Carlsbad, California


OCTOBER 12, 1997

We are gathered here today, because two sets of scientists CANNOT GET ALONG. Why can't they get along?

If we -- if our great nation -- can put a man on the moon, why can't we put two groups of scientists before Congress and let them hash it out?

I will try to answer that question in a moment, but first, let me define what a scientist is. Several dictionaries all used the word "science" in the definition of "scientist", which is not a good thing, but it will suffice for now -- a scientist is one who follows science. One who holds faith in scientific principal. One who revels in scientific discovery. One who searches for answers in the natural world, and in the cosmos.

No dictionary said anything about a degree. No dictionary said anything about a piece of parchment upon which one's name must be scribbled. Not at all. A scientist is defined by his or her methods. Any of us who wish to be, any of us who try to be, ARE scientists.

I mention this because two sets of scientists, one set from NASA and one from the "anti-nuclear Cassini crowd", cannot get along, and so we are gathered here today. Now it is really not unusual for scientists to disagree, but usually the scientists are disagreeing about SHARED data. They are in a manner of speaking, on the same page. But in the case of the Cassini mission the scientists opposed to the launch have not been fairly presented, have been given short shrift, denied working models to experiment with. Denied documents they need to assess the safety of Cassini, documents which have been held back or released only through the diligent and tenacious use of the Freedom of Information Act, after years of effort.

And the other set of scientists? The NASA scientists? They remain hidden behind a bureaucracy, unreachable for purposes of inquiry, unaccountable if an accident does occur, and unnamed. (But well paid!)

But that is not why these to sets of scientists cannot get along -- cannot come to an agreement. Not at all. The reason these two sets of scientists cannot get along can be summed up in two words. Two powerful, 300 million dollar (that's today's value) words. And those two words are these: INSUFFICIENT DATA.

Our anti-nuclear Cassini scientists do not claim they have the answers. Our anti-nuclear Cassini scientists do not claim to know how many of us the bell will toll for if Cassini goes boom, tomorrow or during the flyby in 1999. Our anti-nuclear Cassini scientists are not so arrogant as to claim they have this knowledge.

But NASA's scientists are. They claim that only 120 people will die if a "worst case" accident occurs. They also claim that "5 billion" of us will receive "99%" of the doses should Cassini suffer a catastrophe, but of those 5 billion, only 120 -- less than one out of every 4 million that gets a dose -- will "suffer health effects" -- die. Of leukemia. Of cancer. Of birth defects, not to mention genetic damage. One in 4 million.

How do they know this? What scientific method did they use to achieve this statistic? The answer is, they do not know, and they did not use any known scientific method to assert what they have asserted, and they did not present their data, only their conclusions, and they did not present their supplemental data, except under Freedom of Information Act pressure.

This is the science we have paid so dearly for in cash, and may tomorrow pay dearly for again, in a different coin.

Now, our anti-nuclear Cassini scientists have done what they can to rectify this awful situation. They have attempted to review NASA's atrocious EIS, and SEIS, and FSEIS, and not to mention the FSARs on the RTGs, GPHSs, GISs, iridium shells and RHUs.

By the way, those stand for Environmental Impact Statement, Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, Final Safety Analysis Report, Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, General Purpose Heat Source, Graphite Impact Shell, and Radioisotope Heater Units. And there are 117 RHU's on board Cassini, include those on the Huygens probe. 406,000 Curies of plutonium 238, which if it isn't the most deadly substance you could inhale into your lungs, it's right up there in a VERY ELITE GROUP. All the weapons testing in history placed about the same amount, slightly over 400,000 Curies, into the atmosphere. Cassini can do that in one shot.

Yes, indeed, our scientists have looked at the books that NASA has presented and found them lacking. But then NASA says our scientists' documents are not "peer reviewed". This is hogwash! For, what is "peer review"? It is a process whereby everyone looks over everything and looks for loopholes in the logic. So what NASA is saying, is that our "peer reviews" of THEIR documents have not been peer-reviewed! But they have been! Our logic is sound and NASA's -- NASA's is mostly hidden, but what is not hidden is not sound.

By dictionary definition, I am a scientist, but I do not have a piece of parchment with my name on it. So NASA ignores me or gives condescending answers to my inquiries. But scientist or not, I CAN read! And what I have read in NASA's EIS, SEIS, FSEIS, etc. etc. is very disturbing. It is contradictory. It is shallow. It is without corroborating evidence.

For example, in the June 1995 EIS, NASA said that a flyby accidental reentry would be "expected" to result in a 33% release of the plutonium payload. Fully a third! But in the June 1997 SEIS, the numbers changed to about 3%. Why did the numbers change? There is no explanation given, but I can tell you what it probably was -- and what it probably wasn't.

It wasn't any physical improvement of any sort -- it's the same RTGs and GPHSs and so forth. No. What changed was simply that NASA decided that in a reentry scenario, the craft would enter the atmosphere tumbling instead of spinning, or in what's called a "side-on stable" configuration, or maybe it was "spinning instead of tumbling", or standing on its head. That is the difference that changed 33% to 3%. NASA likes 3% better. But they don't know.

And, whichever number -- if either -- is correct, that number represents a VERY INTERESTING THING.

NASA has designed this Pu-Puke containment system with ONE THING in mind. Containment? Don't be so naive! It's not that at all!

It's this: They are designed, as much as possible, as much as the rocket scientists with their thick skulls can design them, to release their contents at high altitude (above about 75,000 feet) or not at all. Will this save you? No! Gravity will bring the stuff back to Earth over a period of decades.

But it will save THEM. It will save them from responsibility. It will save them from culpability. It will save them from liability. NASA has designed the plutonium containment system to save THEM, not US.

So what can we do? We have gathered here -- because we cannot reach the man in THERE [points to White House] -- and we have a grievance. We have a complaint, and it is a legitimate one. We complain that NASA does not know what they are doing.

The 300 million dollar question is -- is what NASA is doing dangerous? WE DON'T KNOW! But today the tobacco companies agreed to pay 300 million dollars to support research into "environmental" cigarette smoke -- that is, second-hand cigarette smoke.

We need a similar investment in low level radiation research. In research into inhaled plutonium 238. In statistical research of large populations of exposed individuals. NASA is flying blind, and wearing blinders. NASA needs to be taught a lesson, and THAT is why we are gathered here today: To tell NASA we are watching them, and we will continue to watch them, for ever more, because they have lost the public trust.

NASA "bad science" has cost them the public trust.



This article has been presented on the World Wide Web by:

The Animated Software Company

Mail to: rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com
Written October 12th, 1997.
Delivered October 12th, 1997.
Presented online November 6th, 1997.
Last modified September 10th, 1998.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman