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, September 27, 2010

The Trial of the Cult of Nuclearists: SCAM NUMBER THIRTY-SEVEN

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.

SCAM NUMBER THIRTY-SEVEN: Block the dissemination of all information that raises questions as to the validity of the current estimates of risk from internal contamination by radionuclides.

Governments and the nuclear industry derive a tremendous boon from the flawed model of radiation effects as it applies to low-level internal contamination. It gives them license to contaminate populations with radionuclides and escape accountability for their deeds. Their minions, availing themselves of the types of scams elucidated within these pages, can demonstrate within the wake of even the most catastrophic releases that dosages to the exposed populations fall within the safety guidelines set by the radiation protection agencies, and thus, that the resulting risks to public health are relatively insignificant. To maintain this facade, the Cult of Nuclearists is heavily invested in creating the impression that the science of radiation effects is more advanced than it in fact is, and that a worldwide consensus exists in the understanding of how radiation affects human health. To give the impression that current models are impeccable, extreme pressure is brought to bear on dissidents who refuse to toe the line and who, in defiance of the status quo, voice unorthodox viewpoints. Routinely, these whistleblowers are marginalized and their work discredited. Among the tactics used to silence those promoting dissenting points of view: threats and intimidation, loss of employment, demotion, salary cuts, funding cuts, refusal of employers to allow publication of research, rejection of publication by the scientific journals and so forth. A common rationale for such retribution is that conclusions in defiance of current models are illegitimate because they fall outside the mainstream of accepted scientific thought. What escapes due consideration is the possibility that the mainstream itself is hopelessly polluted and in need of cleanup.

Given this tyrannical suppression of independent thought, it is not surprising that experts in the radiation sciences have been silenced when attempting to warn the world of the hazards of depleted uranium. A recent example came to light in February 2004, with the publication of an article in the UK’s Sunday Herald which reported that the World Health Organization had kept secret a report [1] warning that Iraq’s civilian population faced a long-term threat of increasing rates of cancer from inhaling DU dust from weapons fired by British and US forces. Dr. Keith Baverstock, who had been employed by WHO for 11 years as a senior advisor on radiation and health, authored the 2001 study in collaboration with Professor Carmel Mothersill of Canada’s McMaster University and Dr. Mike Thorne, a radiation consultant. Baverstock told the Sunday Herald: “Our study suggests that the widespread use of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq could pose a unique health hazard to the civilian population. There is increasing scientific evidence that the radioactivity and the chemical toxicity of DU could cause more damage to human cells than is assumed.” As reported by the newspaper which had attained a copy of the research:

Baverstock’s study pointed out that Iraq’s arid climate meant that tiny particles of DU were likely to be blown around and inhaled by civilians for years to come. It warned that, when inside the body, their radiation and toxicity could trigger the growth of malignant tumors. The study suggested that the low-level radiation from DU could harm cells adjacent to those that are directly irradiated, a phenomenon known as “the bystander effect.” This undermines the stability of the body’s genetic system, and is thought by many scientists to be linked to cancers and possibly other illnesses” [2].

Baverstock offered the following observation:

I believe our study was censored and suppressed by the WHO because they didn’t like its conclusions. Previous experience suggests that WHO officials were bowing to pressure from the IAEA, whose remit is to promote nuclear power. That is more than unfortunate, as publishing the study would have helped forewarn the authorities of the risks of using DU weapons in Iraq.”

The WHO was quick to dismiss these allegations as totally unfounded. “The IAEA role was very minor,” said Dr Mike Repacholi, the WHO coordinator of radiation and environmental health in Geneva. “The article was not approved for publication because parts of it did not reflect accurately what a WHO-convened group of international experts considered the best science in the area of depleted uranium,” he added.

As an aside, the Sunday Herald article concluded by offering observations by Pekka Haavisto, chairman of the UN Environment Program’s Post-Conflict Assessment Unit in Geneva:

Haavisto’s greatest worry is when buildings hit by DU shells have been repaired and reoccupied without having been properly cleaned up. Photographic evidence suggests that this is exactly what has happened to the Ministry of Planning building in Baghdad.

He also highlighted evidence that DU from weapons had been collected and recycled as scrap in Iraq. “It could end up in a fork or a knife,” he warned.

‘It is ridiculous to leave the material lying around and not to clear it up where adults are working and children are playing. If DU is not taken care of, instead of decreasing the risk you are increasing it. It is absolutely wrong.’”

