Over the weekend, I was asked over to a neighbor's house to help with some of the kids' science projects. Seventh graders: Bubbling, bright, and full of life.
"Oh, wow!" I exclaimed. "A DNA molecule! It's beautiful!"
Needless to say, that was EXACTLY what they wanted to hear -- instant recognition of those two spiraling arms and the four-colored cross-bracing. And it WAS a beautiful model, made with pipe cleaners they had bought at the 99 cents store.
I told the children: "There are about three billion of those cross-braces in each DNA strand, and the whole thing curls around on itself into a tiny clump, or it would be this long." I stretched out both my arms.
"There are somewhere between 10 trillion and 100 trillion copies of that molecule inside your body, depending on who you ask, and how big you are" I added.
All they actually needed was a strong glue. I brought over one that was non-toxic, dries clear, and "bonds most anything." Then I helped hold the model steady while the glue set.
Children are our future. They can be educated, or they can be left to discover whatever truths they can find, without our help. Or, we can lie to them, and make their search for truth just that much more difficult. Those are really the only choices. They WILL search for the truth. They will try to learn everything we know, and more.
I have tried to condense what I have learned into shorter, more concise forms of information transfer, so others can learn the same things -- the important things I learned (sometimes painfully) -- faster (and more easily).
We are each and every one of us in a race -- against death. Sure, we all lose in the end. But the idea is to keep the end as far away and as pleasant as possible. Not just far away. And not just a pleasant, die-in-your-sleep, painless, non-narcotic death. That should come AFTER 100 years. Anything less than that, and you have surely been robbed.
Forget the "averages." Those include the nearly-always doomed cigarette smokers, the many other unlucky cancer victims, the weak, the accident-prone, the slovenly, the gluttonous. Surely not you or me!
If nothing kills you, you CAN live to be 100! If young people believed it, and didn't eat poisons such as fast foods or your standard school lunch, and didn't kill each other with guns, cars, pills, dares, and diets, many of them, even in THIS polluted world, WOULD live to be 100!
But even if we could do everything perfectly, and eat only raw veggies and so on, we might still get poisoned to death by our environment. For example, I shouldn't live so close to the train tracks, leaking who-knows-what from their chemical cars and diesel fumes from their engines (which should, of course, be electric, or perhaps hydrogen-powered).
If stopping nuclear power is impossible, then the human race is doomed. All large, long-lived, non-conglomerate creatures will die -- oh sure, some massive array of fungus might still be a "large creature" by some definition, but blue whales, horses, humans, goats, cats, rats and elephants will all be gone.
Radiation destroys organization at all levels. Its gross damage can be obvious, Its cellular damage is not. Its magnitude (energy level) can be roughly -- only roughly -- predicted. Its direction or moment of occurrence cannot be predicted in any way, except statistically (which is irrelevant on an individual basis).
Its heat is the energy, the fire, the ruckus at the atomic level, the molecular level, the microscopic, hidden level. We die of the result, be we don't see or feel (or smell, or taste) the assault itself.
Some people can turn their heads and pretend no harm is done -- not even to a fetus, whose cells will replicate (some of them) tens of thousands of times, and differentiate, and be the parent cells of billions of cells.
These cells need YOUR protection. Our fetuses cannot speak for themselves, and nor can our past and gone activists.
We lost four great ones recently: Pamela Blockey-O'Brien, Oscar Shirani, Wendy MacLeod-Gilford, and Ross Wilcock. Below are obituaries for each of these wonderful people. Above them is something that we need to do as soon as possible.
I have lost so many friends. These four alone, I have known for a total of over 50 years! Pamela and I co-authored dozens of essays, though we decided to credit only one of them to us jointly -- The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, which is probably the most widely-distributed essay on the subject in the world. Sadly, I never met her in person, but we talked for hundreds of hours on the phone (she had essentially no computer access; so we never emailed).
With the loss of these giants, the rest of us will simply have to work harder. A lot, lot harder.
1) Call your Congresspeople! by Harvey Wasserman
2) Call your Congresspeople! by NIRS
3) Pamela Blockey-O'Brien, Peace and Nuclear Activist
4) Oscar Shirani, Nuclear Industry Whistleblower
5) Wendy Macleod-Gilford, Nuclear Activist
6) Ross Wilcock, Retired Pathologist and Nuclear Activist
7) Contact information for Ace Hoffman
1) THE MELTDOWN YOU STOP MAY BE YOUR OWN! A PLEA FROM HARVEY WASSERMAN:
by Harvey Wasserman
>Why is that $50 billion radioactive antique toilet still in the stimulus bill?
>February 10, 2009
>The infamous $50 billion nuke power loan guarantee package meant to use your money to build new nuke reactors has gone missing from saturation media coverage of Obama's Stimulus Package. But it's still in the Senate version of the bill, it could be voted on this week, and it could kill us all.
>Like that $30,000 antique toilet that disappeared into the banking bailout, the corporate media carries not a word about this gargantuan handout to the dying reactor industry. All the hype about a "nuclear renaissance" will come to naught without this massive taxpayer handout. But if it goes through, the landscape could be pock marked with lethal new nukes.
>We have days---maybe hours---to stop it. While aid programs to the states, for education and the truly needy are slashed, this gargantuan boondoggle is poised to sail through with virtually no public knowledge.
>The loan guarantee package was slipped into the Senate version of the Stimulus Bill by Senator Robert Bennet (R-UT) who proceeded to vote against the overall package. It is not currently in the House version.
>As the two bills are reconciled, armies of radioactive lobbyists will be marching through the Halls of Congress. They know Wall Street will never pay for new nukes, so that leaves…you and me!
>The estimated price of building new reactors has nearly tripled since the beginning of 2007. It is virtually certain to at least double again before any new nuke could come on line, which could not happen in less than a decade.
>Reactors built from the 1960s to now came on line an average of 200% and more over budget. A French-based reactor construction project in Finland has soared more than $2 billion over budget and is more than two years behind schedule. The Government Accountability Project warns that at least half those who build new reactors are likely to plunge into bankruptcy. To this day the industry cannot get private insurance to cover the full potential liability of a reactor catastrophe.
>But Bennett's maneuver, supported by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) would divert billions away from renewables and efficiency, and into these failed terror targets.
>Calls and letters are desperately needed to the Congressional leadership---NOW!--- to flush this horrific boondoggle out of the stimulus package. With White House pressure mounting to get it passed this week, every minute counts.
>Numerous major national environmental organizations offer websites from which to sign on and send letters, including www.nirs.org , www.beyondnuclear.org and www.nukefree.org. The Congressional phone line is 202-224-3121 or (toll free) 800-962-3524.
>Do not hesitate: the melt-down you prevent could otherwise kill you; the money re-directed to green alternatives could save our planet…and our economy.
>Harvey Wasserman edits http://NukeFree.org. His SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth is at http://solartopia.org. This article was originally published by http://freepress.org.
2) CALL TO STOP THE BAILOUT! A PLEA FROM NIRS:
CONTACT YOUR HOUSE MEMBER:
LET'S STOP THE $50 BILLION NUCLEAR/COAL BAILOUT!
February 9, 2009
We have now confirmed that the "compromise" Senate stimulus bill still contains the $50 Billion pre-emptive bailout for the dangerous and dirty nuclear power and coal industries.
But as we've noted before, the version passed by the House of Representatives does not include this provision.
Now we need to ensure that the House position prevails in the final negotiations over the two versions. Please send a letter to your House member now by clicking here:
And then please call your member at 202-224-3121.
We've been getting more than 1200 letters per day into the Senate! Now let's turn that focus to the House. Note: this letter is new, so even if you've sent a letter to your Representative already, please send the new one too.
