For Citizen Action Groups
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
proponents of nuclear power conduct a well-financed
campaign (largely paid for by us taxpayers) which relies heavily
on a barrage of statements that minimize the hazard of nuclear
electricity generation and extol its wonders. Citizen action
groups need accurate, honest information to rebut such
statements. Because so many of the questions concerning the value
and safety of nuclear power recur over and over again, we have
summarized the "questions and answers" and offer them here
for ready reference.
QUESTIONS and ANSWERS
Setting Permissible Doses of Radiation
How much radiation do AEC standards allow Americans
to receive as a result of peaceful uses of the atom?
Answer: The maximum allowable whole-body dosage at
the perimeter of a nuclear installation is 500 millirads to
any individual. The average dose allowable for the U.S.
population is 170 millirads per year. In fact, part of the
justification for the average allowable dose being 170
millirads per year is that it was considered that this limit would
prevent any individual from receiving over 500 millirads
per year. (Millirads are equivalent to millirems.)
Is the allowable or permissible dose of radiation truly
Answer: Numerous atomic energy proponents repeatedly
make the claim that the "permissible" dose is a safe dose
and they imply that no one will be injured at this "permissible"
dose. However, there is not a shred of evidence
that supports this claim of safety.
What would the effects be for exposure at the "permissible"
Answer: The two major effects of concern are an increased
death rate from cancer plus leukemia and an increase in
+ leukemia: For an individual steadily
receiving 500 millirads per year, the chance of dying from
cancer or leukemia is increased by 30 percent.
a population averaging 170 millirads per year
steadily, there will be a 10 percent increase in death rate
from cancer plus leukemia. If this average were reached
for the entire USA, there ultimately would be 32,000
extra deaths from cancer plus leukemia annually.
Risk: The genetic mutation rate would be
increased by 5 to 50 percent for a population averaging 170
millirads per year. Ultimately this would translate into a
5 to 50 percent increase in death rates due to
genetically-determined diseases. At the time such genetic deaths will
be occurring, our population is expected to be 300 million
persons. This means we can then expect between 150,000
and 1,500,000 extra deaths each year.
How can a dose which leads to such high death rates
be considered "permissible"?
Answer: There is no justification whatever for such
"permissible" doses, which can lead to public health disaster.
So far as can be ascertained, the justification is simply that
the development of atomic energy is not too seriously
inconvenienced by such allowable doses. No health
justification would appear possible.
Are these "permissible" doses already being received
by the U.S. population as a result of nuclear energy
Answer: Definitely not. It is fortunate that we recognize
the serious health hazard of such allowable doses. We
have, therefore, the opportunity to reconsider the wisdom
of rash proliferation of nuclear electricity plants and other
nuclear energy programs before an irreversible public
health calamity has occurred.
Is there scientific controversy concerning the hazard
associated with "permissible" doses of radiation?
Answer: The real controversy is political,
not scientific. If the sound public health
principles agreed to by such bodies
as the International Commission on Radiological
Protection and the National Committee on Radiation Protection
are applied, it is not possible to reach conclusions
significantly different from those listed above (Question 3).
Scientists do differ from one another, concerning the
precise magnitude of the hazard, in a minor way. But all,
applying sound public health principles, would agree the
hazard is large.
electric utility industry has been misled by the
AEC and the JCAE into believing that a "permissible"
dose of radiation is "safe."
Is the hazard of radiation exposure now recognized as
greater than it was thought to be when the AEC
standards were put into force?
Answer: The hazard of developing cancer is now
recognized to be about twenty times greater than it
was thought to be when the AEC standards were set.
This is the result of a totally unsound public health
approach which has characterized every aspect of standard-setting.
genetic hazard is also now recognized to be far
greater than was thought to be the case when the standards
were set. In this case new medical information concerning
the genetic basis of many major diseases is the reason why
the hazard is now recognized to be much more severe than
What is meant by unsound public health practices in
setting radiation standards?
Answer: Evidence based upon experimental animal studies,
available for 25 years, would have led to the serious
expectation of cancer plus leukemia that we now realize we
are facing with the "permissible" radiation doses. In the
case of atomic energy, we have failed utterly to apply
sound public health principles.
we shouldn't have made the error of
demanding the human corpse at all. If such grossly unsound
public health practices were extended to all poisons in
the environment, we would indeed face a sorry plight as
When the FRC, ICRP, or NCRP (standard-recommending
bodies) sets a standard for public exposure, do they
mean to suggest that such exposures are safe?
Answer: Absolutely not. These various bodies have never
stated, nor implied, that such exposure is safe. This
implication is a misuse of the standards by AEC, JCAE, and
the electric utility industry. The net effect of such misuse
of standards is deception of the public.
the standard-recommending bodies hoped was
that the benefits of the atomic technology might offset the
cancer, leukemia and genetic hazards.
Can it be demonstrated that such a body as the
International Commission on Radiological Protection did not
mean that anyone should construe their suggested
limits to be safe?
Answer: It most certainly can be demonstrated. The
following is a direct quote from ICRP Publication 9 (1965).
of the need for guidance in this regard, the
Commission (ICRP) in its 1958 Recommendations
suggested a provisional limit of 5 rems (5,000 millirems) per
generation for the genetic dose to the whole population,
from all sources additional to natural background
radiation and to medical exposures. The Commission believes
that this level provides reasonable latitude for the
expansion of atomic energy programs in the foreseeable future.
It should be emphasized that the limit may not in fact
represent a proper balance between possible harm and
probable benefit, because of the uncertainty in assessing
the risks and the benefits that would justify the exposure."
the ICRP admitted forthrightly it didn't know the
the ICRP admitted forthrightly it didn't know the
benefits. In the face of both uncertainties, they (ICRP)
went ahead to "provide reasonable latitude for the
expansion of atomic energy programs." Most people, including
the electric utility people, were led to believe the standards
were "safe," when the ICRP in fact said no such thing.
arrived at in this manner can in no way be
regarded as safe with respect to damage either to humans
of this or future generations. Instead, such standards mean
a moral judgment has been made that a certain number of
human lives lost is acceptable for the good of the atomic
industry. The entire standard-setting procedure is probably
illegal and unconstitutional involving, as it does, the moral
judgment to sacrifice the lives of humans explicitly.
Is the entire concept of "safe" or "permissible"
radiation exposures subject to challenge?
Answer: Most certainly. Standards, as they have been set
up to the present time, have nothing to do with the
protection of the public health. They represent a set of
numbers drawn out of thin air, for the convenience of a
particular technology. The public and (in the case of atomic
energy) the electric utility industry are misled into
believing that the words "standards" or "allowable" or
"permissible" mean "safe." This is simply false.
Would it ever be possible to set truly safe standards, for
Answer: There is only one set of circumstances under
which truly safe standards could be set. That would be if
we knew that some amount of radiation was free of such
harmful effects as cancer, leukemia, or genetic damage.
can be stated unequivocally, and without fear of
contradiction, that no amount of radiation has ever been
proved to be safe. As a result, it can be stated
unequivocally that there does not exist any standard
which implies a safe amount of radiation.
Does this mean that all codified "standards" represent
trading human lives for some supposed benefit of
Answer: Unfortunately, yes. Worse yet, there has never
been an effort made to demonstrate that the supposed
benefits accrue to those who suffer the hazard. Nor has
society even been permitted to participate in such an
Aren't we exposed to radiation naturally?
Is there any harm from natural radiation?
Answer: Every responsible body (ICRP, NCRP, FRC)
has explicitly stated that since we cannot prove that any
radiation is safe. we must figure that harm in the form of
cancer, leukemia, and genetic deaths is occurring from all
sources of ionizing radiation in direct proportion to the
amount of radiation received.
this is the basic underlying assumption for all
responsible scientists, all of them would necessarily
estimate that natural radiation, like man-made radiation, will
produce its proportionate share of cancer, leukemias, and
There are areas in the world (Kerala, India and Brazil)
where "natural" radiation is many times higher than in
most other regions. What do these areas show with
respect to cancer or leukemia induction by such natural
sources of radiation?
Answer: No adequate studies have ever been carried
through in these regions to learn about the cancer and
leukemia production by the high natural radiation. Such
studies would be difficult, for they require careful control
observations and large numbers of subjects.
some strange reason the absence of studies is
commonly equated, by atomic energy promoters, with an
absence of harmful effect of the radiation.
What did we do in assessing the cancer plus leukemia
hazard for atomic energy?
Answer: The standard-setting bodies refused to accept the
experimental animal evidence, a grave public health
blunder on their part. Instead, they demanded seeing human
cancer and leukemia before they would consider human
cancers and leukemia to be caused by radiation.
Do we have the human evidence now concerning cancer?
Answer: Unfortunately, yes. When the standards were set,
the humans exposed to radiation (the Japanese A-Bomb
survivors and 14,000 medically irradiated British subjects)
had not been observed long enough for the radiation-produced
cancers to develop. The result, the cancer hazard
of radiation was estimated approximately twenty times too
low. The new evidence showing the twenty-fold higher
hazard became available just through the passage of
It has been stated that even if the cancer and leukemia
production by radiation is as serious as has been
estimated, the average person will suffer only a shortening
of life measured in weeks or months. Should we worry
about such a "minor" effect on life expectancy?
Answer: The correct answer to this question is to point
out that this approach, considering average life expectancy,
is truly immoral. What should really be considered is the
shortening in life expectancy for those who suffer the
cancer or leukemia from the radiation they receive. Many of
these individuals lose 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25 years from
their life expectancy as a result of the early death from
cancer or leukemia. It is small comfort to these individuals
or their families that their loss of life expectancy is made
falsely to look insignificant by being averaged in with the
life expectancy for those fortunate enough to escape the
radiation-induced cancers or leukemias.
can be illustrated by consideration of a specific
situation. If a group of ten-year olds were to be irradiated,
we know that a certain number of them will die of cancer
or leukemia, the number who die increasing with each
increase in radiation dosage. For those who do die of
radiation-induced leukemia or cancer, the deaths start,
after a latency period, some five years after the radiation,
and new deaths are added annually for many years
thereafter. Since the group of 10-year olds are representative of
the population-at-large, their life expectancy without
radiation should be some 50 to 60 years. But for those whose
leukemias and cancers develop between the 5th and 10th
year after radiation exposure, there has been a loss of 40
to 50 years of life, a matter of grave seriousness to them
and their families.
is difficult to understand the logic of those who treat
this problem by averaging the radiation victims in with
those who escape the effect. By their logic the crime of
murder is not a serious matter in the civilian population
After all, if we average in all those who are not murdered,
the average" loss in life expectancy for society is trivial.
How much harm is natural radiation causing?
Answer: Since at sea level we get approximately 100
millirads per year from natural radiation, we can calculate the
harm very simply by direct proportion.
For cancer + leukemia
estimated (see text) that exposure to 170 millirads
would cause 32,000 extra cancer plus leukemia deaths per
natural radiation is right now causing
100/170 x 32,000 = about 18,800 cancer plus leukemia
deaths each year. (Actually, since some of our population
lives at a higher altitude and hence gets more than 100
millirads per year, the true number of cancer plus leukemia
deaths must be higher than 18,800.)
For genetic injury
estimated (see text)
that for 200-million people 170 millirads would lead to
between 100,000 and 1,000,000 genetically caused deaths
per year. Therefore for natural radiation, we calculate
100/170 x (100,000 to 1,000,000) = 58,800 to 588,000
extra genetic deaths are being experienced each year as a
result of natural radiation.
Is it really correct to refer to such deaths as "are being
caused"? Have these deaths actually been observed?
Answer: Adherence to responsible public health principles
leads one to make the statement that these death are
occurring. These are the numbers arrived at by applying the
ground-rule assumptions that all responsible scientists and
radiation study groups agree to follow, for public health
purposes. If one denies these calculations, one is directly
and overtly denying the sound principles of public health.
deaths have not been observed as the specific
ones caused by radiation. The radiation-induced cancer
cases look just like other cancer cases. It is not relevant to
ask whether the cases have been observed. It would be
folly to consider such deaths as not occurring.
Would it be possible to set up scientific studies to
observe deaths from natural radiation by direct
Answer: It would represent a monumental scientific study
to make the direct observations, but it could be
accomplished with Herculean effort. Unfortunately, technology
promoters, especially atomic energy promoters, seem
falsely to equate "no adequate studies done" with "no
The Linear Theory-
Damage Is Directly Proportional To The Dose
What is the linear theory of relationship of radiation dose
to effects, such as cancer, leukemia, and genetic injury?
Answer: All responsible bodies involved in considering
radiation hazards have agreed to use the linear theory to
estimate the number of deaths caused for each amount of
radiation. The linear theory holds that if one unit of
radiation produces one case of cancer, two units of radiation
will produce two cases, ten units will produce 10 cases of
cancer, etc. In other words, the linear theory states that
the damage is directly proportional to the dose right down
to the lowest doses. Thus, it is obvious that if the linear
theory is used, there simply cannot exist such a thing as a
"safe." dose of radiation.
But do all scientists agree with the linear theory?
Answer: There is virtually nothing in the world upon which
all scientists agree. But the question is not relevant. What
is relevant is that every responsible scientific body and
every responsible scientist involved in public health
considerations of radiation injury have all agreed to use the
linear theory for estimating cancer, leukemia, and genetic
deaths until and unless someone proves otherwise. If
someone claims to abide by responsible public health ground
rules, which include using linear theory, and then says
that some dose of radiation is safe, he is guilty of public
Is there direct experimental evidence on animals or
humans to support the linear theory of radiation injury?
Answer: There most certainly is abundant evidence both
for experimental animals and for humans—providing
extensive support for linear theory in the production of
leukemia, cancer, and genetic injury. And as new evidence is
published, the experimental support for the linear theory
becomes overwhelmingly strong. Listed below are major
new reports supporting the linear theory with extensive
scientific evidence for cancer and leukemia production by
- Production of breast tumors in rats by x-rays and
(C.J. Shellabarger, V.P. Bond, E.P. Cronkite,
G.E. Aponte, p. 161 in "Radiation-Induced Cancer,"
A Symposium of the International Atomic Energy Agency,
- Production of bone cancer in mice by radium.
(M.P. Finkel, B.O. Biskis, P.B. Jinkins, p. 369, ibid)
- Production of lymph cancer in mice by gamma rays.
(A.C. Upton and coworkers, p. 425, ibid)
- Production of cancer and leukemia in children
irradiated by x-rays while in utero.
(A. Stewart and G.W. Kneale, Lancet, p. 1185, June
- Production of Leukemia in Japanese Survivors of the
Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
(S. Jablon and J.L. Belsky—Presented at the Tenth
International Cancer Congress, Houston, Texas, May,
- Production of Thyroid Tumors in Children irradiated
(L.H. Hempelmann, Science 188, 160:159-163,
- In the field of genetic injury, even the most optimistic
data for genetic mutations, for slow delivery of
radiation, shows linearity between dose and effect.
(W.L. Russell, Nucleonics 23, No. 1, 53-62, 1965)
Does the AEC agree to abide by sound public health
Answer: The AEC presents a remarkable paradox, caused
undoubtedly by its dual role as promoter of nuclear energy
and as its own regulator. The AEC claims to accept the
guidance of the ICRP, NCRP, and FRC concerning
radiation injury. All of these bodies use the linear theory as a
fundamental ground rule of sound public health evaluation
of radiation hazard.
AEC is constantly adhering to two hopelessly
inconsistent statements. For purposes of suggesting its public
health responsibility, AEC accepts these ground rules. At
one and the same time AEC suggests that 170 millirads of
exposure is "safe." These two statements are absolutely
irreconcilable. The reason why the AEC finds itself in such
a difficult position is that if it really accepts sound public
health principles, it will be led to estimating tens of
thousands of extra cancers and leukemias per year for
radiation doses which it considers "permissible." The
public impact of this is horrible for the AEC to
contemplate, so it is locked into an impossible and hopeless
only escape for the AEC would be to admit the
truth to the public—namely, that its "permissible"
radiation dose is really not at all safe. It is conceivable that
the public may wish to accept a large number of extra
cancer and leukemia deaths in exchange for atomic energy
programs. Sooner or later the AEC will be forced to stop
hiding this massive inconsistency in its position.
