Part II | ToC | References

Nuclear Technology:
The Inappropriate Exercise of Human Intelligence

-- and Given This, What Is Appropriate?
by dave ratcliffe

It is not a normal situation when the people who are in charge
of the fate of a whole civilization lie quite openly to the whole world.
--Dr. Vladimir Chernousenko,
     Physicist and Scientific Director of the Chernobyl "clean-up", 1986-91,
     testifying at the World Uranium Hearings in Salzburg, September, 1992.

PART I: Shattering Treacherous and Lethal Assumptions

We need now, as we have for more than fifty years, to articulate and then dispel and shatter the false and exceedingly lethal assumptions underlying the "promises" of nuclear technology. The hierarchies of centralized authority, which have the greatest vested interest in perpetuating the employment of this technology, have lied about its true costs from the very beginning. These hierarchies include the Fortune 500 [1] / Global 500 [2] corpses [3], G7 governments, the World Bank [4] [5] [6] and International Monetary Fund, known by "grassroots" as players in The World Game. These players have a deep, abiding financial interest in and obsession with the promotion of nuclear weapons and energy. Collectively they have said and will continue to say and do anything to maintain the continuation of this technology with the falsehoods, uttered for decades regarding the "energy angle", about its being "safe", "clean", and "cheap". Such assumptions as, "There can be a peaceful promotion of atomic energy," and, "It has not been proven that exposure to low-level ionizing radiation causes cancer," are lethal to the extreme. Since the early 1940s such deceitful suppositions have sustained the nuclear nightmare that has seized upon and threatens all life, and all of its future, here on Earth.

This essay articulates some of the fundamentally treacherous assumptions underlying claims used by nuclear industrial interests, to justify further development and the ongoing employment of this technology in our society and on our ineffably precious and irreplaceable planetary home. It concludes with a partial listing of what our response abilities provide us with in the exercise of our true intelligence. Let us begin with the most essential and obfuscated fact to understand about nuclear weapons -- which was known by the original bomb creators back at the very beginning of this new epoch.

The Utterly Inappropriate Exercise of Human Intelligence

What has carefully been obscured since the "dawn of the atomic age", when men in the Manhattan Project such as Enrico Fermi, Robert Oppenheimer, and Edward Teller were attempting to build an atomic bomb, is acknowledgement of the fact that the nuclear bomb is primarily a biological weapon. This is chronicled by Richard Rhodes in his book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb when he relates how, in April of 1943, Enrico Fermi

proposed . . . to Robert Oppenheimer . . . that radioactive fission products bred in a chain-reacting pile might be used to poison the German food supply. . . .
          Oppenheimer . . . discussed Fermi's idea with Edward Teller. The isotope the men identified that "appears to offer the highest promise" was strontium, probably strontium 90, which the human body takes up in place of calcium and deposits dangerously and irretrievably in bone. Teller thought that separating the strontium from other pile products "is not a very major problem."[7]

In fact, it was earlier than this, in 1940, that

Otto Frisch and Rudolf Pierls described in a three-page paper how uranium-235 could be assembled into a critical mass producing an atomic explosion. And they noted:
          In addition to the destructive effects of the explosion itself, the whole material of the bomb would be transformed into a highly radioactive state. The energy radiated by these active substances will amount to about 20 percent of the energy liberated in the explosion, and the radiations would be fatal to living beings even a long time after the explosion.[8]

This fact -- that from the beginning it was understood that nuclear technology provided a new form of biological weapon "fatal to living beings" disbursed via the radioactive matter generated in the reaction -- coupled with the fact that the nuclear fuel "cycle" continues to generate more and more lethal hi-level and low-level radioactive fission products, has created an absolutely untenable situation for the ongoing survival of life on Earth. The interlocking dynamic between these two facts -- the essential nature of nuclear technology providing a new class of biological weapon combined with the consequences to the biosphere of mining and processing uranium, both of which are producing such orders of magnitude more poisonously destructive material than anything heretofore generated by man -- is the utterly inappropriate exercise of human intelligence. By continuing these joint activities we betray not only our own instinctual and intuitive intelligence for survival, but our unique responsibility for the future of all life exploring itself here on Earth.

Websters defines intelligence as, "1. a) the ability to learn or understand from experience; ability to acquire and retain knowledge; mental ability; the ability to respond quickly and successfully to a new situation; use of the faculty of reason in solving problems, directing conduct, etc. effectively". In spite of the knowledge promoters of the nuclear juggernaut have had for over five decades regarding the inimical-to-life nature of digging up uranium and tinkering with it on so vast a scale, they continue to engage in this inherently inappropriate exercise of human "intelligence". Asking "Why?" only points to the profit motive and pursuit of self-aggrandizement which is not at all sufficient to respond decisively to and deal effectively with this crisis. What is critical to understand is that the results of such behavior are already evident to those not trapped in their own self-deception and demand a truly intelligent and well-reasoned response if we are to succeed in reversing the toxifying magnitude of what has taken place in fifty-plus short years.

