By Bernadette
Geiger Counter

How can we confront the sorrows of our time? How can we digest the fact that only 15% of the trees that once existed remain. That there is not one drop of clean water left in America. That we have no place to safeguard the tons and tons of radioactive waste that remains poisonous for thousands of years?

We are saturated with radioactive poison from under the ground to the stratosphere, which is manifesting itself in biological degeneration, an epidemic of heretofore unknown diseases, rampant cancer, and the deterioration of the gene pool.

The protective envelope surrounding the Earth is being eaten away by a variety of factors including radioactivity (spread through bomb testing, nuclear power plant emissions and accidents). Trees, our source of oxygen and carbon dioxide absorption, are being cut down. Those remaining may be slowly poisoned with radioactive carbon, which they absorb in place of normal carbon dioxide. It is only a matter of time before we either burn ourselves to death or are asphyxiated.

Earth without oxygen would not support oxygen-dependent life. We, along with all animal and vegetative life would be killed. The human race would be extinguished. The absolute magnitude of the gravity of this moment is difficult to assimilate.

Given the unbearable reality, humans become busy. Androcentric over-achieving personalities run themselves to anesthesia. Mind altering drugs, including prescription, alcohol and illegal abound. Consumer society displaces fear with material possessions, TV drama, and high-visibility front page headlines on the latest homicide, all to divert attention from the biggest murder case of all time - the murder of you, me, our children, our family and friends, our town and country, our Earth, and the potential for future life on Earth.

Ill-informed, diversionary, do-good activities are like swabbing the deck of the Titanic. We have run out of "out." "Out" is where our parents used to put the garbage, and the worst garbage these days is radioactive waste, huge amounts of which are piling up with no permanent repository and with dangerously overcrowded conditions in their temporary locations. Despite assurances that the permanent sites being explored in the West are possible, and despite new disposal plans recently put into action behind our backs, we are facing the permanent contamination of the underground water supply, the poisoning of agricultural resources, food and air and the deadening of huge tracts of land. The federal administration has announced that cleanup costs have doubled. But, what no one is saying is that, in fact, there is no way to clean up!

The quietest explosion of a recent Fourth of July season was the July 3, 1990, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) policy statement on Below Regulatory Concern (BRC), which establishes a "commission-approved" basis for future decisions, when petitioned by the utility companies, to exempt some low-level radioactive material from regulatory controls. Due to the enormous amount of waste and the generally acknowledged belief that there is no safe disposal site possible, the NRC (a group of 5 men, appointed by the President, ratified by a Senate committee) assuming a power never given to them by the public, has determined that 30% of all low-level radioactive waste will be considered along with other general garbage and dumped into local landfills, burned in incinerators or used on farmland as sludge.

The NRC bases its authority on the 1985 Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act. This Act, along with Public Law 99-240, Sec.10(a) (January 15, 1986), whereby Congress gave the NRC power to permit the unregulated disposal of entire categories of radioactive materials, should be repealed.

Radioactive waste created by nuclear power plant operations, amounting to less than 15% of all energy, is classified as either "high-level" or "low-level." High-level is the spent nuclear fuel rods which presently total about 20,000 tons and are being stored at various nuclear plant sites. Everything else is referred to as low-level. Low-level waste has a hazardous life of thousands of years and until now has been shipped to one of three licensed, over-flowing landfills in South Carolina, Nevada or Washington.

A 1989 study projects a future annual low-level radioactive waste volume of 1.3 million cubic feet, while suggesting that up to 790,000 cubic feet annually could be considered BRC (see Electric Power Research Institute, Below Regulatory Concern Owners Group: Cost-Benefit Analysis of BRC Waste Disposal; prepared by Sargent and Lundy, Chicago, Illinois, March 1989.)

Despite the phrase, this radioactive waste is not "low-level" in its damage to human health. The BRC policy will lead to increased radiation exposures which will add to existing risks of cancer, birth defects, genetic damage and other debilitating health problems of every kind including allergies, asthma, heart ailments and diabetes. There is no safe dose of radiation. Every dose is an overdose. The imposition of the BRC is linguistic detoxification. Poison is poison.

