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          I don't happen to like the title of this book. As for the book itself, I hope that millions of people will read it, because nuclear pollution is certainly a most serious threat to life.

          Exposure to nuclear radiation can cause cancer, it can cause babies to be born mentally or physically defective and it can cause increases in many serious illnesses like heart disease. I know of no one who denies these statements.

          Fortunately, there is a chance to prevent serious nuclear pollution; it has not yet occurred. The threat, however, lies in the country's growing commitment to nuclear power plants for electricity, and to nuclear weapons for defense.

          The problem with nuclear electricity is that as much long-lived radioactivity is produced inside one large nuclear power plant every year as there is in the explosion of about 1,000 Hiroshima bombs. When we say "long-lived" radioactivity, we mean long. Some kinds last for 100, 300, and even 240,000 years before decaying fully.

          Unprotected, above-ground nuclear power plants, loaded with radioactivity in their cores, would certainly be large liabilities if this country were ever under attack. They seem to make the country virtually indefensible.

          Quite aside from war or sabotage, an accident allowing just one percent of the inner radioactivity to escape from one plant would put as much harmful contamination directly into the environment as 10 bombs. And it would not be spread out all over the globe like bomb fallout; it would all be concentrated in just a few states. Suppose we had to abandon large sections of this land we love?

          I can not deny that the government should be preventing this extraordinary possibility. But when we observe that the government allowed harmful conditions to develop in our air and water from other pollutants, then it is clear that citizens had better not count on the government to prevent nuclear pollution for them either.

          I believe that citizens should get very active, very loudly, very fast.

          I am not at all impressed by promises that growing nuclear activities will never give us more than a tiny part of the legally permissible radiation dose. Sincerity would require backing those promises with action—like supporting a reduction in the legally permissible radiation dose. I haven't seen that happening. Instead, I read testimony presented by AEC Commissioners to Congress a year ago opposing any reduction at all because, they explained, they did not know how near to the full limit the nuclear power plants might go.

          Also, I am not at all convinced by claims that nuclear power plants are safe and that radioactivity will never escape accidentally. If they are as safe as utilities claim, then why did those same utilities insist that they be given special limits on their liability for accidents? When utilities back their claims by supporting repeal of their special liability privileges, I will be more impressed.

          It turns out that the government—the Atomic Energy Commission—emphatically does not share the industry's proclaimed confidence that their commercial nuclear-plant designs incorporate adequate provisions for safety. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) testified to Congress last year that, "Many safety issues remain to be resolved before a substantial number of these plants (which have received construction licenses) will be able to be licensed for operation."[1]

          It was hard for me to believe that the essential system which stands between the public and a radioactive calamity—a system called the Emergency Core Cooling System—has never once been actually tested to see if all parts will work in reality as well as theory. That's something like allowing commercial airlines to use planes which have never been test-flown. Apparently, the AEC thinks those emergency-system tests are important, because the Commission is spending many millions of dollars to prepare the tests—for 1975.[2]

          "Though we can generally tell when we have a very unsafe (nuclear) reactor, it's always hard to know how safe you are with one you believe to be safe." That statement was part of sworn testimony last year from N. J. Palladino, a member of the AEC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, and Dean of the College of Engineering at Pennsylvania State University.[3]

          Who could fail to be alarmed after carefully reading the following testimony presented last year before Congress?

          "There continues to be increasing recognition throughout the nuclear power industry of the urgent need for development and adoption of engineering standards and other disciplined quality assurance practices . . . In spite of progress, the actions and accomplishments fall far short of what is needed," reported the AEC's Division of Reactor Development and Technology.[4]

          What does that mean? Admiral Hyman Rickover, the AEC's Director for Naval Propulsion (nuclear submarines), clearly stated that the meaning might be disaster. "There is need for utmost care in design, manufacture, installation and operation of complex systems and equipment inherent in this technology. No carelessness can be tolerated anywhere in the entire chain or the results may prove disastrous. Unfortunately, there are many who are not aware of the necessity of this approach. The difficulties you refer to in connection with fabrication of civilian nuclear central power plants, are, I believe, due largely to failure to specify and enforce the required high standards for systems and equipment."[5]

          Sloppy work has been reported from reactor construction sites, as well as from earlier stages of reactor-building. The AEC's inspection staff is far too small to keep control, so the builders are allowed to police themselves. They are almost all running far behind schedule, so the temptation to cut corners is certainly there.