It is essential to recognize that what is euphemistically labeled "the nuclear fuel cycle"[9] is not a "cycle" at all, but rather the route uranium travels starting from the hundreds of millions of tons of uranium tailings left at mine sites around the world[10], past intermediate stops such as enrichment, the reactor fuel process, and reprocessing, to "final storage" which doesn't exist. Calling this process a cycle promotes the deception that it is a circular, closed loop implying the possibility of recycling. All the radioactive fission products (the radioactive elements that are generated when uranium atoms are split) created in this route uranium travels, constitutes the most pernicious and poisonous physical matter being generated by man on the planet.[11] The unrivaled incoherence of this human activity is laid bare in the fact that no one in the above-cited hierarchies of authority has acknowledged that they do not have any idea how to ensure 100% containment and isolation of this material from the biosphere over its lifetime of upwards of millions of years.[9] [12]

Chernobyl: Some of the Actual Costs of Nuclear Power

It has now been only 10 very short years since the worst industrial catastrophe ever created by man occurred on Earth near the town its people know as Chornobyl. The results of this staggering assault on the integrity and viability of the biosphere will remain present and ongoing for thousands of generations of human existence. This is one of the actual costs of nuclear energy: a legacy of poisonous contamination of immense areas of the earth that will continue to negatively impact the health of all life for millenia.

A very partial list of some of these costs includes:

Physiologically and psychologically for those directly afflicted, psychologically for their families and friends, biologically for the food, earth, and water, economically for the civil systems of authority -- all of these areas constitute some of the true costs we pay by employing nuclear energy. Is there anything that can possibly justify paying such a terrible price? "The consequences, likewise, have spread far beyond the nuclear energy industry and raise fundamental questions for a technological civilization" says Yuri Shcherbak writing in Scientific American.[18] Mr. Shcherbak is ambassador of the Ukraine to the U.S., an epidemiologist, and founder of the Ukrainian Green Movement (now Green Party). In 1989 he was voted into a seat on the USSR's Supreme Soviet where he initiated the first parliamentary investigation of the Chernobyl disaster.

Some Fundamental Questions

Let us pause a moment to consider some "fundamental questions," specific to the employment of nuclear technology in our civilization, which must be honestly and openly addressed if we are to have a chance of ensuring a healthy future for the seventh generation yet unborn. (What other questions can you think of that belong on this list?)

  1. Why do we continue to play with and produce more and more of this poisonous nuclear fire when we do not have any way to contain its lethal properties for the requisite lifetime -- millions of years -- of its longest-lived radioactive isotopes?

  2. Why do we accept the claim, by nuclear industry promoters, that making steam by heating water in a nuclear reactor to spin a wheel is a "cheaper", "cleaner", and "safer" means of producing consumable energy than pursuing the development and deployment of such alternatives as wind, solar, and biomass?

  3. Are centralizing energy-producing technologies such as nuclear power more sustainable, and thus preferable, to such de-centralizing ones as solar, biomass, wind, and energy-efficiency?[19]

  4. How can a sane person honestly believe, much less claim, that nuclear weapons are an intelligent, rational means of providing "security" from violence, and that their use in the biosphere can be "limited" to only affect "military targets"?[20]

  5. How can sane human beings continue to condone any technology created in the absence of true public debate where all partake of and take part in the decision as to its appropriateness for the civilization and planet as a whole?

  6. For what perceived benefit can society sacrifice the health of future generations?

  7. What is the true meaning and value of a technology which, by its fundamentally toxic nature, requires the abdication of each person's freedom and liberty in order to ensure it is not acquired and employed by "terrorists".

  8. Who are the real "terrorists", in a world where governments possess nuclear weapons and are the primary promoters of nuclear energy?

  9. How can the actual health, environmental, psychological, and economic costs of nuclear technology be honestly and accurately assessed by governments -- the largest single sources of funding for such studies -- who are at the same time the single largest promoters of this technology for purportedly "peaceful" purposes?

  10. If government authorities truly believe what they pronounce about the "clean bill of health" they give to the nuclear industry, then why do they only allow certain scientists to examine and study their voluminous records from places like Hanford, Washington, Muroroa, and Savannah River, Georgia?

  11. If nuclear power is "safe," why did the US government pass the Price-Anderson Act to circumvent the fact that since the 1950s the insurance industry has refused to insure homeowners against nuclear accidents via the Nuclear Exclusion clauses included in all homeowner's policies?[21]

If such questions continue to be side-stepped, ignored and unaddressed, we will continue to experience the vitality of our world and our collective future inexorably and irrevocably damaged and diminished by further insults to the biosphere and to the very genetic fabric of life within this "life sphere" from future "Chernobyls" as well as from the ongoing mining and transmutation of uranium. As Dr. Gordon Edwards points out,

          Basically, what we are doing on the planet by mining uranium is two things: All uranium ends up as either nuclear weapons or highly radioactive waste from nuclear reactors. That's the destiny of all uranium that's mined. And in the process of mining the uranium we liberate these naturally occurring radioactive substances, which are among the most harmful substances known to science.
          So, I think that we as a human community have to come to grips with this problem and say to ourselves -- and bearing in mind one other thing, and that is, that nuclear technology never was a solution to a human problem. We have here a situation where it is a technology in search of an application. We don't need nuclear technology for electricity. All you need for electricity is to spin a wheel, and there's many ways of doing it: water power, wind power, etc., etc. Nuclear power needs an application. It's up to us as humans in a community to say: Enough is enough! We do not want to permanently increase our radiation levels on the planet. We have enough problems.[22]

In our culture there is a fundamental thought associated with the above. Since 1945 there has been the belief that there was one time when nuclear technology was a "solution" to a human problem. Popular mythology states that dropping the atomic bomb on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified and the result of rational deliberations. Stewart Udall, in his book, THE MYTHS OF AUGUST, A Personal Exploration of our Tragic Cold War Affair with the Atom, chronicles his own penetrating inquiry into and scrutiny of the following:

The men and women of my generation had, for a half-century, nurtured the belief that

  • the U.S. had won a race with Hitler's scientists;
  • the bomb was an American breakthrough in physics;
  • the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war; and
  • these two bombs saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and Japanese civilians.

But where these beliefs rooted in realities, or were they the manifestations of myths? This book describes an effort to ascertain the truth about these issues.[23]

Udall was a three-term congressman from Arizona, Secretary of the Interior for eight years in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and has represented citizens in his region who were suing the federal government for radiation injuries inflicted on them by the nation's nuclear weapons industries.[24] In his book, Udall demonstrates with substantial sourcing the fallacies and misrepresentations of the four beliefs listed above. Military commander of the Manhattan Project General Leslie Groves and Secretary of War Henry Stimson were the directors of the birth and only military use ever of atomic weapons. There will be those who scoff at Udall's exposition of historical facts meticulously described and documented. But this is more a result of the power of propaganda elevated to the realm of myth, which serves only to rationalize and justify falsehoods, rather than a non-pre-judging, open-ended curiosity to ascertain the facts surrounding the actual series of events that initiated "the dawn of the atomic age", and inexorably set in motion the subsequently toxic age of secrecy dubbed the Cold War and beyond.

People who take the time to read the first 125 pages -- section I. THE DAWN TIME OF THE ATOMIC AGE -- of THE MYTHS OF AUGUST will find themselves having to re-examine and re-assess the exceedingly powerful myths that completion of the building of the atomic bomb was required to win a "race" with Hitler's scientists, and that its use in the bombing of two Japanese cities was necessary to end the war at the earliest possible moment.[25] This first-and-only use of atomic weapons against civilian metropolises is always cited and defended as having been "necessary" and "warranted". From the very beginning such justification for the "benefits" of the atomic bomb has served to legitimate the employment of nuclear technology throughout our civilization. However such beliefs have not only been toxic to the extreme for the biosphere and all life within it, but also devastatingly toxic to the very fabric of human consciousness which has fallaciously rationalized the wide-spread employment of this fundamentally death-dealing technology.

Low-Dose Exposure to Radiation: No Safe Threshold

This much is clear -- the laws of nature ensure no other outcome is possible: if we continue to contaminate our world, we will suffocate in the toxicity we create. There are no "appeals" we can "file" to the laws of nature. Pretending this fact does not exist is at the heart of the attempts to falsify and lie about the known toxicological and carcinogenic effects of radioactive isotopes and fission products on living cells and their DNA. This is especially true with respect to low-level ionizing (also called "low-dose") radiation.

Proponents of nuclear technology falsely claim that no harm has ever been proven to be caused from exposure to very low-doses of radiation.

It is factually wrong to believe or to claim that no harm has ever been proven from very low-dose radiation. On the contrary. Existing human evidence shows cancer-induction by radiation at and near the lowest possible dose and dose-rate with respect to cell-nuclei. By any reasonable standard of scientific proof, such evidence demonstrates that there is no safe dose or dose-rate below which dangers disappear. No threshold-dose. Serious, lethal effects from minimal radiation doses are not "hypothetical," "just theoretical," or "imaginary." They are real.[26]

The above is taken from "An ``Open Letter'' to Editors of Major Journals and Newspapers, to Science Reporters and Physicians," by Dr. John Gofman, showing, "in abbreviated fashion, the factual basis for rejecting the claim that no harm has yet been proven from low-dose radiation . . . Assertions in this communication are supported in detail, and with very specific sourcing, in Gofman 1990 [27] (Chapters 18, 19, 20, 21, 32, 33). . . . We have found no refutation of our proof. On the contrary, our method is extensively confirmed in the 1993 report of the United Nations (UNSCEAR 1993, esp. pp.627-636, p.681, p.696 Table 17)." [emphasis added] Gofman's background and credentials (described in detail below) provides substantial weight to the fact that there has been no refutation to the proof given.

It is important to recognize that the essential quality of any poison which can be diluted to a weaker and weaker concentration does not apply to ionizing radiation:

[I]onizing radiation is not like a poison out of a bottle where you can dilute it and dilute it. The lowest dose of ionizing radiation is one nuclear track through one cell. You can't have a fraction of a dose of that sort. Either a track goes through the nucleus and affects it, or it doesn't. So I said "What evidence do we have concerning one, or two or three or four or six or 10 tracks?" And I came up with nine studies of cancer being produced where we're dealing with up to maybe eight or 10 tracks per cell. Four involved breast cancer. With those studies, as far as I'm concerned, it's not a question of "We don't know." The DOE has never refuted this evidence. They just ignore it, because it's inconvenient. We can now say, there cannot be a safe dose of radiation. There is no safe threshold. If this truth is known, then any permitted radiation is a permit to commit murder.
          What other things does the DOE use as crutches? "Well, maybe if you give the radiation slowly it won't hurt as much as if you give it all at once." Now if you have one track through a cell producing cancer, what is the meaning of `slowly?' You have the track or you don't. It comes in on Tuesday or it comes in on Saturday. To talk about slow delivery of one track through the nucleus is ludicrous. But they do it anyway.[28]

In stating "There is no safe dose of radiation", the word "safe" means free from risk of injury. But as long as a sufficient number of people believe such a statement is merely "hypothetical", those people with a vested interest in the further promulgation of nuclear technology will continue to benefit at the expense of all else. This dynamic is known as the law of Concentrated Benefit over Diffuse Injury and can be stated as follows:

A small, determined group, working energetically for its own narrow interests, can almost always impose an injustice upon a vastly larger group, provided that the larger group believes that the injury is "hypothetical," or distant-in-the-future, or real-but-small relative to the real-and-large cost of preventing it.[29]

The significance of this law is that for there to be a successful reversal to the toxification of our Earth from accumulated man-made nuclear pollution, such changes will far more likely come from the grassroots than prominent members of the culture who are so dependent, directly and indirectly, on approval from one special interest or another.

In their essay analysing the significance of the law of Concentrated Benefit over Diffuse Injury with respect to nuclear pollution, authors Gofman and O'Connor point out the central issue to grasp: if the sum of all injuries from radioactive poisons released into the biosphere matters biologically, then each contribution to that sum matters:

          The axiom of Concentrated Benefit over Diffuse Injury accounts for the current promotion of a "de minimis" policy toward nuclear (and other) pollution. A de minimis policy asserts that society should not concern itself with trivia. (Latin: De minimis non curat lex. The law does not concern itself with trifles.) A de minimis policy toward pollution asserts that poisonous discharges and human exposures below a certain level should be treated as non-existent -- because their consequences are allegedly trivial.
          Trivial. That is the essence of the axiom. Triumph for each injustice is virtually assured if the advocates succeed in presenting it as trivial. . . .
          With respect to nuclear pollution and every other type of persistent pollutant which lacks a safe dose, the following point deserves emphasis again and again:
          What counts biologically is the sum of all the injuries over time from ALL the combined sources and events which release persistent poisons (radioactive or other) into the biosphere. If the sum matters biologically, then each contribution to the sum matters. Whoever consents to the small releases is consenting automatically to their worldwide sum, whatever it turns out to be.

Whenever a release of radioactivity is acknowledged as having occured, from a nuclear power plant or other source, statements by nuclear officials invariably parrot the assertion "there is no danger" to the environment or to people. Such official sources of pronouncements do not alter the fact that these statements are utterly false. The appalling fact is, for those with a vested interest in promulgating this technology, such deception must be maintained -- as it has been since the 1940s. Otherwise the light would shine on this monumentally grandiose lie and the house of cards built upon the treacherous claims that nuclear technology is "safe" and poses no danger to people or other living systems would collapse in a single day. In spite of the confusion sown by official claims that things are "o.k.", the most tragic aspect of all of this is passive acceptance by the majority of people of the continued toll the injuring and killing of life on a global scale is exacting from the employment of this technology. Whatever else may be said however, in terms of "cosmic accounting", the people responsible for the radioactive contamination of our biosphere are liable for the continued damage and degradation of our collective future.

Whenever the release of radioactivity is extraordinarily large, extraordinary measures are taken by public officials to "close ranks" and parrot the line even more forcefully that everything is all right and there is no cause for alarm. This was terribly, horrifyingly true with respect to the release of the reactor core at Chernobyl.

Chernobyl: The Biological Consequences Of Playing With The Poison Fire

Chernobyl was a watershed event in the history of human kind. The destructive energies unleashed during the loss of control of so technologically complex a mechanism demanded so much more from us all, in the form of a well-considered penetrating response comprising our own innate instinctual wisdom, than anything expressed by those responsible for this technology. Initially, the message and response was numbingly deadly: `Do not worry.' `There is no cause for alarm.' `Everything is alright.' `There is no immediate danger.' Denial and deceit pervaded every story about the actual amount of the reactor core that was released, the raging radioactive fire, and the attempts at containment.

The trust we placed in those in positions of authority was so absolutely violated in this situation, it is no longer appropriate, in any manner whatsoever, to acquiesce and "leave it to those who know best" since such "authorities" only know how to lie and deceive in order to maintain their positions of power and their own affluence. We must plan and follow our own course into the future now and not grant any further legitimacy or credence to those who indicated by their deceitful pronouncements just how illegitimate their "authority" truly is. Where possible, it is critical to clarify what actually occurred.

In March of 1993, an abbreviated version of an essay written by Dr. Jay Gould titled "Chernobyl and the Collapse of Soviet Society"[31], was published by The Nation magazine. Dr. Gould presented the evidence concerning the devastating health effects suffered by the majority of the Russian people from their exposure to the radioactivity released at Chernobyl as being the single most important factor hastening the collapse of the Soviet Empire. He draws upon three books (especially the first two) to substantiate his premise: Chernobyl: Insight from the Inside, by Dr. Vladimir M. Chernousenko (Scientific Director of the attempted clean-up), Memoirs, by Andrei Sakharov (developer of the Soviet hydrogen bomb), and The Petkau Effect: Nuclear Radiation, People and Trees, by Ralph Graeub.

Gould points out that after his 1955 H-Bomb explosion succeeded, Sakharov wrote that he "worried more and more about the biological effects of nuclear tests . . . ", and that for all the laudatory reviews of this book none mention that Sakharov too came to the conclusion that the nuclear bomb was primarily a biological weapon. Sakharov wrote of his understanding that "[t]he long-term biological consequences (particularly atmospheric testing, in which radioactive fallout is dispersed throughout the hemisphere) can be predicted and the total number of casualties calculated with some accuracy."

This acknowledgement of "the biological consequences" of exposure to radioactive particles, made forty years ago by another such noteworthy nuclear scientist as the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, once more puts the lie to those who pretend nuclear technology is "safe" and poses "no danger" to us or our biosphere. Following from Sakharov's words above, Gould writes,

          Considering only such fission products as radioactive carbon, strontium and cesium, he calculated that genetic damage, plus the immediate and delayed damage to immune systems would accelerate the deaths of between 500,000 to one million persons for every 50 megatons of nuclear explosive power. An important consideration was what he termed "nonthreshold effects", by which every radioactive particle released had a statistical probability of doing damage to either the DNA of a cell or to the immune system, by low-level internal radiation from ingesting such particles. He also predicted that radiation would accelerate the mutation of microorganisms, leading to the inference that persons with damaged immune systems would in time succumb more easily to these new strains.
          He states (page 201):

" I posited that cancer and damage to the body's immune system (resulting in premature death) may also be due to nonthreshold effects . . . I also suggested that a global increase in mutations of bacteria and viruses (irrespective of the cause of the mutations) might have been an important factor in the spread of such diseases as diphtheria in the 19th century, or the influenza epidemic, and that low-level radiation might further increase the rate of mutations."

More than 3 years later, Mr. Shcherbak's article, in something no less reputable than Scientific American, corroborates the essential points articulated by Dr. Gould. Although measurable adverse health impacts have been statistically on the rise starting with the 17 year period of bomb "testing" engaged in by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. from 1945 to 1962[32] -- the NRDC has estimated that during this period the superpowers subjected the world to the fallout yield equivalent of 40,000 Hiroshima bombs[33] -- and we have seen an epidemic rise of diseases based upon damaged immune systems, from the swelling numbers of people experiencing environmental and food-based allergies to AIDS, the undeniable proof of the toxicity of exposure to low-level radiation is tragically and incontestably apparent in the initial aftermath of Chernobyl.

Citing an example given by Mr. Shcherbak,

The numbers speak for themselves. Data gathered by the Kiev researcher Mykola D. Tronko and his colleagues indicate that between 1981 and 1985 -- before the accident -- the number of thyroid cancer cases in Ukraine was about five a year. Within five years of the disaster the number had grown to 22 cases a year, and from 1992 to 1995 it reached an average of 43 cases a year. From 1986 to the end of 1995, 589 cases of thyroid cancer were recorded in children and adolescents. (In Belarus the number is even higher.) Ukraine's overall rate of thyroid cancer among children has increased about 10-fold from preaccident levels and is now more than four cases per million.[34]

Dr. Vladimir M. Chernousenko's book, Chernobyl, Insight From the Inside [35], published by Springer-Verlag in 1991, contains a wealth of information about the true scope of this calamity. The book's Forward, written From the Publisher, describes Chernousenko (born in 1941) as having,

started his scientific career at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences Institute of Physics in Kiev. Since 1971, he has worked at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev, where he earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1973. Since then, up to 1991, he has been the head of the Laboratory for Nonlinear Physics and Ecology. His scientific acumen is exceptionally diverse, as can be seen from his numerous publications (120 scientific papers and four monographs).

When the Chernobyl Reactor went critical and exploded on April 26, 1986, Dr. Chernousenko was invited by the Academy to act as "Scientific Director of the Task Force for the Rectification of the Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident" (i.e. to help direct the cleanup of this catastrophe). In this capacity, he served for five years as one of three key participants in the attempts to "clean up" the disaster. In the Preface, "The Myths of Chernobyl, and why I Wrote This Book," Chernousenko articulates an "(incomplete) catalogue of [21] myths" about this tragedy.