The suppression of the Baverstock study is not an isolated phenomenon. Investigating the medical effects of depleted uranium can lead to termination of employment. After 19 years of service to the US government, Dr. Asaf Durakovic, Chief of Nuclear Medicine at the Veterans Administration hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, was fired after undertaking investigations into the medical effects of depleted uranium on sickened veterans from the first Gulf War. Although he had served in the Gulf himself, Durakovic was unaware until he returned to the US that depleted uranium munitions had been deployed in the Gulf. Says Durakovic:

I only discovered indirectly in September 1991 that depleted uranium had been used on the battlefield. I was horrified. When scientists conduct experiments using this material, we dress like astronauts. Our soldiers had no protection. And this attack could have potentially exposed the entire population of the Gulf region. Soil samples from Iraq show radiation levels more than 17 times the acceptable level” [3].

Dr. Durakovic’s story of the obstacles he encountered while attempting to treat contaminated veterans is interesting and well worth repeating. It is a textbook case of the types of intrigue that can be waged against honest scientific investigation.

In 1991, 24 soldiers from the 144th Transportation and Supply Co., New Jersey, were referred to me by Ventnor Clinic in my capacity of Chief of Nuclear Medicine, VA Medical Facility, Wilmington, DE. All of the veterans were referred to me for the opinion and diagnostic assessment of their DU body burden. My expertise is in the internal contamination of radioisotopes and I was the only published researcher in the federal VA system with research on transuranic elements at the time these soldiers were referred to me. Although I personally served in Operation Desert Shield as Unit Commander, my expertise of internal contamination was never used because we were never informed of the intended use of DU prior to or during the war.

The research on the effects of transuranic elements in the human system is not well known as prior accidents have dealt with many isotopes (Chernobyl) and the Persian Gulf War deals with one actinide, i.e., uranium.

From January 1991 until August 1991, these soldiers were on a tour of active duty in Saudi Arabia and after the ground war started were located at the KKMC, King Khalid Military Camp, where it was their duty to unload battle-damaged M1A1 tanks, Bradleys, and M113 tanks destroyed by DU armor-piercing shells from friendly fire of helicopters, airplanes, and other tanks.

The soldiers worked on these tanks. During this time, soldiers had constant contact with these vehicles. Those that were required to receive the vehicles actually lived very near them, ate lunch on top of them, and cooled themselves inside of them. They had been told not to let anyone photograph or take souvenirs from them so they kept the tanks close at hand.

On March 10, 1991, a Battle Damage Assessment Team dressed in full radioprotective clothing arrived, stating that they were from Washington to assess the radioactivity of specific tanks. They reviewed the tanks for four days, fully dressed in the 90 degree temperatures.

At the conclusion of the assessment, the soldier in charge of the crew required to move the equipment, was told that the tanks were “hot,” to mark them with the atomic symbol and not to let people go near them. The Assessment Team had detected .26 to 1.0 rad inside the tanks. [With an RBE (Relative Biological Effectiveness) factor of 10, the dose rate is 2.6 to 10.0 rem/year for the surrounding body tissue. In the US, the Code of Federal Regulations regarding energy specifies an annual limit of 0.17 rem/year and a specific limit of 0.5 rem/year for an individual in the general population.]

After that evaluation, the soldiers were told to cover the tanks with tarps and not to photograph them. The Team stated that the tanks were not dangerous to those required to work in their environment. One soldier was given an outdated dosimeter which began to detect radiation right away despite the fact that it was long past its expiration date.

My diagnostic strategy consisted of their referral to the VAMC [Veterans Administration Medical Center] of Boston to the internationally known expert on low energy detection of internal contamination, Dr. Belton Burroughs who with Dr. David Slingerland performed whole body count of uranium-238 on several of the referred veterans. It was found by a rather insensitive and outdated whole body count that 14 of the 24 patients referred contained decay products of radioactive uranium. On the basis of this, more sensitive equipment, specifically a Germanim crystal, was applied for for the project which was then terminated. All work that was conducted on behalf of DU contamination was coordinated through the Persian Gulf Registry of the Wilmington VA hospital. All records were subsequently lost.

The urine samples of these same patients were sent to the US Army Radiochemistry Lab in Aberdeen, Maryland. Again, some samples never reached the lab and the results of those that did were supposedly lost.

According to my experimental research on lab animals and extensive review of the literature, uranium can hardly be detected by the external methods including whole body counting and urine analysis. Therefore I recommended that the veterans should be sent to the SANDIA National Labs in Albuquerque, NM which specializes in the pulmonary pathways of contamination with transuranic elements.

Furthermore, an objective analysis in the main site of uranium incorporation which is the skeletal system, should be performed by an autoradiographic analysis of the skeletal deposition of uranium by the bone necropsy specimens.

Neither of the above recommendations were followed because no one took the veterans' illnesses seriously. Two of the 14 soldiers have died since returning from the Persian Gulf. A recommendation for autopsy which should have included autoradiographic analysis of the skeletal deposition of uranium, was ignored.

The 144th Transportation and Supply Company has since been scattered all around the United States, making it impossible for unified testing and analysis.

Due to the current proliferation of DU weaponry, the battlefields of the future will be unlike any battlefields in history. Since the effects of contamination by uranium cannot be directed or contained, uranium's chemical and radiological toxicity will create environments that are hostile not only to the health of enemy forces but of one's own forces as well.

When released, DU aerosol particles are carried on the winds, their range as fallout virtually unlimited and as they migrate they contaminate air, soil, and water. So released, it is available for uptake by humans via inhalation, ingestion, or absorption. In such a toxic environment, fighting personnel will find themselves victims of their own weapons as well as those of the enemy. Due to the delayed health effects from internal contamination of uranium, injury and death will not always be immediate to the battle, but will remain lingering threats to “survivors” of the battle for years and decades into the future. The battle field will remain a killing zone long after the cessation of hostilities. Environmental contamination will linger for centuries posing an ongoing health threat to the civilians who reclaim the land and subsequent generations” [4].

In one interview, Durakovic offered an opinion as to way the US government was actively engaged in hiding the effects of depleted uranium:

Was there a reason officials didn't want information on DU victims of the Gulf War to become public? According to Dr Durakovic there are two main reasons - and they both involve money. By the year 2000 the bill to clean up waste uranium from the US nuclear industry would have amounted to more than $200 billion. So a lot of cash could be saved if the uranium was recycled in the arms industry. And of course there is the issue of compensation. The US Government would have to pay out billions if it could be conclusively proven that DU-coated weapons were causing illness in returned American troops” [3].

In February 1997, Dr. Durakovic, on behalf of Gulf War veterans, wrote a letter to President Clinton asking for an inquiry into DU contamination. Two months later, he was fired. In an interview on the radio show Democracy Now, Durakovic spoke of his termination:

I was fired in the year 1997. Because after the Persian Gulf War I, I was approached by the officials of the different departments of the US government who asked me to stop my work on the depleted uranium, which I obviously could not agree with, because I was mandated by the government of the US to take care of my patients, and I was the head of Nuclear Medicine Department of the V.A. Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware. So when I discovered a high percentage of contamination with the DU in Gulf War I veterans, every effort was made to stop my work. Which I obviously couldn't. I'm a medical doctor, and my responsibility is for the well-being of my patients. So, in 1997, I was fired” [5].

Dr. Durakovic has offered a sobering thought in regard to the misapplication of uranium for military purposes:

Uranium is dangerous, it does cause cancer, uranium does cause mutation, and uranium does kill. If we continue with the irresponsible contamination of the biosphere, and denial of the fact that human life is endangered by the deadly isotope uranium, then we are doing disservice to ourselves, disservice to the truth, disservice to God and to all generations who follow” [6].

The Cult of Nuclearists will use any means to silence its critics of the currently accepted model of radiation effects. Free minds and unbiased intellectual inquiry are its most potent enemies, and it is these that must be silenced. Its raging intolerance was recently in evidence on a seemingly inconsequential battlefield, the meeting table of CERRIE, the Committee Examining Radiation Risk from Internal Emitters. In 2001, Michael Meacher, then Environment Minister in the UK, established CERRIE. Due to the controversial nature of its subject matter, CERRIE was structured along novel lines for a panel offering scientific advice to policymakers. Members of the committee were selected from three different camps. Some came from the National Radiation Protection Board and British Nuclear Fuels, a government-owned company which produces nuclear fuel, runs reactors, generates and sells electricity and reprocesses spent reactor fuel. Other members of the committee represented the Green movement or were people whose scientific views challenged those of the NRPB. The remainder were supposedly neutral academics. The mandate of the committee was to undertake a review of the health risks posed by internal emitters and produce a final report which adequately presented the views of all parties. Topics for which a consensus was reached were to be identified. For subjects on which differences of opinion were irreconcilable, the reasons for the disagreements were to be elucidated in accessible language and suggestions were to be made for avenues of future research which might help resolve the conflicting points of view. All committee members were to agree to the final report, acknowledging that it faithfully included the full breadth of the committee’s deliberations and that it accurately presented all opposing arguments.

Typifying the titanic struggle between those who endorse technologies that liberate ionizing radiation into the environment and those who oppose them, CERRIE failed to fulfill the directive with which it was charged of producing a document agreed upon by all of its members. The working coalition split along ideological lines, and the final report exhibited obvious bias in favor of the reigning orthodoxy. In flagrant violation of the reason for which it was created, CERRIE authored a paper that failed to present a full and fair presentation of all points of view. Disagreements among committee members were in many cases mentioned only in passing, and no space was allotted to adequately explain to the reader the underlying reasons for the differences in scientific opinion. On the important subject of post-Chernobyl infant leukemia, the final report [7] did an excellent job of whitewashing the evidence of major errors in the risk factors published by the ICRP. Those who felt their points of view were not accurately reflected in the document published a separate minority report which contains the information suppressed by the majority [8].

The CERRIE debacle is mentioned here for only one reason. As the committee’s deliberations drew to a close, representatives of the Cult of Nuclearists interjected a novel method of intimidation into the proceedings with the intent of controlling the final report and stifling free and open discussion that the current model of radiation effects is flawed. At the committee’s last meeting, the Chairman produced a letter written by lawyers within the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The letter warned that if the final report contained any libels or “negligent misstatements on factual matters,” liability could potentially fall on everyone connected with the report: the committee members, the government departments, the printers and the distributors. In a blatant threat to the livelihood of each member of the committee, the letter indicated that each member individually would be liable for damages if the government were sued by anyone on the basis of these unspecified negligent misstatements. As to why the committee failed to produce a unified report, the probable explanation was revealed in a Sunday Times article by Mark Gould and Jonathan Leake entitled “Government Gags Experts Over Nuclear Plant Risks” [9]. According to this article, the 12 members of CERRIE each received a letter warning them that they could be sued for defamation if they included within their final documents the contents of what eventually became the minority report. This harassment produced the desired results. The “official” CERRIE document gives no indication that serious questions exist as to the accuracy of the current model of radiation effects. Successfully marginalized, the separately published minority report will undoubtedly receive little exposure.

The tactics used by elements within the British government to subvert CERRIE provides strong evidence that a new Inquisition is evolving to persecute heretics who preach against the state-sponsored doctrine. Anyone proposing ideas at variance with what is promoted as true by those in power may be brought to trial for libel and fined or imprisoned. This tolls the death knell for unbiased scientific inquiry — a cornerstone of Western civilization for the last four hundred years. To declare and support with evidence that the Hiroshima Life Span Study is flawed science, or that the ICRP publishes inaccurate risk factors, or that Sellafield is inducing leukemia in children will no longer be tolerated as a valid alternate interpretation of what is going on in the world. These pronouncements will instead be judged as “negligent misstatements on factual matters” and their authors will be criminalized.


[1] Baverstock K., Mothersill C., Thorne M. Radiological Toxicity of DU. (Repressed WHO Document). November 5, 2001.

[2] Edwards R. WHO ‘Suppressed’ Scientific Study Into Depleted Uranium Cancer Fears in Iraq. Sunday Herald Online. February 22, 2004.

[3] Arbuthnot F. Asaf Durakovic: A Respected Scientist Fighting on Behalf of American Gulf War Veterans. New Internationalist. September 1998.

[4] Durakovic A. Statement of Dr. Asaf Durakovic, Chief of Nuclear Medicine, on the Medical Implications of Depleted Uranium. International Action Organization.

[5] Democracy Now. Broadcast Exclusive: U.S. Soldiers Contaminated With Depleted Uranium Speak Out--A special investigation by Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News. Monday, April 5th, 2004.

[6] Catalinotto J. VA Medical Expert Exposes Pentagon Cover-Up. Workers World Newspaper. August 14, 1997.

[7] CERRIE Majority Report. Report of the Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters. London. 2004.

[8] CERRIE Minority Report. Minority Report of the UK Department of Health Department of Environment (DEFRA) Committee Examining Radiation Risk from Internal Emitters (CERRIE). Aberystwyth: Sosiumi Press; 2005.

[9] Gould M., Leake J. Government Gags Experts Over Nuclear Plant Risks. Sunday Times. August 1, 2004.