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The Need for Cultural Change at the Department of Energy

GOFMAN: I thought a lot about things like that, the Government. A lot about the slave empire and the fact that this has got to be changed. When I was talking to [Energy Secretary] Hazel O'Leary, much of those two hours that we talked, I said you [need to] change that culture, so that scientists are not afraid to speak out. All they have to do is to have a Gofman and a Tamplin and 10 years later a Mancuso and Alice Stewart and 5, 10 years later a Greg Wilkinson, and that's enough to keep all the other slaves in line. You have got to change that culture, which is bad for the country."

She said, "I'm listening to you." I think she has spoken out a lot about dissidents and about whistleblowers. Hazel's been right on it.

This year I thought about it in January and February. I called up Glenn Seaborg and I said, "Glenn, I think you ought to issue a public apology to me." He said, "What are you talking about?" I said, "I think that to go on with the Atomic Energy Labs, DOE having scientists feel and act as though they are in a slave empire-beautiful facilities, but no freedom to really speak up-is a bad thing for science. It's a bad thing for humanity and it can lead to the wrong answers, getting credence on health effects that could eventually hurt millions, hundreds of millions or billions of people. You've established an excellent record as a scientist, but as a human you don't come across very well."

Then he said, "Well, why do you say that, Jack?" "Because you've allowed this thing to go on in your tenure at the AEC," [I replied]. We talked about it and I'll come back to that. "Well," he said, "What do you want?" I said, "I just want an apology from you and Mike May and Roger Batzel for the fact that you didn't back us when we did our job. If all the people working in the Department of Energy Labs saw you do this, it could change the culture inside those Labs concerning being afraid to speak out."

He said, "Well, that makes some sense; did you talk to Roger Batzel or Mike May?" I said, "No, I started with you, figuring that if you didn't do it, they wouldn't. I'll talk to Roger Batzel next." He said, "Fine; as a matter of fact the AAAS meets here in a couple of weeks. We can call a press conference to do it." He was telling me we could call a press conference for this.

So I called up Roger Batzel and I told him the same thing and why I wanted it. I said, "It doesn't mean anything to me personally, but it could have a salutary effect." He said, had I talked to Mike May? I said, "No, I haven't." He said, "Well, I'll talk to Mike May." They were supposed to get back to me.

About two days later, Glenn Seaborg called and he said, "Roger and Mike won't do it." I said, "What about you?" and he said, "No, I can't do it by myself." I said, "Well, it's just pretty bad, Glenn, you really need it. You really need to do something for humanity." He said, "Look, Jack, I treated you very fairly." I said, "You did when I worked with you on uranium-233. I did all the work; you never questioned my honesty, you signed your name on those papers. When I did the work on 233U and plutonium, you were quite happy to take some of the credit for that. You never worried about it. But when I did the job you asked me to do, you didn't back me." He said, "I did back you." I said, "Really, you should know what the other Commissioners wanted to do to you." He said, "I opted for lesser sanctions."

At that point on the telephone, I blew up. I said, "Goddamn it, Glenn, you opted for lesser sanctions? I did the damn job you asked me to do, the job I said I would do, and you opted for lesser sanctions when you should have [been] praising me?" I said, "You don't really live in the real world, Glenn; you live in Ronald Reagan's world." He said, "What do you mean by that?" I said, "There was a world as it really was and there was a world as Ronald Reagan would like it to be." I said, "You're the same way: there's the world as it really is and the world that Glenn Seaborg would like it to be!" He said, "That's very harsh, Jack." He sent me a copy of his new book: "To John Gofman with my esteem and affection"-a whole chapter about darkening clouds and the trouble we caused!
GOURLEY: What sort of marks would you give it for accuracy?
GOFMAN: Not good. I called him back and said, "You've got some mistakes in it." It wasn't accurate, but it's not bad. In a lot of ways, he did say that we presented our case well. He just thought that [it] was okay [that] he opted for lesser sanctions. You know what the sanctions were, don't you?

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