Tuesday, April 9, 2019

EVENT: TUE. APRIL 9, 2019 (Capistrano Beach, CA): America's Nuclear Legacy: Hiroshima to Present with Roger Johnson

Subject: EVENT: TUE. APRIL 9, 2019 (Capistrano Beach, CA): America's Nuclear Legacy: Hiroshima to Present with Roger Johnson

April 8th 2019

Dear Readers,

If you live near Capistrano Beach, California, I highly recommend attending this event tomorrow (Tuesday, April 9, 2019).  (Otherwise, you may still find this email interesting...)

Roger Johnson will be discussing America's Nuclear Legacy: Hiroshima to Present.  If his little quiz (below) is anything to go on, I'm sure it will be very informative.  Among other topics, Roger will (at least briefly) be talking about how radiation damages human cells. Related to that discussion, the Progressives of South Orange County flyer (shown below) uses (with prior permission) my Electromagnetic Wave Spectrum in the announcement of Johnson's presentation.

This electromagnetic spectrum graphic was produced with the assistance of a physicist who had retired from Lawrence Livermore National Labs, and who strongly opposed both nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Unlike most such images, this one includes the Energy Equivalent, as well as the usual Wavelength Equivalent and Frequency in Hertz (cycles per second).

Adding the additional energy equivalence scale makes it a very useful graphic for nuclear activists (among others): For example, when the nuclear industry says that a tritium decay is a "low energy beta release" you can look at the chart and see that even a so-called "low energy beta release" is about three orders of magnitude more powerful than a typical chemical bond -- or roughly a thousand times more powerful.  Tritium can end up anywhere hydrogen ends up inside your body -- which is essentially anywhere (tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen).

Tritium is extremely toxic, so when the nuclear industry "accidentally" releases "a very small amount" of tritium (and for some reason has to admit it), when they (as they invariably will) say tritium's radioactive decay product is a "low energy beta release" (they might use the phrase "soft beta rays" instead), recognize right away that that statement is designed to mislead you.

And if you want more proof that that is what such language is designed to do, here's more (although this concept is a bit complicated so please bear with me):

Beta decays are (essentially) electrons that are ejected from the nucleus of an atom at incredibly high speed.  Its speed varies, but is about 99.7% the speed of light.  (Because of its high speed, people continue to debate whether to call it a "particle" or a "ray".)  A beta particle (we'll call it that) has a charge of -1 electron volt, and when it slows down, it is simply a normal electron like any other electron.  All beta particles become electrons once they slow down.  And what slows them down? You. Your molecules.  You absorb all of the energy the beta particle  is ejected with: The tugs and repulsions of your body's cell's molecule's atom's nuclei (tugs) and their surrounding electrons (repulses) are altered by, and alter, the beta particle as it passes by.  It is an electromagnetic repulsion/attraction.  When the beta particle is traveling very fast, it almost always passes other molecules without having ANY significant effect on them, because it isn't in the vicinity of any particular atom for very long -- at first.  It's only when the beta particle is at the slowest, last part of its journey to acting like/becoming any other electron that it does most of its damage, and *THAT* speed/energy level is far, far lower and slower than the speed/energy level the tritium (or any) beta particle had when it was released.

The net result is that the number of atoms/molecules/electrons that are disrupted by any single beta decay is about the same, regardless of whether it's a "low energy" beta release from tritium or a "high energy" beta release from some other radioactive material.  The area of damage from a "low energy" beta particle will tend to be closer to the origin of the beta particle than that from a "high energy" beta particle, but the total amount of damage (from the beta particle) will be roughly the same.

So calling a tritium atom's beta release a "low energy" beta release is misleading at best, but it actually gets even worse:

The nuclear industry likes to use whatever standard seems to them to be the most useful to minimize the apparent damage from any particular event.  And whatever standard they choose to use...is always...confusing, at best.

Some of the standards for radiation exposure are based on the total amount of energy released (through radioactive decay) into a pound of flesh.  There are many other factors that need to be included (age, sex, initial health, etc. etc.), but any estimate of radiation damage that is based in whole or even just in part on the total amount of energy released into a given quantity of living tissue will invariably *underestimate* the damage from tritium, and this will happen *specifically* due to its low energy beta release!  (A somewhat better approach distinguishes between types of flesh for a slightly more accurate estimate.)

So how safe is tritium?  Nuclear power plants release about a thousand Curies of tritium per year (Canadian style "CANDU" power plants are allowed to release a lot more, because they produce a lot more.  It is impossible not to release at least "SOME" tritium from an operating nuclear power plant).  One year's permissible, and normal release amounts to about a thirtieth of a teaspoon, if concentrated to purity.  One year's permissible, normal release of tritium is enough to bring about 13 billion gallons of water to the EPA limit for tritium in water (a limit which is probably significantly more lax than it should be).  That's about as much water -- that one nuclear plant can legally pollute up to the EPA limit - that about half a million people drink in their entire lives!  Nuclear power plants can legally pollute a lot of water!  So what does the industry mean when it says it's released a "very small amount" of tritium?  Baring a major release, in total they are only allowed to release about one or two teaspoons over the entire life of the reactor.  Because even a "very small amount" can be very, very dangerous!

Nothing in the nuclear industry is as it seems: The reality is always worse, and sometimes the reality is much worse.  Roger Johnson will undoubtedly have many additional examples during his presentation tomorrow.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

EVENT: TUE. APRIL 9, 2019 (Capistrano Beach, CA): America's Nuclear Legacy: Hiroshima to Present with Roger Johnson

Subject: Last call invitation including photo gallery and pop quiz about the Atomic Age. Tuesday at Agostinos, please RSVP
From: South Orange County Progressives

America's Nuclear Legacy: Hiroshima to Present

How did the atomic age start and where are we headed?

Don't forget to take the quiz below

Can you identify the photos used on our invitations?  They will be discussed on Tuesday night. We will also grade your responses to the 10 questions below:  10 points for each correct answer.  Can you achieve a passing grade of 60% or more?

Roger Johnson

Roger visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki when he lived in Japan as a kid shortly after World War II.  He has read widely about what happened and how the atomic age has changed the world and the outlook for our future.  He has attended many National Science Foundation conferences on arms control and nuclear war and has written widely on war in general and nuclear war in particular. Cheery topics will include why the atom bomb was dropped, nuclear testing, radioactive contamination and cancer, the Hiroshima Survivor Study, the Human Radiation Experiments, nuclear accidents, nuclear proliferation, and the nuclear industry. 

Tuesday, April 9,   Dinner and Socializing, 5:30-7,  Meeting starts at 7

Banquet Room of Agostinos by the Sea Ristorante Italiano

34700 Coast Highway, Capo Beach 92624

RSVP necessary:   socprogressives@gmail.com

Due to the short notice of this meeting, please respond ASAP.   Name tags will be waiting for all who send in an RSVP. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, you will be able to enjoy an ocean view sunset from the patio if you wish.  If you are not on the mailing list or have never attended before, please sign in at the door. If you intend to come only for coffee, drinks or desert, please so indicate on your RSVP (you may have to sit on chairs in the back rather than at dining tables). There is no charge or membership/registration fee.  For the dinner/social hour, everyone can order dinner/drinks from the restaurant menu or list of nightly specials.   Excellent food is served at Agostinos's Ristorante Italiano!

Please visit our website http://socprogressives.com/  to view listings of events in the area, commentary on the news, and the photo gallery.  Our Facebook page is:


Teaser questions to be answered at this meeting:  How many can you get right?  Pencils Up�

            1.   Which country was the first to employ airplanes to bomb civilian populations?  (a) Germany; (b) Spain; (c) Italy; (d) Russia; (e) USA; (f) Mozambique

            2.   Who was the only senior scientist to quit the Manhattan Project when he learned that the atom bomb would be dropped on cities to kill indiscriminately?

            3.   The desire to end World War II was one of the 3 main reasons for dropping the atom bomb.   (a) true;  (b) false

            4.   The Nagasaki bomb missed its target by (a) a half-mle; (b) one mile; (c) 2 miles; (d) 4 miles;  (e) it was right on target

            5.   About how many Japanese continue to die each year, not from old age but from medical issues related to when they received radiation on the outskirts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945? (a) none; (b) 50; (c) 100; (d) 500; (d) 2000

            6.   One of the purposes of the Hiroshima Survivor Study was to assist people suffering from radiation sickness.  (a) true;  (b) false

            7.    As of 2018, the Radiation Compensation Exposure Act has so far paid out how much to American citizens who were harmed by nuclear testing programs? (a) $50 million; (b)$100 million; (c) $500 million; (d) $ 1 billion; (e) $2 billion; (f) nothing

            8.   In the Human Radiation Experiments, American scientists did which of the following: (a) put radioactive substances into the breakfast cereal of teenagers; (b) exposed pregnant women to radioactivity to see what effects it would have on the fetus; (c) injected newborn children with radioactive iodine; (d) injected the testicles of prisoners with cancer-causing radioactive substances; (e)  none of the above; (f) all of the above

            9.   The GAO calculates that the Dept. of Energy (i.e., U.S. tax payers) will eventually have to pay how much in fines to nuclear power plant operators who are stuck with stranded nuclear waste that has nowhere to go.  (a) $ 10 million; (b) $100 million; (c) $1 billion; (d) $5 billion; (e) $25 billion

            10.  The fires and explosions that closed the nation's only nuclear waste repository in Carlsbad, NM were caused by: (a) methane gas; (b) a hydrogen explosion; (c) faulty electric circuits; (d) fission of nuclear waste; (e) high explosives; (f) kitty litter
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The Progressives of South Orange County (PSOC) was founded in 2011 thanks to an energetic group of people interested in furthering progressive causes. The group is not affiliated with any political party.