From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: Pu 238 -- what's new? (Letter to Bill Broad, NY Times)

June 29th, 2005

Dear Readers,

Below is my letter to Mr. Broad in response to his article this week about Pu 238.  My thanks to everyone who sent a copy of the article to me.  My letter to Mr. Broad included the previous newsletter, which is also included (again) below, followed by Mr. Broad's widely republished New York Times article.

Warmest regards,

Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA


To: Bill Broad, New York Times
cc: "New York Times Letters" <>

June 28th, 2005

Dear Mr. Broad,

Your article is frightening!  I'm glad the New York Times published it.

I hope that you do know, however, that saying Pu 238 is hundreds of times more dangerous than Pu 239 is quite inexact.  One might say it's 283 times more dangerous, but for about 1/283rd as long.  I suppose in the end, that's just an inexact guess, too.  But at least it's a less inexact guess.

And how come you let unnamed "federal experts" (that sounds like a contradiction in terms to me) simply say the containment system for the Pu in space is robust?  They aren't even one generation advanced over Cassini's RTGs, are they?  The "RPSs" that were announced shortly before Cassini was launched, with their supposed 5X better performance, never came to pass, did they?  It's the same old models, which couldn't survive a late launch reentry, a full stack impact, a flyby reentry, or space debris collisions followed by reentry, right?  (Or a bunch of other things.)

And if they're a new design, how much better are they?  A smidgeon?  An untested smidgen, at that?

And besides, "federal experts" lie.  Especially unnamed ones.

And what IS the actual size of a speck of Pu 238, as in "a speck will cause lung cancer?"  Can ANYBODY tell me?  Really, Mr. Broad, I've looked all over for the number that NASA believes is correct, and I can't find it.

And if per chance it is resolved as to how big exactly that speck is, can you (or anyone you've ever interviewed) tell me how much more, or less, dangerous the same # of atoms of Pu 238 -- the same "speck" -- would be, if it was divided into, for example, 1000 smaller specks instead of one "big" (but still vanishingly small!) speck?

And if those 1000 "mini-specks" were inhaled by 1000 different people, instead of by just one person (as just one speck or as 1000 "mini-specks"), is it more or less likely, or just as likely, that among those 1000 people, one will develop a lung cancer?

And if you divide those 1000 "mini-specks" each into 1000 "micro-specks," and distribute those million particles to a million people, is it more likely or less likely, or just as likely, that among those million people, one will develop lung cancer?

It depends on the correctness of the "2nd hit" theory, or perhaps some other theory, and no one can say for sure.  And it probably also depends on what other radiation they've had to absorb in their life.

A little Pu is just a little awful for you, even if it doesn't kill you outright.  It isn't good -- it's damaging.  And sometimes a little can go a long way, as when it gets into the electrical system of the human heart.  A radioactive decay in your heart's electrical system is like a lightening bolt through your home's main wiring system.  It's sort of like using your body as the 3-D porous diode in a radioactive betavoltaic battery (see reference below to a recent news item) -- yeah, you get a jolt of electricity out of it, alright -- but not where you need it, when you need it, in a strength you can use.

Thus, the ultimate basis of NASA's assertion that launching Pu 238 in space is safe -- because in an accident it will be distributed in harmless microparticles, so no one person will get a large dose (although billions WILL get some dose) is absurd.  NASA's estimates of potential deaths from a Pu 238 distribution are undoubtedly off by several orders of magnitude -- 2, 3, 4 or even more, especially if the Pu rains down predominantly over a large city or over farmland.

But it isn't even necessary.  Spy satellites can be powered by safer means, and we can even launch them with mag-lev rail systems cheaply, often, and reliably.

But instead we shoot up plutonium to power our orbiting spy rocks.  It's mean to the workers who process the plutonium.  It's mean to the environment and people around where it is processed.  It's mean to make a market for this waste product of the nuclear industry (the whole of which should be shut down).  It's just plain mean to mess with this stuff, let alone to mess UP with this stuff.  Plutonium usage is mean.

Our pitiful little skirmishes around the globe should not be giving people lung cancer even as far out as 1000 or 2000 years from now.  But that is the inevitable result, since the half-life of Pu 238 is 87.75 years, so if an accident occurs today, there will still be many Curies of Pu 238 around when you and I have long ago been turned back to dust (slightly radioactive dust this time, even without ANOTHER accident).  And it's not just lung cancer, either: The list of diseases plutonium can be associated with is probably longer than this letter.

After thousands of launches of rockets, missiles, probes, etc., we know -- "we" being you and I, if not NASA, who never seems to learn anything -- we know that statistics rule these things, not man's desire or willpower to build a perfect rocket or a perfect containment, or to plan a perfect trajectory, or to find a perfectly clear path through the void (through the hailstorm of bolts, rivets, at least one glove, and millions of other pieces of manmade space debris and interplanetary dust).  I guess you could ask Dr. Friedman of The Planetary Society about that, right?  About man's imperfections?

And speaking of Dr. Friedman, I suspect the Russians never launched his bird at all -- that they instead launched a plutonium-powered spy satellite, and even had the unmitigated gall to pay for it with Friedman's money!  And they'll probably use it against U.S. interests -- that's the real icing on the cake!

I guess times have changed, and now, we can even -- with provocation, according to the rules of war (and the story) -- blow a hole in a Russian nuclear sub killing everyone on board (and undoubtedly releasing millions of Curies of radioactive crud into the environment) and then buy our way out of it (or is that story about the Kursk really just a rumor?  I hear there are photos.).

I've got to admit, though, that considering how adamant (and arrogant) Dr. Friedman was about the safety of Cassini's plutonium, all I can say now is: I'm glad he wasn't actually in CHARGE of Cassini!  After all, the guy can't even launch a kite.

And by the way, Dr. Michio Kaku long ago studied and disproved your claim that plutonium was necessary to power Cassini.  You and the New York Times (and NASA) owe the public an apology for that false claim.  In fact, that's why New Horizons will have to go all the way out to Pluto -- so there's "NO WAY" (as the saying goes) that you could power it with solar collectors, no way no how, and so therefore -- the thinking goes -- you need nukes.

But of course, there are chemical "batteries" (fuel cells) that could provide electricity for their ignoble experiments out there.  We DON'T need nuclear power in space and there's no safe way to get nukes into space, anyway.    As the orbital debris field increases in particle density and probably total mass as well, the failure rate will probably go up even if improvements are made in other areas such as engine reliability.

What the Bush Administration is doing and proposing to do with Plutonium 238, both terrestrially and in outer space, is a crime against humanity.  Accidents will happen and plutonium will spill, and people will die.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Warmest regards,

Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

P.S. Earlier this month I attended the ANS's opening session on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion.  My report from that afternoon is shown below.  There were a lot of INL badges at the thing, as well as KAPL, NASA and NRC badges.  (I didn't have a badge.  I got in by impersonating an Estonian secret agent.)


From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: A Room Full of Arrogance: Crashing the American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting -- San Diego CA -- June 2005

Newsletter of Scams, Hoaxes, Infiltrators and Terrorism
Russell Hoffman, Editor
Volume 2 Issue 2
June 23rd, 2005

Dear Readers,

The American Nuclear Society held their annual meeting earlier this month in San Diego, California.  It cost over $700 to attend, and you had to be a member of ANS, which is totally pro-nuclear.  I'm against that.

So I snuck in.

On the first full day of the conference, I attended the opening series of sessions on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion.  Nils Diaz, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, started the day's space sessions.

Diaz admitted to giving his first speech about space nuclear power and propulsion 30 days after telling his "boss" (presumably he meant King George) that he knew NOTHING about it (his boss replied: "You've got 30 days to learn!").  Mr. Diaz did not admit that he still knows nothing.

Diaz mentioned a chart he has which shows that of the past 35 years of reactor downtime (accumulated during the past four or five actual years of reactor activity, nationwide), about 50% was due to "materials issues."

So now the nuclear industry buys up virtually all the titanium in the universe (that isn't being used for military / space programs) to make the steam generators that used to be made of stainless steel and were supposed to last the life of the reactor, and they buy up all they can get of numerous other elements -- many of which would be recyclable, except that they become poisoned with radioactivity.  Radiation turns renewable resources into non-renewable resources.

Diaz wants to form a new international agency (I guess the IAEA isn't pro-nuclear enough for him) so we -- America -- can not only export nuclear power, but we can actually export (to countries run by communists, fascists and religious fanatics, for example) THE REGULATORY ENTANGLEMENT WHICH PERMITS IT!  Of course, he didn't describe his plan quite like that, but that's exactly what it amounts to.  They'll give these complex regulations to any country that wants them, but not to any State (such as California) that might want to opt OUT of the nuclear "bargain."  One of the other speakers talked about the need for "transparency" and "public participation."  Yeah, right.

The first speaker after Diaz was a Nobel-prize winning scientist who talked about cosmic shielding for space crew compartments during long flights, such as to Mars. After Diaz's admission that he has spoken as an expert on space nuclear with only a month of preparation, it was surprising to hear this speaker tell us, within two minutes, that he knew "nothing about nuclear power."  But he knew a lot about superconducting magnets, magnetohydrodynamics, supercooled fluid pumps, helium's isotopic distribution in Near Earth Orbit (which is surprisingly uneven), and other related topics.  Very interesting.

After that was Ray Taylor, director of the Prometheus project, NASA's next generation of nuclear rockets.  When Taylor became head of Prometheus, he already had 15 years at NASA.  Before that, he worked on the Naval Reactors project.  Taylor admitted that the current breed of reactors in America are products of military reactor research.

He did NOT admit that the push for nuclear reactors in space has a direct military purpose -- everyone at these sorts of meetings pretends these are strictly civilian programs, but they are not.

Taylor believes that the materials research related to nuclear space projects will someday be applicable to needs on Earth. But the same gains could be made with a DIRECT INVESTMENT in the necessary materials science, without the bottleneck and black hole and unscientific "stop" at the nuclear quagmire.  Taylor didn't mention that.

Diaz, in his opening presentation, claimed that nuclear power can save tsunami victims from want, and can save the world from shortages of electricity.  He did not mention the employees of an Indian nuclear power plant who were drowned by the December 2004 tsunami -- the plant was damaged as well, though Indian officials are tight-lipped about how badly.

Diaz did not mention that the world actually came close to another Chernobyl that day.

And Davis-Besse isn't considered a nearly-catastrophic close call; it was just a learning experience.

Energy multiplies man's labor, we were reminded.  If this had been a conference on all of the hundreds of ways to produce energy (about 99.9% of them are CLEAN, and ONE is very dirty, and several are not clean enough), it might have made sense to remind people of that.  But these guys act like radiation is the only way to get electrons moving in wires.  They are very confused.

Neither the probability that global increases in radiation levels have already killed millions of people, nor the fact that disease is the divisor of human labor and the destroyer of human life, was mentioned.

Instead of dwelling on the down side of nuclear power -- the reality of it, that is -- Diaz proclaimed that "direct energy conversion" is the #1 technological challenge, the key to making nuclear truly useful to mankind, by eliminating "the turbine" and other parts of the typical power plant, nuclear or not.  "Think of the benefits that could be applied" he proclaimed.

I guess he's never noticed that solar panels do a direct conversion of the escaping ray from a nuclear decay into electricity -- and it works admirably.  Problem solved; if only we would implement it.

(I guess Diaz also missed (or hadn't yet read) the Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society's June, 2005 issue (pg 26), which describes a betavoltaic battery which utilizes tritium's radioactive decay as the direct power source "just as a solar cell generates electricity by absorbing energy from incoming photons of light."  The researchers claim that the 3-D porous silicon diode (which surrounds the tritium power source) is "excellent for absorbing essentially all the kinetic energy of the source electrons."  (Note: Just don't bust one open.))

Wind power is also much more direct than nuclear.  It directly turns a turbine to produce moving magnetic fields which cause electrons to move in wires, skipping several energy-wasting steps required by nuclear power, AND eliminating the production of thousands of tons of spent fuel.  It's a very direct conversion of natural energy into work-capable electricity.

But no, we're stuck with nukes, which must convert radiation into heat energy by heating water under pressure, then (eventually) turning a turbine to create moving magnetic fields which cause electrons to move in wires.  (The "water" is actually a deadly radioactive chemical broth.)

Diaz realizes this is inefficient.  But he does not realize that letting the sun create electricity -- either directly or indirectly by, for example, moving the winds, and letting the winds move the turbines -- IS efficient and can supply all the energy the people on this planet need.

Even conventional transmission lines can do the job of distributing electricity generated using solar or wind power, but superconducting transmission lines should be a national scientific goal -- NOT nuclear powered space flight, which is needed ONLY to explore dust bowls with possible viral contaminants and to power space weapons.  Ugh!  These guys are so arrogant, it's disgusting.

There were several other speakers, all beaming about what they believe is nuclear's rosy future.  Our planet is in for a lot of hurt if they have their way.

Russell D. Hoffman
Citizens' Secret Agent
Somewhere in the good 'ole USA

Note: Reporters should ask Dr. Nils Diaz, Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for the chart of nuclear power reactor downtime causes -- ask for a transcript of his remarks, too.  Apparently he will not give either one to you.  So much for transparency and public participation!

(1) Facts show San Diego Union-Tribune Reporter is full of hot air
(2) Low-down on sky-high pork-barrel space weapons plans
(3) LA Weakly: Follow-up by Jonathan Parfrey, PSR, to the libelous article by Judith Lewis
(4) On The Beach: Rocket Launcher, mortars (some expended) found just a few miles south of San Onofre (aka SONGS / SONWGS)
(5) LA Times article on Dry Cask Storage:  Vulnerable, costly, short-sighted (but the writer calls pools "safe"!)
(6) Contact information for this author

(1) Facts show San Diego Union-Tribune Reporter is full of hot air:

To: "Union-Tribune/letters" <>
Subject: Facts show San Diego Union-Tribune Reporter is full of hot air:

June 13th, 2005

San Diego Union-Tribune

Subject: Re: [Hanford] Digest Number 1082 -- Headbutting by the Nuclear Mafia just Par for the Course

To The Editor:

It is interesting to see Mr. Klawonn publish the pro-nukers' use of the phrase "butt heads" the same week "Iron" Mike Tyson -- in what will hopefully be his last-ever "professional" boxing match -- had two points deducted for deliberately headbutting his opponent (he also tried to break the guy's arm).

Tyson, despite his vicious, illegal, and immoral "strong-arm" tactics, lost the fight.

So too will the nuclear industry lose its fight, no matter how vicious they become.  Because, like with rusty old "Iron" Mike, time is NOT on their side, and not very many people are, either.  Their desperate embrace of a few turncoat "environmentalists" will not change the facts, and the facts are all against the Nuclear Mafia.

Sunday morning I read the article shown below, and Sunday morning I called Mr. Klawonn and got his answering machine.  I left a message telling him I know of at least three activists who attended the ANS meeting -- and that if caught, we would of course have been kicked out -- and possibly arrested -- his article doesn't mention that, nor does it mention that we were not invited and not welcome, and never will be.  Instead it suggests that we weren't present at the meeting by choice (when in fact, perhaps, some activists WERE there, despite the ANS's best efforts to keep us out).

If they really want to dialog, the pro-nukers can start by not calling us "anti's."  Using the term "anti-nuker" to describe an opponent of nuclear power is no more accurate than the phrase "depleted uranium" for the poison they spread in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and elsewhere, or the phrase "spent fuel" for the crud they create by the ton a week at every nuclear power plant, or the phrase "meltdown" for the loss of a small country or large state and the suffering of millions.    In reality, there are only two groups: realists, and mad scientists (and their automaton assistants) who willingly destroy the human genome with radiation.  They label low doses of radiation "safe" and "harmless" or even beneficial -- "Hormesis."  One would expect their label of their opposition to be inaccurate -- and it is.  We are simply realists.

But perhaps Mr. Klawonn is implying that I could have laid out an information table at the event, if only I had asked.  If that's what he thinks, he is undoubtedly mistaken.  I wasn't even allowed to table the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing on Diablo Canyon Tuesday (June 7th, 2005) in San Luis Obispo (while the ANS meeting was still going on in San Diego).  At the CPUC hearings last month (May 2005) I set up a table at all four hearings -- IN THE ROOM.  But the NRC forbade it and forced me to be outside the room, causing either myself or my assistant to miss all or part of the hearing.  It backfired on the NRC, though, insofar as, local media interviewed my wife and videotaped my table (with about three dozen historic nuke-related books (a small sampling from my collection of over 500 nuke books)) for the local evening news.  And, as people entered the Diablo Canyon meeting, I handed nearly every attendee a copy of my book, "Protecting California" including handing copies to most of the NRC officials and a few of the PG&E officials who were present (in all, I gave out about 60 copies).

Every time we've ever tried to "dialog" with the pro-nuclear forces, they lie, or they get into circular and meaningless arguments taking, at times, both sides of an ancillary issue such as the benefits of wind versus coal (a topic one often ends up arguing about with pro-nukers as they attempt to evade the real issues).

Often, pro-nuke officials at public hearings will pick on one item, usually brought up by a person who's fairly new to activism and to nuclear issues, and pretend to answer it in great depth, thus showing the novice activist the error of their testimony, while at the same time showing the press that they are cooperative despite the activists not understanding the issues.  And, by all their attention, they intimidate the (usually young) activist.

Meanwhile, the NRC and the nuclear industry will completely ignore the real issues which most of the more experienced activists are trying to discuss.

And, they'll virtually NEVER (with a few famous and useless exceptions) help nail down realistic numbers (such as what the risk of terrorism really is).

The exceptions?  One is the amount of background radiation humans are normally exposed to -- currently they say it's about 300 mRem per year -- and some tiny percentage they believe they might add to that amount.  Never mind that particulates can cause high levels of local radiation to a small collection of cells, something most "natural, background radiation" does not do.  Never mind that so-called "background radiation" has risen significantly since the dawn of the nuclear age -- perhaps even doubled (remember, it's hard to get good numbers).

Pro-nukers somehow assume that despite so many cancer deaths -- about 30% of all deaths -- background radiation levels prove that more radiation is harmless, perhaps even good for you.

A second exception -- another number they LIKE to present -- is "one in one million" which they equate to meaning "zero risk."  Even when they've "drilled down" to such a fine level of guesswork that literally millions of different things have each been defined (mathematically) as having a one-in-one-million chance of occurring, the sum total of these millions of individual and cumulative (and even multiplicative) risks is always considered to be "essentially zero."

And a third exception is any number for an actual release of radiation as long as it's below legal limits.  Known as "ALARA" ("As Low As Reasonably Achievable"), it's invariably called "ZERO RELEASE" if it's below the ALARA limit -- or if it's close, and the utility that did the spilling gets an exemption, which the NRC hands out like gum drops.  If the release is above any limit they dare to permit, then absolutely no accurate value, or even a wild estimate of the amount of radiation released will ever be made public.

And then they will call the "anti-nukers" (the "realists" in reality) unscientific!

Amidst all these lies and other crimes, the pro-nukers (or whatever you want to call them) are now told to "butt heads," to steal our web site names out from under us, to "co-opt" scientists, and to show up "an hour early" (exactly what I did at the recent CPUC and NRC hearings, with a portable table and a big sign that said "PRESS KITS"), and to "schedule interviews with reporters in advance."

That should be easy, since the reporters are NOT busy interviewing the activists (oh sure, once in a cobalt moon they might run out and do a quick interview or collect a sound bite, but that's not enough to understand the issues).  Few reporters bother to learn the facts (none for the SD U-T have ever bothered, as far as I can tell), and thus, few are capable of writing articles which present the issues fairly.

This article by Adam Kwalonn (who, by the way, joined my newsletter list more than a year ago but apparently doesn't read it), is a local manifestation of the new propaganda campaign by the pro-nuclear forces:  He has been used by the unscientific, dishonest, elusive and exclusive American Nuclear Society in their campaign against all realists everywhere, be they activists or just citizens trying not to die of cancer before their time.

The ANS is on the attack.  George Bush & Company have stacked the deck for them, and they smell a chance to establish many -- perhaps hundreds -- of new nuclear reactors in America and thousands around the world.  It's a preposterous plan.  Closing all the nuclear power plants we now have would be much more reasonable.


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

The author has studied nuclear power for over 35 years.   His essays have been published in more than a dozen countries.


At 07:47 AM 6/12/2005 +0000, Hanford group wrote:
There is 1 message in this issue.

Topics in this digest:

      1. FW: Pro-Nuke Public Relations, Organizing and Messaging Tactics from American Nuclear Society - what to expect here - also, see who turns up advising them: Ruth Weiner, formerly Sierra Club WA STate and WWU faculty urges 'co-opt" scientists


Message: 1
   Date: Sun, 12 Jun 2005 03:21:37 +0000
Subject: FW: Pro-Nuke Public Relations, Organizing and Messaging Tactics from American Nuclear Society - what to expect here - also, see who turns up advising them: Ruth Weiner, formerly Sierra Club WA STate and WWU faculty urges 'co-opt" scientists

Date: Fri, 10 Jun 2005 08:03:27 +0000

Pro-Nuke Public Relations, Organizing and Messaging Tactics from American Nuclear Society - what to expect here - also, see who turns up advising them: Ruth Weiner, formerly Sierra Club WA STate and WWU faculty urges 'co-opt" scientists. The american Nuclear Society is the organizing front used by numerous pro-Hanford efforts, including some of the spoekespeople for Voters' pamphlet against I-297, and recent letters to editor, etc... So, expect these tactics to be used here - especially when you see who is advising them. Good response from Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.

For Hanford hearings, from the years of hearings on the FFTF Reactor, we are already used to their tactics of bussing in workers and technical staff to testify at hearings around the region, and use their connection with the officials running the hearing to have their testimony presented first.

This report on their organizing conference ran in the San Diego newspaper:

Pro-nuclear conference focuses on tactics

By Adam Klawonn
June 9, 2005

The discussion sounded more like a page out of a football coach's playbook. Surprise the opponent. Plan ahead. Coordinate. Be proactive, not reactive.

But "Engaging the Anti's: Communications with Environmental Groups" was a much more serious talk because it could help determine the future of nuclear power in California and the rest of the country.

The session was part of the American Nuclear Society's annual weeklong conference, which has drawn hundreds of scientists and industry professionals to San Diego from around the world.

About 70 of them packed a room at the Town & Country Hotel and Convention Center in Mission Valley yesterday for the session on public relations.

Participants said it is arguably the most crucial issue facing the industry because the expansion of nuclear power that the Bush administration seeks hinges largely on public buy-in.

Proponents and critics of nuclear power plants agree that much of the public continues to be skeptical of the industry after the Three Mile Island accident of 1979 in Pennsylvania. Groups opposing the plants tap into this, and participants yesterday said that can lead to spin that kills nuclear projects.

Industry supporters said the tactic should be fought head-on.

"That's the biggest problem and it is a deliberate tactic" to stall the industry, said Ruth Weiner, one of the society's fellows who works for Sandia National Laboratories.

Take it from her, she said. She used to be one of "them."

Weiner was once an influential member of the Sierra Club's Cascade chapter and was considered a leading voice against nuclear power in Washington state.

She helped write policies to prevent portions of the state from becoming repositories for radioactive waste. Her efforts indirectly helped create the system used today, in which states sign compacts with one another to accept waste.

Weiner credits the "not in my back yard" public outcry during those experiences with changing her mind. After meeting lobbyists on both sides of the issue, she switched to support the industry she once resented.

Nowadays, her advice to operators of nuclear power plants is to cut down on propaganda and slogans.

" 'Nukes are good, coal is bad' is a loser," she said, referring to an industry mantra.

Operators should try instead to present fair arguments using technical terms when necessary, she said.

Weiner also suggested utilities that own power plants, such as Southern California Edison Co., majority owner of San Onofre, should seek out reputable scientists and try to "co-opt" them.

Others at yesterday's workshop said that when there's a public hearing such as the one that state utility regulators hosted for San Onofre's steam generator replacement project in May, pro-nuclear forces should show up an hour early and schedule interviews with reporters in advance.

Todd Flowers, a nuclear safety analyst with Dominion Generation in Richmond, Va., said he and other employees for the power provider staged a counter-rally recently to support a nuclear power plant project near Lake Anna, Va.

Flowers said those opposing the new plants there thought they had a step up when they acquired the domain name, flooded it with information and renewed it before his group could buy the name.

He said this kind of head-butting is what the industry should try more often. "It really took them back. They didn't know how to handle it ­ passionate young people showing up for the issue."

Groups opposing nuclear power did not attend yesterday's session.

"This is not an audience where we would have an exchange that is going to be productive," said Rochelle Becker, a spokeswoman for the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, who denied "spinning" information.

"They're not interested in talking to the public. They're interested in brainwashing the public that (nuclear power) is a good thing," she said.

Nuclear supporters say the timing is right for a resurgence of power reaped from splitting the atom because it is one of the cleanest forms of energy in an age of global climate changes brought by greenhouse gases. They say more plants would reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.

Critics say utility companies still haven't solved the question of where to put piles of radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants. Many of them use temporary storage pools that critics say make tantalizing targets for terrorists.
Becker said the industry should resolve these two issues instead of picking on the picketers.

"It's not the anti-nukes they need to deal with," she said. "It's reality."

Adam Klawonn: (760) 476-8245;


(2) Low-down on sky-high pork-barrel space weapons plans:

The Space Preservation Treaty proposed by Kucinich et al says NOTHING against (or even about) plutonium or other radioactive materials in space.  By its omission it gives permission.  And, while prohibiting weapons in space, but not prohibiting the nuclear power sources which really have little other "benefit," the treaty permits the very thing it purports to prohibit!

It was an honor to appear in the same issue of CounterPunch earlier this month as Mr. Gagnon (an article from my previous newsletter about de-tensioning San Onofre''s containment dome was published).  Here is Gagnon's brilliant article, which, of course, prompted my attendance at the ANS meeting:



June 3, 2005

"It's Our Destiny"

Bush Seeks Military Control of Space


The Bush administration is expected to soon announce a new national space policy that will give the Pentagon the green light to move toward deployment of offensive weapons in space.

The new directive could allow deployment of lasers in space; attack vehicles that descend on targets from space; killer satellites, which would disrupt or destroy other nation's satellites; and tungsten rods fired from space platforms that would gather speeds of over 7,000 mph and be able to penetrate underground targets.

In the Air Force Space Command's Strategic Master Plan, FY06 and Beyond, the military said, "Our vision calls for prompt global strike space systems with the capability to apply force from or through space against terrestrial targets. International treaties and laws do not prohibit the use or presence of conventional weapons in space."

There was once a treaty that limited the research, development, testing and deployment of such offensive space systems. It was called the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia. Once in office, George W. Bush withdrew the U.S. from the treaty and moved forward with expanded research and development on offensive space weapons.

The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was largely coordinated from space. Over 70% of the weapons used in the war were guided to their targets by military satellites. Thus the Pentagon maintains that the U.S. must "deny" other nations the use of space in order to maintain "full spectrum dominance."

In order to sell this space warfare program to the American people, the Pentagon has labeled it "missile defense." But in reality the program is all about offensive engagement and was first spelled out in the 1997 Space Command plan, Vision for 2020, that called for U.S. "control and domination" of space.

The Pentagon and its aerospace corporation allies understand that they cannot come to the American people and ask for hundreds of billions of dollars for offensive weapons in space. Thus the claim of "missile defense." The U.S. has to date spent well over $130 billion on Star Wars research and development. The budget for military-related space activity in 2003 was $18 billion and is expected to top $25 billion a year by 2010.

With growing budget deficits in the U.S., Congress will have to drastically cut needed programs like Medicare, Medicaid, education, and environmental clean-up in order to pay the growing cost of space weapons technology.

The world has become reliant on satellites for cell phones, cable TV, ATM bank machines and the like. Space debris is already a problem as space shuttles have had windshields cracked by bits of paint orbiting the Earth at enormous speeds. Imagine what would happen if the U.S. began destroying satellites in space, creating massive amounts of orbiting space junk, that made access to space virtually impossible for everyone.

For the last several years the Space Command, headquartered in Colorado Springs, held a computer simulation space war game set in the year 2017. The game pitted the "Blues" (U.S.) against the "Reds" (China). In the war game the U.S. launched a preemptive first strike attack against China using the military space plane (called Global Strike). Armed with a half-ton of precision-guided munitions the space plane would fly down from orbit and strike anywhere in the world in 45 minutes.

It is easy to see why Canada, Russia, and China have repeatedly gone to the United Nations asking the U.S. to join them in negotiating a new global ban on weapons in space. Why not close the door to the barn before the horse gets out? So far the U.S., during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, refuses to even discuss the idea of a new space treaty.

Gen. Lance Lord, head of the Air Force Space Command, recently told Congress, "Space superiority is not our birthright, but it is our destiny." The idea that the U.S. is destined to rule the Earth and space militarily needs to be debated by the citizens of our nation. Not only is this a provocative notion, it is also one that will lead to a massive waste of our hard-earned tax dollars and create a dangerous new arms race. Do we really want war in the heavens?

Bruce K. Gagnon is Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He can be reached at:

(3) LA Weakly: Follow-up by Jonathan Parfrey, PSR, to the libelous article by Judith Lewis:

Mr. Parfrey of Physicians for Social Responsibility dashes the hopes of Judith Lewis and her editors that Hormesis is a fact, and thus shows that her article is little more than outrageous propaganda for the nuclear industry.   Parfrey's support of my statement that "Hormesis has been thoroughly debunked" is much appreciated.    However, the curve might be even worse than the standard interpretation of the "linear, no threshold" model would predict, and Parfrey should not be so ready to accept the BEIR report(s).  For one thing, in many cases the BEIR reports are based on a lot of animal studies at high doses, animals which were exposed to instantaneous whole-body radiation rather than the localized, concentrated, "slow burning" of nuclear fuel-cycle particulate radioactive matter.  Other BEIR conclusions are based on extremely biased data collected from the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings.

-- rdh

Parfrey's letter, shown below, is included here:

Exposure = Cancer

Although I do appreciate Judith Lewis’ article on the high cost of nuclear power, "Split Over Atoms" [May 27­June 2], I was nonetheless dismayed to see her give credence to the hormesis theory, which (shockingly) suggests that radiation is good for your health.

Nothing could be more ridiculous. The National Academy of Sciences regularly reviews the state of radiation health research. Its findings, published as "Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation," consistently point to a linear, no-threshold model of exposure. In other words, the greater the exposure to radiation, the greater the possibility of cancer. At least that’s what the National Academy of Sciences says. But, instead, if you want to take the opinion of a wacko academic ­ be my guest.

The nuclear industry is pushing through new regulations allowing it to place radioactive garbage in local landfills, to be sent to scrap yards, and to be used as road-building material. These efforts should be resisted. More exposure to radiation will result in more cancer.

­Jonathan Parfrey
Executive director,
Physicians for Social Responsibility ­ Los Angeles


(4) On The Beach: Rocket Launcher, mortars (some expended) found just a few miles south of San Onofre (aka SONGS / SONWGS):


From the North County Times:

June 8th, 2005 Oceanside, CA

A woman found a shoulder rocket launcher and some mortars on the beach near the Oceanside Municipal Pier on Monday night, police Sgt. Leonard Mata said Tuesday.

The woman told police she found the items about 8:44 p.m., picked them up, put them in her car, then drove them over to the police station to turn them in, Mata said.

Some of the mortars were expended, some were not, he said.  Police took the items and called Camp Pendleton's explosive ordnance disposal team to come retrieve them.


(5) LA Times article on Dry Cask Storage:  Vulnerable, costly, short-sighted (but the writer calls pools "safe"!):

Subject: LA Times article on Dry Cask Storage:  Vulnerable, costly, short-sighted (but the writer calls pools "safe"!)

June 13th, 2005

LA Times

To The Editor:

I don't know how anyone can seriously write, especially after 9-11, that the spent fuel pools at our nuclear facilities "safely keep nuclear waste" but somehow Ralph Vartabedian has managed to do so in your Sunday edition.  (June 12th, 2005, shown below).

At least, I presume he wasn't laughing when he wrote it.

Our spent fuel pools and our dry storage casks are both vulnerable to such things as shoulder-fired missiles and airplane strikes, not to mention HOME-MADE JDAMS.  (It's not as hard as you may think.  A high-school kid could build one.  He can use radio-controlled model airplane parts for all the electronics he'll need.  Next, all he has to do is steal some Depleted Uranium to use for a penetrator...)

Your article indicates there is serious dispute about whether the casks are vulnerable.  In fact, there is NO room for debate on that issue and Robert Alverez is not a lone voice in the wilderness.  The Nuclear Energy Institute can say whatever they want (the NRC won't stop them for lying).  But Osama undoubtedly agrees with Mr. Alverez about the extreme vulnerability of our nuclear facilities, and so do I.  And so does anybody who has fairly studied the issues.

There are thousands of other facets of the nuclear problem which each deserve twice the article Vartabedian has produced on dry cask storage problems, and each of which BY ITSELF is a good enough reason to shut the reactors all down for good.

The sooner we face that fact, the less our mistake will cost us in the long run.


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

The author has studied nuclear power for over 35 years.  His essays have been published in more than a dozen countries.



Nuclear Waste Outpaces Solutions

Plants use outdoor storage casks while waiting for the government to find a longer-term solution. Some fear it won't.

By Ralph Vartabedian
Times Staff Writer

June 12, 2005

MORRIS, Ill. ­ Along the headwaters of the Illinois River, engineers at the Dresden nuclear power station have erected two dozen steel and concrete silos that rise 20 feet above the Midwest plain.

The gray structures are unremarkable except for what is loaded inside: Each contains roughly 13 tons of high-level nuclear waste that has been accumulating at the plant since the Eisenhower administration. With nowhere to go, the waste will most likely remain in place for decades.

Dresden's reactors have produced one of the largest stockpiles ­ 1,347 tons ­ of civilian nuclear waste in the nation. With the plant churning out nearly 48 tons more waste each year, engineers are preparing to double the size of the outdoor storage pad this summer.

The plant has the same problem as nearly all of the nation's 103 commercial reactors: They were never designed to store waste long-term and are now forced to deal with large quantities of spent uranium fuel rods that produce high levels of radiation.

The problem reflects decades of miscalculations and missteps by the federal government, which promised at the dawn of the nuclear age to accept ownership of the waste. The plan to build a waste repository at Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert has faced so many political, legal and technical problems that it's impossible to project when ­ or even if ­ it will be built.

As a result, the most lethal waste product of industrial society is being handled outside any federal policy and without any roadmap for how it will be managed in the future, according to industry officials, nuclear waste experts, lawyers and academicians.

"It is a statement of reality," acknowledges Clay Sell, deputy secretary of Energy. "Is it the right policy? No."

The deep storage pools traditionally used to safely keep nuclear waste are filling up at most plants. Utilities have turned to outdoor storage in so-called dry casks as the de facto standard for dealing with waste.

From California to South Carolina, utilities have loaded 700 of the steel and concrete casks, and scores of additional casks are scheduled to be filled this year.

It is a stopgap measure that has averted a shutdown of the nuclear power industry. But it means leaving all of the roughly 50,000 tons of civilian nuclear waste spread across the nation for the next half-century or more. And storing the waste at power plant sites is creating significant economic, environmental, legal and security challenges ­ including the potential for it to become a terrorist target.

A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences found that the waste stored in pools was most vulnerable, but the outdoor casks also were potential targets. Such an attack could trigger an environmental catastrophe.

"These are the ultimate dirty bombs," said Bob Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and a former Energy Department official. "Let's not pretend the way we are storing this waste is safe and secure in an age of terrorism."

Utility executives and government officials sharply dispute such allegations, saying the plants have multiple layers of protection from any attack. Exelon Corp., the nation's largest nuclear utility, has erected heavy barriers and security towers at Dresden that are staffed around the clock by guards with automatic weapons.

Though the nuclear industry has a good record for preventing radiation leaks during normal operations and dry casks are widely regarded as safe, many outside experts say their biggest fear is that future generations may lack the willpower and financial capability to safeguard tons of radioactive waste dispersed across the nation. Waste is already stored in casks at five shuttered nuclear plant sites.

"We are muddling into an alternative plan by default," says Joe Egan, a longtime attorney for the nuclear industry who now represents Nevada in fighting Yucca Mountain.

Nuclear waste has also created a legal mess. The Energy Department is facing more than four dozen lawsuits by the utility industry for its failure to take the waste. Damages could reach $56 billion over the next three decades, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a powerful trade group for nuclear utilities.

At the Department of Energy, Sell argues that deep geologic storage of the waste at Yucca Mountain would be the best technical solution. He believes the project will eventually be completed. But the loss of a key court case last year and political resistance in Congress have put the dump at least 14 years behind schedule.

Without a dump, utilities have few options short of shutting down their reactors and eliminating 20% of the U.S. electricity supply that comes from nuclear power. And without a solution to waste, the proposal by President Bush to start a new era of nuclear plant construction could go nowhere.

Indefinite storage of nuclear waste at current reactor sites is a bitter pill for many politicians, particularly those from environmentally fragile areas such as Lake Michigan, which is ringed by nuclear plants.

"I want the waste off the shores of Lake Michigan," said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), whose district includes two nuclear plants built on the lake's eastern boundary. "Ultimately, there is a safety problem."

Nuclear waste at power plants will remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. The fission of uranium inside reactors produces heat for electricity production. Afterward, the uranium fuel rods are far more radioactive than when they entered the reactor.

To maximize storage capacity for the spent fuel rods, the nuclear industry devised a way to pack them more closely in the 50-foot-deep storage pools than initially planned. Critics say this kind of dense packing poses a safety risk, however. If terrorists were to puncture the pool wall and drain the water, the rods could ignite and disperse lethal amounts of radiation, according to a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences.

Even with dense packing, the pools are running out of space. Twenty years ago, nuclear plants began removing the oldest fuel rods, which have radioactively decayed somewhat, and started storing them in massive outdoor storage casks like the ones at Dresden.

Officials at Nuclear Regulatory Commission "anticipate that there will be an increase in the number of casks being loaded over the next few years," said E. William Brach, director of the commission's spent fuel project office.

The logistics of nuclear waste ensure it will be around a long time. Even if the federal government gets a license to operate Yucca Mountain, the earliest it could accept waste shipments would be 2012. By that year, more than 60,000 tons of civilian nuclear waste would be spread across about three dozen states.

It would take about 50 years to work down the backlog, according to Frank von Hippel, a nuclear expert at Princeton University and former White House national security advisor. That's because under current plans Yucca could process a maximum of 3,000 tons of waste annually, while nuclear power plants would be generating 2,000 new tons of waste each year. That means a net reduction of just 1,000 tons each year, he said.

"We have to assume that these casks will be around for a very long time," Von Hippel said. "It will take quite a while to move them, even if we had someplace to send them today."

In any case, "on the day Yucca Mountain opens" it would be too small to handle all the waste, acknowledges Sell, the Energy Department official. There is no Plan B. Under federal law, the department can pursue only Yucca Mountain.

Further complicating matters are the divided lines of authority between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Energy Department. The commission regulates waste at plant sites and authorizes dry cask storage but has no role in national policy for disposing of nuclear waste. That policy responsibility rests with the Energy Department, which has no voice or authority in the use of dry casks.

In the vacuum, a private consortium is planning to build an above-ground storage site for hundreds of casks on an Indian reservation in Utah. Despite state opposition, it is getting approval from the nuclear commission.

Meanwhile, utilities see dry cask storage as a cheap and safe, if not permanent, solution.

Holtec International, one of the leading suppliers, says its casks can safely store waste for at least 100 years without leaking, according to company marketing manager Joy Russell.

The regulatory commission typically licenses the casks for 20 years but last year renewed Dominion Electric's license for 40 years, another signal that the waste would remain in place for a long time.

Holtec's casks are constructed of two concentric rings of 1-inch-thick steel, separated by 27 inches of concrete that is poured at the power plant site. The casks sit on 2-foot-thick concrete pads, requiring no electricity, water or instrumentation. Inside, the spent fuel continues to radioactively decay, generating heat that is vented out the sides.

The only maintenance involves periodic painting and keeping up the radioactive warning labels on the steel shells.

On the inside of the casks, the waste is so radioactive it would deliver a fatal dose in minutes, but the outside can be touched.

"An individual can stand right next to the cask," Brach said. "There is a dose, but it is a minimal dose."

There have been some relatively minor accidents around the nation involving the casks, including one case in which a welding spark ignited hydrogen gas inside a cask. The ignition dislodged the cask's lid but did not cause other damage.

Antinuclear groups, such as the Washington-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service and the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, say the casks should be better protected. In Germany, for example, the casks are inside hardened buildings.

Government tests at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland showed that a shoulder-fired missile could penetrate a cask wall, causing some radioactive fuel to disperse.

"We don't want this 10-pin bowling alley out in the open," said Dave Kraft, an antinuclear activist for more than 20 years. "Anybody with a shoulder-fired missile could hit one of these things from outside the plant."

Though utilities defend the safety of the casks, they also are demanding that the federal government take the waste.

Exelon, formerly Commonwealth Edison, filed one of the 56 suits against the Energy Department when the agency failed to meet its legal commitment to open Yucca Mountain by 1998. It is the only company to settle so far, accepting $600 million for its costs over the next 10 years, according to Adam H. Levin, Exelon director of spent fuel.

"We expect at some time that the Energy Department will perform," he said.

Across the river from the Dresden plant in the Village of Channahon, a residential building boom is occurring, attracting people who make the hour-and-a-half commute to jobs in Chicago.

"You can see the nuclear waste right across the river," said Joe Petrovic, who lives in a subdivision near the plant and builds homes in the area for a living. "The plant hasn't scared anyone from buying a home there."

The plant is in Grundy County, which has three nuclear power plants as well as a large independent waste storage pool operated by General Electric Co. It probably has more nuclear waste than any county in the nation, though such statistics are not kept by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"I don't see the casks as a problem," said Grundy County Administrator Alfred Bourdelais. "Maybe in 200 or 300 years, but today there isn't any more risk from those casks than there is from the plant, and it has a really low risk."

Such local acceptance of cask storage worries experts who say that in the future the casks will become a poor permanent solution.

Kevin Crowley, a nuclear expert at the National Academy of Sciences who helped guide an investigation into the vulnerability of spent fuel storage, said the casks would become a risky legacy if left in place too long.

"The major uncertainty," he said, "is in the confidence that future societies will continue to monitor and maintain such facilities."

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at

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Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

(6) Contact information for the author of this newsletter:

(see below)

(_) New York Times: Bill Broad's article on Pu 238:
06/27/05 **** RADIATION BULLETIN (RADBULL) **** VOL 13.147
Send News Stories to with title on subject
line and first line of body

3 [NYTr] Bush Plans to Resume Plutonium Production

Date: Mon, 27 Jun 2005 14:50:25 -0500 (CDT)

Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit

[... But Iran and Venezuela shouldn't have nuclear programs.]

The New York Times - June 27, 2005

U.S. Has Plans to Again Make Own Plutonium


The Bush administration is planning the government's first production of
plutonium 238 since the cold war, stirring debate over the risks and
benefits of the deadly material. The substance, valued as a power source,
is so radioactive that a speck can cause cancer.

Federal officials say the program would produce a total of 330 pounds over
30 years at the Idaho National Laboratory, a sprawling site outside Idaho
Falls some 100 miles to the west and upwind of Grand Teton National Park in
Wyoming. Officials say the program could cost $1.5 billion and generate more
than 50,000 drums of hazardous and radioactive waste.

Project managers say that most if not all of the new plutonium is intended
for secret missions and they declined to divulge any details. But in the
past, it has powered espionage devices.

"The real reason we're starting production is for national security,"
Timothy A. Frazier, head of radioisotope power systems at the Energy
Department, said in a recent interview.

He vigorously denied that any of the classified missions would involve
nuclear arms, satellites or weapons in space.

The laboratory is a source of pride and employment for many residents in the
Idaho Falls area. But the secrecy is adding to unease in Wyoming, where
environmentalists are scrutinizing the production plan - made public late
Friday - and considering whether to fight it.

They say the production effort is a potential threat to nearby ecosystems,
including Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and the area
around Jackson Hole, famous for its billionaires, celebrities and weekend
cowboys, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

"It's completely wrapped in the flag," said Mary Woollen-Mitchell, executive
director of Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free, a group based in Jackson Hole.
"They absolutely won't let on" about the missions.

"People are starting to pay attention," she said of the production plan. "On
the street, just picking up my kids at school, they're getting keyed up that
something is in the works."

Plutonium 238 has no central role in nuclear arms. Instead, it is valued for
its steady heat, which can be turned into electricity. Nuclear batteries
made of it are best known for powering spacecraft that go where sunlight is
too dim to energize solar cells. For instance, they now power the Cassini
probe exploring Saturn and its moons.

Federal and private experts unconnected to the project said the new
plutonium would probably power devices for conducting espionage on land and
under the sea. Even if no formal plans now exist to use the plutonium in
space for military purposes, these experts said that the material could be
used by the military to power compact spy satellites that would be hard for
adversaries to track, evade or destroy.

"It's going to be a tough world in the next one or two decades, and this may
be needed," said a senior federal scientist who helps the military plan
space missions and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the
possibility that he would contradict federal policies. "Technologically, it
makes sense."

Early in the nuclear era, the government became fascinated by plutonium 238
and used it regularly to make nuclear batteries that worked for years or
decades. Scores of them powered satellites, planetary probes and spy
devices, at times with disastrous results.

In 1964, a rocket failure led to the destruction of a navigation satellite
powered by plutonium 238, spreading radioactivity around the globe and
starting a debate over the event's health effects.

In 1965, high in the Himalayas, an intelligence team caught in a blizzard
lost a plutonium-powered device meant to spy on China. And in 1968, an
errant weather satellite crashed into the Pacific, but federal teams managed
to recover its plutonium battery intact from the Santa Barbara Channel, off

Such accidents cooled enthusiasm for the batteries. But federal agencies
continued to use them for a more limited range of missions, including those
involving deep-space probes and top-secret devices for tapping undersea

In 1997, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration prepared to
launch its Cassini probe of Saturn, hundreds of protesters converged on its
Florida spaceport, arguing that an accident could rupture the craft's
nuclear batteries and condemn thousands of people to death by cancer.

Plutonium 238 is hundreds of times more radioactive than the kind of
plutonium used in nuclear arms, plutonium 239. Medical experts agree that
inhaling even a speck poses a serious risk of lung cancer.

But federal experts say that the newest versions of the nuclear batteries
are made to withstand rupture into tiny particles and that the risk of human
exposure is extraordinarily low.

Today, the United States makes no plutonium 238 and instead relies on aging
stockpiles or imports from Russia. By agreement with the Russians, it cannot
use the imported material - some 35 pounds since the end of the cold war -
for military purposes.

With its domestic stockpile running low, Washington now wants to resume
production. Though it last made plutonium 238 in the 1980's at the
government's Savannah River plant in South Carolina, it now wants to move
such work to the Idaho National Laboratory and consolidate all the nation's
plutonium 238 activities there, including efforts now at the Los Alamos
National Laboratory in New Mexico and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in

By centralizing everything in Idaho, the Energy Department hopes to increase
security and reduce the risks involved in transporting the radioactive
material over highways.

Late Friday, the department posted a 500-page draft environmental impact
statement on the plan at The public has 60
days to respond.

Mr. Frazier said the department planned to weigh public reaction and
complete the regulatory process by late this year, and to finish the plan
early in 2006. The president would then submit it to Congress for approval,
he said. The work requires no international assent.

The Idaho National Laboratory, founded in 1949 for atomic research,
stretches across 890 square miles of southeastern Idaho. The Big Lost River
wanders its length. The site is dotted with 450 buildings and 52 reactors -
more than at any other place - most of them shut down. It has long wrestled
with polluted areas and recently sought to set new standards in
environmental restoration.

New plutonium facilities there would take five years to build and cost about
$250 million, Mr. Frazier said. The operations budget would run to some $40
million annually over 30 years, he said, for a total cost of nearly $1.5

An existing reactor there would make the plutonium. Mr. Frazier said the
goal was to start production by 2012 and have the first plutonium available
by 2013. When possible, Mr. Frazier said, the plutonium would be used not
only for national security but also for deep-space missions, reducing
dependence on Russian supplies.

Since late last year, the Energy Department has tried to reassure citizens
living around the proposed manufacturing site of the plan's necessity and

But political activists in Wyoming have expressed frustration at what they
call bureaucratic evasiveness regarding serious matters. "It's the nastiest
of the nasty," Ms. Woollen-Mitchell said of plutonium 238.

Early this year, she succeeded in learning some preliminary details of the
plan from the Energy Department. Mr. Frazier provided her with a document
that showed that production over 30 years would produce 51,590 drums of
hazardous and radioactive waste.

He also referred to the continuing drain on the government's national
security stockpile, saying the known missions by the end of this decade
would require 55 pounds of plutonium for 10 to 15 power systems. Those uses,
he said, would leave virtually no plutonium for future classified missions.

Ms. Woollen-Mitchell was unswayed. In January she told the Energy Department
that so much information about the plan remained hidden that it had "given
us serious pause."

The Energy Department is courting Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free because it
has flexed its political muscle before. Starting in late 1999, financed by
wealthy Jackson Hole residents like Harrison Ford, it fought to stop the
Idaho lab from burning plutonium-contaminated waste in an incinerator and
forced the lab to investigate alternatives.

In the recent interview, Mr. Frazier said he planned to talk to the group on
Tuesday and expressed hope of winning people over.

"I don't know that I'll be able to make them perfectly comfortable," he
said, "but they know that the department is willing to listen and talk and
take their comments into consideration."

"We have a good case," Mr. Frazier added, saying the department could show
that the Idaho plan "can be done safely with very minimal environmental

Copyright 2005 The New York Times


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