Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2007 09:45:03 -0700

From: "Russell 'Ace' Hoffman" <>
Subject: RE: Comments about your NO NUKES IN SPACE web site (ver.
  2003.02.16.002) (follow-up)

August 29th, 2007

Dear Readers,

THANK YOU very kindly for your many comments, suggestions and prayers for my health.  I am honored and grateful beyond words.

Rather than answer each of the dozens of letters individually, which I will try to do later, when I got up this morning I had a follow-up from William Emrich regarding NASA's nuclear follies, so I answered that.  His letter and my response are shown below.

Warmest regards,


To: "Emrich, William J. (MSFC-ER24)" <>

cc: "NASA comments" <>

August 29th, 2007

Dr. Emrich,

Thanks very much for the response (shown below).

1)  You wrote: "Plutonium is no more poisonous than lead" (when ingested).

Here's just one quote (coincidentally seen yesterday in the book PLUTONIUM: A History of the World's Most Dangerous Element, by Jeremy Bernstein (Joseph Henry Press, Wash, DC): "[Plutonium] is fiendishly toxic, even in small amounts." -- Glenn Seaborg.  Furthermore, there is NO logic in your comparison to a gallon of water being used to "drown hundreds of people."  Plutonium is a carcinogen down to the last atom -- both as an extraordinarily reactive heavy metal, AND as a radioactive substance.

2)  I presented the facts, and you didn't dispute them!  You just didn't like them!  As to the "percentage of total atmospheric contamination" which plutonium represents, the late Dr. John Gofman wrote:

"I am prepared to defend, before any scientific body, and under oath in full public view, my estimate that ONE MILLION people (perhaps only 500,000 or as many as two million) in the Northern Hemisphere have been irreversibly condemned to die of lung cancer from those 5 tons of plutonium.  Indeed, were it not for the fact that by far MOST of the plutonium fell either upon the oceans or uninhabitable land, the figure of one million would be enormously larger." ("Irrevy" by J.W. Gofman, 1979, page 39.)

(Below (bottom) is my own recent obituary of Dr. Gofman, who died earlier this month.  Are your credentials half as good?)

3)  You don't deny Plutonium-238 WOULD be especially dangerous if it were released to the atmosphere.  What you do deny is that your little GPHSs, RTGs, RHUs, etc. ever fail.  Evidently you failed to read the DRAFT Environmental Impact Statement for Cassini, which estimated that ONE THIRD OF THE PLUTONIUM PAYLOAD WOULD BE VAPORIZED in a flyby reentry accident.  This was revised downward in the FINAL EIS by ASSUMING -- utterly without proof -- that the falling bird would tumble "just so" so that none of the RTGs would get smashed by other parts of the spacecraft during reentry.  (However, the supplemental documentation admitted, very subtly, that NONE -- NONE -- of the RHUs -- each with 2.7 grams of plutonium on board -- would survive reentry.)  That revision of the EIS was repulsively dishonest.  And YOU surely know the truth about the so-called testing, which, again according to the EIS and other documentation for Cassini from NASA itself, clearly did NOT reach the temperatures or pressures that could be reasonably expected.  Yes, some GPHSs would probably survive a reentry.  Maybe even most of them.  But others would not.  I'd call this one an outright lie on your part.  The RTG containment system you are so proud of would ONLY work if all three RTGs (in the case of Cassini) were released from the spacecraft during reentry and none of them banged into any other parts on the way in.  And the RHUs would still have vaporized in any case.

4) "No practical way to generate sign power in the outer regions of the atmosphere."  I assume you meant outer reaches of the SOLAR SYSTEM and I'm not sure what you mean by "sign" power, but like so many other NASA scientists, you were obviously careless in that sentence.  In any case, your claim (as I understand what you meant) is a specious one, since fuel cells could generate the power when needed at ANY distance from the sun, and even Cassini, which went as far out as Saturn, could have been solar powered with the technology available at the time -- you would just have had to carry less experiments.  So the plutonium was UTTERLY UNNECESSARY.

Lastly, my article about tritium is of particular use to people who live near nuclear power plants and suffer from groundwater contamination by tritium, where the EPA limit is sometimes reached and even exceeded.  Your comment proves you believe that dilution solves everything.  That is the most absurd view any scientist can take in this day and age.  We know the planet is small, crowded, and finite, and we ALSO know (with nearly absolute certainty such that even the BIER VII report could not deny it) that even one atomic decay can lead to cancer.  There is no "threshold."

Your claim that my essay on tritium and K-40 which I sent you previously "seems biased" is UTTERLY without scientific credibility.  You've basically already admitted it's simply outside your area of expertise.  This after libeling me as if you knew what you were talking about, and using official NASA email to do so.

Of course, I don't expect you to keep up this conversation, because, of course, you've said you don't have time.  There's never enough time, but yesterday I learned I have tumors in my bladder and Friday I go in for surgery.  If I can find the time to write this, why can't YOU find the time for HONEST debate instead of more NASA-sanctioned libel?



At 07:17 AM 8/29/2007 -0500, "Emrich, William J. (MSFC-ER24)" <> wrote:
I rather doubt that anything I say would convince you about the safety of nuclear systems in space and I don't have the time or inclination to debate you extensively on the matter.  However, I will point out a couple of half truths in your article.

1) 2.7 grams "of Pu" is millions of lethal doses

   This may be technically true, but it's also true that a gallon of water could drown 100's of people. The statement on your website is misleading and scaremongering.  If you could somehow divide the plutonium up and magically place it in people's lungs you might have a point, but that scenario seems rather unlikely.  By the way, the plutonium must get into your blood stream to do damage which is usually occurs by way of the lungs.  Just eating it won't do it since little of it is absorbed through the GI tract.  Plutonium is poisonous but studies have shown that it is no more so than lead, so you would have to eat a bit of it to get you sick.

2) Atmospheric weapons testing - 9000 Ci of Pu238
   SNAP 9A                     - 17000 Ci of Pu238

Also true, but again misleading.  Little of the atmospheric radioactive contamination was due to Pu238.  The fission process normally produces little Pu238.  Most of the atmospheric contamination was due to other isotopes.  The total atmospheric radioactive contamination from all sources is at least 10000 times that from Pu238 + Pu239.  Ref: UNSCEAR (2000) (Pu238 and Pu239 were not separated in this report).  The total increase in atmospheric contamination due to SNAP 9A in percentage terms is quite small contrary to what you imply.

3) If the plutonium vaporizes in the atmosphere it is especially dangerous...

In the current GPHS units the plutonium will not vaporize.  The plutonium pellets are clad in iridium (m.p. > 4400 F) to prevent radiation release and are encased in a woven graphite impact shell.  The graphite impact shells are then inserted in high strength graphite heater blocks.  We (me included) have done extensive testing of these units under conditions considerably more severe than any explosion/reentry scenario the unit could ever conceivably encounter and no release or destruction of the graphite impact shells occurred.  These units are tough, and it is virtually impossible to vaporize them.

There are other problems in various statements on your web page, but I don't have time to go into all of them. That is your job.  Please be fair in the future in your objections and don't make things seem more dangerous than they really are.

Note that there is no other practical way to generate sign power in the outer regions of the atmosphere.  Solar energy is just too dim out there.  Solar panel would be huge and impractical to incorporate in any probe using rockets in our current launch system inventory.

Dr. Bill Emrich

Ps.  Your article below also seems similarly biased and implies that tritium is all over the place wrecking havoc.  I don't know where you think all this tritium is located, but it isn't in the environment.  What little is produced typically comes from power plants and having worked in a nuclear plant some years ago, I know great pains were taken to keep the radioactive water completely contained within the primary coolant circuit.  In the time I was there the extensive monitoring system installed at the plant did not record any detectable level of tritium released to the environment.  It may interest you to know that a coal burning plant normally releases considerably more radioactive materials into the environment than does a nuclear plant simply because coal itself contains trace amounts of radioactive nuclides.

-----Original Message-----
From: Russell 'Ace' Hoffman []
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 3:59 PM
To: Emrich, William J. (MSFC-ER24)
Cc: NASA comments
Subject: Re: Comments about your NO NUKES IN SPACE web site (ver. 2003.02.16.002).

At 03:12 PM 8/28/2007 -0500, "Emrich, William J. (MSFC-ER24)"
<> wrote:

>I work on these projects for NASA and I have never seen such a bunch
>of half truths and outright lies.  Your irresponsibility defies
>description.  You may not like what we are doing, but you should at
>least be truthful and honest in your objections.

My response:
August 28th, 2007

Mr. Emrich,

Gosh!  Official libel, sent from a email address.

I did not lie, and if you can find any errors or "half-truths" in
ANYTHING I've ever written, let's see them.  Let's see your proof.

Below is an essay about tritium and K-40, and a link to another essay
about tritium.  Surely it would not be too great a task for you to
give me credible scientific proof that I am in error in any statement
shown below (or anywhere else).  Of course, if you can only say it's
outside your area of expertise, then that begs the question:  On what
do you base your assurance that radiation is safe?  Some other
arrogant government toadie?


Russell "Ace" Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

It's all about the DNA:
(This essay and Dr. Gofman's obituary were included in the letter to William Emrich but are not included here.)

Contact information for "Ace:"