To this writer, one of the most disturbing, mind-boggling facts cited in Chernousenko's work, is contained in a February, 1988, unpublished report by A. A. Yadrikhinskii, Nuclear Safety Inspection Engineer of the USSR State Atomic Energy Survey Commission. Mr. Yadrikhinskii states that, "Radiation emission was no less that 80% of the core (with a total of 192 tons), which amounted to 6.4 x 10^9 Ci.[16] If we divide the figure by the population of the whole earth (4.6 x 10^9 people) then we get 1 Ci per person.[17]"[36] Ci is the symbol used for "Curie", named after "Madame Marie Curie, a Polish-born French chemist (1867-1934) . . . who discovered the radioactivity of thorium, polonium and radium by isolating radium from pitchblend. She and her daughter Irene were among the earliest known radiation victims, both dying of aplastic anaemia."[37] In science, "curie" is a measure of radioactivity. One curie equals 3.7 x 10^10 nuclear transformations per second. It is the exposure of living cells to bombardment by such nuclear transformations or explosions, that can damage the ability of the cell's DNA to continue to correctly perform whichever of the exquisitely precise functions it has been programmed to carry out.

As Chernousenko states in his footnote number 17, "Naturally, the implications are not that everybody received such a dose, but such crude numbers certainly help to illustrate the scale of the accident." Indeed. There was an astronomically massive increase in the exposure to radiation for life planet-wide from the expulsion of at least 80% of the 192 tons of radioactive fission products[11] from the reactor core at the time of the explosion and afterwards.

The Siamese Twins: Civilian-Military Atomic Industries

In 1986, the myth was born that only 3 percent of Chernobyl's reactor core escaped into the biosphere. Today we hear much from public officials about how such myths of Chernobyl were the singular result of a closed-society's propensity for and obsession with secrecy. But this is itself yet another new domain of myth heaped upon the mountain of myths promulgated by witting and unwitting sources alike.

It is difficult to assess which source many political "authorities" belong to. Politicians utter a peculiar brand of "cheap talk" in that they either haven't the faintest idea what they are speaking about, or, usually and regrettably more often the case, know exactly what not to talk about. Witness U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's statement [38] on March 19 about the cause of Chernobyl being "the product of a closed, authoritarian government" -- that its occurrence "was one of the most cruel legacies of communism, a system that managed to produce virtually all the evils of industrialization with very few of the benefits". It is precisely this sort of mantric "it can't happen here" bombast that leaves one believing that here in "the west", our consumeristic, exploitative-of-the-earth-to-extreme society doesn't suffer from such "evils of industrialization"; that people here haven't suffered from the pernicious tyranny of nuclear technology as they have by such "closed, authoritarian governments" like the U.S.S.R.

What not to talk about, by Mr. Christopher and a legion of others, are facts such as the following "twins":

  1. United Nations Organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency/Organization (it is known/referred to by both IAEA and IAEO titles) exist as a contradiction in terms.

    This organization was founded in 1957 to both "encourage and assist research on, and development and practical application of, atomic energy for peaceful uses throughout the world" [Article III, Section 1], and at the same time, to "establish or adopt . . . standards of safety for protection of health and minimization of danger to life and property" [Article III, Section 6].[39]

    As described in the Workshop Report by Peter Weish from the 1992 World Uranium Hearings in Salzburg[40], it is unbearable that, going on 40 years later, promotion of the atomic industry from the IAEA's original charter is still a fact of our world. Peter sums up this contradiction by stating,

    Since we know, and have known for a very long time now, that the civilian and military atomic industries cannot be separated from each other -- Hannes Euphen, a Swedish Nobel Prize winner has described them as Siamese twins -- it is naturally absurd to try to promote one of the twins while trying to hold the other under control.[41]
    Yet this paradox -- of empowering the world organization responsible for setting the health standards for "safe" exposure to such lethal, toxic materials to also be responsible for promoting the promulgation of the very same technology which produces such vast long-lived pernicious substances -- is never, ever discussed. It is imperative that we all commence doing so. Such inquiry is long overdue -- as well as concrete actions to take as a result of such examinations.

  2. 10 years after telling Chernousenko and others "Just be quiet, everything is all right, everything is under control, there is no cause to worry", Hans Blix is still the Director General of the IAEA!

    How can one possibly believe the integrity of, much less grant any credence to, such industrial world luminaries as Hans Blix, who today still occupies the position of Director General of the IAEA as he did in April of 1986? Blix was present and accounted for to give the Welcoming and opening address at the ONE DECADE AFTER CHERNOBYL: SUMMING UP THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE ACCIDENT [42] Conference held in Vienna on April 8-12, 1996.

    Yet this is the very same person who, acting in the capacity as Director General of the IAEA, visited Chernobyl days after the explosion and, in the helicopter with Chernousenko et al, said, "Just be quiet, everything is all right, everything is under control, there is no cause to worry" as they circled the blown out reactor core, and Blix himself saw that the 192 ton core "was absolutely empty". That, "according to our estimates that was not 50 million Curies, but approximately 6.3 billion Curies of activity." As Chernousenko went on to describe, "what astonished us after that -- the IAEO was only too keen to believe every word [of Soviet government statements that Chernobyl was a "completely unpredictable situation"] and began to convince the whole world: ``Yes, do not worry, the rest of the 15 blocks will not explode. No problems.'' It is not a normal situation when the people who are in charge of the fate of a whole civilization lie quite openly to the whole world."[43]

    This paradox, that Mr. Blix is still Director General of the same agency he headed up ten years ago -- which at that time colluded with the nuclear industrial interests in the Soviet Union to cover-up and lie about the known facts, scope, and magnitude of Chernobyl's melt-down assault on all life on Earth --, is never, ever discussed. Certainly not by the likes of Mr. Christopher who prefers instead to exist in the realm of fantasy which employs the "us against them" fairy tale to obfuscate and dissemble the facts about who is truly responsible for the "evils of industrialization".

The above "twins" are fundamentally interrelated. Number 2 highlights the fact of the IAEA's utter lack of credibility and integrity -- especially given what they have been forced to minimally acknowledge in the past 10 years concerning the effects of the contamination -- and is a direct consequence of the glaring magnitude of conflict-of-interest in number 1. This situation is reminiscent of the how the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) came to be abolished in the 1970s when the bankruptcy of its own integrity and credibility was irrefutably demonstrated by the published works of Gofman and Tamplin[44], and Ford and Kendall.[45]

At that time, two organizations were created to replace the AEC: the Energy Research and Development Agency (ERDA), which was supposed to promote the development of atomic energy, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which was supposed to concern itself only with public safety. However anyone who has studied its history with respect to promotion of such NRC-proposed policies as "Below Regulatory Concern", or BRC, knows its mandate to concern itself only with the public safety is also not credible.[46]

Besides the intentional obfuscation of the crucial fact that from the very beginning of the development of nuclear technology in the 1940s the nuclear bomb was understood to provide a new class of biological weapon for military strategists, another critically important fact most people do not understand is that the commercial nuclear energy industry was created by the US government not to produce electricity purported to be "too cheap to meter", as was declared by the AEC and all its descendant incarnations, but to provide a publicly visible "legitimate" civilian arena in which to further develop nuclear weapons technology.

Before 1940 there was practically no plutonium in or on our Earth. Plutonium is needed to make the triggers in nuclear weapons. As a young chemist in 1942, John Gofman was head of a group working in Berkeley, California under Robert Oppenheimer in the Manhattan Project. He describes this scarcity of plutonium:

          At the time there was so little plutonium that our research team had never even seen the element. But we were assuming that the proposed atomic reactors would indeed work . . . in which case there'd be a good bit of plutonium created, and there would be a need for methods to isolate enough to fuel a bomb.
          . . . [T]he other chemists in my group [had] been down [in] Los Alamos a couple of months when Oppenheimer came back up and asked me to produce a half-milligram of plutonium.
          . . . [A]t that time a half-milligram was 10 to 20 times the amount of the element in existence! Oppenheimer said that he needed the radioactive material right away for some crucial physics measurements that were vital to the bomb project.
          So some other chemists and I surrounded the Berkeley cyclotron with a ton of uranium nitrate and, in order to bombard the uranium with neutrons, ran the machine night and day for about seven weeks. Then we began processing--in ten-pound batches!--the entire ton of uranium nitrate. After three weeks of such work, we had isolated 1.2 milligrams of plutonium in around a quarter of a teaspoon of liquid. We sent most of that off to Los Alamos.[47]

As described in the primitive method employed above, the activity of processing uranium to generate plutonium is what the first nuclear reactors (originally called "plutonium production piles"[48]) at Hanford and elsewhere were constructed for. However 10 years would pass after the construction of the nuclear reactors employed for weapons production in facilities like Hanford, Washington and Oak Ridge, Tennessee before President Eisenhower made his "Atoms For Peace" address to the United Nations on December 8, 1953. With Ike's assertion that "this greatest of destructive forces can be developed into a great boon, for the benefit of all mankind", the government campaign began in earnest to make nuclear technology, with all its support industries, acceptable to society in general by attempting to present civilian "peaceful" uses of nuclear energy as if they were "separable", distinct, and mutually exclusive from the clearly destructive and lethal military applications. The US government employed a host of subsidies, incentives as well as bringing great pressure to bear to induce America's private utility companies to get involved in the production of commercial nuclear power plants. As Sam Day, former editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has said, "The private electric companies did not jump into nuclear power. They were kicked in."[49]

Atoms for Peace and its daughter idea, the "peaceful atom," proved to be remarkably long-lived images of policy. As metaphors, they survived long after their substantive fallacy had become obvious. Their basic assumption that the military and civilian applications of nuclear power could be separable, and that certain uses of nuclear power could be developed for peaceful purposes, held sway for almost a quarter of a century. In making these hopeful beliefs the foundations of American nuclear policy, Eisenhower reversed what had been until then the AEC's operating assumption, articulated by its first chairman, David Lilienthal, in 1947: "This must always be remembered: atomic-energy research and development -- whether for the uses of war and destruction or for beneficent and creative purposes -- is virtually an identical process: two sides of the same coin." But Atoms for Peace formally enunciated the dogma that military and civilian applications were separable. Like other dogmas, it continued to be cherished by its believers as an article of faith long after it had ceased to be tenable as a matter of common sense or observation.[50]

Few people understand this "siamese twins" nature of the seamless interlock between the military and civilian "arms" of the nuclear industry. Dr. Rosalie Bertell explains the essential fact -- that "[n]uclear reactors, whether or not they are used for the generation of electricity, are a necessary part of the nuclear weapon industry" -- clearly and concisely in the section entitled "A Full-blown Commercial Nuclear Technology" from her important book, No Immediate Danger, Prognosis For A Radioactive Earth:

Summing up, a uniform irradiation of the whole human species, sufficient to reduce the actual rate of reproduction, might now be regarded, if it were practicable, as not by any means disadvantageous. . . .1

What did not seem `practicable' in the 1950s became a reality in the 1960s: the basic research, mining, milling, enrichment, transportation and decommissioning involved in the nuclear process could serve two nuclear industries. As we saw in the chart [below] outlining the connections between parts of the US nuclear commercial and nuclear weapons industries, enriched and natural uranium is normally diverted (before reaching weapons grade) into fuel for nuclear power generators. Nuclear reactors, whether or not they are used for the generation of electricity, are a necessary part of the nuclear weapon industry. After six to eight months of use in a reactor, the `spent' rods can be reprocessed for removal of fissionable uranium and plutonium, needed for weapons. Further, governments can freely subsidize the shared portion of the nuclear industry in the name of energy. In this way the public pays for its energy in taxes rather than electricity bills, making it appear `cheap'. Citizen co-operation and public financing overtly seem to be helping to ease the `energy crisis'; weapon industry needs are provided for indirectly, and everyone is enabled to work in good conscience to promote `peaceful' uses of nuclear technology.[51]

  1. C. D. Darlington, `The Cell and Heredity Under Ionization', Conference on Biological Hazards of Atomic Energy convened by the Institute of Biology and the Atomic Scientists Association, October, 1950, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1952.
Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Nuclear Weapon Cycle in the United States[52]
          The US government, which had provided all the money for the basic research needed to launch the American nuclear reactor industry, also operated the uranium enrichment installations and provided the Price-Anderson Act to assume public liability in case of a nuclear reactor accident. . . .
          With the concept of the peaceful atom accepted by the public and financial liability for the industry somewhat guaranteed, the commercial nuclear industry began to expand in the late 1960s. However, government involvement was not generally understood, and most people assumed they were financially protected. Many nuclear physicists and engineers were trained in and oriented towards commercial nuclear technology only and they mentally dissociated themselves from the nuclear bomb, never having co-operated with that aspect of the nuclear industry. Dissociation from the weapon industry was possible for those involved in research, radiation protection activities, mining and milling, transportation, enrichment, fabrication, reprocessing, waste disposal, training nuclear engineers or physicists and producing educational or public relations material. Individuals were able to shut out of their consciousness the atomic weapon world and wholeheartedly promote the `peaceful atom'. The work of their minds and hands, however, could and would be used for both purposes either directly or indirectly. For example, much of the extravagant `need' for electricity in the USA is for the production of aluminium for bombers and submarines or for other weapon-related industries. Much of the theoretical work in the nuclear commercial industry is directly transferable to nuclear-powered ships and submarines. Theoretical physics research serves both weapon and commercial technology. Uranium mining, milling, transportation, enrichment and other shared aspects of nuclear technology support both civilian and military programmes. Many other examples could be given, but the overall curtain of respectability appears to be the main advantage of the `peaceful atom' programme when viewed from a military perspective.[53]

This "curtain of respectability" has proved essential to the ongoing development of nuclear weapons technology with the unwitting connivance of people working in the commercial nuclear technology arena. The belief that the civilian nuclear power industry is not integrally and fundamentally related to the design, development, and production of nuclear weapons is one of the most lethal of the false assumptions about nuclear technology promoters of the industry have utilized in their public relations campaigns since the 1950s.

The era of "the experts" is over. The intoxicating power of belief in their own infallibility was no where more evident than the doublethink and talk employed by Edward Teller to achieve his dream of creating the hydrogen bomb regardless of the dangers posed by the unleashing of such a super-weapon:

Teller went out of his way to tell Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists readers at the time: "The scientist is not responsible for the laws of nature. It is his job to find out how these laws operate. It is the scientist's job to find the ways in which these laws can serve the human will. However, it is not the scientist's job to determine whether a hydrogen bomb should be constructed, whether it should be used, or how it should be used. This responsibility rests with the American people and with their chosen representatives." But in the real world--as Teller well knew--secrecy restrictions prevented the American people from participating in the deliberative process until the basic decisions had already been made at governmental top levels, by men very much like himself.[54]

By reducing the family of humankind to an abject infantile status, where decisions that affected all people and all life were made in secret without any public debate, such "experts" have brought us all to the brink of utter extinction.

It is difficult to conceive of a more inappropriate exercise of human intelligence when one understands the actual manifestations of nuclear technology's essential attributes. First and foremost, it provides an order-of-magnitude more lethal biological weapon than anything heretofore created. Creation of such death-worshiping mechanisms is dependent upon the activity of mining and processing uranium which, in itself, also generates the most inimical-to-life physical matter ever created by man. Without the "curtain of respectability" contrived by the government-directed creation and commercialization of "the peaceful atom", ongoing nuclear weapons development would, in all likelihood, be an impossible "bill of goods" to successfully sell to taxpayers. Seeing through the totality of this Grand Deception is what we must be about for the sake of our children and the future of all life on Earth we have now, because of the poisonous legacy created in the short span of 50 years, taken irrevocable responsibility for.

ToC | Part II | References

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