have a
nearly-perfect copy of your DNA in them. Each copy is so perfect, it
can be distinguished from the DNA of all other humans even with the
crude technologies of today.
YOU HAVE TO PROTECT YOUR DNA ALL YOUR LIFE. You have a number of
tools to do this with: First, the DNA is attached to histones, which
are protein structures which give it added stability. Next it is
coiled tightly in on itself, not all strung out, which further
protects it from damage. Next, it's inside the nucleus of the cell,
and -- ideally -- only "approved" atoms or molecules get into the
nucleus of a cell. The nucleus is usually near the center of the
cell, so it's further protected by the body of the cell and the cell
wall, which, like the wall of the nucleus, evolved to stop all
DETECTABLE unwanted intruders. (Radioactive elements masquerade as
non-radioactive elements until the moment of decay. Your body cannot
tell them apart until it is too late.) All your cells are protected
collectively by many layers of dead skin cells, as well as by
hair. All this helps to protect your DNA from anything that might
harm it. Even outside your body, the earth's atmosphere, its ozone
layer, and its magnetic field, all help protect your DNA from the
violent radiation in space.
Although skin protects everything inside it from much of the
radiation outside your body, other parts of our bodies are designed
specifically to BRING the outside world inside us -- to provide you
with the air, water and nourishment you need to live. But ingestion
and inhalation is also how many radioactive substances get inside
your body, and thus, your lungs and your gut are especially
vulnerable to many of radiation's effects.
Indeed, NONE of your biological protection systems work perfectly,
which is why it's so important, as humans, to also use our BRAINS to
protect our DNA. We choose not to eat poisons, for example, so as
not to harm any of this stuff. ANY assault against your DNA should
be done with "INFORMED CONSENT." OTHERWISE, YOU ARE NO BETTER OFF
THAN A DOG IN A LABORATORY EXPERIMENT.
A single copy of your DNA is close to 100 billion ( 1 X 10^11) atoms
long, arranged in about three billion "bases." (There are just four
different kinds of bases.) About 97% of your DNA has no known
function. The other 3% is arranged to form about 30,000 different
genes. Genes are the genetic basis of our individual (and
collective) traits. About half of the genes code for protein
synthesizers (some code for more than one). Your DNA is further
organized into 23 paired sequences called chromosomes.
If stretched out, a single copy of your DNA would be about six feet
long. If laid end-to-end, the roughly 100 trillion copies of your
DNA in your body would go around the world over four million times.
Each individual cell is, itself, a highly organized structure. Each
cell is an extremely effective chemical manufacturing plant, capable
of making tens of thousands of DIFFERENT protein molecules as
needed. Your RNA controls this, and your RNA is a product of your
DNA. A typical protein molecule can have 2300 non-hydrogen atoms
(plus lots of hydrogen atoms) and is incredibly intricate in design
(imagine the number of POSSIBLE designs of a molecule with so many
atoms). Billions of proteins are created, modified and destroyed
every second in your body.
Each cell is a part of a body-wide Internet, which communicates from
one cell to another, or from one set of cells to other sets of cells,
via chemical and electrical signals. Often, the complex protein
molecules described above are used for this information transfer.
While your cells are dividing and replicating their DNA, the DNA is
particularly vulnerable to damage. Stomach cells divide about every
three days. This is one reason your gut is so susceptible to
radiation damage. Nearly all of your body's cells will divide over
and over during your life. It's supposed to happen flawlessly. Cell
death without cell division also occurs -- it happens to about 50 to
70 billion cells per day in the average adult body -- but it is a
pre-planned, carefully organized, highly controlled, and properly
timed event. Unplanned cell death is just one of MANY hazards from
Ionizing radiation CAN destroy ANY chemical bond, thus, it CAN damage
the DNA directly. But it is much more likely that the atomic decay
will create "free radicals" (atoms or molecules with unpaired
electrons) which roam inside your body and wreak havoc over and over,
until something (an anti-oxidant) captures the free radical.
In addition to DNA damage, each atomic decay inside your body can
destroy thousands of chemical bonds. These bonds are normally 100%
secure, solid, and reliable (except when your body intentionally
makes or breaks them).
Radiation randomly damages your body, and its effect sometimes
multiplies by numbers which appear to be gross exaggerations --
billions, trillions, etc.. But that's what causes varying degrees of
cellular and / or system disfunction, including damaging the
information transport systems within your body. Sometimes it kills you.
Less than a microgram (a thousandth of a milligram) of radioactive
Polonium-210 (an alpha emitter with a half-life of 138 days) was all
that was needed to kill British citizen (and former Russian spy)
Alexander Litvinenko. Enough was spilled along the way to
contaminate dozens of places and thousands of people, and to be
tracked all the way from London to Moscow via several commercial airliners.
So don't underestimate how important the nuclear industry's promise
of containment really is. Even a single atom of radioactive material
can be a fatal amount.
Ever since the dawn of the nuclear age, the billions-of-years-old
trend towards DECREASING radioactivity has ceased, and a sharp and
unrestricted INCREASE has begun. This increase is in the form of
minute particles which are not only invisible to the naked eye, they
are UNDETECTABLE by ANY human sense organ, even in LETHAL
DOSES. This makes it very easy to hide the damage whenever and
wherever it occurs, especially if you believe (as pro-nukers do) that
simply diluting radioactive materials renders them harmless. IT DOES
NOT. It just spreads them around.
Before World War II, background radiation was estimated to be under
100 mRem per person per year.
Then, Alamogordo and the nuclear age began, and up it went. 160,
180, 200, 240, 280, 320, 360, 380 mRem. Reports calling "normal
background radiation" 400 mRem per person per year have even been
found recently! You can watch the creep in the public literature
over the past sixty years.
The human contribution is due to atomic bomb blasts in war and in
endless weapons testing, the manufacturing of nuclear weapons and the
incomplete sequestering afterwards of the unused weapons stock, as
well as from operating nuclear power plants, nuclear experiments gone
awry, failed plutonium space launches, uranium and plutonium
processing and reprocessing (now called "recycling"), planned
releases, unplanned releases, illegal dumping, LEGAL DUMPING,
inadequate containment, and a thousand other things. Once ANY
radiation gets out into the environment, the pro-nukers and the
government (a subset of pro-nukers) call it ALL "background
radiation" or even "natural background radiation."
There is nothing you can do about most of your true (or "real")
"natural" background radiation exposure. One major component that
CAN be mitigated and should be is your Radon exposure. Sometimes as
little as a fan or open window in the right place in a house, to
remove contaminated basement air, suffices to get it out of your
house (and into your neighbor's airspace). Radon has a relatively
short half-life of about 3.8 days.
Another source of "natural" (not manmade) radiation is Potassium-40
(K-40). When citizens express concern about man-made radiation,
pro-nukers often try to confuse the citizen by asking: "Aren't you
worried about K-40?"
According to the Health Physics Society (the radiation-tolerant
"protection" arm of the nuclear industry) the amount of K-40 in the
average adult body is 17 milligrams and the average adult daily
intake of radioactive potassium (K-40) is about 0.39 milligrams.
You cannot reduce your intake of potassium without serious health
consequences, and a portion of your potassium intake WILL be K-40
(not much; only about 0.0117% of all potassium on earth is K-40 and
it's pretty evenly distributed among the two stable natural isotopes
of Potassium: K-39 (93.2581%) and K-41 (6.7302%)).
Your body doesn't need its potassium to be radioactive, but YOU can't
separate it out easily or cost-effectively. Your body does not store
excess potassium, so no matter how much you eat, you'll still retain
about 17 milligrams of K-40.
But, to really understand how natural radioactive Potassium (K-40)
compares to other radiation you might be (or ARE) exposed to, you
need to look at more than just the weight.
Potassium-40 has a very long half-life of over a billion years
(1.277 X 10^9 years). It decays mainly by beta emission
(89%). According to the Health Physics Society web site, 17
milligrams of K-40 has an "activity" of 120 nanoCuries (4.4
kiloBecquerels), which is a measure of the amount of radiation given
off by a substance. One Bq is one nuclear decay or other
transformation per second. One Curie = 37,000 million Bq..
How often an atomic breakdown occurs is certainly one basic factor to
consider in trying to determine the relative hazards of various
radioactive assaults, but by itself it can give an inadequate picture
of the relative damage that any particular type of atomic breakdown can do.
Potassium-40 represents about 5% of your "natural" internal radiation
burden, as measured in Curies or Becquerels. But there are other
ways to measure the relative damage -- for example: Rads and Grays
consider energy absorbed per gram. Rems (Roentgen equivalent man)
and Sieverts add in a factor for estimated biological
damage. Another, slightly better, way is by using the Relative
Biological Effectiveness (RBE) factor, which tries to guess the
potential damage more accurately by paying attention to which
specific organs are being irradiated. But RBE still isn't a very
good measure, mainly because the tables of values are largely
guesswork and underestimates.
ALL ejected electrons (beta particles), whether they start as
"high-energy" beta particles or as so-called "low-energy" or "soft"
beta particles, eventually reach that lower energy level, and the
VAST MAJORITY of the damage is done at that so-called "low" energy
level. This phenomenon is known as "Bragg's Curve" and is actually
USEFUL in radiation therapy medicine: The phenomenon is used to aim
radioactive particle beams at tumors buried inside the body. But
"soft beta rays" is a term the pro-nukers made up to describe what is
really a very deadly atomic bombardment by what they call
"low-energy" beta particles. In fact, a 6 KeV beta particle (the
average energy of a tritium atom's ejected beta particle) does about
the same amount of damage to biological systems as a 500 KeV beta
particle does (the average energy of a potassium atom's ejected beta
particle), all other things being equal.
Shocking? Consider a magnet passed over a bunch of nails. If you
pass it over them quickly, it will not pick any of them up. But when
you pass the magnet over them slowly, the pull of the magnet has time
to interact with the iron in the nails and can lift them against gravity.
The beta particle (an ejected electron) has a charge of "negative
one." It pulls on anything that has a positive (opposite) charge and
pushes on anything with a negative (similar) charge. A beta particle
is a very small sub-atomic object: About 1/1840th the mass of a
single proton or neutron in an atomic nucleus. When ejected from the
nucleus of an atom, the beta particle has a lot of energy and is
traveling at a significant fraction of the speed of light. For
example, a 6 KeV beta particle (typical from tritium) is ejected at
about 0.15 c (15% of the speed of light). A 500 KeV beta particle
(typical from potassium) is ejected at about 0.86 c (86% the speed of light).
At those high speeds, the beta particle's charge does not have time
to cause disruption of other electrons (pushing) or atomic nucleuses
(pulling) as it passes by them.
But, as the beta particle slows down, it has TIME to interact with
things it passes near to. And THAT'S when it does most of its
damage. It knocks other electrons out of their orbits and damages
molecules by exciting (energizing) their atoms and rearranging them.
The tritium atom was probably part of a water molecule. If so, when
it decays it leaves a vicious OH radical floating around, too. The
beta particle, once it slows down, often is captured by an O2
molecule (a pair of oxygen atoms in solution), creating a "super
In the case of tritium, as opposed to potassium, the left-over
element after the beta particle is ejected (Helium-3) is ALSO
particularly nasty at first, because it has the recoil energy of the
equal-and-opposite reaction to the ejected electron (beta
particle). It flies back, away from whatever molecule it was in,
where it was masquerading as a normal hydrogen atom until the moment
of decay. Hydrogen atoms are used just about everywhere in your
body, for many different tasks.
The recoiling atom, now a helium atom, weighs almost 6,000 times as
much as the released beta particle. The recoiling helium atom can
damage other molecules it bangs into, especially if it happens to hit
a hydrogen atom. Your body (and the universe) has more hydrogen
atoms than any other, so such collisions are not uncommon.
The beta particle, after it is released from one of the two neutrons
in the nucleus of the tritium atom, has a negative charge. At the
moment the beta particle is released, one neutron becomes a proton,
and the tritium atom goes from being hydrogen to being helium -- but
with just one neutron, which is one less than normal helium
(99.99986% of all helium on earth has two protons and two neutrons in
The process of creating the helium atom has destroyed whatever it was
a useful part of when it was a hydrogen atom, bonded to something and
involved in one of life's processes.
The new helium atom (formerly a hydrogen atom) needs two electrons
(instead of one) to fill its electron shells. It probably has one,
and will quickly steal a second one from just about any other atom
that happens to be nearby.
The helium atom is not radioactive and chemically is extremely
inert. Your body doesn't use helium for anything (probably because
its electron bonds are so strong, it doesn't combine with other
elements to make useful new molecules).
Tritium has a radiological half-life of about 12.4 years, and the
United States' EPA standard for tritium in drinking water allows 740
atomic breakdowns per second per liter. Your body has about 40
liters of water, so the EPA thinks that adding a burden of about
30,000 additional atomic breakdowns PER SECOND to your body -- just
from tritium alone -- is PERFECTLY OKAY!
This compares with 4,400 atomic breakdowns per second for all 17
milligrams of K-40 in your body, which doesn't have nearly as many
Is K-40 dangerous? Certainly. But it's unavoidable, and a
relatively small risk.
On the other hand, the EPA limit for tritium in drinking water is
unquestionably too lax. The nuclear industry is probably
UNDERESTIMATING the death toll from tritium by hundreds (two orders
of magnitude) if not thousands (three orders of magnitude), and they
are ALL entirely preventable deaths (the pre-nuclear level for
tritium was less than a thousandth of the EPA legal limit). The
standards are based on the damage to healthy adult males -- the LEAST
SUSCEPTIBLE of all possible groupings. FOR THE UNBORN, INFANT, OR
CHILD, THESE ATOMIC BREAKDOWNS ARE MUCH MORE SERIOUS.
About 1/2 of all humans get cancer some time in their life. Either
the cancer is destroyed or removed, they die of it, or they have it
when they die of something else. About 1/4 to 1/3 of all people
living today will die of cancer. Besides causing death, the
radioactive assault causes neuromuscular damage, cardiovascular
damage, fetal deformities, premature aging, etc. etc. etc..
In the case of tritium, nearly all the burden is created by
easily-replaced human activities and is COMPLETELY avoidable. The
tritium burden is especially harmful because of the ADDED effect of
the resultant "hot" helium atom, the creation of the OH free radical,
the sudden loss of the hydrogen atom, and several other effects
particular to tritium, which can permeate ANY part of the human
body. In other ways, other radioactive elements are WORSE than
tritium: For example, Strontium collects in bones and teeth of the
unborn, while Cesium collects in soft tissue, including muscle and
women's ovaries and breasts. But by many measures, tritium is the
worst of all.
When estimating radiation damage from different sources, one needs to
be very specific. Pro-nukers don't like to get bogged down in
details. They don't like to look their little devil in the eye.
The BIER VII report (Supplement two), after years of study, was
forced to conclude that there is no safe dose of ionizing
radiation. Numerous scientists I've spoken to over the years
concur. As one recently put it: "I just can't see how shooting a
projectile through a biological system can be safe. It's not harmless at all!"
To excuse a tremendous and unnecessary manmade radiation burden
simply because there is ANY natural and unavoidable radiation burden
is, in a word, inexcusable. Your K-40 exposure does not excuse your
tritium exposure. ALL radiation exposure is damaging and sometimes
even a single exposure can be fatal.
Dr. John W. Gofman, one of the most eminent nuclear physicists and
medical doctors of our time, put it this way: "ANY DOSE IS AN OVERDOSE."
Don't let anyone smudge your DNA -- your personal combination of
"Certificate of Authenticity," operating manual, and fundamental
building block. Your DNA is the nano-code within you which builds
all the nano-machines which ARE you.