by Horst Albin Poehler, Ph. D.
In October 1997, NASA plans to launch the Cassini space probe, intended to collect data on Saturn and its moons. The plutonium dioxide will be in Radioisotope Thermal Generators (RTGs) which generate electricity and Light Weight Radioisotope Heater Units (LHRUs) which provide some heat.
The plutonium dioxide will not be "heavily shielded", despite NASA's assurance. A launch accident could spread the deadly plutonium dioxide throughout the Space Coast of Florida. In addition to posing serious health risks, a launch accident could devastate Florida homeowners and businesses financially. Homeowner's insurance excludes damage related to nuclear contamination.
After Cassini leaves the Earth's atmosphere, it is intended to return for a near Earth flyby. Should the guidance system fail, the vehicle could reenter the Earth's atmosphere and release its plutonium dioxide anywhere. NASA tries to downplay the risk of disaster by making unrealistic risk calculations.
Scientists have questioned NASA's estimate of the risks and accident effects.
NASA's risk calculations use deceitful figures of the cancer producing ability of plutonium (that are much too low); use questionable assumptions; and overlook the possibility of human error.
Most serious of all are the cancers that could be caused if there is a mishap on launch.
The danger in the Cassini launch arises from several sources:
First, the Titan IV-B missile is new and has only been flown once. Even NASA admits that the failure rate during launch may be as high as 1 in 19.
Second, plutonium is an incredibly potent cancer producing agent. When ingested or inhaled, 5 micrograms can produce delayed lung, bone, or liver cancer. Twenty milligrams can cause edema and necrosis, with death within months (1). (28gm = 1oz.; 1 microgram = 1 millionth of a gram; 1 milligram = 1 thousandth of a gram).
NASA even admits that plutonium can cause genetic defects in future offspring. "Several possible outcomes to the ejection of an alpha particle from a decaying plutonium-238 nucleas may occur to a nearby cell....". "The alpha particles strike a portion of a chomosone within the cell modifying the chromosone, but not killing the cell. This is the most potentially harmful. This process may lead to the induction of cancer or genetic effects which may be passed on to offspring. (ICRP1990)." See Ref.9
Third, the containment of plutonium cargo is flimsy. It could not be flown in a plane under current regulations since it would have to be encased in an approved cask that would survive a high-velocity crash. Yet it is to be flown over the heads of Florida residents in a missile whose probability of failure is 1 in 19.
Fourth, the integrity of the plutonium dioxide is of critical importance. Plutonium dioxide starts out as a powder that is heat-compressed into pellets the size of a persons thumb. For an illustration, consider the thumb from a marble statue. In case of a missile mishap, NASA asserts that the plutonium dioxide will break into pieces like the marble from a statue. Actually, the plutonium dioxide can be disintegrated back into a powder by a number of possible missile mishap scenarios: a high pressure shock wave, a high velocity impact with a missile fragment, or exposure to the high temperatures of a fireball. Herein lies the risk to human health , since plutonium dioxide is its most carcinogenic in powdered form.
Fifth, the prevailing lower atmospheric winds at the time of the planned launch are northeast to east. This is the worst possible condition. A condition that would bring plutonium dioxide debris , that might be released in a missile mishap, onshore, exposing the Florida East Coast residents.
Finally, the plutonium cargo sits next to a potentially explosive Centaur stage, containing liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. A stage that will ignite and explode if the hydrogen/oxygen is released by a flying missile fragment during a missile failure. The explosion fireball could breach the iridium pellet and vaporize the plutonium dioxide, releasing the plutonium dioxide dust.
Lest anyone become complacent with the launch of Cassini, note that there are 12 additional plutonium launches planned for the next 12 years:
1998 Moon Site Rover; 1999 Moon telescope; 2000 Mars Mesur; 2001 Moon Network (2), Mars MESUR; 2002 Comet Nucleus, Moon Network (2); 2003 - 2007, Planet Flyby, Mars SR; 2009
The proposed Cassini launch does not just push the limit of danger, but is insane. NASA's zeal to explore space ignores the health of the Florida East Coast residents.
Cancer is a terrible affliction. Launching the 32,900 million micrograms of plutonium dioxide in the midst of residential neighborhoods exposing some 400,000 residents to plutonium dioxide fallout is madness.
More than one hundred years of human experience with radioactivity has proved that radioactivity causes cancer. Plutonium is no different, except that it can cause cancer in doses that are microscopic and invisible.
NASA thrives on secrecy and deceit:
Plutonium is so hazardous to human health that professional scientists cannot buy or possess, quantities as low as 0.1 microcurie (one ten-millionth of a curie, the scientific unit for measuring radioactivity) for use as a calibration laboratory source, without prior license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC). Nor can they dispose of it without prior license from the NRC or from the Florida office of Radiation Control (2). Yet, NASA is about to launch 402,000 curies of plutonium, an amount that is 4 trillion times the amount deemed hazardous to human health.
Plutonium is an especially-potent radiological poison because of its high rate of alpha particle emission and its specific absorption in bone marrow. Once it enters the body through inhalation, ingestion, or through a cut, it becomes an internal emitter that emits highly-destructive radiation to the body tissues in which it concentrates. It is akin to an internal X-ray machine.
Plutonium is a bone seeker, known to produce bone cancer. It also produces lung, and liver cancers. Plutonium-238's danger is increased by its long half-life (88 years). At present, the total Earth burden of plutonium from nuclear explosions, nuclear bomb tests, and nuclear mishaps is 440,000 curies. The Cassini could add 402,000 curies to the Earth's burden if it were to explode on launch or suffer a mishap on the two near-Earth flybys.
If even a fraction of the 402,000 curies were to be released in the local area, the resulting health effects could be catastrophic to the Florida Space Coast.
If the 72.3 pounds of plutonium were spread world wide in a burn up during Earth flyby, the world's burden of plutonium would be increased from 440,000 to 842,000 curies. Increased lung, bone, and liver cancers would result, but the resulting cancers would be hard to pinpoint, since they would be spread over the world's population. They could not be traced, since cancers produced by nuclear radiation cannot be distinguished from cancers of other origin.
The purpose of the three radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs) is to supply 855 watts of electrical power to the spacecraft on its Saturn mission.
Electricity is generated by a bank of thermocouples that convert the heat emitted by the plutonium fuel to electrical power. The mounting of the RTGs, shows how exposed the RTGs are in the case of an accident.
Each of the three RTGs contains 24.7 pounds (11.2 kilograms) of plutonium, making a total cargo of approximately 72 pounds, some 402,000 curies of radioactivity. Each of the three RTGs contains 72 pellets (capsules) of heat compressed plutonium dioxide. Primary containment of the plutonium is provided by a platinum-like iridium shell of minimum thickness of 0.022 inch (1/128"), about twice the thickness of a fingernail.
To make up the RTG, and to provide some additional protection, two plutonium pellets are mounted in a Graphite Impact Shell (GIS), having a minimum wall thickness of less than 1/4 inch. Then the two GIS are mounted in a graphite block, (module) 2x4x4 inches, again having an approximate wall thickness of less than 1/4 inch.
The RTG assembly is completed by stacking 18 modules, side by side, in a column, surrounding them with thin multifoil insulation, and a cover of 1/16 inch aluminum, to form a cylinder, 1.5 feet in diameter and 4 feet long,
Let's look at how flimsy the containment of the plutonium dioxide is.
NASA spokespersons are fond of saying, "The plutonium generators are heavily shielded. Everything reasonable has been done" to guard against an accidental release of plutonium.
NASA does not say "possible", but "reasonable". As a matter of fact, a heavier armoring of the plutonium generators was examined at least two times (3), why was it rejected? Because it was found that heavier armoring would add at least 2000 pounds to a payload that was already weight critical. The decision to forego heavier armoring was one of expediency, not one that would ensure safety.
Strung along the Cassini spacecraft like tree ornaments are 137 lightweight radioisotope heater units (LWRHUs). The cheerful image of Christmas tree ornaments vanishes when one realizes that the units contain deadly plutonium dioxide. Their packaging is minimal, and their distribution all over the spacecraft makes them highly likely to spill their deadly contents in case of an accident. The LWHRUs are intended to serve as footwarmers, each supplying approximately 1 watt of heat to the various instrument packages spread throughout the spacecraft.
The LWRHU units are made up of 2.7 grams (1/10 ounce), some 31 curies of plutonium dioxide. NASA insists that each LWHRU is armored to prevent dispersal of the plutonium in case of an accident. This is a fantasy. The plutonium is protected only by a 0.040-inch (5/128") thin shell of a platinum-rhodium alloy, three thin graphite insulator shells of a combined thickness of 1/8 inch, plus an outer shell of graphite 3/16 inches thick.
An explosion, flying objects, or an planned Earth reentry could rupture the LWHRU ornaments, spilling their deadly plutonium dioxide. Because of their exposed location on the spacecraft, they pose a particular risk during an unplanned Earth reentry if they impact on a hard surface. In case of an accident during flyby, there is the added heat of reentry, which could vaporize the graphite housings, thus leaving the plutonium pellets wearing nothing but their thin platinum shells.
Cassini will first circle twice around Venus and then return to make a flyby of Earth. A successful flyby would allow the spacecraft to use the gravitational fields of the Earth and Venus to gain sufficient speed to make its way to Saturn. A flyby is sometimes called a "slingshot maneuver".
Cassini's Earth flyby poses the added risk of worldwide plutonium contamination in case of failure or guidance error. In this scenario, contamination would not be limited to just the Florida Space Coast. Nowhere on Earth would be safe from a plutonium cargo that makes an accidental reentry of the atmosphere.
Worldwide contamination could result from the following scenarios (4):
After 246 seconds in the flight several accident scenarios could lead to worldwide contamination. During the 246-254 second interval a Centaur tank failure/collapse would probably result in the breaking up of the spacecraft. Upon atmospheric reentry, the RTG aluminum casing would melt by design, releasing the General Purpose (GPHS) modules, which would reenter as discrete bodies. During this period the modules could impact limited portions of the African continent under the vehicle's flight path. During the period 254-688 seconds, the modules would impact the ocean .
During the flight period 688-5576 seconds, failure of the Centaur to ignite for the second burn, mechanical and electrical failure, and guidance malfunctions, could result in the breaking up of the spacecraft and the RTGs, with the GPS modules independently reentering the Earth's atmosphere intact and impacting on the surface of the Earth. Types of trajectories that could result from such failures include escape from Earth orbit, gradual orbit decay, reentry and a powered reentry.
For reentry the Cassini spacecraft, including the RTGs, would undergo thermal and mechanical breakup. The RTGs are designed so that the GPS module will survive reentry without plutonium dioxide release unless they strike a hard surface given the predicted reentry latitude bands. An average of three GPS modules are predicted to strike a rock, with an accompanying plutonium dioxide release.
In all the above cases, the RTG module and the LWRHU could reenter the atmosphere. In the event of impact on rock, the iridium and platinum shells housing the plutonium could rupture and release their plutonium. Each of the 216 RTG pellets contains 1860 curies of radioactivity. Each of the 137 of the LWRHUs contains 31 curies for a total cargo of 402,000 curies.
In the case of a flyby accident, impact could occur anywhere on Earth. How does NASA determine the number of people who might be affected if Cassini were to crash on Earth? It first estimates the average population density as 250 persons/square mile. NASA proceeds to calculate the fraction of the Earth that is covered by rocks. Using this fraction, it estimates the probability that a rock would be hit on reentry. It further concludes that it is probable only one of the 137 LWHRUs and only 1 of the 36 RTG modules (each containing four plutonium pellets) would hit a rock.
While NASA concedes that plutonium pellets would breach on hitting a rock, it argues that the probability of more than three pellets hitting a rock is vanishingly small. NASA finally concludes that the individual risk to any person in the affected area is less than 1 in 20 billion. What if the plutonium cargo of LWRHU and RTG modules were to come down on a metropolitan city? What if the plutonium cargo were to come down in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Paris, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Hong Kong, or Sidney, where there are acres of concrete and millions of people? NASA does not face up to this catastrophic possibility. It does not dare.
NASA has made unrealistic assessments before. Prior to the Challenger accident, NASA estimated that the risk of solid rocket failure was 1 in 100,000. At the time, the historical failure rate was estimated by independent investigators to range from 1 in 25 to 1 in 50. An Air Force assessment set the failure rate as 1 in 70. Nevertheless, NASA stuck to its estimate failure rate of 1 in 100,000 - some 200 times more optimistic than actual performance.
To what extent are NASA's estimates due to scientific overconfidence, failure to see interactions between undefined minor problems, insufficient sensitivity to the fragility of its assumptions, insufficient sample size, or political pressure? Have any of NASA's risk assessments have been subjected to independent scrutiny?
NASA's detailed effort at risk assessment fails to answer the paramount question: What is the consequence of a worst-case nuclear accident? A "worst-case" accident is one in which all 72.3 pounds of plutonium dioxide are released and scattered over Florida by an explosion and the prevailing winds. This is a question that deserves an answer.However,NASA dismisses this catastrophe simply by asserting the probability of such an accident is less than 1 in 10 million. Therefore, it is unnecessary to discuss it, or even consider it.
Instead, NASA devotes its efforts to the analysis of several nuclear accident scenarios, including one it calls the "maximum case." Lest any confusion arise, the "maximum case" is by no means the "worst case" because it only deals with the release of 0.01% of 72.3 pounds of plutonium on that spacecraft, that is only 0.007 pounds or 0.21 ounces.
Dr. Richard P. Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and member of the Presidential Commission that investigated the Challenger disaster, criticized NASA sharply in his 13-page report Personal Observations on the Reliability of the Shuttle. The June 11, 1986 issue of the New York Times quoted Dr. Feynman as saying that NASA managers "exaggerated the reliability of the Shuttle to the point of fantasy." He offered a detailed picture of NASA officials who "fooled themselves" into believing that the Shuttle was safe and that the probability of catastrophe was low.
Dr. Feynman was particularly critical of the space agency's methods of calculating probabilities of catastrophes. Commenting on NASA's official testimony that the probability of catastrophic failure of a solid-fueled booster rocket was 1 in 100,000, he said, "I saw considerable flaws in their logic. I found that they were making up numbers not based on experience. NASA's engineering judgment was not the judgment of its engineers. He said the most competent engineers both in and out of NASA estimated the probability of catastrophe as 1 in 100.
Safety assessments were based on circular reasoning, according to Dr. Feynman. The fact that the Shuttle flew many times without failure was accepted as an argument that it would fly safely again. "Because of this reasoning," he said, "obvious weaknesses were accepted again and again."
Accepting NASA's low risk probabilities for the moment, let's see how NASA proceeds to calculate risk. As an example, consider a failure that occurs as a result of a fire/explosion while Cassini is still on the pad.
NASA's health risk assessment estimates the fraction of the 72.3 pounds of plutonium on board will be released in case of an accident. NASA again has an opportunity to make this fraction low. The maximum fraction of plutonium that NASA will admit might be released in any accident is 0.01% or 0.007 pounds (0.21 ounce). Is it any wonder that NASA's health -risk estimates are ridiculously low? What if a fraction of plutonium is released is 10%. This can increase the risk by at least a thousandfold.
The weakest link in NASA's risk assessment is the estimate of health effects. NASA carefully avoids a discussion of the known ability of 5 millionths of 1 gram of plutonium to cause delayed lung, liver, or bone cancer when it enters the body through the lungs, through a cut, or through ingestion.
Instead, NASA uses a computer program to model the path plutonium takes though the body via the lungs, intestines, and the bloodstream. As input, NASA uses the results of another computer program that estimates the particle-size distribution and the distribution of plutonium particles on the ground and in the air for the counties surrounding the Kennedy Space Center. NASA then combines the results with yet another computer program that gives an equivalent body radiation dose for the internally deposited plutonium. Using the equivalent body dose, together with the number of people involved, NASA arrives at the a figure of person-rems, the sum of the product of the number of persons involved and their radiation exposure in rems (a measurement of radiation dose). NASA finally uses the estimated values of the relation between person-rems of exposure and the number of radiation-induced cancers that may be expected to arrive at the number of cases of cancer that could be produced by an accident.
With the numerous estimates and assumptions involved in NASA's calculations, how much confidence can one place in NASA's final health risk estimate? Is it off by a factor of a hundred? a thousand? or tens of thousands?
NASA's calculations do not show how they account for the amount of plutonium oxide on board, the number of civilians on the ground, or even the radioactivity of the plutonium. It appears that their calculations of health casualty effects would come out the same if 144 pounds of plutonium were on board instead of 72.3, the number of civilians affected were 800,000 instead of 400,000, and if the canisters carried sand instead of plutonium oxide.
While NASA is over optimistic regarding health risks of its launches of plutonium, it presents a sobering and detailed discussion of launch failure scenarios. It appears that the human health risks portions of NASA's Environmental Impact Statements were written by one group and that the launch failure risk scenarios were written by another. It is unfortunately apparent that these two groups never read each other's reports.
NASA describes (5) three accident scenarios representative of failures that could occur during the launch of the Cassini spacecraft:
At any time up to 688 seconds, the Flight Control Officer could elect to activate the command shutdown and destruct system. The destruct system is initiated only when the trajectory of the launch vehicle threatens land or populations. Destruct mechanisms would be in place including the core vehicle, the Centaur, and the SRMUs. The destruct mechanism would ensure that the propellant tanks and/or the solid motor rocket cases split, thrust terminators and the propellants disperse.
The most significant environments threatening the RTGs from command destruct shutdown would be blast overpressures (shock waves) from the explosion of the liquid propellants and fragments generated by the breakup of the Cassini spacecraft, the Centaur, and the SRMUs. Safety assessments indicate that in a 0 to 11 second scenario the RTGs will be damaged and will either fall to the launch pad, ground, or ocean surface.
A secondary impact of the damaged RTG on a hard surface could result in plutonium dioxide release. Two types of SRMU fragments could have sufficient momentum to release General Purpose Heat Source, GPHS modules as free objects to impact ground surfaces. The resulting distortion of the plutonium dioxide fueled clads could result in a small (sic) plutonium dioxide release.
The failure of one SRMU to ignite at T=0 would cause the Titan IV with the Centaur and spacecraft to fall in the vicinity of the launch pad. If such a failure occurred the entire launch vehicle would probably begin a rigid body tip over. At about 4 seconds the vehicle would have tipped to 29 degrees from the vertical, and the non-ignited SRMU would physically separate from the rest of the launch vehicle. At about 6 seconds, the aft end of the motor would contact the ground first, with the rest of the vehicle then rolling over and crashing. The ground impact would cause the Cassini spacecraft, Centaur, and core vehicle propellant tanks to rupture, and the propellants would mix and explode.
The shock wave from the explosion of the Centaur propellants would completely remove the RTG converter, and possibly the graphite components of the RTG, thereby releasing the bare plutonium dioxide clads.
The Centaur propellant tanks could fail or collapse during the period while the RTGs are being installed and the propellant tanks filled until immediately after the second Centaur main engine burn when the spacecraft escapes the Earth. Equipment failures, exceeding operating or processing requirements, and software could cause Centaur tank failure/collapse.
The Centaur tank assembly could rupture in three ways, resulting in mixing of the hydrogen and oxygen propellants:
The present Florida level of plutonium ground-level contamination is 0.001 microcurie/square meter. This level arises from the over 500 nuclear bomb tests and the nuclear mishaps since the bomb was invented.
Before the invention of the nuclear bomb, environmental plutonium contamination was unknown. Plutonium is an element that was created by man, and introduced into the environment by man.
In case of plutonium contamination by an accident on the Cassini launch, NASA proposes that a level of plutonium contamination of 0.200 microcuries/square meter , some 200 times higher than the present level is safe, harmless to health, for which no decontamination is required. NASA leans back on the Environmental Protection Agency, for support that this level will do no harm.
One should recognize the element of self interest inherent in such a pronouncement. The higher the level, the less money the EPA has to spend to clean up the many nationwide sites that have already been contaminated by nuclear bomb tests, nuclear bomb manufacture, and nuclear power plant waste. In fact, the EPA chose 0.20 microcurie/square meter as a level for which cleanup at the many nuclear waste sites would not be excessive.
As the level of nuclear waste becomes higher, the EPA has to spend more money for cleanup. As a result, it may raise the "safe level".
One should recognize that the lung, bone, and liver cancers that are induced by plutonium take some 10 to 20 years to manifest themselves and cannot be distinguished medically from cancers that arise from other causes - so who is to say what is a safe level?
One way to look at the problem is to recognize that all increases in the background level of radioactivity cause increased cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admits, "The most prudent method (of estimating radiation risks) assumes that there is some finite risk to humans no matter how small the absorbed radiation might be." (6)
If Floridians develop lung, bone, and liver cancer in 10-20 years (the delay time for the appearance of plutonium-induced cancer), the government agencies may say, "You would have gotten it anyway. We had nothing to do with it."
A fatal flaw in NASA's risk assessment is its failure to allow human error. The disasters of Chernobyl, Challenger, Bhopal, and the Exxon Valdez , as well as the near disaster at Three Mile Island were all caused by human error. A purely technical risk assessment can therefore lead to a false sense of security.
Witness the February 1986 Soviet assessment that "the odds of a meltdown (at Chernobyl) are one in 10,000 years." On May 19, Chernobyl became famous. Operators conducting a test of a planned reduction in power output failed to realize that their experiment was becoming irretrievably out of control, headed for meltdown.
At Three Mile Island, investigators discovered that "The fundamental problems (were) people-related problems, and not equipment problems." Puzzled by warning signals, operators initiated a series of incorrect maneuvers that brought the plant close to meltdown.
Even the Challenger accident can be attributed to human error: failure to transmit concerns (about icing) up the chain of command and the fateful decision to launch even though temperatures had just hours previously been below those the solid rocket seals were designed to withstand.
If NASA wants to live up to its motto, "Safety First," it has three choices:
For hazardous missions, the risk to residents of the surrounding communities must be weighed against the potential benefits of the mission. Is the benefit of exploring the environment of Saturn commensurate with the risk of exposing human beings in Florida and elsewhere to lung, bone, and liver cancers, know to be caused by microscopic particles of plutonium that are too small to be seen or felt? A quantity equivalent to one hundred thousandth the weight of an aspirin tablet is know to suffice. Because twelve other plutonium-bearing missions are scheduled, it is important to point to the risks of this launch - without waiting for a disaster.
If it is essential to launch 72.3 pounds of plutonium, this should be done from a remote island in the Pacific, not from a densely populated area , such as the Florida Space Coast. One Pacific island has already been so heavily contaminated with plutonium that it is no longer habitable. The island of Runit was contaminated with plutonium by a weapons test. In 1958, an 18-kiloton device exploded on Runit but filed to undergo chain reaction; instead, it spread plutonium all over the island. Officials decided that Runit could never be decontaminated and instead it should be used as the burying ground for radioactive waste and soil removed from other islands in the atoll.
Another alternative is to use an existing launch site in a sparsely populated area, such as the Russian launch site in Kazakhstan or the French launch site in French Guiana. The Cassini mission is supposed to be an international effort, so there is no reason not to use these alternative launch sites.
NASA does not seem to be completely unmindful of the damage a plutonium release could cause. Radiologic contingency plans have been prepared to address launch/landing accidents involving RTGs and LWHRUs. The plans rely on mobile field monitoring teams, ground air-sampling teams, airborne monitoring, surveillance aircraft, ground and airborne meteorological stations, and computerized dispersion modeling to assess the extent of plutonium release. After the fact, once having determined that plutonium has been released, NASA will issue warnings for residents to take shelter, stay indoors, turn off their air conditioners, and wait until the plutonium cloud passes. What about the people who are in their automobiles, what about the people on the beach, what about the people who don't hear the warnings?
NASA provides sobering information for plutonium cleanup. Quoting from NASA's document (7) for Galileo which carried only two RTGs instead of three carried on Cassini:
Translating these decontamination methods into the Florida landscape provides a measure of the immensity of the problem.
Decontamination measures employed at Palomares, Spain provides an example of a much smaller scale decontamination. On January 19, 1966 approximately 10 pounds of plutonium were released when a B-52 bomber crashed with a KC-135 tanker plane.
One nuclear bomb fell at Palomares. While the nuclear mechanism was not activated, the dynamite carried by the H-bomb exploded, scattering plutonium over the landscape.
About 600 acres near Palomares (a fishing/farming village) were contaminated. The top soil had to be scraped up, and the vegetation had to be buried. The area involved was much less than the area that could be involved if the Titan-IVB carrying 72 pounds of plutonium dioxide exploded during launch.
Cleanup in Palomares took months and required scraping sufficient topsoil to fill up 5,000 steel drums, that were transported to Aiken, South Carolina for burial.
References can be found in the popular press of the day, i.e. Business Week, Commonwealth, Life, Newsweek, Saturday Evening Post, and U.S. News and World Report.
If Cassini is as safe as NASA says it is, why doesn't NASA insure the health and property of the surrounding residents? Having spent 3.4 billion on Cassini so far, why not get a few more million to buy insurance for the nearby neighbors?
Apparently, Cassini isn't as safe as claimed, since NASA has pressured the Federal Government to extend the Price Anderson Act (originally passed to protect the nuclear power industry from economic ruin) to cover nuclear missiles.
We know that the insurance industry pays promptly for damage to your home, even in cases of catastrophic proportions. The Price Anderson Act relieves the insurance industry from paying any claims related to nuclear contamination. Instead, it sets up a limited fund to have the Federal Government pay you.
If your home is condemned or becomes uninhabitable you know how long you will have to wait for payment. After all the Government has not yet paid the Atomic Veterans from the 1940's war, nor for the Gulf war. Get in line.
Let the NASA officials, who are so zealously pushing to launch 72.3 pounds of plutonium over the heads of the unsuspecting Brevard residents, please stand up.
They must know of the potential health risks to 400,000 Brevard residents.
They can't prevent the plutonium canisters from breaking. They know that the escaped plutonium could cause thousands upon thousands of cases of cancers. For the cancers they have a name, but no cure. They will be called "Cassini Cancers".
After the mishap we will know who pushed this insane project and it will be time to hold a Crimes Against Humanity Trial. Let the judges determine who knew what, and when did they know it. Ignorance will be no excuse.
1. Stannard N., "Radioactivity and Health"' Pacific NW Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy, October, 1988. and Gofman., J.D. "Radiation and Health, Sierra Books, 1981
2. Florida Office of Radiation Control, 1317 Winebrook Blvd., Tallahassee, FL. 32301, (904) 487-1004
3. Aviation Week and Space Technology, March 3, 1996, p20.
4. NASA Final Environmental Impact Statement for Cassini Mission, June, 1988, p. 4-34.
5. NASA ,loc.cit. p. 4-38.
6. Environmental Protection Agency, 1977, Proposed Guidance on Dose Limits, U.S. EPA, 520/4-77-016, NTIS PB 290314 Sec 1, P. 15.
7. NASA Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Galileo Mission (Tier 2) Dec. 1988, p. 31
8. Lewis, F. "One of Our H-Bombs is Missing"' McGraw-Hill, 1966.
9. NASA loc. cit. p.C5-6
Horst A. Poehler, PH.D.
Ph.D. from Columbia University, 1948 in Pure Science, Faculty of EE Associate Degree in Medical Technology from the Westchester Community College, 1947
Was employed at Patrick AF Base and the Space Center from 1958 to 1980. By the following AF and NASA contractors:
TRW, Space Technology Laboratories, Pan American Airways, Federal Electric, and RCA. For the last 15 years held position of Senior Scientist. Member of Professional Health Physics Society since 1958. Senior member, IEEE.