STOP CASSINI Newsletter #57 -- October 10th, 1997

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index

Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #57 - October 10th, 1997


This may be our last newsletter before the launch.

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

***** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #57, October 10th, 1997 *****
Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #57 October 10th, 1997 ******

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

*** Please give yourselves all a round of applause...

The launch is Monday. I'll be at the Washington D.C. rally on Sunday.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has debated the Cassini issue with the Editor, either in print or in private, anonymous to me or to the world, or both, or not, and also, I wish to thank those who have written to support our efforts, correct our mistakes, or add to our knowledge base. Nearly everyone who has communicated with the Editor has been polite and thoughtful, on both sides. It has been an amazing and intense experience.

I wish to thank the pro-nuclear Cassini people, the vast majority of whom have been both exceptionally polite and patient with me. I wish I could claim to have been the same with them at all times.

And I wish to thank the anti-nuclear Cassini activists, who work so hard, against such incredible odds, and with so little resources, and who have been so helpful. And they have worked hard even in the face of overwhelming opposition (even the bravest 87-year old ladies must have SOME fear when facing swat-team type forces!).

I wish also to emphasize two things. First, even for all our complaining, we expect (as any careful reader surely knows) that the mission will succeed. That is the most likely outcome. Second, that if an accident occurs, even a "worst case scenario", it will not end life as we know it on planet Earth. In fact, as we have stated many times, millions might die and statistically we would not even be able to prove it!

So go ahead, NASA, launch your 72.3 pound monument to arrogance aboard your rickety rocket and we'll all take your chances. But your arrogance will defeat you in the end. Your failure to calculate compassion, your dishonest and disingenuous approach to "science" and your condescending attitude towards scientific objections to your actions will ruin you. NASA, you cannot win on tactics and power forever. Statistical truths will catch up with you yet. You are arrogant about Cassini, you are arrogant about Earth Orbital Space Debris, and you are arrogant about your duty to an inquiring public. You are secretive and your PR people offer only simplistic emotional pitches when honest facts are called for.

You write detailed Environmental Impact Statements which admit to virtually nothing and average a thousand accident scenarios together, and then you call it a worst-case assessment.

NASA, here is your own mission statement, as quoted from page A-4 of NASA Pocket Statistics, 1995 edition, "Declaration Of Policy And Purpose":

"Sec. 102 (a) The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes that benefit all of mankind."

Cassini is an unnecessary hazard and could even spark a war if it lands in the wrong place. American prestige will plummet if Cassini fails.

*** Greenpeace Joins the Fray




Washington, October 10, 1997 (GP) - The Directors of Greenpeace International and Greenpeace USA have appealed to President Clinton to postpone the launch of the Cassini space probe to Saturn until NASA can implement a solar-powered alternative. Greenpeace considers the Cassini probe a grave threat to global health and the environment.

Cassini, scheduled to be launched by NASA on Monday, October 13, carries 72 pounds of plutonium in devices that generate electricity. Dispersal of the plutonium in the event of a launch pad accident or disintegration in the atmosphere could pose a grave health risk. Minute particles of plutonium are carcinogenic if inhaled and atmospheric disintegration could lead to exposure of this deadly material to the global population.

In the letter sent on October 8, Thilo Bode, Greenpeace International Executive Director and Kristen Engberg, Acting Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, appealed to Clinton to display global leadership by reconsidering the impact of plutonium dispersal beyond the US borders. The two directors further urged Clinton to direct NASA to develop solar-powered cells to replace the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs), which produce electricity based on the decay heat of the nuclear substance.

"A plutonium-fueled spacecraft not only creates a potential global hazard, but also sends the wrong signal regarding our energy and resource future," said the letter to President Clinton.

The European Space Agency (ESA), which produced the probe, stated in an April 29, 1994, news release that it "has recently developed high efficiency solar cells for use in future demanding deep-space missions." Further technological breakthroughs by the ESA, in the field of high efficiency solar cells, are expected in the next few years. In spite of the pending availability of this alternative technology, NASA has chosen to continue using the dangerous plutonium-based energy source. The ESA stated in the news release that, "Until now, deep space probes had to use thermonuclear power generators, like the so called RTGs (Radioisotope Thermal Generators). As RTG's technology is not available in Europe, ESA therefore attempted to develop a power source based on very high-efficiency solar cells." It is hoped such solar cells will also have terrestrial applications. Solar power is considered an essential energy source for the next century, with current solar technology already in use around the world.

RTGs are produced at the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM. Plutonium-238 in the past was produced in military reactor at DOE's Savannah River Plant, SC, by bombarding neptunium targets with neutrons in the reactor. Separation of plutonium-238 via reprocessing produces a large volume of dangerous high-level nuclear waste; waste which will present an environmental threat for thousands of years.

Greenpeace will oppose future use of plutonium on space launches and will continue to appeal for a halt to the use of this dangerous substance. Likewise, the organization will continue its active campaigning to halt the reprocessing and stockpiling of weapon-usable plutonium (plutonium-239) in France, Britain, Russia, Japan, and other countries. ###

For more information, contact:

Tom Clements,
Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaign,

Andrew Davies,
Greenpeace USA Media Department,

Note to editors:
Letter from Greenpeace to President Clinton is available on request
European Space Agency news release is available on request

Andrew Davies
work: ++1-202-319-2432
pager: ++1-202-801-9697
Greenpeace USA Media Department

~~~~ The above message arrived from: ~~~~~~
Jim Puckett / Asia-Pacific Environmental Exchange
1827 39th Ave. E., Seattle, WA 98112 USA
Phone/fax: 1-206-720-6426


*** Debating a Senior Health Physicist:


At 09:57 PM 10/10/97 "D" wrote:

I am a Senior Health Physicist (ANSI 3.1) that has spent the last 13 or so years of my life dealing with potential health risks from radiation exposure and uptakes of radioactive material. I am also a registered member of the National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologist.

Unfortunately for the general public, most of the information they receive about the dangers of radiation and radioactive material are from people who are misinformed themselves, so they pass their ignorance on to others.

The fact is, most of the cleaners and chemicals underneath the average kitchen sink [are] more hazardous than most of the quantities of radioactive material released to the public. There are a few exceptions such as the medical treatment source that was dismantled in Mexico and smelted at an iron recycling yard or the radiography source that a child found in South America that killed most of the his family before it was found.

People are spreading the "gospel" that there is enough plutonium in CASSINI to destroy the work seven times over. There has been more than that lost, distributed by explosion, and buried as waste. If itís true (which it isnít), weíd already be dead.

NASA has released dose estimates to the public of between 1 and 38 milliREM (mREM) exposure in case of an accident.

People are asking about the natural sources number, so lets talk about it.

Letís start with smoking, it gives the equivalent of 5000 mREM per year if you smoke one pack per day.

The average person receives 200 mREM per year from watching TV.

If you work in a [granite] building or ride the subways of New York, you can receive up to 2000 mREM per year.

Get an X-ray, between 30 mREM for a simple one to 2100 mREM for a mammogram.

The devices used in X-ray machines for diagnostic purpose can "leak" up to 1000 mREM per hour. Treatment machines (for radiation therapy such as cancer) is much higher.

The average person in the U.S. gets about 400 mREM per year due to their normal living activities.

Someone also asked about the effects of the Nuclear Bomb tests - you get about 50 mREM per year if you live in that area of the country.

If you want so ban something and really make a difference in saving lives, ban cars. We could save 48,000 lives and hundreds of thousands of injuries per year. Banning radioactive material use wonít save that many in 1000 years.






Thank you for your email and many interesting comparisons.

I think your logic falls apart around paragraph 4, because at that point you discuss the effects of a clinical exposure where all the plutonium is available for inhalation and none is "lost" to the environment. Seven times over? Perhaps it is 70 times over. But it is indeed somewhere in there. There are a lot of POTENTIALLY fatal doses on board Cassini.

I would appreciate it if you would start the discussion by saying how big a dose of inhaled and ingested plutonium is a health risk. Not external exposures, but internal exposures of Pu 238. You don't give this value. It is difficult to argue two different issues at once, plutonium uptake paths and plutonium hazards once it has been ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through an open wound.

Environmental uptake is not equal to release amount. But how close is it? If there are 5.8 billion people on earth, and there are 7 * 5.8 = 40.6 billion lethal doses, then if merely one in one million of these accumulated in person's bodies in a year's time, that would be about 40 thousand deaths per year. (40.6 thousand is one millionth of 40.6 billion.) Perhaps that is too high a rate of uptake? Well I hope so, because that would be nearly half a million people dead in a decade. I assume Cassini is unlikely to be that catastrophic, but in fact, Dr. Sternglass has estimated potential Cassini deaths in that range.

And don't forget, the plutonium is reuseable. Anyone who dies with plutonium in them and is cremated will have that plutonium particle released for future use. 15% of the plutonium on board Cassini is Pu 239 with a half life of two dozen millennia. Any field or rainforest burned on which plutonium has landed will release that plutonium as inhalable particles, to the environment once again.

And plutonium may bioaccumulate in fish or other sources. How well tested are these paths? Perhaps it will bioaccumulate in plankton and kill off all our beautiful whales? Was a closer look at Saturn worth this?

How much do we know about plutonium's ability to bioaccumulate across all 4,000 known species of mammals, for example, let alone in their (including our-) food sources?

But even without bioaccumulation, the plutonium particles would be available for uptake by nearly 6 billion people now and many more in, say, 20 year's time. A reentry accident can occur in 20 year's time, or even a thousand year's time. The probe may even be traveling FASTER than the "expected" 42,300 mph at that time, so a full release (granted, with some radioactive decay having occurred) should be postulated, and over a crowded, poor, war-torn city on a poverty stricken planet. That is what EIS's are for: presenting worst-case scenarios. NASA's doesn't do that and neither does your thumbnail assessment.

As a health professional you come into the debate accepting certain NASA truisms -- that the dispersal if it occurs will be uniformly spread out after a high-altitude release in the case of a flyby accident, or that the dispersal will be very small if at all in the case of a launch accident.

What if these assumptions are incorrect? A flyby accident will cause whatever GPHS units that incinerate to do so at about 75,000 to 105,000 feet (Cassini GPHS-RTG FSAR, June, 1997 book 4, page 17, exec. summary). Winds are swift up there, but a rainbow of sizes will be created which will lay down a deadly footprint upon the Earth. Also, you can rest assured that some accident scenarios have some of the GPHS units getting "stuck" on the probe and not breaking free at all! These units may bring a stream of vaporized plutonium to a much lower altitude...

The point is that you are assuming an absolutely minimal uptake for all 5.8 billion of us, or 10 or 20 billion of us if it is a few decades from now, and this assumption is unrealistic.

Furthermore your calculations of the effects of extremely low levels of plutonium inhalation and ingestion are probably based on untested projections of the effects at higher levels, are they not? And on dogs, with far shorter life spans? And you average everything, "pretending" that everyone on Earth is a healthy adult (white) male, but there are 10 million newborns alive at any one time -- is their risk the same? NASA never shows a calculation specifically for them, or for unborns...

And what about -- I'm 41, so I remember this stuff -- years ago, they used to talk about being able to slow aging down and extend the average lifespan out to perhaps 200 or 300 years. I'm not saying any progress is being made on that front, but I think it should be allowed, don't you? I mean, we should not degrade the environment to such an extent that if we could figure out other ways to extend life, well, a polluted environment shouldn't stand in our way, right?

All this risk to get to Saturn a little sooner, maybe 13 years sooner or so? Frankly, I am surprised that you health physics professionals are not the first to be protesting this launch! Because I think we have proven that if NASA thought the stuff was dangerous, they could have and would have chosen a different power option or chosen a different mission for now (closer to the sun) while they designed a different power option. Instead you tell them it's safe, when really, I think you know better. I think you are just afraid of anything that smacks of "fear of plutonium" even when that fear is simply a well founded, healthy respect for the stuff. NASA may be nuts, but that doesn't mean you have to agree with them. How much plutonium 238 vapors would you be comfortable with, spread throughout the atmosphere evenly (somehow). What concentration? If NASA risked 720 pounds, would that bother you? 7,200 pounds? You can ask if I would protest 7.2 pounds, or even 7 grams of the stuff (as on Pathfinder) if you like. It's a fair question (which I've answered before)...

Recent studies (I just saw the latest one today) once again indicate that radiation exposure levels are still set way too high even without accounting for 300-year lifespans.

And lastly, you have neglected completely a very interesting phenomena -- that about one in four Americans will die of cancer, and that needs to be brought down, way, way down. If it can be. But if we add potent carcinogens such as vaporized plutonium 238 particles to the mix, it will be much harder to lower those rates.

Thanks again for writing,

Russell Hoffman

*** Is low level radiation more dangerous than previously thought?

INCOMING EMAIL FROM Geoffrey and Karlygash Irmukhan Sea:

The following news item concerns the important work of Dr. Eric Wright from England. I met Dr. Wright two years ago at the Cumbria Conference on Radiation and Health and have kept in touch with him. I can provide bibliographies or copies of selected papers to anyone interested. Dr. Wright's studies have particular relevance to anyone concerned with alpha radiation, low energy beta radiation or the linkage between radiation and cardiovascular disease.



October 9, 1997

LONDON - Radiation, even in very small doses, is far more damaging to health than previously thought, a leading science magazine said Thursday.

Most scientists now believe radiation below the internationally-accepted level of one millisievert per year can damage DNA in a new way that could harm the gene pool, wreck future generations and kill, the New Scientist said.

"It's a horrifying concept. But we now have early indications that it may be happening," Eric Wright of Britain's Medical Research Council (MRC) told the magazine.

[... clip...]

Wright says radiation can also damage cells in a way that cannot be detected until they have divided several times, in what he calls radiation-induced genomic instability.

"I regard the phenomenon as established," he said. "There is no doubt that genomic instability is a real consequence of radiation exposure."

[... clip...]

But David Cox of Britain's National Radiological Protection Board, citing the medical surveillance of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims, told the New Scientist there was no evidence to support the theory that genomic instability can increase the risk of diseases or kill.

But although irrefutable proof is still lacking, the magazine said the genomic instability theory was already causing other scientists working in radiation protection to question the existing safeguards.

Geoffrey and Karlygash Irmukhan Sea
Atomic Reclamation & Conversion Project of the Tides Center
4117 Terrace Street
Oakland, California 94611 USA
Tel: (510) 595-9500
Fax: (510) 547-5272


*** A comment from Kai Petzke regarding "nuclear reactors"

This email responds to item #4 of the NSS document presented (and answered) in newsletter #56. Kai Petzke has sent us many valuable comments which will continue to appear in this newsletter. His web site is reachable from our "Friends of the STOP CASSINI web page":


> 4.RTGs are proven safe. They have no moving parts and cannot meltdown or explode. They are NOT "nuclear reactors."

That is the part of NASA's statements, that I hate most. The *problem* with the RTG's is, that they are NOT "nuclear reactors". Those RTG's contain the nuclear fuel in a form, where it is most dangerous to humans. The decay of Pu 238 is unstoppable. When set free, it will harm people.

Any other nuclear fuel would be safer. A Uranium reactor would be rather harmless before launch, and would still be harmless, if the initial mission was solar, and the reactor would be made critical, when we enter deep space. Ok, there is other problems about the reactors: if we send a small one to deep space, the DoD probably sends a big one to low earth orbit next. But to repeat it: the RTG's are so unsafe, because they are *not* a nuclear reactor. GRRR. Any mediocre physics student can prove that fact. Yet NASA can go on to claim their wrong stuff.

-- (Kai Petzke)


*** Will the Discovery Channel present a balanced panel?



Date: Fri, 10 Oct 1997 22:45:26 +0000




This next letter is a representative sample. We have refrained from printing these for a zillion reasons, but we thought this issue, we should let one slip through, so we could take the occasion to thank everyone who has written us letters like this over the course of the debate. I don't know if I could have "hung in there" without letters like this coming in, but I'm very thankful I didn't have to find out.


I wanted to write to congratulate you on all of your efforts to stop Cassini. You have stood up for your beliefs (and did a very good job doing it) while others have not, and have been a source of inspiration and enlightenment for the past few weeks I have been reading your newsletter. I have the deepest and utmost respect for what you have done and continued to do. I still can't believe they are actually going to send it up, but that just proves there is ignorance teeming in the government and NASA, and hopefully citizens like you and I will correct this come election time (that is, if there is an election time). Thank you for all of your effort and time, I hope you never feel that it was for nothing.



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.


Next issue (#58) (First post-launch issue.)
Previous issue (#56)

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