And, please forward this Alert to all of your mailing lists, friends, colleagues. Put it up on blogs, Facebook and Myspace pages, and everywhere you communicate.
Let's make clear we're not willing to be the bankers of last resort for new nuclear reactors and coal plants. Nor do we want more dangerous radioactive waste and dirty coal ash piling up in our communities.
Thank you to the thousands and thousands of you who have acted so far in this campaign--your response has been amazing! But your help is needed even more now. Congress is trying to finish the stimulus bill this week--our actions now can make the difference! Click the above URL to send your message to your Representative.
After you do that, please consider making a small donation to help us pay for this campaign. Your help is needed and gratefully appreciated.
Thanks for all you do,
3) Pamela Blockey-O'Brien, Peace and Nuclear Activist:
Pamela Blockey-O'Brien was introduced to me in the mid 1990s by another activist who had met both of us and thought we should join up. We were joined at the hip ever since. It was the best thing that could have happened to me: Pamela knew everything I wanted to learn, she could give me hours and hours of her time, she kept meticulous records and could dig them up and quote them to me for use in an essay, and she could write some of the most technical nuke jargon you've ever seen -- easily keeping up with (and surpassing) the "big boys" in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the "Death of the Earth Squad" (DOE) as she liked to call them.
Whether it was cracked shrouds encircling embrittled reactor pressure vessels, or tritium-triggered aging nukes, Pamela always had a good grasp of both the engineering details and the potential biological consequences. Often she would call me up, terrified over some newly-reported nuclear horror, and together, over the phone, we would cobble together a report. Or I would call her with a nearly-completed essay, and we would spend the next three hours on the phone finishing it. "Okay, now read the whole thing to me again." "From the beginning?" "Yes." She had seemingly infinite patience with me, and we were both perfectionists. The story had to be right. The facts had to be right. The conclusion had to be right. She would call me a few hours later. "Did you send it yet?" "No, I'm still editing it." "Good! I was thinking, we should add...." and off we'd go again.
Pamela Blockey-O'Brien was an environmentalist and human rights activist. She was known worldwide since the early 1960s for her courageous work in South Africa and elsewhere around the world on human rights, hunger, the needs of children, and also against nuclear weapons and nuclear waste, as well as other global issues including chemical and biological weapons, disarmament and toxic waste health effects. She was a member of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest interreligious pacifist organization in the world. (IFR has had at least SEVEN Nobel peace prize winners in its ranks since its inception.)
Pamela was a smoker; her asthma finally caught up with the COPD. She was in the hospital for a week, and they thought she would come out, but a severe asthma attack put her in a coma, and ten minutes later it was all over.
Below is a clip from a longer statement by Pamela, showing her typical attempt at trying to explain how bad it is EVERYWHERE. She knew who was killing us and wanted us to know, too. Perhaps it ran in her veins to do so: Her father was a British Pathfinder during World War II (he did not survive the war; the plane he was in was lost over the Channel). I'm sure he would have been very proud of his daughter.
THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT RADIATION, NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS, RADIATION EXPOSURE AND "ALARA" ["As Low As Reasonably Achievable"].
What governments and industry don't want the public to know.
By Pamela Blockey-O'Brien (Member I.F.O.R.)
Contrary to popular belief, the entire nuclear fuel cycle -- from mining of uranium to transportation of nuclear materials, to manufacture of nuclear weapons/projectiles/so-called "depleted uranium" armor piercing munitions, to nuclear power plant and nuclear research reactors--emits DEADLY RADIOACTIVE CONTAMINANTS TO AIR, SOIL, VEGETATION AND WATER.
