STOP CASSINI Newsletter #71 -- August 27th, 1998

Copyright (c) 1998

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Talk of what might have been on the Titan IVA continues. Boeing's newest Delta III rocket explodes during it's first launch attempt. And do we need CVN's?

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

***** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #71, August 27th, 1998 *****
Today's subjects:

****** VOLUME #71, August 27th, 1998 ******

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

*** Delta Dawn -- Titanic Blunder

For those who didn't read the right papers, or see the smattering of news reports, Boeing's newest (and you would think, safest and most advanced) Delta III rocket exploded in a huge fireball a minute into its inaugural launch last night. That's a titanic and shameful blunder if you ask me, which adds tremendously to the National Shame, especially coming just two weeks after our possibly-plutonium-packed friend the Titan IVA blew up.

It's time for Congressional Hearings on our space policies. When will America finally take our rightful control of the industrial/military/nuclear/space overlords who are destroying this planet, wasting hundreds of billions of dollars of desperately needed funds, terrorizing the populace, and then lieing about it and calling it "science"? Soon I hope.

The Delta was a $250 million dollar mission. This editor saw reports of this accident in San Diego's North County Times (just 50 words on page 3) and once on Turner's Headline News, with some video. Have launch accidents become so commonplace the newsmedia no longer think's they are worth reporting?

*** More on the IV

Note: This next section has been corrected. The "project engineer" did not call the Art Bell Show, Karl Grossman did. See Newsletter #72 for details of this correction.

A really weird thing is that the "project engineer", after his first move, should then do a BIGGER move in terms of the publicity but deliver no more "real goods" (aka "proof"), when if the first move were really a risky act (being, of course, possibly considered treason) then this would be sheer suicide, since the military would be already looking for the "informant". If he had more to say, it would be one thing, but to just talk louder -- well, we all heard him the first time.

Also, both times he phoned in. The government/military can trace phone calls pretty easily. This guy was not trying to get away with this!

This guy is trying to stir up trouble! If the call was real the military police would be at DEFCON 8 or whatever trying to find the guy after his first act.

On the other hand, he certainly has reopened the case for us. Did the government plant him for that? I mean, he calls NC-WARN, then a few days later when everyone's stirred up, and when the government would be (in theory) searching wildly for him, he calls Art Bell? Bold, fearless, cunning? I doubt it. I think he's a government plant, so maybe we should all just leave him alone and let him do his job.

The details this guy gives are consistent across the two stories, and INCONSISTENT with any known science or logic. Hopefully someone has had a chance to compare voices as well. So what is the truth?

Certainly Hurricane Bonnie is dissipating whatever Pu 238 might be in the air from the Titan explosion. After Bonnie, even the 22 pounds this guy says was on board would become much harder to find, but of course, even if so much as a gram got out, that would be a disaster, or at least newsworthy, yet there has been only a deafening silence from the major media on this "rumor".

Why? Because of the provocateur, the plant. His action stopped the questions, because major media could see he was a hoax (by talking to any qualified scientist). And, no one seems to understand (or care) what the real worries should be:

A) Was there in fact an RTG on board (I for one believe there was) that did NOT (for the most part) get vaporized?

B) WHO -- who, live in the flesh -- made the phone calls to Art Bell and NC-WARN spreading false rumors about a full incineration?

C) Why didn't the local environmental group, FCPJ, that is supposed to be watching out for this sort of thing, move right away and get out some geiger counters or at least draw some samples? Now, two weeks later and after Bonnie especially, it's probably too late to find anything. Why no action? Sure, a full incineration would be easy to find, but even 1/100,000th of a full incineration would be an environmental assault that would be front page news if the truth were known. But that would be very hard to test for, and the testing would need to have been done right away. Why did the local (Florida) environmental organization involved with this topic drop the ball?

D) Perhaps the nuclear space program's fancy containment system for their plutonium 238 powerpacks -- the RTG's (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators) that NASA ballyhooed greatly for Cassini worked less than perfectly for this mission's (alleged) single RTG unit (Cassini had three). America has a right to know if the system either failed or passed such a "test". It would vindicate their or our position on this specific part of the issue. If there was an RTG on board and it partially failed this "test", the public have a double right to know because of the immediate and long-term potential health consequences.

E) If there was no RTG, and no plutonium, the public should DEMAND that the government find the jerk purporting to be a "project engineer" who called Art Bell and NC-WARN. But if there actually was an RTG, and it was ever so slightly destroyed (NOT a full dispersal) then the public has a right to know that. And the jerk, while still a jerk, might be forgiven, especially if his mistake was an honest one.

