Lawrence Charles Jorgensen
Professor of History and Political Science -- November, 1989
Nature sends no messages to man when all is well. -- Loren Eiseley
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow's today. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too Late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect...This may well be mankind's last chance to choose between chaos and community." -- Martin Luther King, Jr. 1967
The Nuclear Age: Power, Proliferation and the Arms Race. William Sweet. Congressional Quarterly Inc: Washington, 1984. A popularly written attempt at "objectivity," this is an excellent introduction. Clear diagrams, graphs, an index and a short annotated bibliography all contribute to easily lead the reader into a field that is only difficult to understand because of the "technical phobia" too many of us possess.
A Guide Book to Nuclear Reactors. Anthony V. Nero, Jr. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1979. Everything you might have wanted to know about nukes, as well as, no doubt, a whole lot you'd prefer not to. At times a bit technical for the "layperson," this is still a well written book, and it includes an extensive bibliography.
Environment and Health. Mary McNeil, Ed. Congressional Quarterly. Inc. Washington, 1981. Chapter 5, "Nuclear Power and Radiation," a mere 20 pages long, is one of the best of the brief explanations of the mechanics of nuclear power, the origins of the industry, the role of the government in subsidizing, promoting and "regulating" the nuclear power industry (i.e., Atomic Energy Commission; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the Energy Research and Development Administration; and the Department of Energy itself). The nature, the sources, the hazards and the disposal problems inherent in radioactive materials and their by-products (wastes) are clearly explained and illustrated.
Your ignorance and the resulting self-imposed impotency are your enemies' greatest assets. --E.E. Lynlar
Energy Politics. David Howard Davis. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1982. Energy Politics has separate chapters devoted to each of the various energy sources (coal, oil, natural gas, etc.), explaining the historical development, the mechanics and the politics of each. Chapter 6 deals with "Nuclear Energy."
Nuclear Inc: The Men and Money Behind Nuclear Energy. Mark Hertsgaard. Pantheon Books: New York, 1983. If any of the above books have whetted your appetite, try this well researched and documented, exceptionally comprehensive and detailed account of the history of the nuclear power industry. Pay especial attention to the individuals, most of who are still with us in policy making positions (Ronald Reagan, Caspar Weinberger, George Schultz, Donald Hodel, Philip Habib, to name just a few), and the giant corporations which have for decades snooted (and still snort) at the public trough (Bechtel, Westinghouse Electric, General Electric, and others, natch). Our government and its policies often and understandably do not make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated. If you wish to understand why the US Government gives away billions of dollars to special corporate interests every year in the form of various subsidies, everyone of the crooks, everyone of the thieves, are herein listed. Makes Harding and his cronies look cheep, cheep, cheep. Makes us (as in US) look dumb, dumb, dumb.
The Cult of the Atom: The Secret papers of the Atomic Energy Commission. Daniel
F. Ford. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982. Begun in 1971 under the auspices of the Union
of Concerned Scientists, this book, according to its author, is based on tens of
thousands of pages of the United States Atomic Energy Commission's internal documents
which the author obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and through two
major lawsuits. For those among you still naive enough to believe that the United States
government (and the A.E.C.) simply did not understand the various dangers inherent in the
development of nuclear power reactors, in the development and testing of nuclear weapons,
and that thousands of cancers which the United States government has caused among the
American people have been the result of well-intentioned but simply mis-informed
decisions, give this book a serious look.
The Winning Weapon: The Atomic Bomb in the Cold War, 1945-1950. Gregg Herken.
Vintage Books: New York. 1981. The primary subject of this work of remarkable scholarship
is "The role of the atomic bomb in the cold war after Hiroshima -- from the surrender
of Japan in 1945 to the end of the US nuclear monopoly in 1949 and the subsequent decision
to proceed with development of the hydrogen bomb."
Herken's scrupulously documented (indeed, the notes are an additional extremely
informative essay in themselves) book paints a most dismal picture of the civilian and
military leadership of the United States during those critical years of the "cold
war." Incredible stupidity sheltered from scientific, technical and geographic
reality by an arrogance unmitigated by any willingness to keep an open mind, to be
reasonable, to be, indeed, rational.
To Win A Nuclear War: The Pentagon's Secret War Plans. Michio Kaku and Daniel
Axelrod. South End Press: Boston, 1987. In the past several years hundreds, "a
mountain," of Top Secret Pentagon documents have been released through both the
Freedom of Information Act and intentional "leaking," mailed anonymously to
journalists in plain brown envelopes. This book is based upon that documentation,
supplemented by research into archives, diaries, interviews, etc.
Unlike Gregg Herken's The Winning Weapon, which argued that US leaders were both
stupid and arrogant, To Win A Nuclear War argues that those leaders were both evil
and criminal. As Ramsey Clark summarizes in the Foreword, "Our government means to
have its way through the use and threatened use of superior force. It will lie. It will
deceive. It will kill."
There is little in the way of literary embellishments in this work. Every page and
every paragraph is stoked with specific details, descriptions, etc. The way a couple of
scientists would approach a subject, I guess. If your interest is in knowing every type of
nuclear weapons system and for what purpose they have been designed, as well as the
biographies of those men who we have allowed to take charge of our destiny, this is one
"hell of a book" to read.
Write to South End Press (Boston, MA 02115) for a list of titles. A lot of good stuff.
Three Mile Island: Thirty Minutes to Meltdown. Daniel F. Ford. Penguin Books: New York, 1982. This book is by the same author as the above Cult of the Atom. Ford, a former executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, has worked on several technical studies of nuclear power generation; consequently, he is most qualified to sort through the official records, documents and interviews in order to trace the development of Three Mile Island and explain how the "accident" occurred; how it was mishandled; and what it means in relation to the future of nuclear power plants in the United States.
Nuclear California: An Investigative Report. David E. Kaplan, Ed. Greenpeace and the Center for Investigative Reporting: San Francisco, 1982. Bringing all the above a bit closer to home, as if there was anywhere to hide -- even if the government did give us all enough shovels, this book details the extent of the nuclear power and nuclear arms industries' proliferation throughout California. Where all the reactors are reacting; where all the bombs are being built, and where many of them are stored -- it is all here. Of particular interest to those of us living in the San Fernando Valley is the description of the 1959 nuclear accident in the Santa Susana Mountains, 6 miles west and north of the Canoga Park headquarters of Atomics International, a subsidiary of Rockwell International. And while that particular reactor has been dismantled and removed, another of theirs is still producing plutonium in those mountains along the west side of our Valley. This brief 150 page book also contains a detailed list of all of the existing organizations working for a nuclear-free California (and world). The following publications, which I read and recommend, are more specific in their points of view; none of them are particularly favorable to nuclear power development...or to nuclear war, for that matter.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Founded by many of the original nuclear
scientists and published 10 times a year since 1945, this is perhaps the standard
international vehicle for the dissemination of the atomic scientists' points of view.
Again, the writing is not beyond the capability of the educated "layperson." Environment
magazine is perhaps the oldest continuing publication for the dissemination of world
wide environmental orientated technical and scientific information. Written for the
informed "layperson," this monthly is published in cooperation with the
Scientists' Institute for Public Information by Heldref Publications, 4000 Albermarle
Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016.
And nuclear waste for evermore
Does anyone remember those deliberately and ridiculously dishonest advertisements in the late 1950's and early 1960's, in which we were shown a small dark pellet, smaller than a chicken egg, and told that each one of these pellets had as much energy in them -- at this point, the camera swings around to --- a whole string of coal cars?
Does anyone remember the nuclear power companies and the electrical power utilities promoting nuclear power in the 1950's with the promise that "by the 1980's" and thanks to nuclear power -- see small pellet B.S. above, "electricity would be too cheap to meter"?
Damn, think of all the poor saps who believed that stuff, who went out and bought one of those G.E. "All Electric Homes." Well, as you are feeling sorry for those "saps," think of the predicament we are all in because an older generation were suckered, or seduced, by the "nuclear promise" of unlimited, low cost energy.
Remember the "Ecological Imperatives:" There is no free lunch; Everything has to go somewhere; Everything is connected to everything else.
And now think of all the permanent environmental, human health and genetic costs, the tax and rate-payers' costs -- all required to produce that little dark pellet.
Usually when a generation really screws up, the effects do not last long, However, with that generation's "Faustian Bargain" with nuclear power, every generation hence will have to deal with and pay for the greed and the ignorance of that decision to "go nuclear." Think of how that German/European generation that embraced Hitler and collaborated with the resulting horror is remembered, and then try to think how that generation of Americans who embraced nuclear power, or who did nothing to oppose it, will be remembered. And which of the two will be remembered and vilified the longest?
Some people have been and are trying to do something about it. The two following books have been produced by one such group, a group working to control the radioactive waste by-products of the nuclear age.
Living Without Landfills: Confronting the "Low Level" Radioactive Waste
Crisis. Marvin Resnikoff. Radioactive Waste Campaign. New York, 1987.
Deadly Defense: Military Radioactive Landfills. A Citizen Guide by the
Radioactive Waste Campaign: New York, 1988. Now, in late 1989, everyone knows. "It is
one of the great ironies of our age: in the name of protecting our national security and
well being, we are poisoning ourselves. Every day, government facilities involved
in producing nuclear weapons spew toxic pollutants into our environment."
"The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except our ways of thinking. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive." --Albert Einstein.
First: Always remember . .
Second: As functioning adults, educating yourself, like living your life, is your responsibility. It is not your parents', or spouse's, or lover's. It is not society's, or the government's; it is not the educational system's; it is not this college's. And your life is certainly not my responsibility.
But, do not become discouraged; that, too, is a weapon of the Oppressor. Education, real education, is a whole lot easier than many of our leaders believe. And reading is a great way to start.
For Example: The Union of Concerned Scientists (26 Church St., Cambridge, MA., 02238) publishes and sponsors numerous excellent papers, pamphlets and books. Started 20 years ago as an informal faculty group at MIT, the Union of Concerned Scientists now has over 100,000 sponsors and a staff of more than 30 in Cambridge, MA., and in Washington, D.C. Its activities include research, public education, and lobbying in arms control, energy policy, and nuclear reactor safety. The following are but two of their publications that deal with specific alternatives to nuclear power.
Energy Strategies: Toward a Solar Future. Kendall and Nadis, Editors. Ballinger Publishing Company: Cambridge, MA, 1980. This report by the Union of Concerned Scientists not only explains the economic and political foolishness, but also the very real and growing ecological and public health dangers of relying upon non-renewable and finite energy resources. It provides an excellent overview of the most obvious, simple and renewable alternative...solar power. And while numerous books exist dealing with the environmental, social and even economic benefits of government and private sector changes to renewable sources of energy, as well as conservation, (i.e., wind power, passive and active solar power, cogeneration, etc. --all of which are proven, simple technologies and practices), this book has a very useful glossary, an index for easy reference, and ample bibliographic materials.
The Energy Switch: Alternatives to Nuclear Power. Richard Munson. A report by
the Union of concerned Scientists. 1987.
It is all so very simple, that it is clear to me that only rank ignorance or apathy on the part of the public, manipulated by rampant greed on the part of the nuclear power industry, its toadies, etc., continues the United States along this costly, disastrous, and potentially deadly policy.
"Greed manipulating ignorance and apathy," so what else is new, huh? Well, at least we do not have to be part of the ignorant any longer. Right? But now, what about the apathy? Which leads me to . . . .
Finally (if anything can ever be said to be final), after education comes ACTION. Get involved, to the extent that your time allows. Earth First!, the Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Audubon Society, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Ecology Center of Southern California are simply a few of the already existing national or local organizations available to you, depending upon your individual political perspective. Check the 818 and the 213 area codes for a telephone listing of a local office. Tell them Jorgensen sent you. Or don't tell them. I was "yust yoking" anyhow.
Politically, there are several national and state lawmakers from this part of California of whom I consider to be worthy of your support, work, and money. Probably you know of other equally worthy, but I have been especially impressed with the following. United State Congressmen Henry Waxman, Anthony Beilson and Howard Berman all represent portions of Los Angeles and/or the San Fernando Valley. To my knowledge, few members of either party, from any state, have demonstrated an understanding of the critical environmental issues confronting us as a nation, as well as a strong commitment to their resolution. They all have local offices; check the telephone book. They can also be reached by writing House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510. State Senator Gary Hart and State Assemblyman Richard Katz are two state legislators also deserving of your support, etc.
In that most unlikely event that you have managed to live as long as you have without realizing that life is very complicated and money buys power, be aware that both are even more so in United States politics. To an intelligent and informed person, no politician, no political leader is perfect. Not a one can satisfy you completely. Politics in this country has a propensity for acquiring a "grayish" hue.
Keeping the above in mind, and remembering Lynlar's bidding against "those of you without stones, casting about for some sins to throw," seek out those present and potential politicians, wherever you live (be one yourself), who need and deserve your support. Those kinds of people will not be rewarded by the rich and powerful nuclear power interests nor by the rich and powerful proponents of a "winnable," or "limited," nuclear war.
Lastly, do not become discouraged by the lack of instant victory, or by the apathy of a generally ill-informed and unsophisticated public. The nuclear industry has had billions of your dollars and nearly 40 years to mis-inform and deceive that public, as well as to purchase numerous spokespersons within and outside of the government. The task is great, and the time...well, the time is probably even shorter than the most pessimistic believe. But no one ever said that self-government would be easy.
So, now you know. Now, you have no excuse. It is your life, not theirs. It is your planet, not theirs. It is your country and your San Fernando Valley not theirs. Consequently, it is your responsibility.
Do something... And I'll see you there. --- Chuck Jorgensen, November, 1989
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