But isn't it true that atomic energy programs, such as
nuclear electricity generation, will deliver radiation
slowly and that this might offer some protection?
Answer: No acceptable evidence exists that slow delivery
of the radiation will afford any protection against cancer
or leukemia. Therefore, all responsible bodies (ICRP,
NCRP, FRC) agreed to use the sound public health
principle that no protection will be assumed for slow delivery
of the radiation until and unless such protection is proved
beyond doubt. Hence, only the total dose of radiation can
be considered to matter. For anyone to claim atomic
energy program "allowable" doses to be safe because of
slow delivery of radiation is to violate the agreed upon
fundamental public health ground rules. And this
represents public health irresponsibility.
addition, no acceptable experimental animal data
indicates that cancer or leukemia will be lessened if
radiation is delivered slowly. What experiments have been
done simply show that radiation spread over a long period
of time may, in some cases, produce less cancer than when
the whole dose is given early in life. All this really proves
is that young animals are more susceptible to radiation-induced
cancer than old animals. Young humans are more sensitive
than older humans, too.
What is the net effect of the combined statements
concerning linear dose versus response and the absence of
proved protection from slow delivery of radiation—with
respect to cancer and leukemia hazard?
Answer: As a result of these public health ground rules,
all responsible bodies say that you must expect injury in
direct proportion to the dose of radiation received. They
all agree that, for public health prediction and action
purposes with respect to atomic energy development, no
amount of radiation is safe.
Is it not true that the Russell mouse genetic studies
show good evidence that slow delivery of radiation
produces one-third as many mutations as fast delivery of
Answer: At very
high total doses of radiation the Russell
studies do show one-third as many genetic mutations for
slow delivery of radiation compared with fast delivery. For
low total doses there is likely to be very little difference
between slow and fast delivery of radiation. Since atomic
energy programs will generally involve slow delivery of
radiation, it is appropriate to explore the genetic
consequences of radiation for slow delivery of radiation. This
is the most optimistic possibility.
we use the most optimistic Russell mouse genetic
data, and even if we give full credit for slow delivery of
radiation, we reach the conclusion that 100,000 extra
genetic deaths per year would occur for the allowable
average exposure of 170 millirads to the population. This can
hardly be construed as an "optimistic" outlook, or a "safe"
dose of radiation.
Is it valid to transfer the Russell mouse genetic
results directly to man?
Answer: Of course not. Even the most optimistic outlook,
based upon direct transfer of the most favorable mouse
results, leads to the gloomy outlook for 100,000 extra
genetic deaths per year for "allowable" radiation doses.
Russell himself proved that the mouse is
fifteen times as sensitive to radiation-induced mutations as
is the fruit fly (Drosophila). Man may, in turn, be much
more sensitive than mouse. We simply don't know. If man
is more sensitive than mouse, then the anticipated 100,000
extra genetic deaths per year will rise in proportion. How
many times 100,000? No one knows.
Russell's own data show that some
mouse genes are easier to mutate than others through
ionizing radiation. If the critical genes in the human should
turn out to be more readily mutated by radiation, then the
100,000 extra genetic deaths per year could rise
Disparity of Estimates on Radiation Risks
Is it true that the risk of radiation induction of cancer
plus leukemia was seriously underestimated by
standard-recommending bodies such as ICRP?
Answer: Unfortunately, it is true. By refusing to use the
long available experimental animal data, bodies such as
ICRP committed a cardinal error that led to a gross
underestimate of the cancer hazard from radiation. The
ICRP used human data (from Japan and Britain) for the
early period after irradiation, before the bulk of the
radiation cancers had arisen. As a result, in ICRP Publications
8 and 9 (Pergamon Press) the ICRP estimated one extra
cancer for each leukemia produced by radiation. We now
know the true number is much closer to twenty extra
cancers for each leukemia caused by radiation.
Has the ICRP recognized its error in estimation of the
cancer hazard from radiation?
Answer: It certainly has. In a more recent (1969)
publication, ICRP 14, the correct numbers are provided by a
Task Force of the International Commission. It is
extremely simple to show how these newly published
numbers give such a greatly increased hazard of cancer from
actually counting extra cancer and leukemia deaths
in the 14,000 British subjects treated for arthritis by
x-rays, Court-Brown and Doll (quoted in ICRP 14) have
shown 5.3 extra cancers for each leukemia produced by
the ICRP Task Force pointed out two
corrections that are absolutely essential to arrive at the real
cancer hazard from radiation.
Only 40 percent of the bone marrow was
irradiated in these 14,000 British subjects. (The leukemias
arise primarily in the bone marrow.)
The organs developing the extra cancers from
radiation received approximately 7 percent as high a dose
as the spinal marrow. Obviously, to compare cancer and
leukemia one must correct the data so they are based upon
the same radiation dose. The arithmetic is exceedingly
We must correct the leukemia estimate for the
fact that only 40 percent of the marrow was irradiated.
to correct to total body irradiation, there would
be 100/40 x 1 = 2.5 leukemias for every 1 case observed.
we must correct the cancer estimate for the
fact that the dose to the various organs developing extra
cancer was 7 percent of that received by the spinal bone
marrow. So, 5.3 x 100/7 = 76 extra cancers for 5.3
observed, after correcting to the same total body radiation
dose. Finally, to get the true ratio of radiation-induced
cancers to radiation-induced leukemias, we simply take
76/2.5 = 30. So these data, properly corrected by the factors
presented in ICRP 14 lead to 30 extra cancers for each
leukemia produced by radiation. This means that the
earlier estimate (ICRP 8 and 9) had underestimated the
cancer hazard by 30-fold just a few years ago.
observers feel that the factor of 7 percent for
dose correction (presented by Dolphin and Eve and quoted
in ICRP 14) may result in an over-correction. Even if the
extremely rash assumption is made that Dolphin and Eve
were off by 100 percent, that is, the dose correction should
be 14 percent instead of 7 percent, we would be led to
estimate that extra cancers produced by radiation are
fifteen times as frequent as is leukemia.
the ICRP 14 analysis doesn't take into
account the fact that some organs weren't appreciably
irradiated in the 14,000 British subjects. Therefore, for
true whole body radiation, such organs will also develop
cancers. Therefore, the 15 to 30 cancers for each leukemia
is a minimum estimate of the hazard of cancer from
The Gofman-Tamplin estimate of genetic deaths from
exposure to "allowable" doses of radiation is 150,000
to 1,500,000 extra deaths per year for a population of
300-million people. How could the standard-recommending
bodies have possibly chosen 170 millirads as
an average population allowable dose to be acceptable
in view of such estimates of genetic hazard?
Answer: The erroneous thinking of the
standard-recommending bodies was even worse on the genetic question
than it was on the cancer plus leukemia question. Over a
decade ago, these men thought they knew the kinds of
genetic injury that would cause deaths. They were
focusing on such uncommon single-gene diseases as hemophilia,
galactosemia, phenylketonuria, and other rare diseases.
Altogether these rare single-gene diseases add up to about
one percent of all causes of death.
the standards were set, it has been discovered
that most of the major killing diseases of humans have a
genetic component, but it appears that more than one gene
is involved. Such diseases are, therefore, called multi-gene
diseases. Coronary heart disease, which kills more than
twice as many Americans per year as all forms of cancer
put together, is one such multi-gene disease. Diabetes
mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, and schizophrenia are other
examples of multi-gene diseases. As a result of these
discoveries concerning multi-gene basis for major diseases of
our society, the real genetic hazard problem extends to
between 50 and 100 percent of all causes of death,
contrasted with one percent that was considered genetic when
the standards were set.
the radiation standards were set with an
underestimation of the genetic hazard by 50 to 100 times as a
result of this error alone. It must be acknowledged that
new knowledge of the past decade has led us to realize
how erroneous the estimate of genetic hazard was when
the radiation standards were set. But this is precisely a
major point to understand. At any point in time, our
medical and biological knowledge is fragmentary. And
this means that standard-recommending bodies should lean
far over to the conservative side, if they are to do even
a minimum job in the field of public health protection.
AEC spokesmen say the evidence for cancer plus
leukemia comes from high doses of radiation, whereas the
standards for peaceful uses of atomic energy are for
much lower total doses. Doesn't this alter the hazard
Answer: Not one iota. It has been pointed out in earlier
questions and answers that every responsible body (ICRP,
NCRP, FRC) has stated clearly and repeatedly that the
linear proportionality must be used for public health
purposes. Therefore, whatever is observed for high doses
(say, 100 rads) will be expected to occur in proportion
at low doses (say, 5 rads). Thus, if 100 rads produces
200 cancers, it follows that 5 rads will produce 5/100 x 200,
or 10 cancers. That's what the ground rules say, ground
rules everyone accepts for hazard estimates. There is
simply no way to escape this. AEC cannot continue to
claim it will behave responsibly and accept sound public
health ground rules and then turn around and use
gibberish concerning high dose and low dose in attempts to
obscure the real hazard.
the statements that all the cancer-leukemia
evidence comes from high doses of radiation are simply
false. There are experimental animal and human data for
low total doses, very damning data indeed. For example,
Dr. Alice Stewart's data show that about one rad, a very
small dose, delivered to the unborn child in the first 13
weeks of pregnancy will double the potential number of
cancers and leukemias during the first 10 years of childhood.
Over the years since 1945 a large number of workers
within and outside the AEC have been exposed to
ionizing radiation. Can we get direct evidence for the effect
of radiation in producing cancer and leukemia from the
records kept on such workers?
Answer: Unfortunately there has been inadequate record
keeping concerning the fate of workers so exposed. Indeed,
only recently has the AEC introduced a procedure to insure
that radiation exposure records will be maintained for
periods of time long enough to be useful in this regard.
AEC spokesmen say the 170 millirad standard for
average population exposure is the "improper" standard.
They say that 500 millirad (or 500 millirem) at the
perimeter of the nuclear reactor is the appropriate
standard to use. Further, they state that if this standard
is used, it is impossible for the population average dose
to ever come near the 170 millirem figure as a result
of nuclear electricity generation. What is the response
to these claims by AEC?
Answer: In a simple statement, the AEC claims are
irrelevant and simply fail to address the hazard issue at
all. The AEC has picked out the least important part of
the radiation hazard problem and dwells upon it. In this
way the AEC takes note of only the very tip of the iceberg.
They have thereby neglected all the important sources of
radiation associated with nuclear power generation.
perimeter dose of a nuclear power reactor
operating perfectly is so small a part of the
problem that it is hardly worth discussing at all.
Therefore, we must examine the real problems of
nuclear electricity generation.
All authorities recognize food chain accumulation
of a variety of radionuclides to be a major problem
associated with the release of radioactivity into the biosphere.
Even if the releases at the perimeter of a reactor were at
the AEC "permissible" value, radionuclides that can go
through the forage to cow to milk to human pathway
can result in enormous multiplication of radiation dose in
humans. Thus, contaminated milk can be consumed
hundreds of miles away from a nuclear reactor with the
result that people drinking such milk will get far higher
doses than one would get by breathing contaminated air
right at the reactor fence.
The fresh water-to-fish pathway can concentrate
radioactivity easily 1000-fold or more. Cesium-137 is an
illustration of this. Thus, even though a water effluent at
the release point may make the water drinkable with
delivery of 500 millirems, the fish grown in such water,
1000 times as radioactive, can not be eaten in any quantity
without grossly exceeding "tolerance" levels.
AEC standards do not give proper attention to
these food chain pathways, although the AEC is beginning
to correct this error in new licenses, but not adequately.
The AEC claim concerning population exposures
from nuclear electricity generation neglects all of the
following important sources of exposure:
- Accidental releases at the reactor. No one
knows the risk of such accidental release for any of the
currently planned reactors, since all of them are
experimental reactors, large in comparison with those
for which operating experience exists.
- Accidental releases during transport of spent
fuel rods from the reactors.
- Releases and accidental releases at the fuel
reprocessing plants. The one commercial reprocessing
plant (West Valley, New York) has a very
unfavorable operating experience.
- Releases and environmental contamination
from low level and intermediate level waste releases
and waste burial in the environment.
- Releases and environmental contamination
from storage, burial, or final other disposal of the
astronomically high level wastes left after fuel
reprocessing. The handling of such wastes is still in the
research and development stage, and the economics of
such handling remain conjectural.
- AEC Commissioners themselves are on record
saying they cannot be sure that the fuel rods in the
reactors will not be leakier than expected from
design specifications. Therefore, assurances of releases
even under routine operation of new, untried reactors
are, at best, conjectural.
- Accidental releases through sabotage at any
step in the entire fuel and waste cycles are not even
discussed by the AEC.
Safety Factor in Reactors
Don't some AEC and utility officials claim the reactors
Answer: They do claim this. No one alive has any
reliable estimate of the risk of major accidents in nuclear
electricity generation simply because there is no valid
operating experience for the current generation of large
power reactors. Claims based on the handful of small
power reactors are simply indefensible. Most reactor
experts readily admit this. (see text)
If we don't have enough operating experience, what is
the justification for placing the new, untried larger
nuclear electricity reactors near major population
Answer: There is no justification. A serious moral
question is posed here. All AEC and electric utility officials
should be asked to answer this moral question.
If the AEC is so confident that nuclear electricity
generation can go forward with trivial exposure to the
population, why doesn't AEC itself argue for lower
permissible doses and end all the arguments?
Answer: This intelligent question has been asked by
countless people at symposia, lectures, and in articles. They
have yet to receive an intelligent answer from AEC
spokesmen. It is, of course, obvious that if the AEC
really believed the exposures would be as low as they
hope they will be, AEC would assuredly jump at the
opportunity to eliminate public concern by lowering the
permissible doses. The only rational conclusion the public
can draw is that neither AEC nor the electric utility
industry has any confidence in these optimistic predictions.
The AEC spokesmen repeatedly assure that the releases
of radioactivity will be one percent of the permissible
AEC limits. Can the public count on this assurance?
Answer: If anyone really knew what the
releases are going to be from the new, large, experimental
nuclear plants, the problem would be very different indeed.
But no one knows what the releases are going to be,
either initially or after various time periods of operation.
The best evidence on this can be found in the recent
Hearings of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy
(Environmental Effects of Electric Power Production, Part I).
When Commissioners Ramey, Thompson and Johnson were asked why such a
large "cushion" was required in the form of high
permissible standards when the releases were going to be so
low, all three men answered truthfully that they simply
didn't know what the releases were going to be for the new
plants, and, therefore, the high allowable doses were
required as a "cushion".
anyone predicting radioactivity releases for
new, experimental nuclear power plants is engaging in
sheer speculation. It is unfortunate that the public is
serving as guinea pigs in this gigantic, speculative experiment.
Are there additional reasons for concern over the
burgeoning nuclear electricity industry?
Answer: The speculative character of the estimates
concerning routine releases is only one reason for
reservations concerning the construction of such
plants. There are more compelling reasons.
The entire nuclear electricity industry, including
the electric utility industry, had been misled into thinking
that a dose of 170 millirads had a wide margin of safety
built in. We now know there was not only no margin of
safety, but we know further that the cancer risk is some
20 times larger than thought when standards were set,
and the genetic risk is some 50 to 100 times larger than
thought when the standards were set.
time that an engineering development goes
forward with the false illusion that a 100 or 1000-fold
margin of safety exists compared with the real hazard,
that entire engineering development can not be trusted in
appropriate first step is to stop construction of
any further nuclear power plants. Then it is essential to
educate the nuclear manufacturing industry and the
electric utility industry concerning the true magnitude of
radiation hazards. Once they realize the true magnitude of
the hazard and they rethink their engineering in terms
of the realities they face, reasonable discussions
concerning nuclear plants can be held. Not before.
On January 28, 1970, then Secretary of HEW,
Robert Finch, ordered a complete review of all aspects
of radiation standards. This review is only now getting
underway, and it is estimated that it will take two years.
The review is being conducted largely by atomic energy
proponents, so that there is no doubt that the conclusions
will be subjected to severe scrutiny by the ever-larger
informed scientific and lay community. The radiation
standards controversy may last well beyond the two years
of the formal review, since there may be severe challenges
to a review conducted primarily by atomic energy
one knows, out of all this, what the new standards
for allowable radiation exposure will be. Thus, if new
nuclear power plants continue to be constructed under the
obviously unacceptable present standards, it may be that
such plants will be unable to meet the new standards.
This may represent a colossal economic blunder for the
electric utility industry, a blunder they would undoubtedly
pass on to the electricity consumer in the form of rate
increases. It would seem far wiser to have a moratorium
on new nuclear plant construction until all aspects of the
radiation hazards controversy are settled.
In spite of numerous irresponsible assurances to
the contrary, no one knows the risk of a catastrophic
accident for the large, experimental nuclear power plants
now being planned for and built near major population
centers. There simply is no relevant experience upon which
to draw. Dr. Walter Jordan, a nuclear expert, and a
member of the AEC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board,
has spelled this out in no uncertain terms in his article,
entitled `Nuclear Power, Benefits versus Risks', which is
published in Physics Today, May 1970. In that article
Dr. Jordan admits we have no idea of the odds of a major
accident because we have no experience. It is not
reasonable to have the population of American cities become
the guinea pigs for such experience.
Insurance Against Personal and Property
Damage from Nuclear Accident
Is it true that the American public does not stand to
recover from damages suffered as a result of nuclear
power accidents and damage to property?
Answer: Sadly, but unfortunately, this is true.
Historically, we know that neither the electric utility industry
nor the private insurance industry was willing to gamble
money on the liability that might be incurred in a major
nuclear power accident. An AEC report (WASH-740)
itself indicated that for the earlier, much smaller, nuclear
power installations, an accident could result in 7-billion
dollars in property losses. Because of this, the nuclear
electricity industry was at a standstill. The promotional
Joint Committee on Atomic Energy pushed through
Congress a notorious piece of legislation, the
Price-Anderson Act, which, in effect, absolved
the electric utility industry of real liability
for major accidents. This Act, at the same time,
removed any hope for the citizen to recover more
than a nominal part of damages suffered.
Thus, the Price-Anderson Act decreed that, no matter
how severe the damages, the maximum to be paid out for
a single nuclear power disaster is 560-million dollars.
Simple arithmetic shows that for an accident causing
7 billion dollars of damage the citizen, at most, could hope
to recover seven cents on each dollar lost.
Why should the electric utility industry be freed of
liability for damage its nuclear plants cause, when other
industries have to stand behind their activities fully?
Answer: The only answer possible is that this represents
a shocking disfranchisement of American citizens,
perpetrated by those who wish to promote atomic energy at
any price to the public. Certainly the repeal of the
Price-Anderson Act is an early item of the highest priority for
citizens concerned about their lives and property.
If the Price-Anderson Act is repealed, would the electric
utility industry be willing to go ahead with nuclear
Answer: There have already been a number of
statements by utility officials that they would not go ahead
with nuclear power plants if they had to bear the financial
liability for the consequences of major accidents. And
we also know that the private insurance industry refuses
to insure the full liability for major accidents. Thus, the
ill-considered nuclear electricity industry would
undoubtedly come to a standstill if it had to be financially
responsible, as all other industries must be.
If nuclear electric power plants can not be insured for
the full amount of damages they can produce in a major
accident, why does the AEC, a governmental agency,
allow such plants to be licensed at all?
Answer: If we had a rational society, it would be
unthinkable for a governmental agency, such as AEC, to grant a
license for building nuclear power plants that cannot be
insured for the real damage they can wreak upon the
public. But the Congress has acted very unwisely in giving
a promotional agency, AEC, the power to license the wares
it sells. Obviously there is an extreme conflict of interest
here. The AEC, favoring its promotional role, goes ahead
to license nuclear plants that are uninsurable.
Can't the individuals in the public recover damage,
from nuclear power plant accidents through their
personal homeowners' policies?
Answer: Not a chance. The private insurance industry,
with a notable reputation for making money, realized the
hazards of the advent of the nuclear electricity industry.
They, therefore, moved swiftly to protect themselves, not
the public. Thus, most homeowners' policies now have a
nuclear exclusion clause absolving the insurance company
of liability for home damage caused by nuclear accidents
the insurance companies are to be commended
for their financial wisdom in protecting themselves against
the nuclear electricity industry, it is sad that the public
is almost totally unaware that this action has left them
in a position to lose catastrophically. Every citizen should
be informed about his loss of rights to recover for property
Is there any reasonable compromise on this issue of
safety and insurance against nuclear power plant
Answer: Yes, there is one excellent compromise. Stop
licensing any nuclear power plants until the insurance
industry can be convinced to provide full coverage for
losses sustained from nuclear power plant accidents. Either
the nuclear power plants are safe enough to be fully
covered by insurance, or they are too unsafe to be licensed
at all. There is no middle ground.
It is said that the reason why private insurance
companies refuse to cover the full liability of nuclear power
plants is that they have no "actuarial" experience with
such accidents upon which to base insurance rates. Is
is this true?
Answer: Absolutely correct. The private insurance
companies are far too shrewd to accept the optimistic, but
totally unsupported, reassurances concerning safety
emanating out of the Atomic Energy Commission. The
insurance industry, having no relevant experience, refuses to
risk dollars. But the American public, also not having
the relevant experience, are being forced to risk their
lives m a gigantic experiment.
"Clean" Nuclear Plants vs.
"Dirty" Fossil Fueled Plants
Isn't it true that fossil-fueled plants also create a health
hazard? Would it be wise to stop nuclear electricity
plants and accept the hazard of poisonous emissions
from the dirty, fossil-fueled plants?
Answer: Dirty, fossil-fueled power plants are a national
disgrace. Every citizen should be adamantly against being
poisoned by them as he should be against being poisoned
by deadly radioactive emissions.
real truth is that this question is phrased poorly,
representing a phrasing that is carefully sponsored by the
public relations branch of the nuclear power industry.
The nuclear power industry wants the public to think
that the choice is between dirty fossil-fueled plants and
nuclear power plants. This is simply ridiculous. The
technology to stop the poisonous emissions from outmoded
fossil-fueled plants is far developed, and could be installed
in the near future, if the demand for this were insistent.
It is up to the public to declare its outrage against such
could have eliminated the poisonous emissions
from old fashioned fossil-fueled plants long ago. But all
the research and development funds that should have gone
in this direction were siphoned off into atomic energy.
This has been a grave error. There is no doubt that we
can and should have clean power from fossil-fueled plants.
We will have if we insist upon it. Public pressure is the
effective tool to achieve this.
Are there even more attractive alternatives than fossil
fuel or nuclear power?
Answer: There are two parts to the answer. The first and
most important task is to introduce some reason in the
dialogue concerning electric power requirements. The
electric utility industry stampedes the public into nuclear
power with the threat of brownouts and blackouts and at
the same time spends an advertising fortune to stimulate
the use of more electricity.
Charles F. Luce, Chairman of New York's
Consolidated Edison Company, as recently quoted (Time
Magazine p. 40, December 28, 1970) takes an eminently
. . But last week he told a startled Manhattan
audience: `The wisdom of three years ago is the idiocy of
today.' Instead of trying to increase consumption (of
electric power), he now wants to decrease it.
is regarded as one of the most socially
responsible leaders in the utility business . . . (Conservationists)
argue that power generation also generates pollution—and
now Luce has publicly agreed with them. . . ."
Luce is certainly to be commended for raising
"the serious question of whether we ought to be promoting
any use of electricity."
second part of the question of alternatives is
equally important. Here again Mr. Luce has made a
worthy suggestion: "As a long term solution, Luce last
week suggested a new federal excise tax of `perhaps 1%'
on electric bills to speed new ways of generating power
compatible with the environment." Here Mr. Luce has
come to grips with the heart of the problem, which is to
press forward with methods for electricity generation
compatible with the environment.
attractive opportunities abound, including
solar power, geothermal power, clean fossil-fueled power,
increased efficiency of power plants, and fusion power. If
some of our elegant scientific talent were stimulated to
develop these sensible approaches, we would undoubtedly
hasten an early ecologically-sound solution for electric
first step is to break the stranglehold on energy
research and development dollars that has been held by
the super-promotional, narrow-visioned Joint Committee
on Atomic Energy.
Scientific Objectivity and Radiation Damage
The Chairman of the AEC, Dr. Glenn Seaborg, is a highly
respected scientist. Can't we rely on him to take an
objective view of radiation hazards?
Answer: Dr. Seaborg is indeed a highly respected, capable
scientist. Yet in recent speeches he has taken a position
diametrically opposed to all sound public health principles
in assessing radiation hazards. In effect, he has ridiculed
sound public health practices in the following statement
from his November 19, 1970 talk entitled "Power,
People, and the Press." Let us quote Dr. Seaborg directly:
much of the alarm being generated
today is based upon speculation that has its roots only
in manipulating statistics—in large linear extrapolations.
These make the assumption that if X number of people
are killed by a certain high level of radiation, known
numbers of other deaths can be deduced at each
decreasing level. But as a prominent radiation expert recently
pointed out, such extrapolations can become ridiculous,
and especially upon reaching certain low levels. They are,
in effect, saying that if 1000 people die in a 100-mile
an hour hurricane, 100 people will die in a 10-mile an
I admit this analogy is not a scientifically
accurate comparison with radiation effects, such ridicule
seems justified because there is much evidence of biological
repair mechanisms that counteract the effects of low levels
of radiation. . . ." (Glenn T. Seaborg)
Seaborg has, in this unfortunate speech, chosen
to ridicule the sound public health principles adhered to
by all responsible scientists concerned about radiation
hazard and he has chosen to ridicule the sound principles
adhered to by all responsible standard-recommending
bodies, including ICRP, NCRP, and FRC.
public should now address individual letters to
Chairman Seaborg and ask him to produce one iota of
evidence that is convincing of any biological repair
mechanism that will protect against cancer and leukemia
from low levels of radiation. If he has such evidence, it has
been thoroughly hidden from the scientific community.
Why does Chairman Seaborg of AEC try so hard to
ridicule the hazard of radiation?
Answer: He does not like to admit that he made a
mistake. None of us do. He and other atomic energy
officials began an intense promotional campaign of
promises about the wonders of nuclear electricity several years
ago before the extremely serious hazard of radiation was
appreciated. It is one of the most difficult problems any
human must face to admit past errors and to face
the public would admire Dr. Seaborg's
courage if he faced up to the issue squarely and said he
realized now that the hazards of atomic energy programs
are far greater than he previously thought. Everyone makes
mistakes, and the public admires men who can
forthrightly acknowledge mistakes. This is especially true when
the mistakes were based upon erroneous knowledge of
Isn't the problem of defensiveness a serious problem of
technology in general with respect to environmental
Answer: Absolutely. Until recently, technology was given
a green light to develop hardware as rapidly as possible.
Today we recognize that such technology can produce an
unbearable environmental burden. Nuclear power may
represent one of the best examples of this. How can we
expect men whose professional lives, jobs, and fortunes
depend upon a particular technology to view the abolition
of their technology with equanimity? If they weren't
defensive, they wouldn't be human. Job security and
professional life work are very important to people.
Is it being suggested that society foot the bill for
ill-advised technological ventures?
Answer: Representatives of our government pushed atomic
energy upon industry. Many scientists and engineers were
urged to prepare for careers in this field. Now with a
greater awareness of our environmental crisis, all of us
must share to some extent in the burden of a change in
direction. Just as we must make accommodations (with
tax money) for loss of jobs and careers in other fields,
so must we assume some of the responsibility for tiding
the Atomic Energy Commission over the setback that
will occur when the building of nuclear power plants is
postponed, until we know how to make them safe.
Why So Much Fuss Over Such a Little
Radiation from Nuclear Plants?
Nuclear power advocates commonly state that the
radiation one might receive by living in the near vicinity of
a typical operating plant site for an entire year is
equivalent to about what one would receive on a single
round trip, coast-to-coast airplane flight. If the
radiation is so low, why is there any concern about nuclear
Answer: Nuclear power advocates almost step over one
another in their hurry to claim how little radiation one
will get from nuclear power generation. This should be
greeted with, "Bravo!" Since nuclear power advocates
claim it is ridiculous to think any significant radiation will
be delivered, the nuclear power advocates should be the
vanguard in the fight to lower the allowable radiation doses
to the public. So far, when such optimists are asked why
they aren't fighting to lower the allowable doses, they are
speechless. Just as soon as their actions begin to match
their words, credibility might be assigned to them.
Isn't it true that medical exposure to x-rays is providing
more radiation dosage to the public than nuclear power
at present (1970)?
Answer: Yes. This points up two necessities:
Every effort should be made to reduce the
exposure in the course of medical diagnosis. This can be
done and is being done. Dr. Karl Z. Morgan has
courageously campaigned for reduction in x-ray exposure from
medical and dental use of x-rays.
We should be very happy to have discovered the
serious hazard of radiation before the nuclear power
industry has led to a prospect for irreversible pollution of
the environment. It is very hopeful that we can stop the
nuclear power stampede before it has done irreversible
damage, rather than later.
a speech on May 21, 1970, the late Commissioner
Theos Thompson stated the following:
is understood much better than almost any
other of the possible effects caused by man or his
environment. It is strange that we who believe that atomic
energy is an improvement in our environmental situation
find ourselves attacked on the environmental basis, when
we know full well that when the final choice is made,
nuclear power will prevail because the alternatives to
nuclear power will have much worse effects on human
What is the answer to such comments?
Answer: It is because we know now how hazardous
radiation is that we should reject a stampede to nuclear
electricity which is certain to increase radiation hazard.
It makes no sense to plunge headlong into a technology
where we know the hazard is large.
to the hazard of alternatives, we most certainly
should not accept dirty fossil-fueled power plants
instead of nuclear plants. But it is only the limited vision of
nuclear power advocates that results in their failure to
appreciate that environmentally-sound alternatives can be
and must be made available.
is an excellent illustration of how a parochial
interest leads to a limited vision concerning possibilities
for alternatives. There are very few reasons for believing
any rational society will make "final" choices in favor
of nuclear fission power.
In that same speech, the late Commissioner Thompson
a state agency arbitrarily lowers the levels which
are permissible in the state until they are barely above
normal levels, they run some risk that at some time
they will either have to require shutdown of this plant,
or else find some graceful way to back off from their own
are the implications of this statement?
Answer: Commissioner Thompson was, in effect, saying
that no one really knows how much radioactivity would
be emitted by the new plants. Therefore, he was warning
states against restricting releases of radioactivity.
course, his comments are correct. What he is
saying is that the promises of the nuclear electricity
industry concerning how little radioactivity they are going
to release are simply empty, untrustworthy promises. In
effect, it is fine for nuclear electricity advocates to promise
low releases of radioactivity to the environment, but it
would be unfortunate if regulations were enforced to
make them adhere to their optimistic promises.
In a speech (January 23, 1970) AEC Commissioner
Larson stated the following:
the 27-year period (of nuclear power
development) there has not been a single nuclear reactor
accident in which a member of the public has been injured
in any way whatever. This safety record is unequalled in
any other industry in this country. This experience covers
the operation of 435 nuclear reactors."
is the answer to this claim?
Answer: First of all the nuclear reactors of this period
were almost all tiny compared with the giant plants now
being built, so the "27 years" of experience is hardly
meaningful. Second, no one really knows how much total
radioactivity was released by all these plants, since very
few of them were independently monitored. Third, and
most important, the claimed safety is only by definition.
The way the Atomic Energy Commission operates is to
deny all the extra deaths due to radiation. Having denied
the deaths, they then claim safety. How is it that they
"deny" the deaths? Very simply. Radioactivity has been
released from many of these nuclear power reactors. First,
the AEC calls an amount of radiation that can produce
cancer by the term "safe". Having done this, they deny
culpability for any deaths caused in people who have
received this falsely "safe" dose. So, many people can be
killed by such "safe" doses of radiation and the AEC
simply denies the deaths by saying, "How can these
people have been hurt by radiation—they received no
more than our `safe' dose?"
suppose the U.S. population were to receive an
average exposure of 170 millirads per year and were to
build up to 32,000 extra cancer plus leukemia deaths
each year due to the radiation. Commissioner Larson
would, by his reasoning, still say nuclear radiation had
caused no deaths, simply because he would define the
170 millirads as the "safe" dose, and he would therefore
dismiss the extra 32,000 deaths each year as non-existent.
Is Nuclear Power the Only Answer
to Future Needs?
AEC Chairman Seaborg stated (April 22, 1970) the
has long been recognized that nuclear energy's
full promise for providing a virtually unlimited energy
source for future generations could be realized only
through the development and application of the breeder
this statement correct?
Answer: This statement of AEC Chairman Seaborg is a
classic illustration of the parochial absence of vision that
characterizes nuclear power advocates. Numerous
responsible scientists have indicated that solar power, geothermal
power, and fusion power have excellent promise to
provide unlimited power with minimal environmental
deterioration. The limited vision of AEC Commissioners
prevents them from seeing these possibilities, as they
continue to focus upon nuclear fission power.
might add that with the plutonium hazard
introduced along with the breeder reactor, it is
problematical as to whether future generations would get to enjoy
the "unlimited energy source."
In that same speech, AEC Chairman Seaborg said:
. . it is the utility (industry) which has the basic
responsibility to make sure that the plant is designed,
constructed, and operated to meet requirements for
safety, reliability, and economics."
it true that the electric utility industry carries
these responsibilities, and that AEC is not responsible?
Answer: Sadly enough, this is true. And the consequences
are horrible to contemplate. The electric utility industry
has been misled by the AEC into thinking the "allowable"
doses of radiation have a wide margin of safety in them,
when indeed we know there is no margin of safety. So
the utilities have gone ahead with all their engineering
with this false illusion of safety. While Dr. Seaborg is right
that the utility industry will be the patsy for the deaths
that will be produced, the real losers will be the
unfortunate citizens who develop the radiation-induced cancers
Environmental Considerations with
Nuclear Power Plants
Chairman Seaborg continued:
when we hear members of the scientific
community express the view that despoilation of the
environment might make life untenable on this planet by the
year 2000, we can but wonder if they know something
we don't know."
it really true that no one has told the AEC the
true facts concerning radiation hazard?
Answer: It is regrettably true that members of the scientific
community do know something the AEC does not know.
The difficulty does not arise because the AEC hasn't been
told about radiation hazards. The difficulty arises because
the AEC refuses absolutely to listen to anything
concerning radiation hazards.
Another statement the AEC Chairman made in that
our efforts to bring about increased public
understanding, I see one need as central and pervasive. That
is the need to create a heightened awareness of the need
for energy, of the extent to which it is essential to our
welfare today, and of our increasing dependence on it in
the future, particularly with respect to protecting the
environment. . . ."
this really what is needed?
Answer: At a time when all those concerned with the
environmental crisis have come to recognize the pollutional
aspects of energy consumption and the wisdom of
questioning increases in energy consumption, the AEC is 180
degrees out of phase and is, in effect, arguing in favor
of more of the same approach that brought on the
environmental crisis in the first place.
In a speech (March 26, 1970) Commissioner Larson
from being one of the curses of the nuclear age,
as many well-meaning laymen believe, the nuclear waste
disposal problem is, in fact, one of the smaller such tasks
in our modern high consumption society."
it really true that nuclear waste disposal is no
Answer: Apparently so for the AEC. But a committee
report of the National Academy of Sciences was severely
critical of AEC waste disposal practices—practices which
could lead to serious fouling of the environment. Indeed
the report was so critical of AEC waste disposal practices
that the AEC suppressed it for over three years
accounts of AEC laxity in waste disposal
practices appear repeatedly. The AEC is not yet convinced
that the earth is finite in its capacity to serve as a sewer.
Probably, this is why Commissioner Larson feels that the
legacy of radioactive garbage is perfectly appropriate for
us to visit upon future generations.
Informing the Public on Nuclear Power
In a speech (April 4, 1970) AEC Commissioner Ramey
stated the following:
our efforts to inform and listen to the public
however, we have been charged with failure to inform the
public or to consider the public's views in the setting, by
rule, of radiation-emission standards for nuclear power
plants. . . ."
is the answer to Commissioner Ramey's statements?
Answer: There can be no doubt that the AEC has spent
millions of dollars to "inform" the public. The only
difficulty is that all the "information" represents a Madison
Avenue huckster message, replete with fairytales about
"clean, cheap, safe nuclear power." It is impossible to
find any evidence that would indicate effort by the AEC
to present to the public a balanced set of information
concerning the radiation hazards question.
respect to the public's point of view being heard,
the record of AEC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board
Hearings can only be regarded as a national disgrace. The
real issue before such Boards should be:
The validity of the primary radiation standards,
The moral question of going ahead with nuclear
power plants when safety cannot be assured. Neither of
these questions has been admissible. The public has been
limited to proving that the design specifications
for the particular reactor do not meet the established standards.
If it is the established standards that are really in
question, it is the public's right to question these
standards. The failure to allow this is the essence of the
answer to Mr. Ramey's plaint. Indeed, the AEC deserves more severe
criticism than it has received for its manifest failure to
listen to the proper questions raised by the public,—a
public acting appropriately to protect life and property.
In that same speech, Commissioner Ramey went on
of the public whose interests are affected
can intervene in these hearings, and can call witnesses
and cross-examine in order to try to satisfy themselves
as to the safety of the proposed plant."
it true that the public has all these opportunities?
Answer: In principle, the public has these opportunities.
In practice, the public is deprived of the opportunity in
such a way as to mock our democratic society. First, it
has been estimated that a successful intervention would
require $100,000 to $200,000. Why should the public
be forced to provide such funds to raise appropriate
questions? Why should taxpayer dollars be utilized by the
AEC to prevent the public from being adequately
represented and heard? Second, the rules concerning what
questions can be raised in such hearings make it
impossible to raise any of the pertinent issues about which the
public is properly concerned. These really
pertinent issues are listed in the previous question.
Later in the same address Commissioner Ramey stated:
of radioactive materials from nuclear
power plants operating to date have generally been only
a few percent of the AEC limits."
Answer: Commissioner Ramey's statement is an
illustration of the one-sided, distorted picture presented by nuclear
power advocates. It is true that many plants, under routine
conditions, have operated at a few percent of AEC limits.
But why does Commissioner Ramey not add to his
statement that the Dresden Plant had a period of over a year
at about 30 percent of AEC limits and the Humboldt
Plant, for a long period, operated at between 55 and 60
percent of AEC limits?
does Commissioner Ramey not discuss the
appalling state of affairs at the West Valley Fuel
Reprocessing Plant, where citizens groups had to go out to measure
and prove that the releases were far above "a few percent
of AEC limits"? Why does Commissioner Ramey not
mention that once the citizens groups discovered the sad
state of affairs at this plant, their findings were confirmed
by the Bureau of Radiological Health? It is the omissions
by men like Commissioner Ramey that lead to the loss of
credibility of the AEC.
Who Are the Critics of Nuclear Power?
Commissioner Ramey further stated:
are a lot of people going around the country
spreading `scare talk' about nuclear power. Some of these
people whom I have called the stirrer-uppers, like Larry
Bogart, apparently make their living by creating
controversy without regard to fact. Others are scientists who
haven't done their homework or who insist on
broadcasting their theories without first subjecting them to the
review of their peers."
there any validity to Commissioner Ramey's
Answer: None. Society has far more to fear from the
proponents of nuclear power who resort to the type of
slander evident in Mr. Ramey's remarks. Gofman and
Tamplin offered to test the sincerity of those who claim
they want a review of the evidence by peers. They did this
on January 28, 1970 by offering
to debate the radiation hazards question with the AEC
before a jury of the most eminent scientific peers. This
offer is in the Hearings of the Joint Committee on Atomic
Energy in print. (Environmental Effects of Producing
Electric Power, Part 1). The AEC has steadfastly refused to
participate in consideration of the evidence before a
jury of eminent peers.
Ramey must be fully aware of this offer. If he
is not aware of it, then he, as a Commissioner, is the one
"who hasn't done his homework" by failing to know what
is in those hearings. Moreover, he was present at those
can the public think of the AEC, having itself
declined to accept a review before peers, subsequently
criticizing others for failing to subject their findings to a
similar review? Can it be that the AEC, and not its
critics, fear the review of the evidence. The record is
quite clear for all to examine.
In a speech (February 9, 1970), Commissioner Ramey
and Tamplin and others are . . . violating
one of the cardinal principles of scientific endeavor by not
subjecting their conclusions to the normal review of their
scientific peers. Instead they are trying their cases in the
press and other public forums. We used to call such
characters `opera stars'."
is the answer to this charge?
Answer: It should be expected of public officials at the
high level of AEC Commissioner not to voice such totally
irresponsible statements. Unfortunately for the AEC, they
destroy the credibility of the AEC, not the credibility of
Gofman and Tamplin.
record on this matter is clear. The Gofman-Tamplin
findings were presented before a highly respected
scientific forum, a Symposium on Nuclear Science before
the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineering at
San Francisco, October 29, 1969. It would be difficult to
imagine a more appropriate forum. Let us quote from the
published Transactions of that
Symposium (a highly
respectable Scientific publication) why that presentation was
requested by the distinguished Program Committee of that
"Up until the last few decades, man's ability to pollute his
environment was relatively slight. In recent years however,
the combined population and technological "explosions"
have magnified this hazard to awesome proportions.
The engineering community has a major responsibility
and role in understanding and controlling this
situation before it is too late. The Plenary Session was most
effective in presenting these problems through the presentation
of five invited papers:
and Natural Minor Constituents of the Upper
Atmosphere"—Dr. E.A. Martell, National Center for
Atmospheric Research, Laboratory of Atmospheric
Sciences, Denver, Colorado
- "The Chemical
Invasion of the Oceans by Man"—Dr.
Edward D. Goldberg, Scripps Institution of
Oceanography, La Jolla, California
Isotope Measurement of Sulfur Pollutants"—Mr.
Bernard Manowitz, Brookhaven National Laboratory
Upton, Long Island, New York
Dose Radiation, Chromosomes, and Cancer"—Dr.
John W. Gofman, Associate Director, Biomedical
Division, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, University of
California, Livermore, California
Breeder Reactors—Status and Prospects"—Mr.
P.M. Murphy, Manager of Advance Engineering, Breeder
Reactor Development Operation, General Electric
Company, Sunnyvale, California
Unfortunately for those who did not attend the Symposium, it is
only possible to include the last two of these excellent papers in
this issue of the Transactions.
and Tamplin pleaded for the AEC to join
them in a review before peers, and Commissioner Ramey
knows this full well. He knows, too, that Gofman and
Tamplin have published their findings in several scientific
journals, with thorough review by "peers." Commissioner
Ramey knows that his statement concerning "trying their
case in the press and other public forums" is fatuous and
as valid as a three-dollar bill.
In that same speech Commissioner Ramey continued:
. . We have made less (progress) with our non-scientific
antagonists—the `rag tag' stirrer-uppers such as
Larry Bogart and others who use high school debating
techniques which are sometimes surprisingly effective.
They seem most vulnerable when asked what alternatives
they might suggest to meet the increased needs for electric
power. Some, like Bogart at the Senate appropriations
hearings last fall, talk about some far-out alternatives
such as MHD (magneto hydrodynamics) or harnessing
the Gulf Stream, or using solar energy or even tidal power.
One finds also a certain softness by them in relation to
coal and fossil sources, and some obtuseness as to the air
pollution problems of these competitive sources. I believe
the ridiculous position of these fellows could be made
shall we view these remarks of Commissioner
Answer: Mr. Ramey speaks for himself with respect to his
disdain for the lay public and the excellent questions they
raise concerning alternatives for electric power production.
Indeed, distinguished scientists and engineers are giving
extremely serious consideration to the very alternatives
Mr. Ramey ridicules. While Mr. Ramey scoffs at the
prospects for clean power from coal and other fossil fuels, Dr.
Philip Abelson, Editor of the Journal, Science, writes that
a high national priority is the research and engineering to
derive clean power from
Mr. Ramey scoffs at processes such as
Magneto-hydrodynamics for increasing the yield of electrical energy
per unit of fuel utilized, responsible scientists such as Dr.
Arthur Squires (Science, 1970) point up the importance
of processes of this
Mr. Ramey scoffs at the far out aspects of solar
power, highly regarded scientists point to the importance
of a thorough evaluation of solar power. (Solar Energy—Resource
of the Future by Peter E. Glaser, Ph.D., Chief
of Engineering Sciences, Arthur D. Little, Inc., Acorn
Park, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140. For the National
Energy Study, U.S. Dept. of Interior.)
In that same speech Commissioner Ramey said:
am afraid we are headed for a rather turbulent
period. What does this mean, then, in terms of public
relations and understanding? Obviously we are going to have
to do much better in communicating with the public. We
will have to show through our words, and more
importantly by our actions that we indeed are performing a
useful function in a responsible way with the public
interest foremost in our minds."
should one say about this statement of Commissioner Ramey?
Answer: It is a wonderful statement. Commissioner Ramey
is confirming what the public already knows, namely, that
the AEC has done a terribly poor job of convincing
anyone that they are performing a useful function
in a responsible way with the public interest foremost.
a suggestion to Commissioner Ramey and his
colleagues for their self-help, improvement programs, one
might suggest one simple ingredient, candor.
Commissioner Ramey further stated:
power is a fact of life and I am convinced
the public will reach a point in time that they will not only
embrace nuclear power—they will clamor for it. So through
this interim period we must retain our patience and our
good humor and do the best possible job in planning and
building plants properly, running them right and helping
the public understand this new source of energy."
are these statements to be viewed?
Answer: There are many "facts of life" the public never
seems to clamor for. Among them are poliomyelitis,
tuberculosis and cancer. Commissioner Ramey may find nuclear
power as another "fact of life" that may be added to this
for the statement about "helping the public
understand this new source of energy," this would be an
extremely welcome contribution on the part of the Atomic
Energy Commission. A good place to start would be an
honest presentation of the hazards of nuclear power, an
answer to the question of the morality of going ahead
with nuclear power installation when safety cannot be
assured, and a cessation of a one-sided propaganda
campaign about "the wonders of the atom."
In a speech by AEC Chairman Seaborg, the following is
stated (May 5, 1969):
. . a recent resurgence of anti-nuclear articles
designed to alarm the public about the growth of nuclear
power when it should be enlightened about it. Many of
these articles use the effective propaganda technique
known as `stacking the deck'—the technique of taking all
the detrimental, isolated facts and information about a
subject, misinterpreting other factual material, adding
numerous statements—taken out of context—by authorities
in the field, and placing all this material in a story that
gives a completely one-sided viewpoint. Specifically, every
fact and statement in such a story may be true, while the
article as a whole, and the conclusion it draws, may be
invalid and misleading. Such dishonesty is made more
harmful by the fact that these articles are written as
exposes and crusades in the public interest."
can one say about these remarks of Chairman
Answer: There are two important conclusions to draw
from Chairman Seaborg's remarks.
It is easy to understand Chairman Scaborg's
dismay that people look at all the facts and come up with
the "one-sided view" that they don't want nuclear power.
With respect to his statement that "the article as
a whole, and the conclusion it draws, may be invalid and
misleading," one can only conclude that he must be referring to the numerous press releases of the U.S. Atomic
Energy Commission. There are no better examples of this
In the early phases of the radiation hazards controversy
the nuclear power proponents denied the seriousness
of the radiation hazard associated with "permissible"
doses. When too many scientists began to agree that
the hazard estimates were correct, the nuclear power
proponents stopped the denial approach, and shifted to
the claim that the standards don't mean anything since
nuclear power programs would never deliver the
"permissible" dose to the public.
should the concerned public view this change
in position by nuclear power proponents?
Answer: The answer is simple. If the nuclear power
proponents are so sure the public will never be given the
"permissible" doses, they (the nuclear proponents) should
be in the forefront of the effort to reduce the "permissible"
a country which operates under law, one thing, and
one thing alone, can guarantee that exposure to a poison
will not occur, and that is to make it illegal for it to occur.
It makes no sense whatever to permit something realized
to be disastrous.
concerned public must insist, again and again and
again, that the nuclear power proponents demonstrate the
sincerity of their belief that the "permissible" dose won't
be reached by the only sound approach—and that approach
is to abolish the permissibility.