From: "Russell 'Ace' Hoffman" <>
Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2006 23:42:40 -0800
Subject: STOP THE LAUNCH!  Size matters, and Pu poison gas pellets are
  odorless but stink anyway

To: John Graham, Former President, American Nuclear Society (ANS)
Date: January 17th, 2006

Dear Mr. Graham,

Thank you for both your recent emails (shown below).  The article you sent
me (also shown below) doesn't deal with plutonium risks at all.  And what
is the phrase "tiny pellets of plutonium" -- the catch-phrase of the launch
-- supposed to convey to the public, anyway?

Each of the 72 "pellets" of plutonium on board New Horizons is about 3
ounces in weight, about 1/2 cubic inch in size, holds about 1800 Curies of
plutonium, and is extremely hot to the (ouch) touch.  Few reporters define
their terms, but I've heard reporters describe the 132,500 Curies of
plutonium on board New Horizons as "trivial."

132,500 Curies is NOT a "tiny" or "trivial" amount of plutonium, since
death comes with near certainty from mere microCurie quantities of Pu-238,
or even less.  Even BIER VII accepts the Linear, No-Threshold (LNT) theory
that any amount of radiation can cause cancer and other health
effects.  It's all about doing a proper risk assessment, but history has
proven time and again that NASA's risk assessments are inaccurate.

Microbiologists do not dispute that there are critical moments in DNA
replication during which code replication after damage is imprecise, at
best.  They also agree that "double hit" damage can result in imperfect
replication.  So the "hot particle" theory may go by any name you choose,
but it has not been discredited.  Every ionizing radiation event can be
harmful, as illustrated in my Tritium article which I just published on the
Internet today; a link to it is included below.  Comments are welcome, of

Also, below is my report on the last American Nuclear Society meeting I
attended, which was held near where I live.  I am requesting that you ask
the executive committee of the ANS to provide me with a life-time honorary
membership so that I don't have to crash their meetings anymore, and can
"learn" what you folks are claiming these days without ducking out as soon
as I think I've been recognized.

Tomorrow, perhaps the world will witness the violence of a "major
malfunction" once again, whether New Horizons is attacked by terrorists, or
fails of its own accord, or suffers a random "act of God" like being hit by
a glove or something else that someone discarded on a previous visit to
space and which is now "space debris" in Low Earth Orbit.

This launch is not safe and should be stopped.  What NASA is doing is
negligent homicide because if NASA continues to launch plutonium into
space, sooner or later there WILL be a serious accident.  When there is,
chances are better than 50/50 that the remnants of the containment will
fall into the sea, or completely vaporize, or be lost on earth.  Then, NASA
will claim that the containment worked as designed, but the truth will be
that thousands of people will die all around the world prematurely because
NASA and its supporters ignored the facts.

Plutonium should not be rocketed into space under any excuse.  Getting to
Pluto is no excuse.


"Ace" Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

P.S,: Can you tell me why there are no Radioactive Heater Unit (RHUs) on
board New Horizons?  There were about 130 of them on board Cassini, for
instance -- a disgrace -- and nearly a dozen on each of the two recent Mars
Rover missions.  But there are none on board New Horizons.  Why not?

Attachments (6):

1&2) Your first and second emails to me
3) Letter from a newsletter subscriber regarding the necessity of leaving
now for Pluto
4) Link to my article on attending the ANS Space Nuclear Power and
Propulsion meeting last year
5) Link to my new Tritium report
6) Contact information for "Ace" Hoffman

(1) John Graham's first letter to me:

At 12:45 PM 1/13/2006 -0700, John Graham <> wrote:

Subject: New Horizons mission
>Mr. Hoffman
>If you wish I could give you facts for your publication Š unfortunately
>your article on the New Horizons mission is full of errors and half truths
>you may have picked up from others on the fringe.
>Even Tom Cochran of the NRDC has dropped his cock-eyed hot-particle theory.
>John Graham
>Former President
>American Nuclear Society

(2) John Graham's second letter to me:

At 08:06 AM 1/16/2006 -0800, "John Graham" <> wrote:

Subject: Re: SFGate: Voyage to icy Pluto seeks to learn how the solar
system was forged/Planet at the edge orbits among sun's vast store of comets

  Read and learn
This article was sent to you by someone who found it on SFGate.
The original article can be found on here:
Monday, January 16, 2006 (SF Chronicle)
Voyage to icy Pluto seeks to learn how the solar system was forged/Planet
at the edge orbits among sun's vast store of comets
David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor

    A spacecraft named New Horizons is about to embark on an extraordinary
10-year voyage to Pluto, the frozen planet nearly 4 billion miles away
that orbits on the very outer edge of the solar system where no engineered
visitor from Earth has ever ventured.
    NASA scientists and engineers announced Sunday that all systems are ready
to launch the craft from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida early Tuesday
afternoon on a mission that scientists hope will give the world new
insights into the formation of the solar system some 4.5 billion years
    "This will be the Everest of planetary exploration," New Horizon's chief
scientist, Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder,
Colo., said during a Webcast briefing.
    Pluto lies within a vast ring of icy dwarf objects known as the Kuiper
Belt, a wilderness of fossil mini-planets where thousands of comets begin
their flaring passage through the inner solar system and hundreds of
thousands more remain in distant solar orbit.
    Discovered only in 1930 by the late astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, Pluto is
now known to be a binary planet.
    Scientists suspect it formed early in the history of the solar system when
some unknown object crashed into it, then split apart from it to become
its major moon, Charon.
    New Horizons, when it reaches its target in 2015, also will explore Charon
and then spend five months or more closely examining one or two other
objects in the Kuiper Belt.
    From observations by the orbiting Hubble telescope and by major
observatories on Earth, astronomers have learned that Pluto's surface
consists of solidly frozen nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane, as well
as water ice -- all of them perhaps surrounding a rocky core.
    But the planet's surface may also hold spouting ice geysers, and its
pinkish-orange color may be due to a coating of complex organic molecules,
said astrophysicist Dale Cruikshank of NASA's Ames Research Center in
Mountain View.
    At Pluto's perpetual temperature of some 387 degrees below zero
Fahrenheit, however, no one believes that any life form would be possible.
    "We're expecting the unexpected," Cruikshank told reporters at the
briefing after NASA engineers had given the go-ahead for Tuesday's launch.
    Pluto's surface ices are known to be evaporating at a rate of some 3
million tons a year, according to planetary scientist Fran Bagenal of the
University of Colorado.
    As those gases have spewed into space for billions of years, the planet
has acted like a colossal comet, she said.
    Less than 1,500 miles in diameter, Pluto is the smallest planet in the
solar system and only two-thirds the size of Earth's moon.
    Although it is the first to be discovered within the Kuiper Belt, it is
apparently by no means the largest planet there. In July, astronomers
reported observing at least one object in the region bigger than Pluto.
They named the object, more than 1,800 miles in diameter, Xena and said
they also detected at least two other Kuiper Belt objects close to Pluto's
    Sophisticated instruments on New Horizons will hibernate inside a
protective thermal blanket as the spacecraft speeds at 30,000 mph -- the
swiftest ever space-bound vehicle -- past Jupiter and then picks up its
speed to 47,000 mph and reaches Pluto by July 2015.
    Because sunlight is far too dim at Pluto to provide solar power for the
instruments, radioactivity from 18 tiny pellets of plutonium -- not the
isotope used in nuclear weapons -- will generate electricity.
    The instruments will take hundreds of pictures of Pluto and Charon,
analyze the planet's surface gases and geology, measure its temperatures
and study how the planet interacts with the solar wind -- the high-speed
stream of charged particles that flow constantly from the sun.
    "We're poised to investigate a new world," said Cruikshank.

    E-mail David Perlman

Copyright 2006 SF Chronicle

3) Letter from a newsletter subscriber regarding the necessity of leaving
now for Pluto:

My response shown below has been slightly modified from the original and
resent. -- Ace

At 02:07 PM 1/14/2006 -0500, wrote:
>In a message dated 01/12/06 4:28:43 AM Central Standard Time,
> writes:
>>NASA probably chose this particular
>>mission because they were sure no "anti-nuclear activist" could
>>legitimately claim you could run experiments once you got to Pluto with
>>solar power -- you needed (so NASA claimed) plutonium for THIS mission, and
>>that's why THIS mission was chosen.   Our claim that solar power could have
>>been used for the Cassini / Huygens mission to Saturn was, in effect,
>>validated by NASA's choice of Pluto as the next big nuclear target.
>WHATEVER one thinks about the use of RTGs, I think it is erroneous to
>suggest that we are sending a mission to Pluto primarily as an excuse to
>use RTGs again (and making such a suggestion diverts attention and impairs
>one's credibility in arguing against RTGs themselves).  In fact, in order
>to get enough fuel, NASA had to scrounge for it and cannibalize several
>other uses.  The reasons this mission is going to Pluto, and going now,
>are that (1) Pluto is in fact the only one of the traditional nine planets
>that we have not visited, and (2) it is important to reach Pluto, rapidly
>receding from the sun in its orbit, before its atmosphere freezes and
>conceals significant scientific data; it will be a quarter of a millennium
>(250 years or so) before Pluto returns sunward and its atmosphere unfreezes.

Subject: Re: New Lows in Government, New Horizons in Space

January 14th, 2006


What are the chances that anything happened in the last 250 years on Pluto
that we missed?  My point is, that's barely an excuse to spend the money,
let alone an excuse good enough to explain the need to suffer this sort of

If one were to put the exact same number of dollars (about $650 million)
into studying one little acre of the rain forest of Brazil, a lot more
scientifically valuable data would come of it, in the grand scheme of
"things we need to know."  It would have gone a long way towards building
better levees in New Orleans before Katrina, too.  I think that amount
would have prevented the flooding.

Also, I'm curious as to what you mean by "in order to get enough fuel, NASA
had to scrounge for it and cannibalize several other uses."  I suggested in
the article that this rocket is a cobbled-together one-of-a-kind kludge
that might or might not work, but you seem to be getting at something else.



4) Link to my article on attending the ANS Space Nuclear Power and
Propulsion meeting last year:

Start of the article:

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.

To read the full article:

5) Link to my new Tritium report:


Tritium users, producers, and regulators assert that tritium is "only"
killing two in every ten million people (as if that can be ignored).  Put
another way, the nuclear industry estimates that there are 0.003 fatal
cancers per million people per year caused by tritium, and wishes society
would ignore even those deaths.

But the actual death rate from tritium could be much higher than officially
estimated, as will be argued below.  There are places where the local
concentration of tritium is a thousand times -- or more -- higher than
average.  The more susceptible members of our population are a hundred
times or more, more susceptible to radiation's ill effects than the rest of
us.  Therefore, in some groups of people, tritium could be routinely
killing a much greater percentage of people -- as many as a thousand times
a hundred times more than the official estimate, or 200,000 in every ten
million -- one in every 50 people.  Tritium could be doing this TODAY, and
we wouldn't even know it.  And in addition to causing fatal cancers,
tritium, at legal limits of contamination, or at ANY level, damages and
sickens us all, although it is usually only the lifetime risk of fatal
cancers and "gross genetic defects" for two generations (mother, child)
which are tracked and studied at all.

Tritium is something we should all educate ourselves about and understand
-- what it is and how it hurts us.  This newsletter provides an in-depth
look at tritium, along with some basic background information.

To read the full article:

6) Contact information for "Ace" Hoffman: