Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Joseph Egan, Fought Nuclear Industry; Dead at 53

May 13th, 2008

Dear Readers,

Joseph Egan, a lawyer for numerous radiation victims, has died of cancer at age 53.

In 2002 the state of Nevada hired Egan's law firm to head up the legal fight against Yucca Mountain.

Egan, one reporter wrote: "is so confident of victory that he's willing to accept a fee only if the state wins. 'I'll put my money where my mouth is,' [Egan] said he does not believe [Yucca Mountain] will ever open. 'We don't expect to win every battle but we're going to win the war,' said Egan, considered an expert on nuclear law." (1)

Among other things, Nevada claimed that the Department of Energy "failed to address realistic sabotage scenarios involving spent fuel transport and thus vastly understated the risks and consequences of undertaking thousands of such shipments if Yucca proceeds." (2)

At the time, Antonio Rossman, an attorney/expert on land use and natural resources law, called Yucca Mountain "one of the gravest mistakes the [federal] government has ever made." (3)

On July 9, 2004, a federal appeals court found that the Bush Administration's proposed 10,000-year limit for protecting the public from Yucca Mountain's radiation was woefully insufficient. We can thank Egan (and the State of Nevada) for that important legal victory. (4)

Nearly four years later, Yucca Mountain is still being pushed by the federal government, which sees NO NEED TO END THE "LEGAL" DEBATE IN A HURRY, even if they are CERTAIN they are going to LOSE eventually (at least, they might have been certain while Egan was their adversary). While the courtroom drama drags on, nuclear power WINS BY DEFAULT, and everyone's cancer risk is gravely increased, and our country is led towards BANKRUPTCY. But that's all fine with the DOE and the rest of the Nuclear Mafia. They fiddle while our insides burn.

Egan also helped unmask a cover-up of email records of scientific fraud by the federal government's Yucca Mountain team of scientists. (5) Additionally, he argued the unconstitutionality of the Bush Administration's Yucca Mountain decision, because it pitted: "49 other states against Nevada." (6)

Egan was hard-working, smart, educated, had worked in the nuclear field, was dedicated to the law, and was undoubtedly very effective. Even Matthew Wald of the New York Times managed not to denigrate Egan in yesterday's obituary. Wald's pro-nuclear bias is usually plainly evident, but in Egan's case, Wald limits himself to reciting credentials and actions, so you know Egan MUST have been remarkable. Wald's obituary for Egan shows how Egan came to lead the legal team fighting against Yucca Mountain: "Mr. Egan earned an undergraduate degree in physics from M.I.T., and then two master's degrees, in nuclear engineering and in technology and policy. He worked as a nuclear reactor engineer for Commonwealth Edison in Illinois and later for the New York Power Authority. He received a law degree from Columbia University, and was a partner at Shaw Pittman in Washington and a senior associate at LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae in New York before founding his own firm in Washington." (7)

Others who are currently in the Nuclear Mafia should take note: You, too, can wake up before it's too late! Egan came out of the belly of the dragon to lead the fight against it, and so can you!

In 2003, the Justice Department joined in a lawsuit against Lockheed-Martin which Egan had filed, so he must have "had a case" as the saying goes. Here's Egan's own comments, from an article at the time: "We're extremely pleased that they're intervening," he said. "In a case like this, it's very important to have the resources of the government behind you." (8)

For many years I have believed that the rule of law will ultimately be what stops nuclear power -- as it should be, as it can be, as it must be. (Indeed: My last newsletter was on the unconstitutionality of nuclear power.)

Egan obviously believed in the power of the law, too, and additionally, he had the training, the skill, and the willpower to make change happen. He just didn't have the time.

The rest of us will have to work very hard to fill the void left by "young" Joseph Egan. And one must ask: Did man-made radiation kill him, as it has killed so many millions of others? Being just two years younger than Egan, and having survived a thumb-sized tumor in my bladder last year, shudders go through my body when I think about what he must have gone though, dying of gastroesophageal cancer.

My heart goes out to Egan's family, friends, coworkers and other admirers. I hope that a law school, and in particular a law school specializing in nuclear-related law issues, presumably at a Nevada university, will be founded in Egan's name.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

(1) Las Vegas SUN, Inc., August 28th, 2002, Cy Ryan: "Nevada State's nuke dump attorney sure of victory"

(2) Las Vegas Journal-Review, December 3rd, 2002, Keith Rogers: "Nuclear Waste: State files challenge to Yucca"

(3) Ibid.

(4) New York Times, July 9th, 2004, Matthew Wald: "Court Sets Back Federal Project on Atom Waste Site's Safety." The article includes this interesting claim: "Even before today's decision, the 2010 target date for opening the site was regarded by people in the nuclear industry as highly suspect."

(5) New York Times, April 2, 2005, Matthew Wald: "E-Mails Reveal Fraud in Nuclear Site Study"

(6) State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, Yucca Mountain Update, January 9th, 2004: "Arguments in Nevada's Lawsuit Against Yucca Mountain"

(7) New York Times, May 12th, 2008, Matthew Wald: "Joseph Egan, Lawyer Who Fought Nuclear Waste Site, Is Dead at 53" (shown in its entirety below)

(8) Kentucky Enquirer, May 31, 2003, Nancy Zuckerbrod (The Associated Press): "Justice joins Paducah environmental lawsuit: Plant handled radioactive, hazardous waste"

At 11:28 PM 5/12/2008 -1000, "shannon rudolph" <shannonkona@gmail.com> sent:

>Date: Mon, 12 May 2008 23:28:06 -1000
>From: "shannon rudolph" <shannonkona@gmail.com>
>Subject: Joseph Egan, Lawyer Who Fought Nuclear Waste Site, Is Dead at 53
>Joseph Egan, Lawyer Who Fought Nuclear Waste Site, Is Dead at 53 - New York Times
>Joseph Egan, Lawyer Who Fought Nuclear Waste Site, Is Dead at 53
>Published: May 12, 2008
>WASHINGTON — Joseph R. Egan, a nuclear engineer-turned-lawyer who led Nevada's legal campaign to block a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, died Wednesday at his home in Naples, Fla. He was 53.
>Skip to next paragraph
>Evan Vucci
>Joseph R. Egan in 2004.
>The cause was gastroesophageal cancer, his family said.
>Mr. Egan, in an obituary he wrote weeks ago that was posted on his law firm's Web site after his death, said that he had arranged for his ashes to be spread at Yucca Mountain, in Southern Nevada, with the words "radwaste buried here only over my dead body."
>Mr. Egan's wife, Patricia, said by telephone on Friday that Mr. Egan had been cremated, adding, "We are going to do it."
>Legal challenges by Mr. Egan's firm, Egan, Fitzpatrick & Malsch, have helped set back the Energy Department's project at Yucca by years. In 2001 he filed a lawsuit raising a variety of legal objections to the site, which was chosen by Congress. In 2004 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with one challenge, that the repository should be judged over one million years, not over 10,000 years as the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency had planned. The Yucca project's fate is not clear today, 10 years after it was to have opened.
>Mr. Egan's specialties included nuclear nonproliferation law. He lobbied the federal government to take back highly enriched uranium that could be useful in a weapons program but had been exported to various countries under the Atoms for Peace program beginning in the 1950s.
>On behalf of workers and an environmental group, he sued Lockheed Martin for illegal waste storage and disposal when it operated a government-owned uranium enrichment plant in Paducah, Ky. The Justice Department later joined the lawsuit. He filed an antitrust suit against the operator of a nuclear waste dump in Utah on behalf of a client who wanted to open a competing dump in Texas. (The suit was settled after the Texas site opened.)
>Mr. Egan earned an undergraduate degree in physics from M.I.T., and then two master's degrees, in nuclear engineering and in technology and policy. He worked as a nuclear reactor engineer for Commonwealth Edison in Illinois and later for the New York Power Authority. He received a law degree from Columbia University, and was a partner at Shaw Pittman in Washington and a senior associate at LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae in New York before founding his own firm in Washington.
>In addition to his wife, Mr. Egan is survived by two children, Jennifer and Warren, of Naples; his parents, Dick and Lucy Egan of Melrose, Minn., where Mr. Egan grew up; a brother, Timothy, of Billings, Mont.; and three sisters, Michelle Langlas of Naples and Anne Gant and Denise Loonan, both of Minneapolis.
>More Articles in US »

This newsletter was written by Ace Hoffman, Carlsbad CA

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Unconstitutionality of Nuclear Power Regulation in America

May 5th, 2008

Dear Readers,

Nuclear power is undemocratic.

A small group of citizens in California are trying to reclaim their rights -- both those rights taken unconstitutionally by the federal government, AND those rights relinquished by their own state agencies to the feds.

Californians are encouraged by recent victories: A Ninth Circuit requirement to take a closer look at terrorism dangers at nuclear power plants, along with several failed attempts by pro-nuclear zealots in the state legislature to overturn a prohibition on new nuclear reactors in California before a nuclear waste solution has been found. Now 60+ years late, the solution will not be arriving any time soon. (Yucca Mountain is a scientific and engineering nightmare, as the author has discussed in numerous prior essays.)

But the old reactors have to be shut down, and every time citizens of California try to bring up the dangers of embrittlement, worker negligence, the accumulation of waste, or even the viability of clean alternatives, they are told that everything related to "safety" is under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and that the state agencies are unable to rule on such matters.

The citizens are getting tired of hearing this malarkey, so I've prepared a little treatise on the history of our loss of rights. It began near the dawn of the nuclear era.

The charter of the Atomic Energy Commission, drafted in 1946, gave the commission sweeping powers, included numerous provisions for "restricted data" which did not have to be given out to the public. The AEC charter included the supervision of nuclear weapons research and development. Originally as many as 80% of the AEC's "research reports" were classified as "restricted data," with public release of such information punishable by death. (1) (One famous AEC study, which predicted that a nuclear power accident could kill 45,000 people and contaminate an area the size of Pennsylvania, was kept secret for seven years. (2))

The Soviet explosion of a hydrogen bomb in 1953 led to America's then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower announcing the "Atoms for Peace" program in December of that year, with its "Swords into Plowshares" stupidity of using nuclear bombs to carve canals, help mine shale oil, remove unwanted mountains, and so on (many sites where these things were attempted remain dangerously radioactive to this day).

In 1954, the U.S. was able to explode its own H-Bomb (with technology now considered quiant), and the Cold War was back on track and more fervent than ever. The Atoms for Peace program's plan to force nuclear power plants down citizens' throats, however, was having trouble getting started.

By that year, one of the original AEC act's draftsmen, James R. Newman, had termed it "an act of socialism in a sea of private enterprise" because it gave the AEC a monopoly on the production and ownership of "fissionable materials." (The 1954 revision would refer instead to "special nuclear material," in order to include "fusibles" as well.) (3)

The 1954 revision, while hotly debated, did little to change the "socialism" (centralized regulation and authority) of the AEC's broad-reaching authority. Public safety was of little concern, the main issues were things like patent rights for inventors, whether the AEC could compete with private industries in building nuclear power generators, what a "fair price" would be for the electricity, and so on (4). Everyone assumed nuclear power was a "go," the only question was how to proceed.

The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 gave the AEC the authority to issue licenses to private companies to build and operate nuclear power plants, while also giving the AEC the twin responsibilities of promoting AND regulating those commercial nuclear power companies. The AEC was extremely quick to hand out licenses. (5)

It was during this time that the then-chairman of the AEC, Admiral Lewis Strauss claimed: "It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter." (6)

Others echoed this ridiculous claim. For example, on August 8th, 1955, H. J. Bhabha opened the Geneva Conference (an important international conference on the future of nuclear energy) by proclaiming, this time about fusion power specifically: "I have to predict that a method will be found for liberating fusion energy in a controlled manner within the next two decades. When that happens, the energy problems of the world will truly have been solved forever, for the fuel will be as plentiful as the heavy hydrogen of the oceans." (7)

Fusion power is still a pipe dream of some, and although no fusion reactors exist, well-funded research continues nevertheless. So far, the longest sustained experimental fusion reaction lasted one half second (in 1997), and required half again more power than the 10 Megawatts it produced. (8)

Furthermore, a fusion energy-based economy would require enormous quantities of the extremely hazardous radioactive hydrogen isotope tritium. Even the experiments require enough tritium to pollute hundreds of billions of gallons of water to the maximum permitted EPA contamination levels. (9)

Strauss's dream for fission reactors -- the type still in use today -- of energy "too cheap to meter" had to be abandoned in the face of reality. In its place, and after Bhabha's similar claim for fusion reactors proved equally fanciful, then-AEC chairman Glen Seaborg was forced to proclaim a (slightly) different dream, stating on April 22nd, 1970: "It has long been recognized that nuclear energy's full promise for providing a virtually unlimited energy source for future generations could be realized only through the development and application of the breeder reactors." (10)

Interest in the plutonium-producing breeder reactors was undoubtedly set back by an event on Nov. 29, 1955, when "miscommunication during an experiment led to a partial meltdown of the reactor's core." (11) Other reports put the amount that melted as: "half its fuel rods" (12).

In June 2005, by which time the AEC's dual role of promoting and regulating nuclear power had been recognized as unworkable, and it had long ago been divided into the promotional arm (the Department of Energy) and the regulatory arm (the Nuclear Regulatory Commission), this author snuck into the American Nuclear Society's annual meeting (it costs $700.00 to be a member so you can attend) and heard the then-chairman of the NRC, Nils Diaz, proclaim that "direct energy conversion" is the #1 technological challenge, the key to making nuclear truly useful to mankind, by eliminating "the turbine" and other parts of the typical power plant, nuclear or not. "Think of the benefits that could be applied" he proclaimed. He also stated that 50% of reactor downtime was due to "materials issues." (13)

Diaz's dream (fantasy), like the dreams (fantasies) of Seaborg, Bhabha, Strauss, and others, lacked one thing: A grip on reality.

The reality is that nowhere in the Constitution is there a provision for the taking of an industry, any industry, out of the control of the states, counties, cities, and towns where it will exist and where its impact will be felt, and giving control to a small cadre of industry-tight regulators who are, in fact, charged not just with regulating but with SUSTAINING and even PROMOTING that industry in the face of sound science and economics which BOTH indicate that same industry is poisoning the planet AND preventing alternative, clean industries from growing!

Kafkaesque, isn't it?

After the author's local nuclear power plant, San Onofre, dropped a crane 80 feet, the author contacted the national Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), only to discover that OSHA, like the various state agencies, had ZERO authority over, for example, safe crane operations (or anything else) at nuclear power plants. No other industry is excluded from OSHA's oversight in a similar fashion, and look what happened? San Onofre was operating cranes for years with: Worn-out straps, improper lifting techniques, improper personnel safety procedures, a distinct lack of training, and, when they dropped the rented crane they were moving with their gantry, one worker was almost killed, but in the end, allegedly only soiled his clothes.

About the same time, another old crane's forks suddenly dropped, nearly killing another worker. The NRC pretends that it can be an expert in all things having to do with running a nuclear power plant, but these incidents (and many others) clearly show otherwise. (14)

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution states Congress can support "science," but Congress is charged with promoting the public welfare too (in the first paragraph of Section 8). Congress is, therefore, obligated to support, most of all, the cleanest energy alternatives possible. And yet, consistently, it throws most of its support behind the dirtiest energy source ever devised, one that, in over half a century, has not lived up to a single promise: Atomic power is not reliable, it's not safe, it's not clean, it's not cheap, it's not democratic, and it leaves a legacy for which there is no "scientific" solution -- physical isolation on appropriated American Indian territory (Yucca Mountain) is the current plan, and is completely unworkable.

In May of 1956, the Nuclear Energy Property Insurance Association was organized by 155 "stock property-insurance companies in the United States." Together, they came up with $50 million dollars in property coverage, not nearly enough to get the industry started. Nuclear promoters claimed that the problem was that the nuclear industry was too new for private insurers to realize how safe it was. (15)

The Price Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, commonly called the Price-Anderson Act, was required to actually convince ANY private companies to build nuclear power plants, because of the financial risks involved (it also took billions of dollars in public financing and several other incentives). Price-Anderson was passed in 1957 as an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.

Corporate liability was completely removed, even in the case of carelessness or recklessness. Price Anderson "effectively repealed every citizen's common-law right to sue for damages caused by some one else's negligence." (16)

Price-Anderson was renewed 50 years later -- but proponents could no longer proclaim that the industry was immature. Instead they simply claimed that the potential liability was too much for private insurers to bear, and that THEREFORE Price-Anderson should continue. In other words, the fact that insurance companies, having been given 50 years too look the matter over, STILL DON'T WANT TO TAKE ON THE LIABILITY FOR NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS meant nothing to the legislators who extended Price-Anderson recently. The "island of socialism in a sea of capitalism" would continue.

This writer suspects that one hidden impetus for the extension of the corrupt Price-Anderson act was a little-known near-catastrophe in 2002 called "Davis-Besse." In that year, a football-sized hole developed in the 7-inch thick Reactor Pressure Vessel Head (RPVH), and the liner, about 3/16ths of an inch thick, was already bulging when the problem was accidentally discovered. The liner had not been designed to withstand reactor pressure without the backing of the RPVH. A rupture would certainly have caused a meltdown, the effects of which would have rivaled Chernobyl in their actual damage and certainly exceeded it in financial cost to the community. (17)

The event is referred to by the NRC as a "learning experience."

But insurance is not the only fraud being perpetrated on America in the name of nuclear energy. Nullifying anti-trust laws for nuclear corporations also was a goal of AEC Chairman Strauss. (18)

As to "states' rights," those were practically obliterated regarding anything having to do with nuclear energy: "The framers of the 1954 law acted on their conviction that the states lacked the experience and technical knowledge to deal effectively and intelligently with atomic energy. They did not intend to exclude the states entirely from participation in atomic energy issues, but they made no effort to define which functions the states might carry out." (19)

The result was that the Federal Government had taken away numerous citizens' and states' rights regarding nuclear power, but that was only half the problem. The states had, for their part, willingly given up those rights, rather than challenge the usurpation of those rights by the Federal Government. (20)

The states' interests regarding nuclear power were generally limited to doing what they felt was necessary to PUSH nuclear power within those states that wanted it. "Agreement States" came to describe states which had made new, specific agreements with the federal government concerning nuclear power. All issues pertaining to "safety" were kept by the Federal government, so that state agencies could not rule on the dangers of nuclear power. On March 26th, 1962, the Commonwealth of Kentucky became the first Agreement State. There are now 35 Agreement States. (21) Undoubtedly, not one of these agreements is a valid legal document.

Citizens who tried to organize themselves, and especially nuclear workers who became whistleblowers, have been harassed and denigrated. Pro-nukers have done everything from trying to convince local police that local pro-DNA activists were "terrorists" (22) to, in one famous case (and possibly others), apparently killing a Kerr-McGee whistleblower by running her off the road while she was on her way to a meeting with a New York Times reporter. She had promised to bring documents which were never found.

Hundreds of reporters have been harassed as well over the years, after questioning the "logic" of nuclear power, or after merely having an "anti-nuclear activist" or even a scientist on their show who said anything critical about nuclear energy. And if given any significant "air time," the local nuclear power plant will always get their spokesliars on-camera as well, even if they have to donate money to a local environmental effort, such as a nearby lagoon mitigation project, to do so.

Other industry tactics to get nuclear power accepted by the masses have included selling the first nuclear plants (such as Oyster Creek in New Jersey, which still runs, although very poorly) at well below cost, in order to make the technology look profitable to other buyers. These later buyers wouldn't get the same contracts and would pay double, triple and worse for their reactors. Business Week described Oyster Creek as the "greatest loss leader in American industry." (23)

The net result of all the legislative maneuvering since 1946 is that citizens are not protected by anyone other than nuclear promoters who bounce from the international nuclear industry to the Federal government and back again. (24)

It's time for states -- and their citizens -- to take back their right to regulate (and SHUT DOWN) nuclear power from a corrupt federal government, which has been shamelessly lying and promoting this very rotten, failed technology for far too long, despite a plethora of cleaner, safer, and, in the long run, far cheaper alternatives.


Ace Hoffman
Nuclear Historian
Carlsbad, CA

The author, who has studied nuclear issues for nearly 40 years, used a small fraction of his extensive collection of approximately 400 books on nuclear power to prepare this document, plus some online research and some personal experience. Footnotes for source material and quotations used in this article appear below. In some cases I have paraphrased the source material for clarity.

(1) Gould, Jay M. & Goldman, Benjamin A., Deadly Deceit, 1990 p. 72.

(2) The Silent Bomb, Edited by Peter Faulkner, Foreword by Paul R. Ehrlich, 1977, p. 31

(3) Hafstad et al, Scientific American books: Atomic Power, 1948 - 1955, p. 117 - 120

(4) Ibid, p 117 - 128

(5) Grossman, Karl, Power Crazy, 1986, p. 173

(6) Makhijani, Arjun and Saleska, Scott, The Nuclear Power Deception: U.S. Nuclear Mythology from Electricity "too Cheap to Meter" to "Inherently Safe" Reactors, 1999, p. 2

(7) Hughes, Donald J., (Brookhaven National Labs), On Nuclear Energy, 1957 (foreword by Admiral Lewis L. Strauss, then-Chairman, AEC), p 228

(8) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power (as of May 5th, 2008)

(9) For some technical details about the amount of tritium needed, see, for example, Martin Keilhacker, JET Experiments in Deuterium-Tritium, JET Team, Europhysics News November/December 1998, p. 230 - 231

(10) Gofman, John W., Poisoned Power: The Case Against Nuclear Power Plants (forward by Senator Mike Gravel), 1971, p. 323. Note the date of the quote: It's the same day Earth Day was established! (And note that back then, even Dr. Gofman thought "fusion power" might still be a "holy grail" for the nuclear industry!)

(11) Argonne News, The Online Edition of the Lab's Employee Newspaper, http://www.anl.gov/Media_Center/Argonne_News/news01/an011217.html (as of May 5th, 2008)

(12) Idaho State University, Radiation Information Network: http://physics.isu.edu/radinf/chrono3.htm (as of May 5th, 2008)

(13) This author's posted comments about the ANS meeting, available online in NucNews message 22283:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NucNews/message/22283 (as of May 5th, 2008)

(14) Information about the "Crane Drop Incident" is based on conversations with a worker at the plant, and public information which came out after the incident was reported to the NRC (and the media) by this author. The NRC's main interest turned out to be the name of the worker who told me about the crane drop (which they never got). The dropped crane incident occurred the same day the public spokesperson for the plant proclaimed that "anti-nuclear activists don't understand the laws of physics." Oh, the irony!

(15) Supra, (7), p 211

(16) Ford, Daniel, The Cult of the Atom, 1982, p. 45

(17) There are numerous sources for the approximate thicknesses of these components, as well as for the time that was left before rupture, and for everything else after that. These thicknesses were taken from a private engineering firm's report to the NRC about the accident:
http://www.nuclear.com/archive/2003/06/11/Davis-Besse_Head_Corrosion-EMC2/Margins-ML0315606540.pdf (as of May 5th, 2008)

(18) Clarfield, Gerard H. and Wiecek, William M., Nuclear America, Military and Civilian Nuclear Power in the United States, 1940-1980, 1984, p. 272-274

(19) Mazuzan, George T. & Walker, J. Samuel, Controlling the Atom: The Beginnings of Nuclear Regulation, 1946-1962, 1984, p277-278

(20) See my April 26th, 2008 newsletter "[California] Coastal Commission enables a NEW quarter million pounds of High Level Radioactive Waste each year in California!"

(21) NRC web site: http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/state-tribal/agreement-states.html (as of May 5th, 2008)

(22) Helvarg, David , The War Against the Greens, 1997,p 329

(23) Supra, (16) p. 62 - 63 (The Daniel Ford book contains the Business Week quote.)

(24) See my comments about AREVA in my May 2nd, 2008 newsletter: "Resend: [Hanford] Digest Number 1578 -- Mother Jones should be ashamed. (AREVA ownership correction)" for some examples, but there are many others.


Quotes collected by Ace Hoffman:

"Nuclear war must be the most carefully avoided topic of general significance in the contemporary world. People are not curious about the details." -- Paul Brians (author; quote is from: Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction)
�When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.� -- Sinclair Lewis (first American Nobel Prize winner in Literature, 2.7.1885 - 1.10.1951)
"There is no such thing as a pro-nuclear environmentalist." -- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa, 1992)
"Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories." -- Sun Tzu (Chinese general b.500 BC)
"The most intolerable reactor of all may be one which comes successfully to the end of its planned life having produced mountains of radioactive waste for which there is no disposal safe from earthquake damage or sabotage." -- A. Stanley Thompson (a pioneer nuclear physicist who later realized the whole situation)
"Any dose is an overdose." -- Dr. John W. Gofman (another pioneer nuclear physicist who saw the light (9.21.1918 - 8.15.2007))
"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery." -- Octavia Butler (science fiction writer, 7.22.1947 - 2.24.2006)
"If you want real welfare reform, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to reduce poverty, you focus on a good education, good healthcare, and a good job.

If you want a stable middle class, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to have citizens who can participate in democracy, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

And if you want to end the violence, you could build a million new prisons and you could fill them up, but you never end this cycle of violence unless you invest in the health and the skill and the intellect and the character of our children. you focus on a good education, good health care and a good job.

And other than that, I don't feel strongly about anything."

-- Paul Wellstone (US Senator, D-Minnesota, 7.21.1944 - 10.25.2002)
"There are no warlike peoples - just warlike leaders." -- Ralph Bunche (8.7.1903 - 12.9.1971)
"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." -- Thomas Jefferson
"Please send this to everyone you know!" -- Ace Hoffman (original collector of the above quotes, January, 2008)

This email was sent by:

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA 92018

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ace pushes Helbig's buttons

May 3rd, 2008

Dear Readers,

Roger Helibig has sent me several letters accusing Joe Mangano (and myself) of fraud and several other crimes and stupidities. The complete correspondence is shown below. I've also included my proposed response to his two most recent emails.

I was working, off and on, on a response to his email of April 27th, 2008, when his email of May 2nd came in. In it, Helbig takes the defeated pro-nuker's usual stance: He declares victory and runs. Ain't he cute?


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


"Roger Helbig" <rhelbig@california.com>
cc: "Roger Helbig" <rwhelbig@gmail.com>

Subject: Re: Where's the fraud, Mr. Helbig?

May 3rd, 2008

Mr. Helbig,

There is no mention of Depleted Uranium in Joe Mangano's book and nor did I say there was in my previous emails (shown below). My comments about DU were just there to prove to ME that you had NOT read the book, and because, of course, I know from the Internet that DU is a "hot-button" topic for you.

You took the bait, hook, line and sinker, and provided plenty of proof that you haven't even opened Mangano's book and don't know what it's about, yet you're accusing him and me of fraud, without making a single specific charge.

Additionally, neither Mangano nor I said that Uranium gathers in teeth as you are claiming we said. You should have read my previous letter more carefully. Mangano's peer-reviewed studies refer to Strontium-90, which DOES accumulate in teeth and bones. The Baby Teeth Project's studies do NOT involve Depleted Uranium -- as you would know if you had read his book.

Furthermore, what *I* wrote about so-called "Depleted Uranium" was explicitly not limited to just U-238, but included ALL the other radioactive elements that might be part of DU weapons or armor. In particular, I discussed the dangers of fission products, which can be a significant portion of DU if it comes from reprocessed reactor cores.

However, your "responses" appear to only be considering U-238. Furthermore, you didn't cite anything you actually know that disproves my contention that DU is harmful. You just said the IAEA and UNEP have said that DU at a few specific sites they tested did not appear to be a "serious threat" in some unspecified reports that you like.

In general, IAEA's pro-nuclear bias is well-known, and it's equally well known that UNEP goes along with anything IAEA says. I believe that's their official, written policy, actually.

In your opinion, are there ANY alternatives that fall between a "serious threat" and "no threat whatsoever?"

As to putting DU in perspective, I usually refer to spent reactor fuel as being "10,000,000 times more dangerous than before it went into the reactor." I doubt that anyone can show that estimate is off by an order of magnitude in either direction (but if they can, I'll immediately adopt their more accurate value). Spent reactor cores have to be isolated from human beings for millions of years, and Yucca Mountain, if built (which would be a big mistake), will not reach its peak radioactivity for several hundred thousand years after it is filled and closed.

Before the fuel goes into the reactor, it is much less dangerous than USED (so-called "spent") fuel, but it is still more dangerous than pure U-238, probably by a factor of -- oh, I'd have to work up a lot of numbers for the specific activities for the estimated percentages of U-238, U-235, and, of course, the U-234 with its much shorter half-life, and for each of the other possible components including plutonium and fission products, but my guess is DU is between a tenth and a hundredth as dangerous as fresh (unused) nuclear reactor cores. More or less.

Which STILL doesn't make DU safe -- especially when aerosolized -- but granted, there ARE far more significant nuclear assaults against humanity. Nevertheless, civilians in Iraq -- and many of our own soldiers -- are probably suffering more from Depleted Uranium than from effluent from reactors (for the moment). A little goes a long way. Sure, it's not Polonium-210, like what was used in microgram quantities to kill Alexander Litvinenko -- and the heavy-metal toxicity is probably the worst part of DU (U-238, that is), but it isn't harmless, as you seem to contend. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to think that I could sprinkle it on my toast like little jimmies each morning, and stir it into my coffee, and spray it all over my body like sunscreen, without any concern whatsoever.

I am on record as stating, after watching Baghdad traffic on television shortly after the "liberation of Iraq" five years ago, that if we could convince Iraqi citizens to wear bicycle helmets, we could probably save more lives than the Iraqi people will lose to Depleted Uranium in their air, food, and water. Since then, however, we've dumped another estimated 2,000 tons of Depleted Uranium on the country, much of it in populated areas (the DU that had been used in Iraq up until the time I made that statement was mainly expended in deserts, well away from large population centers). There's naturally-occurring Uranium everywhere already, of course.

Radiation can cause, and therefore DU can cause: Cancer, leukemia, birth defects, heart disease, neurological damage, chronic kidney pain, kidney stones, skin cancer, infants born with organs outside their bodies or without brains, limbs, vital internal organs (these babies don't live very long), or without genitalia (or with both kinds). Radiation might have caused my bladder cancer last year.

You said I could send Mangano's book "Radioactive Baby Teeth: The Cancer Link" to you "if I want to." What I wanted was to prove that you accused him of fraud without ever having seen his book or his research, and that you don't know what it's about, which I've done.

However, if you send me your postal address, which you haven't yet done -- further proof you're afraid of the truth -- I'll send you a copy, so you can verify for yourself that I have not lied, and Mangano did not commit fraud.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Useful URLs for Helbig and his team to try to find fraud in:

It's All About the DNA:

Tritium Explained (why "Low Level Radiation" can be disproportionately harmful):

Nuclear Power Kills: Here's How:

More essays, mostly about nukes:

POISON FIRE USA: An animated history of major nuclear activities in the continental United States, including over 1500 data points, accurately placed in time and space:

How does a nuclear power plant work (animations of the two typical U.S. reactor designs):

Internet Glossary of Nuclear Terminology / "The Demon Hot Atom," a look at the history of nuclear power:

NO NUKES IN SPACE (what was on board Columbia?):
or try:

SCE Memo / One Bad Day At San Onofre (roll mouse over ONE BAD DAY and leave it there for a minute or two to watch an animation of several disastrous events take place at San Onofre):

List of every nuclear power plant in America, with history, activist orgs, specs, etc.:

List of ~300 books and videos about nuclear issues in my collection:

Learn about The Effects of Nuclear War here:

Depleted Uranium: The Malignant Bullet:

Trouble in Paradise:

Nuclear Bomb Effects Computer: How big a bang do you need?

Also by Ace Hoffman:

Animated Periodic Table of the Elements:

Selected Pump Animations with full frame control:

"All About Pumps" educational software tutorial:

"Statistics Explained" educational software tutorial (co-author):

"The Heart: The Engine of Life" educational tutorial about the human heart, originally written in 1984 and released for the first time in 1986 (co-author):

All four of the educational products require passwords to be entered once:

ZINC (for the Animated Periodic Table)
MR. PUMP (for All About Pumps)
ANOVA (for Statistics Explained)
AORTA (for The Engine of Life)

The programs also ask for a "login ID," but that can be anything in the current releases.

Seven Seconds in San Marcos: How to survive a attempted head-on collision:

Prior correspondence with from Helbig:

At 07:10 PM 5/2/2008 -0700, "Roger Helbig" <rwhelbig@gmail.com> wrote:
>You are fairly mistaken, but there are better low hanging fruit for
>now. Remember, figures don't lie, but liars can figure. When you
>remember that, you will come to the realization that the anti-DU
>crusade is full of the latter.
>I had an Uncle who fought at the Cassino as well -- he did not do well
>after the war but he was always nice to me - I got to fire the Luger
>he brought home when I was about 10.

About a week earlier, this arrived:

At 02:17 AM 4/27/2008 -0700, "Roger Helbig" <rhelbig@california.com> wrote:
>Where's the honesty ---Mr Hoffman -- you really aren't playing with a full
>deck and neither is Mangano - you want to send me the book, go right ahead,
>but I sort of doubt your offer.
>DU has been found by numerous scientists to be a serious threat to no one --
>this nanoparticle stuff is just smokescreen - did you read the UNEP report
>from Boznia-Herzegovina, how about the IAEA report from Kuwait. Far as the
>peer review of Mangano, who were the peers, experts on what is found in
>teeth. Uranium does not concentrate in teeth. That's pretty well
>I will put your challenge up on RADSAFE and maybe a real scientist will
>puncture your balloon. If Mangano doesn't like me calling him a fraud, then
>let him defend himself. Yes, it is a serious charge, but he doesn't want to
>go to court because he will lose.
>Roger W Helbig
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Roger Helbig [mailto:rwhelbig@gmail.com]
>Sent: Saturday, April 26, 2008 1:33 PM
>To: rhelbig@california.com
>Subject: Fwd: Where's the fraud, Mr. Helbig?
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>From: Russell 'Ace' Hoffman <rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com>
>Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2008 07:12:39 -0700
>Subject: Where's the fraud, Mr. Helbig?
>To: Roger Helbig <rwhelbig@gmail.com>
>April 25th, 2008
>Mr. Helbig,
>Regarding your email (shown below), what you're basically saying is
>that you don't actually have any specific charges of fraud, you just
>heard from somebody on RADSAFE that Mangano had committed fraud, and
>that's good enough for you.
>Remember, Mangano's book discusses PEER REVIEWED studies. Or didn't
>you know that? Have you read the book? I doubt it, of course, but
>I'll be happy to send you a copy for your review, IF you promise to
>read all 149 pages. If you can spare an afternoon, that is.
>As you probably know, fraud is a very serious and specific charge,
>especially when made against a scientist for his work. Fraud can be
>proven in court.
>You've not only made the claim that Mangano committed fraud, but that
>I've been taken in by it. So if you have anything, I'd be very
>interested to see what you have. But as I said, I won't hold my
>breath. You made the claim, let's see if you can prove it.
>Depleted Uranium is a serious threat to human life because in battle
>it is pulverized into nanoparticles which then get into the food chain
>or directly into the body (one would think that the effect on U.S.
>soldiers would be of special concern for you). U-238's half-life of
>4.468 billion years is about 6.35 times longer than U-235's half-life
>of about 704 million years, and only about 0.7% of the original
>uranium was U-235 anyway (and 0.055% was U-234, with its much-shorter
>half-life of about 245,400 years).
>A lot of DU also has fission products in it because it comes from
>reprocessed reactor cores, NOT "virgin" uranium ore left over from the
>enrichment process. Fission products in the environment are an even
>greater hazard than the U-238. Most people refer to as "DU" as though
>it were "pure" U-238. It never is.
>Fission products can be 100,000 times or even several billion times
>MORE radioactive than U-238, the main isotope in DU. Some fission
>products are radioactive elements that the body thinks are useful, so
>it aggregates them to where it needs them. (It does not do this with
>heavy metals. They "just" barge through the body destroying things
>until the moment of decay, then the radioactive daughter (fission)
>products start causing THEIR damage.)
>So whether the uranium comes from reprocessing matters greatly, even
>if the percentage of fission products is only a tiny fraction -- say,
>a few tenths of a percent (DU is about 99.6% U-238, the rest being
>other isotopes of uranium, plus plutonium and other radioactive
>fission (and activation) products.)
>And thank you for your response to my first letter. My father entered
>WWII at Cassino, then joined the invasion of Southern France, fought
>through the Ardennes, then was rushed to the relief of Bastogne
>(NUTS!), fought in the Battle of the Bulge, crossed the Ruhr and the
>Rhine, was under fire throughout Germany, and met the Russians at the
>Elbe, after more than a year of continuous combat. He was a long-time
>subscriber to my newsletter until his death at 81 in 2006. He was a
>world-renowned scientist who studied experimental psychology at a
>number of prestigious universities, and together we co-authored an
>educational software tutorial which teaches first-semester statistics
>(I did the programming. He had taught statistics for nearly 50
>So don't try to impress me with anything but FACTS.
>Now, where's the fraud, Mr. Helbig?
>At 02:59 PM 4/12/2008 -0700, "Roger Helbig" <rwhelbig@gmail.com> wrote:
>>Googling and only listening to one side of a story may not tell you
>much fact. I will dig back into my records, but I also am quite sure
>that the tooth fairy approach has been well discussed on the
>international radiation protection list RADSAFE in Holland.
>>For the record, other than the fact that I share a mutual hatred with
>Leuren K Moret, who was brought out of the internet by my jackass
>neighbor from hell, to support him in his efforts to avoid paying
>damages for tearing down part of our backyard fence (see atch and tell
>me if you would like this in your yard), Bob Nichols, Douglas Lind
>Rokke and Dennis Kyne and I am like Rokke a member of the retired
>reserve, the rest of what you have read about me on the anti-DU lists
>is pretty much false. Moret really outdid herself with her post to
>the Nelson BC list -- I may sue her for slander if I get some time,
>but right now my real job is keeping me more than busy.
>>If you want to find the real me, look for Coopers and Lybrand, Navy
>and TQM, the determined whistleblower side - that part of me is quite
>angry at Moret and Rokke falsely claiming to be "whistleblowers" --
>you might also look for "The Navy's Scientology Connection" the short
>article I got into the Washington Post --
>>Roger Helbig
>>by the way, if I were really some sort of spook, do you think I would
>use my real name - I am not a coward like Upsilquitch (believed to be
>Ted Weymann)
>>On Sat, Apr 12, 2008 at 7:42 AM, Russell 'Ace' Hoffman
><rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com> wrote:
>>Mr. Helbig,
>>Yeah, sure -- and you've got the scientific proof that Mangano
>committed fraud? LET'S SEE IT. Of course, I won't hold my breath
>waiting for you to back up your assertion, since you'll NEVER be able
>to do it, because you don't have it, because you don't know what
>you're talking about (and yes, I know a bit about who you are. I can
>Google people to check them out, too).
>>At 03:57 AM 4/12/2008 -0700, you wrote:
>>>Let's see, what other frauds have you been taken in by? I have seen
>your name on more than one.
** Russell "Ace" Hoffman, Carlsbad CA

Friday, May 2, 2008

Resend: [Hanford] Digest Number 1578 -- Mother Jones should be ashamed. (AREVA ownership correction)

From Ace Hoffman May 2nd, 2008 Contents:
(1) Correction to previous comments about what corporations AREVA owns in the U.S.
(2) Additional comment by Paige Knight about the Judith Lewis / Mother Jones article
(3) Original Newsletter (with AREVA correction embedded)

(1) Correction to previous comments about what corporations AREVA owns in the U.S.:

May 2nd, 2008

Dear Readers,

A correction to my "facts" about nuclear issues newsletter (included below):

Westinghouse Nuclear is owned by Toshiba, not AREVA.

Westinghouse Nuclear used to be owned by BNFL, and they haven't been "as American as Apple Pie" in decades. AREVA tried to buy them in 2006, but Toshiba won out.

Siemens owns a 34% portion of AREVA NP. Siemens is the subject of numerous bribery scandals involving CEOs on down. AREVA owns major portions of several "U.S." nuclear companies through their U.S. subsidiary, AREVA U.S., which is headed by former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and operates in 20 states with over 5,000 employees.

Abraham left the DOE on February 1st, 2005 and joined AREVA in February of the next year, thus complying with the "letter of the law" as he put it (I suspect he's never heard of the spirit or the intent of a law).

Abraham was on Dick Cheney's energy task force. Andrew Lundquist. who was chairman of that task force, also left the DOE and then later worked for AREVA, although he has since left. So AREVA, unlike the American public, knows EXACTLY what was said at the Cheney energy task force meetings.

AREVA NC was formerly known as Cogema, and operates uranium mines in Canada, Niger and Kazakhstan.

AREVA also owns reprocessing facilities in England and France. They are so vertically integrated, that anti-trust violations are assured, because it is IMPOSSIBLE for any divisions to behave responsibly without putting other AREVA divisions out of business.

To stay profitable, AREVA needs the public to continue to foolishly accept nuclear power.

AREVA purchases wind power companies and other renewable energy companies, presumably to own the patents and put those companies out of business so they cannot compete with AREVA's massive nuclear business. All they care about is poisoning the planet with radionuclides and pretending it's "sunshine vitamins."

AREVA is the world's largest producer of weapons-grade plutonium.

AREVA has built about 100 of the world's approximately 440 commercial nuclear power plants and right now is starting to build dozens more.

AREVA has about 60,000 employees, with operations in about 100 countries. 60,000 people are destroying the planet for 7,000,000,000 now and all the billions who will come later. AREVA MUST BE STOPPED and AREVA CAN BE STOPPED! The nuclear juggernaut IS stoppable and the more we all know about the "players" in this game, the better.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

(2) Additional comment by Paige Knight about the Judith Lewis / Mother Jones article:

1. FW: Re: [Hanford] Digest Number 1578 -- Mother Jones should be ashamed

From: paigeknight@comcast.net

1. FW: Re: [Hanford] Digest Number 1578 -- Mother Jones should be ashamed
Posted by: "paigeknight@comcast.net" paigeknight@comcast.net
Date: Sun Apr 27, 2008 9:47 pm ((PDT))

This is a long article but extremely informative as the government attempts a resurgence of the nuclear
power industry. Paige

If the readers will note, I stated that the government is attempting a resurgence of the nuclear power industry. I assumed, wrongly, that the readers would infer that I find these arguments by Judith Lewis specious. I should have stated so blatantly. I see no positive outcomes in a rebirth (resurgence) of nuclear power. Simply, we have no solutions for the resultant waste and only a small segment of the population, the nuclear industry power brokers, have anything to gain in building more nuclear power plants. I hoped that this article would expose the continued flawed thinking of the nuclear power industry to this list of readers. Paige Knight

(3) Original Newsletter (with AREVA correction embedded):

April 27th, 2008

Dear Readers,

Paige Knight, who forwarded Judith Lewis's Mother Jones article (shown below) to the Hanford list, is wrong -- the article is EXTREMELY BIASED, not "extremely informative."

Judith Lewis's article reaches a totally pro-nuclear conclusion, but she is trying to be very subtle about it. Her article tries to leave the impression that she's presented a balanced report of the arguments for and against nuclear power, and that nuclear power, for all its faults, IS the environmental solution of choice for electricity in America. The article is designed to make the reader feel that the tide has turned, but that the author understands the dangers of nuclear power and would reject it if only there were a good reason, which, try as she might, she can't find.

I met Ms Lewis about 5 years ago when Lewis was just starting out writing about nuclear issues and I had been studying them for about 35 years. If you know enough facts about each case she brings up, Lewis's bias, which has not changed in years, is obvious: Lewis believes a nuclear renaissance is coming, and she denigrates those who oppose it. Time after time she presents two opposing quotes. What could be more objective? But time after time she filters the presentation so that the pro-nuclear view has more weight and the PERSON giving the anti-nuclear view sounds indecisive, unscientific, or worse.

Judith Lewis supports The Dark Side -- the chaos of the Demon Hot Atom -- but doesn't' want you (or MJ's editors) to realize she's biased. She does not belong in the media -- period. Let alone, writing for Mother Jones. Perhaps there are still some media outlets where such opinionated articles can flourish. Shame on them, too -- but surely Mother Jones should not be one of them. MJ should be ashamed at the depths to which it has sunk.

Let's look at some of the claims Lewis has let pro-nukers make in her article:

1) Claim: Enrollment in university nuke programs is way up.

Fact: There might be a slight up-tick at the smaller number of universities which still offer courses in nuke operations and theory, because those universities are getting funding directly from the nuclear industry to train worker-bees. (My local nuclear power plant is funding 48 such full scholarships (with tuition, room & board, and summer internships at the plant) this year alone at ONE local college, and probably others.) But as the saying goes, "nobody goes there anymore." For every nuclear engineering student you can probably find 1000 brighter kids who realized that the nuclear industry was an evil industry with a bleak future. They went into building energy-efficient wind turbines and things, instead, for example, despite the challenge because of lack of government funding (it almost all goes to nuclear). Or they built the Internet, with a little help from DARPA.

2) Claim: "When rising seas flood our coasts, the idea of producing electricity from the most terrifying force ever harnessed may not seem so frightening - or expensive - after all." (last sentence in the article).

Fact: With sea rises come more violent storms, and more nuclear power plants will have to be closed -- AND THEIR FUEL MOVED -- because they are on the coast. Per watt of delivered energy, nuclear power produces more HEAT (which the planet MUST somehow absorb) than any other form of electricity. And the nuclear fuel cycle is so fossil-fuel intensive (as are the lives of the 1500 or so plant workers for each power plant, and their families) that the whole idea of nukes as being a solution to greenhouse gasses is ridiculous, if not actually laughable -- and yet Lewis ends her article in Mother Jones with just such a claim!

3) Claim: America's nukes won't burn like Chernobyl did, so at least we don't have to worry about that.

Fact: Our dry casks can burn rather easily, and so can the rest of it -- it's just a little harder than it was for Chernobyl, that's all. And we're currently creating a new dry cask at the rate of about one per week, day in and day out. But if we build more nukes, that number will rise. Any one of the casks can be accidentally lit on fire by an airliner crashing into it, and that one cask would be about as damaging to the planet as Chernobyl was -- and there are fields of these casks all in a row, ready for a terrorist attack OR an earthquake, tsunami (many are along the coast), or other natural catastrophe, or, given enough time, simple metal fatigue. Dry casks are EXTREMELY dangerous but Ms Lewis would have us believe Americans are safe from a Chernobyl-style catastrophe. Rubbish. The reactor differences only seem extreme to extreme engineers. To the rest of us, the differences are little more than subtle nuances. And yes, I've read books and books on both TMI and Chernobyl.

4) Claim: " France's eager embrace of nuclear technology has yielded some spectacular benefits."

Fact: Aside from the French solution to the waste problem (grind it up and dump it in the sea), and their use of their armed forces and international police forces to disrupt the peaceful protest and right to assemble of pro-DNA activists, France is also the leader in exporting nuclear industrial espionage -- to America. France, through their government-owned corporation AREVA, has purchased American nuclear manufacturer Westinghouse, just so they (AREVA) can claim to be "America's energy company" in endlessly-repeated obnoxious ads on CNN. A lie repeated often enough, as Lewis clearly knows, starts to sound like the truth to the uninformed. [[[AREVA has purchased many U.S. nuclear companies, but not Westinghouse . -- Ace]]]

5) Claim: "Will a nuclear reactor operating under normal conditions give you cancer? It's a question that, surprisingly, still hasn't been conclusively answered. "

Fact: Joe Mangano's newest book ("Radioactive Baby Teeth: The Cancer Link") is about what's really going on in the field of peer-reviewed epidemiological research about radiation. And what's going on is that there are clear statistical relationships, correlations, match-ups, which scientists agree are "significant" -- that is, worthy of publishing in peer-reviewed journals. Is it "conclusive" proof? On top of everything else? Absolutely -- the case had ALREADY been won -- the National Academy of Sciences has clearly stated that there is NO safe radiation dose. And by themselves, Mangano's studies would be cause for alarm, indeed -- and that's exactly what they are causing. The baby tooth project is producing what is known in science as credible evidence -- that's what the book is all about. AND, it should be mentioned that if someone studies cancer death rates instead of cancer incidence rates, you get an additional layer of bias, which Mangano discusses, but which Lewis ignores. The "peer reviewed" studies Lewis cited before denigrating Mangano's studies (which she fails to mention were ALSO peer-reviewed) do not prove that radiation is safe.

I wonder what plagues Lewis would have missed in the past? The Black Plague? "A slight cold has put a few people out" she might have written. And, Lewis should stop listening to Rochelle Becker, who has proven time and again that she's not planning on winning ANY battles against nuclear power any time soon.

There's no question that Lewis is FOR nuclear power. From her inability to respect Dr. Caldicott as a leading scientist on nuclear issues (instead she's referred to as a "godmother" to the movement) to Lewis's inability to distinguish pro-nuke movement infiltrators like Rochelle Becker from REAL activists like Dan Hirsch, whom she derides (but I'll bet she'll claim she doesn't), Lewis is simply out of the loop. Lewis has had YEARS to get a handle on reality (see my earlier criticisms of her first major nuke article). But evidently not only can't she do it, she's suckered Mother Jones into publishing her crafty endorsement of a failed technology with a dismal future.

Perhaps Lewis believes that by mentioning an unsolvable problem in her articles, she has tackled the issue fairly, as long as she says it's been solved in France or it's being worked on, or something is moving forward or someone disagrees that it is an Achilles' heel (ANOTHER Achilles' heel). And she certainly believes that the wishy-washy statements of the nuclear "enablers" at the UUCS (Union of UnConcerned Scientists) represent all reasonable opposition to nuclear power. It does not, and I doubt the statements of the two prime nuclear UUCS spokespeople even reflect the beliefs of the majority of their members. At least, I hope not.

The truth is, the opponents to nuclear power WON all the debates they've ever had. They win them now, and they won them long, long ago. Open, public debate is squelched throughout the planet on this issue, but millions of people oppose nuclear power all around the world. Public and government policy just has to catch up with reason, that's all that's left to happen. Okay, and some scientists need to widen the breadth of their research, to see the damage THEY are doing by supporting nuclear power. But the reality is: Nuclear power's future is utterly bleak, or the human races' future is. There is NO middle ground. So far, Lewis sides with the cancer enablers.

Judith Lewis and Mother Jones should probably BOTH get out of the environmental news business, where, clearly, they do not belong. Shame on Ms Lewis. Shame on Mother Jones.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

At 05:12 PM 4/26/2008 +0000, [Hanford] Digest Number 1578 wrote:

From: Hanford@yahoogroups.com
To: Hanford@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [Hanford] Digest Number 1578

There is 1 message in this issue.

Topics in this digest:

1. The Nuclear Option by Judith Lewis
From: paigeknight@comcast.net

1. The Nuclear Option by Judith Lewis
Posted by: "paigeknight@comcast.net" paigeknight@comcast.net
Date: Fri Apr 25, 2008 10:09 pm ((PDT))

This is a long article but extremely informative as the government attempts a resurgence of the nuclear power industry. Paige
The Nuclear Option
By Judith Lewis
Mother Jones
May/June 2008 Issue
So you're against nuclear power. Do you know why?
A decade and a year after Enrico Fermi demonstrated the first atomic fission chain reaction, President Dwight D. Eisenhower went before the United Nations General Assembly to avert an apocalypse. Other nations now had in their hands the weapon with which the United States had pulverized two Japanese cities; altruistic scientists and eager investors both had pressured the president to share the technology for peaceful uses. And so Eisenhower had little choice on that December day in 1953 but to announce a new purpose for the force inside the atom: Properly monitored and generously financed, he declared in his "Atoms for Peace" address, fission could be harnessed "to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world."
You could have been forgiven for thinking the president and his advisers had just hatched the notion that month, so full of poetic wonder and portent was that speech. In fact, not only were the Soviets about to power up a five-megawatt reactor, but the Westinghouse Electric Corporation was well on its way to building the country's first commercial atomic power plant. Within five years, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station would begin sending its 60 megawatts of electricity to the city of Pittsburgh.
That was probably about the best atomic power ever looked. For it wasn't long before the electricity touted as "too cheap to meter" proved too pricey for profit: The power that came out of Shippingport cost 10 times the going rate. Though in the coming years many more reactors would be hitched to the nation's grid, Eisenhower's gallant dreams were undone by rising construction costs, high maintenance bills, and risk. The last application for a new nuclear plant was withdrawn in 1978. By the time Three Mile Island nearly melted down in 1979, the United States was through with nuclear-generated electricity.
Until now.
When President George W. Bush celebrated the Energy Policy Act of 2005 at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Maryland, he may as well have been delivering the 21st-century update of Eisenhower's 1953 manifesto, minus the poetry, and plus some dopey jokes. ("Pass the Mayo," he chirped to Constellation Energy CEO Mayo Shattuck.) This time, however, the marketing slogan was not about peace, but the very future of the planet. "Without these nuclear plants," Bush said, "America would release nearly 700 million metric tons more carbon dioxide into the air each year." Half a century after Shippingport powered up, the U.S. government has once again entwined its long fingers under the heel of the big industry that couldn't.
In his day, Eisenhower shared his vision with a number of vocal pacifists: Redirecting atomic power to electricity, they believed, would at least keep the military occupied with something other than blowing up cities. And Bush shares his vision with some prominent environmentalists: Stewart Brand, for instance, who founded the Whole Earth Catalog and Fred Krupp, the director of the Environmental Defense Fund, who believes that "the challenge of global warming is so urgent we can't afford to take anything off the table."
As far back as 1978, Tom Alexander - an award-winning science writer with a deep knowledge of economics and ecology - urged utilities in the pages of Fortune to resuscitate the already-flagging nuclear industry lest a ramp-up in coal-fired electricity "trigger irreversible changes in the world's climate." The ramp-up happened on schedule; the changes in climate too. Which now makes it very hard to ignore the fact that whatever else nuclear power does to the environment, however many fish it kills or however much waste it leaves in our great-great-great-great-grandchildren's hands, it emits neither soot nor smoke nor mercury, and far less carbon dioxide than the coal that keeps most of our lights on.
Industry has been quick to take advantage of the shifting political climate: Last year, UniStar submitted an application for a new nuclear reactor to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the first to cross the agency's desk since Jimmy Carter was president. Four more followed, and 14 separate companies have notified the agency that they will file applications in the next year. It's hard to imagine any of the current presidential candidates slashing nuclear subsidies once in office. (Senator Barack Obama, for one, represents a state with 11 of the nation's 104 civilian reactors, and his donors include employees of nuclear giant Exelon.)
But can nuclear power really rescue our warming planet? And if you answered quickly, answer this too: Are you for or against because you know the science, or because someone said you should be?
When we talk about nuclear power these days, we talk about environmentalists for nukes, and about people posing as environmentalists for nukes. We talk about Dick Cheney's energy bill defibrillating a faltering industry with $12 billion worth of incentives and tax breaks. We talk about who is for and who is against, and whether we can trust them.
But no one talks about fission. No one talks about the letter Albert Einstein wrote to FDR in 1939, advising the president that "it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium" to produce enormous amounts of power. No one mentions that breathtaking moment on December 2, 1942, when Fermi, on a squash court at the University of Chicago, had an assistant slowly pull a control rod from a pile of uranium and graphite, sustaining a controlled chain reaction for 28 minutes and thus securing atomic power's industrial future.
For the last four years, I have tried to shut out the chatter - the goofy Nuclear Energy Institute ad (girl on a scooter says, "Our generation is demanding lots of electricity ... and clean air."), and the warnings of No Nukes godmother Helen Caldicott, who, rightly or wrongly, cannot think of splitting atoms without thinking of weapons. I've tried to focus instead on the awesome force that binds the nucleus and whether it can ever be an appropriate source of civilian energy.
The idea of nuclear power arose more than half a century ago out of the most noble impulses of humanity's brightest minds, scientists who hoped that the destructive force they'd harnessed, the most concentrated source of energy on earth, could also be applied for good. But atomic electricity strayed so far from its promise - corrupted by government's collusion with industry, mismanagement for the sake of profit, and ordinary bureaucratic incompetence - that we seem flummoxed at the thought of ever reclaiming it.
To consider a technology as terrifying as nuclear power requires more than slogans. It requires looking beyond the marketing and activism, into the physics and its consequences. It means thinking about rocks. And waste. And fission.
Hot Rocks, Warm Water
Like so many sources of energy, nuclear power begins with a rock - a brownish chunk of hard dirt, flecked with glittery particles. You can hold uranium in your hand without much trouble: As it decays into other elements - thorium, radium, and eventually lead - it throws off radioactive particles, but most of them can't penetrate your skin. Nor can they sustain a controlled chain reaction in most of the world's nuclear reactors. For that, you need a certain neutron-rich uranium isotope, U-235, which makes up only a tiny portion of raw uranium ore.
Natural uranium comes out of the ground in Canada, Australia, Niger, and several other countries. Uranium is finite, and it's not easy to find - as a consequence of the impending nuclear revival, mines that were once declared unprofitable may open once again, including some in the western United States. This worries people who remember the last uranium boom in the Southwest: From the 1940s through the 1980s, more than 15,000 men, many of them Navajo, worked the mines, often without protection. Many eventually came down with cancer or respiratory diseases. Few were compensated. When the mines closed, piles of uranium tailings were left mouldering along the Colorado River, leaching at least 15,000 gallons of toxic chemicals a day into water destined for taps in Arizona and California.
To be useful as nuclear fuel, uranium ore has to be refined into uranium oxide (the yellowcake of Niger fame) and then enriched - turned into pellets of 4 percent U-235. The sole U.S. plant that enriches uranium for civilian power reactors, located in Paducah, Kentucky, accomplishes this via an energy-hogging process that consumes 15 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. Even so, carbon emissions for the entire nuclear fuel cycle come to no more than 55 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour - roughly even with solar. By 2010, when the U.S. Enrichment Corporation is slated to switch to the more efficient method used in Europe, that number should come down closer to 12 grams per kilowatt-hour - on par with wind.
Nuclear power does have other environmental consequences, drawbacks that have nothing to do with carbon: Aside from radiation (more on that later), a particularly delicate one involves cooling water. "Light water" reactors, used at the majority of the world's nuclear plants (so named because they employ ordinary H2O, as opposed to water made with a heavy hydrogen isotope), use water both to moderate the chain reaction and produce steam to spin turbines - 2 billion gallons per day on average. Most of it returns to the adjoining river, lake, or ocean up to 25 degrees warmer, an ecological impact that could significantly interfere with nuclear power's chances as a climate-change solution. Already, wherever a light-water reactor sits near a sensitive body of water, its intake pipes kill fish and its outflow distorts ecosystems to favor warm-water species.
The Cancer Conundrum
Will a nuclear reactor operating under normal conditions give you cancer? It's a question that, surprisingly, still hasn't been conclusively answered. A 1995 Greenpeace study found an increase in breast-cancer mortality among women living near various U.S. and Canadian reactors in the Great Lakes region. Yet peer-reviewed studies by the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation as well as the National Cancer Institute show no significant increase in cancer among people living near reactors. An initiative called the Tooth Fairy Project is currently trying to prove that concentrations of the radioactive isotope strontium-90 are higher in baby teeth from children who grow up near nuclear plants. But those tests are not complete, and no one else has turned up persuasive evidence of such a link.
"Without a baseline study, we don't have any credibility" on the cancer issue, longtime Southern California anti-nuclear activist Rochelle Becker once told me. "There are so many things wrong with the nuclear industry that are confirmable that we try to stay away from that."
We do know that nuclear plants routinely release small amounts of radioactive gases, and that those releases expose nearby residents to a small dose of radiation - one that the Health Physics Society, which governs radiation measurements, says will probably not increase their risk of getting cancer. We know that elevated levels of radioactive tritium - which gets into water and is easily ingested - have been found downstream from nuclear facilities, and we know that the scientific consensus holds that no amount of radiation is good for you.
But we also know this: 24,000 Americans per year die of diseases related to emissions from coal-fired power plants, which release sulfur dioxide, smog-forming nitrogen, toxic soot, and mercury - not to mention 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually.
It's a devil of a dilemma: One source of always-on "base load" power kills people every day. Another kills people only if something goes terribly wrong. And it could.
Accidents Happen
Early in the morning of March 28, 1979, a combination of malfunctioning equipment and inadequately trained workers led to a loss-of-coolant episode at Three Mile Island Unit 2 near Middletown, Pennsylvania. Had workers not finally arrested the disaster 10 hours after it started, the fuel inside the reactor could have melted completely - the disaster scenario alluded to in the movie The China Syndrome, which had arrived in theaters just a few weeks before. The partial meltdown and subsequent radiation leak was the worst nuclear accident ever on U.S. soil; in its wake, public support for the technology dropped from 70 to 50 percent, where it remains today. Industry proponents claim that no one died as a direct result of the accident, and in 1990, a Columbia University study found no elevated radiation-related cancer risk in the population near the plant. A later study, though, found a tenfold increase in cancer among the people who lived in the path of the radioactive plume.
Because of Three Mile Island, the night crew performing an ill-advised test at the Chernobyl plant on April 26, 1986, might have been prepared for a loss-of-coolant episode. But they didn't know enough about the plant they were tinkering with to have an idea what to do when things went grievously wrong. The reactor exploded, and the fire spewed a massive cloud of radiation across Europe.
There are no reactors as fire-prone as Chernobyl in the United States, and reactor safeguards have been upgraded dramatically since Three Mile Island. Emer gency core-cooling systems kick in if other systems fail; operators have been trained to respond promptly when something goes awry. But just because what has already happened may not happen again doesn't mean we should relax: Human error has infinite permutations, and near misses in the last decade have shown just how vulnerable reactors remain.
In March 2002, during a scheduled refueling outage at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Ohio, workers discovered that boric acid deposits had gnawed a "pineapple-sized" hole into the six-inch-thick steel cap bolted to the top of the reactor. Had the corrosion gone just a third of an inch deeper, radioactive steam would have flooded the containment dome, and Davis-Besse might have been the next Three Mile Island.
As frightening as the near-accident was the way Davis-Besse owners FirstEnergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission responded: by soft-pedaling procedural flaws and scapegoating plant workers, in particular Andrew Siemaszko, a systems engineer who they claimed had failed to report the corrosion. The NRC has since barred Siemaszko from working in the nuclear industry, and in 2006 he was indicted on five counts of lying to the government and falsifying records. But documents show that Siemaszko repeatedly told his employers the reactor head needed a thorough cleaning. FirstEnergy didn't complete that job because it was taking too long (keeping the reactor idle was costing the company $1 million a day) - and the NRC delayed a scheduled inspection of the reactor at FirstEnergy's request.
Watchdog or Lapdog?
The Davis-Besse incident puts into sharp relief a history of regulatory neglect that goes back for decades. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has counted 47 incidents since 1979 in which the NRC failed to adequately address issues at nuclear power plants - until the troubles got so bad the plants had to be shut down for repairs. In some cases, "the NRC allowed reactors with known safety problems to continue operating for months, sometimes years, without requiring owners to fix the problems."
There's evidence, too, that the commission has tolerated serious lapses in security, even after 9/11. In March 2007, an anonymous whistleblower wrote a letter to the NRC claiming that guards at Exelon's Peach Bottom plant in Pennsylvania were "coming into work exhausted after working excessive overtime" and thus "sleeping on duty at an alarming rate." The NRC ignored the letter until a guard videotaped the naps in progress and WCBS in New York aired the tape. The Project on Government Oversight claims a skilled infiltrator would need just 45 seconds to penetrate the area where Peach Bottom stores its spent fuel.
The corporation that provides those sleepy guards, Wackenhut, has also been accused of cheating on security exercises: One DOE inspector general's report found that in 2003 guards had been tipped off in advance about security drills at a government nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The same year, Wackenhut was fired from Entergy's Indian Point plant in New York after guards there admitted they had been improperly armed and trained.
Critics often point out that the NRC is funded by industry fees; despite his cautious support of nuclear power, Obama declared it "a moribund agency...captive of the industries that it regulates." (NRC spokesman Scott Burnell insists that because those fees come to the NRC through the U.S. Treasury, there's no conflict of interest. "It's not a case where the industry is handing us a check," he says.)
Dave Lochbaum, UCS's nuclear-safety expert, believes the problem at the NRC is a lack of money - and congressional attention. "There have been more hearings on lunches in the White House," he notes, "than on whether the NRC's doing a good job."
The French Connection
Just as there are arguments against public investment in nuclear power, there are arguments for it - and one huge living example. France shifted from oil-burning electric plants to nuclear during the oil crisis of the early '70s, and over the past 20 years it has invested $160 billion in nuclear programs, making the country the largest exporter of nuclear electricity in the European Union. Sixteen percent of the world's nuclear power is generated in France. And where once the French were buying nuclear technology from the United States, now it's the other way round: 6 of the 20 applications expected to be submitted to the NRC before 2010 are for the U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) designed by the French conglomerate Areva.
Instead of just two coolant loops like the traditional "Generation II" reactor, the EPR has four. If one leaks, another kicks in: No more Three Mile Islands. "The EPR has more defensive depth than reactors created for the U.S. market," acknowledges Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the UCS.
His cautious approval of the EPR is significant: Two years ago, Dan Hirsch of the anti-nuclear group Committee to Bridge the Gap warned me not to make too much of the alleged environmentalist enthusiasm for nuclear power. "All of the people supporting it now supported it before," he argued. "It's not news. But when the Union of Concerned Scientists comes out in favor of nuclear, now that will be news."
That hasn't happened exactly: The UCS remains ambivalent about nuclear power, and its position papers reflect deep worries about the technology. But as far as the UCS is capable of liking a reactor, it likes the EPR.
Lyman stresses that the EPR's improved safety doesn't mean that Areva "is a warm and fuzzy company." It only means it designed the EPR to meet the safety standards of the European Union, which happen to be better than ours. "The NRC's whole presumption is that the current reactors are safe enough," Lyman explains. "The NRC is afraid that if it makes too much fuss about how the new ones are safer than old ones, it will mean that the old ones aren't safe enough.
"An opportunity is being squandered," he adds. "If this renaissance is going to happen, you're going to build a new fleet of reactors to last 60, 80, 100 years. Why not lock in a safer reactor design?"
The $50 Billion Question
In 1960, the price of a brand-new light-water reactor hovered around $68 million, just under what it cost to build a new coal plant at the time. (Actual costs were often higher, but eager manufacturers offered "turnkey" plants at a fixed price, absorbing any overruns.) Having recouped their start-up costs, these older reactors now produce electricity - a fifth of the country's power, all in all - at prices that easily compete with coal. But a new plant will have a harder time breaking even: An Areva reactor may start at $3 or $4 billion, already twice as much as a coal plant, but actual construction costs and interest will probably boost total plant cost to $9 billion.
Which is why not a single one will get built without help from the government, says Craig Nesbit of Chicago-based Exelon. "These are huge capital projects," he says. "The largest capital projects on a private scale you can build. We wouldn't be building them without loan guarantees." Nuclear lobbyists have been asking for $50 billion in such guarantees, which, they point out, are given to other industries, including wind and solar: "There's nothing exotic about it," Nesbit says. Companies also want "production tax credits" for the actual power they generate, on the order of a penny or two per kilowatt, also akin to wind energy. So far, Congress has pledged up to $6 billion worth of production tax credits for new nuclear plants. But in 2007, it capped loan guarantees for plant construction at $18.5 billion - scarcely enough to fund a couple of reactors. "We considered that a win for our side," says anti-nuclear activist Becker.
The industry does get another massive taxpayer-funded benefit, however: Since 1957, plant operators have been protected by the Price-Anderson Act, which limits their liability in a catastrophic accident. The 2005 energy bill updated the act, which required reactor operators to carry insurance policies worth $300 million and contribute $95 million to an accident compensation fund. The rest is covered by taxpayers - not a bad deal, considering that it cost $1 billion to clean up after Three Mile Island.
The debate over whether nuclear power deserves this kind of public investment is second only to the debate over whether reactors can ever be safe. Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, long a foe of nuclear power, argues that "about three-quarters of all electricity we use in North America can be saved cheaper than just running a coal or nuclear plant, even if the capital costs of the plant were zero." Lovins has argued for 30 years that redirecting nuclear investments toward energy efficiency, solar, wind, or tiny gas turbines that could be located in every neighborhood would yield carbon-free power much faster, without the federally mandated insurance policy. Nuclear power, he's famously said, "is like cutting butter with a chainsaw."
But wind and solar have still not fully conquered their intermittency issues: Wind power works only when the wind blows; solar panels are no good at night. "Distributed micropower" could make progress fast; efficiency would do even better; and we should look forward to the day when they put the mammoth, centralized energy providers that feed our national grid out of business. But given the current economic structure of our energy market, can any of those things quickly replace coal? And how fast? Barring a president who can infuse us with the political will to roll out a Jimmy Carter-style conservation plan, electricity demand will continue to rise. We may be stuck with our devil of a dilemma.
Wasted Promise
The Atomic Age has left behind many kinds of radioactive garbage, from the rags that mopped up hot spills to the concrete from decommissioned reactors to the liquid residue of plutonium warheads. Some is low-level waste, already tucked away in various locations, from Hanford in southwestern Washington state to Barnwellin South Carolina. The waste fuel from nuclear reactors is high-level stuff that will remain dangerously radioactive for millions of years. In volume it's not that much: All the detritus from a half-century of civilian nuclear power "can fit on a football field piled six meters high," says Harold McFarlane, deputy associate laboratory director for nuclear programs at Idaho National Laboratory. "It grows at about three yards a year [in length]." But we still have no place to put it.
Since Congress in 1987 picked Yucca Mountain as the repository for the country's high-level waste, the state of Nevada has sued several times to block it, mostly on the grounds that the Department of Energy relied on bad science to select the spot: Among other things, an earthquake fault runs under it, and water percolates through the porous volcanic tuff. (When I visited after a wet desert winter in 2005, Yucca - which the feds have always characterized as arid - was positively green.)
The repository's most recent opening date was set for 2017. But that date "is clearly out the window," says Ward Sproat, who directs the Yucca project for the DOE. "Based on what I'm seeing right now it's a two- to three-year slip from that." Others predict that the $11 billion facility won't open at all. Still, the DOE has announced that it will file its long-awaited license application in June. For now, nearly all the nation's spent-fuel assemblies sit at individual reactor sites in water-filled basins about the size of swimming pools but 30 feet deeper, and reinforced with concrete. Most of the pools are close to full and, according to a 2002 report by the National Academy of Sciences, vulnerable to terrorist attack.
If Yucca Mountain ever does open, another perplexing problem emerges: transporting waste from the 200-plus reactors around the country. Trains can come off their rails; sabotage and hijackings happen. According to a map the state of Nevada circulates, only the Dakotas, Montana, and Rhode Island lie outside planned nuclear waste transportation routes.
DOE spokesman Allen Benson, who gives tours of Yucca Mountain to journalists, contends that "we've been shipping nuclear waste around the country since the beginning of the atomic age." Still, the DOE intends to build a dedicated rail line 300 miles into the Nevada desert and instruct residents along its route in how to respond to emergencies. Everyone along the route will know where those trains are going. And what they carry.
Dirty Recycling
So why don't we do like they do in France, where they recycle the fuel from their own 59 reactors, along with some from other countries, into neat little piles of useful radionuclides? By dissolving nuclear waste in acids and separating the isotopes, they can reduce 20 years' waste from a family of four's electricity use to a glasslike nugget the size of a cigarette lighter.
France's eager embrace of nuclear technology has yielded some spectacular benefits. The country, which relies on nuclear for nearly 80 percent of its electricity, emits only two tons of carbon dioxide per person per year, less than half the U.S. load. But its reprocessing operations, as with Britain's notoriously leaky site at Sellafield, have racked up such a roster of problems that in the United States they'd be shut down as gross violators of the Clean Water Act. Every year Areva, the French conglomerate that handles reprocessing, dumps so much radioactive liquid into the Channel that, says Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "there are certain beaches where the effluent pipe is where you can get a suntan at night.
"I'm not going to say the French are 'no blood, no foul,'" Lochbaum told me, "but they're not quite as concerned about effluents as we are. They tend to believe more in 'the solution to pollution is dilution.'" They are, however, in violation of European Union pollution regulations - largely because the waste contains the dangerous isotope technetium, which so far no one has found a way to remove.
"Ten European governments have come together to get them to stop, saying, 'You're polluting all the way to the Arctic,'" says Arjun Makhijani of the watchdog group Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. "But they haven't stopped. They haven't stopped because there's no way for them to stop."
The dumping has grim consequences. In 1997, researchers surveying children and young people who lived near the Normandy Coast town of La Hague where reprocessing takes place found a correlation between beach visits and leukemia risk. Yet Areva continues to argue that its operations have "zero impact" on the environment.
In addition to pollution problems, the reprocessing of nuclear waste isolates plutonium. Currently, France has 80 tons of it socked away, enough to make 10,000 nuclear bombs. "They store it in what looks like 11,000 sugar cans," says Makhijani. "It's a huge security issue." In 1974, India made its first nuclear bomb with plutonium skimmed off reprocessed nuclear waste. For that reason, President Gerald Ford placed a temporary hold on the technology in 1976, a hold President Carter turned into a ban.
Nevertheless, the 2009 federal budget request includes $301.5 million for research into reprocessing technologies. For a nuclear future to flower, industry executives want assurances that the waste problem won't continue to haunt them. "Unless we see a clear path," says Exelon's Craig Nesbit, "we don't believe that we or anyone else should be building new nuclear plants. We don't think it's right to saddle a community with more high-level spent fuel than already exists."
Breeding Reactors
In his 1974 book The Curve of Binding Energy, John McPhee speculated that by the end of the 20th century, reactors using nuclear fusion - the kind of reaction that powers the sun - would be in operation, "and the energy crisis will cease to be a crisis for many millions of years."
Okay, so that hasn't happened. But what if a nuclear reactor could be invented that was safe, sustainable, and clean, even using plain old fission? What if it could reuse spent fuel until it was no longer dangerous, curtailing the pesky problems of waste, mining, and a finite uranium supply all at once?
These are the questions du jour of research facilities around the world, places like Idaho National Laboratory, which sprawls over 890 square miles of desert land bounded by some of America's most prized national parks. In the 1950s and '60s, it was a bustling facility, drawing the best in young talent from the world's science academies. Now, says nuclear programs director Harold McFarlane, the lab - which has expanded into other fields, such as biotechnology and alternative energy - is back full bore in the nuclear business, bolstered by federal programs to encourage the development of "Generation IV" reactors. (The 2009 budget request includes $70 million for such programs.)
One reactor in the offing, the Next Generation Nuclear Plant, can be cooled with helium instead of water and might be capable of producing industrial hydrogen to power emission-free cars and other power plants. Another, the Advanced Fast Reactor, can burn up the radioactive elements that remain behind in a light-water reactor. Other countries - India, China, South Africa - are working on their own prototypes. "There's also a great deal of interest in designing smaller reactors for developing nations," McFarlane says, "anywhere from 20 megawatts to 600 megawatts, to provide distributed power to outlying areas."
McFarlane has noticed that nuclear engineering has become a hot major in college again. "We're seeing a fantastic increase in undergraduate enrollment," he says. "A lot of universities are reinstating nuclear engineering programs they dropped back in the '80s and '90s."
The Ultimatum
When Tom Alexander recommended nuclear power as a hedge against climate catastrophe 30 years ago, he did so not because it was perfect, but because he thought that with better information its imperfections could be addressed. He was no industry shill; he also blasted the Reagan administration for blowing $10 billion on a badly conceived uranium-enrichment plant, and the government in general, whose "inability to untangle its licensing, fuel, and waste-storage policies has all but destroyed the electrical companies' brief infatuation with nuclear power." As with the early proponents of nuclear power (who in the 1940s staged sit-ins and hunger strikes to call for the "peaceful uses of atomic fission"), Alexander believed that there was a way to apply atomic technology against poverty, environmental collapse, and certain doom.
Alexander died in 2005 at the age of 74, never writing one last story to say he told us so: We shouldn't have built so many coal plants. And just maybe, instead of destroying that "brief infatuation with nuclear power," we should have fixed the nuclear industry instead.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns of global mayhem should we fail to cut our carbon emissions in half by midcentury. For nuclear power to make a significant dent in the U.S. carbon footprint, the Colorado-based Keystone Center for Science and Public Policy reported last year, we would have to build five new 1,000 megawatt reactors every year for the next half-century.
"The world we have made as a result of a level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems we cannot solve at the same level at which we created them," said Albert Einstein. In other words, we have driven ourselves into a technological quagmire. There is no easy route back, but there may be many paths forward. Nuclear power is expensive, flawed, dangerous, and finicky; it depends on humans to run properly, and when those humans err, the consequences are worse than the worst accident involving any other energy source. If there isn't a way to do it right, let's abandon it - but only because we're secure in the belief that we can replace coal-fired electricity with energy from the wind, the sun, and the earth. When rising seas flood our coasts, the idea of producing electricity from the most terrifying force ever harnessed may not seem so frightening - or expensive - after all.

