]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] THE CHARLATANS FROM UELZE [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ I was recently approached by a German non-profit organization, A.E.K., defending the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Early in 1983, a group of German alleged physicians had placed a series of ads in the daily Elbe Jeetzel Zeitung with some outrageous nonsense about the horrible consequences of nuclear power in America. They sent a tele- gram to the Atomic Industrial Forum in Washington asking for a rebut- tal that they could use for a reply in the newspaper. The telegram was sent in January, but as of early June they had received "no useful reply," and therefore they wrote to me asking for comment. So here goes: Dear Friends: let me first say that I am dismayed, but not altogether surprised, by the AIF's indifference to your plight. They have some highly dedicated and expert employees (none of them in the top leadership), and the materials published by them are unfailingly accurate; but like the rest of the American nuclear industry, they have too much money (a budget of well over $1 million) and too little guts. It is the volunteer organizations who do the real educational work with little or no cash; unlike the nuclear industry, they are not afraid to tell people the moral aspect of nuclear power: that it drastically reduces the risks of present power sources and is in every aspect a boon to public health. Now to the ads. I will answer only one, for if I were to answer each of the 10 ads you sent me in detail, this letter would be a hundred pages long; it is a basic tactic of the superstition mongers to make a 10 second statement which takes half an hour to refute. Much of it is the incomplete truth, for example "We know that radiation causes cancer and we know that there has been a release of radioacti- vity" is just as true as that "We know that Dr.med. I. Born, [signed in one of the ads], stores a certain material in her Dannenberg pedia- trician's office, and we know that she has enough of it there to kill every one of Europe's children." The material: air -- when injected in small quantities into the blood stream. Let me also say that much of this nonsense can be rejected by any layman without recourse to technical details. For example, why do these alleged physicians use heath statistics from an article in the Atlanta Journal rather than the federal and state health services? (Does Dr.med. H. Reiner rely on "Der Spiegel" rather on than the medical literature when he judges a patient ripe for surgery?) Who is more likely to disregard the facts of radiation recklessly, Dr med. Eylerts of Dannenberg who risks nothing, or the nuclear industry workers who would be the first to get cancer and damage their genes? If low-level radioactivity is so dangerous, how much has Dr.med. Lucas of Luechow done to reduce it by promoting the substitution of nuclear for coal-fired power, which puts up to 50 times as much radioactivity in the environment? If it is so dangerous, how much has Dr.med. Reiner of Clenze done to make people aware of radon in energy-efficient homes, with levels three orders (1,000 times!) higher than the repro- cessing plant he condemns? Now to a specific ad, the one about the "radioactive Tritium from the 'American Atomic Corporation' Plant in Tucson, Az. Increased radioactivity was found in the urine of the inhabitants, in a school swimming pool, and in the chocolate cake of a bakery supplying shool children with food." The reason why I chose that ad is that it is one of the cases where the 10-second charge has actually been refuted by the half-hour reply: "The Tucson Tritium Trials" by Marshall Brucer, M.D. (of Tucson, Az.), in "Reason," March 1980, pp.30-35, presumably still available for $2.50 from Reason, Box 40105, Santa Barbara, CA 93103. Since I cannot reproduce 5 1/2 pages of print describing an outrageous witch hunt, let me state only this: Tritium is used for watch dials, because it is far safer (and less radioactive) than the formerly used radium. You would have to swallow about one trillion watch dials to get leukemia. Yes, some of this tritium was spilled on June 10, 1978: by a worker on his pants. His urine checked out at 600 microcuries/liter (lowest level causing health effects in mice from radioactive water is 70,000 microcuries/liter when they drink it for a lifetime). Yes, the swimming pool of the nearby school showed 56,000 pico- curies per liter. Whiskey has 4,900, and salad oil 6,000. Do the physicians of Uelzen bathe in whiskey and drink out of a swimming pool? Yes, there was the illustrious piece of chocolate cake. Its total weight is unknown to me, but its total activity was 56,000 picocuries, a lot less than that of the salad oil in Uelzen's groceries. These are the events that caused Gov. Bruce Babbitt of Arizona (later a member of the Presidential Commission investigating the TMI incident) to call out the National Guard and to declare at a Congres- sional hearing that "tritium literally blanketed the neighborhood." However, Gov. Babbitt is a politician, whose supreme object in life is to be re-elected, for which purpose he must impress not the intelli- gent, but the numerous. Unlike the physicians of Uelzen, he is not sworn to the Hippocratic Oath. What does all that have to do with the press? Well, it was, of course, the press that fanned the hysteria of a witch hunt far more shameful, considering its time, than that of Salem, Mass., in 1692. But also this: The investigators whom Babbitt had brought to Tuscon found that its daily newspaper showed 1.25 picocuries per copy, not of tritium, but of radium, which is 10,000 times more biologically effective per picocurie -- because of the same deadly daughters as radon in energy efficient homes. With a circulation of 133,000, that makes 16,681,250 picocuries per year. Who was doing the blanketing? Now the West German press, by and large, is not as uncivilized as in the US; in fact, it has at least three dailies that can be read without throwing up. But their radioactivities are likely to be com- parable. So before it prints health-damaging superstition signed by politically motivated and incompetent doctors, it should ask the scientists from the DWAG (the reprocessing company the quacks object to) to measure the picocuries per column-inch. I hope the Elbe Jeetzel and LUENEBERGER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG will print this, and that you will print Dr Marshall Brucer's article in your journal MENSCH UND ENERGIE: Ignorance and superstition are international. Cordially, P.B.
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