          If you imagine that the AEC feels responsible for your safety, you will be surprised to learn that the Commission has specifically abdicated "basic responsibility for safety" to industry. Said AEC Chairman Glenn Seaborg, "Problems in the design, fabrication, and building of nuclear plants can be minimized only by rigorous quality assurance programs, initiated and enforced by top utility management."[6] AEC Commissioner James Ramey has added, "It must never be forgotten that responsibility for safety of the plant rests with the owner or operator. The regulatory groups, no matter how thoroughly they carry out their function, can not provide complete assurance that public health and safety will be adequately protected in a power reactor project."[7]

          When 525 members of the National Society of Professional Engineers were polled a year ago, almost 60 percent answered "Yes" when asked whether there is a valid reason for the public to be worried about nuclear plants.[8] We must stop this gigantic gamble with public safety.

          I endorse bills and petitions which would impose a moratorium stopping construction of nuclear power plants. Before any more are built and licensed, we are all entitled to safety-first policies and to straight answers to many questions—including those regarding the presently "permissible dose" of radiation (please see Appendix V). There are already moratorium efforts underway in California, Minnesota, Oregon, and New York City; by the time you read this, there may be others (please see Appendix II).

          My bill in the Senate would create an Energy-Environment Commission to see that we get safe sources of electricity; one section of the bill would stop the stampede to nuclear power by repealing the special insurance privileges (which are explained in this book). Other sections would require that we make the dirty coal and oil plants clean, which is possible, and would see that we develop ways to get our energy without poisoning the planet. There seem to be lots of possible ways to accomplish that—such as fusion, solar, wind, and geothermal energies, as well as magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) and fuel cells. The real question to decide during a nuclear moratorium is: Do we take our chances with some of the gentle possibilities, or do we rush into a commitment to the one technology which may end up contaminating this planet permanently?

          I'm optimistic. There is such a fabulous amount of energy renewing itself naturally on earth that, if man learned to tap just a tiny part of it, he could probably make all the electricity he needs without disturbing nature's harmony. Unless we start putting effort into solving energy needs, it's insincere to say that it is electricity vs. the environment, or any of the other false choices offered us. I hope that you will consider some of these ideas and proposals, which are included later (please see Appendix VI).

          You will probably agree with some of the ideas in this book, and disagree with others, and have good ideas of your own. Please let us know by writing; your opinion counts only if you express it.

          Don't expect overnight miracles. Very few of my colleagues in Congress are ready yet to take action on this subject. As you know personally, it takes time to move from feeling

       #1.   NOT INTERESTED: "Nuclear plants are safe and clean."
to    #2.   CONCERNED: "Is there really a hazard?"
to    #3.   DETERMINED: "I will study and find out."
to    #4.   CONVINCED: "Yes, there is really a hazard."
to    #5.   READY AND ABLE: "It's time to convince others."

          Most members of Congress are somewhere between stage #l and #2. Many will skip stages #3 and #5 because it is impossible for one human being to become expert in all the subjects of public importance. Don't expect otherwise.

          Expect that a member of Congress will move from stage #2 to stage #4 whenever a significant number of home-state voters, groups, experts, and newspapers assert loudly enough that there is a hazard, and they expect him to do something about it. Therefore, the effective thing for you to do is to move yourself into stage #5, and then teach others.

          You can challenge professional groups, like your state medical association, your state cancer, heart, and birth defects associations, university and high school biology professors, and your state and national representatives, to take public positions on the nuclear issue. If they plead too much ignorance, insist that they have a responsibility to learn, and help them to do so.

          In addition, you can start asking the important but presently unanswered questions about nuclear hazards. Ask the people who ought to have those answers to come meet groups in your area. Invite the Atomic Energy Commissioners,[9] members of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy,[10] the Atomic Industrial Forum,[11] National Committee on Radiation Protection,[12] executives and board members of the utilities, members of your state public utility commission, state engineering board, and university engineering faculty.

          You may wonder why I suggest invitations to people who will favor nuclear power. I am not suggesting invitations for them to give long, rosy speeches; I am suggesting invitations for them to answer the hard questions.

          These are some of the people we would invite to a Senate hearing. After all, these are the people responsible for bringing us the threat of nuclear accidents and pollution. These are the men who are obliged to explain themselves and to tell us what they know and what they do not know.

          The problem is that you must know your subject extremely well before you extend that kind of invitation; otherwise, you will be "snowed" and unable to recognize a false or inadequate answer. It takes lots of knowledge just to ask the right questions. You can tune in to some of the valuable experience of others who joined the fight earlier. (Please see Appendix II.)

          No one loves a complainer.

          Citizens who object to something—like radioactive power plants—will find sympathy and quicker success if they also propose a better solution. Safe alternatives to nuclear electricity do exist, and this book will introduce you to some. It is almost hopeless to oppose a nuclear power plant unless you think through and find endorsement for another solution in your area. Students in economics and engineering may be willing to help.

          You will each have to make a personal choice: will I work on it, or just hope that others will take care of the problem for me? For make no mistake, there is a problem.

          Suppose that no one else does do the job for you successfully? The future in a badly contaminated world would be very grim.

          Even now, every time a woman enters the maternity ward to have a baby, she faces one chance in twenty-five that she will give birth to a child who is seriously defective mentally or physically. Nuclear pollution would make the odds worse; do American women want that? It is a fact that pregnant women (the embryos they carry) are far more sensitive than anyone else to radiation damage.

          Cancer presently kills more children than any other cause except accidents. Nuclear pollution would cause even more children to suffer and die from cancer; do citizens approve of that? Children are considerably more sensitive to radiation harm than adults, but adults also can get cancer from nuclear pollution.

          If there were serious nuclear pollution, most healthy people might have to spend much of their lives caring for sick people.

          Lasting nuclear pollution—practically permanent radioactive contamination of this planet—is a possibility and even a probability unless some present policies are changed soon. Therefore, I believe our descendants will not forgive faint-hearted efforts from any of us.

—Mike Gravel, U.S. Senator from Alaska
Washington, D.C.             
March 1, 1971.                

  1. From "Nuclear Safety Program," written testimony submitted by Milton Shaw, Director. AEC Division of Reactor Development and Technology; published in "AEC Authorizing Legislation Fiscal Year 1971, hearings before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, March 11 1970 Part 3, page 1374.

  2. From Milton Shaw's testimony, pages 1339, 1363-67. See note #1.

  3. From sworn testimony (during question-and-answer period) by N. J. Palladino, before the Select Committee on Nuclear Electricity Generation, Pennsylvania State Senate (Sen Edwin G. Holl), Harrisburg, Penna., August 21, 1970.

  4. From "Nuclear Power Industry," written testimony submitted by Milton Shaw, pages 1191-2. See note #1.

  5. From testimony by Vice Admiral Hyman Rickover, Director, AEC Division of Naval Propulsion; published in "Naval Propulsion Program 1970," hearings before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, March 19-20, 1970, pages 96-101.

  6. Glenn Seaborg, speaking to the 37th Annual Convention of the Edison Electric Institute; quoted in the 1971 Authorization hearings, Part 3, page 1192. See note #1

  7. James T. Ramey in "AEC Authorizing Legislation," hearings before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, 1968, Part 3, page 1186.

  8. Reported in INFO, April 1970; INFO is a newsletter of the Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc., 850 Third Ave., New York City, 10022.

  9. The AEC Commissioners are:
    Glenn Seaborg (chemist).
    James T. Ramey (lawyer).
    Wilfred Johnson (mechanical engineer).
    Clarence E. Larson (bio-chemist).
    Address: U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Washington, D.C. 20545.

  10. Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, U.S. Capitol Bldg, Washington, D.C. 20510. The Committee can provide a list of its new membership for the 92nd Congress.

  11. The Atomic Industrial Forum's membership comprises about 600 firms and organizations and government agencies engaged in development and utilization of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Address: 850 Third Ave., New York City 10022.

  12. The National Committee on Radiation Protection (NCRP) is a non-profit corporation chartered by Congress in 1964. Its work, which includes recommending a permissible radiation dose for approval by the Federal Radiation Council, is supported financially by 33 organizations such as the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the U.S. Public Health Service (HEW) the American Nuclear Society, the American College of Radiology, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, and the Office of Civil Defense. Address: 4201 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008. The NCRP's most recent report is #39, "Basic Radiation Protection Criteria." issued January 15, 1971; price $2.00.

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