Bottom line:

One way or another, this and other incidents show that the United States military is out of control even amongst its own citizenry, whom it controls and pacifies by tactical and strategic misinformation campaigns which an overburdened, overly competitive, and woefully undereducated collection of airhead reporters then passes off as news. Incapable of presenting an in-depth story of any sort, these reporters gather enough news to make a story that sounds good in two-minutes (or less), and then they run with it.

In this case, upon hearing that there is some nutcase claiming there was a full dispersion, the reporters probably concluded that the "whackos" who oppose our wonderful and perfect military's excesses against the environment we all share have come up with some new whacko theory about something, and they conclude, "So what?". Well, it wasn't our theory, but what's left even after the nutcase is disposed of, is still potentially very chilling.

I've described and posted at my web site, what I (and others) believe are technically -- and philosophically -- sound reasons to think an RTG might have been aboard the Titan IVA, and I welcome, as always, responses, which I'd publish, if I had any. So far, nothing. Dead air from those who have been, traditionally, so quick to condemn my every word against the military/civilian/nuclear/space program. And, the silence rings louder and louder with each passing day.

All we know for sure happened was that a Titan IV blew up, and then there was a plant by someone of misinformation which could only have been to disrupt the flow of real information. There is no doubt this "project engineer" is a hoax. He has perpetrated a grave and disgusting lie on the American public.

I believe our military has forgotten that their real enemies are NOT their fellow citizens, or the environmental policies those citizens are attempting to enact over a nuclear industry that has gone completely mad. Our military has a concept, called "collateral damage" which they have completely inappropriately applied to civilian casualties from the Cold War, and whatever one chooses to call the current state of affairs.

I call it the Post Cold War War, plus Global Threats of Terrorism from Small Groups. It is not a good enough excuse to risk nuclear nightmares from space like the Titan IVA might have been, or from the sea like the John C. Stennis is (see below).

*** Letter to San Diego Union-Tribune (unpublished, at least so far)

Bernie Jones, Op-Ed Editor
San Diego Union-Tribune
San Diego, CA
Fax: (619) 293-1440

August 24th (slightly enlarged/corrected August 25th-26th) 1998

Dear Mr. Jones:

It seems The Union Tribune has once again dragged out their boilerplate editorial used to marginalize the opposition to whichever nuclear fiasco our government wishes to perpetrate on the world, in this case the homeporting of three nuclear aircraft carriers in San Diego Bay.

And once again, their facts are wrong, or at least the statements presented as facts are in fact conjecture.

Today's editorial calls it fear mongering. Yet when you look at the details of what the opposition is saying, you will find that the descriptions of what might happen are perfectly accurate, and in most cases, their facts are taken directly from official government sources. The facts are chilling, and the fear is reasonable.

Even if, like I do, you support a strong America and wish it to remain the strongest nation on Earth, there is still cause for serious concern about the manner in which we perpetrate our strength. Are nuclear aircraft carriers even still necessary against today's threats? The answer is no: Conventional aircraft carriers could do the job. One of the historic advantages promoted for the nuclear carriers was the ability to remain at sea for long stretches. However, tender ships can supply conventionally powered ships with fuel, so they can likewise stay at sea as long as desired. The nuclear aircraft carrier concept began when the threat appeared to be a prolonged global war similar to, but far deadlier than, World War I or World War II. But times change. First of all, America has achieved global domination of the sea, sky, and even space (if we could just get the rockets to stop blowing up on launch, that is, like the Titan IVA two weeks ago). Second of all, those countries that could possibly threaten that domination are nuclear neighbors and well acquainted with MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) and other threats. They know we have dozens of nuclear-missile-equipped submarines, they know each nuclear missile carried by these subs is capable of destroying hundreds of target cities. Third and on top of all that, we don't even currently consider those countries which might be capable of disrupting our global domination as serious threats, having declared (on the Union-Tribune's pages, for example) that the Cold War is over.

Thus, there is no need of these ships. There is no reason to think that an assortment of tender ships could not completely supply any aircraft carrier with whatever it needs. Consider also, that that is exactly what happens right now. A bevy of support ships keep the fuel for the airplanes, for instance, and pump it on board the aircraft carrier every couple of days or so. This happens now with AVGAS, not to mention MRE's for the 5,000 or so crewmembers on board the CVN, and lots of other things. There is a constant resupply of many items, and an encirclement of protective and support ships (known, of course, as THE FLEET). The main boilers could be fed with oil, without nearly as grave a risk to the environment. The nuclear aircraft carrier is an old, unneeded, snarling, mangy, rabid dog. It's time to put it away. Like prop-plane bombers and biplane fighters before that, it no longer can justify its existence.

So if the answer to the first question, are nuclear aircraft carriers even necessary? is no (and as I have just tried to show, they are not) then the fact that they are capable of catastrophic accidents is very, very reasonable to consider. Why risk losing San Diego Bay, the key to America's Finest City, to an accident involving an unnecessary military weapon? I mean, I could see it if there were a need, but with absolutely no provable need, it makes no sense. We value our Bay too much.

The editorial refers to the eminent arrival of the John C. Stennis, later to be joined by two sister ships, as "cause for celebration". How sure is the editorial staff of the Union Tribune? Are they calling for the same sort of celebration we witnessed in India and Pakistan a few months ago after those nations joined (or rejoined) the nuclear "elite" with their underground (for the most part) nuclear weapons tests, followed shortly thereafter by India's missile tests? Shall we celebrate our need for war machines, or our ability to build the biggest and baddest of them all, the way they do in India, which has, by the way, a 90% illiteracy rate?

We have at least a 90% won't-bother-to-read rate, which is perhaps more shameful. The Navy's Environmental Impact Statement for the John C. Stennis alone, which was inappropriately separated from the other two CVN's to minimize the actual numerical values and thus the perceived environmental impact from the Navy's homeporting plans, was hundreds of pages long. How many on the Union-Tribune's staff read it? How many members of the public do the Union-Tribune editors think have read it? But the folks at the Environmental Health Coalition, whom the editorial refers to as "at it for years", have read it. Their complaints are based on what it says, and they have indicated appropriate published scientific data in response. And, it has taken them years to do the proper research. Yes, they have been at it for years, and it's a good thing, too!

Their other complaints include numerous counts of our United States Navy stonewalling them, investigating them (they are all U.S. citizens of good standing, who are merely exercising the very rights our sailors have sworn to fight to uphold, and which sailors before them have died to uphold), maneuvering for political gain rather than for sound scientific, business, or military reasons, and even, of course, the occasional flat-out lie or gross misrepresentation.

For example, I don't know where the Union Tribune's editors get the idea that our nuclear Navy has operated all these years without "a single documented instance of environmental damage caused by the Navy's reactors". But I bet they got that straight from Navy spokespersons. There are in fact two U.S. nuclear submarines that to this day lie on the bottoms of the planet's fragile oceans, unsalvaged and believed to be unsalvageable. (There is a whole rusting fleet of Soviet ones sitting in the harbor at Murmansk.) The radioactive contents of these ships, if not already spewing out into our fragile ecosystem, are bound to sooner or later.

Now the editors will claim, no doubt, that these two U.S. accidents, both of which caused a loss of all hands (they are the Scorpion and the Thresher) were not "caused by the Navy's reactors" and this appears to be true. About as true as President Clinton's statements early in the year that were "legally accurate" concerning Monika Lewinsky. So sure, they are certainly "legally accurate". The reactors themselves apparently did not fail (although, we don't actually know for sure why either of these subs sank.). But by simply being there, the reactors are by far the worst concern of these accidents. The reactors are now ecological disasters to the surrounding environs where they sit.

The ocean's floors are not so very far away from the rest of us, or are the Union-Tribune's editors still of the belief that the world is a gigantic open space where we can dump anything any time and forget it? It's actually a small, closed system where you can run, but you cannot hide.

Can the Union-Tribune's editors not see that the full story of the John C. Stennis includes not only the Uranium tailings which right now are spilling radioactive waste and chemicals into the Colorado River (and which the Union-Tribune finally (at least three decades late) wrote about not long ago) but also, the full story includes the inevitable question of what to do with the radioactive, rusting hulk, when the ship is decommissioned. You welcome her now, but do you wish for San Diegans to store her waste as well, each time she is refueled and when she is finally laid to rest? From now to when she is decommissioned is only a heartbeat compared to the length of time her poisonous remains must be watched over and cared for. There is not enough money for schools, or Friday evening trains, or year-round lifeguards. Do you seriously think there will be money to stand watch over this crud for however long it takes? Or are you relying on the eternal dream that some new and as yet unimagined technology will come along to solve the problem of the Stennis's nuclear wastepile? And where will tomorrow's new technology come from, when we cannot afford to raise any more scientists in our schools today?

And what if she is not laid to rest? What if an Exocet-type missile sends her down first, in some future global conflagration, which would create yet an even greater environmental disaster wherever she happens to be at the time? During the Fauklands War between England and Argentina, which was the only thing even remotely close to a modern sea engagement of two well-equipped, highly sophisticated enemies, England's carriers were regarded as sitting ducks and political cartoonists at the time even drew them as such. Then, as now, the carriers relied on a surrounding fleet of sophisticated support ships capable of first detecting, and then controlling the response to, a threat such as from a French-built Exocet missile, which Argentina had a few of. One of those detection and control ships was the Sheffield. I guess you could say she did her job: the Sheffield was shredded by an Exocet missile with the loss of over 350 British sailors. That of course, left everything she was protecting vulnerable.

Perhaps our protection systems are better than England's were back then (I would hope so) but so are the threats: Today's equivalent of yesterday's Exocets are faster, more stealthy, and pack a bigger punch. Probably cheaper too, and smaller. And we certainly have no real battle experience to rely on. (Iraq was not a sophisticated enemy.) We do know, however, that the Air Force has been testing anti-missile missiles again, the last few years. So far they are exactly Oh for Five and Congress is thinking of stopping the program or making the contractor pay if they cannot get the thing to work at least a little, soon.

Sitting ducks. That's what we've got here. Vulnerable, expensive sitting ducks.

If a nuclear power plant on board one of these aircraft carriers (and there will be six, two each) or on any of the subs were to get very far into a sequence which the operators feel could result in a meltdown of the reactor core, they will, as a "last resort", flush the primary coolant loop with seawater. Not to mention, of course, the secondary coolant loop. The Navy guarantees in writing that they will do this, and it is certainly the only "logical" thing to do in such an emergency. But if they are in the bay when it happens (and startup and shut-down of a reactor traditionally are the most dangerous times) the result will be a level of contamination to San Diego Bay which will kill tourism, and not to mention perhaps all aquatic life in the bay. It is an accident which I agree the Navy has probably never had, but they know it can happen and so should the Union-Tribune's editors and readers.

The consequences would be tens of billions of dollars in lost tourism alone, which would make the paltry 250 million the Stennis might bring in seem a poor downpayment on the costs of the disaster. Perhaps we will be called America's Chernobyl or America's Murmansk. Perhaps we will be nicknamed "America's Brightest City" after such an accident, and not because of the wonderful new downtown library we plan to build instead of another ballpark. Perhaps a copy of the EIS will be available at the library, but it sure won't be at the ballpark! The Union-Tribune's editors act as if to mention the possible consequences is somehow fear mongering. But it is merely looking reality in the eye. Reality for San Diego includes finally building an elevated mag-lev transportation system to Los Angeles and then on towards San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, not to mention to Tijuana, Mexico. We should be competing to be the first at that, not the first to suffer a nuclear meltdown. It would bring at least as many jobs based on government money, and be far more useful, and infinitely safer. The choice should be ours, and the facts should be before us.

I cannot recall one report in the Union-Tribune which described what the actual effect of a "worst case scenario" would be. No detailed descriptions of the leukemia and cancer victims such an accident would cause, or of the other health effects the millions of residents and millions of tourists in San Diego would suffer. Well, not the tourists. They'd stop coming. And not the rich people. They'd move.

It's not fear mongering to put all the cards on the table, but The Union-Tribune will not do it.

Lastly, I wish to comment on the paper's claim that "mainstream environmental experts have raised no objections". The editorial then proceeds to name three government agencies, as if all the "mainstream environmental experts" work for the government. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps the paper's editors work for the government, or have they just lost their ability to question the government's actions, and the willingness to encourage and respect others who do, which I would hope, they might have once had? The San Diego Union Tribune is the "paper of record" in San Diego. These are my thoughts. I feel you have censored me often since I moved here 6 1/2 years ago and began writing to you -- far more often than you have published my words. I hope that this time these words will make it onto the paper's pages, if only to balance the dreamy pablum and rude insults of this latest editorial against the Environmental Health Coalition (which the editors were too ashamed to name directly along with their insults), a fine group of outstanding and upstanding residents concerned with the health and well being of this community.


Russell D. Hoffman
The Animated Software Company
(for affiliation purposes only)
Note: This is a new and improved version with some corrections.

The URL of the web site of the USS John C. Stennis:


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First placed online August 27th, 1998.
Last modified June 25th, 1999.
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