Dr: Blair: Out here in the real world, where people die and they aren't just numbers, your comments are outrageous.
To: "Bruce Blair" <email@example.com>
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Dr: Blair: Out here in the real world, where people die and they aren't just numbers, your comments are outrageous.
Cc: email@example.com, governor of California
To: Dr. Bruce Blair
From: Russell Hoffman
Re: Your correspondence with me from earlier this month
Date: November 25th, 2001
Dear Dr. Blair,
This morning, while answering a question from a reader, I came across your resume in a book called Atomic Audit (Stephen I. Schwartz, Editor, Brookings Institute, 1998), in Appendix E, "Steering Committee of the U. S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project". I've typed it in and included it below.
Recall, if you will, that I initiated our correspondence of the past two weeks after you stated on national television that a meltdown -- in particular, a terrorist-induced meltdown -- at one of the nation's 103 commercial nuclear power plants might only kill "scores, maybe hundreds" quickly and "perhaps thousands of premature cancer deaths later". I emailed you about your public statement because the numbers you cited are trivial compared to what is really possible in a "worst case scenario".
My basic feeling is that to say such a thing, you had to be either lying, crazy, or ignorant (or some combination thereof).
Which is what makes your resume so fascinating. I don't see anything in your resume that would indicate you have a scientific basis for understanding the dangers of low-level radiation. But on the other hand, you have spent your life working with weapons and people which would both be useless if low level radiation dangers were more significant than official government estimates would suggest.
What did you know about the dangers of nuclear radiation in the years 1970-1974 when you worked at SAC? (I have a copy of the Department of the Army Field Manual, FM 21-41, Soldier's Handbook for Defense Against Chemical and Biological Operations and Nuclear Warfare, published by HQ, Dept. of the Army, February, 1967, in front of me, but it's strictly Boy Scout level stuff (actually, I'd have to say that the Boy Scout Merit Badge Series pamphlet on the subject, which I also happen to have, is slightly better (I have a 1998 printing of their 1983 edition)).
What have you learned about the dangers of low level radiation since 1974, and from whom have you learned it?
As others have suggested to you, it would be appropriate for you to read up on the topics you opine on for the mass media, such as the work of Dr. Rosalie Bertell, and specifically her text, No Immediate Danger. Or perhaps, the work of Dr. John W. Gofman (available at www.ratical.org), or of Dr. Ernest J. Sternglass, or Dr. Helen Caldicott, or Dr. Stanley Thompson, who have all authored books about nuclear power plant dangers and low-level radiation issues, as well as weapons issues.
Are biographies of Dr. Edward Teller, and his descriptions of those who oppose his vision, as far as you've ever gotten in learning about the worries of the opposition?
He's a madman, you know.
If you have never read the works of any of the aforementioned "opposition" authors, perhaps you've read others, such as Dr. Alice Stewart, whose discoveries are outlined in The Woman Who Knew Too Much. Have you read American author Marilynne Robinson's excellent book, Mother Country, about Sellafield, England's nuclear reprocessing plant? Or do you just assume your commanders at SAC knew all there was to know on these subjects, other than whatever von Hippel and his grotesque Beagle dog experiments might have added since then?
As you may know, the severity of radiation effects (cancer, leukemia, and birth defects) remains unchanged at all dose levels, and children are probably at least ten times more susceptible to those effects than adults. Many scientists feel the rate of those effects within a population is, at best, directly proportional to the dose, and may be a lot worse. Actual doses are a combination of various factors, including:
Local background radiation levels. These were gradually falling since the early formation of the planet, but have been rising (sometimes steeply) since the dawn of the nuclear age half a century ago.
Amounts, particle sizes, and types of radioactive substances released in an accident (things almost never told to the public).
Bioaccumulation rates in plants and animals in the human food chain. Accumulated radioactive elements can be present in concentrations hundreds, thousands, or even millions of times greater than their random concentrations in the environment. We're at the top of the food chain, being extremely omnivorous (and fairly omnipotent as well -- at least as far as farm animals are concerned).
Other factors which determine dose include wind patterns, particle sizes, rainfall patterns, etc., which can be modeled using various mathematical assumptions known generally as "chaos theory", but all such models are necessarily going to be inaccurate estimates. It is amazing how much of a world we have built, based on highly speculative assumptions and wishful thinking.
Dr. Gofman has produced an excellent discussion of some basic principles of study regarding radiation, which all scientists researching the subject should be required to adhere to. Have you ever seen it? Do you agree with it?
Do you know that San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station, in Southern California, suffers from the following problems, and that it is reasonable to assume that all nuclear power plants suffer from similar problems?
1) Its spent fuel pools are nearly full, even after allowing for overpacking beyond the original design limits. This is especially unsafe if there is a rupture of any of the fuel's cladding, say, due to a terrorist attack. Nearly all the fuel from 20+ years of operation by three (two still running) reactors is stored at the site.
2) Its backup generators are located too close together, such that one small plane can take two of them out, and two planes could therefore take out all four backup generators at the site. If a third small plane (no jumbo jets needed for this scenario!) also took out the switchyard, destroying the connections to the power grid, you'd have a real problem, both at the reactors themselves, and shortly thereafter, in the spent fuel pools. The debate is not whether this would be an extremely dangerous situation, but just on whether you would have hours, minutes, or just seconds to solve it, or whether it can be solved at all. (If three well-aimed Cessnas seems improbable to you, would you believe four jets the size of 757s and 767's?)
3) Electrical equipment throughout the plant is severely corroded from a combination of salty air, radiation and other causes of embrittlement. This year alone, explosions caused by electrical shorts in two completely different parts of the plant endangered the lives of workers and civilians (that is, people offsite), and threatened far worse destruction. One explosion and fire resulted, in February of this year, through a chain of events, in the stopping of the turbine shaft in just four minutes when power to all the lubricating pumps was lost -- the turbine was bent, and it burned out its journals and bearings. The mess cost $100,000,000.00+ (one hundred million dollar+) to repair, not including the four-month loss of income during the downtime. (Normal slowdown for the turbine, which is longer than a football field, is a minimum of 24 hours. Turbines have been known to "walk" in such loss-of-lubricant circumstances. I'm not sure if that turbine spins towards the control room, or away from it.)
4) The day they got the reactor back up, they dropped a 79,500 lb load about 50 feet. Strap tore. Last November (2000) they dropped a 20,000 lb load. Strap tore. Repeated attempts by this author to get Cal-OSHA to investigate did not even result in an on-site inspection (as shown in the response to a FOIA request by this author). The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a lap-dog agency if ever there was one, refused to take any interest in the matter, because it wasn't in the nuclear area of the facility, it didn't involve a nuclear load (thank goodness, but they've banged those around too there), and it didn't involve a nuclear-licensed crane operator. This last contention may not be correct, and the first two are ridiculous. The NRC should be looking at accidents throughout the plant. This is particularly true since Cal-OSHA doesn't inspect the plant even under the worst circumstances, and the Federal OSHA (in a letter to this author) denied any jurisdiction at nuclear power facilities whatsoever! In other words, the fox isn't even guarding the henhouse. He's having chicken dinner.
5) San Onofre's spokesperson has lied repeatedly to the press. Some of those lies have been exposed (for example, the lie that the containment dome could resist a jumbo jet), yet the press continue to publish more lies by that same San Onofre spokesperson, without pointing out their inaccuracies (in fact, I suspect, without even understanding them).
6) According to experts, earthquake-induced tsunamis off the coast where San Onofre is located could easily overwhelm the 35-foot "tsunami wall". I've received letters from scientists who testified that this "protection" would be inadequate for predictable tsunamis, who were IGNORED for no good reason.
7) Earthquake faults in the area are believed by many experts -- that's not you and me but people who study earthquakes -- to be capable of exceeding the 7.0 "design basis" for San Onofre.
8) Buildings built years after San Onofre, to the strictest earthquake standards available anywhere, have fallen in actual earthquakes, showing that even a well-built building doesn't always live up to its projected capabilities. In the case of a high-rise going down, hundreds, maybe thousands might die. In the case of an earthquake resistance design insufficiency causing a nuclear meltdown, the death toll could quickly reach into the millions.
9) While we all wonder now and then about "planet killer" asteroids, an asteroid which could destroy a nuclear power plant or spent fuel pool would not need to be nearly as big, and is thus many orders of magnitude more likely. When contemplating the unthinkable, you have to mathematically account for the unlikely but utterly possible, right? Random chance is the only thing that protects us from asteroid strikes at nuclear power plants. The weakest, thinnest part of each containment dome, only about 4 feet thick, is at the top. Good, respected scientists study the dangers from asteroid impacts all the time, but most of them have little understanding of what a vaporized spent fuel pool would do to humanity.
10) A small nuclear weapon, even a 1-kiloton device, or smaller, could vaporize a spent fuel pool as well as an asteroid could (or better). You can decide whether an asteroid or a nuclear bomb is more likely, but the reality is that both can happen. There is a way to protect us -- shut the plants down and bury the waste as deep as humanly possible (I am not advocating Yucca Mountain, however).
That is just a list of problems at two of 103 nuclear power plants in America. All reactors have similar problems, and no reactor is as safe as the nuclear industry -- or you -- would have the American public believe.
Are you aware that at a nuclear power plant in Monticello, Minnesota, last summer, the primary containment was found to have been inoperative since the plant was built 30 years ago, because some shipping bolts were left on some bellows, so you couldn't use the primary containment if needed? I recommended a $100,000,000,000.00 (one hundred billion dollar) fine. I don't think any fine was imposed.
What would the lack of a primary containment vessel do to your estimate of "scores, maybe hundreds" dead right away from a nuclear accident? This is clearly a fair question because for 30 years, roughly 1% of America's commercial nuclear reactors had, effectively, NO primary containment (one (possibly two) out of 103).
I'd like to say, "you get the idea" but I'll bet you don't. San Onofre, and all nuclear power plants, are accidents waiting to happen -- without any help from terrorists. But if terrorists are what you're worried about, here's a list of 25 ways they could easily destroy San Onofre, or any nuclear power plant:
If that list doesn't scare you into supporting the idea of closing the plants immediately and switching to clean, safe, renewable energy resources (it CAN be done!), I'll send you 25 more, and 25 more after that.
Dr. Blair, it's clear from your resume (as if your statements on national television didn't suggest it) that you have no problem lying. Nobody can take part in super-secret government studies unless they can lie with a cold, straight face, or at least, be able to arrogantly refuse to honestly answer questions from the media or from civilians, which amounts to the same thing. I personally suspect your "scores, maybe hundreds" statement was this sort of a lie. In secret Congressional hearings, you might speak the truth. Maybe you even suggest, in secret, that the famous Sandia National Labs' CRAC-2 report probably underestimates the dangers from a nuclear meltdown by at least an order of magnitude and probably more, as I believe it does. Maybe you do the math properly in those closed chambers. But out here in the real world, where people die and they aren't just numbers, your comments are outrageous.
When you manned those missiles for SAC, what cities were you willing to push a button to destroy? Had you ever visited any of those cities? How many people lived there? Had you ever been to the museums you were going to destroy? How many centuries of culture were you willing to obliterate? How oppressed were the people you were going to bomb? How often did you think about any of that as a young soldier with your finger on the button at SAC, in the years from 1970-1974?
Without being crazy, malicious, malevolent, or at best, ignorant, you can't possibly man a weapon of mass destruction, let alone do so for years and years (four years in your case), and be perfectly willing to blow up scores or maybe hundreds of cities just because someone above you in a chain of command ordered you to.
I will ask again that you read my essay on the effects of nuclear weapons and give me your opinion of the document's accuracy, and, while you're at it, the accuracy of the works it is based on (listed at the end of the document):
And I will ask you to comment on a related document regarding the uselessness of nuclear weapons which I have posted here:
Perhaps you should simply start at "ground zero" and read all 253 issues of my STOP CASSINI newsletter (which I've conveniently posted at my web site). Why not start with this one, on the Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), and a topic you evidently know little about, namely, "Is nuclear war winnable?" (hint: the answer is "no"):
You should get yourself up to speed on what your dream-world of nuclear defense as a solution to America's military vulnerabilities has really meant to this country. America needs to close the nuclear power plants and dismantle the nuclear weapons. Because of your ability to get national media attention, your voice would help, especially if it's accompanied by a frank admission of the foolishness of your prior viewpoints.
A Concerned Citizen whom The Brookings Institute would probably never hire.
Below is Bruce G. Blair's resume, as found in Atomic Audit, published by The Brookings Institute, 1998. Below that is an URGENT ALERT about Price Anderson, which comes up for an important Congressional vote on TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27th, 2001
BRUCE G. BLAIR is a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings
Institution, a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1916 and devoted to nonpartisan
research, education, and publication in economics, government, foreign policy, and the
social sciences generally. He is an expert on the security policies of the
United States and the former Soviet Union, defense conversion, and nuclear forces
command and control systems. Blair has frequently testified before Congress
on this latter subject. He has also extensively studied the Russian military
and military-industrial economy. While at Brookings, he has taught defense
analysis as a visiting professor at Yale and Princeton universities. Before
joining Brookings in 1987, Blair served in the Department of Defense and was a project
director at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment for a highly classified
study on the vulnerability of the U.S. stratgic command and control system.
He received his B.S. in communications from the University of Illinois in 1970 and then
served as a U.S. Air Force officer in the Strategic Air Command from 1970 to 1974, as a
Minuteman ICBM launch control officer, and as a support officer for SAC's Airborne
Command Post, while simultaneously pursuing graduate studies in business administration
at the University of Montana. He earned an M.S. in management sciences at
Yale University in 1977 and was awarded a Ph.D. in operations research at Yale in
1984. Blair is the author of numerous books, occasional papers, and articles
on defense issues in such publications as Scientific American. His books include
Strategic Command Control (Brookings, 1985), winner of the Edgar S. Furniss Award for
its contribution to the study of national security, and The Logic of Accidental Nuclear
War (Brookings, 1993). His most recent occasional paper is Global Zero Alert for
Nuclear Forces (Brookings, 1995).
-- From Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940, Stephen I. Schwartz, Editor, Brookings Institute, 1998
----- Original Message -----
From: "michael mariotte" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Saturday, November 24, 2001 12:39 PM
Subject: URGENT! Price-Anderson on House Floor Tuesday!
> Dear Friends:
> This Tuesday evening, November 27, the U.S. House is scheduled to vote
> on reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act (HR 2983), the nuclear
> industry's unique scheme to avoid liability for its actions (HR 2983).
> The vote is slated to take place under suspension of the rules, a
> procedure normally used for noncontroversial legislation. No amendments
> are allowed, and there is only a limited debate. However, the bill must
> pass by a 2/3 margin--which means we only need 1/3 of the House to vote
> against it to defeat it! Your calls and faxes can make the difference!
> Please contact your House members Monday and Tuesday. Capitol
> Switchboard, 202-224-3121 or 225-3121. Urge them to OPPOSE
> Price-Anderson reauthorization--if for no other reason than that such
> controversial legislation should receive full and broad debate.
> REASONS TO OPPOSE PRICE ANDERSON (PA)
> 1) PA provides a 3.4 billion dollar annual insurance subsidy to the
> nuclear power industry, a develop, mature industry which should be able
> to hold its own in a supposed free-market economy.
> 2) Current reactors are covered by PA whether or not it is reauthorized.
> The only incentive for voting to extend PA coverage is for a NEW
> generation of INHERENTLY UNSAFE reactors such as the Pebble Bed Modular
> Reactor (PBMR) which are designed and can only function without a
> containment building. Because of public opposition to nuclear power,
> "new" reactors will most likely be built on existing reactor sites. Even
> Vice-President Cheney admits that without Price-Anderson there would
> likely be no new nuclear reactors in the US because of liability
> 4) Terrorist attacks on nuclear power facilities are a glaring concern
> in light of September 11, 2001 and a reactor without containment is an
> unnecessarily tempting target-no matter how well-guarded.
> 5) Price-Anderson would cap nuclear liability at 9.5 Billion while the
> US Government estimates a reactor accident can cost from 24 Billion to
> 590 Billion dollars.
> WHAT YOU CAN DO!
> *Please call/e-mail/fax your Representatives and demand THAT THEY VOTE
> NO ON 2983; the reauthorization of Price-Anderson.
> It is the height of arrogance--and folly--for the nuclear industry and
> its backers to push a major nuclear bill at this time without even
> debate, when National Guard troops are being sent to new reactor sites
> daily and when every atomic reactor is a potential and horrifying
> Please fax/email or call your representative's DC office
> Please also fax/email your local offices as well.
> Do not bother mailing letters at this point, since the mail delivery
> situation to Congress is still unclear.
> *After you've contacted your member, please contact your friends and
> colleagues and urge them to
> do the same. The key is to organize, organize, organize. If your
> representatives are not hearing from you, they will certainly vote for
> the industry.
> *Contact your local media and let them know this is going on. A sample
> letter to the editor (and
> sample letter to congress members for fax/e-mail) is posted on NIRS'
> website (www.nirs.org).
> House and Senate fax and e-mail information plus a comment section can
> be found at
> Michael Mariotte & Cindy Folkers
> Nuclear Information and Resource Service
11th hour protest against nuclear power:
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First posted November, 2001.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman