ratitor's corner

december 21, 1998

december solstice, 5:56pm, PST

prior moments

The Biological Debt We Are Accruing By Continuing
The Development and Promotion of Nuclear Power

Today is the december solstice, when, the sun, appearing to travel along the ecliptic,
reaches the point where it is the farthest south of the celestial equator. In the northern hemisphere
days are shortest and nights longest while the opposite occurs in the southern hemisphere.

This ratitorial heralds the presence on rat haus reality of Poisoned Power, the classic lay-person's primer explaining precisely what the health costs of nuclear power plants are, as well as describing the historical development of nuclear power in the U.S and how an entire industry was "misled in their belief that some safe amount of radiation truly exists". The costs to health, never honestly acknowledged or adequately discussed by nuclear industry proponents, affects not only ourselves and our children, they impact all mammals, fish, birds, insects, reptiles, plants, trees, bacteria, and everything else we share this irreplaceable home with. Even more serious, the on-going damage to the collective planetary DNA gene pool is increasing and deepening the burden all life yet unborn will have to bear, nothing less than the future of all. What is it that actually justifies such costs?

Poisoned Power:
The Case Against Nuclear Power Plants
Before and After Three Mile Island

by John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D., and Arthur R. Tamplin, Ph.D.
Containing the complete combined contents of the 1971 and 1979 editions.

Welcoming the sun spinning into view above the east-southeastern horizon at dawn on November 18th, i was struck by how close it already was to the southern-most point it reaches on the December Solstice and wondered what would be most appropriate to prepare for this ratitor's corner. The Nuclear Energy Institute's full-page glossy ad in the November Atlantic, laden with the falsehoods and latest spin of the same lethal propaganda promoted by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) starting in the 1950s, crystalized the decision that morning that it was finally time to complete the creation of hypertext representations of Gofman and Tamplin's 1970s classic, Poisoned Power.

i had scanned the text with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software back in 1992 for the Series on the Health Costs of Nuclear Technology posted to various newsgroups. But work was never completed correcting, proof-reading, and formatting this book until now. i am deeply grateful to Stefene Russell for all her good hard work doing the first-pass text correcting/prepping of the raw OCR'd files before passing them on to me to proof and wrap up in HTML. Stefene writes the Stranger Than Fiction column for Pif Magazine, as well as the more mundane Politics and Government, Religion and Spirituality, Performing Arts, and Around Town columns for her day job at City Search: Utah.

*     *     *     *     *

  the really important questions about nuclear power are ethical  

i am not a "scientist". i am deeply concerned about the unnecessary and utterly inappropriate human activity involving tinkering with nuclear fission to generate heat in power plant reactors. Ever since the close of WWII the proponents of this activity have sought to pretend that the extremely poisonous man-made radioactive matter produced along every step of the nuclear fuel cycle, can be safely and completely contained, thus preventing it from contaminating and irrevocably polluting our biosphere.

The on-going damage to the collective gene pool of all life on earth -- not only human life -- is proceeding apace in large measure from the continued development and promotion of nuclear power. The historical record articulated in Poisoned Power of how this situation developed is extremely relevant to everyone who is concerned about this incoherent state of affairs. When this book was first published in 1971, there was nothing comparable in its breadth and depth for lay-persons to study to teach themselves the fundamental issues about what nuclear power involves and why it is so extraordinarily dangerous and unnecessary.

          The Congress of the United States, acting in the best of faith during the immediate post-war years, made an historic error in assigning duties and aims to the newly established U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Atomic energy represented a poorly-understood, new, potent phenomenon, born during World War II. The possibilities and the hazards appeared staggering.
          It seemed logical, in 1946, to organize a civilian Commission assigned to explore and exploit the phenomena of atomic energy for the fullest benefit of the citizens. The Atomic Energy Commission was given this as one of its missions. But the staggering potential hazard was also recognized and a second mission, that of proceeding with the fullest consideration of protection of health and safety of the public, was also assigned to the Atomic Energy Commission.
          In this dual mission lay the historic error. No group of people could be expected to do both things at the same time -- promote a technology zealously and hastily -- and at the same time proceed slowly and cautiously for maximum protection of public health. Go fast but go slowly! This was in essence the directive given the AEC at its inception.
          As the Commission explored the peaceful possibilities of the atom, one prospect seemed inordinately attractive: utilization of the enormous energy of uranium fission to produce heat, hence steam, and to use the steam to drive electrical generators. The nuclear reactor derives its energy from nuclear fission, rather than from fossil fuel, to produce steam -- provided everything goes exactly as planned.
          Unfortunately, at several steps along the way, radioactive substances, produced as waste by-products in nuclear reactors, are released into either air or water. The nuclear reactor itself, and the possibility of harm from an accident there, are only the beginning of the story.
          Huge quantities of radioactivity are produced in the course of nuclear electricity generation. Electrical power production is measured in kilowatts (1000 watts equal 1 kilowatt) or megawatts (1000 kilowatts equal 1 megawatt). A large power station of any kind produces approximately 1000 megawatts.
          For a nuclear power plant operating to produce 1000 megawatts of electrical power, we can estimate how much uranium will be needed. From this we can calculate precisely how much of the various radioactive fission products will be produced, including such infamous ones as radioactive iodine-131, radioactive strontium-90, strontium-89, radioactive cesium-137 and radioactive krypton-85. These radioactive by-products became familiar to us all during the heated debates over radioactive fallout hazards when bombs were tested in the l950's.
          Some of the radioactive by-products of nuclear uranium fission have very short half-lives, others very long. This concept of "half-life" seems difficult. It is not. It's mostly just a convenient way to measure the potential for harm and how long it may last. If a radioactive substance has a half-life of one day, we mean that, in the course of one day, half of that substance will decay or disappear. In the next day, one half of what is left will disappear, in the next day one-half of that will disappear, and so on. So a substance with a half-life of one day will be reduced in radioactivity 1000 times in 10 days. Hardly enough left to do much damage, you might say, within the very short time of 10 days.
          But if a substance has a half-life of about 30 years (like cesium-137) its radioactivity is reduced 1000 times only after 300 years!
          One ugly feature plagues the operation of nuclear reactors for power generation. As the uranium atoms split, they build up radioactive by-products which eventually "poison" the reactor itself. Only a small amount of the potentially fissionable fuel can be utilized before it must be removed from the reactor and transported by rail or truck to a fuel-cleaning or fuel-reprocessing plant.
          Here the uranium or plutonium is dissolved in acid and purified so that it can be prepared to go back to the nuclear reactor. But astronomical amounts of radioactive by-products remain, after this process is complete. Usually a nuclear reactor can function for about two years before fuel-reprocessing becomes essential. This means that every two years all of the radioactive material generated by uranium fission must be removed from the nuclear power plant, transported by rail or truck to the fuel reprocessing plant, and there separated from uranium or plutonium which are recovered for future use. The immense quantities of radioactive by-products must then be transported in some fashion to an ultimate repository.
          Plans call for allowing the uranium fuel to remain for a period of months after removal from the reactor so that the short-lived radioactive by-products decay away. This cuts the radioactivity of the spent fuel rods some, but still massive quantities of the extremely hazardous strontium-90 and cesium-137 have decayed hardly at all in this short cooling-off period of several months.
          These radioactive substances, with half-lives of 27 and 33 years respectively, must be kept isolated from the environment for periods like several hundred years if damage to human beings and other living things is to be avoided. It is difficult for the layman to understand or conceive of the enormous quantities of hazardous radioactive by-products like strontium-90 and cesium-137 that are involved. We will explain.
          A 1000 megawatt reactor, operating for two years (the fuel-changing cycle time) produces as much of these long-persisting radioactive poisons as about 2000 atom bombs of the Hiroshima size. This sounds incredible, but is thoroughly documented, as a known fact of physics. Ten such reactors -- and the AEC plans for some 500 by the turn of the century -- operating for two years have as much radioactivity of long persistence in them as the combined total of such fission-product radioactivities in all the bomb tests of the United States and the Soviet Union combined for the entire period of atmospheric testing up through 1962.
          During the bomb tests, that amount of radioactivity spread fallout around the globe, aroused the concern of more than 11,000 biological scientists, and was finally a major factor leading to the 1963 treaty to ban atmospheric tests of such weapons. Yet the AEC is now proposing to build reactors containing inventories many times this total amount of radioactivity on the edge of all our most populous metropolitan centers! Trucks, roaming our crowded highways, will carry radioactive cargoes to reprocessing plants, and eventually to a final burial spot.   ( Chapter 5, "Promises, Promises", pp.107-111 )

The fact that at the end of 1998 virtually everything in Poisoned Power is as relevant as when it was first published in 1971 bespeaks a living tragedy the magnitude of which is every bit as profound and timeless as anything William Shakespeare ever wrote. In all of this there is one key fact to keep in mind:

We cannot have energy from nuclear fission power plants without the generation of radioactive fission products. The energy from fission comes from splitting heavy atoms such as uranium-235, uranium-233 or plutonium-239. Once split the result is what are called fission fragments or fission products. These are the radioactive poisons that decay at various rates. Many of them will be around for thousands of years.

The single, most important fact to always remember is that unrepairable damage to living tissue -- particularly to DNA in the nucleus of cells -- from exposure to radioactive isotopes has been studied and proven to occur down to the lowest possible doses:
. . . ionizing radiation is not like a poison out of a bottle where you can dilute it and dilute it. The lowest dose of ionizing radiation is one nuclear track through one cell. You can't have a fraction of a dose of that sort. Either a track goes through the nucleus and affects it, or it doesn't. So I said "What evidence do we have concerning one, or two or three or four or six or 10 tracks?" And I came up with nine studies of cancer being produced where we're dealing with up to maybe eight or 10 tracks per cell. Four involved breast cancer. With those studies, as far as I'm concerned, it's not a question of "We don't know." The DOE has never refuted this evidence. They just ignore it, because it's inconvenient. We can now say, there cannot be a safe dose of radiation. There is no safe threshold.
            -"Gofman on the health effects of radiation:
                `There is no safe threshold'", synapse, 1/94
Injury to living systems through mutation wrought by exposure to such radioactive poisons not only can result in cancer and leukemia. It can also damage male sperm and female ova chromosomes while in the testis or ovary, and "can thus be carried forward into every cell of a new human being. Worse yet, since every cell of the new human can carry such a mutation, the sperm or ova of this human can carry them also, so that the original injury persists through successive generations."

The section on Hereditary Alterations in Chapter 3, "How Radiation Produces Disease and Hereditary Alterations," provides a keenly incisive analysis of "the implications of increasing the existing mutation rate of our genes" from the safety standards set for population exposure to "permissible" levels of man-made sources of radiation originally defined by official regulatory bodies such as the AEC and National Committee on Radiation Protection (NRCP).

          The Nobel Laureate in Genetics, Professor Joshua Lederberg,[2] recently indicated his grave concern about the implications of increasing the existing mutation rate of our genes, and stated that present radiation standards allow for a 10 percent increase in mutation rate. And he says, "I believe that the present standards for population exposure to radiation should and will (at least de facto) be made more stringent, to about one percent of the spontaneous rate, and that this is also a reasonable standard for the maximum tolerable mutagenic (heredity) effect of any environmental chemical."
          Dr. Lederberg is suggesting that all forms of influence in our environment which can provoke genetic mutation or chromosome injury be one percent of the spontaneous rate, yet he points out the serious situation that we are currently legally permitting 10 percent of the spontaneous rate from radiation alone. Let us quote Professor Lederberg on this:

"A ten percent increase in the existing `spontaneous' mutation rate is, in effect, the standard that has been adopted as the `maximum acceptable' level of public exposure to radiation by responsible regulatory bodies."

          One wonders how it can be that responsible regulatory bodies would allow ten times more genetic injury to the population from radiation alone, when a highly respected geneticist suggests one percent as a maximum for radiation plus chemicals combined. Other geneticists concur.
          A multitude of unsatisfactory answers to this question has been provided. One is that we cannot afford to impede technological progress by undue restrictions. Thus, atomic energy programs such as nuclear electricity generation, "must" be beneficial to humans in terms of convenience and comfort, so they must be allowed to pollute the environment with radioactive substances that will ultimately produce genetic changes in man.
          A reasonable question: why must radioactivity be released at such a high level for atomic energy programs to proceed? This question is never asked, but the answer is, of course, economics. It is cheaper to pollute than to take the necessary steps to prevent pollution. Promoters of all technology realize this intuitively and consciously. Hence, they press for the loosest possible standards of pollution or, better yet, no restrictions at all.
          And the pressure of such promotional interests is staggering. Generally, all they need to do is mention the magic word "economics," and everyone falls into line. If it is not economical to prevent radioactive pollution, then assuredly we must allow the pollution to occur unimpeded. That we may pay an enormous price in the future through deterioration of our genes and chromosomes and, thereby, cause fantastic human misery and suffering, hardly enters this "economic" picture. This is not because the proponents of atomic (or other) technologies are hardhearted, evil individuals, bent upon injury to humans. Far from it.
          The apparent insensitivity arises from our widespread false definition of the term "economic." We only include short-term considerations in our economic calculations -- those concerned with days, weeks, months, or a few years. More ultimate costs to be borne by future society, or future generations, are hard to anticipate (they almost appear "theoretical") and they are routinely avoided in economic considerations.   ( pp.58-60 )

Beyond the "economic" justification commonly given the authors address the critically important issue of increasing the level of background radiation exposure already occurring from natural sources. Continuing:

          Another common, but unsatisfactory, answer is given for why we would legally permit enough radiation (and radioactivity contamination) to cause a 10 percent increase in mutation rate. We are already being irradiated, they say, from natural sources (cosmic rays, radioactivity of substances in the earth's crust, carbon 14 produced by cosmic rays) in an amount that can also cause about 10 percent of the spontaneous mutation rate. As this specious argument goes, "we can't do much harm if we do to humans only the equal of what nature is already doing." Fallacious as it is in every respect, this argument seems credible to many among the public, the medical, and the scientific communities .
          They all fail to realize that natural radiation and the genetic and chromosomal mutations caused thereby are doing a great deal of harm. The genetic disorders and deaths caused by natural radiations are no different at all from those caused by man-made radiation. We saw in Chapter II that all these radiations act similarly and the injuries are no different from one source of radiation than from another. All we can say is that, at this moment, we know of no way to turn off the various natural sources of radiation. We, therefore, suffer an enormous toll of disease, debility and death as a result of natural radiation. As a minimum element of common sense, we should refrain, except under the most dire circumstances, from adding to this enormous burden of suffering by adding the injury of man-made radiation. The benefits to society should be required to be enormous and obviously so before permitting any amount of increase in radiation mutations due to man-made sources.    ( pp.60-61 )

Chapter 11, "Must We Hold Out For The "Cold Corpses"?, speaks cogently to the conflict of interest professionals in this field are affected by which resulted in setting such harmful standards.

