Answer: Plutonium, and lots of it.
To: "Teresa Kerry" <Teresa.Kerry@johnkerry.com>
July 28th, 2004
Dear Terry Kerry:
Regarding your speech last night at the Democratic National Convention, perhaps you are wondering why your mention of the NASA space probes Galileo and Cassini did not get a large applause.
I'm sure the lack of enthusiasm was not because Americans are against science or technology -- we aren't, if it's done reasonably safely and honestly.
And it's probably not because of the $4 to 5 billion dollars or so that Cassini (for example) cost to build, because actually, by and large, Americans love technology and we don't mind paying an arm and a leg for it -- but not a lung, or a life.
Plutonium kills in vanishingly small quantities, especially when inhaled into the lung in vaporized form. So, I'll wager the lack of enthusiasm was because of the plutonium each of these missions carried on board. Galileo carried 264,400 Curies. Cassini carried a whopping 403,400 Curies.
Cassini's 72.3 pounds of Plutonium Dioxide was the largest amount of radioactive "waste" ever lofted into space at one time.
Most of it was highly radioactive (as in, short half-life of 87.75 years) Pu 238, but nearly 13% was Pu 239, otherwise known as "weapons-grade plutonium".
That's enough weapons-grade plutonium to make a nuclear weapon! Of course, you'd need to separate the two plutoniums, which is no easy task (but Iran, for example, is building equipment -- known as centrifuges -- which can do that).
(To build a bomb, you'd also need several hundred pounds of so-called "depleted" Uranium, but that, you can pick up off the streets of Baghdad these days. You'd need a few other things, like Tritium, but those are generally available on the black market. It's the Pu 239 that's probably the hardest to get. Its only source is nuclear reactors.)
A nuclear bomb is certainly sophisticated -- even a "crude" or "low yield" one is really pretty amazing -- but we all learned on 9-11 that sophistication is not required to commit terror and/or genocide. A single GRAM of Pu 238 or Pu 239 is enough to make a "dirty bomb" that could kill millions of people! Without using any of it twice.
Dispersal is as easy as crashing a plane into a building (that's one method of dispersal, but there are many others).
When Galileo was launched in 1989, and again when Cassini was launched in 1997, it was claimed that solar power was inadequate for such missions -- too far from the Sun, we were told. No one today would try to claim that Jupiter cannot be reached by solar methods -- such a claim would be considered laughingly invalid even at NASA, just 15 years after Galileo's launch. A similar claim about Cassini was also invalid when it was launched and is even more invalid today. Not only has solar technology advanced by leaps and bounds, but so have low-power research equipment and computers, reducing the power requirements for a given scientific experiment or measurement.
Between the two unmanned launches you mentioned, NASA also launched the unmanned "Ulysses" space probe in 1990. Ulysses' Achilless' Heel? It carried 132,500 Curies of plutonium.
Since Cassini was launched there have been additional plutonium launches, though none anywhere near as large. Both recent Mars "successes" were, in fact, shamed by their plutonium payloads of about an ounce each.
Altogether, there have been nearly 30 such American launches, including the Apollo missions you mentioned. There were 44,500 Curies of plutonium in each lunar rover.
Three of NASA's plutonium missions failed. NASA claims, in one case in 1968 (NIMBUS B1), to have recovered the "RTG" (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator), and in another case in 1970 (Apollo 13), NASA claims (with little proof) that the plutonium fell "harmlessly" into the Pacific Ocean. Because of NASA's own prior failure in 1964 with SNAP-9A (aka TRANSIT 5BN3), as well as weapons testing, nuclear power plant releases, Chernobyl, and other accidents, it's impossible to know for sure if their claim is accurate. Nobody's ever gone and looked, as far as we know.
