Correspondence between Larry Evans, President, Orange County Space Society, and Russell Hoffman -- October, 2000

To: Larry Evans:

Let's get the sequence straight:

Somewhere you read my original PKE letter of October 18th, 2000 (shown below).

You came at me with the following insult in your first letter: "Others have taken a more objective point of view based on reality, not just what they want to be true." That's not very nice and I challenge you to back it up with some fact, ANY FACT you can find which I have AT ANY TIME in my life, in any of my educational software tutorials, or at my website, or in my newsletters, or anywhere else, misrepresented, and which I have not already corrected that misrepresentation. I'm sure it can be done. But I challenge YOU to do it to back up your virulent claims that it can be done. I will gladly send you a free copy of all my software if you agree to take on the challenge. I want everything I say to be right. And you claim it isn't.

You had a few other insults. You also said "what you are dispersing to the public is a lot more harmful than the [Pluto-Kupier Express space probe's] radiation dispersal would be". I just DARE YOU to back that up. That's certainly a lot worse of an insult than simply being called "stupid" as Jack Shannon said of you, considering that PKE will have 16.3 pounds of Plutonium 238 on board -- enough to kill millions, if divided up and distributed just once to the populace of the planet (but in the environment, each particle could actually kill over and over and over).

The health effects of a concentrated plutonium 238 dispersal over a large city would be particularly obvious, at least after a few decades of latency (which many cancers have), if proper epidemiological studies are begun immediately, starting with careful measurement of the dosages people get. Such careful measurements to start the research with would be a welcome exception to the standard methodology, which is to do nothing and claim the release is below regulatory concern or that, somehow, it is "sufficiently diluted" to be rendered harmless, a LIE the nuclear industry has been foisting on people for half a century. IN FACT, there is no known minimum dose below which the same set of health effects do not occur: Cancer, leukemia, and birth defects. Only the rate of these effects within a population goes down, not the severity of the effects. This has been proven so even if Shannon's right about your level of intelligence, I don't think I've said anything you can't understand and if you disagree with something specific, feel free to say so, give your counter-argument, and we can expand on it.

A concentrated PKE plutonium release could happen during a "launch accident", irradiating parts of Florida, or from any earth-impact of the probe, at a steep approach angle. If the probe's been in space for decades -- say, 87.75 years (one half-life for Pu 238) -- and eventually reenters Earth's atmosphere due to some error on its flight out to Pluto which causes it became uncontrollable and undetectable, the containment system could become brittle and useless -- all the plutonium would be released, and as it burns up upon reentry, the plutonium would vaporize into particles which would be the ideal size for lodging in someone's lung.

Furthermore the impact speed of a probe which was sent out all the way towards Pluto, should it fail at some point and end up coming back to Earth's orbital area (perhaps a decade or a century after launch) might be tremendous -- far above Cassini's 43,000 mph speed when it passed through Earth's debris field during its flyby in August of 1999.

I consider being told that what I'm saying -- that this horror should be stopped -- is actually WORSE than the horror you support -- as an insult far worse than merely being "stupid", which is giving you such fits. For one thing, stupidity cannot be helped, and for another, it isn't evil or immoral or, for that matter, necessarily even bad for society. Some very good people are stupid. And some very evil people are smart. I'd rather be stupid than evil any day.

But after calling my opinion that we not fly PKE with its 16.3 pounds of Plutonium 238 on board "harmful", now you're claiming you're the one who has been grievously insulted. That's absurd.

But back to the facts. A difficult-to-measure high-altitude global dispersal of plutonium 238 on this planet, with its six billion (6,000,000,000) people, would be devastating, but the actual devastation would be much harder to measure than a small-footprint dispersal of plutonium. It's not like you're risking YOUR life particularly much here. A global dispersal is unlikely to kill you. Instead you are risking other people's lives for your little piece of space science you think is so important.

One should note that it is by now well known that infants and small children are as much as 10 times more susceptible to health problems from plutonium (cancer, leukemia) and are the one's who suffer most from its other main effect -- birth defects.

If you look back at the sequence of letters, your initial insults were by far the crudest and rudest comments so far, and NOW you are trying to claim you won't complete the debate because you've been called names.

You're quite a number.


Russell Hoffman

At 04:31 AM 10/23/00 -0400, you wrote:
In a message dated 10/22/00 7:14:27, Jacksha1 writes:

<< Good luck in your blind obedience to stupidity John Shannon >>

Just because I choose not to get into a debate with you about the merits (or not) of nuclear power in space is no reason to have to attack me and say that I am blindly obedient to stupidity. You see, this is why I choose not to get involved with this type of debate, since whenever someone disagrees with you, you start calling names. It just ain't worth it.


***** ORIGINAL PKE LETTER WHICH YOU RESPONDED TO FOLLOWS (followed by your initial response): ************

To: All environmentalists everywhere
From: Russell Hoffman, environmental activist
Re: NASA's next nuclear horror (known as Pluto-Kupier Express (PKE))
Date: October 18th, 2000

Dear readers,

You may have heard that NASA's next big nuclear horror, Pluto-Kupier Express (PKE), has been canceled. IT HASN'T. Funding has been put on hold, that's all. Funding can be restored at any time. That's hardly good enough.

Right now, Louis Friedman, pro-nuke co-founder and director of The Planetary Society (TPS), is contacting thousands of astronomers, news media, and others, telling everyone he can reach to proclaim their support for PKE. (Dr. Friedman pretended to debate this writer prior to the launch of NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 1997, with its 72.3 pounds of plutonium dioxide. These "debates" with Dr. Friedman, and Dr. Friedman's resume, are available at my STOP CASSINI web site).

Not surprisingly, in Dr. Friedman's proclamations to his minions he never mentions the 16.3 pounds of plutonium dioxide that will be on board PKE (about 90,000 Curies, mostly Pu 238, and some Pu 239). This plutonium represents about 70% of NASA's projected "plutonium requirement" as outlined in a recent Department of Energy "PEIS". This is definitely the mission to stop!

Like TPS's press releases, NASA also never mentions the plutonium that will be on board. The cancelation is being blamed on budget considerations but it is reasonable to believe that it is really due mainly to the public outcry they know they will get if they proceed with the mission. Let's show them they are right!

The plutonium's main purpose is to provide a small amount of electricity by using a thermocouple to convert the heat of radioactive decay. The needed electricity could be obtained with fuel cells or other technologies, or the mission could be scaled back or split into two completely non-nuclear missions. Or we could visit somewhere else in the solar system (99.999999999% (approximately) of the solar system has yet to be explored at all so there are lots of choices) until inevitable technological breakthroughs occur to make a non-nuclear Pluto mission feasible. We really don't need to go there right now, with this dangerous and ill-conceived technology.

I'm sure most PKE letters of support will be from people who have no idea of the potential consequences from an accident. People who don't know that the plutonium on board could be vaporized in a launch accident (especially a "late launch" accident, which could result in a global dispersal). PKE's supporters are surely going to be mostly people who don't know that vaporized plutonium is the most dangerous state of the substance because in that state (tiny particles) it can easily be inhaled or ingested (inhalation being many times more dangerous; and the particulate's range of sizes would be ideal for permanently lodging within the human lung). PKE's supporters are surely going to be mostly people who don't know that plutonium 238, once lodged in a human's lung, is about 280 times more dangerous per unit of mass than plutonium 239, the substance commonly referred to as "the deadliest substance known to man". (Pu 238 has a half-life about 280 times shorter than Pu 239, about 87.75 years versus 24,100 years. This relatively short half-life, meaning the radioactive decay breakdowns occur much more frequently for a given number of atoms, is why Pu 238 is much more dangerous (for less time, but still for many generations) than "weapons grade" plutonium, Pu 239.) PKE's supporters are surely going to be mostly people who don't know that the alpha particles released cause cancer, leukemia and birth defects at all dosage levels (the rate of these effects goes down as the dose level goes down, but the severity of the effects is not changed one iota).

They might know that alpha particles won't even go through a sheet of newspaper. NASA likes to tell people that fact. That's fine if there's a piece of newspaper between your body's living cells and those alpha particles. But once a particle of plutonium is lodged in your lung, there are no barriers to protect you from the alpha particles it shoots off.

Please contact your senators and congresspeople immediately, as well as all your friends, and tell them to oppose Pluto-Kupier Express! It would be appreciated if you "cc" the author of this email as well.

Thank you,


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen, Activist
Carlsbad, California
Please post this email freely

********** END OF MY ORIGINAL PKE ALERT ***************

********* YOUR RESPONSE: **************

Subject: PKE Mission

Mr. Hoffman,

You mentioned that the people who support the Pluto-Kupier Express (PKE)
mission and other missions like Cassini, that carries nuclear fuel, would
only do so because they are unaware of the supposed dangers from radioactive
dispersal of the nuclear elements if there should be a launch mishap. I have
to disagree with you on this point. I am very aware of the effects of
radioactive materials and yet I still support these missions of exploration
to the outer planets of our solar system.

There are many people such as myself who look very carefully at the situation
and have come to conclusions diametrically opposed to yours since we know
that what you are dispersing to the public is a lot more harmful than the
radiation dispersal would be, if it ever occurred. You said that Dr. Louis
Friedman of the Planetary Society only pretended to debate you on these
issues prior to the launch of Cassini. In fact, this is just the way you
react to anyone who does not happen to agree with your analysis. Others have
taken a more objective point of view based on reality, not just what they
want to be true.

I support your right to speak out against things you believe are bad for the
environment, but please make sure that you listen and understand both sides
of the debate yourself. If you choose to keep your head in the sand while the
rest of us are reaching for the stars, then so be it.

Thank you for your time,

Larry Evans
President, Orange County Space Society


********** SOME MORE CRAP FROM YOU: *************

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In a message dated 10/22/00 0:54:33, writes:

<< Well, you haven't had those discussions with me. You've made some lame claims, thrown out some disgusting insults like they were water, and now you are indeed ducking the issues. Considering it was YOU who contacted me, not the other way around, it's pretty obvious that you're simply wimping out now that the going's got tough.

So be it. I don't really blame you because I don't think you CAN find these supposed scientists you claim have the alternate data that would prove your position.

If there are such scientists, I'm not only eager to hear what they have to say, but you have my word I will spend 10 years (minimum) with them if necessary if that's what it takes for them to prove their point. I'm ready to listen because I'm not interested in anything but THE TRUTH. >>

Mr. Hoffman,

Each time this whole issue comes up it is the same thing. You know that there are many scientists out there that have the alternate side to yours when it comes to nuclear power in space. I don't need to cite them to you. You have heard from them before and chosen to ignore them. As you have made clear previously, if someone doesn't agree with your position, then they must be wrong. They can prove their points time and again, but if you choose not to listen, you can spend 100 years with these scientists and nothing will every change.

I have not gotten into a name calling match with you and there is no need for you to start doing this yourself. Mr. Shannon has immediately started to do the same thing. This is why I will not debate. Nothing I, or anyone else, could ever say to either of you would do anything to change your beliefs. Your version of THE TRUTH is yours. It is shared by others, but not by all, and certainly not by the majority. The only reason I contacted you in the first place was to simply state that you were wrong in your comment when you said anyone who supported PKE knew nothing of the real dangers of nuclear power in space. I do not have to prove my credentials to you and have an IQ match to see who supposedly knows more than the other. I consider myself very well informed of the "supposed dangers" and yet I DO support PKE. That's all there is to it so please do not say that all PKE supporters are uninformed. Your original statement was incorrect and I was making sure you were aware of that fact, nothing more.


********** END OF LARRY'S LATEST MISSIVE. ************


You say I've ignored scientists that I've heard from who have the knowledge to prove that 16.3 pounds of plutonium 238 spread throughout the environment is somehow safe (or whatever fact it is you want to prove, you have yet to specify precisely). Name these experts and what fact they've PROVEN which you claim I've ignored. Be very specific because I like to correct my mistakes.

And you've again misrepresented what I said because (as shown above) I said "most" PKE supporters would not understand the risks, I didn't say there are no "experts" whatever that means. I'd love to find these people and learn what they know because I'm pretty scared of what's going on, and a lot of good scientists clearly are too. All the ones I've found who support things like PKE have been specialists in one corner of the arena and do NOT have expertise in all required fields. Dr. Louis Friedman himself admitted early on to never having even heard of Dr. John W. Gofman, which is truly a crime if you want to understand the dangers from low-level radiation, since Gofman's investigative epidemiological work is so seminal to the issue.

If there is a PKE supporter who understands the facts, let him debate those various crucial facts, such as the ones I've mentioned above. If you think it's you, then fire away. I'm sure I can find experts ready for anything I can't handle myself. So fire away.

And I again ask you to show me these experts you rely on -- the one's that you claim exist whom frankly, I haven't been able to find, try as I might. Name them so I can contact them myself. You said, "They can prove their points time and again." Let them do so even once.

And really, where DID you get your incredibly naive version of the facts? I'm not a liar and if you can actually present a cohesive rebuttal (as opposed to a test of your intelligence, which I couldn't care less about), then do so. You should prove your case if you're going to make such a claim.

This country was founded on TRUTH and the right to free speech can be used by anyone (including you) but it was DESIGNED for those of us willing to tell the truth.

You say I disperse lies. PROVE IT. AND do show me where Friedman answered my letters with solid and relevant facts! IT NEVER HAPPENED.

You've insulted me and attempted to destroy my credibility and now you even deny having done that. You are a leopard trying to change your spots.


Russell Hoffman



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First posted April, 2001.

Last modified April, 2001.

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