          When we, the authors of this book, finally awakened to the unbelievable galaxy of errors represented in this standard-setting, we exposed it publicly. We were accused of making a direct, frontal attack on all radiation standards. Indeed, we are making a direct, frontal attack. And proudly. This account will, we hope, convince the public how long overdue such a massive, direct attack is!
          Unfortunately, any criticism of erroneous public health practices is likely to be misinterpreted as an attack upon the motives of the men involved. We intend no such implications, nor even consider it in questioning their standard-setting procedures. These men are, after all, human. All of us learn through our errors, and few indeed have escaped serious errors of judgment in one or another aspect of their lives. But is it not tragic and inexcusable to persist in the errors of the past? The defensiveness of those scientists involved is leading directly to this tragedy. It appears certain that it will take public pressure to introduce a rational note into the radiation-nuclear energy scene.
          We cannot refrain from addressing the issue of conflict-of-interest. And we do this not to impugn motives. Public officials are routinely required to divest themselves of holdings that might represent, or be considered to represent, a conflict with execution of their public duties. Yet, most of the scientists who serve on the various radiation standard-setting committees are directly or indirectly in the employ of the nuclear industry or the atomic energy government bureaucracy. Some are recipients of major university research grants from these same agencies.
          The conflict of interest may be subconscious, but it is inescapable. Men can hardly be expected to consider civic responsibility exclusively, when they cannot be unaware that certain of their actions may well result in drying up sources of support for their research or for their salaries. This is a hopeless situation from which to extract objective performance. It is the very reason for our rather strict codes in such potential conflict-of-interest situations for public servants.
          Recently one of us was lecturing in a university classroom concerning the leukemia and cancer hazard from ionizing radiation. A fellow professor attending the lecture asked, "If the Atomic Energy Commission pays to support your research, why do you criticize radiation as a hazard?" The deep implications of this question, undoubtedly asked in great innocence, must not be lost upon the public. If the source of research funds is expected to buy silence concerning hazards of major public concern, we are assuredly in very deep trouble as a society.
          Many scientists would not ask this question so directly. They would simply remain silent about public-health hazards of technology if they sensed that speaking out might cost them their jobs or their research funds. Nor is it particularly hard to understand why. The heavy hand of reprisal by vested interests, governmental or private, is very widely appreciated.   ( pp.238-240 )

Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all deeply indebted to Doctors Gofman and Tamplin for the fact that they did not emulate the behavior of their peers and remain silent about the magnitude of the public-health hazards posed by the development of commercial nuclear power plants. Indeed, at the start of Chapter 11 they presented their predictions for increases in the incidence of Cancer Plus Leukemia and Genetic Diseases based upon the allowable exposure standard in 1971 of 0.17 rad per year: "32,000 extra cancer plus leukemia deaths every year", and, for the-then 200-million people living in the U.S., "100,000 to 1,000,000 extra deaths per year from various genetic diseases, particularly heart attacks."

Using the hypothetical example of the development of a "new `wondrous' technology with a by-product poison" called "Q" a scenario is played out demonstrating how standards would be set based on the interests of the promoters of this new technology. Not on the interests of public health considerations, in the present and the future. One of the primary responses the AEC fell back on then (as its descendant, the DOE, does today), when challenged about the danger caused by exposure to man-made radiation, is that "no effect [was] observed". This situation is examined with great insight and common sense in "No Effect Observed" and The Careful Studies Required to Observe Effects from Chapter 4, "Is Any Radiation `Safe'?"

          Over and over again the public is treated to "no effect observed" pronouncements by AEC officials, such as Commissioner Thompson and Commissioner Larson, when it is quite clear that no meaningful study was ever made. No such studies exist.
          On the other hand, Dr. Alice Stewart (Lancet, June 6, 1970) has produced solid evidence that 250-350 millirads delivered to embryos (1 x-ray film) during gestation produces about a 25% increase in the subsequent occurrence of childhood cancers and leukemias. Faced with such evidence we wonder very seriously whether AEC Commissioners would really continue to make the deceptive, irresponsible statements concerning "no effect observed."
          We have pointed out the treacherous nature of the statement "no effect observed" used by atomic energy proponents to justify allowing population exposure to radiation. Were this an isolated example, now past, we could realize this and forget it. But what about tomorrow?... ( p.93 )

          We have been discussing here a massive effect that can only be considered a bludgeoning of the human species. And even so, it is apparent that an inadequate study can lead, easily, to the ridiculous assertion, "no effect observed."
          Atomic energy development must, unfortunately, be regarded as one of the worst examples of irresponsibility of this sort.
          The important purpose of demonstrating the rash unsoundness of "expert" pronouncements in the past is to alert the public to such errors so that they will insist on a vastly improved performance in public matters in the future, for radioactivity and other serious pollutants.
          In recent testimony before the Congress (Joint Committee on Atomic Energy Hearings) Dr. Paul Tompkins, Executive Director of the Federal Radiation Council, described, with apparent pride, the history of so-called "Radiation Protection Standards." (A more apt description might be the history of "Radiation Disaster Standards.") Dr. Tompkins related that in 1954 the National Committee on Radiation Protection, a leading U.S. group of "experts" had issued the following statement,

"We have a lower limit of continuous exposure to radiation that is (unavoidably) tolerated by man. There is, on the other hand, a much higher level of exposure that is definitely known to be harmful. Between these two extremes there is a level of exposure, in the neighborhood of 0.1R per day, that experience to date shows to be safe for the individual concerned."[4]

