Part I | ToC | References

Nuclear Technology:
The Inappropriate Exercise of Human Intelligence

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

PART II: Our Remarkable Powers of Response Ability

There is a great deal about all that has been cited here that oppresses one's sense of viable responses to properly deal with this incoherent state of affairs. What is called for is recognition of our own innate "response abilities" given any challenge as demanding of all our wits and skills as this one clearly is. We are naturally endowed with an extraordinary resourcefulness, inner strength, and clarity in dealing with emergency situations. There is much about our post-industrial culture that dissipates our innermost self-reliance and sense of confidence. Much of this paralysis of inner strength feeds on the thought that we are not "response able" -- that we are somehow not capable of being able to respond decisively to situations that have been on-going and, by degree, more and more adversely affecting our world and our lives. This is understandable of course, given the barrage of lies and untruths we see, read, and hear every day.

We conclude by articulating three of the more obvious life-affirming responses to this conundrum we find ourselves facing -- these are by no means the only approaches open to us. (What other health-promoting responses can you articulate?)

  1. The justifications for "needing" nuclear power are as hollow as they are lethal. De-centralizing, sustainable technologies for alternative energy sources have come a long way in the past 20 years. Their adoption is an essential step towards asserting our own response ability for our life, the life of our community, and by extension, all life on Earth.

  2. The need to take care of and protect ourselves and our planetary home from the poison fire of uranium and all radioactive matter transmuted from it is the challenge we must now answer and address for millenia to come. Adopting the practice and ethics of Nuclear Guardianship appears to be the most appropriate exercise of our true intelligence as a health-promoting response to the legacy we have created and saddled ourselves and future generations with.

  3. The need for a factual, complete assessment of our current collective health status cannot be overemphasized. It is time for independent analysis and articulation of exactly what the true health is of our children and hence, of our genetic future. Only with such understanding can we appropriately and effectively respond in reversing the effects of what we have suffered ourselves and how we have damaged the biosphere.
We consider these areas in reverse order.

Independent Assessment of Our Current State of Health

In responding unconditionally to this specific mass of continuing deceptions daily doled out to us, the appropriate exercise of human intelligence would appear to include such recommendations as that presented by Dr. Anna Ledkova, a child-ophthalmologist of the Nentsy Nation from Novaya Zemlya:

We need an independent expertise on an international level. The scientists from the native population have to be among them. We have to know how long we still have to live, and the most important thing is, we have to know the truth -- even the bitter truth -- about the health of our children. At this international meeting I learned the whole truth, even the most bitter truth, all the sufferings of the people of the terrestrial globe. If it is possible, I will ask my government with the words from a song: "Do the Russians want war?", from another song which we sang in our youth: "I really do not know any other land where the humans live so badly."[55]

The call for independent expertise has been echoed by others and is a veritable necessity. Not only are world organizations like the IAEA undeserving and unworthy of any further credulous acceptance, but we must address the catch-22 of governments like the U.S., Britain, Japan, the Soviet non-Union, and France being both the biggest promoters of the adoption of nuclear energy by nations around the globe, and the financial backers of such previous world studies as The Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) Reports, or those studies produced by the likes of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). The compromising nature of such a situation demands the coming together of independent scientists from around the globe who are not in the employ of such governments or corporate organizations or their front groups whose overriding purpose is dedicated to the continued employment of this technology.

Dr. John Gofman writes in great detail about the growing retroactive alteration of the original data collected by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission -- set up to perform a life-time study of the more than 90,000 survivors of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- since its transfer to RERF in 1975.[56] With a Ph.D. in nuclear / physical chemistry, and a medical degree, Dr. Gofman, Professor Emeritus in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley, and Lecturer at the Department of Medicine, UC School of Medicine at San Francisco, has had a great deal of experience with and knowledge of the workings of the nuclear industry. While a graduate student at Berkeley, Gofman co-discovered protactinium-232, uranium-232, protactinium-233, and uranium-233, and proved the slow and fast neutron fissionability of uranium-233. Post-doctorally, he continued work related to the chemistry of plutonium and the atomic bomb development. After the plutonium work, Gofman completed medical school. In 1947, he began his research on coronary heart disease and, by developing special flotation ultracentrifugal techniques, he and his colleagues demonstrated the existence of diverse low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). In the early 1960s, the AEC asked him if he would establish a Biomedical Research Division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, for the purpose of evaluating the health effects of all types of nuclear activities. From 1963-1965, he served as the division's first director, concurrently with service as an Associate Director of the entire Laboratory, for Biomedicine.[57] After Gofman and his colleague Arthur Tamplin published their initial findings stating their conclusion that there is no safe threshold below which exposure to low-level ionizing radiation will not increase the risk of cancer, funding for their work at the Livermore Lab was cut back to virtually nothing.[44]

Gofman sums up this sordid state of affairs with the following observation:

Everybody knew, of course, that I didn't want to give up the research program. But I had to. It's really a rather common story: There's just no room for scientific truth in government-funded work when the truth in any way goes against a program that the government--or any of its special interests--wants to carry through. And I believe it's an outrage that we're taxed to support dishonest scientists . . . or to finance science that's being paid to provide a façade. . . .
          That sort of information suppression is a violation of human rights and health! I've taken care of a lot of cancer and leukemia patients and know--from personal observation--what a miserable disease cancer is. And realizing that millions of people may get that illness, and lose an average of 15 years from their lives, as the result of an activity that's sponsored by government and for which the government is prepared to buy prostituted information makes me damned angry.[58]

Gofman has articulated a partial list of 9 rules of research to measure the integrity of any bio-medical data, be it from a government, research institution, or any other source.[59] Describing the critical necessity of having trustworthy bio-medical databases as a sacred obligation of humanity, Gofman provides examples of rule-breaking in radiation research both in the Atomic-Bomb Survivor Study (Rule 7: "No Changes of Input after Any Results Are Known") as well as an IAEA 1991 study of Chernobyl (Rule 2: "A Real Difference in Dose", Rule 3: "A Sufficiently Big Difference in Dose", and Rule 4: "Careful Reconstruction of Dose"), and a 1989 World Health Organization opinion about the health problems from the Chernobyl experience (Rule 9: "No Pre-judgments").[60] Gofman writes at great length about how segments of the global radiation science community are exceedingly quick to embrace "data from any nation with a world-class record of distorting truth in the service of state policy, and punishing those who object," in "Chernobyl: A Crossroad in the Radiation Health Sciences".[61]

The crux of all we are considering here is the violation of the integrity of input data on biomedical health effects which, if accepted by the medical and science communities at large, will become the underlying basis of further research and "facts" as it already has in the past and create an insurmountable distortion of reality. Gofman's own references are significant:

          The report of the Academic Senate of the University of California includes an immensely important warning, expressed by Karl Hittleman, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of California San Francisco -- the medical center. Commenting on scientific misconduct-rates like one per 200 [according to an estimate from the U.S. Public Health Service, about one out of every 200 principal investigators is involved in some type of scientific misconduct], Hittleman said (Uni89, p2):
          "It is the view of Congress, and should be the view of the scientific community, that no amount of fraud is acceptable, because of the corrosive effects on science and the bad effects on public trust."
          Then the report paraphrased additional comments from Hittleman as follows: "Regarding science itself, he says, there is a `multiplier' effect to fraud: Any instance of it can destroy the worth of related `downstream' research. Worse, fraud can have potentially disastrous effects on those touched by research -- on patients involved in medical clinical trials, for example." . . .
          Billions of people (many not yet born) will receive exposure from the Chernobyl accident, and people everywhere could pay the price if underestimated risk were to become accepted in this field. Everyone would face nuclear pollution not just from accidents, but also by intention (see Part 10).
          Examination of the Chernobyl accident by this chapter will illustrate how very small dose-increases for millions and billions of people produce huge collective dose commitments. This is not even in dispute, as this chapter shows. The consequences are. The human race cannot afford serious underestimates of risk in this field. Readers will understand why, after they have compared various sets of numbers provided in this chapter.[62]

The ownership of other significant radiation databases by nuclear-committed governments continues. There is the central Chernobyl database under construction by the International Program on the Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident (IPHECA), the primary sponsors of which, are the governments of the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia. This study is being conducted through the World Health Organization. In 1992, international arrangements were made to construct a database on radiation health effects for the exceedingly contaminated Russian region near Chelyabinsk, a center for nuclear weapons production. RERF -- the foundation sponsored by the DOE and the Japanese Ministry of Health to control the Hiroshima-Nagasaki database and its retroactive alterations -- has acquired a central role in creating the Chelyabinsk database.[63]. Such conflict-of-interest situations accentuates the urgent need to establish teams of independent "watchdog" scientists who participate and work inside these studies as well, on an on-going basis, with the authority to check that every Rule of Research is obeyed, to "blow the whistle" publicly if there are questionable practices, and to publish their own views as an integral part of every document.[64] It is essential that the integrity of these databases is beyond question and that they contain trustworthy data. Anything less is an abrogation of the response abilities we have to the health of ourselves, our children, and the sustainable future of our world.

Nuclear Guardianship: To Protect and Keep Safe From Harm

Beyond the necessity of verifying the integrity of input data on biomedical health effects in order to ascertain clearly and precisely the true extent of injury we have sustained to ourselves and the biosphere, another critical arena where we must exercise our very best response abilities centers on the question of exactly what are we going to do with all the man-made radioactive matter created over the past 50-plus years, which will remain with us for upwards of thousands of millenia? Current government "plans" -- such as the US consideration of Yucca Mountain -- for "final storage" of this material provide more of the same "out-of-sight"-"out-of-our-minds" self-deception, so absolutely lethal to ourselves and future generations.[66]

Professor Ryspek A. Ibraev, a geologist, geochemist, leader of the Inter-faculty Laboratory of the Kazakh State University, and head of the Independent Public Expert Council of Radioecology of Kazakhstan, is very familiar with "the consequences of objects of the Military Economic Complex of the former USSR in action -- these are uranium mines and plants, hundreds of thermoatomic explosions on the surface of the earth, in the air, and underground which have been carried out on the territory of the republic for military or civil purposes -- and how they effect the surroundings, i.e. the rock, the geological strata, the ground, the underground water, the surface water, the plants and the animal world."[66] He brings much expertize to this riddle of what are appropriate ways of responding to what has been created: "We are categorically against any proposal of underground storage. We suggest the surface proposals. Well, everybody knows that when the cobra is under the glass, in front of the eyes, it is clear that one can be quiet. And if one puts it into the cellar and there are also many cracks there then it is nearly impossible to guarantee safety."[67] There is great wisdom resonating in these words imbued with an understanding of what it means to be response able.

The "surface proposals" appear to offer the greatest promise of ongoing containment and truly response able action to address the conditions and situation we are now committed to whether or not we choose to recognize this fact. Joanna Macy has helped to articulate this recent understanding of what is termed Nuclear Guardianship.[68] To guard means to keep safe from harm; watch over and protect; defend; shield. It is now a fundamental truth that we find ourselves facing the necessity to protect present and future generations from the uranium we have taken out of the ground and all the radioactive chemicals we have generated from fissioning it. We must acknowledge our response ability to ensure that all this nuclear material is kept out of the biosphere for so much longer than the span of recorded history.

          To call this stuff "waste" is a misnomer, it is hardly an accurate term, because the strange and almost mythic character of the poison fire -- uranium -- and our processing of it has been that at every stage of the fuel cycle, everything that we have employed, every glove, every boot, every truck, every reactor, every facility, every mine, every heap of mill tailings, everything becomes not only contaminated, but contaminating. And governments and industry and scientists themselves don't know what on earth to do with it. They don't know what to do with this stuff, and it is our most enduring legacy. They say they have a final solution to bury it in the ground in deep geological disposal, hiding it out of sight and out of mind, as if the earth were dead, as if the earth were not a living being, shifting with underground waters and seismic activities, as if the containers themselves could outlast a generation, which they cannot! For nothing lasts as long, no container lasts as long as the poison fire itself. And it will leak out and out to contaminate. We know that that is true from our own personal lives. We try to hide something in our personal life, you know that happens, and it contaminates everything. And North of me, up at the Hanford Reservations they talk about clean up. Clean up! And even though Congress through the DOE has allocated millions of dollars for that now, they push around and they move the earth with their trucks and their bulldozers and their scoops. Try asking them where they are going to put it!
          This challenge -- it asks of us to evolve a different relationship with uranium, with plutonium, with the poison fire. It suggests perhaps it is not enough for it to be seen as a monster that we must outlaw. It's too late for that. . . . And more and more citizens are beholding, seeing, recognizing that this legacy must be guarded responsibly. Ground level storage on sight, and so we know better what to do with it, keep it visible with minimal transportation on sight where it is ecologically feasible.[69]

To see the plutonium we have created as a teacher is perhaps one of the most liberating challenges visionaries like Macy present us with:

          I have been reading reports of five years of meetings between Soviet and American scientists from the Federation of American Scientists about what to do with the separated plutonium. There is a tremendous pressure to use it. To maybe use it to have a whole new generation of plutonium-fueled energy and power. It is as if we don't know what to do with this unless we make it serve us, and that is exactly what I am beginning to think, that we cannot ask of the poison fire. If we want to make it serve us, it will kill us, and perhaps the plutonium is saying to us something like this: "Look at me, just look at me. I cannot be your slave, I cannot serve your ambitions and your comforts. You cannot use me to fight each other. Just look at me and if you look at me, guarding me, keeping me out of the biosphere for the sake of your future generations, then I will become your teacher. And in the act of beholding me and guarding me, you will awaken to your courage and to your faithfulness and to your solidarity with each other."[70]

Nuclear Guardianship is founded on the understanding that the only realistic, accountable response to nuclear "waste" is ongoing, on-site, monitored storage -- of keeping waste containment visible and accessible for monitoring and repair by present and future generations. The suggestion, that putting this material out-of-sight and out-of-mind underground is being response able and providing safe and sufficient containment for millenia, is a cruel omnicidal fantasy perpetrated on ourselves and future generations. We must design and initiate a system that keeps safe from harm, watches over and protects, defends, and shields this physical matter from our life-supporting world. We must be accountable to all our relations and all those who come after us.[71]

Transformation Of Our Outer And Inner Energy Values

There is only one nuclear furnace we have ever needed: the Sun we circle around and are completely sustained by. Over the past 15 years advancements in the development of alternative, de-centralizing energy technologies including solar, biomass, and wind have been significant: "between 1980 . . . and 1992, the cost of electricity from solar thermal plants dropped from 55 cents per kilowatt hour to about eight cents per kilowatt hour. . . . the same story with respect to wind technology: Between 1980 and 1992, the cost dropping from nearly 40 cents per kilowatt hour to about seven cents per kilowatt hour today. . . . the same story with photovoltaics: Between 1980 and 1992, the cost dropping from nearly 90 cents per kilowatt hour to about a little over 20 cents per kilowatt hour."[72]

Such technologies offer the ultimate in response able sustainability. They are fundamentally de-centralizing by definition, thus providing the means for re-establishing locally-based communities and economies. By their nature such communities and economies foster self-reliance in the intrinsically sustainable areas of agricultural and energy production. After the effects of hundreds of years of the industrial age's socially centralizing technologies, these biosphere-conserving and authority-de-centralizing mechanisms offer all of us the chance to once again experience the dynamism afforded by local community-based participation and sustainable control over our own lives in a way that megalithic, centralizing technologies like nuclear energy can never provide.[19]

There is however a great deal more to the transformation required here than simply ceasing to ride on the back of the nuclear dragon and hopping onto a group of sustainable alternative energy creatures. Dr. Bill Keepin captures this well in the conclusion of a his own talk on going Beyond Nukes, The Promise of Renewable Energy:

The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh has said: "What we most need to do is to hear within ourselves the sounds of the earth crying." And I think when we do this, it becomes clear that what we label as a crisis in our environment is equally as much a crisis within ourselves, a crisis of human consciousness and values. And there are several dimensions to this that actually serve as hidden driving forces for the ecological crisis, and I'll just mention a couple of them. One is the psychological pollution of continual bombardment of corporate advertising and the consumer culture, another is the dominance by an hegemony of the masculine gender and related problems of class and racial oppression. A third is the epistemological tyranny of western science and market economics. And finally, the spiritual bankruptcy of secular technological modernism.
          Now, if we ignore these aspects of our current dilemma, then the solar technologies that I have outlined above could actually, I think, serve to hasten ecological collapse, because energy would be removed as a constraint on a forward stampede. However, if we embrace these deeper dimensions accounting for their physical, social, cultural and spiritual implications, then solar energy and renewable sources can provide abundant energy for all human societies on earth and free us once and forever from the ravages of fossil fuels and nuclear power.[73]

Clearly, there are many value systems we continue to unconsciously and consciously subscribe to which promote the unsustainability of technologies like that of nuclear. In our post-industrial society how many people still grow their own food? How many people harness the energy they use directly from renewable sources such as the sun or the wind? The low-percentage answers to these questions are the result of a continuing reliance on technologies that by their nature foster dependence upon centralized hierarchies of authority, the antithesis of sustainable, renewable life practices operating in synergistic concert with the natural world. The ability to grow one's own food clearly provides an element of the sort of "independence" many people still like to ascribe to increasingly irrelevant documents such as the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Centralizing technologies have served to hasten the diminution of "these truths [we hold] to be self-evident."

