STOP CASSINI Newsletter #27 -- August 11th, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #27 - August 11th, 1997


In this newsletter several pro-nuclear Cassini emails are answered. And I ask Jane Prettyman, Fenton Communications and FCPJ to justify ignoring us, and Jane Prettyman asks YOU (my readers) to justify NOT ignoring me. Please do so.

Sincerely, Russell D. Hoffman, Editor, STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER

**** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #27 August 11th, 1997 ****
Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #27 August 11th, 1997 ******

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

An email to me:

At 12:43 PM 8/11/97, WE wrote:

I came across your web page while looking for resources on the Internet about Nuclear Warheads

>Cassini is a space probe scheduled to be launched by
>NASA in October, 1997. It will contain over
>72 pounds of plutonium, the deadliest substance
>known to mankind. We are doing this, not because
>it is necessary, but because we are arrogant.
>Because no one has stopped us. Alternative power
>sources exist--the plutonium is not necessary.

Plutonium is nessicary to power a space probe to Saturn. Solar will not do the job. Nor will batteries or Uranium.

Californium is actually the deadliest substance known to Mankind...Californum along with the toxic by-products of Boutulism.

The United States alone detonated 331 atomic weapons in the atmosphere...along with about 1400 pounds of I do not see the point in holding back a space-probe for fear of a very unlikely accident.

We do this...not because we are arrogant...but because it is human nature to explore. The Europeans that came to the Western Hemisphere during the last 500 years were the arrogant ones...not those scientists that strive to explore our Solar System



Thank you for your email.

I have seen much evidence showing that the arguments against solar alternatives is actually quite weak. Anti-nuclear Cassini groups are right now preparing several additional statements to that effect which will be published online soon, but much similar material is already available if you explore the web site a bit closer..

As to which toxic substance is deadliest, we all have our favorites and they are all pretty creepy. What would happen if we spread Californium or "the toxic by-products of [Botulism]" in fine particles throughout the atmosphere? For what knowledge gain should we risk such a thing?

As to weapons testing, which pro-nuclear club are you from? Are you suggesting that the cost in human lives of that testing was worth whatever it was? Or are you saying, in effect, what cost? Are you blind to the deaths or are you simply unconcerned about them?

I'm glad you realize that some past exploration was, in retrospect, done in arrogance. But your brief repetition of the pro-nuclear's basic comments are unlikely to change anyone's opinion; and I can assure you that they certainly haven't changed mine... But I'll post them so you can see you've had your say.

Russell Hoffman
Stop Cassini Newsletter

And another email to me:

Dear sir,

Please go sit in your cave and hope that the mountain doesn't fall on you. If there is to be any movement in a forward direction we must take some risks. I am sure that if the Wright brothers were in front of you telling about an idea that they have you would have said,"Oh no you can't do that you might hurt someone because people have been hurt in the past trying this." Please just go away and leave the future to someone who is willing to try risky things to help the rest of the planet.




Thank you for your email.

I suggest you view the whole web site before you claim I wish to sit in a cave and stop mankind's progress. Progress saves lives whenever possible.. Cassini as designed with RTGs is an unreasonable risk.

Russell Hoffman
STOP CASSINI newsletter

Jack Perrine calls me many names, but "Mr. Stop Cassini" is my favorite:

Note that he is responding to a variety of comments by Robert Cherwink, Michio Kaku, and myself. Here's some of his stronger language. It is addressed to the Editor of the electronic newsletter Konformist which published the original comments of Cherwink, Kaku, and myself as a rebuttal to some of Perrine's earlier comments.


>...I looked at all that filth you again published from those idiots
>at Stop Cassini....
>...I started to put comments in his prose ....but after a while I
>decided that his mother was a parrot: No matter what question
>he set out to answer .....he had a single response: Billions and
>billions of particles, which is very similar to Poly wants a cracker
>as the limit of brilliance for many parrots...
>...It is Mr Stop Cassini who is totally innumerate
>and can see no difference between the constant low level radiation
>at Aspen and an atomic bomb...
>...since Mr Stop Cassini has proved thru millions of
>bytes of repeating the same nonsense....all of which is devoid
>of content that he is innumerate he never worries about showing
>about how any of his scenarios could possibly hurt anyone...


The complete response will be posted at our web site, of course, but space considerations to not allow it to be included here.

Fuel Leaks Fixed

Last issue (#26) it was reported that the Cassini upper-stage booster leaked. It has now been reported in The Orlando-Sentinel (as seen in the San Diego Union Tribune Aug 11th, 1997) that the fuel leaks (2) have been found and fixed and the launching of NASA's "controversial plutonium-carrying Cassini space probe is back on schedule."

So any anti-Cassini people who thought we were making progress using protests, petitions, prayers, or logic should step back and smell the plutonium. Cassini is "back on schedule." It will launch October 6th, perhaps later, but it will launch unless something that hasn't happened yet... happens. Congressional hearings is my best hope. I believe the anti-Cassini case can stand intense scientific scrutiny and should be allowed the opportunity to prove the lies, the discrepancies, the dangers, and the alternatives.

What I say in these newsletters and at the web site is meaningless. It is one man's opinion based on what he has read over the decades about the dangers of plutonium (and everything else he's learned in life). The hundreds of compliments this newsletter and the web site have received are, frankly, useless. I'm sorry, but they won't stop Cassini. It is an outpouring of gratitude that it is hard to publicly acknowledge without sounding -- what? -- when is Russell ever speechless but I am now, trying to thank all the wonderful people who have sent me some many nice emails, while at the same time telling them it's failing to make any difference? I am discouraged in spite of the outpouring of positive feedback. Read on...

With friends like this...

It is well known that Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice ignores everything we say and do here and will not link to our web site. Now this:

At 12:09 AM 8/6/97Jane Prettyman wrote:

Mr. Hoffman, perhaps Rob Cherwink has forwarded my exchanges with Dr. Kaku to you. I'm trying to make sense of Cassini for readers of The Real News Page which I edit. He suggested I add you to my list. I assume you have seen Dr. Kaku's rebuttal to NASA's FEIS estimates. Attached is my letter to him, followed by a message he sent to David Levner of the NY Green Party addressing questions I had raised with David about confusion in estimates. This is followed by Dr. Kaku's direct response to me in which he rewrote his account more formally for my website, but left out a few things from his previous rougher response to Rob--and didn't answer my Q's about LAUNCH estimates.

Can you clarify the picture on LAUNCH estimates? Do you have any comments on Dr. Kaku's critique of NASA's FEIS?

Thank you for your efforts to bring Cassini to light.

Jane W. Prettyman
Editor, The Real News Page mind/realnews.htm
Formerly at (the old) Esquire Magazine


To: Jane Prettyman
From: Russell Hoffman, Concerned Citizen
Re: Cassini accident scenarios


Thank you for your letter.

How many might die in a Cassini Launch accident, and how many might die in a Cassini fly-by accident? I know that we live in sound-bite times, but these are not simple questions and it is not likely that everyone who opposes Cassini will be willing to agree to a number, any number, as either an upper bound, lower bound, or average number of deaths. These are not easy questions and there are no easy answers.

I myself, not being an expert, only a "concerned citizen" can only infer a number from reading what "so-called experts" write about radiation and human health, and then do some simple math to apply, say, the potential deaths from atmospheric testing to the potential deaths from Cassini. Cassini caries about the same number of Curies of plutonium as has been estimated to have been released in ALL the atmospheric testing that went on during that strange phase of human existence when such things were done.

In the case of atmospheric testing it was MAINLY Pu 239 and in the case of Cassini is is MAINLY Pu 238 but the concern, almost entirely, is Curies, not mass or even half-lives. In both cases the most dangerous part is that which is in respirable particles.

That is why I, personally, concentrate on considering the dangers I perceive from the fly-by; in the flyby accident, even NASA admits that some percentage WILL BE INCINERATED (June 1995 EIS: 32% to 34% would be incinerated, 20% to 66% of that would be in respirable particles and vapors. June 1997 FSEIS: 1.7 "GPHS" units out of 54 such units are predicted to release their plutonium at high speed and altitude.)

The NASA release numbers, basically, changed by an order of magnitude. Why? The technology is supposedly tried-and-true. What's going on?

So that's the first problem with answering your questions about how many might die. It depends on how much might be released, first of all, and no one can say what that number is. One only has to read NASA's 1995 report to become wary of the 1997 report!

The next problem has to do with NASA projections for wind spread and fallout zones and population densities, which Dr. Kaku finds highly suspect, as do I.

Certainly NASA has not described what happens if Cassini comes burning through the atmosphere and creates a plume that crosses a major metropolitan area. Rather, NASA states, "...the areas with high population represent only a small fraction of the Earth's surface. This further reduces the probability of an aeroshell impacting in a populated area. The probability of having such an impact is on the order of less than one in one-hundred million" (June 1997 FSEIS, page E-52).

How did NASA come up with that incredible number? My guess is they took the chance of a reentry accident, which they say is "less than one in one million" and divided it by 100 because they roughly calculated that 1% of the Earth is covered with a "high population". That's a simplistic way of getting out of doing the calculation for what happens if NASA's math is wrong and the original one-in-one-million figure was off by several orders of magnitude (a case for that can certainly be made) or if the real worst-case scenario simply happens, whatever the odds.

Taking all these things into account, one next must wonder what is the amount of damage that can be done from the plutonium that does get out (however much that is). Here again we have complexities surrounded by absurdities. NASA refers to ICRP health studies, which, as far as I can tell, create allowable limits based on detectible cancer rates. This is a fool-hardy approach, because although our detection capabilities are getting better all the time, they are really pretty lousy overall, and besides it denies the obvious: Risking the spread of plutonium throughout the biosphere is a foolhardy thing to do if there are good alternatives. In fact, one hardly needs a VERY GOOD alternative to want to avoid such environmental assaults.

Plutonium is a cancer risk in phenomenally small doses, and the greatest danger is when it is in respirable particles -- such as Cassini can create. But exactly what dose people will each receive, and what the death rates from that dose will be -- again, who can tell? So many determining factors, including what the spread of particle sizes will be, and how many of those particles the average person will breath, and what deviation from that spread will occur (how many people will get 5 times the average dose, for example? Just try to find that number in NASA's simplistic overview!) What is the overall health and age of the world population at the time of the accident?

The solar option has been cast aside by NASA. The reasons given are weak, as I have discussed in detail in my rebuttal to NASA's rebuttal of my 36-point commentary (see especially comment 2-12(e). But it is a key issue, because if there is a reasonable alternative, then taking the risk at all, makes no sense.

How many will die? How many might die? What is the minimum and maximum number of deaths? To put these numbers down as exactly this or exactly that is to fall right into NASA's game and is to ignore completely the simple logic that states that if a safe alternative exists or is within technological grasp, why not use it? Cassini will have many billions of potentially lethal doses of plutonium 238 and plutonium 239 on board. NASA documentation is simplistic, and even condescending in it's assumption that WE (concerned citizens like myself) will not question the discrepancies.

Are their calculations off by an order of magnitude, or two orders of magnitude, or three, or four, or none at all, or even off in the other direction? I do not think the opposition can prove any of this one way or the other. Rather, I think we (the opposition) have made a strong case against NASA's numbers in general, as being made up and unscientific, and we have also clearly shown, thanks largely to the wonderful efforts of Karl Grossman, that alternative solutions work.

You want us to put an exact number on the lives we might save if we succeed in stopping Cassini. Gosh, would I oppose it to save one life? I doubt it! Would I want to give my life for the scientific exploration of Saturn? I doubt it! But there is no exact number. It is incredibly unlikely that Cassini will come down on December 31st, 1999 right on top of Times Square. But it most assuredly can happen, if a "skip" scenario follows a failed flyby, for example. You want us to put a number on the likelihood of that, and the consequences if it does happen. Well, I personally think 50 million people or more will show up there that night, and it will be the biggest party mankind has ever seen. I hope NASA doesn't crash in on it with their little poorly thought out science experiment.

Sorry I can't be more exact.

Russell Hoffman

URL of rebuttal to NASA's rebuttal:

Dear Mr. Hoffman, thanks for your speedy reply.

You want us to put an exact number on the lifes we might save if we succeed in stopping Cassini. Gosh, would I oppose it to save one life? I doubt it! Would I want to give my life for the scientific exploration of Saturn? I doubt it! But there is no exact number.

As I mentioned in my letter to Dr. Kaku, as an editor trying to publicize the Cassini news in a credible manner, I wanted to try to resolve the divergent estimates (I never asked for exact numbers) in order to reduce the impression that this was a bunch of flakes with wildly exaggerated generalities and preserve the credibility of the Stop Cassini effort. Much of the confusion stems from the apples and oranges of "exposure" vs "health effects" and the synonymity of "health effects" and "deaths," all of which Dr. Kaku clarified very nicely. As for "sound bites," yes, we do live in a world of sound bites and short attention spans. Running Dr. Kaku's extraordinary scholarly and well-reasoned document, however, is hardly a sound bite.

The point is, if there's no news out there, I want to make sure that the news displayed on The Real News Page is real and high quality, even if people have to put on their thinking caps to read it. I consider Dr. Kaku's rendition a great contribution to The Real News on Cassini and we're very fortunate to have his brain on this thing.

I am running his critique in full on my website, along with his added comments discussing the confusion in calculating estimates. It makes for a wonderfully credible, clear package, the best I've found on the Internet so far.

We all have different talents in this effort. Mine is to find the best possible clearly communicated information I can, knowing that it's all estimates of a potential disaster phenomenon we have no prior experience in assessing. That's the point of Dr. Kaku's critique. NASA's FEIS has no basis for its statistical statements and under-estimations. That's not science. And that's why the risks of Cassini cannot be taken. We're flying blind.

My usual specialty in terms of activism is media conglomeration and centralized control of the news, which the supression of Cassini perfectly exemplifies. I'm also an old anti-nuke warrior for 30+ years. Cassini must be stopped and Cassini also makes the point that media must be reformed. I just hope it doesn't make the point with a bang.



Her additional response was to exclude my web site and my comments from anything she published. I sent her a letter asking for justification of her actions:

[NOTE: Before reading this, you should know than the next newsletter (#27) contains a complete apology to Jane Prettyman for these next remarks. They are shown here for historic completeness only!)--rdh]


Jane Prettyman,

Thanks for nothing.

You're no better than the other censors. I have the biggest, most thorough, most fair, and yet most controversial web site against CASSINI but you won't even MENTION it? What gives? Justify your actions.

Hundreds of people subscribe to my newsletter, it is in it's 27th issue, hundreds visit my STOP CASSINI web site EACH WEEK. Posts in newsgroups rag on me mercilessly, Pro-nuclear people give me AWARDS and DEMAND to be able to rebut my comments in MY OWN NEWSLETTER, such as Louis Friedman did, repeatedly. He is the Executive Director of The Planetary Society. Or such as James Spellman did. He is President - California Space Development Council and Executive Director - NSS/Western Spaceport Chapter. Countless others pro- and anti- have written, and I have debated the pro people mercilessly and endlessly in newsletter after newsletter, all of which are posted at the web site. But you don't think my site is worthy of even a MENTION in YOUR newsletter or at YOUR web site, at the same time as you claim that the story is censored? My my! WHO is censoring?

What did you base that decision on, Jane Prettyman? Back it up. You may not agree with me, you may not like me, you may not even respect me, but I am a driving force in the STOP CASSINI movement and if you can't see that you should step out and smell the coffee.

I will publish this, of course, with any rebuttal you care to make. You say you've been anti-nuclear for 30 years. That was your answer when I explained why you should not be asking the anti-Cassini people for an EXACT number. You listed Gofman as a resource on your web site. Why not forward those comments I made to him and ask him if I'm substantially right before you silence me?

Russell Hoffman
Known as "Mr. Stop Cassini" among the pro-nuclear Cassini folks...



Subject: Re: CASSINI subsite on Real News Page

1) The Cassini subsite we're running is not finished. It's an evolving project we out up this weekend because we work full time during the week. Other links will be added. We hadn't studied your site yet.

2) Having read this note you sent us, however, we have doubts about your ability to represent the issues of Cassini in a credible and non-hysterical manner on our website which was established, in part, to project a credible set of facts about Cassini. A simple note saying, "You might want to include my website among your links" or "You may have inadvertantly overlooked my website" would have been sufficient to alert our attention to review your site. Censorship is not what TRNP is about but we're not a sieve either.

The note you have written [shown above] is exactly the reason why detractors of Cassini's critics call them "hysterical wackos." I'm sure this does not truly describe you but any reasonable person reading your note might get that impression. Perhaps it was written in the heat of the moment and we are certainly not going to judge YOU by it. But if your website reflects a similar tone or your communications with others about Cassini reflect this kind of animus, then TRNP would tend to be inclined not to link to your website.

3) Please publish this response along with your note [shown above] to all your friends and have them respond to us. If we hear nothing about this from them, we'll assume you didn't send our response, in which case we'll be inclined to drop the words "tend" and "inclined" in relation to a link to your site.


Jane Prettyman
Editor, TRNP


Here is TRNP's Cassini page:

Dr. Kaku's comments are available at our web site, by the way. Here's the URL:

I'm having a bad day. Here's another peeve:

Fenton Communications ( was reportedly contracted by Helen Caldicott to promote the STOP CASSINI movement with a seed payment of $10,000.00. Fenton's job is to make the public aware of the problem.

So why does Fenton exclude my STOP CASSINI web site from their STOP CASSINI links, or mention this STOP CASSINI newsletter, now in it's 27th issue? Under the heading "Scientists, Engineers and Public Opponents of a Nuclear Cassini" there are people far less involved in THIS BATTLE than I. Where did Fenton get their list from? I have asked to be added, but they have not done so. Why not?


Please feel free to post these newsletters anywhere you feel it's appropriate! THANKS!!!

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for reading,
Russell D. Hoffman
STOP CASSINI webmaster.


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