STOP CASSINI Newsletter #31 -- August 22nd, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #31 - August 22nd, 1997


As long-time readers of this newsletter know I have been debating several (many?) pro-nuclear Cassini people of some stature, for example, Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society, and James Spellman, President - California Space Development Council and Executive Director - NSS/Western Spaceport Chapter.

Here are the latest editions of that correspondence...

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

***** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #31, August 22nd, 1997 *****

Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #3 August 22nd, 1997 ******

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

****** VOLUME #31 August 22nd, 1997 ******

*** Correspondence with Louis Friedman:

Our correspondence with Louis Friedman goes back over perhaps two months and a dozen letters, nearly all of which have been published in the newsletters.

To: "Louis Friedman"
From: "Russell D. Hoffman"
Subject: You are in great luck today, Mr. Friedman!
Date: 8/21/97


Thank you for your previous emails.

At 06:47 AM 8/15/97 Louis Friedman wrote (clip)
Mr. Hoffman:

In brief reply to your question, who am I?. I am Executive Director of The Planetary Society -- the largest space interest organization in the world with 100,000 (not 18,000 which you say in your message) members in over 140 countries. Before that I was a Congressional Science Fellow in the U.S. Senate, and before that an astrodynamicist at JPL in charge of advanced projects and several mission studies at JPL.

You can find out more about me and the Society at:

I went there and found this:


Louis Friedman

Position: Executive Director

Most important responsibilities: Development and
communicating of the society's programs, management
of the organization, advocacy for continued planetary
exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life.

Background: From New York; degrees from Univ. of
Wisconsin, cornell, and Mass. Inst. of Technology;
specialty in astrodynamics. Worked in aerospace
industry at AVCO before 10 years in advanced projects
at JPL. One year as Congressional Science Fellow in
U.S. Senate

end of web clip

Which is, of course, more or less what you said in your email to me. It does not answer the more specific question about your background, namely whether you have had any direct involvement either in the Cassini project, or in other plutonium-based space missions such as the Voyager space probes, Galileo or Ulysses. JPL "advanced projects" and "mission studies" could certainly have included work on those sorts of things. Did it?

You are asking people to support the Cassini project as Executive Director of The Planetary Society, a non-profit organization. I think therefore that the public, including my readers both at the web site and in the newsletter, are entitled to information about any involvement you might have had with Cassini or other nuclear payloads.

Regarding your responsibilities at TPS, you wrote this about my statement that " have asked your 100,000 members to voice their support for Cassini..":


You also wrote:


Okay, I guess you are saying you have not mentioned it in a physical snail mailing. However, shown below is the title, sub-title, and first paragraph of your comment as it appears at your web site, which you say "only" about 10% of your 100,000 members access (hey, are they high-tech or what?).

Here's the posting:


You Can Defend Cassini

Anti-Nuclear Activists Threaten the
Launch of the Cassini Mission to Saturn

Testifying to the power of the Internet, a small group
of activists are having a big influence on the White
House approval process for the scheduled launch of the
Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn and its large moon
Titan this October. Rather than environmental or health
issues, the activism is mostly motivated by an
anti-nuclear agenda. Citing the potential danger of the
plutonium that is a part of the mission's energy source,
the activists are writing letters to the White House,
asking President Bill Clinton NOT to give the required
formal approval to the Cassini launch.


(Note: It is in fact the environmental and health issues that concern and motivate the opposition movement to Cassini and most of the opposition to nuclear solutions in general. However, besides the health dangers of Pu 238, it should be mentioned that there are other legitimate concerns as well. About 15% of the plutonium on board Cassini is Pu 239 which is weapons-grade plutonium and which is enough to build a nuclear weapon. (Admittedly, it would first have to be extracted from the mixture.) Because of this issue, NASA assurances that the plutonium payload will, in the event of an accident, fall to Earth relatively intact and over a relatively small area is a double-edged sword. In fact, all of the plutonium is a potential terrorist's tool.)

It sounds to me like you are trying VERY HARD to get your members to defend Cassini, even as you trivialize your own efforts in that regard, and even if you have not deemed it worth the expense of a postal communication to your members -- yet. The anti-nuclear Cassini movement is gaining strength each day as more and more people hear about this crazy idea of NASA's, to attempt to loft 72 pounds of plutonium dioxide into space, then fly it by Earth in August 1999 at 43,000 miles per hour.

Lastly, you have said you accept Gofman's challenge, here repeated:

FROM "IRREVY' by Dr. Gofman:

"I am prepared to defend, before any scientific body, and under oath in full public view, my estimate that ONE MILLION people (perhaps only 500,000 or as many as two million) in the Northern Hemisphere have been irreversibly condemned to die of lung cancer from those 5 tons of plutonium. Indeed, were it not for the fact that by far MOST of the plutonium fell either upon the oceans or uninhabitable land, the figure of one million would be enormously larger." ("Irrevy" by J.W. Gofman, 1979, page 39.)


Here is your statement of acceptance:



You are in great luck today, Mr. Friedman!

Gofman, whose powerful C.V. (if you're talking about knowledge of radiation and it's damage potential) I presented in Newsletters #24 and #25 (both available online), has spoken before many scientific bodies (and Congressional Hearings) in the past so obviously, proceedings of those types of meetings are available. But perhaps easier to track down quickly is his book Radiation and Human Heath, which discusses (among other topics) the effects on the human body of Pu 238's alpha radiation decay particles. It received a glowing review in JAMA when it was published (Journal of the American Medical Association). Here is the beginning portion of that review:

"This remarkable and important book enables any intelligent person with a high school education to understand the complexities involved in assessing the risks to man from low levels of ionizing radiation. Gofman not only demonstrates his mastery of this complex subject but carefully explains the basic concepts of epidemiology, genetics, birth defects, carcinogenesis, radiobiology, physics, chemistry, and even mathematics, which are necessary to an understanding of the subject." -- Review by Victor E. Archer, MD, in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

I can deduce from the information you provided that you have had somewhat more than a high school education -- but don't let that stop you!

Here is a comment about the book from Andre Bruwer, M.D., Radiologist, Diplomate, American Board of Radiology:

"John Gofman's fascinating, authoritative, and brilliant book will demystify the subject of exposure to low-level ionizing radiation."

And another M.D., Diplomate and Radiologist at the American Board of Radiology, Dr. William M. Marks, wrote -- and this is just the sort of review you should appreciate --:

"In RADIATION AND HUMAN HEATH", John Gofman provides an in-depth analysis of the existing evidence in this field, and challenges some commonly-held beliefs in a most thoughtful and thought-provoking way. Everyone interested in the effects of low-dose radiation, including radiologists themselves, will learn a great deal from this useful and stimulating book."

And finally, even NUCLEAR NEWS did a long review, with this statement in the concluding paragraph:

"...It is not a tome to be treated casually, since there is a lot of material here which should be read carefully and given thought and evaluation." -- From January 1982 issue of Nuclear News, the journal of the American Nuclear Society.

And please don't dismiss this important work because it is from the early '80's. That would be most inappropriate. If nothing else, it would be inappropriate because it was only a couple of years before Cassini's early developers made the foolhardy decision to use the dangerous Pu 238 nuclear option. What could they have been thinking? If you were not involved, do you know who was so we can ask them what they were thinking? Clearly, the BEST information available then -- for example Gofman's Radiation and Human Health book -- contained plenty of indications that the use of plutonium-based power sources was -- and is -- a dangerous and foolhardy thing to do. Please read this book. That would certainly suffice to show your personal acceptance of his challenge.

The book contains numerous and detailed references to "peer reviewed" reports and material. It is over 900 pages long and indicates exactly which scientific peer reviewed studies it uses or discredits, throughout the book. It is a mother-lode of scientifically accepted, credible information. Just what you are asking to see.

If you read Radiation and Human Health by John W. Gofman and then wish to author a refutation of Dr. Gofman's estimates of plutonium toxicity as presented in Radiation and Human Health, I will be happy to link to such a document, or publish it at my web site, and of course, to announce its publication in my newsletter.

If you merely wish to begin to research the matter for yourself or because of your responsibility to your members, Gofman has collected the data, submitted it to be published, had it published in peer reviewed journals, had peers review his books repeatedly -- if you are looking for someone who has had his scientific theories presented and defended before scientific bodies, you have not and need not call for anything new. He has done all that. And you missed every word of it, having never heard of him before. He is a co-discoverer of Uranium 233 and proved its fissionability, and in 1941-43, while working at Berkeley, Dr. Gofman isolated the world's first workable quantities of plutonium for the Manhattan project -- at the personal request of J. Robert Oppenhiemer himself. That's besides all his awards and publications in the health and health physics fields. He knows this stuff! His credentials are impeccable, and he has served our country well. Perhaps, had Gofman not successfully isolated that plutonium, Oppenhiemer would not have had his bomb in time. Oppy needed milligrams but only had micrograms. Gofman delivered the goods -- in fact, he isolated more than twice as much as Oppy needed, and was allowed to keep the rest to experiment with!

Would anyone other than a good, honest, trusted American have been allowed to keep that stuff? After all, it was a vital "ingredient" which the Manhattan project needed to make nuclear weapons! Gofman is not some "anti-nuclear activist" and your page is an insult to him and many other such scientists.

What might have happened to America if Oppy hadn't gotten his Plutonium? Surely this man deserves America's gratitude, respect, and trust, but you had never heard of him. You had never listened to him. You had never read his books. You somehow missed him entirely in your analysis of the safety of vaporized Plutonium 238 from a possible Cassini accident, and yet you feel prepared to tell your members to listen to you when you say that Cassini is safe and that only " a small group of activists" oppose Cassini.

The likes of Dr. John Gofman, nuclear chemist and physician -- and there are many others with similar awe-inspiring credentials, like Michio Kaku, nuclear physicist, a protege hand-picked by Edward Teller himself -- the likes of these men of stature cannot be dismissed as "a small group of activists." You, Louis Friedman, do a disservice to your temple, which is also my temple, which is, of course, the temple dedicated to scientific principal and scientific reason, the temple dedicated to open public discourse and democratically made decisions, when you, with your position and responsibilities, ignore facts and people, properly presented facts and properly credentialed scientists, such as Gofman, Kaku, and so many others.

These are not activists at all! Nor am I a member of an "activist group". I am a computer programmer who writes interactive animated educational software for adults in Assembler language on PC's and compatibles. That is what I have been doing for most of the last two decades. I attempt to translate scientific and engineering phenomena into something lay people can see and understand. That is what I have tried to do with Cassini, but by using email and the World Wide Web instead, because the debate is too large, and moves too fast, that to keep up with it, using my (somewhat tedious) educational programming and animation style, would not have been possible. (And besides, the Internet is a powerful tool, as you know.) (The results of that tedious effort, when I can spend the time, speak for themselves and have been reviewed by numerous of MY peers -- computer magazines and other software reviewers.)

I never thought I would be debating Cassini this long and hard when I first became concerned upon learning about it! Perhaps I should have created an animation back when I first became interested... But I can assure you this, I have now researched Cassini as well I have researched anything in my life. And I oppose it now more strongly than ever.

I know there are opposing viewpoints on many of the issues. But WHERE is the debate? At my web site? Is that it? Have you ever heard of Michio Kaku, or did he slip past you too? How can you dismiss the likes of a John Gofman or a Michio Kaku, even if you dismiss me, as merely a "small group of activists"? What they actually are, by your own standards, is "a small group of brilliant, well respected nuclear scientists and doctors". If you want to include me you can say: "a small group of brilliant, well respected nuclear scientists and doctors and an educational software programmer" if you like. But "small band of activists" is not a complete or proper description of the opposition field when describing that opposition field to your members.

I am sure many of your members are scientists. They should be told that scientists like themselves, but perhaps better educated in the proper areas -- such as health physics -- also oppose Cassini. Anything less -- what you have written -- is short-sighted and subjective -- and substantially incorrect as well, because the band of activists isn't even small anymore.

Michio Kaku tells this story about The Star Wars Defense Initiative, a related space nuclear policy America attempted a few years ago (and still wastes $billions on the vestiges of--):

"...some physicist friends of mine met in the living room once. We scratched our heads and we said, "how can we stop this juggernaut called Star Wars." One person said, "Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't we pass a petition around. That's easy to do, and get people to sign up - never to take one dime from the Star Wars program." Well, we circulated it around and we thought we'd get a few nuclear scientists to sign up. Well, I'm proud to announce that we signed up 8,000 nuclear scientists who said they would never accept one dime from that Star Wars program. They signed up. An absolute majority of twenty major campuses around the United States - never to accept one dime. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, CalTech, - an absolute majority of those faculties. We got 15 Nobel Prize laureates saying, "not one cent for the Star Wars program will I accept."

I have not seen such a signature list regarding Cassini specifically. But I personally, and many others, are convinced that Cassini is part of a bad nuclear space policy, which is being opposed by humanitarians, scientists, doctors, and all kinds of "regular" folk as well. As Americans and the world becomes educated about Cassini, they are turning against it. Our STOP CASSINI movement grows because what we were missing was people knowing what was happening. What you, the pro-nuclear Cassini side, are missing, is a leg to stand on.

Here is the address where you can order a copy of Radiation and Human Health by John W. Gofman:

Committee for Nuclear Responsibility
P.O. Box 421993
San Francisco, CA 94142

Price, including shipping, is $29.95. I don't get a commission. It's well worth it the price for the education you'll get.

Until then, I remain,

Russell D. Hoffman
A Concerned Citizen

*** Correspondence with James Spellman

Mr Spellman had been out of town and the communication with him had dropped off, when this came in:

At 09:04 PM 8/20/97 Jim Spellman wrote:

TO: Russell Hoffman - Editor, [Stop Cassini Newsletter]
From: Jim Spellman - National Space Society/Western Spaceport Chapter

Just wanted you to know I'm back (albeit briefly: I have to go to Houston Aug 25-29).

I haven't had a chance to go through everything that you've posted in my absence (too much to go through in one sitting), but I will be responding to certain comments that I can answer (which may be redundant; you've probably received responses from other people).

Received the following posting [about GPHSs] that you might want to research. Once again, I haven't had a chance to review the URLs -- but you probably have more time on your hands than I do to look the reports over and post them in your newsletter.

FYI -- I should not be necessarily considered an opponent of the anti-nuclear crowd, but I am the enemy of some of their ignorance and obnoxiousness.






Thanks for the forward of this stuff. I'll look forward to any comments you have about any of my material you get a chance to look at.

I would like to add the reference list you sent to the web site, first of all, and check it out as much as I can. Would that be okay with the researcher? Fortunately, I think it's become a bit of a side issue, because:

I think I can say now that I have realized what major part(s) of the RTG jigsaw puzzle I wasn't understanding. It does indeed have more shielding than I had originally understood. But the shielding is only effective when everything goes right. What about when things don't go right? The GPHSs are subject to collision with other objects as they fall away from the probe, and this can cause them to breach. How much and how often?

In the June 1995 EIS, NASA talked about "32% to 34%" of the nuclear payload would be expected to be incinerated at high altitude (and 20% to 66% of that into respirable particles) (see page 4-51 of the June 1995 EIS. It's been scanned at the web site, URL shown below.)

These facts may have been the original source of my misunderstanding about the RTGs. It says I was about 1/3rd right when I thought perhaps the RTGs were simply designed to incinerate! (Of course, the RTGs are in fact designed to melt away and release the GPHSs, etc.) The data your kind researcher has provided will presumably show how often the ideal is not met and how often it is, according to calculations. But according to NASA's June 1995 EIS, fully 1/3rd of the time the ideal is not met.

In the more current June 1997 SEIS, they say that in a flyby reentry accident, only 1.7 GPHSs out of 54 will, 3/4ths of the time, release their nuclear payload at high altitude -- about an order of magnitude less!

Yet in the June 1995 EIS, page 2-20, NASA states "Overall, DOE has spent more than 12 years in the engineering, fabrication, safety testing, and evaluation of the GPHS, building on the experience gained from previous heat source development programs and an information base that has grown since the 1950s."

That statement is not consistent with an order-of-magnitude-change in the release numbers from June 1995 to June 1997.

If you or anyone else can explain that change to me it would be appreciated. And if it can be explained, then next the inaccuracy of the statement about how tried-and-true these things are needs to be explained!

One person, not a space person but a health physicist so I can understand his error -- thought the discrepancy might be because they raised the flyby height from 312 miles to 496 miles above the Earth. But that is not the answer, because this is specifically for what happens if the flyby fails and the probe reenters [Earth's atmosphere]. It has nothing to do with the calculation of the likelihood of that event.

Here are some GIF images from the June 1995 EIS for the referenced pages:

GIF image of page 2-20:

GIF image of page 4-51:

Thanks for writing.


Russell Hoffman


I should add that in NASA's June, 1997 FEIS on the Cassini mission, they state (page 2-9):

"The present standard General Purpose Heat Source (GPHS) module is a product of years of extensive safety testing and analyses. Previous NASA spacecraft such as Galileo and Ulysses carried instruments powered by GPHS modules. Any future development of new GPHS modules would require extensive testing, evaluation, and space qualification before becoming potentially applicable to any space mission."

And yet the numbers can change by about an order of magnitude between the two reports. Amazing.

At 12:38 PM 8/21/97 Jim Spellman wrote:

Date: Thu, 21 Aug 1997 12:38:44 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: GPHSs and RTGs and such... Welcome back...

In a message dated 97-08-21 08:53:10 EDT, you write:

I would like to add the reference list you sent to the web site, first of all, and check it out as much as I can. Would that be okay with the researcher?

As a matter of policy, all sites listed are in the Public Domain (one of the "good" things about the U.S. Government in general). Permission is not required to repost, or share with other parties...

I'll forward your queries to people I know who might have the answers, and forward their replies back to you.



I will be posting the information referred to in these emails regarding sources for more data on the GPHSs, and am awaiting any answers that Mr. Spellman can come up with to this puzzle of the changing values for high-altitude plutonium release.


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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