Pamela was great at finding quotes from industry experts, which are particularly hard for industry experts to deny. She would read them to me, and I would type them in. We agonized over making sure there were ZERO transcription errors every time. Here's an example of what it brought forth:
----- CLIP FROM W. W. SCHUTZ, GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, 1951 -----
"It is possible to eliminate certain hazards by suitable physical or chemical treatments. Harmful bacteria can be destroyed by heat or by suitable chemicals. An acid can be neutralized by a base. A capacitor can be discharged. In contrast to this, there is nothing that can be done to a radioactive material that will change the characteristics of its radiation. Its temperature may be raised or lowered and it may be subjected to severe mechanical treatment or combined chemically with other elements, but it will still continue to radiate as before. There is no switch available which can turn the radiation on and off. No matter what treatment they receive, radioactive materials will continue to emit radiation in accordance with definite natural laws."
-- From: Radiation and Radiation Hazards, by W. W. Schutz of the General Engineering Laboratory of the General Electric Company, written in 1951.
----- END OF CLIP -----
Added Pamela, "All 'dilution' in water does, for example, is spread it around."
In the next few months, I will have the opportunity to meet Pamela's husband, daughters, and grandchildren, and to go through Pamela's voluminous historic records. I was SUPPOSED to go film a documentary, but time ran out. Pamela was 65. Services will be Friday.
4) Oscar Shirani, nuclear industry whistleblower:
Oscar Shirani, who sacrificed his career to bring attention to faulty nuclear industry practices, passed away unexpectedly on December 24, 2008. He was only 52 and was diagnosed with a brain tumor just six days earlier. He will be dearly missed by his family, by me and, I'm sure, by many others.
Being 52 as well, and a cancer survivor (2007: bladder cancer), Oscar's death would hit me hard even if we hadn't been friends. But we must have talked at least a dozen times, and we met in Chicago years ago. From the first time he contacted me, I knew I was talking to an engineer's engineer. The best of the best. Shirani and I were instantly close, and I will always miss him. In October 2008, he provided some text about himself for the page on whistleblowers (he is one of seven mentioned specifically) in my book about nuclear dangers, THE CODE KILLERS.
Oscar Shirani was one of the most honest gentlemen I have ever met, with a delightful, bubbling, infectious personality, and he was surely one of the most principled, and one of the most abused (for holding steadfast to those principles) as well.
He worked in the nuclear industry for decades, and he may have believed right until the end that a properly-run nuclear industry could co-exist with humans on this earth (I think / hope that I was convincing him otherwise, over time). But, I know he also believed the current generation(s) of nuclear proponents are a bunch of lying, cheating scoundrels who would -- in his own words -- "sell their mothers for money." His testimonies were devastating to the nuclear industry -- or should have been.
I think it is important that we recall how hopeless Shirani thought the possibility of fixing the current problems with the nuclear industry really was. Perhaps in a perfect world, he would still have supported nuclear power. But he knew we were not going to get there with ANY of the current nuclear power plants OR nuclear engineers -- and that the dry casks we are using are genocidal -- so poorly built, so global in their potential devastation. He knew all this.
In the email that notified me of Oscar's death, Shirani's daughter Portia linked to an NEIS interview on CAN-TV. The full interview is available at:
In the introduction to the video, Dave Kraft describes Oscar Shirani as "a pro-nuclear safety advocate." Then, Oscar describes his 25-year history of working in the nuclear industry as a structural engineer. He adds that he was actively involved with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) for the past 12 years, and had presented ASME-sponsored workshops for training engineers all around the world. Kraft describes Shirani as "pro-nuclear, BUT [Kraft's emphasis] a safety advocate" to which Shirani says: "yes, that's exactly right."
The rest of the interview is about the horrific problems Shirani had, trying to alert the NRC, his bosses, and, eventually, anyone who would listen (since the NRC and his (eventually former) bosses wouldn't) to the "major problems in the design, and especially the welding" of critical components in the nuclear industry.
He then describes the stop-work he obtained against General Electric in 1997 (G.E. builds more reactors than anyone). Shirani had found serious "design flaws in all the documentation.... If my managers had let me, I could have shut down all the boiling water reactors in Illinois and everywhere."
He soon discovered -- was shown -- many of the ways the nuclear industry tries to destroy people like him -- honest people who realize there are problems involving public safety. It usually works, but Shirani fought back. In the nuclear industry, if you lie and support the industry no matter what they do wrong, no matter what crimes you see, you get promoted. If you're honest like Shirani, your career is destroyed, your authority is removed, and your reports are routinely denied, ignored, or simply lost as if they had never been written. You get transferred out of the nuclear division of the corporation, or fired, if you can't close your eyes to the problems you see. It's happened to thousands of people, but most just go away and carry on in their lives. Shirani wanted to correct the problems he found doing the job he had been assigned. That alone is enough to get you in trouble in the nuclear industry.
Shirani describes how he realized the entire nuclear industry was denying every safety issue: "design work had flaws, weld work had flaws... all the code violations for the layers of the welds were bypassing inspection ... NRC cannot sit face-to-face with me to prove that these casks are according to the codes." Meaning they are dangerous.
Then, talking about nuclear power plant upgrades, he explained that reactor operators are increasing the power by 20% by "eroding the safety margin that we [the engineers who designed the reactors] had built into the system." He describes increasing the power AND the lifespan as a "double-wammy" that squeezes more power out of the reactors, but at a greatly increased risk. He says the Department of Energy has the plants running for 60 years instead of 40 years (which, I should add, was instead of 20), the power upgrades, Yucca Mountain may never be built -- how is the industry going to keep going? Dry casks are the ONLY solution for the industry, and that's why his charges are being ignored, and records are being falsified to hide Shirani's findings. Because without dry casks, the industry dies.
If government and / or the nuclear industry addressed Shirani's issues properly, it would be enough to shut every nuclear power plant down until all-new components are designed, tested, built, tested, and then put into production. It would be decades into the future, and all the current nuclear workers would be gone. That's not a very "pro-nuclear" position, although it does leave some room for hope for the nuclear proponents. That door is closing because of medical issues -- through the back end, so to speak.
Tritium, released into the environment, may have been what killed Shirani, for example. What started his tumor -- what damaged his DNA. The brain is nothing but a thin shell (some skulls thicker than others) filled with water, and tritium gets everywhere hydrogen gets in your body -- which is everywhere (hydrogen is the "H" in H2O (water); tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen). Tritium's beta decay is called "weak" by the nuclear industry specifically to fool you, but it's decay is strong enough to destroy thousands of molecular bonds, and to ionize thousands of atoms in your body (in Shirani's brain). Each decay can do this, and there are millions of such decays going on every day in each of our brains, thanks to the nuclear industry (only a tiny amount of tritium is produced naturally). So the industry is not likely to ever win out. In the end, it MUST die -- or we all will.
Oscar Shirani always wanted to point out that he came from the industry and was "pro-nuclear" but he always was very, very careful to also point out that he was having an impossible time finding honest people in the nuclear industry, and he realized the industry cannot be run safely without a preponderance of honest people. He realized the industry literally kicked him out to silence him. He realized he had essentially no friends in the nuclear industry simply because he was honest. He realized he was a "whistleblower" who needed protection. He realized that he was "sacrificed" (his term) to protect the dry cask storage system that the nation uses, which would be shut down in a heartbeat if people in charge listened to the truths he spoke.
Shirani had many misgivings about the industry, and was learning about the biological side of the problems with nuclear power. "The nuclear disasters are something that we cannot afford to 'overwrite'" he said during the interview. We cannot fill out forms to make them safe. The inspections cannot be done on paper. Welds must really be x-rayed. Bolts must be tested to the point of failure. Calculations must be proven experimentally.
When Kraft asked, "what do you see as the future for nuclear power" he replied that "we need to put the pressure on the government to restructure the NRC" and called the nuclear companies "the Nuclear Mafia," and said the industry must be restructured "at any cost." He hopes that children will learn NOT to falsify their work. He points out that the NRC should be brought "to ... justice." He asks, "Do we want the Chernobyls to happen? Do we want millions of people dying and being scared? What's the cost of nuclear safety? I've seen the children of Chernobyl. We have an obligation." He adds, "Yes, I'm emotional. " He wanted to testify to Congress.
Oscar was in the hospital for about a week. The doctors thought they might be able to attack his tumor and he might live, but then he took a turn for the worse, and died within a day.
Shirani's death will certainly help guarantee a nuclear meltdown or spent fuel fire in America. Congress should have asked him to testify. They never ask nuclear whistleblowers to testify, though, let alone citizen-experts or activists. Shirani was robbed of his citizen's rights, as are we all.
Oscar Shirani, RIP: 01/29/1956-12/24/2008
5) Wendy Macleod-Gilford, Nuclear Activist:
Most sadly, British nuclear activist Wendy Macleod-Gilford also has passed on. She died late last year; of pain-induced and self-inflicted drowning, just a few days after my last communication with her (which, alas, was mainly about Dr. Wilcock's passing (see below)).
For many years, Wendy kept me informed about, and in touch with, British nuclear activists. In her last letter to me, she told me she just can't go on with activism anymore. Days later, on November 14th, 2008, she gave up the struggle entirely against the painful burning sensations of her skin condition, the inability to sleep through the pain (it was down to an hour a night), and other sufferings. She drove to where she and Mick Gilford were engaged, entered the water, and drowned. Wendy's car and belongings were discovered shortly thereafter; Mick had to "prepare for the worst" as the police put it.
Wendy's body was recovered from the Thames on December 20th. The services were January 2nd, 2009.
Wendy's many contributions to this newsletter and to the movement will be missed, but this author is glad she has surely found peace now.
6) Ross Wilcock, Retired Pathologist and Nuclear Activist:
The author also wishes to acknowledge, and mourn, the passing of dear Dr. Ross Wilcock.
Dr. Wilcock (MA, MB, B.Chir, (Cantab), FRCPath), was a retired pathologist. As far as I know, Ross was the first to describe "hot particles" as microscopic "land mines." Ross died of a heart attack September 25th, 2008. We had corresponded many times, starting during the Cassini battle. Ross was an intense lover of humanity, and worked tirelessly (perhaps too tirelessly) to protect it.
Below is part of one of my earliest correspondences with Ross, from 1997: He wrote:
"I have made a new contribution drawing a parallel between antipersonnel land-mines at one level and microscopic plutonium particles as 'cell-mines' - with perpetual anti-cellular activity in Nature."
I wrote back, asking permission to publish the entire article (which he gave me), and quoted my own newsletter from just a few weeks earlier (#29; I used to number them):
"Nanotechnology will never make a more vicious killing machine than a particle of plutonium 238. If it gets into your body those microscopic particles start tearing apart everything around them, bombarding surrounding cells with 'heavy' alpha particles (each has 2 protons [and two neutrons]; much heavier than beta particles). Sometimes they tear and damage chromosomes. Ripping yourself apart from the inside, even on a small, microscopic scale, is NOT a good thing!"
I added, "I have also made a number of statements over the years supporting a total ban on land mines..."
We were friends from then on.
Ross Wilcock was 68.
7) A brief closing comment:
None of us have forever to solve the world's problems, so we MUST work together, and help each other, and always do our best. Nevertheless, currently, we are losing ground, literally and rapidly. We are losing people. We are losing everything dear to us. And the Obama Administration wants to hand $50 billion dollars more to the nuclear industry, instead of killing it outright, as it should. Who is left to educate the new administration?
Nuclear power didn't kill all these wonderful people, and maybe even none of them, but it robbed them of a more productive life, as it has robbed me, and you, and so many others.
8) Contact information for Ace Hoffman:
Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose About Nuclear Crimes
High and Low, Large and Small,
Far and Wide
Free download: www.acehoffman.org
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