"ION" the Media
Radiation expert Dr. John Gofman says (re the 72 pounds of plutonium-238 now circling the sun to be aimed back at Earth for a "gravity assist" to sling it to Saturn) "[S]ociety should finally stop the repeated lunacy of depending on risk-estimates provided by the enthusiasts of any enterprise," such as NASA.
Unfortunately, the truth is even worse. Journalism professor Karl Grossman's new book The Wrong Stuff quotes NASA/Cassini documents proving the feds know the plutonium is extra-deadly (due to its shorter half life compared to Pu-239 used in nuclear bombs) and could contaminate up to 5 billion people (yes, billion) if the probe burned up in our atmosphere or landed on a rock or rocky surface. The plutonium is "shielded" mostly with aluminum and graphite. Aluminum melts around 1100 degrees Fahrenheit and burns, as does graphite, if supplied with oxygen at high temperatures.
Cassini is so "safe" it required the President's personal written approval to launch it. Not to worry. When's the last time a NASA spacecraft malfunctioned? And caused loss of life?
"ION" the Media
Most Prism readers know that mass media are being bought up by big businesses at an alarming rate. You may not know that the nuclear industry has been dominating the scientific journals that deal with radiation research. That's kind of like R.J. Reynolds or Phillip Morris controlling cancer research journals. Of course, "peer review" by knowledgeable, anonymous scientific referees is supposed to reduce errors in published papers. Referees send in critiques, raise questions, and point out flaws, at least in theory.
Consider the case of the journal Radiation Research (RR), as reported recently by Dr. John Gofman. They published an article (Vol. 124, pp 242-45) claiming that the ionizing radiation from nuclear waste, etc., won't cause trouble because living cells naturally repair breaks in DNA caused by free radicals (chemical ions) created in the normal process of living.
About 10,000 "measurable DNA modification events" happen each hour in each cell in mammals, the article asserts. Yet one rad (dose unit) of ionizing radiation causes "about 100 (or fewer) measurable DNA alternations per cell."
Logic alarm #1: Studies by Gofman and others show that even one DNA "modification" from ionizing radiation is enough to increase the rate of cancer. This may be due to the powerful, concentrated zaps of energy ionizing radiation delivers, easily able to break both strands of a DNA molecule at once, making accurate repairs far more difficult.
Fact alarm: Dr. Bruce Ames says the "oxidative hits" normal life gives to human DNA may be only 10,000 per day (24 times fewer than the RR article asserts).
Not to worry; the RR article says "Therefore, every hour, human and other mammalian cells undergo 50 to 100 times as much spontaneous ... DNA damage as would result from [one rad] of ionizing radiation."
Logic alarm #2: Ionizing radiation exposure of 330 rads in a week to the entire body kills 50% of the people so exposed. If normal life actually did the same damage per DNA "modification" as ionizing radiation does, it will have the same effect as ionizing radiation. 300 rads x 100 DNA modifications per cell per rad (according to the RR article) means 30,000 DNA modifications per cell will kill half the people who get this many "modifications". (About 600 rads or 600,000 DNA "modifications" will probably do to kill 100%.)
Using the article's data, a fatal dose of 100,000 DNA modifications accumulates within ten hours of normal living. Using Dr. Ames' lower estimate, it could take 10 days to accumulate 100,000 DNA modifications and die.
In other words, if the RR article were correct, no human or other mammal could ever live more than about 10 days. Yet this article passed peer review and was published. No word on whether Reddy Kilowatt or Joe Camel were among the peer reviewers.
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