Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Greenpeace saves Belgium, Sternglass passes, Caldicott symposium coming THIS weekend (Feb 28-Mar 1).

Greenpeace is demanding that all reactors worldwide be carefully inspected due to newly discovered cracks in the reactor pressure vessels of two Belgian reactors. Those inspections just might save your life. And even federal nuclear regulators (in Belgium) are saying it could be a "global nuclear industry" problem.

It's good news that the cracks were discovered. It's even better news if it gets reactors shut down permanently. However, it's not good news if something goes wrong: Cracks 7 centimeters in length, starting at the interior wall of the reactor pressure vessel, are serious matters.

Most of the cracks were shorter than 7 centimeters, but more than 13,000 cracks (that's not a typo: more than thirteen thousand cracks) have been found in ONE reactor pressure vessel in Belgium. More than three thousand (again not a typo) cracks were found in a second Belgian reactor.

Two things seem unlikely: First, that either of those two reactors will ever open again, and second, that they are the only two reactors in the world suffering from, or likely to suffer from, this newly-discovered form of cracking (called "material fatigue").

Remember that phrase and demand that your local nuclear power plant be examined for it!

Thank you once again, Greenpeace!

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Article about the cracks:


1) Dr. Ernest Sternglass, pioneer radiation researcher, dead at 91
2) Helen Caldicott leads another fantastic symposium everyone can attend!
3) Contact information for the author of this newsletter

1) Dr. Ernest Sternglass, pioneer radiation researcher, dead at 91

The New York Times' obituary of Dr. Sternglass was biased and unfair. They used a quote from their own writers to denounce his research into radiation dangers. They even managed to minimize his monumental work in developing methods for using radiation to observe the universe, from bone x-rays to stellar dust.

This man was great, one of the greatest they've ever written an obituary about (and they've written obits about just about everyone important who has passed, haven't they?). This was one of their most shameful.

Dr. Sternglass was one of two pioneering nuclear scientists who became famous for their "anti-nuclear" views, the other being Dr. John W. Gofman, who also lived into his 90s. There were, of course, many other great scientists and still are who speak out against nuclear power and nuclear weapons, but those two had far more than the usual credentials and helped usher in the nuclear age with their work in the industry. They were the ultimate whistleblowers.

I knew both of them, Gofman much more than Sternglass, but I had several conversations with Dr. Sternglass, especially about NASA's awful use of plutonium-238 on space missions (Pu-238 is nearly 300 times more carcinogenic than weapons-grade Pu-239, for a correspondingly shorter period of time). Dr. Gofman estimated that ONE Pu-238 accident by NASA in the early 1960s would result in a million cancers in North America. That was just 2.1 pounds of Pu-238, spread into the atmosphere at high altitude! Imagine the damage if one of NASA's rockets with, say, 72.3 pounds of plutonium were to crash in a late launch accident and spread its poison over a highly populated area, such as an African city (the post-launch climb-out trajectory made such an event quite possible). If Pu-238 is released at high altitude, as in the 1960s SNAP-9A accident or as can happen in a reentry accident during an earth flyby (Cassini did an earth flyby, successfully, and foolishly), it would be impossible to prove WHICH millions of people would get cancer from an accident (among the billions who will get cancer anyway in a global population).

These were the sorts of issues I discussed with Drs. Sternglass and Gofman. Gofman, who isolated the first working quantities of plutonium for the Manhattan project, among a long list of nuclear and other achievements, believed that radiation's medical effects were linear, and that's pretty much proven to be the case over the decades.

Dr. Sternglass, on the other hand, believed that some radiation effects are worse at low doses, which has been more difficult to prove conclusively in all cases. However, the NY Times' obituary made it seem as though Dr. Sternglass's concerns were fantasy.

This is hardly the case. For example, consider the effects of the beta particle that is released from tritium.

This beta particle is (rightly, sort of) described by the nuclear industry as a "low energy" beta particle, and you'll often see the word "harmless" attached to the sentence describing it as "low energy." But "low energy" is relative (and so is "harmless") and it turns out a so-called "low-energy beta particle" can do a lot of damage.

Radiation damage is often measured in the amount of radiation (i.e., energy) that is released per kilogram of living tissue. Tritium's beta particle is considered a "low energy" beta release. What's the connection?

The connection is known as "Bragg's hump" or "Bragg's curve." What it describes is the damage done by a beta particle at any particular speed.

Beta particles are ejected from the nucleus of atoms at the moment of decay and after they slow down, they are common electrons. When tritium (and many other fission products) decays it releases beta particles. (Plutonium releases alpha particles. Radioactive decays also can emit x-rays and gamma rays.)

When a beta particle is first ejected from the nucleus of an atom, a neutron in the nucleus becomes a proton. At first, the beta particle is traveling very near the speed of light. It will slow down tremendously as it flies by hundreds of thousands of charged particles at the atomic scale of matter -- a couple of millimeters at the human scale.

When the beta particle is first ejected and traveling very fast, it is not near anything long enough to seriously disturb other electrons or molecules. (Imagine moving a magnet (instead of a charged particle) very quickly past an iron object. Nothing happens. But move the magnet along the same path slowly, and the iron object will move towards the magnet.)

A beta particle does nearly ALL it's damage at the end of its track, when it's slowed down enough that it stays near other electrons and molecules long enough to spin them around and knock thing out of orbits and so forth.

So each individual so-called "low energy beta release" is just as dangerous as any other beta release. But "total energy dump per kilogram" is considered the standard way to measure ANY radiation damage (with some adjustments for tissue sensitivity, if enough data is available to make such adjustments). And by that measure, tritium's "low energy" beta release means you'll get a lot more beta particles released into the body per total amount of energy released, compared to other typical beta emissions. So the industry's oft-repeated reassuring assertion is actually the worst thing about tritium.

Tritium, with a half-life of a little over 12 years, is probably a lot more dangerous than regulators in many agencies and countries believe. And while I don't recall talking to Dr. Sternglass specifically about his thoughts on tritium exposure to the human body, it could certainly be argued that low doses of tritium are likely to be more dangerous than higher doses of a higher-energy beta release.

Dr. Gofman and Dr. Sternglass were very close friends and I talked to Dr. Gofman about Dr. Sternglass's assertions. The mutual admiration they had for each other despite this seemingly enormous chasm of opinion on a crucial subject was one of the many things I admired about these gentlemen. That they both had to live their lives largely in obscurity for their accomplishments, having been shunned by the industry they helped nurture, is one of the great tragedies of the nuclear age. Everyone should know these giant's names and backgrounds, as much as we should know George Washington Carver did for peanuts, Thomas Alva Edison did for lightbulbs, Nicola Tesla did for electricity, and Westinghouse did for air brakes.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

2) Helen Caldicott leads another fantastic symposium everyone can attend!

Along with giants who were pioneers of the nuclear industry, there is Dr. Caldicott, who probably knows more about radiation damage to the human body than anyone else alive. And nobody shares their knowledge as well as she does!

Tireless (seemingly), her Helen Caldicott Foundation is putting on a unique two-day symposium on "The Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction." Ouch! It's being held February 28 to March 1, 2015 at The New York Academy of Medicine and will be live-streamed, and the public is welcome (URL below).

The list of leading experts who will appear is awesome (shown below), although Caldicott by herself for two days of education would probably be even better! :)


Moderated by:
Day One: Kennette Benedict, Executive Director and Publisher, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Day Two: Ray Acheson, Director, Reaching Critical Will

The Presenters (confirmed speakers, this is not the speaking order):

Theodore A Postol- Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy, MIT. Striving for Armageddon. The US nuclear force modernization program, rising tensions with Russia, and the increasing danger of a world nuclear catastrophe

Seth Baum- Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, will address the catastrophic risk of nuclear war

Max Tegmark ­ Professor of physics at MIT and author of "Our Mathematical Universe," will discuss artificial intelligence and the risk of accidental nuclear war.

Hans Kristensen ­ Federation of American Scientists, will address the current size of the global nuclear arsenals

Bill Hartung- Center for International Policy, will discuss the inordinate power and pathological dynamics exercised by the US military industrial complex

Greg Mello -Los Alamos Study Group, the role and funding of the nuclear weapons laboratories inherent within the US nuclear armament dilemma

John Feffer ­ Institute of Policy Studies will compare the money spent on the US military industrial complex compared with the paltry amount spent on the prevention of global warming

Alex Wellerstein- Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Stevens Institute of Technology ­ NukeMap, Personalizing the Bomb- what this means for young people today.

Bruce Gagnon ­ Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, will elucidate the ongoing and dangerous militarization of space

Bob Alvarez ­ Institute of Policy Studies, will discuss lateral proliferation and describe how a small nuclear exchange could trigger a global holocaust.

Robert Parry ­ Investigative Journalist, Consortium News. Will discuss Ukraine and the Human Factor: How propaganda and passions can risk nuclear conflagration.

Steven Starr­ Associate of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a board member and senior scientist for Physicians for Social Responsibility. Nuclear War: An Unrecognized Mass Extinction Event Waiting to Happen.

Holly Barker ­ Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Medical, Teratogenic and Genetic pathology related to US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.

Alan Robock ­ Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Environmental Sciences. Rutgers University, will outline his pioneering work on Nuclear Famine and Nuclear Winter.

Janne Nolan ­ Elliott School of International Affairs ­ Hooligans at the Gate: The Checkered History of Arms Control

Mike Lofgren ­ former congressional staffer and author of Anatomy of the Deep State, will describe the merger of corporations and the US government as an underlying cause of the current nuclear situation

Susi Snyder- (PAX, the Netherlands), Author of the 2013 & 2014 DON'T BANK ON THE BOMB reports

Hugh Gusterson ­ Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, George Washington University will describe his anthropological research over many years studying the culture of nuclear weapons scientists at Livermore and Los Alamos.

Robert Sheer ­ author of STAR WARRIORS will describe how years after his research into the young men who work on nuclear weapons development at Lawrence Livermore Labs "The Madness Persists.

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics, MIT will present the pathology within the present political system that could lead to catastrophic results if not cured

Dave Krieger ­ Nuclear Age Peace Foundation on what can we do? How the Marshall Islanders are speaking truth to power. The Nuclear Zero Lawsuits Brought by the Marshall Islands Against the 9 Nuclear Nations.

Tim Wright ­ Campaign Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) some potential and exciting solutions

Helen Caldicott ­ President of The Helen Caldicott Foundation ­ An urgent prescription for survival

Go here for more information:


3) Contact information for the author of this newsletter


Ace Hoffman
Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download: acehoffman.org
Blog: acehoffman.blogspot.com
YouTube: youtube.com/user/AceHoffman
Carlsbad, CA
Email: ace [at] acehoffman.org


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