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The Nuclear Juggernaut

          Look back a few short years ago upon the construction and attempted operation of the so-called "Fermi" nuclear power plant, some 30 miles from the heart of Detroit. The events leading up to that fiasco are most instructive. We quote Bryerton[1] on this:

          "The Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, a panel established by Congress to advise the AEC, reported to then-chairman of the AEC, Lewis Strauss, on June 6, 1946 `the committee believes there is insufficient information available at this time to give assurance that the PRDC (Power Reactor Development Corporation) reactor can be operated at this site without public hazard.' Strauss suppressed the safeguards committee report, and less than two months later the AEC gave its approval for issuing a construction permit."

          After a series of court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court finally permitted the construction of this nuclear power plant. In a dissenting opinion, Justices Douglas and Black stated:

          "The construction given the (Atomic Energy) Act by the (Atomic Energy) Commission is, with all deference, a lighthearted approach to the most awesome, the most deadly, the most dangerous process that man has ever conceived."

          But such words of wisdom and caution are routinely dismissed by the "pioneering" champions of the nuclear juggernaut.

          The sad history of the Fermi plant is now well known to everyone. After an outlay of 120 million dollars this ill-starred atomic boondoggle failed on October 5, 1966, in its early stage of operation. A period followed where no one involved knew whether the entire city of Detroit would have to be evacuated. We were lucky that such a secondary disaster did not follow the failure of the Fermi reactor. We emphasize the word `lucky', and no one has expressed this better than Professor Edward Teller, who, by the way, is a fervent proponent of nuclear energy.

          ". . . So far, we have been extremely lucky. . . . But with the spread of industrialization, with the greater number of simians monkeying around with things they do not completely understand, sooner or later a fool will prove greater than the proof even in a foolproof system."[2]

          Yes, a nuclear juggernaut, responsive to no societal needs, has been moving across the land, threatening a nightmare for life on earth—forever. Having come to appreciate the meaning and peril of the mad stampede to nuclear power generation, we feel it is urgent that all people understand now what they are facing, so that constructive, positive action can be taken before it is too late. Those sponsoring this rash and dangerous industry are desperately anxious that the true facts be withheld from the public

          It is our purpose to explain how nuclear electricity generation may imperil your health, your life, or your property, without any possibility for redress. You must learn that this stampede is being foisted upon you undemocratically as it proceeds rashly and unwisely to put all our major metropolitan centers at serious risk. Most importantly, you must learn that citizens do indeed have the power to stop this juggernaut and thereby protect their lives, their children's lives, and their property. You cannot count on government, industry, or anyone else; you must learn to act effectively. The public has been and is being deceived by a clever, well-financed propaganda campaign of delusions concerning, "clean, cheap, safe nuclear power."

          Nuclear power has not been proved to be clean!
          Nuclear power has not been proved to be cheap!
          Nuclear power has not been proved to be safe!

          We believe your consideration of all the evidence will lead you to agree that the nuclear fission approach to electricity generation, represents the worst possible choice available to us. The evidence is not at all complicated. It encompasses three major areas:

  1. The poison (radioactivity) that is an inevitable by-product.
  2. The unknown safety of the power generation itself.
  3. The attractive and essential alternatives available now and in the future.


          Radioactivity represents one of the worst, maybe the worst of all poisons. And it is manufactured in astronomical quantities as an inevitable by-product of nuclear electricity generation. One year of operation of a single, large nuclear power plant, generates as much of long-persisting radioactive poisons as one thousand Hiroshima-type atomic bombs. There is no way the electric power can be generated in nuclear plants without generating the radioactive poisons. Once any of these radioactive poisons are released to the environment, and this we believe is likely to occur, the pollution of our environment is irreversible. They will be with us for centuries. It is important that people learn how they are likely to be exposed to such poisons and how death-dealing injury is thereby produced in the individual and in all future generations.


          Careful examination of the generation of electric power by nuclear generators is essential, for such examination shows that, even in its infancy, this industry might have caused a major health calamity. We have been lucky thus far, and we have no assurance whatever that our luck will hold out, as this nuclear generating industry burgeons rashly and unwisely. The leadership of this nuclear juggernaut has been anything but responsible. The top leadership has displayed a total lack of comprehension of radioactive poison and its effects. The top leadership has displayed a total lack of understanding of the basic principles of sound public health practice which must be applied to new, hazardous technologies. Worst of all, this same top leadership has demonstrated a lack of responsibility in meeting the moral obligation to provide the public with honest information concerning the real hazards which must be faced. We are not speaking of usual "industrial accidents." Rather, we are concerned over the hazard of major calamities to human health and life, unparalleled in human history.


          The nuclear juggernaut is by no means necessary to guarantee us an adequate supply of electric power. Far from it. There are several attractive, feasible alternatives to meet electric power requirements. The choice of a rational alternative is in the hands of the public. Citizens undoubtedly can and should exercise their power to choose a rational viable future. Constructive action is possible to protect lives, health and property. It is important to learn how such constructive application of citizen power can be utilized to counter the nuclear juggernaut.


          About a year ago, we began to perceive the dimensions of the massive hoax being perpetrated upon the public. It was very difficult for us to believe that what we observed to be occurring could truly be real. Indeed, up to that time we, deeply immersed in atomic energy research, had been lulled into the belief that nuclear electricity was the one atomic energy program which posed very little threat to society. How wrong we were. There is a real potential disaster ahead, we now know. It is, we think, important that you share this knowledge with us.

          In 1963 we were asked by the Atomic Energy Commission to undertake long-range studies of the potential dangers for man and other species from a variety of so-called "peaceful uses of the atom." Nuclear electricity generation is one such atomic program. Naturally, we presumed that the Atomic Energy Commission seriously wanted to know the truth concerning the magnitude of possible hazards. In fact, in assigning this study mission to us, Chairman Glenn Seaborg assured us that he wanted favorable or unfavorable findings made available to the public "All we want is the truth," Chairman Seaborg said in 1963.

          We have learned, to our great dismay, that these assurances were illusory. It is now clear to us that the Atomic Energy Commission had not contemplated seriously that the studies might reveal serious flaws and dangers in the "peaceful atom" programs. This kind of "truth" has proved to be quite unwelcome. The research findings we have made can be expressed succinctly in two statements:

          (1) Radiation, to be expected from several atomic energy programs burgeoning rapidly, is a far, far more serious hazard to humans than any of the so-called "experts" had previously thought possible.

          (2) The hazard to this generation of humans from cancer and leukemia as a result of atomic radiation is TWENTY TIMES as great as had been thought previously. The hazard to all future generations in the form of genetic damage and deaths, had been underestimated even more seriously.

          In a rational society, where the health and welfare of citizens would be considered as paramount, such research findings would have been warnings welcomed. And we expected our findings would be welcomed. Instead we received a torrent of vitriol and personal condemnation from three major sources:

                    The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
                    The Joint Committee on Atomic Energy
                    The Electric Utility Industry

          What, we wondered, could account for the reflex attack upon us by these three groups. What made these particular three groups so inordinately sensitive to new knowledge concerning the hazard of radiation? What do these three groups share as a common interest? The answer was not far to seek. These three groups act in concert as a powerful, promotional triumvirate for nuclear electricity generation. It was not immediately obvious to us why, even so, such a triumvirate should be so violently frightened by knowledge concerning radiation hazards. In fact, one might logically believe knowledge important for the nuclear industry's benefit would be an item of extremely high priority.

          Slowly it dawned upon us that possibly all was not so wonderful about nuclear electricity generation as the advertisements claimed. Could it be that this triumvirate had been misleading the public, lulling the public into the belief that no significant hazard existed? Was something being swept under the rug? A little careful probing showed that not only was something being swept under the rug; the entire structure was rotten in every respect.

          This entire nuclear electricity industry had been developing under a set of totally false illusions of safety and economy. Not only was there a total lack of appreciation of the hazards of radiation for man, but there was a total absence of candor concerning the hazard of serious accidents. The economics were being treated with rose-colored glasses. And the triumvirate knew all too well that the stampede to nuclear power, initiated by them, could not possibly tolerate the bright light of exposure to public scrutiny. The more deeply we probed, the more we realized how massive the deception truly was. It became quite clear that concealment of truth from the public was regarded as essential. And we realized very clearly why the violent reaction had greeted our presentation of the research findings concerning the radiation hazard to humans.

          Further, we came to understand why citizen groups, across the country, were becoming increasingly concerned and alarmed about the plans for ringing essentially every major metropolitan center with gigantic, totally experimental, untried nuclear power plants. And such public groups, expressing their apprehension, didn't even know all the extremely serious hazards of radiation about which we had learned through our researches. By speaking with such concerned groups and by listening to them, we finally came to understand that they had found no sincerity, no honesty, and no candor being displayed by the Nuclear Triumvirate with respect to provision of the real facts behind the nuclear power story. Pure public relations department rubbish was being passed out to the public, heralded as "information." The false illusion that citizens with concern could be "heard", was really a mockery of a democratic tradition. Interventions in Hearings before AEC Licensing Boards were a joke. The Licensing Boards, chosen by the AEC, and known to be favorable to nuclear power development, went through the motions of a Hearing and inevitably returned a rubber-stamp decision that a go-ahead should be given to every nuclear power plant.

          The promoters of nuclear electricity have recently been bemoaning the public "alarm" and have been criticizing those who raise questions as "stirrer-uppers" or as conservationist "kooks." We do not for one moment worry at all about the public's alarm over the dangers it faces from an irresponsible nuclear juggernaut. The real source of concern is that the public is not sufficiently alarmed and frightened over the rash, irresponsible actions of the men who are stampeding this country into a potential nightmare. These men are much more frightening than the hazard of radiation.

          How shall we cope with men who initiate and promote rash technologies that can spell irrevocable disaster? It is truly unfortunate that the men responsible for ill-advised technological ventures, such as nuclear electric power generation, are rarely called upon by name to explain their actions. The cloak of anonymity protects them from responsibility for what they do, even if their actions ultimately compromise the very survival of humans.

          It is of the utmost importance that every concerned citizen learn to identify the men behind anti-social and anti-human, ill-considered technological ventures. It is of the utmost importance that the men who promote such industries be identified publicly and be asked by the public to answer the serious moral questions they have thus far sidestepped. One cannot ask a nameless bureaucracy anything. But the men within the bureaucracies must be brought forward to answer the questions they seek to avoid.

          Congressman Chet Holifield, a member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, sits at the very top of the atomic energy pyramid. He, a super-hawk promoter of nuclear energy, continues to make public statements verbally, and on the printed record, which display an appalling ignorance of even the most elemental aspects of radiation hazards for humans. Amounts of radiation exposure that concern the world biological community as being characterized by potentially disastrous long-term consequences, are described by Mr. Holifield as "abundantly safe." It is not that Mr. Holifield hasn't been provided the necessary biological and medical information. He simply displays no interest in listening to such information.

          The U.S. Atomic Energy Commissioners,[3] currently Seaborg, Johnson, Ramey and Larson, provide a steady stream of platitudes concerning nuclear power, platitudes that do not even remotely address the real issues of concern. Instead of facing their moral and social obligation to explain truthfully their total ignorance of the hazards of major accidents in nuclear power plants and of sabotage at many steps throughout the nuclear power industry, they simply issue soothing unsupported and unsupportable statements concerning safety of such plants and operations. None of the Commissioners has even begun to address himself to the serious questions raised repeatedly by scientists and by the public-at-large. Their major recent answer to serious public concern has been to double the size of their public relations efforts—all generously supported at taxpayer expense. The public must invite these men to begin expressing, in a responsible manner, the real questions surrounding their nuclear power promotions.

          Lastly, we must turn our attention to the directors and presidents of the electric utility industry. The names of these men are rarely known to the public. They shun public questioning concerning the serious moral issues they have failed to face squarely. Without any valid evidence their publicity departments say we must have nuclear power to meet our electricity needs. At the very same time they authorize the spending of millions of dollars to advertise for increased consumption of electric power. No better scheme for creation of self-fulfilling prophecies could be imagined. And this, too, is of course ultimately added to the consumers' electric bills.

          Further, the directors and presidents of electric utility industries staunchly refuse to learn anything concerning the true hazard of their by-product radioactive poisons. It is regrettable that initially they were duped into believing no hazard existed, through the falsely optimistic statements emanating from the Atomic Energy Commission. This, however, cannot be accepted as an adequate basis for their steadfast refusal to learn.


          If one is desirous of knowing about environmental hazards, there exists one unusually reliable source of unbiased information. This is the insurance industry. This highly successful industry has consistently operated profitably for one reason—they understand how to assess hazards. For the insurance industry to fail in their assessment of hazards means the loss of money. The insurance companies do not lose money.

          One has only to observe the actions of the insurance companies to realize that this industry has essentially no confidence in the safety of nuclear electricity generation. The insurance people have watched carefully the burgeoning of nuclear electric power and they wasted no time taking serious steps to protect themselves. Little known to an unsuspecting public, the insurance industry inserted exclusion clauses into Homeowners' policies. If homes and property suffer damage from radioactivity and nuclear plant accidents, most policies do not cover such damages. Many people have thought such exclusion clauses apply to nuclear war. Far from it—they are specifically planned to protect the insurance industry against the nuclear power industry. In this manner the profit-minded insurance companies have looked at nuclear electric power and have expressed themselves, "No Confidence."

          And what about the bulk of the liability for major damage from nuclear power plant accidents? Who carries this? No one—no one at all. The electric utility industry, of course, would never have even considered venturing into nuclear power if they could be held liable for the disastrous accidents considered possible. The insurance industry refused to insure such risks at any price. The Congress, with flagrant disregard for the public's rights, absolved everyone of virtually all significant liability by passing a law, known as the Price-Anderson Act. A major accident, it has been estimated, could lead to 7 billion dollars worth of damage. The Price-Anderson Act decrees that the maximum liability shall be 560 million dollars. The public stands to recover a maximum of seven cents on each dollar in such an event. And the public pays 80% even of this inadequate protection.

          If the electric utility corporations had to stand financially behind their sweet assurances of "safe" nuclear power, the nuclear electricity industry would cease immediately.


          The nuclear juggernaut plans fully to roll on without assuming any of the moral and social responsibility it should take. So long as the public is lulled to sleep and doesn't know the right questions and the necessary actions, this madness can and will go unchecked. It is a major purpose of our book to provide the information concerning the supremely important questions the nuclear electricity spokesmen have failed to answer. An informed public can act effectively to protect itself. Such action is essential.

          Too many people feel the problems and the questions are highly technical. And because of this they are easily fooled into believing they must rely on the "experts." But a new day of awareness is dawning and a large segment of the public is fully aware that it has been the "experts" who have time and again misled us and have brought us to the sorry environmental plight we face today. Be your own expert. You can understand every aspect of the problems created by the nuclear juggernaut. We believe the ensuing chapters will provide you with the knowledge required for taking intelligent, effective action.

          You may find a particular point seems technical, momentarily. We can assure you that you can pass such points by and go right on without any loss of understanding the real meat of the problem. At a later time you will find it easy to return to and to understand those few issues you went over rapidly. What you must realize is that if you do not have the information at your disposal, or do not know where that information is to be found, you will be a sitting duck for falsehoods and irrelevancies that will be thrown at you. Honest information lies at the root of strength for public action to protect the environment, your property, your health and your life! But you don't need to understand each little detail, provided you can get it when you do need it.


          We have no desire whatever to be prophets of doom concerning the serious threat posed to you by the nuclear electricity industry. Not at all! We know that the public can and will take care of this mad stampede very effectively. An aroused and informed public is the key to self-defense against environmental rapists.

          Therefore, after describing the nature of the poison generated by the nuclear electricity industry and the enormous price in health and property this industry can cost the public, we turn to the really important issues to be treated here. First you will learn that there are highly attractive alternatives available which make nuclear electric power generation unnecessary. You will realize there is no basis for concern that stopping the nuclear juggernaut means a shortage of electric power. We can have the electric power we need. We can have a high quality of life. And we can and must stop the destruction of our environment by the introduction of poisons that will last essentially forever.

          People have underestimated their power and ability with respect to turning back polluters. Truth and information spread rapidly. There is nothing that the Atomic Energy Commission, the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, and the electric utility industry fear more than an informed public. An informed public can act, and act with great effectiveness.

          And if stopping the nuclear juggernaut is accomplished through intelligent public action, the gain will spread. A successful attack upon this particular ill-conceived and rash stupidity of man will give the public confidence and the tools to solve other problems threatening our environment and our planet.

          We are quite optimistic that the public can teach the parochial, shortsighted nuclear triumvirate that the planet Earth has other functions than to serve as a sewer for the triumvirate's wastes.

  1. Nuclear Dilemma. Gene Bryerton, Friends of the Earth/Ballantine, New York, 1970.

  2. As seen in the Eugene Register Guard (Oregon), October 7, 1969.

  3. It was with profound sorrow that we learned of the untimely accidental death of AEC Commissioner Theos Thompson after this book was written. While many of the comments made by Commissioner Thompson concerning radiation hazards are criticized in the text of this book, such criticism in no way was ever directed toward the person of Commissioner Thompson.

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