The Atomic Energy Act was passed in 1946, revised in 1954 and amended in 1974. It became the basis for the acceptance of the "necessary evil" of a certain number of deaths coincidental with nuclear power, and consequently in the sanctioned, intentional extermination of a predictable number of citizens.

A quote from page 22 of the NRC/BRC policy statement makes clear the intention to allow deadly poisons to spread, along with the acceptance of a calculated number of deaths as a result of this policy:

This policy establishes the framework within which the Commission will formulate rules or make licensing decisions to exempt from some or all regulatory controls certain practices involving small quantities of radioactive material. The exemptions may involve the release of licensee-controlled radioactive material either to the generally accessible environment or to persons who would be exempt from the Commission regulations. Practices for which exemptions may be granted include, but are not limited to,

(1) the release for unrestricted public use the lands and structures containing residual radioactivity;

(2) the distribution of consumer products containing small amounts of radioactive material;

(3) the disposal of very low-level radioactive waste at other than licensed disposal sites; and

(4) the recycling of slightly contaminated equipment and materials...

The policy establishes individual dose criteria (between 1 and 10 millirem per year and a collective dose criteria of 1000 person-rem per year). These criteria, coupled with other considerations enumerated in the policy statement, will be major factors in the Commission's determination on whether exemptions from regulatory controls will be granted."

A single (only) New York Times article (dated 6/26/90, pg.A12) by M. Wald, entitled "Disposal of Mild Radioactive Waste to be Less Restricted in New Policy" covers the BRC issue. In it, Jonathan Becker, a spokesperson for Public Citizen, a group founded by Ralph Nader states: "They're making decisions about how to deal with radioactive waste on an economic basis, and not on grounds of what would be best for public health and safety."

The profit motive is central to utility companies. An internal nuclear industry memo gave several reasons why BRC is an important policy to promote, among them: "If the proposed BRC rule is adopted, the current direct economic costs of low-level waste disposal will be reduced by a factor of 100 for the BRC portion, resulting in an annual savings industry-wide of at least 60 million." (Quoted in Groundswell, Vol.2,No.4,Spring 1990)

Why should the public be exposed to any risk when it is the responsibility of the utility companies to pay for the disposal of the waste from their industry and the responsibility of the NRC to protect our health, not to sell it off to the influence of high pressure utilities, who no doubt threaten to let the cat out of the bag on the sham industry if they don't get what they want? All informed, responsible individuals agree that nuclear power is not safe, clean, economical or necessary. Larry Bogart, a devoted long-time activist in the struggle to free Earth from the tyranny of nuclear power, who along with others succeeded in stopping construction of dozens of nuclear power plants, stated, prior to his death in 1990 (under somewhat mysterious circumstances) that:

"BRC does not get at the problem. The number one problem is the continuing use of nuclear power. The realization is dawning that nuclear fission has been the world's greatest mistake. By failing to heed the lesson of Chernobyl, we are inviting the world's greatest tragedy. The daily operation of nuclear plants, which have releases that are cancer causing, is the problem -- so that by the year 2000 cancer will be universal -- not just 1 out of 3." (Personal communication to author, July 1990)

President John F. Kennedy, the last president to speak the truth on radiation dangers, who was responsible for halting atmospheric bomb testing in 1963, stated, six months before his assassination: "If even one child loses its life because of nuclear power, it is not worth the cost."

NRC's Chairman Kenneth M. Carr said the agency's goal is to keep the exposure to the individual from all low-level radioactive sources below 100 millirems per year. The Environmental Protection Agency's guideline is for no more than 4 millirems per person per year. International standards are for between 1 and 5 millirems exposure per year. The NRC admits that 10 mrem per year is equivalent to 3.5 cancer deaths in 10,000 population. Widespread deregulation, as planned, would result in 3.5 cancer deaths per 1000 population, or about one in every 285 Americans exposed. Of course, this is a conservative estimate of health damage. Official calculations are based on cancer deaths only, omitting pre-cancerous conditions of all kinds and genetic damage.

There is abundant documentation of the serious impact of low-level radiation upon the health of people. Many large scale studies substantiate this fact. In particular, even the government sponsored National Academy of Science has admitted in a report entitled "Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation V" (December 1989) that there is no safe level of radiation.

A number of independent researchers, notably Dr.Alice Stewart in England and Dr. Ernest Sternglass in the U.S. have demonstrated that long-term exposure to relatively low-level radiation may wreak up to 1,000 times more biological havoc than currently accepted "risk levels" which are being used as reference points for decisions such as the BRC. In fact, the danger of so-called "low-level" emissions is far more serious than previously thought.

In 1972, a researcher for the Canadian Atomic Energy Laboratories made a discovery that radically altered our knowledge about radiation and human health. While studying how chemicals cross cell membranes, Dr. Abram Petkau was surprised to find that cell membranes broke much more easily than expected under certain circumstances. When he irradiated the cells over a period of hours or days, he was shocked to discover that the membrane would break at a total dose of less than one rad, whereas it took 35,000 rads to break the membranes by irradiation over a few minutes. After further studies he came to the conclusion that the longer the time of radiation exposure, the smaller the total dose required to do the damage. (See Diet for the Atomic Age, by Sara Shannon, 800-548-5757, and Deadly Deceit, by Gould and Goldman, 800-444-2524).

This critical discovery revealed that the amounts of radiation that are legally and intentionally released from nuclear energy plants, leaks, spills and accidents are a cause of extreme damage to our health. Yet today, neither Petkau's work nor the great body of research confirming it are widely known. We are still forced to live with "permissible levels" of nuclear radiation while policy is being made with these levels as a reference point.

Dr.Ernest Sternglass, a pioneer in the study of the health damage caused by small amounts of radioactivity, explains the implications of the new understanding that low-level exposure over a period of time is more harmful to body cells than the same exposure given at a high rate for a brief time:

"It turned out that a highly toxic, unstable form of ordinary oxygen normally found in cell fluids was created by the irradiation process; and that this so called `free radical' was attracted to the cell membrane where it initiated a chain reaction that gradually oxidized and thus weakened the molecules. Thus, almost overnight, the entire foundation of all existing assumptions as to the likely action of very low, protected exposures, as compared to short exposures at Hiroshima or even low-level medical x-rays had been shaken." (see Secret Fallout, McGraw Hill, 1978, a book shredded by the publisher and consequently "out of print")

This was (and is) paradigm-altering information. It is exactly these small, on-going amounts of radioactivity which are so damaging. When questioned on this subject, Dr. Sternglass confirmed:

"Because they neglect all the other causes of death, i.e., the weakened immune system which leads to infectious diseases, pneumonia and influenza, allergies and heart problems and other diseases regarded as not related, the effect per unit-rad becomes 50 to a hundred times more. This is confirmed by data from America, Russia and Switzerland. It is criminal to go ahead with BRC in the face of every learned, unbiased opinion."

(Personal communication July 1990)

Dr. Rosalie Bertell, who has done extensive research on the health effects of radiation, explains other implications of on-going low-level radiation: "Most people are unaware of the fact that ionizing radiation can cause spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, infant deaths, asthmas, severe allergies, depressed immune systems, leukemia, solid tumors, birth defects, or mental and physical retardation in children." (see No Immediate Danger, The Book Publishing Co., Summertown, Tenn.1985)

Dr.Bertell explains further:

"All existing standards have been based on somatic effects, rather than genetic. The shift will be to genetic. This is the cutting edge. This will force a lower acceptable dose level. As a reference, genetic is much more sensitive than cancers. The gene pool is in danger. Short term goals are pursued, while they do not look at genetics. The system is set up for disaster. It will be irreversible at some point." (Personal communication July 1990)

Dr.Bertell is now researching the genetic damage of radioactivity and its ability to do irreversible damage to the human gene pool. In a privately published paper entitled "Ethics of the Nuclear Option in the 1990's" she reveals that: "There is also evidence that the Dose Tolerance Committee in the 1940's was well aware that genetic damage had been caused by radiation well below the levels recommended as 'permissible' based on cancer induction."

A 1959 article published by the Journal of American Medical Association confirms the early awareness of genetic damage:

"All geneticists agree that there is no threshold for this affect i.e., that even the most minute dose of radiation does damage to the genes. The genetic damaging effects of radiation are cumulative over the years. The result of this genetic damage is to produce deviations from the norm in the offspring of the irradiated individual. They are referred to as mutations and the resultant offspring are referred to as mutants. The mutants are characterized by decreased longevity, increased susceptibility to disease, and decreased fertility. The mutant genes are usually recessive, so that the first generation offspring do not bear the full brunt of the genetic damage. Thus, freaks and monstrosities do not often occur in the first generation."

(Dr.George Tievsky, JAMA vol 166, April 5, 1958, p.1668)

Dr. Sternglass explains in the introduction to Secret Fallout why the government went ahead given the health and genetic damage of radiation: "What emerges is that in order for major governments to be able to continue threatening the use of their ever-growing stockpiles of weapons to fight and win nuclear wars rather then merely deter them, they must keep from their own people the severity of the biological damage already done to their children by past nuclear testing and the releases from nuclear reactors near their homes."

Meanwhile, the disinformation machine is firmly in place. Given the increasing need to form public opinion it was no wonder that the Atomic Energy Commission changed their name to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1974, while the Atomic Industrial Forum (AIF), the industry's chief trade organization, doubled the size of it's propaganda machine. In a confidential memo to the Board of Directors, dated December 13, 1974, AIF Director Lee Everett outlined a program to influence key decision makers and the media, including a plan for "direct article placement to minimize the filtration factor of the reporters and editors", and the intention to "ghost write" and place positive articles on behalf of respected experts, in order to "stage manage" the news.

This tendency is reinforced with the recent merger of Time, Inc. and Warner Communications, while just 26 corporations now control a majority of the news outlets in the U.S. General Electric, which owns NBC, is a prime promoter of military and nuclear issues while raking in $16 million per day from the Pentagon.

Ralph Nader, the outspoken advocate of consumer rights, made some clear opinions known back in the seventies (see The Nuclear Power Gamble, Syracuse University, 1975): "Of course, the utilities have known of the catastrophic risks to nearby cities from nuclear power plants. They've known of the risks of accidents or natural occurrences like earthquakes. They have privately sweated over the spills of deadly radioactive material, over the long shutdowns, over the near misses, over the little publicized evacuation plans for people who may have to escape a radioactive cloud. Knowing all this, the utilities plunge ahead in their own kind of `technological Vietnam' -outwardly optimistic, inwardly troubled, but always furtive."

While the Constitution gives Congress the power to provide for the common welfare, there is nothing in the Constitution that indicates that Congress may sacrifice innocent lives in order to further the ends of business and militarism.

Nuclear energy emerged in a fog of lies in the 1950's. In the 90's the NRC committee of five votes in secret. You may have heard the story about the frog who was put into a pot of cool water on the stove. He didn't notice any change as it gradually grew warmer. At one point the water went from hot to boiling. And then it was too late for the frog to jump out.

The hot water we are in has been heating up since 1950. Due to calculated deception and strategic disinformation, our impression of escalating heat was minimized. The contemptuous, life-threatening BRC policies in the 1990's puts the water just below the boiling point.

An outpouring of enraged citizens can change this.
A torrent of legal appeals can change this.
A no-holds barred public determination to claim a habitable Earth can change this.

While execution for murder is touted by politicians, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense, with Government approval and NRC confirmation, based on industry instigation, and over the objection of the few vital citizens who are not zombie-iced with TV and comprehensive under-nutrition and over-toxicity, continue their plans for what could be the death of all humans and the extinction of the human race.

Omnicide. Is this not the biggest murder case of all time?

Deadly Deceit: Low Level Radiation, High level Cover-Up
Dr. Jay Gould and Benjamin Goldman
Four Walls Eight Windows, NY 1990
(300) 444-2524

The Petkau Effect
Four Walls Eight Windows, 1992
(800) 444-2524

Box 311
Ft.Tilden, NY 11695

19 8 Bonita
Berkeley, CA 94704
(415) 486-0264

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