STOP CASSINI Newsletter #40 -- September 9th, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #40 - September 9th


Cassini made national headlines yesterday. The pro-nuclear Cassini propaganda forces turned up the lies, the heat, and the media manipulation as a result. Not one news report that I saw even mentioned that we are dealing with mostly plutonium 238, not Pu 239 -- as if all plutonium was alike. In fact Pu 238 is 280 times more radioactive per gram than Pu 239 and when in respirable particles in the atmosphere, this is a very significant difference!

Sincerely, Russell D. Hoffman, Editor, STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER

**** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #40 September 9th, 1997 ****
Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #40 September 9th, 1997 ******

By Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman

*** Beverly Cook lies to the media for NASA/DOE

Over the past six months or more, Beverly Cook of the DOE has made many false statements and dreadful oversimplifications regarding the safety of the RTGs on board Cassini. Yesterday, in response to national press coverage of the anti-nuclear Cassini movement's press conference in Washington, D.C., she turned up the heat a few notches:

"These generators were designed for accident conditions. They are designed to withstand any kind of accident that occurs on launch or any part of the trajectory of the spacecraft..." -- Beverly Cook, on Headline News, September 9th, 1997.

This is a pack of lies. According to NASA's documents (page vi of the April 1997 DSEIS, for example) "While the overall probability of an accident that could threaten the RTGs or RHUs during the Cassini mission is...1 in 36, the probability of an accident predicted to release plutonium dioxide is...less than 1 in 345." That is completely at odds with the nationally-aired DOE spokesperson's lies.

Furthermore in the June 1997 SIES, NASA expects that at least 1.7 out of 54 GPHS units will incinerate in the upper atmosphere in a reentry accident, resulting in several pounds of plutonium dioxide being released. This is down from their previous estimate of fully 1/3rd of the plutonium payload (June 1995 EIS)! Aside from disproving Beverly Cooks' statements, that is a pretty big change in the release amounts for something with "37 years" of successful operation behind it!

Beverly Cook is a liar. She distributes lies to the media:

"The Department of Energy points out that NASA has used nuclear energy in space for 37 years without a single accident." Anchorman on Headline News (CNN) September 9th, 1997.

Julie Kirtz, Fox News, September 9th, 1997:

"...Plutonium is highly toxic. If inhaled or ingested in even minute amounts it can cause death by cancer. Still the Energy Department which makes the plutonium batteries say they are safe even during a catastrophic failure like this Delta II explosion seconds after liftoff in January."

(They show the January 1997 explosion featured on the cover of Karl Grossman's book The Wrong Stuff.)

Beverly Cook then says:

"That's EXACTLY what the design requirements are. If there is an explosion in the launch there is absolutely no conditions that would result in a release of plutonium in the air." -- Beverly Cook, DOE, interviewed on FOX NEWS September 9th, 1997.

That's EXACTLY a lie. Beverly Cook is EXACTLY a liar. She does not oversimplify. She does not exaggerate the safety or underestimate the danger. She lies.

The segment's reporter, Julie Kirtz, then said "The anti-nuclear protestors say if they fail to stop Cassini they will hold another demonstration in Florida before the October launch."

Somehow the protests sponsored by LOVEARTH on September 20th in NYC and September 28th in Washington DC were not mentioned. WHO failed to notify the press about these other important upcoming protests? Is it the same WHO who did not invite the author of this newsletter to the press conference, which was obviously the most important press conference in the history of the anti-Cassini mission? Is it the same Who who failed to invite Dr. Horst Poehler as well, a 22-year senior scientist formerly with numerous NASA contractors? And is it the same Who who failed to invite Mark Elsis of LOVEARTH?

Beverly Cook again:

"I, in fact, am so confident in this that I intend to take my family to the launch. to stand there and watch..." The report continued, "NASA, she said, has used nuclear energy for 37 years, on Galileo, Pioneer, and Voyager missions. It's only used when other sources can't be...." Ann Kelly, CNN, Atlanta, September 9th, 1997.

In fact, Beverly Cook has been supplying lies to the public via the unquestioning media for a long time, but this "37 years" figure of successful NASA nuclear launches is just pure malarkey. In fact, NASA has had one accident which definitely resulted in the release of plutonium -- over 2 pounds of plutonium was released directly into the atmosphere when a navigational satellite carrying a SNAP-9A plutonium power pack was INTENTIONALLY INCINERATED after an ACCIDENTAL reentry. That is hundreds of millions of lethal doses worth of plutonium 238.

Apollo 13 with over 8 pounds of plutonium suffered UNKNOWN results for it's plutonium cargo when it's lunar lander incinerated upon INTENTIONAL reentry into Earth's atmosphere following an ACCIDENT.

There is also the NIMBUS-B-1 in 1968, whose RTG was retrieved from the Pacific after an explosion. The fact that no plutonium was released in the Nimbus accident only proves that it could survive a relatively low-speed conflagration. It actually placed the RTGs under far less stressful conditions than Cassini can place them under, especially during the flyby but during late stages of the initial launch as well. NASA got lucky. NASA consistently relies not on skill but on luck and an uncaring public.

All in all, regarding the use of nuclear, NASA (and Russia, I might add) has a TERRIBLE record of safety. Plutonium 238 is so toxic that two pounds of plutonium --the minimum amount NASA has released in accidents -- contains billions of potentially lethal doses. The proper way to report NASA's nuclear history is to say NASA HAS HAD CATASTROPHIC ACCIDENTS IN THE PAST with nuclear power sources and is crossing its fingers (which is NOT very scientific!) on this next launch.

But of course, don't expect the AMERICAN PRESS to report the truth. That would be nearly unprecedented and clearly would buck a trend on THIS issue.

And as for Beverly Cook bringing her family down for the launch, that's fine if that's what she want's to do, but as a repeated plea for pubic sympathy and confidence, it is a cruel use of her family to put them on the PUBLIC NEWS MEDIA front lines like that. If you want to bring them, that's your business, Beverly Cook. But don't announce left and right how that proves you think the launch is safe. Sure, it proves you think the launch is safe. No one denies you feel that way. But the truth is that the launch is NOT safe. If you want to risk it with your family, that's your business, but at least have the decency to stop talking about how you intend to use them as your own private herd of guinea pigs.

*** Vice President's staff say he cares:

On August 14th, 1997 Bill Mason, Director of Correspondence for the Vice President sent me the following letter on VP stationary: It does not, of course, answer any of the many charges we have brought against NASA for failure to properly inform the public.


Dear Mr. Hoffman:

Thank you for contacting the Vice President concerning the Cassini Mission. I welcome this opportunity to respond on his behalf.

We recognize your interest in this matter and believe that all opinions, objections, relevant information, and comments from the general public should be taken into account. Certainly, your views merit careful attention; and you can be assured that your correspondence has been brought to the attention of the Vice President and the appropriate members of his staff.

In addition, I encourage you to continue to take advantage of every opportunity to make your position known to the appropriate officials at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which has jurisdiction in this matter. By doing so, you can ensure that they are aware of your circumstances and responsive to your needs.

Again, thank you for turning to this office with your concerns.

Bill Mason
Director of Correspondence for the Vice President

Printed on recycled paper


NASA and I should talk, it's true. I have many questions to ask them. But NASA needs to respond while giving SWORN TESTIMONY. We need CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS ON CASSINI.

To write to Vice President Al Gore, send letters to:

The Vice President
Washington, DC 20501-0011

Do it TODAY!

*** This just in from Russia


It's hard to agree with you that Cassini mission is so dangerous. I think we must respect what NASA specialists say about their risk estimates. Just remember of the Mars Pathfinder great success. I guess when Cassini will successfully complete its mission 7 years later you will be among those who will praise NASA and all humans for this new remarkable step to better understanding of our universe.

Best wishes,
Nuclear Science Ph.D., Moscow University


~~~ MY RESPONSE: ~~~


Thank you for your email.

Mars Pathfinder had about 1/5000th as much plutonium on board as Cassini will have. Please keep things in perspective.

I would respect NASA scientists more if their statements were consistent from one report to another.

Regarding your affiliation,

I hope you are not one of the reasons the Russian nuclear industry is in such a shambles with numerous contaminated lakes and land masses, contaminated mine workers, blown up plants (Chernobyl), blown up rocket probes (Mars 96), sunken submarines, unaccounted-for warheads, and now the latest: Reports of over 100 "lost" luggage-sized nuclear weapons. As well as a closet full of skeletons and lies.

I also hope you are not one of the Russian Cold War warriors who still helps Russia hold on to tens of thousands of nuclear weapons (which should be dismantled as should ours) for potential use against an enemy that never existed and does not exist now.

I also hope you are not one of the TOPAZ scientists who are selling America a future space nuclear solution potentially even worse than Cassini.

If Cassini makes it to Saturn it will have some nice scientific gain at that point, you are correct. However I do not feel it is worth the risk especially since solar options have been so diligently ignored over the years.

Russell Hoffman
P. S. May I print your letter with your name and email address in my next newsletter or would you prefer that it be anonymous?


Obviously, we have not received permission to use the author's name at press time.

*** EMAIL to/from/to NPR's Science Friday:

Last week we wrote to NPR's Science Friday asking them to link to our web site. In Newsletter #39 we complained about their treatment of Michio Kaku. Yesterday we got this email from them:

At 02:18 PM 9/8/97 "NPR'S TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY" ( wrote:

We have about 8 web sites linked to the SciFri home page. The programmer thinks one of them is the STOP CASSINI site. You can look for yourself at

[Actually, the exact link is at:]

Thanks for your note!

SciFri staff


~~~ MY RESPONSE SENT TO SCIENCE FRIDAY on September 8th, 1997 ~~~


Thank you for your email, shown [above].

What you link to is this (anti-Cassini):

The Cassini Debate: Where Is It?

This is an excellent, very new site designed by Jane Prettyman

Risking the World: Nuclear Proliferation in Space

This is a fantastic article by Karl Grossman.

The Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice

This is a grassroots group in Florida. Their leader dislikes me and they do not link to our web site.

Scans of NASA's Final Environmental Impact Statement for Cassini (a little hard to read)

This is indeed from our web site. You might be interested to know that we chose the size of the scans carefully; they are readable and reasonably small GIFS so that people may get them relatively easily around the world. We have balanced opposing needs. These documents are available for FREE to any United States Citizen directly from NASA at the address shown below. It is NASA's failure to have placed these documents online in the first place that caused me to have to scan them in. I have heard numerous reports that NASA has NOT been sending out copies very quickly. I got mine early, before the rush.

The page you link to is not our STOP CASSINI home page or Table of Contents. I can fix up the link to our STOP CASSINI area from that page of course, (there is one, but it's perhaps not as obvious as it should be) but technically, I would not call it a link to our web site. It's close, I'll give you that, though.

Our STOP CASSINI web site is the largest and oldest such site on the Internet with about 100 articles and newsletters, and some 50 scanned NASA images (your link only brings up about a third of the total.) The address is:

The table of contents is updated frequently and is at this URL:

We also have a newsletter you didn't mention, now in it's 39th issue.

You were told about both the web site and the newsletter in an email sent to you 9/3/97, 9:56 am (shown below). You were also mentioned in newsletter #39, now posted at the web site and sent out after the Sci Fri segment on Cassini. I am curious: which were you responding to?

Thank you,
Russell Hoffman
STOP CASSINI newsletter

Below is what [NPR Science Friday was] sent on Wednesday, September 3rd:

Date: Wed, 03 Sep 1997 09:56:28 -0700
To: (
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" (
Subject: STOP CASSINI web site

to: Science Friday Staff


I have been informed that you are planning to do a show on Cassini Friday, September 5th.

I hope that you will tell you listeners about our extensive STOP CASSINI web site. It is the oldest and by far the largest web site devoted entirely to the STOP CASSINI movement.

It is a collection of about 50 articles, many originally published at the web site. Also, we have scanned-in images from NASA documentation which they themselves have not put online, and also we have published our STOP CASSINI newsletter, now in it's 37th issue, at the web site.

Many of the newsletters debate people from the pro-nuclear Cassini side, including noted pro-nuclear spokespersons such as Louis Friedman, Executive Director of the Planetary Society which has over 100,000 members. (We called on him to resign, in the end.)

I know it's a long one and URL's are hard to give out, but I hope you will try to lead people to our site, after all, NASA will not link to it! (Although many "pro" web pages to, in fact, link to our site.)

Thank you for deciding to present something on the Cassini launch!

Russell Hoffman
Technologist, Futurist, Computer Programmer
STOP CASSINI newsletter


*** Contact NASA for Cassini documentation:

Write to our Government for copies of the Cassini EIS, DSEIS, FSEIS, etc. etc:

Solar System Exploration Division
Office of Space Science
Washington D.C. 20546
(202) 358-0306

For more Government information on the Cassini mission, contact:

Cassini Public Information
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
(818) 354-5011

*** NPR's Science Friday Revisited -- a correction

In the last issue of this newsletter (#39) in an article about NPR Science Friday's coverage about Cassini, we referred to pro-nuclear Cassini proponent Otto Raabe as "some guy from UC Davis" which was an incomplete description. We have learned that in fact Dr. Raabe is the President of The Health Physics Society and Professor Emeritus of Radiation Biophysics at the University of California at Davis, high credentials indeed for this debate.

The Health Physics Society can be visited at this URL:

U.C. Davis is at this URL:

We have never had a conversation with Dr. Raabe but he is welcome to make a comment in this newsletter or write an article for our web site, or write something about Cassini for us to link to at one of his affiliate's web sites.

We regret the error.


Please feel free to post these newsletters anywhere you feel it's appropriate! THANKS!!!

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for reading,
Russell D. Hoffman
STOP CASSINI webmaster.


Previous issue (#39)

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First placed online September 9th, 1997.
Last modified September 9th, 1997.
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