I'm particularly shocked that you support these missions, since, being from Mozambique, I would have hoped you knew that NASA didn't properly insure the missions against an accident on foreign land -- NASA's nuclear missions are only insured up to $100,000,000.00 by the notorious Price-Anderson Act, a boondoggle normally used for (normally stationary) civilian nuclear power plants! Some people in Africa were "up in arms" about Cassini, for instance, because it flew right over them during "late launch" -- a very dangerous time. But most likely, there are hundreds of millions of Africans who don't know that we've risked dusting them with plutonium repeatedly -- with a total (so far) of about ONE AND A HALF MILLION Curies of plutonium (not counting any military plutonium launches, of which there have probably been more than a few).
So, in a nutshell, that's probably why you didn't get many cheers for those comments, and nor did you deserve any. This is NOT the only nuclear issue the Democrats are ignoring. Your husband's stance on Yucca Mountain should be that he will stop all work on the idea, close the nuclear power plants which are generating the waste, and save America from certain destruction.
But instead, having Bill Richardson on the stage at all is a rejection of science and reason, and a rejection of wonderful new non-nuclear energy technologies (such as those mentioned in the LA Times article shown below) and an acceptance of "The Demon Hot Atom" (as I like to call it, because the name fits so well in so many ways) in our lives instead.
At the upcoming RNC, I fully expect Cassini to get "another mention" shall we say. And I won't be surprised if the RNC spin-doctors manage to "engineer" a wild cheer for it. BUT DON'T BE FOOLED if that happens! Most Americans who know what Cassini is made of despise it. And from the reaction you got at the DNC, I'd say most Democrats just might be aware of this issue -- and that's something to cheer about!
Supporting nuclear power may not be political suicide these days (it should be), but it's certainly global Hari Kari.
Below is a transcript of your speech, for reference, and below that, an article about alternative energy sources. Below that are several URLs of nuclear-related web sites I have created. I hope you will visit them.
July 27, 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry's Remarks to the Democratic National Convention
ollowing are the remarks prepared by Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Senator John Kerry, for the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night.
Thank you, Christopher. Your father would be proud of you and your brothers. I love you and all our family.
My name is Teresa Heinz Kerry. And by now I hope it will come as no surprise to anyone that I have something to say.
And tonight, as I have done throughout this campaign I would like to speak to you from my heart. Y a todos los Hispanos, los Latinos; a tous les Americains, Francais et Canadiens; a tutti Italiani; a toda a familia Portugesa e Brazileria; to all my continental African family living in this country, and to all new Americans: I invite you to join our conversation, and together with us work towards the noblest purpose of all: a free, good, and democratic society.
I am grateful for the opportunity to stand before you and say a few words about my husband, John Kerry, and why I firmly believe he should be the next president of the United States.
This is such a powerful moment for me. Like many other Americans, like many of you, and like even more of your parents and grandparents, I was not born in this country. As you have seen, I grew up in East Africa, in Mozambique, in a land that was then under a dictatorship. My fathera wonderful, caring man who practiced medicine for 43 years, and taught me how to understand disease and wellnessonly got the right to vote for the first time when he was 71 years old. That’s what happens in dictatorships.
As a young woman, I attended Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa, which was then not segregated. But I witnessed the weight of apartheid everywhere around me. And so, with my fellow students we marched against its extension into higher education. This was the late 50’s, the dawn of the civil rights marches in America. As history records, our efforts in South Africa failed and the Higher Education Apartheid Act was passed. Apartheid tightened its ugly grip, the Sharpsville riots followed, and a short while later Nelson Mandela was arrested and sent to Robin Island.
I learned something then, and I believe it still. There is a value in taking a stand whether or not anyone may be noticing and whether or not it is a risky thing to do. And if even those who are in danger can raise their lonely voices, isn’t more required of all of us, in this land where liberty had her birth?
I have a very personal feeling about how special America is, and I know how precious freedom is. It is a sacred gift, sanctified by those who have lived it and those who have died defending it. My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called “opinionated,” is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish. My only hope is that, one day soon, womenwho have all earned the right to their opinionsinstead of being labeled opinionated, will be called smart or well-informed, just as men are.
Tonight I want to remember my mother’s warmth, generosity, wisdom, and hopefulness, and thank her for all the sacrifices she made on our behalf, like so many other mothers. This evening, I want to acknowledge and honor the women of this world, whose wise voices for much too long have been excluded and discounted. It is time for the world to hear women’s voices, in full and at last.
In the past year, I have been privileged to meet with Americans all across this land. They voiced many different concerns, but one they all seemed to share was about America’s role in the worldwhat we want this great country of ours to stand for.
To me, one of the best faces America has ever projected is the face of a Peace Corps volunteer. That face symbolizes this country: young, curious, brimming with idealism and hopeand a real honest compassion. Those young people convey an idea of America that is all about heart and creativity, generosity and confidencea practical, can-do sense and a big, big smile. For many generations of people around the globe, that is what America has represented. A symbol of hope, a beacon brightly lit by the optimism of its peoplepeople coming from all over the world.
Americans believed they could know all there is to know, build all there is to build, break down any barrier, tear down any wall. We sent men to the moon, and when that was not far enough, we sent Galileo to Jupiter, we sent Cassini to Saturn, and Hubble to touch the very edges of the universe at the very dawn of time. Americans showed the world what can happen when people believe in amazing possibilities.
And, that, for me, is the spirit of Americathe America you and I are working for in this election. It is the America that people all across this nation want to restorefrom Iowa to California, from Florida to Michigan, from Washington State to my home state of Pennsylvania. It is the America the world wants to see, shining, hopeful, and bright once again. And that is the America that my husband John Kerry wants to lead.
John believes in a bright future. He believes we can, and we will, invent the technologies, new materials, and conservation methods of the future. He believes that alternative fuels will guarantee that not only will no American boy or girl go to war because of our dependence on foreign oil, but also that our economy will forever become independent of this need. We can, and we will, create good, competitive, and sustainable jobs while still protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the health of our children, because good environmental policy is good economics.
John believes that we can, and we will, give every family and every child access to affordable health care, a good education, and the tools to become self-reliant. John Kerry believes we must, and we should, recognize the immense value of the caregivers in our countrythose women and men who nurture and care for children, for elderly parents, for family members in need. These are the people who build and support our most valuable assetsour families. Isn’t it time we began working to give parents more opportunity to be with their children, and to afford to have a family life?
With John Kerry as president, we can, and we will, protect our nation’s security without sacrificing our civil liberties. In short, John believes we can, and we must, lead in the worldas America, unique among nations, always shouldby showing the face, not of our fears, but of our hopes.
John is a fighter. He earned his medals the old-fashioned way, by putting his life on the line for his country. No one will defend this nation more vigorously than he willand he will always be first in the line of fire.
But he also knows the importance of getting it right. For him, the names of too many friends inscribed in the cold stone of the Vietnam Memorial testify to the awful toll exacted by leaders who mistake stubbornness for strength. That is why, as president, my husband will not fear disagreement or dissent. He believes that our voicesyours and minemust be the voices of freedom. And if we do not speak, neither does she.
In America, the true patriots are those who dare speak truth to power. The truth we must speak now is that America has responsibilities that it is time for us to accept again.
With John Kerry as president, global climate change and other threats to the health of our planet will begin to be reversed. With John Kerry as president, the alliances that bind the community of nations and that truly make our country and the world a safer place, will be strengthened once more.
The Americans John and I have met in the course of this campaign all want America to provide hopeful leadership again. They want America to return to its moral bearings. It is not a moralistic America they seek, but a moral nation that understands and willingly shoulders its obligations; a moral nation that rejects thoughtless and greedy choices in favor of thoughtful and generous actions; a moral nation that leads through the power of its ideas and the power of its example. We can and we should join together to make the most of this great gift we have been given, this gift of freedom, this gift of America.
In his first inaugural, speaking to a nation on the eve of war, Abraham Lincoln said, “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Today, the better angels of our nature are just waiting to be summoned. We only require a leader who is willing to call on them, a leader willing to draw again on the mystic chords of our national memory and remind us of all that we, as a people, everyday leaders, can do; of all that we as a nation stand for and of all the immense possibility that still lies ahead.
I think I’ve found just the guy. I’m married to him.
John Kerry will give us back our faith in America. He will restore our faith in ourselves and in the sense of limitless opportunity that has always been America’s gift to the world.
Together we will lift everyone up. We have to. It’s possible. And you know what? It’s the American thing to do. Goodnight and God bless.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Subject: Mining the Imagination for New Energy -- SCIENCE July 25, 2004:
Subject: Mining the Imagination for New Energy -- SCIENCE July 25, 2004
July 25, 2004
Mining the Imagination for New Energy
 Scientists call for a research blitz targeting extreme possibilities.
By Alan Weisman, Alan Weisman teaches journalism at the University of Arizona and is the author of the memoir "An Echo in My Blood."
TUCSON To allay concerns over dwindling oil and mounting carbon residues, President Bush has proposed relying on "clean" coal, a revived nuclear industry and hydrogen cars, which he says could be widely available by 2040. Critics denounce these ideas as either impractical or environmentally outrageous, calling instead for intensified renewable energy development.
Both visions are naive. The dilemma isn't just getting enough clean energy, but getting enough energy, period. As world population quadrupled last century, power consumption increased sixteenfold. With China and India joining the industrialized feeding frenzy, by 2050 our current usage will triple. And neither Bush nor environmentalists know how to meet such demand.
To run the world on biomass fuel (a favorite idea of John Kerry's) would require dedicating an area comparable in size to all land now used for human agriculture. Because sun and wind energy aren't constant, tapping them on a massive scale not only means huge arrays of solar panels and turbines but redesigned grids with vast new storage mechanisms. Atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory calculates that if we somehow built 900-megawatt, zero-emissions plants each day for the next 50 years, we'd barely double our current output. Even if we embraced universal nuclear power, there's far too little uranium unless we again accept breeder reactors, which proliferate weapons-grade fuel.
Writing in the journal Science, Caldeira and 17 other eminent American and Canadian scientists conclude that the only hope for solving the world's looming energy shortage is to consider things we've barely imagined. They propose a research blitz of previously unimagined proportions, far beyond what any politician is currently suggesting, in search of entirely new carbon-free technologies.
One of them, New York University physicist Martin Hoffert, has resurrected a notion broached during the first Arab oil crisis: orbiting solar collectors in space, where the sun appears eight times brighter, and beaming it to Earth via microwaves ("probably no stronger than your cell phone's"). In 1978, the concept involved a mirror the size of Manhattan; today the idea is smaller reflectors possibly balloons made of shiny Mylar strung around the Earth. David Criswell and John Lewis, of the universities of Houston and Arizona, respectively, set their sights higher: on the moon, where reflectors could be made from silicates and metals mined on site, rather than hauled expensively into orbit. The moon might also hold the key to practical, clean nuclear fusion, still elusive on Earth but reportedly more promising if He-3, a helium isotope found on the lunar surface and in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, is used.
Or, they write, if we can't wean ourselves from coal, then seed our own atmosphere with sulfate particles, which would form an artificial cloud cover to counteract greenhouse warming. Or hang a 2,000-kilometer-wide screen in space, which, like a permanent sunspot, might block enough solar flux to compensate for a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Or try to somehow harness the explosive, fleeting potential energy of antimatter. The idea, Hoffert says, is to imagine everything, however outlandish, in hopes that something proves possible. At Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, he notes, technology exhibits for the coming century failed to predict airplanes or television.
But to go from imagination to reality requires commitment and investment. Hoffert proposes spending several hundred billion dollars a year over the next 15 years on an Apollo-scale project to force technology for clean, abundant energy. Although both Bush and Kerry declare that market incentives like emissions trading will produce solutions, Hoffert argues that major technologies of the last 50 years, from space travel to atomic power to the Internet, sprang from government mandates, not markets. "Markets only react to short-term opportunities. They're not equipped to address long-term problems like this one," he said.
Last July, Hoffert and his coauthors gathered in Aspen, Colo., with other scientists to brainstorm. Discussions included a proposal by high-altitude-wind specialist David Shepard for suspending turbines on giant kites at 30,000 feet, where jet-stream power is enormous. UC Irvine physicist and science fiction novelist Gregory Benford had a low-tech, low-cost plan: Instead of using crop wastes for biomass energy, we'd save even more carbon buildup in the atmosphere by simply burying them at sea. Much talk involved revolutionizing the electrical grid, possibly with superconductors, or by connecting the entire world so the off-peak side could power the half in shadow, as Buckminster Fuller once proposed.
The keynote speaker was Rice University's Richard Smalley, a Nobel laureate and discoverer of the fullerene, the geodesic carbon molecule named for Fuller. When these "buckyballs" align to form carbon nanotubes, they are the strongest substance known possibly strong enough to send a tether into space. An elevator moving along such a nanotube cable to a satellite in a fixed geosynchronous position 22,500 miles above Earth could ferry materials for space-based solar collectors far more cheaply than space shuttle launches.
On Earth, the highly conductive nanotubes might form lighter, more flexible grids, vast enough that we could move all our energy through wires rather than with tank trucks. To these grids, Smalley would connect all kinds of storage, ranging from wind compressed into airtight caves to appliance-sized home units that might be batteries, flywheels, hydrogen tanks whatever would let us both tap and feed the total power supply as needed.
Of course, all this is speculative the longest carbon nanotube produced so far measures barely half an inch. But Smalley concurs that another Apollo-like project is crucial. Not since then, he notes, have our universities been filled with engineering students inspired by a great challenge. A line graph he projected at Aspen showed the sobering result of subsequent generations diverted to Wall Street or Silicon Valley: As numbers of science and engineering PhDs plummet in the United States, in China and India they've soared.
"Suppose" he said, "from 2004 through 2009 we collect 5 cents from every gallon of oil. We invest the resulting $10 billion per year in frontier energy research. Maybe for the decade after, we collect 10 cents a gallon: $20 billion a year. At worst, we'll create a cornucopia of new technologies and new industries. At best, we'll solve the energy problem before 2020 and lay the basis for peace and prosperity worldwide."
An expensive long shot, but, as Hoffert noted, the U.S. went from the Wright brothers to the first atomic pile in less time than from now to 2050 when either we'll have carbon-free energy or face temperatures the Earth hasn't seen for 100,000 years.
"To continue more than another century, we'll have to do all this stuff," he said. "Otherwise, we'll use up all the coal, then maybe methane hydrates on the ocean floor. When we've completely exhausted fossil fuels, civilization will collapse. We'll go back to being hunter-gatherers. It will be much harder for the next intelligent species that evolves because they won't have cheap fossil fuel like we did. They'll have to go directly to fusion and photovoltaic cells. That may not be so easy."
No easier, probably, than imagining Bush's or Kerry's political handlers daring to float so bold a vision. The only thing harder to contemplate is what will happen if some leader doesn't, and soon.
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Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
POISON FIRE USA: An animated history of major nuclear activities in the continental United States:
STOP CASSINI web site:
NO NUKES IN SPACE: (FLASH animation):
Internet Glossary of Nuclear Terminology / "The Demon Hot Atom":
SHUT SAN ONOFRE!:
List of every nuclear power plant in America, with history, activist orgs,
List of ~300 books and videos about nuclear issues in my collection
Learn about The Effects of Nuclear War here:
For more information about Buckminster Fuller:
This letter is posted online here: