Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wanderers 2010.5.11

Rudi Nussbaum

This event was given considerable air time at the recent Raph Nader event, so we're expecting some extra guests (two more just walked in).

Rudi Nussbaum is here, with his wife Laureen, to talk about the Hanford down-winders, people adversely affected by the Manhatten Project's HQS in Washington State.

Purifying plutonium for atomic bombs has endangered the Columbia Gorge for the foreseeable future and attempts at cleanup is costing many times more than the Manhattan Project itself.

Daniel Ellsberg referred to this cleanup as Manhattan Project 2. Although people aren't much using that nomenclature, the reality is: it's happening.

Lloyd Marbet has joined us, long time activist, opponent of Trojan (since destroyed).

Rudi sincerely admired Linus Pauling, had the opportunity to speak with him at some length at Portland State that time. He's feeling honored to join as at Linus Pauling's boyhood home, with his picture with Ava (a Quaker) over the mantelpiece.

John Gofman, an early whistle blower, helped expose the lies being promulgated by the Atomic Energy Commission regarding the safety and acceptability of using military personnel as guinea pigs around atmospheric testing. His career and character were trashed in retaliation, though he didn't disappear.

Alice Stewart was another of Rudi's mentors and personal friends. Stewart was one of the first to alert the medical community to the deleterious effects of X-rays, on pregnant mothers etc. Many were not ready for this finding, as X-rays were all the rage at the time. Her career was definitely hurt by her professional integrity.

Rudi didn't originally plan on investigating the medical effects of nuclear fallout, fissionable materials in the environment. He sought refuge from "dirty politics," was not looking for a fight. For many years, he got away with mostly doing basic research.

Once he opened the can of worms that was the "science" around the health effects of radioactive material, he was blown away by the level of corruption he encountered. Money buys scientists by the boatload. Three Mile Island provided another example of corruption, with the government blue panel commission finding "no health effects" essentially by edict. Tritium alone is a leading cause of leukemia in children.

"Inconclusive results" is what PR firms are looking for, when fending off public resistance to whatever technology is paying their bills.

Official state-sponsored investigations of Hanford's health effects were often high handed, with members of the public advised they might be suffering from "radiophobia" -- an irrational fear of radiation. Independent scientists got together to see whether they could produce some definitive findings.

Dr. Charles Grossman, another Linus Pauling fan, whom Jon Bunce and Rudi both know, was originally skeptical that "down winders" were victims of radiation poisoning. After conducting some interviews, he had to change his mind. Given releases of materials were initially into the atmosphere, the term "down winders" is meant fairly literally.

Sam Lanahan is here, and is eager to hear the scientific results of this counter-study. What were these "definitive findings" he wants to know. LaJean grew up in Walla Walla and would like to know some more details.

A finding of excess hypothyroidism associated with spontaneous abortions, excess cancers of thyroid, nervous system and reproductive system, by a factor of some 10x vis-a-vis background rates for Washington State, seems close to irrefutable.

Wind-borne iodine 131 and iodine 129 are the implicated isotopes.

The Hanford Thyroid Disease Study (CDC, National Cancer Institute, University of Washington), in contrast, found no ill effects.

Their technique was not to compare local incidence rates with background rates, but to look for a monotonic relationship between purported dose amounts and the number of cases reported, i.e. incidence rates in concentric circles around the release site needed to increase in a simple manner in the direction of Hanford, or there could be no evidence of correlation, regardless of absolute numbers.

Simple correlation of dose with distance is too simplistic in any case, given variations in topography, wind patterns and so forth.

Now that more data about Chernobyl is being released, the ability to cross-check the numbers is becoming easier. A recent German study (plus an older one) applied some fairly rigorous protocols and showed children living within 10 km of nuclear plants are adversely affected.

Rudi asked not to be quoted in this article if he couldn't see a pre-publication draft, but Adrian Burton broke their agreement. Oh well.

Although the down-winders have been awarded some millions by some court, the government has unlimited resources to appeal and the current plan is to simply wait for these folks to die off.

Wanderers indulged their penchant for red wine during Rudi's talk and tended to embarrass themselves per usual. Good thing we didn't have a lot of guests. We need this semi-private venue to indulge our vices. I hope those few visitors who did attend will forgive us our lack of social graces. "You oughta keep alcohol out of this event" said Lloyd Marbet. I tend to agree.

I had no idea that Phil's bookstore had burned down, a loss of some 100K rare volumes on the Pacific Northwest, a shocking loss.