The Lesson Unlearned
have contained the spread of radiation from last week’s nuclear accident,"
Japanese authorities assured their citizens. They blame the chain reaction on
improper handling of materials by low level workers. As if that explanation will
sedate the Japanese public! The Japanese know all too well the long term effects
of radiation on human health – thanks to their experience with atomic bombs
dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. More recently, we have the Chernobyl
nuclear plant explosion in the Ukraine. Ukranian children still suffer from
radiation sickness and people in the path of the fallout for thousands of miles
learned the horrible lessons of a nuclear "accident." Then came the
Three Mile Island miscue in the United States. Remember how authorities there
swore they had contained the damage when they had not?
month a Hanford Washington reactor developed a scary radioactive bubble.
Authorities assured the public no danger existed. Mention Marion, Ohio, Paducah,
Kentucky two of many memory triggers that recall nuclear mishaps.
the 1970s Cincinnati General Hospital doctors used a Pentagon grant to
"treat" cancer patients with whole body radiation. The Pentagon wanted
to find out how people would respond in nuclear battlefield conditions. From
1945-1971, the nuclear gang dumped radioactive waste in barrels into the ocean.
The barrels have leaked. Recall the above ground tests at the Marshall Islands
and other Pacific Atolls, causing terrible human suffering–in the name of
National Security, under the façade of fighting the Cold War. The nuclear gang
classified information that would have alerted the public to health dangers.
odd years ago my friend Paul Jacobs went to the Nevada Test Site to investigate
the claims of the Atomic Energy Commission.. Jacobs took a geigercounter to the
areas the AEC had deemed safe. Jacobs’ geigercounter went bonkers. The AEC’s
safe places registered much higher radiation than they had admitted.
also discovered that when winds changed just before or after atomic tests, the
nuclear gang didn’t inform the downwinders as they called them to take their
clothes to the cleaners, hose down their houses and bury their top soil.
Instead, they sent lecturers and films to those communities doused with fall out
and assured residents that the AEC would not allow harm to come to them. Jacobs
stole a classified document from a government office that revealed that the AEC
knew damned well about health dangers from low level radiation. Jacobs also
exposed the lack of safety in nuclear installations bought by third world
countries that couldn’t afford to pay for the expensive safety features. In 1979
Paul Jacobs submitted to lung cancer. His doctors believed that Paul, who didn’t
smoke, had inhaled a plutonium particle at the atomic testing ground. Paul
became just one of many victims of a technology that shouldn’t have happened.
The nuclear secret — think of Goethe’s Dr. Faust — has put humanity at risk.
How many more accidents before a global movement arises to put an end to this
nuclear gang and their dangerous toy?
Senate’s Refusal to Sign the Test Ban Treaty
Senate refused to sign the test ban treaty, daddy, what does that mean?" my
teenage daughter asked. Go back to 1945, I said. The world’s leading scientists
had converted Goethe’s literary metaphor into ugly reality. A scientist who
wanted the ultimate secret of knowledge offered his soul to the Devil for it.
The scientists of 1945 rationalized. They needed the A bomb to beat Hitler – a
veritable devil. But by Spring 1945 Germany surrendered. But they didn’t stop
the project. Some said we should provide the world with cheap, safe and clean
energy. But when US planes dropped two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities,
international relations and military strategy changed — forever. The US
government refused to submit its nuclear monopoly to international control as
some wise people counseled. Before long our allies and the Soviets broke our
nuclear monopoly. Ironically, nuclear weapons didn’t intimidate our non-nuclear
foes — like the rulers of North Korea, China, Vietnam, Iran or Iraq. So,
nuclear weapons became symbols of power. "I don’t get it Dad. If they’re
only symbols, who cares if the Senate signs or not?"
of the danger for your generation! The collapse of the Soviet armed forces
leaves Russia with only a nuclear defense. "How do you use nuclear weapons
to defend a country," she asked. No one has yet explained that, I said. But
our refusal to sign the treaty could lead corrupt officials to sell nuclear
weapons and conduct dangerous tests with them You see, the test ban treaty held
back the nuclear arms race – especially in South Asia. I said. And think ahead.
150 plus nations have signed on to it.
than 40 countries want to acquire nuclear weapons. They haven’t signed the
treaty. The US senate’s vote will hardly convince them to do so. Then, came the
military coup in Pakistan, which raises fears of nuclear war with India – both
what should we do?" she asked." A treaty doesn’t get rid of these
weapons." No, I agreed. It’s hard to put the nuclear genie back in the
bottle. But without abolition of nuclear weapons, the next best step is to
prevent their proliferation by restricting testing. That’s why the Senate
Republicans behaved so irresponsibly, as if we should test weapons and that will
defend us. "The newspapers said they did it for narrow political
reasons," she said. "Is that true?"
it’s a paradox. The brilliant scientists invented nuclear weapons to bring
peace, and safe energy. But they left that power in the hands of rather mediocre
people, who can’t think ahead – at least not past the 200 election
"Depressing," she concluded. "I guess my generation will have to
maturely control over this horrible creation."
Landau is the Hugh O. LaBounty Chair of Interdisciplinary Applied Knowledge at
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 3801 W. Temple Ave. Pomona, CA
91768 tel – 909-869-3115 fax – 909-869-4751