STOP CASSINI Newsletter #7

Why fight the RTG battle at all?

An answer to an email from a reader of our STOP CASSINI newsletter.

By Russell D. Hoffman

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

(This web version has been slightly changed and enlarged from the original newsletter text...)

A reader of this newsletter, who has sent in many useful tips, emailed me the following question a few days ago:

"If you press too hard on NASA's intention to
incinerate the RTGs, the focus may be diverted
from the goal of stopping (preventing) the launch.

This is a good question which I answer in this newsletter.

Thanks, Russell Hoffman, Webmaster, STOP CASSINI


Subject: Does arguing about the RTG's cause us to
loose focus on the main event? Would fixing them
mean NASA should launch Cassini?

****** VOLUME #7 APRIL 26th, 1997 ******

By Russell D. Hoffman Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman

Frankly, aside from any other reasons, that is probably one reason why some "anti-nukers" will want to distance themselves from me. I think that is being a bit short sighted as I will try to explain.

I think that it's the other way around, because the REASON NASA would design the RTGs that way is because NASA does not believe in low-level radiation damage, and that's really the bigger battle in this whole thing--to get NASA and the world, really, to "admit" that LOW LEVEL RADIATION KILLS. Especially if you expose 5 billion people to a dose of super-radioactive Pu-238 as Cassini can do.

So rest assured, that I am not trying to divert focus at all, I am merely trying to FORCE NASA to express in no uncertain terms the concept that LOW LEVEL RADIATION KILLS. Instead of showing they feel the opposite way, by designing the RTGs to incinerate, or letting them be designed that way by accident.

Here are two quotes from an email from Mary Beth Murrill of NASA to Frederica Russell (an environmentalist and talk show host). You will see the problem. First:

" be assured that RTGs are designed to contain their plutonium-238 in the event of a launch or reentry accident."

That is NASA's answer (so far) to our claims that they are designed to incinerate. Just "be assured". I am NOT assured, least of all by this email from Murrill. (The full text is available online, with a even fuller answer. See below for the URL.) Here is the second part I want to show you:

"However, it is quite possible that such a low radiation dose (less than one millirem over 50 years) may not be capable of causing cancer in a person."

And that does it. That type of statement from NASA pretty well proves that NASA doesn't believe in low level radiation damage, which is WHY they would be so mean as to design the RTG's actually to incinerate.

So arguing about the way NASA has designed the RTGs can establish several important things:

Cassini is not the big picture, nuclear power is the big picture. So dividing the Cassini battle into two fronts is not so bad if the end result is a bigger victory, namely forcing NASA to accept the fact that LOW LEVELS OF RADIATION KILLS PEOPLE. I have pretty well proven, I think, time and again, and most recently in the answer to Murrill, that NASA denies this fact. Forcing them to accept it will mean they will have to redo the EIS completely, and properly, and that, I hope, will change everything. I do not think NASA would launch if they were forced to present realistic numbers on what Cassini can do, and that's what the RTG argument is basically all about.

That, and not simply stopping Cassini, is the real goal. We are environmentalists who care about the planet, are we not? Nuclear power kills. Not just potentially in Cassini, but in Russian sub bases, in foreign nuclear power plants, many of which are run far less safely than ours, and in our own as well. Nuclear weapons kill even when they aren't used. And nuclear powerpacks are especially unsafe in space. Space is not a solution to nuclear pollution. Upper-atmosphere dilution is not a solution to nuclear pollution.

It's time to end the nuclear nightmare. Starting with stopping Cassini. Putting away the weapons. Closing down the plants. Not making more of this awful stuff (plutonium). No more mining it out of the ground (uranium).

Make no mistake about it, this is not a battle against Cassini. This is a battle against nuclear energy, not space exploration. This is a battle against proven bad technology, not technology in general. Certainly it is not a battle against the many wonderful things that HAVE come out of NASA and the many wonderful people that work there.

This is not the luddites against the scientists. (Maybe it is, but in that case, I'd say we are the scientists!) This is reason against inertia. I certainly believe this is right against might.

This is a fight for open and responsible government of the people and for the people, and a fight against the hidden agendas of a secret society that is poisoning our planet and trying to rule the world (with way too much success, at the moment) -- and trying now to also rule the heavens. Low Level Radiation Kills. Force NASA to admit it, and sooner or later, the nuclear industry will have to admit it. Then even the military.

Then eventually the rest of the world will hopefully come to their senses and behave like the higher species of animal that I have often heard said we all think we are. America leads the world in so many things, environmentally responsible behavior should be one of them.

Someone has to do it (first), and we would be the best at it. It's a mindset, and when America sets its mind to something, NOTHING can stop her. That's the way it is, and that's the way it should be.

Giving up on nuclear 'solutions' will NOT make America weak, it will make America stronger! The strongest weapon America has ever owned is not our nuclear capability. It is not even our well-equipped and well-trained army, though surely (and thankfully) that army is the best in the world. No, our strongest weapon is our status and respect. It is our historic contributions. It is the information in our Library of Congress. It is that information being placed on the Web. It is the Wright Brothers. It is Boeing. It is Intel and Apple and IBM and Microsoft. And yes -- it is (or was?) NASA.

It is the knowledge that other nations have, knowing people (like me) are free to speak their minds in America. They watch us argue, and can only dream of the right to speak. We are not a weak nation. We needn't fear relaxing our grip a little. The Cold War is over. We won. Our enemy collapsed under mere threat of mutual annihilation. It is now time to put away the tools of our glorious victory before someone really gets hurt. Nuclear payloads in outer space are potentially catastrophic assaults on humanity. They are not bombs, but they can be at least as deadly. Random in their targets, they threaten us all.

America's second-strongest weapon is probably that fact that we are a melting pot. Every country that contributes to our population is that much better able to understand our unique perspectives. People write home to their families. Have you ever heard a sampling of those letters? I think the world still knows that America is not just "#1" but #1 with room to spare. Let's keep it that way. Let's clean up our act.

Because then we will be assured of being the pride of the Universe. The first major country to really succeed at building a sustainable environment will be able to sell more products than anyone to the rest of the world, because everyone will want the tools to do it. We've already sold the nuclear nightmare to many other countries. We sit and watch as the remnants of Russia threatens to sell it's old, defective nuclear energy options to still more countries. Why are we not offering those same countries a clean and benign solution instead? We should work towards developing those solutions, financing them (it will pay off in the long run) and even towards building them. This would be very financially rewarding for America.

If humans really are at the top of the food chain, why do we try so hard to destroy ourselves and our planet? It doesn't make any sense to me. We have lived with the lie of future technology being able to solve all the problems we foist upon our succeeding generations of humans. It's a lie. It isn't going to happen. We need a sustainable environment. Magnetic Levitation trains that run on time. Earth-based fiber-optic communications infrastructures. Recycling systems that work. We need honest and responsive Government. We need less PR and more R&D. From everybody.

In truth, it appears that the world's peoples are heading towards becoming so caught up in simply surviving in our polluted, globally warmed, soil-depleted environment, that they won't have time for solving last year's leaking heap of rotting and rusting pipes, turbines, tubes, and poisonous pellets of persistent pestilence. The relics of an era of stupidity. The relics of a deadly war against humanity.

The problem is not the RTGs, and it is not Cassini. It's unsustainable, anti-environmental behavior. This world MUST survive, it's the only one we have. We have to take care of it. America must lead the world in this change in mindset because America can most easily figure it out and implement it. It's a big project. It needs us. It's a Year 2000 thing. It's time. It's high time.

Russell D. Hoffman

URL of the analysis of Mary Beth Murrill of NASA's email to Frederick Russell:


Next posted issue (#9)

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First placed online April 25th, 1997.
Last modified August 17th, 1997.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman