Both the great Truths and the great Falsehoods of the twentieth century lie hidden in the arcane, widely inaccessible, and seemingly mundane domain of the radiation sciences

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: Exhibit E continued

What follows is the continuation, in serial form, of a central chapter from my book A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science.

Exhibit E continued

The thesis to be developed here is straightforward. The faultless work of the Tri-Partite Conferences and Subcommittee Two underwent a sinister metamorphosis in the years subsequent to its development at the hands of government scientists and administrators who were sympathetic to nuclear weapon development and the proliferation of commercial nuclear power. In response to the government initiative to impose nuclearism on its citizenry, sectors of the public, beginning in the mid-1950s and continuing up to today, began to acquire a rudimentary understanding of radiation effects and embarked upon a path of vocal opposition and protest against the government agenda. Simultaneously, research conducted by independent scientists began appearing with increasing frequency in scientific journals that revealed that catastrophic health effects were being created by the radioactivity which was routinely jettisoned into the environment. Amidst growing social unrest, the Atomic Energy Commission and its successor agencies, the Energy Research and Development Agency and the Department of Energy, were forced to pursue increasingly sophisticated methods of controlling the perception of hazard of the radioactivity being spewed over the population and infiltrating the food supply. Each radiation release, as it became known to the public, required a state-sponsored public relations campaign crafted to keep the citizenry ignorant of the potential medical consequences accompanying that release. Within this charged political climate, the information officers and radiation physicists who were sympathetic to the government’s nuclear agenda discovered an unintended consequence of the work perfected by Subcommittee Two: The computational system developed for computing dosages from internal emitters contained within it all the makings for an instrument of deception. While struggling to portray each radiation release in the most benign light by repeatedly running numbers through their equations until they produced the desired results, the propagandists chanced upon the discovery that the computational system could be re-engineered into a political device for masking the medical significance of radioactivity delivered into the human body in low doses from internal emitters. By this conversion, the dosages delivered to exposed populations and the medical implications of these dosages could forever be manipulated so as to give the appearance of being of no consequence. Servants of the nuclear agenda realized they were heirs to a masterful propaganda tool. In their hands, the accepted methodology for calculating dosages from internal emitters, and thus how the public perceived the hazards thrust upon them, could be mathematically manipulated so as to trivialize the quite real threats to health. By computational abracadabra, all dosages to vulnerable populations downwind of liberated plumes of radioactivity could be made to appear within the permissible limits upheld by the international radiation protection community. What started out in Subcommittee Two as an effort to protect people from radiation was transformed into a vehicle of fraud for masking the potential health consequences of government-sponsored nuclear programs.

Although paying lip service to the hazards of fallout throughout the era of aboveground weapon testing and in the aftermath of radiation releases from nuclear facilities, the government’s entire nuclear program since Hiroshima has hinged on the public remaining ignorant about the phenomenon of internal contamination. The cover-up began in earnest in the years immediately after the Second World War. In 1946, the United States demonstrated to the world its nuclear might by detonating two atomic bombs in the Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands. In 1947, and again in 1949, teams of researchers from the Laboratory of Radiation Biology of the University of Washington traveled to Bikini to study the ecological impact of the radiation releases. For the first time, it was observed that plants and animals incorporated environmentally deposited radioactivity into their internal structures. Investigating the local food chains, they discovered that radioactivity accumulated in ever-increasing concentrations within organisms along each step of the food chain with the highest internal concentrations found in the feeders at the top of each chain. From then onward, internal contamination by fallout could not be honestly denied. But that is exactly what the Atomic Energy Commission did habitually when weapon testing commenced in 1951 at the Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds.

There is no need to dwell at length on the cover-ups and deceptions perpetrated by the Atomic Energy Commission against the American people in regard to the hazards of nuclear pollution. It is an ugly, undeniable fact, substantially documented in the historical record.

Footnote: For those interested in researching this travesty, a number of popular histories appeared in the 1980s documenting the AEC’s coverup of radioactive contamination of the American public. Although not currently in print, copies can still be found in libraries and used bookstores. A few titles follow:

Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy by Philip L. Fradkin

Justice Downwind: America’s Atomic Testing Program in the 1950s by Howard Ball

Multiple Exposures: Chronicles of the Radiation Age by Catherine Caufield

The Cult of the Atom by Daniel Ford

The Day We Bombed Utah: America’s Most Lethal Secret by John G. Fuller

Under the Cloud: The Decades of Nuclear Testing by Richard L. Miller

Killing Our Own by Harvey Wasserman, Norman Solomon, Robert Alvarez, and Eleanor Walters. This volume can be downloaded from the internet in its entirety at - 1035k.

(The problem we are chasing here is that essentially nothing has changed today from the time when the AEC was in charge of radiation protection except for the fact that the lies and deceptions have become more sophisticated.) To protect the nation’s weapons program and the monied interests’ investment in commercial nuclear power, the AEC was forced onto a precipitous tightrope act between managing the hazards of fallout and the need to cause as little alarm as possible throughout the population. Success in this balancing act required the pretense of absolute safety to the population from low-level exposure to fallout. Despite the fact that the NCRP had adopted the position in 1948 that no-threshold dose existed for the onset of radiation injury, “for several decades, AEC officials continued to publicly assert that there was a threshold of safety and that its exposure limits [the dosages deemed permissible to the public] were below that threshold” [1]. In harmony with this deception, the AEC published in a pamphlet in 1953 to argue that “low-level exposure can be continued indefinitely without any detectable bodily change” [1]. One cornerstone of the AEC’s disinformation campaign was to confine all discussion on radiation effects to external gamma irradiation. When publishing information on the offsite drift of radiocontaminants from the Nevada Test Site, the hazard of fallout was routinely trivialized and always explained in terms of potential external exposure. Thus, news releases from the AEC were forthright as to the intense burst of gamma rays at the moment of detonation and the hazards of gamma emitters in fallout. But to minimize the perception of hazard, reassurances quickly followed, informing people that the gamma burst was geographically limited to the immediate vicinity of a blast and that radionuclides in fallout rapidly decayed and were quickly dispersed throughout the environment in harmless concentrations. The possibility of internal contamination was left totally unmentioned or downplayed as insignificant. The AEC was fully cognizant of the hazards of internal contamination but kept the subject out of the public domain. Robert Minogue, a research director for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission once said, “High AEC officials knew very well the biological effects of low-level radiation in the 1950s. They can’t use ignorance as an excuse” [2]. The fallback position on internal contamination repeatedly professed by the AEC was that, if external gamma radiation was within the established safety limits, the internal buildup of dangerous levels of radionuclides was unlikely. When queried, the AEC rationalized its position with a number of flagrant lies and ill-conceived notions about internal contamination, claiming that released radionuclides were characterized by

(1) a short half-life so the radiation would not persist long enough to deliver a harmful dose; (2) the lack of similarity to normal body constituents so that retention would be very small; (3) if passed through the metabolic processes of the human food chain, decay and insignificant retention would appreciably diminish any potential hazard; (4) that normal food preparation would be expected to remove most of the deposited radionuclides; and (5) that wind-borne fallout clouds at distances far from the NTS would not maintain atmospheric concentrations long enough for inhalation to be a significant route of exposure. Therefore the emphasis was placed on minimizing the external exposure of the offsite population” [3].

With the passage of time, the lies told by the AEC were exposed. Today, the agency’s legacy is the monumental betrayal of the American people that included the following misdeeds:

1) Failure to provide adequate warning to people living downwind of weapon tests.

2) Failure to develop an adequate radiation monitoring system.

3)Failure to explain to exposed populations the increased health risk confronting children.

4) Failure to warn of the hazard to livestock grazing on contaminated land.

5) Failure to inform about food-chain contamination.

6) Failure to inform those at risk about what steps could be taken to minimize their exposure.

7) Failure to disclose the results of research on the health effects of fallout.


[1] Caufield C. Multiple Exposures: Chronicles of the Radiation Age. Toronto: Stoddart; 1988.

[2] Wasserman H., Solomon N., Alvarez R., Walters E. Killing Our Own. New York: Dell Publishing Co.; 1982.

[3] Black S.C., Potter G.D. Historical Perspectives on Selected Health and Safety Aspects of Nuclear Weapon Testing. Health Physics. 1986; 51:1.