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The above review of Judith Lewis's article in the May/June 2008 Issue of Mother Jones (also shown above) was written by Ace Hoffman.

Quotes collected by Ace Hoffman:

"Nuclear war must be the most carefully avoided topic of general significance in the contemporary world. People are not curious about the details." -- Paul Brians (author; quote is from: Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction)
"When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." -- Sinclair Lewis (first American Nobel Prize winner in Literature, 2.7.1885 - 1.10.1951)
"There is no such thing as a pro-nuclear environmentalist." -- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa, 1992)
"Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories." -- Sun Tzu (Chinese general b.500 BC)
"The most intolerable reactor of all may be one which comes successfully to the end of its planned life having produced mountains of radioactive waste for which there is no disposal safe from earthquake damage or sabotage." -- A. Stanley Thompson (a pioneer nuclear physicist who later realized the whole situation)
"Any dose is an overdose." -- Dr. John W. Gofman (another pioneer nuclear physicist who saw the light (9.21.1918 - 8.15.2007))
"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery." -- Octavia Butler (science fiction writer, 7.22.1947 - 2.24.2006)
"If you want real welfare reform, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to reduce poverty, you focus on a good education, good healthcare, and a good job.

If you want a stable middle class, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to have citizens who can participate in democracy, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

And if you want to end the violence, you could build a million new prisons and you could fill them up, but you never end this cycle of violence unless you invest in the health and the skill and the intellect and the character of our children. you focus on a good education, good health care and a good job.

And other than that, I don't feel strongly about anything."

-- Paul Wellstone (US Senator, D-Minnesota, 7.21.1944 - 10.25.2002)
"There are no warlike peoples - just warlike leaders." -- Ralph Bunche (8.7.1903 - 12.9.1971)
"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." -- Thomas Jefferson
"Please send this to everyone you know!" -- Ace Hoffman (original collector of the above quotes, January, 2008)

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Ace Hoffman, Carlsbad, CA