The rise of these massively centralizing technologies parallels the rise of the twentieth century corporation. With such watershed events as the US Supreme Court 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision, whereby it was decided that a private corporation was a "natural person" under the US Constitution sheltered by the 14th Amendment, (even though that amendment had been written and ratified in 1868 to protect the rights of freed slaves, not the "rights" of subordinate legal fictions) -- thus giving these subordinate legal fictions the same rights of free speech, the right to petition, etc., as human beings --, the foundation was laid for the emergence of such lethal, life-annihilating technologies as what has occured by playing with the poisonous nuclear fire. The need to revoke and rescind our present-day centralized plutocratic social system and supplant it with a de-centralized, natural habitat-sustaining system of guardianship practicing a response able conservator basis of co-existence has never been more paramount and imperative than it is today.[74]

Addressing this challenge of exploitation and destruction of our habitat Earth by legal fictions is also eminently possible, but requires the re-emphasis of an "wholistic thinking" way of perceiving reality. Such modes of perception are still practiced by ab-original peoples, but have been almost completely displaced by the analytic approach so favored by the empirical method of perceiving and describing reality practiced by western science. To analyze means to separate or break up (any whole) into its component parts to understand its nature. Such over-emphasis and reliance upon analyzing everything inside and outside of ourselves without the requisite "balancing" and "centering" means of perception provided by seeing the world, and our own existence within it, in its unitary wholeness, has created the preponderance of discord, fragmentation, and division we painfully see so evidently manifested in the present day.

Collectively as a species, we are now in a late stage of adolescence, on the brink of that transformative threshold known in the best sense as "coming of age". Humanity, as Elisabet Sahtouris has stated,

stands on the brink of maturity -- in a position to achieve true humanity in the full meaning of that word. Like an adolescent in trouble, we have tended to let our focus on the crisis itself or on our frantic search for particular political, economic, scientific, or spiritual solutions depress us and blind us to the larger picture, to avenues of real assistance. If we humbly seek help instead from the nature that spawned us, we will find biological clues to solving all our biggest problems at once. We will see how to make the healthy transition into maturity.[75]

There is much such a critical "rite of passage" requires of us -- of all of us. The time is now to jettison such obsolete, constipated, and toxic notions as the glorified tribalism we still cling to which we label national sovereignty. Such "sovereignty" is the biggest single cause of and justification for the perpetual wars now ongoing every day around the world. We are all one single species regardless of what color or shape or age or sex each of us is physically, and regardless of what "nationality" we believe separates us and distinguishes us from the rest of our family of humankind.

One of the keys to enable us to pass beyond the threshold before us will be the ending of the short and deadly love affair some of us have had with the technology of nuclear weapons and energy. We have not discussed here such technologies as nuclear medicine, because of the fact of the benefits that it has provided, and that the nuclear materials produced creates very short-lived nuclear fission products and isotopes. Further, these radioactive materials are an exceedingly minuscule fraction of that produced by the gargantuan siamese twins of military and civilian nuclear energy-based technologies. It is time to stop playing in this arena of the poison fire. It is time to summon all our gifts and powers of creative and response abilities to end this nuclear dance of death and make the world, and our lives in it, once more a place that is safe for children to be born into and grow throughout the natural duration of their own lives. We are the era of human kind when the possibility of omnicide was first joined. But it is still our choice whether or not we allow that possibility to manifest, or we turn our backs on such a dead-end future and reassert our own best creative instincts for survival and promotion of life in all its supremely sacred forms.

          The political and economic systems and the political and economic leaders of humanity are not in final examination; it is the integrity of each individual human that is in final examination. On personal integrity hangs humanity's fate. You can deceive others, you can deceive your brain-self, but you can't deceive your mind-self -- for mind deals only in the discovery of truth and the interrelationship of all the truths. The cosmic laws with which mind deals are noncorruptible.
          Cosmic evolution is omniscient God comprehensively articulate.

Buckminster Fuller, 1981 [76]

dave ratcliffe
Santa Cruz, CA
June, 1996

Part I | ToC | References

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