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Excerpt from 3/27/95 UCORP Meeting Minutes
A. Consultation with John W. Gofman"

The excerpt below was taken from the following in 1997 --
-- but the above file no longer is resident on the server.


. . . .


Chair Gold introduced and welcomed UCORP's guests: Professor Emeritus John W. Gofman, lecturer in Cell Biology at UCB, lecturer in Medicine at UCSF; Professor Roger Falcone, Chair, Physics Department, UCB; Dr. Lara Gundel, staff scientist, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory; Professor Emeritus Marc Pilisuk, Community Psychology, UCD and an affiliate of the School of Public Health, UCB; Professor Lara Nader, Anthropology, UCB.

The University of California's involvement with the National Labs, Chair Gold stated, is unique in the history of contractual relationship with the United States government. UC undertook management of the labs as a public service during World War II when the government initiated the development of nuclear weapons. When R. Robert Oppenheimer, UCB Professor of Physics, was selected to head the Manhattan Project, he requested that the University of California sign contracts to manage the Los Alamos National Laboratory as well as the newly-founded radiation lab at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. UC's purview expanded to include Lawrence Livermore as part of the radiation laboratories, and in 1971 Lawrence Livermore became a separate national laboratory. Although the Board of Regents continues to be the University contractor, the government contractor has changed, variously, from the War Department, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Energy Research and Development Administration, and, currently, to the Department of Energy.

The vehicle for the partnership, Chair Gold continued, has been a "go-co," or government-owned contractor-operated laboratory. The University of California has accepted responsibility for operating the laboratories in the spirit of public service, understanding that it would incur neither financial gain nor loss from this activity. The contracts are renewed every five years, and the present contracts will be renewed in two years. According to the contracts, UC is responsible for the performance of the labs' programs in a sound, cost-effective, and safe manner and for the long-term institutional health of the labs.

The University of California has conducted several internal reviews of its relationship with the national labs. The 1969 review committee believed that the University was operating in a virtually hands-off manner; the administrative interaction between the University and the labs barely was discernable. The 1969 review committee recommended, as every subsequent review has recommended, an easing of security, more openness at the labs, and increased UC oversight of the labs. The UC report of 1979, Gold stated, favored continued management while arguing for a more active management role for the University, to wit: to foster openness to facilitate collaborations, to ensure freedom of inquiry and expression, and to invite discussion of controversy surrounding the laboratories.

In 1989 the Jendresen Report was issued, the result of almost two years' work of site visits and testimony to that committee by a variety of involved people. Six of the eight members of the Jendresen Committee favored a phase-out of UC management responsibility; two of the eight members of that committee favored continuing the relationship under a proposed separate corporate body within the UC structure.

Malcolm Jendresen was unable to attend today's UCORP meeting, and Chair Gold presented a summation of the Jendresen Report (previously distributed to UCORP on December 8, 1994). The Jendresen Report assumed that the end of the Cold War would mean a decrease in weapons-related work and an increase in non-nuclear research activity. In September of 1990 the Jendresen report was circulated for a mail ballot: 64% of the voting members of the faculty voted to support the Report's recommendation to phase out the contractual relationship; 43% of the faculty participated in the vote. All of the campuses, except one, voted in favor of phasing out the contracts. However, the President of the University decided to move forward, recommended that action to The Regents, and the contracts were renewed.

Under the current contracts, a major change in the nature of the administrative oversight on the part of the University is occurring. The President's Council on the National Laboratories has been expanded to include representatives from the labs, UC faculty, and nationally-known figures with expertise related to lab activities. The University's oversight activities have been increased by the formation of the National Security Panel, the Science and Technology Panel, and the Environmental, Safety and Health Panel. These committees, Gold believes, have taken on a great deal of responsibility in an attempt to more actively involve the University in its management of the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories.

UCORP's intention, Chair Gold concluded, is to educate the faculty of the University of California and to provide leadership for the Senate as UC approaches the new contract negotiations. Every internal University of California review has been critical of the relationship between UC and the national labs, and it is important to learn if significant change has developed under the current contracts. Each of the guests at today's UCORP meeting has a different focus and perspective on UC's contracts with the Department of Energy for the management of the national labs. Gold emphasized the informal nature of today's discussions as an opportunity to exchange as much information as possible.

A. Consultation with John W. Gofman

Professor Emeritus John W. Gofman has been associated with the University of California for 55 years, and he describes himself as a fierce loyalist for the University. His association with the "rad labs" began as a graduate student working on the Uranium 233 discovery. He then was involved in the Manhattan Project and in the isolation of the first milligram quantity of Plutonium. After completing his medical school studies at UCSF, Gofman joined the UCB faculty of medical physicists in 1947. In 1953 Ernest Lawrence, concerned about safety in the radiation lab, asked him to establish the Medical Department at Lawrence Livermore. Gofman held the position of industrial physician at Livermore until 1957, when he returned to UCB to work primarily on heart disease until 1962.

Professor Gofman thanked UCORP for the invitation to attend today's meeting. The 100th anniversary of Roentgen's discovery of the x-ray, he stated, is exceedingly germane to the issue of UC's oversight of the national labs. He called his agenda simple: good health is better than bad health, cured cancers are better than many cancers, and no future Hiroshimas are better than any Hiroshimas. Gofman said that the existence of a university has everything to do with life phenomena and with what we call civilization. That being the case, he believes that universities ought to be concerned with all things that may cause us to go out with a whimper, and all things that may cause us to go out with a bang -- both at issue, he said, at the Los Alamos and the Livermore National Labs.

In 1962, when Kruschev broke the voluntary moratorium on weapons testing, Jack Kennedy told the weapons laboratories that the government wanted to have a first class show, and they did. But, Gofman said, it was readily determined that the radioiodine exposure of Utah was extreme, in fact several times the allowable standard. Gofman stated, "that was immediately solved by setting a new [higher] standard." Because of the level of public concern in Utah, the Atomic Energy Commissioners, in an attempt to improve the situation, asked the Livermore Lab to establish a Biomedical Division. When the lab in turn asked Gofman to organize the Biomedical Division, he asked what biologists could do about fallout -- they couldn't stop it. He was told that "perhaps he'd help design new weapons in a little different way so that the total amount of radioactivity would be less." That was a possibility, so, "in a period of slight decerebration," Gofman accepted the job of organizing the Biomedical Research Division at Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Professor Gofman informed UCORP that he has always supported the idea of a nuclear weapons deterrence program. He believes the Cold War is not over today and will not be over 100 years from today. Cold and hot wars will continue unless the "human species changes in some drastic fashion, which is not likely from a genetic point of view." Gofman stated that the University needs to be concerned about the issues of "going out with a bang" and of pollution by radioactivity. Thus, he acknowledges that his message is a somewhat mixed one. Though Gofman does "not believe anything coming out of the Lawrence Livermore or Los Alamos Lab on health effects of radiation," he continues to be a strong supporter of the idea of nuclear deterrence and does not want the labs weakened.

Professor Gofman is gravely concerned over the Department of Energy's and the laboratories' lack of public credibility about the health effects of radiation. The DOE's track record remains so bad, he stated, that in 1989 even DOE chairman James Watkins admitted that safety claims about radiation had no credibility with the public. DOE secretary Hazel O'Leary, in a 2-1/2 hour conversation with Gofman last year, did not disagree. Gofman does not believe that the laboratories and DOE can ever achieve credibility on the issues of health effects of radiation or other pollutants unless some powerful countermeasures to the obvious conflict of interest are established (the various laboratories of the DOE do not permit the voicing of dissident opinions by its employees). One possible measure, Gofman suggested, could be a permanent policy of setting aside a segment, perhaps 5% - 10%, of the health budget to be administered by independent, non-governmental citizen-based groups, who would sponsor on-site experts of their own choosing. Gofman believes that the daily on-site presence of potential whistle blowers would tend to liberate DOE-sponsored analysts from any humiliating pressures and would give their own work some real credibility. He said he cannot guarantee that this would work, but he does guarantee that more than powerless citizen advisers are needed to give DOE-sponsored health studies some credibility.

Studying the health effects of radiation since 1963, Professor Gofman has written several books on radiation and cancer. Roentgen's x-ray was introduced into science in 1895, and very shortly thereafter medicine started to apply the x-ray. Because, unfortunately, internal cancers occur primarily "5, 10, 20, 30, ... and probably even 60 years after radiation," he said, "medicine made a horrible mistake." 200, 300, 500 rads were given to people in a localized area of the body, and nothing happened. No adverse effects were apparent in the short run; scientists assumed the radiation was safe; and they became believers that it was safe. Gofman stated that 80 separate diseases, including asthma, inflammatory diseases, and pneumonia, were treated with x-ray.

When the Atomic Energy Commission was set up in 1945, Gofman said, the labs' biology and medicine divisions were run by radiologists who had been brought up in a culture that believed that everything was fine with x-rays; you had nothing to worry about. The AEC programs were built on the fact that everything was fine. In 1969 when Gofman presented a paper saying that everything was not so fine, even at low doses, the then-chairman of the joint committee on Atomic Energy responded, "What the hell do you think you are doing getting all the little ladies in tennis shoes up in arms about our Atomic Energy Commission programs? [The AEC assures me that ] if we gave everyone 100 times the allowable dose, there would be zero effects." The AEC had promoted programs, Gofman continued, on peaceful explosives, the nuclear weapons program, all kinds of uses of radioactivity, and he acknowledged the difficulty of backing off from a position that "everything is fine" to a position where everything isn't fine. Gofman stated, however, that he has published what he considers to be a definite refutation of the possibility of a safe dose of radiation. At even the lowest dose, reflecting 1 decay particle track per nucleus in a cloud chamber, there is cancer produced in humans.

During the extended discussion period following his presentation, Professor Gofman responded to UCORP members' questions. He said that, though the world would be better with fewer weapons than we have, he believes neither in unilateral disarmament, nor in nonproliferation treaties ("treaties are made to be broken"). Professor Narasimhan commented on the low-dose long-term issue raised by Gofman: the earth is more than several million years old, yet science and technology tend not to extrapolate and to accept effects which are apparently, on the short-term time scale, insignificant. Narasimhan and Gofman agreed, on a point of ecology, that everything is connected to everything else. The law of unintended consequences is given very short shrift in our thinking about biological consequences of radiation. Gofman said the solution lies in first recognizing that there is a problem, and then to start to think about it; and a great university is capable of placing a great deal of thought and effort toward a resolution of these critical issues.

Gofman said the question raised by Professor Radke has been asked of him many times: would some 10 experts of your stature and experience have a commonality of understanding on the issue of long-term effects of low-dose radiation, or is this one of the issues on which we would have honest, sincere people disagreeing in great measure? Gofman described the difference between valid scientists' consensus and what he terms an "artificial consensus." Many of his colleagues do agree with him; many of those that disagree have not read his publications; and the Federal Treasurer's checkbook may predetermine a consensus.

To UCORP members' questions about UC oversight of the national labs Gofman responded, "I think someone or many in the University faculty could be devoted to the idea of oversight, but it has got to be outside the structure. Don't expect someone in a university contract [fearful of retribution] to do the right thing." Classification clearance is a problem, but it can be obtained by outsiders. He believes that outside surveillance will eventually lead to less tension in the long run, in the classified as well as the non-classified areas, by lifting the pressure to conform within the institutional structure. Outsiders, Gofman stated, could very well be good people for oversight. Gofman proposed that some scientists could be brought together as a cadre for outside surveillance, financed by a 5% - 10% portion of the DOE budget for health, with the DOE having nothing to say about their livelihood.

Professor Gofman referred to his work on the Chernobyl accident. Two years ago a Swedish foundation awarded him one of the Right Livelihood awards for his work on Chernobyl. He had some hopes that something constructive could be done in the ex-Soviet Union, and he met with the newly-established Minister of the Ukraine to suggest that the Chernobyl accident be evaluated. "I regard these accidents as a sacred trust," Gofman said. "If we don't learn from our mistakes, like the Chernobyl accident, we are doomed to repeat them all over the place." Gofman's suggestion for oversight of the data gathering of the Chernobyl accident was approved, and he obtained 47 positive responses from some 50 scientists he had contacted around the world. When the Minister was moved to a different job -- and so the idea died, Russians, concerned about the deception surrounding the fallout and dosage, convinced him to write a book. Thus, a 600-page book, circulated in the Russian language, was written by Gofman on the consequences of the Chernobyl accident.

Professor Phinney asked if, correctly summarized, Gofman's recommendations were (1) that the University of California look at the life phenomenon and the radiation effects on humans, and (2) that University of California faculty become involved in faculty oversight? Gofman answered, "Yes. I don't have a recommendation that because the labs make weapons that they [be removed] from the University. I think that the idea of weapons and protection and security of the country is a very very reasonable University function." Gofman recommended that "in some form" UC should continue with its function of oversight. "The problem doesn't go away with the end of the Cold War," he concluded.

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