          Not a shred of scientific evidence was produced to support this statement, an astounding statement of supposed reassurance. Now, let us consider, in the light of our medical knowledge of radiation injury 16 short years later, what the cost would have been for public exposure to radiation at such supposedly "safe" levels.
          The NCRP was reassuring about 0.1 rad per day. For estimations of cancer risk we customarily estimate the dose for persons of about 30 years of age. At 0.1 rad per day, a person would accumulate 1095 rads by 30 years of age (since 36.5 rads would be accumulated in one year at this rate, it would be 36.5 x 30, or 1095 rads in 30 years). Now, from extensive studies concerning the cancer-producing and leukemia-producing ability of ionizing radiation in humans, it appears that approximately 50 rads of accumulated exposure will add as many cancers plus leukemias as occur spontaneously due to "natural" or "spontaneous" causes. And such added cancers and leukemias will occur each year for many years once the latency period is over.
          By simple arithmetic, 1095 divided by 50 equals 21, so we can expect twenty-one times the natural incidence of cancer plus leukemia. TWENTY-ONE TIMES the natural, spontaneous fatality rate from cancer plus leukemia would have been the result of a dose pronounced by a body of experts as being without physical effects upon the person exposed.
          No disaster in man's health history could match this one had people truly been exposed to this radiation dose, stated to be safe by a standard-setting body, the National Committee on Radiation Protection. It is something of a stretch of public credulousness and confidence to call for lasting faith in such "standard-setters."
          Earlier, we spoke of the horrors of increasing cancer plus leukemia to double the spontaneous occurrence. The NCRP "safe" dose could have provoked a catastrophe 21 times larger than that!
          And this is only the beginning of the incredible fiasco of "standard-setting" for technology. Up to now, we have considered only the cancer plus leukemia part of the hazard. Everyone concerned about radiation hazards to man knows that the genetic consequences in future generations give every expectation of being far more severe than the cancer plus leukemia risk in the current generation of humans.
          The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has indicated that it takes about 10 to 100 rads to double the spontaneous rate of genetic mutations. Professor Lederberg, the eminent geneticist, has recently estimated approximately 50 rads to double the mutation rate. His estimate is almost precisely in the center of the range estimated by UNSCEAR, so we may explore the consequences of this estimate. At the average reproductive age of 30 years, a person receiving NCRP's "safe" 0.1 rad per day would have accumulated 1095 rads, we saw above. So, if the genetic mutation rate is doubled by 50 rads, it is increased 21 times by 1095 rads. So the NCRP "safe" dose of 0.1 rads per day would have meant a 2100 percent increase in mutation rate. Contrast this with Professor Lederberg's recent admonition that society would be well advised not to add one percent to the mutation rate. Contrast 2100 percent with one percent!!!
          It is only by a quirk of fate and timing that society escaped acceptance of the National Committee on Radiation Protection's recommendation, and its results. The nuclear electric industry and other atomic energy programs just weren't ready, technologically, for widespread expansion in 1954.

In our society one can see how the depth of intellectual imprisonment experienced by a populace increasingly conditioned to defer to and feel dependent upon "expert pronouncements", is reaching a zenith if it was only through a "quirk of fate" that the catastrophe alluded to above was averted. The analogy of reaching the apex of a journey is a metaphor for our era. If such a mentality continues, of blindly following a course set by "experts" whose interest is to achieve specific economic goals for their industry, sooner or later we will not be "saved" by such a similar quirk of fate. Continuing:
          In the years shortly after 1954, scientists began to wake up a little and realize the enormity of the error represented by the pronouncement of the NCRP. It was obvious that a massive reduction, in doses to be allowed for humans, must be made immediately. Biologists in the 1956-58 period, realizing the enormity of their past error, had an opportunity to implement a sound policy with respect to allowable radiation dosage. But they did not do so.
          A sound policy of public health protection gave way to the powerful imperative of "convenience" for the promoters of technology. The scientists asked themselves. instead. how low they could push the allowable radiation dose to the public, without interfering with the "orderly development of atomic energy." So they issued suggested standards along the following lines:

  • 5.0 rads per year for workers in atomic energy
  • 0.5 rads per year for individuals in the population-at-large
  • 0.17 rads per year average for the population-at-large.

What a come-down these numbers represent from 36 rads per year being "safe" or "without physical effect"!
          Incredible as it seems, scientists, in a few short years, had to change a recommendation, downward, between seven and 200 times. And what evidence did these standard-setting scientists provide that the "new" standards of allowable radiation would be safe? None whatever. Absolutely none.
          Obscurantism gobbledygook has characterized all efforts to set so-called "safe" or "allowable" standards for industrial poisons, radioactive or other. In truth, standard-setters know full well there is no evidence for any safe amount of a poison such as radiation or radioactivity.
          We are perfectly happy to consider errors of the past as part of the learning process. But the "standard-setters" are not satisfied to learn by errors; they defend their errors of the past and try to justify their unbelievable errors of the present.
          For example, the catastrophic statements of NCRP in 1954 are explained this way: "We were not recommending that people be exposed widely to 0.1 rad per day." Thank heaven for this! But, of what earthly use is a pronouncement by a standard-setting body, that 0.1 rad per day is without physical effect upon the exposed person, other than as guidance for technologists so they can plan their designs, including safety features?
          When the nuclear electricity promoters are asked about hazards due to irradiation at the "allowable" doses of radiation, they go into speeches about the "expert scientists" who set these "allowable" (inferring safe) doses after careful deliberation. Indeed, the electric-utility industry buys two-page advertisements in national magazines to present precisely this justification for safety of the "allowable" doses.
          When the evidence is presented to the "standard-setters" that large numbers of cancers, leukemias, and genetic disorders would accrue from population exposure at the "allowable" dose, they answer, "We didn't mean for people to ever reach those allowable doses."
          Recently, the charade has assumed even more ridiculous proportions as the nuclear electricity salesmen have attempted to defend their obviously indefensible standards for human radiation exposure. An attempt at justification, bizarre in the extreme, is now presented for the 0.17 rads allowable for the population-at-large. It is known that natural sources of radiation plus those from medical uses of x-rays add up to approximately 0.17 rads per year. "Aha," say the proponents of nuclear electricity and other nuclear energy programs, "We shall allow the 'peaceful atom' to give an amount additional that will just equal what people are already getting from other sources." But why would anyone think of doubling the harm already being produced by the 0.17 rads from natural plus medical radiation? From all that has already been discussed, we know that natural and medical radiation produce cancer and genetic harm, in direct proportion to the dose received, down to the lowest doses.
          No amount of ionizing radiation is safe!   ( pp.99-105 )

Poisoned Power provides an extremely valuable record of the history, based upon the author's own professional experiences and research, of precisely how the situation developed where standards were set for "permissible" doses of radiation exposure for humans that were in no way safe. Such understanding is critical to enable one to pierce the mind-fog rampant today, when the past is reduced to fairy tale concoctions masking the lethal errors in judgement made by our fallible human brothers of yesteryear.

Given the emphasis one is exposed to with media coverage of current events relating to nuclear technology, such a record is especially important as it explains what is never acknowledged in the incoherent state of affairs we are expected to simply "swallow" and accept as "rational" and "coherent." i am referring here to the importance of accountability for decisions made which affected not only people at that time, but, in the case of nuclear power, which will affect all life on earth for untold millenia; and the decisions made today that uphold and perpetuate this living state of koyaanisqatsi. Holding people accountable for their "time on watch" is something we see occur almost not at all now. Each of us has the means within ourselves, by exercising our remarkably versatile and magnificently creative powers of response ability, to reverse this impasse in "the affairs of men".

          Atomic technology was pushed hard by two governmental agencies, AEC and the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. Accredited biological experts were assembled, in one committee or another, to consider radiation and radioactivity and decide how much people could be exposed to. Obviously, the pressure was on. These expert bodies must burden the atomic technology with the fewest possible restrictions.
          Did these experts tell the technologists, "The burden of proof of safety is upon you?" Did they say, "We refuse to allow you to expose anyone to man-made radiation because we don't know how much physical damage it will cause?" They did not.
          Instead, they pulled some numbers out of a hat and declared that the numbers represent "acceptable" standards for human radiation tolerances. And the atomic technology proceeded under the blanket of respectability of these "allowable" doses.
          By now it is obvious, since these "acceptable" doses have had to be lowered 100-fold in the past two decades, that something certainly was wrong with the original standards. Perhaps the experts did know that people wouldn't drop dead immediately from the "acceptable" doses they set at first. But for such late effects as leukemia, cancer and genetic diseases, the "experts" could hardly have been further off-base than they were.
          If there had been no information available to the "experts" about the potential danger of cancer and genetic injury in humans, it might be argued that the men who set the standards had no way of knowing such radiation effects were possible. But the knowledge was available! These scientists knew that radiation causes cancer and genetic damage. And still, they set totally unacceptable standards! It is impossible to believe anything but that the agencies responded to pressure from the atomic technology promoters for "standards we can live with." The technologists were presented with a set of numbers for human exposure that presumably wouldn't make the promoters too unhappy, while those who set them probably prayed the disaster to the human species wouldn't be too severe.
          The essence of this prayer comes through in the very forthright statement of ignorance made by the International Commission on Radiological Protection:

      (83) Because of the need for guidance in this regard, the Commission in its 1958 Recommendations suggested a provisional limit of 5 rems per generation for the genetic dose to the whole population, from all sources additional to natural background radiation and to medical exposures. The Commission believes that this level provides reasonable latitude for the expansion of atomic energy programs in the foreseeable future. It should be emphasized that the limit may not in fact represent a proper balance between possible harm and probable benefit, because of the uncertainty in assessing the risks and the benefits that would justify the exposure.[1]

          It is very important to note that the International Commission says "this level provides reasonable latitude for the expansion of atomic energy programs in the foreseeable future." Is the concern for health, or for the technology? The Commission goes on to admit uncertainty both with respect to risks and benefits. It is almost unbelievable that an official standard recommending body would suggest allowing such exposure in the face of an overt admission of its own ignorance concerning hazards. But this is the record of such bodies, over and over again. The public must realize the implications.
          If the errors in the earliest days of atomic technology are to be excused on the basis of ignorance or on the basis of a simple lack of awareness concerning sound public health principles, how shall we excuse the fact that rationality has not entered the picture to this date.   ( Chapter 11, "Must We Hold Out For The `Cold Corpses'?," pp.233-5 )

Despite the fact that in our world today the unthinkable prospects of almost 30 years ago are playing themselves out with increasing rapidity, it still is truly horrifying to the extreme that twenty-seven years after the last sentence above was written, rationality has still not altered the course of "The Nuclear Juggernaut" as laid out in the book's Introduction. It is true that the course Congress, the nuclear manufacturing industry, and the electric utility industry were pursuing in the 1960s -- that anticipated multiple nuclear power plants operating at the periphery of every major metropolitan area long before the end of the century -- were halted, in good measure from the solid warnings of Gofman and Tamplin.

But, at the very end of this century, the intent of the international nuclear power lobby has not changed. See just a few of the examples of the ongoing obdurate campaign to promote this inappropriate and unnecessary technology -- with complete irrational disregard for all the studies of carcinogenic and genetic damage caused by exposure to the lowest levels of man-made ionizing radiation :

The promotional ad mentioned at the beginning in the November Atlantic was produced by the NEI. Their slogan is missing a few words. In the interest of accuracy it should read, "Nuclear, More Unnecessary Suffering, Disease, and Death Than You Ever Imagined". The text portions of the advertisement follow:

Nuclear power plants provide
electricity 24 hours a day and perform
at world-class levels.
With production costs second only to
coal-fired plants, nuclear power is an efficient
way to generate large amounts of electricity.
It's all in a day's work for nuclear energy.
Nuclear power plants safely and economically generate the electricity we need for our homes and industry. Nuclear energy provides 20 percent of America's electricity, enabling us to maintain our high standard of living. Nuclear plants are also the largest energy source that produces no greenhouse gas emissions, so they help protect the environment.
No major U.S. industry
has a better safety record than the
nuclear power industry.
Nuclear power plants don't
burn anything to produce electricity,
so they don't pollute the air.

Make no mistake: as with such equivalently lucrative and out-of-control industries like BioTech, the financial stakes are ENORMOUS. Web sites like CORE and NEI provide ample evidence of the amount of money involved in this industry. But all such venues that present their the endless reports and studies concerning the "facts" about "safety" are riddled with the fundamental falsehood that "There exists some `safe' level of exposure to radiation, below which one does not increase one's chance of contracting cancer, or damaging the chromosomes in one's eggs or sperm that will be passed on to one's children." --And this, going on thirty years after the following was already known :

          It came as a great shock to us, in the course of our study of radiation hazards to man, that nuclear electricity generation has been developed under the false illusion that there exists some safe amount of radiation. This unsupportable concept is surely one of the gravest condemnations of nuclear electricity generation. Obviously any engineering development proceeding under an illusion of a wide margin of safety is fraught with serious danger.
          What is more, the false illusion of a safe amount of radiation has pervaded all the highest circles concerned with the development and promotion of nuclear electric power. The Congress, the nuclear manufacturing industry, and the electric utility industry have all been led to believe that some safe amount of radiation does indeed exist. They were hoping to develop this industry with exposures below this limit -- a limit we now know is anything but safe.   ( Chapter 4, "Is Any Radiation Safe?", p.75 )

And of course, if one scans through the masses of experts dished up to "speak with knowledge and authority" (see NEI: Press Room: Guide to Nuclear Energy Experts) one will be left reeling with the impressive array of M.D. and Ph.D. -credentialed specialists ready to sing the praises and value of increasing the world-wide commerce in enriched uranium and plutonium to heretofore unimagined heights.

Here we see all too clearly where very little has changed in the last 27 years. However there is one arena that can be brought into an even sharper focus than when the following words were written in 1971 -- the culpability of people who claim this technology is "safe" and "clean" fall into one of two possible categories :

          There are two possible ways to describe the motives of the promoters of nuclear power, yet either way makes them indictable for crimes against humanity.
          First, let us assume that they really are ignorant about existing knowledge of the effects of "low" doses of radiation when they say, "We don't really know yet about the effects of `low' doses of radiation." In that case, these promoters of nuclear power are saying in effect, "Expose people first; learn the effects later." There is only one description for such planned mass experimentation on humans -- moral depravity. And such experimentation with "low" doses of radiation can produce irreversible effects not only on this generation, but upon countless future generations of humans who have no voice, no choice. If that is not a crime against humanity, what is?
          Alternatively, let us assume that they truly do know the facts about fatal injury from "low" doses of radiation, and yet they are still willing to promote nuclear power. In this case, the charge is not experimentation upon humans, but rather it is planned, random murder. The crime of murder is perhaps worse than the crime of experimentation.   ( 1979 Foreward, pp.X-XI )

Professionals in the nuclear industry, such as engineers, medical doctors, and biological and physical scientists, are caught in a powerful conflict of interest vise endemic in a society such as ours where multi-billion dollar industries and academia meet. Historically, this is the pool from which the "experts" have been drawn that have created the "permissible" global standards for public exposure to man-made sources of radiation.

It is irrational to expect such people will be able to conduct truly disinterested, unbiased studies after considering all the evidence, while simultaneously placing the interests of public health above all other considerations during such deliberations. And yet that is exactly how this industry has "grown up" and "come of age". Chapter 12, "Toward An Adversary System Of Scientific Inquiry," provides exceedingly perceptive analyses of the conflict of interest issue inherent in large-scale technologies as well as describing ways in which a broad segment of society can participate in making sound decisions concerning exposure to poisons such as radioactivity.

          The public has every reason to ask why the nuclear electricity industry developed this far before there was a widespread appreciation of the hazards. Why, the public wants to know, was it not warned much earlier that the Insurance Industry has no confidence in nuclear electricity generation? How did it escape public notice that nuclear electricity plants represent a gigantic experiment being conducted at the peril of life and property of citizens of the U.S.? How does it happen that "standards" for radioactivity exposure (both for routine operations and in the event of accidents) are such as to lead to the expectation of massive injury in the form of cancer, leukemia, and genetic diseases?
          The answers lie in the very nature of large-scale technology. One of its major characteristics is the careful exclusion of the public from all the considerations and decisions. Technologies, such as nuclear electricity generation, espouse the principle that, "In such complex problems we must put all of our faith in the experts." The experts, for several obvious reasons, will surely bring society to its doom, unless certain corrective measures are urgently introduced. We shall consider such corrective measures in two areas:

  1. the need for extensive public participation,
  2. the need for adversary assessment of technology.

          Technologies such as nuclear electricity generation are highly financed enterprises, usually involving hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars. Biological scientists, physical scientists, and engineers are necessarily attracted to such technologies, because the research and development job opportunities are excellent.
          The "experts" ultimately chosen to participate in decisions concerning safety, or lack of it, come from these same groups. They decide on "standards" for exposure of the public to such by-product poisons as radioactivity.
          It is axiomatic: scientists chosen in this way are not likely to make decisions that embarrass their technology. And adverse decisions concerning its hazards can compromise the technology. A "standard-setting" decision that can make the technology itself appear economically unattractive might wipe out a scientist's financial support. Consciously and subconsciously, the scientist has a strong motivation to make the technology look good. The result, in general, is that the public bears the burden of any hazards, actual or potential.
          Such scientists and engineers are not evil in their intentions. However, they are often so thoroughly compromised in outlook that their search for hazards can best be characterized by minimum, sincere diligence. At every step in their deliberations, where they must choose, the choice is that which minimizes the hazard estimate. Precisely the opposite choice should be the case if public health and safety were truly of paramount concern.
          One product of such scientific deliberations is the concept of an "allowable," or "tolerable," or "permissible" dose of a poison such as radioactivity. Never has anyone proved that any dose of radioactive poison is safe. Yet bodies of scientific "experts" are duly appointed to "standard-setting" boards or committees. Under the auspicious title of "Radiation Protection," such committees proceed to ordain how much radioactive poison the public must accept in order to allow for "the orderly development of the technology (atomic or other)."
          In the course of their deliberations these committees repeatedly recite the benefits of the new technology and state that society can ill-afford to forego them. Next they estimate the hazards, with all uncertainties weighted for the technology, not the public health, stating all the time that they are proceeding cautiously and conservatively.
          As an early constructive step, the public could insist upon the abolition of all "standard-setting" bodies. Major decisions concerning exposure of the public to poisons such as radioactivity or other poisonous technological by-products belong in the public forum. Such decisions, often dealing with effects upon the heredity of the human species, are what we choose to call decisions for all men for all time. A very broad representation of society as a whole must assume active participation in such decisions.
          How could such a broad segment of society make sound decisions concerning exposure to a poison such as radioactivity? There are several prerequisites:

  1. Abolition of "experts" or "standard-setters" as decision makers
  2. Honest presentations of the hazards of by-product poisons.
  3. Honest presentations of the benefits of proposed technologies, including serious consideration of alternative methods of achieving the benefits.
  4. Open-forum debate, followed by decision either by public vote or vote of public representatives.
  5. Preservation of the option to reverse decisions. New information concerning hazards and benefits must always be anticipated Society must preserve the option to change its choice of technologies in the light of new evidence.
  6. Recognition of the principle that the appropriate permissible dose of a man-made poison is zero. Deviations from zero allowable pollution must be allowed only by public decision to be polluted in exchange for some benefit it chooses to receive.
  7. Recognition that the burden of proof is upon the technology to prove safety, rather than for the public to prove hazard.

          Clearly, the major inputs are (2) and (3), the honest presentations of hazards and benefits. It is to be expected that enthusiastic supporters of the technology will be abundant, simply because dollars are associated with the technology. These proponents will describe the benefits glowingly; they will discover the hazards to be minimal or zero. Further, they will find alternatives to their technology to be non-existent or hopelessly difficult.
          This all describes the nuclear electricity industry perfectly. It is what we can expect for just about any hazardous technology. And this can hardly be described as the kind of balanced presentation required for open-forum decision-making by the public or its representatives.
          The obvious requirement is an assessment of benefits and hazards by competent scientists and engineers who do NOT derive their income and support from the technological entrepreneurs, private or governmental. What is needed, therefore, is an adversary system of technology evaluation. Such adversaries must provide the information the technological proponents might fail to provide. The public may be surprised to realize that this essential adversary evaluation of technology is totally lacking in our society.   ( p.249-254 )

Along with the biological considerations, Poisoned Power examines the technical engineering side of the coin. The complement to the biologically question, "Is Any Radiation Safe?" ( Chapter 4 ) is the engineering question, "How Safe Are Nuclear Reactors?" ( Chapter 6 ). Despite the appearance that everyone professionally trained for and employed by the nuclear industry is convinced of the infallibility of the design and implementation of power plant fail-safe systems, there are those who do not see it this way :

          How safe are nuclear reactors? Let us quote from consulting engineer, Adolph Ackerman:

        As an independent consulting engineer I have been active for many years in alerting the engineering profession to its overriding responsibilities in design and construction of safe atomic power plants. The simple fact is that none of the atomic power plants currently in operation or under construction have been designed with the traditional concepts of engineering responsibility and ethical commitment for maximum public safety.[5]
          Mr. Ackerman spelled out his reasons for this statement quite clearly in a recent article. Professor Robert L. Whitelaw, of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and formerly Project Engineer for the design and construction of the power plant for the nuclear ship, N. S. Savannah, commented on this paper by Ackerman in the IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems (vol. AES-5, no. 3, May 1969):
        I wish to endorse fully the principal argument advanced by A. J. Ackerman in his paper and, perhaps, strengthen the impact of his paper with this brief discussion.
        His principal argument has been confirmed by my own experience of the past fifteen years on nuclear projects and problems of various kinds This experience included preparing proposals and nuclear hazards evaluations in a variety of nuclear power plants, both commercial and military.
        It has been my observation that, despite the enormous amount of meticulous detail which the ACRS regularly requires on every projected power plant to satisfy itself that there is no "credible accident" that can threaten the public (or even the operators) -- and despite the volumes of paper and hours of presentations consumed on this topic, and no doubt well-intentioned -- there is still by common consent an unwritten agreement to treat as "incredible" the most fearful of all nuclear accidents that can occur in any plant with a highly pressurized primary system Such an accident is, of course, the explosive rupture of the primary vessel itself, which is ruled out of the list of credible accidents for the simple reason that there is no adequate answer short of putting the plant underground or inside a mountain, as Ackerman has pointed out.

          Dr. Edward Teller, often called the father of the hydrogen bomb and one of the most outstanding supporters of the AEC, has stated:

      A single major mishap in a nuclear reactor could cause extreme damage, not because of the explosive force, but because of the radioactive contamination. . . . So far, we have been extremely lucky . . . But with the spread of industrialization, with the greater number of simians monkeying around with things they do not completely understand, sooner or later a fool will prove greater than the proof even in a foolproof system.[6]

          On September 10, 1970, in Livermore, California, Dr. Teller told the Livermore Chapter of the Society of Professional Engineers that reactors were safe, but they should be put underground.   ( Chapter 6, p.143-5 )

Most people aren't aware of the most telling indicator of all for just how "safe" nuclear power plants are. The Price-Anderson Act, passed by Congress in 1957 and continually renewed from then to now, absolves the electric utility industry of all risks beyond the maximum liability for a single nuclear plant disaster of 560 million dollars.
          The key point, over and above the lack of confidence of the insurance industry in nuclear electricity plants, is the utter disregard of personal rights the Price-Anderson Act represents for the average citizen. Since the maximum coverage is 560 million dollars per nuclear electricity accident, and since the damage can run to 7 billion dollars, in a serious accident, the individual might recover only 7 cents out of every dollar lost, assuming he is lucky enough to emerge from such an accident with his life.
          The insurance industry will not suffer. The electric utility industry will not suffer. Through the generous manipulations of the U.S. Congress (prodded by the Joint Committee), only the citizen will suffer -- in the name of progress.
          If the Price-Anderson Act were repealed, as assuredly it should be, it is extremely doubtful that any future nuclear electricity generating plants would be built above ground. Indeed, it is extremely doubtful that any electric utility company would be so foolhardy as to continue operation of nuclear electricity plants already built.
          Electric utility propagandists, and atomic energy entrepreneurs, state that the extreme skepticism of the insurance industry shouldn't put anyone off. The insurance industry, they tell us, refuses to underwrite the risk simply because there is no prior "experience" upon which to base an estimate of the risk of major nuclear power plant accidents. Precisely.
          But there is much more to it than this simple truth. The industry is saying, in a most persuasive manner, that they (the insurance industry) have no confidence whatever in the hopeful, optimistic safety calculations of nuclear electricity propagandists, certainly not enough confidence to risk dollars.   ( p.161-2 )
This bizarre, unbelievable state of affairs is explained and analyzed in great detail throughout Chapter 7, "Nuclear Electricity and The Citizen's Rights", and in the section from Appendix I entitled, "Price-Anderson Act--Insurance Against Personal and Property Damage from Nuclear Accident".

What was -- and even after the likes of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl continues -- being vouched-for by the nuclear industry is nothing short of perfect containment of all "hazardous" radioactive poisons ensuring they never escape into the biosphere. (Of course, promoters of nuclear power attach a very different meaning to the word "hazardous", given that they steadfastly ignore the evidence that even the lowest levels of ionizing radiation cause cancer, leukemias, and genetic damage to chromosomes in the nucleus of living cells.)

Picking up from where we left off at the end of the first book excerpt with the following enumeration in Chapter 5, "Promises, Promises" :

          Those events which must go absolutely perfectly at every step along the complicated route just described are these:
  1. At the reactor itself, bearing enormous quantities of radioactive poisons, no accidents which can distribute such poisons to the atmosphere, land or water can be tolerated.
  2. Every two years, the fuel carrying this burden of poison should be transported without mishap by rail and truck to the fuel-cleaning plants. Any significant accidental release in this phase of the operation can render sizeable areas of our nation uninhabitable for many years.
  3. At the fuel reprocessing plant absolutely perfect containment must be assured, year in, year out.
  4. The waste radioactivities, dangerous for hundreds of years, must be transported to a final resting place. And this waste must be guarded from any escape into the environment for periods longer than the recorded history of any government.
  5. At no step (reactor, transport, fuel reprocessing, transport, waste burial) can sabotage of the operation conceivably occur without disastrous consequences for human beings. Yet there will be hundreds of plants and transportation vehicles that must be protected against such sabotage perfectly. Senseless, indiscriminate bombings and arson are hardly an unknown occurrence in the United States today.

          We shall return, later, to the issue of a major accident at the reactor itself, and we shall see that no one has the vaguest notion of the risk of an accident there. And we are planning for hundreds of such reactors! Human perfection is required at all these many steps in the entire cycle of events -- and required constantly for hundreds of years. No government has ever undertaken such massive responsibility in the history of mankind.
          When one considers the fantastic requirements -- perfect safety, perfect engineering, perfect reliability, perfect loyalty -- for every aspect of such a massive nationwide program to avert disaster, one wonders how the American people can be deceived into accepting such a solution to our power-shortage problems. Obviously, they have no way of knowing any better. They are constantly assured by spokesmen of the AEC and the power companies that nuclear energy is "clean" and "safe."   ( p.113-4 )

As evidenced in the NEI ad, the "clean"-and-"safe" mantra continues to be employed to assure people everything's "O.K." with this undertaking, started -- and still very much championed -- by the U.S. government. "No government has ever undertaken such massive responsibility in the history of mankind." What is the reason such responsibility is being assumed? All is justified in the name of increased electric power consumption.

People are certainly much more aware about issues involving power consumption and energy conservation than in 1971. The following passage from Chapter 9, "Alternatives Available to Us", lucidly directs our attention to the actual source of the ceaseless claims that more power is needed :

          We must start with the fundamental question: "Why more power?" It is a question that has been publicly discussed only very recently. The flat, unqualified assertion that ". . . power needs are doubling every eight years" is not sufficient. Unqualified acceptance of this statement would be tantamount to endorsing the notion that electrical power consumption is a desirable end in itself.
          Today, when environmental questions are paramount, we must question the basis for all intrusions on the environment. We do not know that more power is needed. The population of the United States grows by about one percent per year. It does not necessarily follow that a population increase of one percent per year demands an increased power consumption of about ten percent a year.
          It is by no means certain that power asked for is equivalent to power needed. How is the power to be used? The advertisements by our utility friends stress the use of power for lighting hospital operating rooms, running audio-visual aid equipment in our schools, making possible stereo recordings of Brahms and Beethoven, and a host of other culturally interesting things. It is highly unlikely that these uses account for a significant fraction of the present or projected power use. Look closely, and it becomes readily apparent, for example, that the Pacific Northwest probably wants its added power to operate aluminum smelters in order to meet the growing need for beer cans and TV dinner trays.
          That these factors are recognized, at the very highest levels of government, is evidenced by these excerpts from the keynote address at the American Power Conference in Chicago, given April 21, 1970, by Carl E. Bagge, Vice Chairman of the Federal Power Commission:

        Does it seem possible that it was but six years ago, in November 1964, that the Federal Power Commission, in cooperation with all the segments of this industry, published the first National Power Survey? This comprehensive nationwide survey was undertaken in order to define and articulate the long range goals of the industry. Some of the finest talent in government and industry studied the past performance of this highly fragmented industry; and as they observed the developing trends in generation and transmission; and as they projected the future supply and demand for electricity, there emerged a concept -- a vision, if you will, which was translated into presumably attainable objectives -- which were characterized as "guidelines for growth." . . .
        Looking back only the few years since its publication, one is struck by what in retrospect was an inexplicable lack of humility on the part of the architects of the National Power Survey. Certainty must have existed even then in the thinking of the utility industry and its regulators. The questioning of the limitations of technology, its direction, and even its values, which was then being focused on other sectors of our society, apparently had not extended to the electric power industry. And if it was, we must have believed that the utility industry would remain immune from these forces.
        How did this happen? How could we all have been so positive -- so blindly certain -- that the only challenge -- the only goal -- was the one which we conceived -- that of continually reducing costs in order to usher in the era of unlimited power -- the era of the gigawatt -- the electric energy economy -- under what we characterized as "guidelines for growth." I submit that it was engendered by a monstrous sense of intellectual and technological arrogance which ignored not only the limitations of technology but even more importantly, the limitation of the vision of its high priests. The arrogance of our high priests is spread across the pages of our technical journals and in the National Power Survey as an irrevocable indictment of our own myopia. Today we stand convicted by our own testimony.
   ( pp.190-2 )

Such words are a deeply refreshing antidote to the incessant barrage promoting an infinitely increasing cultural ethic of consumption that can never say "Stop!", much less "Reverse!", but only repeats, "more", "more", "more". . . The story of nuclear power is a story founded upon "a monstrous sense of intellectual and technological arrogance which ignored not only the limitations of technology but even more importantly, the limitation of the vision of its high priests."

The fact that there are eminently safer, cleaner, sustainable alternative energy sources "should" be enabling our single human family to choose life and move away from the course towards oblivion we are stubbornly pursuing by continuing to pretend we can safely contain the mountains of radioactive poisons continuing to be generated by existent nuclear power plants.

What is never acknowledged by nuclear industry proponents is the truly central role energy efficiency should be playing in our culture. This is discussed in Power Sources for the Future and Energy Efficiency: Our Largest Energy SupplyChapter 9 ), Chapter 13, "The Ultimate Issue -- Conversion or Ecocide", and Appendix VI, "Nuclear Power and Alternatives." As pointed out in the 1979 Foreward :

"But we need the power . . ."

          Lastly, we must deal with the economic blackmail being used to bludgeon Americans into accepting nuclear power. "It is either nuclear power, or starving in the dark," say the promoters of nuclear power. They lie like carpets.
          We can say, with great assurance, that nuclear power itself is the greatest threat to our energy supply, to the health of our economy, and to employment for our people. If we stopped pouring funds down the rathole of nuclear power, the money would be available to stimulate bigger and cheaper sources of clean energy which are benign and which would be a real boon to our economy. We now have the equivalent of 50 giant nukes which are operable (sometimes) in this country. This book tells you about two simple, proven resources of additional energy, ready to "go" quickly, which would be equivalent to over 600 giant nukes (See page 206.)   ( p.XIV )

And as is described in Point number 16 of Appendix VI :
  1. Is the government investing equally in all the alternatives?

              Unfortunately, for years we've been putting about 83 percent of the federal energy-research dollar into radioactive power plants, and almost nothing for the other possibilities. Last year, the government spent approximately

    $255,000,000  on developing radioactive nuclear power plants.
    $30,000,000  on developing fusion power.
    $300,000  on developing MHD generators.
    zero         on developing geothermal technology.
    zero         on developing solar energy.

              In other words, we spent less on developing non-radioactive sources of power than we spent on two 747 airliners.
              In fact, when we take inflation into account, the effort in fusion will decrease again this year under the AEC's plans. The AEC is in charge of both fusion and fission (radioactive power plants).   ( pp.335-6 )

In the past, short 50+ years, the reckless and irresponsible development of nuclear power and weapons has created a biological and genetic burden of an heretofore unimaginable magnitude upon the next 500,000 years of all life exploring itself here on this planet. This situation is anomalous to anything humans have created up to now by the reckoning of western civilization's recorded history.

In the face of continued promotion of this thoroughly discredited and unnecessary technology to produce electricity via nuclear fission, all of us who understand the supreme gravity of the situation must continually keep the essential questions in mind and continue raising these questions to offset the hypnotic effects of the massive PR efforts mounted by the nuclear industry to greenwash it's ultimately deadly legacy and lethal future (if left to promulgate it's own agendas).

Summary: The Important Questions

          There has been much press and TV coverage devoted to the technical aspects of the Three Mile Island accident, but very little to its moral aspects. Yet the really important questions about nuclear power are ethical:

  • The use of lies and deception by the nuclear industry in order to manipulate public opinion, and in order to use people, even kill people, for the benefit of that industry.
  • The experimentation on people without their knowledge or consent.
  • The acceptance of random murder and denial of the inalienable right to life as the cost of "progress."
  • The genetic degradation of the human species, vs. our minimum responsibility to protect our species' genes from injury.
  • The need to hold bureaucrats and industry employees personally accountable and responsible for implementing hazardous and even murderous policies, even if such policies are advocated by Congress and the President.

          Yes, Poisoned Power is a sad story about the absence of ethics and morals in men. But it is not too late to jolt society into realization of what is going on, and what is in the future if humans do not improve in the very basic and minimum principles of morality. Either we improve, or the future is dismal indeed. We hope that Poisoned Power upsets you enough to make you work toward such improvement.   ( 1979 Foreward, pp.XXII-XXIII )

If we are to fulfill our obligation to the whole future of all life on earth we must acknowledge the incoherent fantasy that producing nuclear energy is "safe", "clean", "proven", and "reliable". At the same time we must redirect all our collective financial and psychic resources into completing development and maturation of truly non-polluting energies like photovoltaic, wind, and fusion. In concert with this we must get on with truly facing and addressing the enormous burden of pollution already created by the nuclear fuel cycle industries.

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