STOP CASSINI Newsletter #32 -- August 25th, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #32 - August 25th, 1997


Protest news, email correspondence, and a call for Louis Friedman to resign as Executive Director of the Planetary Society, for failure to inform his members about the respected scientists who oppose Cassini and their legitimate cause for concern. And a pop quiz on the RHU's.

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

***** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #32, August 25th, 1997 ***** Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #32 August 25th, 1997 ******

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

*** Planned protest September 26-28 at the gates of JPL:

At 09:10 PM 8/21/97 CB wrote:

Mr. Hoffman...

I wanted to let you know that there is a plan to protest Cassini on the weekend of Sept. 26-28 at JPL, where Cassini was built. The CA Green Party may be participating, since their state meeting is in LA that weekend. I'd like you to ask your mailing list if anyone is interested...and you can send all responses to me...I don't have firm details, I simply want to know if the interest is there...if it is, I'll send you concrete date and time, etc.


*** For Cassini protest schedules, visit

Mark Elsis of Lovearth has been organizing protests and tracking who is protesting where. Contact him at, or better yet start by visiting his web site ( for the latest schedules of all the various protests from all the different groups.

*** An answer (sort of) from Louis Friedman.

Louis Friedman has responded -- pounced on me, delivered the fatal blow. No, not really. He has responded, but that's it. It's lame. It's limited. It's worthless. Louis Friedman is stuck in a hole and can't get out. He is trying for the circular argument. He is avoiding numerous issues. Here is his email to me, and my response. He needs to resign his position, amend what he said at his organization's web site about "a small group of activists" and read a good book with his new-found spare time. What book? Radiation and Human Health by John W. Gofman, Ph D. Here's what Louis Friedman wrote in response to the letter in Newsletter #31:








Mr Friedman,

In newsletter #24 I explained the relationship of weapons-testing plutonium releases to SNAP-9A, Apollo 13, and a potential Cassini accident. Alpha radiation is alpha radiation, regardless of the source. Your argument was that you'd never heard of Gofman. Now you have, so go back and reread Newsletter #24, and live with it. Millions may have died from previous NASA experiments.

This next snip is from newsletter #29 and is of you quoting me and then your comments:


[Russell Hoffman said]:

Dr. Gofman is ready, willing, and able (despite his advancing years) to take up that challenge for us, and answer to any radiation expert Mr. Friedman cares to present or to Mr. Friedman himself, or both, in public, in court, in the open. But Mr. Friedman has dropped the ball. He has not accepted the challenge he himself proposed.

What am I supposed to do? Does Dr. Gofman have some paper documenting that "millions may have died" (whatever "may have" means in a scientific sense) from NASA? If so, I'll be glad to read it and comment on it.


It shows the problem: Mr Friedman is stumped by simple logic! He cannot carry a number! He cannot get from Gofman's statement regarding weapons testing ---


"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.)


---through to the fact that Curies of one kind of plutonium are no different from Curies from another type of plutonium. A particle with a given number of Curies has about the same effect. It's just that a particle of Pu 238 would be about 280 times less massive than a particle of Pu 239 with the same number of Curies of radioactivity.

As written in newsletter #24

Cassini will carry about 406,000 Curies of plutonium (mostly Pu 238). All the weapons testing together released about the same number of Curies of plutonium (mostly Pu 239). SNAP-9A and Apollo 13 together carried about 61,500 Curies of Pu 238.


Upper atmospheric winds are strong and unpredictable. NASA's numbers are often off by orders of magnitude (or several orders of magnitude). It is perfectly reasonable to say that "millions may have died" from previous NASA experiments. Cassini, of course, can come down ANYWHERE in a flyby reentry accident, while all the atmospheric testing was done in remote areas.


See also comments regarding Apollo 13 to "mjenn", shown below.

It is, of course, unprovable, but Gofman makes a strong case for the idea that plutonium is as hazardous as he suspects, and it is a simple matter to translate his basic statement regarding weapons testing into an equivalent statement for other plutonium releases. Apparently, though, it is too complex for Louis Friedman. Perhaps that is reason enough for him to resign his position.

*** Correspondence with Paul Nerenberg

At 10:13 PM 8/19/97 wrote:

Sir, I think you push this too far over the edge. The United States has been using plutonium in its interplanetary probes since Pioneer 10 and 11 in the early 70s. This is nothing new to the space program, and I frankly do not know why you make such a big deal out of it. Titans have become among the most reliable launch vehicles available especially since we have been using them for decades, and there is of course a chance that on the flyby past Earth it may enter the atmosphere, but NASA can afford about 300 miles of error, which is a lot, especially considering we can monitor and navigate a spacecraft extraordinarily well when it is close to Earth. In addition, other nuclear-powered probes have used the Earth as a slingshot before (notably Galileo in the early 90s which came within about 500 miles of the Earth as well) and have done so without incident. Sure there is a danger, but if you don't take risks, then nothing gets done. - Paul Nerenberg




Thank you for your email.

Are you trying to explain that the launch is safe because some (not all) previous launches have succeeded (1 in 19 TITAN IV's have failed), and because a few flyby maneuvers have succeeded? What about a probe called Clementine whose rocket continued to fire after a course correction maneuver, causing it to miss it's flyby of the asteroid it was supposed to be heading for? A similar misfire could aim Cassini towards Earth.

But that is only one aspect of the problem. The other aspect is, what are the actual dangers IF, however unlikely, an accident happens? Because no amount of NASA technology can eliminate that chance, thanks to the abundance of space debris, but a switch to Solar would.

Lastly, one is permitted to take risks for science, but one should generally risk one's OWN neck. Cassini puts many people at risk who have not voted on the issue, as well as many who have voiced their opinions -- against it!

Thank you again for your email.

Russell Hoffman

*** A pro-nuclear Cassini request for more balanced reporting:

This next incoming email first quotes one of my previous statements. If this were an example of the best the pro-nuclear Cassini people can bring forward, this battle would be easy.

At 01:34 PM 8/22/97 wrote:

. Again, we are trying to present BOTH sides so that you may decide for yourself. We think the facts are with us so the more full our presentation, the better.
Yey right!Did you care to mention that all these probes that launched successfully and caried plutonium:

Voyager 1&2
Viking 1&2
Pioneer 10&11
Apollo 11-17
Also you mention Mars 96 failed and blewup

Wrong, it fell into the Pacific ocean and the plutonium was completly sealed and there have been no environmental effects as yet. Also when the Apollo 13 Lunar module entered Earth atomosphere no Plutonium was released and there were no affects.
Do you have 1.3 Billion Dollars the cost of Cassini in your pocket, I think not.
Oh and about the conspiracies and coverups, well you might want to get professional help.


Nice guy, eh?



Shall I publish this with your name and email address or would you prefer that I publish it anonymously?



At 03:33 PM 8/22/97 wrote:

You may publish my e-mail address but I wish not to release my name.


I thanked "mjenn" and next "mjenn" wrote me this, before I had a chance to publish anything:

At 01:54 PM 8/25/97 wrote


Oh I see how you publised my e-mail to let the people decide for themselves. I can not find my e-mail written anywhere at your website. I eagerly Await a very scientific remark from a computer programer. (Oh why the anger did Microsoft fire you or something). I also forgot to mention in my list of probes that launced sucessfully and used RTG's Ulysees. I most give you credit for your response, response to a similar letter was "and merry Plutonium to you too".




Keep your britches on; I haven't published anything yet. Your first email arrived 8/22/97. It is now 8/25/97.

It will be in newsletter #32, due out perhaps later today. Some time after that it will be posted to the web site. What's your rush, anyway -- do you think you've really added something vital to the debate?

FYI below is shown the section of Newsletter #32 which responds to your comments. I may change or enlarge it...

I have never worked at Microsoft. You make a number of absurd and inaccurate statements and then somehow you think that publishing them would be "fair", yet you are not willing to admit to the world (or to me) your name, c.v., and current affiliation. Why then should I publish, and why then should anyone else want to read, your drivel when you won't even back it up with your name, let alone some proof?

Russell Hoffman

P.S. Would you like me to correct your spelling for you or would you prefer that I let it remain as you created it?

NEXT, I included the above items from 8/22/97 and this comment, which was what I was originally going to publish HERE (and then at the web site, of course) in the first place:

This email contains several inaccuracies and unfounded presumptions. For example, it is now commonly assumed that Mars 96 came down over Bolivia and/or Chile. This is discussed at our STOP CASSINI web site in an article by Chris Bryson at this URL:

Here is an article published online by Wired magazine regarding the Mars 96 probe:

Also, no recovery of the Apollo 13 plutonium SNAP-27 RTG has been attempted and it's final state is unknown. I am unsure of what efforts NASA made to ascertain whether plutonium escaped into the environment but it would be a huge effort to have done properly and it is, frankly, inconceivable that NASA put forth the required effort. This was in 1970. It is unlikely that the technology was 100% effective then, especially considering the June 1995 EIS value for the Cassini mission indicated that the newer, hopefully better technology was EXPECTED to release "32% to 34%" of the plutonium payload at high altitude, with 20% to 66% of that in respirable particles. New NASA numbers are significantly less, which is surprising in light of the assurances that this technology is stable (unlike the plutonium itself, of course!). This is discussed more completely in newsletter #31 at this URL:

And in section 2-12(e) of this rebuttal to NASA's rebuttal of my comments on their April 1997 DSEIS:

Also, note that indeed, I do NOT have $1.3 Billion dollars in my pocket at this time. What the significance of this fact is, I do not know, but the writer wondered so I'll admit that I am not a billionaire.

Lastly, if this email from "mjenn" ever makes sense to me, I WILL, indeed, seek professional help. At that point, I'll need it.


The flames grew higher:

At 03:25 PM 8/25/97 wrote: You wrote:
"What's your rush, anyway -- do you think you've really added something vital to the debate?" You asked me this question and now I think I should have asked you a similar question. I see how you nuclear activists stoped Galileo. Also the spelling errors you talked to me about. Well I quoted in my last e-mail that responded "and merry plutonium to you too" actualy it was "and merry plutonium to you to" but did I whine and complain about it, no. The reason I did not release my name is because in my family we have a policy of not releasing our names on the internet and how could I expect other members of my family to respect this if I don't. The reason I asked you if you had 1.3 billion dollars is because thats the money that has been spent on Cassini and you want to cancel it.





At 03:25 PM 8/25/97 -0700, you wrote:
|You wrote:
|"What's your rush, anyway -- do you
|think you've really added something vital to the debate?"
|You asked me this question and now I think I should have asked you a
|similar question.

I have no idea know what you mean here. The web site is an honest attempt to debate the issue. Your letters are simplistic and indicate you have little knowledge of the facts regarding Cassini, nor have you read much at the web site. Nor have you even visited our links to NASA/JPL and all the other pro-nuclear Cassini web sites we link to which are clear proof that we are not censoring -- which was your original unfair accusation -- unlike many of those sites which do not link to the opposition -- me or anyone else.

|I see how you nuclear activists stoped Galileo.

You must have missed it. Galileo launched on October 18th, 1989 with 264,400 Curies of plutonium on board in 2 RTGs.

|Also the spelling errors you talked to me about. Well I quoted in my
|last e-mail that responded "and merry plutonium to you too"
|actualy it was "and merry plutonium to you to" but did I whine and
|complain about it, no.

Get this straight: I am normally expected NOT to correct people's spelling. Some people would call it editing the opposition if I did. I would personally prefer to correct it. So I ask again: Do you wish me to correct your spelling or not? Simple question.

|The reason I did not release my name is because
|in my family we have a policy of not releasing our names on the internet
|and how could I expect other members of my family to respect this if I

That's fine if you merely wish to comment in private to me, but if you wish me to publish the unproven conjectures and weak accusations you made, you will have to be willing to stand by them in public or no one -- including me -- will listen to you and no one half-way respectable -- including me -- will publish you except to mock you. Whatever you are so paranoid of on the Internet is your business. (Unless you are underage, in which case I wish to excuse myself from this conversation entirely as it is inappropriate in that case, and I will publish none of your material.)

|The reason I asked you if you had 1.3 billion dollars is because
|thats the money that has been spent on Cassini and you want to cancel it.

According to the USDA in 1995 America WASTED $93 Billion by throwing out spoiled and good food. Spoiled and spilled milk alone, in about two months, would cover the cost of Cassini. Put things in perspective.

Russell Hoffman


"mjenn"s "FINAL NOTE" (thank goodness)

The sentence about Galileo was sarcastic. There was a movement to stop it in 1989 because it caried RTG's, and it failed. Yes,you may correct my spelling errors. You say my accusations are unfounded but have you acually done any research yourself. According to NASA most of your claims are un-validated. I now wish to end this debate with you I have no more to say to you.


Well, so much for this "mjenn" who is so sure he or she knows so much, who is of unknown affiliation and unknown education and background. (Mine is pretty completely presented at my web site.) I have decided to go ahead and publish it without helping "mjenn" with the spelling. After all, if I fixed it the references to how bad it is wouldn't make any sense! Besides, as longtime readers of this newsletter know (and even today's latest subscribers might figure out!) spelling isn't my strong point. That would be the blind leading the blind. "mjenn", certainly, is blind in many, many ways.

"mjenn" says NASA says most of my claims are un-validated. To some extent, sure, that's true -- NASA is correct. The opposition to a plutonium Cassini is based on the theory that even extremely low levels of alpha radiation are harmful, and NASA is absolutely right -- that's "just" a theory. It is a theory that has not been disproved despite 50 years of trying by the pro-nuclear forces, and it is a theory that may qualified, respected scientists think should be considered (and at least one computer programmer does, too). So sure, NASA, it's just a theory.

But then, notice that it is not I who is risking foisting 72.3 pounds of plutonium upon the world's population. NASA is. NASA's claims that what they are doing is safe are EQUALLY un-validated, and that is a very important point. Only in a cartoon world is it true that what you cannot see won't hurt you (or, in "mjenn"s case, what you can't understand). NASA's claims are not only "un-validated", they are in fact worse than just "un-validated" -- they are contradictory as well! My claims are based on the statements of many qualified scientists and on reading NASA's own absurd documentation. As long-time readers know.

*** POP QUIZ: How many RHUs are supposed to be on board Cassini?

What does RHU stand for? How much plutonium does an RHU contain?

Here are NASA's numbers for the number of RHUs on board Cassini, from several different reports. RHU's are plutonium heater units which contain 36 Curies each of plutonium (according to page 2-20 of the June 1995 EIS, section Here is a GIF image of one, from NASA's June 1995 EIS, page 2-21:

Here is how many RHUs NASA says are on board Cassini in the June, 1995 EIS, page 1-4:

"A maximum of 157 one-watt thermal radioisotope heater units, each containing 2.7 grams (0.006 lb) of plutonium dioxide..."

Here is what NASA says in the April 1997 Draft Supplemental EIS, page 2-4, section 2.1.4, first paragraph:

"...a maximum of 130 RHUs..."

In the Nuclear Safety Analysis, prepared for DOE, Space, and National Security Programs by Halliburton NUS Corporation, Gathersburg Maryland under Contact No DE-AC01-92NE32165, which accompanied the April 1997 DSEIS, the number 157 appeared again, with a slightly different name, on page 2-1, first paragraph:

"...up to 157 Light-Weight Radioisotope Heater Units (LWRHUs)..."

In the June 1997 SEIS, page i, first paragraph and page v, fifth paragraph, it was this:

"... up to 129 Radioisotope Heater Units (RHUs)..."

And finally, in the EG&G Mound Applied Technologies Light Weight Radioisotope Heater Unit (LWRHU) Final Safety Analysis Report (FSAR) for the Cassini Mission Preliminary Release in support of Supplemental Environment Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission, February, 1997, produced under DOE contract No. DE-AC04-88-DP43495 is the full story. Here is the final paragraph from page 1-1:

"Analyses herein are for the baseline of 129 LWRHUs located as described in Reference 3 and summarized in Section 4 of this document. Contingency plans allow for the addition of up to 28 LWRHUs. The addition of contingency LWRHUs depends upon the results of thermal balancing tests not yet completed. The environmental sequence responses for 157 LWRHUs is presented in Section 8.5 and a risk assessment is provided in Section 9. These contingency analyses assume that ther are 40 LWRHUs on the Huygens Probe (unchanged from the baseline mission) and 117 LWRHUs elsewhere on the space vehicle."

On page 6-5 of the EG&G report it states there are "31 Ci" (not 36 Ci as stated in NASA's June 1995 EIS) in each LWRHU.

On pages 7-35 and 7-36 of the EG&G report is section 7.7: VVEJGA Inadvertent Reentry. It references an abstract report of the LWRHU VVEJGA reentry response analysis. Then it states:

"It addresses the responses of an LWRHU which is being subjected to a 19.45 km/s (63,812 ft/s) inadvertent Earth gravity assist reentry. In summary,

"1. for cases where the LWRHU has a side-on stable orientation, it is predicted that all entry angles will result in aeroshell failure, clad melt, and [plutonium dioxide] pellet melt with full evaporation following melting,

"2. for cases where the LWRHU has a side-on spinning mode for atmospheric entry, no aeroshell failures or clad melt are expected for reentry angles between -7 degrees and -90 degrees, and

"3. for cases where tumbling is the atmospheric entry mode, angles between -7 degrees and -15 degrees would result in aeroshell failure, clad melting, and subsequent [plutonium dioxide] pellet melting and vaporization; angles between -15 degrees and -90 degrees would result in no aeroshell failure or clad melting. (Actually, the analyses which were conducted at -10 degrees and -15 degrees showed aeroshell failure at [reentry angle] values between -7 degrees and -10 degrees and no failure at [reentry angle] values between -15 degrees and -90 degrees. For continuity, pending further analyses, the boundary is selected to be at -15 degrees.)"

What this all appears to be saying is that in an Earth flyby reentry accident, full release of the plutonium in the 129 to 157 RHU's is possible, depending on the reentry angle and reentry mode. So that's about three quarters of a pound of mostly plutonium 238 that could be vaporized in a reentry accident. That's a lot -- either 3999 Curies (129 times 31 Curies each) or 5652 Curies (157 times 36 Curies each.) The RHUs alone can equal more than 1% of the amount of plutonium (as measured in Curies) released into the atmosphere from ALL our nuclear weapons tests combined. That's JUST the RHU's. The RTGs (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators) are a whole other matter, of course.

On page 1-2 of the June, 1997 FSEIS NASA states:

"Releases from the RHUs were not considered significant when compared to potential releases from the RTGs."


(Note: EG&G Mound Applied Technologies has been customer of the Editor of this newsletter in his capacity as author of an educational software tool. We have scanned in the pages referenced here and placed them on the web. Here is the index to those pages and a more complete reference to the connection between the Editor of this newsletter and EG&G):


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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