A fax sent to Dr. Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Washington D.C.

by Pamela Blockey-O'Brien

Environmentalist, Human Rights Advocate

Dr. Donna Shalala

Secretary of Health and Human Services

Washington D.C.

Phone: (202) 690-7000

Fax: (202) 690-6166

September 30th, 1997

Dear Dr. Shalala,

This letter concerns the proposed launch of the CASSINI aboard a TITAN IV by NASA in October. The CASSINI will have hundreds of thousands of Curies of radioactive plutonium on board, in a weight quantity of 72.3 pounds of plutonium as plutonium dioxide (predominantly Pu 238, but also Pu 236, Pu 240, Pu 241 and Pu 242). In case of accident, in particular just after take-off, such as with the Challenger, the consequences would be horrific. The same applies if it blew up on the launch pad. Depending on a variety of factors, including wind direction, vast areas of Florida with, for example closeby areas of Orlando (Disneyworld) and the Florida Coast, would have to be stripped of all habitation and vegetation, all persons evacuated in minutes, to a few hours depending, and because this would be impossible, in order to protect the public from the real possibility of radiation exposure I beg you to do all in your power to get this insane launch stopped.

Let me explain a little more: I have worked on environmental and human rights issues now 35 years worldwide. I have testified at various federal hearings on the hazards of radiation exposure and nuclear weapons and radioactive pollution. I was an NGO Delegate to the United Nations Second Special Session on Disarmament in 1982 representing roughly one million people -- from entire congregations to small groups -- from across the southeast. I, like many others working on these issues, including some of the most eminent scientists in the United States and around the world, have had our fill of the outrageous statements and cover-ups concerning the effects of, and contamination by, radiation contaminants as put forth repeatedly by various agencies and governments over the years, and the CASSINI situation is no exception. I would quote one of this nations foremost health physicists, considered the "father" of radiological health physics, who served almost 30 years at Oak Ridge, Dr. Karl Z. Morgan on this question of cover-ups (given in testimony to the DOE in 1989 and noted in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, Continued Operation of the K, L, and P. Reactors, Savannah River Site, Aiken, South Carolina, Volume II, in his Appendix #3, which included testimony against a different launch) Dr. Morgan said: "During the 58 years I have been working with ionizing radiation I have seen so many mistakes, misstatements, cover-ups and untrue statements by members of our government agencies (e.g. AEC, DOE, NRC, NASA etc.) and by representatives of the nuclear industry that I seek independent safety evaluations of radiation risks before I trust their accuracy." He goes on to describe the US space launch made in 1964 (that he and others protested) carrying just over two pounds of plutonium 238, and the assurances received that there was a risk of only one chance in ten million of an abortive mission and Earth re-entry, and how that ended in a ghastly incineration over the Indian Ocean and how "We of course do not know how much of this Pu-238 resides in persons now living, or dead and in children to be born in the next 100,000 years, but it is not unreasonable to assume it will have caused many thousands of deaths."

On page C-598 of the aforementioned testimony of Dr. Morgan's, he speaks of the same problems we have on board the CASSINI right now, noting that the Savannah River Reactors also produced plutonium-238 for thermocouple produced electricity for satellites and "Star Wars" and that such uses were extremely dangerous and should be reconsidered. He took pains to note that the present maximum permissible concentration for PU 238 was "too high by a factor of 11,000 in air and 7,000 in water" (MPC in uCi/cc) and the MPC for PU 239 too high by "a factor of 6,000 in air, and 5,000 in water." He goes on to explain why. In other parts of his testimony, on page c-6440 it may interest you to know that he mentioned in passing his attempts to protect uranium miners in his testimony to the Senate, and how they were being exposed to the equivalent to exposure in Bohemian cobalt mines in the 1500's, and how the US Public Health Service had sided with the Atomic Energy Commission (i.E., not protected people) and stated "I have been naive in believing the USPH Service was operated to protect the health of people in the US" and rejoiced in the fact that despite it all, "One honest man, Mr. Wirtz, Secretary of Labor, came to the rescue of the dying uranium miners and unilaterally reduced" the levels after Dr. Morgan's testimony before him. US workers within the government are still exposed to far higher amounts of radiation than allowed the general public, and higher than other countries even allow. Will you get this changed? It is an outrage.

But I digress. Back to CASSINI: As you know I am sure, there is no "safe" level of radiation, only the allowable levels set to protect industry. This is, after all, a matter of historical record. Ionizing radiation harms by seriously disrupting the cell. Effects differ external and internal to the body, both biological and physical half-life must be considered. The Government's own BEIR V report repeats something we have of course known since 1943, namely: "IONIZING RADIATION DAMAGES THE GENETIC MATERIAL IN REPRODUCTIVE CELLS AND RESULTS IN MUTATIONS THAT ARE TRANSMITTED FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION." (BEIR V Report, opening lines of Chapter 2, National Academy of Sciences, 1990.) However, even BEIR V persists in the ridiculous "averaging" of doses over the entire population. NASA does a lot of that too. When we look at what is on board CASSINI, we must consider the Curie quantities, after all ONE Curie is equivalent to 37 billion nuclear explosions/transformations per second in its damage. Because one cannot see, touch, taste or feel (until it is too late) radiation, the so-called "dose" -- as in "RAD" (Radiation energy Absorbed Dose) is a measurement of the damaging power absorbed in the tissue. This in turn must be multiplied by the RBE (Relative Biological Effectiveness) because the health effects depend not only on the amount of radioactive energy damage but the form of radioactive energy, i.e., Alpha, X-ray, Gamma, Beta, Neutron. Of course there are all sorts of other measurements and factors that come into play, such as the age, sex, weight, state of general health, whether deposition was external or internal to the body, and on and on. A lot of it, as others before me have said, tantamount to good guesswork. Complex tests are required. In case of an accident with CASSINI, all of this would be a moot point. How could one establish that at once, for perhaps millions of people? As to children in the womb, they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of radiation, and of course spontaneous abortion is one result of irradiation. Let alone birth defects of various types.

Please note, that the Titan IV, on which CASSINI rides, exploded a few years ago destroying a two billion dollar spy satellite on board too. Furthermore, the SEIS for NASA, the Draft SEIS, was accompanied by a document called "Nuclear Safety Analysis For Cassini Mission Environmental Impact Statement Process" prepared by Halliburton NUS Corp. I will let part of the statement to DOE of June 8th, 1990 (reprinted in the same Environmental Impact Statement concerning the Savannah River Nuclear Site Reactors mentioned before where Dr. Morgan's testimony is reprinted -- and mine I may add also) by Thomas B. Cockran, PhD, former member of DOE's Energy Research Advisory Board among other things, speak to the problems with NUS, as NUS was also among preparers of the DOE/DEIS on that. Dr. Cochran stated: "NUS has long specialized in preparation of environmental impact statements for the commercial nuclear industry and the DOE. Most pertinently, NUS firm prepared the now discredited 1984 EIS on the restart of the L-Reactor st SRP. This is the EIS that said "no significant reactor accidents have occurred at the SRP in its 30 years of operation". )p.G-3) -- A misrepresentation exposed by the release of a 1985 memorandum prepared by G. C. Ridgely of DOE, listing 31 accidents of "most significance". This is the EIS that asserted that "fuel melting has never occurred in the SRP reactors" (p. G-5) -- A lie exposed by the same Ridgely memorandum that said a fuel assembly had "incurred melting" on December 27th, 1970." And it continues in that vein. What I am concerned about, is that of the large amount of documentation available on CASSINI, and the serious concerns being raised by people ranging from Dr. Michio Kaku, the eminent physicist, to Dr. Morgan, to Dr. John Gofman (the former medical Director of Lawrence Livermore Labs and co-discoverer of the fissionability of U-233, and outspoken against the awful coverups and dangers of radiation also -- including the fact that eminent rearcher Dr. Erwin Bross got funds cut off by the National Cancer Instituted for pointing out the dangers of radiation being far more harmful than was thought) to hundreds of others across the nation and around the world, all point to the possibility of very serious consequences. indeed, a retired NASA safety official has even gone public saying NASA is not doing enough to protect the public and basically telling people to "get the hell out of there before that launch" (See Orlando Sentinel June 14th, 1997 article "Ex-NASA Official Protests Cassini.")

As a health expert, I believe you should speak to the abovementioned scientists; that hearings should be held on the entire, disastrous issue of fake "radiation protection" as perpetrated by DOE, NRC etc. as well as hearings on Cassini and the entire terrible policy -- also by other nations -- of trying to "nuclearize" space, which can only have terrible consequences, besides being a taxpayer rathole. In essence we are about to shoot a multi-billion dollar taxpayer funded Celestial Chernobyl if you will-- up into space, and i return could get a radioactive slap in the face. Not just on the launchpad, above Florida, or along the rest of its trajectory, but again in 1999, the details are all discussed on the STOP CASSINI website at:

In closing, I again urge you to stop the CASSINI launch at all costs in the interests of health and safety. In particular for the sake of the children. I also firmly believe that it is time we took the entire radiation/health question away from outfits like DOE and the military and the NRC and put it firmly in the hands of the doctors and other health professionals of an independent nature. Even EPA needs an overhaul, it is busy pushing allowing radioactive metals to be recycled for public use. We need hearings on the whole sordid mess, and we need them NOW, so that the elderly doctors and scientists who were in at the very beginning of the Atomic Age, who have desperately been trying to warn the public about what is going on, can be heard before it is too late. People like Dr. Gofman and Dr. Morgan, and Canada's Dr. Bertell whose book "No Immediate Danger -- Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth" received awards abroad, and was ignored in the U.S. Please, if you remember nothing else of what I have burdened you with Dr. Shalala, remember the fate of the children and of those who have no voice -- the wildlife and ecosystems and marine life -- all of which will be devastated.

Plutonium was named for the ancient God of Death and Lord of the underworld, Plouton, it is said. Bearing that in mind, I believe, as CASSINI is riding atop the TITAN IV like a rider on a horse almost, perhaps we should remember the words of St. John, in Revelations, Chapter 6, Verse 8: "AND I LOOKED, AND BEHOLD A PALE HORSE: AND HIS NAME THAT SAT ON HIM WAS DEATH, AND HELL FOLLOWED WITH HIM." (The Bible, King James Version.)

Dr. Shalala, please tell the President to STOP CASSINI.


Pamela Blockey-O'Brien (Member, I.F.O.R.)

STOP CASSINI Web Site Table of Contents

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