NASA's next nuclear horror

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



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First placed online April, 2001.
Last modified April, 2001.
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