Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your
Semerjian has just called tonight's meeting to order.
Good evening and welcome to The Advocates. In case
some of you noticed that we have fewer people in our Faneuil Hall audience
than usual, it's because of snowstorms we've had in the past two days in
Boston here, which have accumulated more snow than we've had all of last
winter. In any event, tonight we present the second program in our series of
three debates on the energy crisis. At present the United States is in the
process of making a major commitment to nuclear energy as our predominant
source of electrical power. And so our specific question tonight: Should we
rely on nuclear power to help supply our future energy needs? Advocate
William Rusher says "yes."
At a time when
we need every energy source we can lay our hands on, a small group of coal
and oil enthusiasts is doing its hysterical best to prevent us from using
the wonderful resource of nuclear energy. To speak for nuclear power and
what it can do for America I have with me tonight Mr. John Simpson,
President of the American Nuclear Society, and Dr. Walter Meyer, Chairman of
the Nuclear Engineering Program of the University of Missouri at
Thank you. Advocate Myron Cherry says "no."
Is nuclear power a
bargain with the devil? Yes, says Dr. Alvin Weinberg, former head of the
Atomic Energy Commission's Oak Ridge Laboratory. Should we rely upon a
dangerous power source which is born in the midst of a national scandal? No,
say our witnesses. Dr. Henry Kendall from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and Senator Douglas LaFollette from the State of
Thank you, gentlemen. By way
of introduction I'd like to welcome Mr. Myron Cherry who makes his first
appearance tonight on The Advocates. He's an attorney from Chicago, who
through court cases and Congressional hearings has been as active as any
lawyer in bringing the nuclear safety issue to public attention. And I'd
like to welcome back a familiar face to regular ADVOCATES viewers, William
Rusher, who is Publisher of the National Review. We'll be back to these
advocates in a moment for their cases, but first a word of background on
In his energy message last
April President Nixon said that the key to making the United States
self-sufficient in energy lay in nuclear power. With the Arab oil boycott
the issue of self-sufficiency has gained increasing significance. Today
forty nuclear power stations are capable of generating 5% of the country's
electricity. The Atomic Energy Commission predicts that by the year 2000
there may be 1,000 plants producing 60% of the electricity we use. Since the
first nuclear plant began operating in Shipping Port, Pennsylvania in 1957,
critics have generated increasing concern over the environmental impact and
the safety of nuclear power. Our debate tonight will focus on the risks and
benefits of nuclear energy. But to better understand this discussion, let's
first review the principles of the nuclear reactor. What follows is an
excerpt from a film produced by the Atomic Energy Commission.
[Film] We can illustrate the basic reactor concept by
starting with a simplified version of a reactor core. This may consist of a
number of plates or rods of uranium metal, possibly enriched by addition of
fissionable U235. The core will be located inside of a tank, or reactor
vessel, and outside of it we will want a heavy shield of metal, or concrete,
to protect working personnel from radiation. Next we will fill up the spaces
between the uranium plates with water, graphite, paraffin, or any other
material that will do a job that we call moderating. This moderator slows
down the swiftly traveling neutrons to speeds at which they have the best
chance of causing new fissions. We selected water for the moderator in this
simplified example because it also does such a good job as a coolant,
transferring, or carrying away, the heat from the fissioning atoms. We also
insert in the core one or more control rods that will quickly absorb many of
the increasing numbers of neutrons and subdue the fission chain reaction. As
soon as we begin to pull the control rods out of the core, the rate of
fissioning will again increase. When the control rods hold the fission rate
at just the right level, the reactor is critical with a sustained chain
reaction. The steady release of heat makes the moderating water boil and
give off steam. If we now cap the top of our reactor tank, we have a working
steam boiler. We refer to this type of arrangement as a boiling water
reactor. We can now pipe the steam off to drive a steam turbine and
electrical generator, and we have a full-fledged electric power plant.[END FILM]
now to the cases. Mr. Rusher, why should we rely on nuclear power to help
solve our future energy needs?
You have probably all heard the story of the old-timer who celebrated his hundredth
birthday. One of his grandsons said admiringly, "You've seen a lot of
changes in your time, haven't you?" And the old codger replied, "Yep, and I
was against every one of 'em too." There are always people like that. And
when you further recall that our first experience of nuclear energy was in
the form of the atomic bomb, it's plain there just wasn't a chance that this
great new energy source—one of man's greatest scientific achievements—could
come into use without bitter opposition. The gentlemen on the other side
tonight have made a career out of trying to scare people to death on this
subject with scientific double-talk. We can only rely on your ability to
remain calm and rational in the teeth of their barrage. Certainly, this is a
strange time for anyone to be asking America to give up the only new energy
source that is currently available right here at home. And I wonder too
whether the American people are ready to turn their backs on a new energy
system that is clean, silent, economical, reliable and efficient, and
instead to rely completely on the fossil fuels of the past: coal with its
belching smokestacks and the oil of other nations. There has to be a better
way, and there is. To describe it I call first upon Mr. John
Mr. Simpson, welcome to The Advocates.
Mr. Simpson is President of the
Power Systems Company of the Westinghouse Corporation and President also of
the American Nuclear Society. Mr. Simpson, what are the basic reasons for
including nuclear power in America's energy mix?
Well, I've been deeply involved in the technical aspects of the
utilization of almost all forms of energy for many years, and it's out of
this background that I've come to the belief that nuclear energy has an
important role to play. First and foremost, it has the least adverse impact
on our total environment. Second, I believe it is the safest. Certainly to
date it has been the safest, as there has not been a single fatality caused
by a nuclear reactor-related incident, and I believe it will probably be the
safest in the future. Now of course you can list a long list of incidents
that have happened in reactor plants, but these have all been trivial,
particularly as relate to having a serious accident. Now, it is also best
from an economic viewpoint. This is often lost sight of. It is the cheapest
form of energy we can get, and the money we save can be used for higher
purposes to solve many of society's great needs. And it is available; it is
available in quantities that can last tens or even hundreds of
But if nuclear power plants are, as
you say, truly safe, why did the government in 1957 pass the Price-Anderson
Act which provides that part of the insurance protection to the public from
accidents in these plants shall be paid to the government?
Well, you have to look at that question not in the
light of today's mature industry, but in the light of the knowledge we had
back in 1957, when there were very few or no major reactor plants in
operation. There was no experience to go on, and it was felt that the
government should step in and get this energy source started. To date there
has not been a dime paid out under Price-Anderson for a nuclear-related
accident, and in the future it appears very likely that the industry,
because of this, may wish to phase out the government's backing of
Price-Anderson, and they'll pay into the Price-Anderson insurance even
How about other countries? What are
they doing in this field of nuclear power?
Well, let's take France, for instance. In France the government
has made a conscious and serious decision that all of their future electric
generating plants will be nuclear. They expect to have two hundred of these
plants on the line by the year 2000. And in Japan, likewise. Within the next
fifteen years they expect to have 50% of their plants being nuclear. And the
same is true in England, where twenty-nine are in operation, and they expect
to have more.
Twenty-nine plants. Finally,
sir, it is true, I think, that nuclear power, to many of us, still sounds a
little bit like science fiction, something that might happen tomorrow. Is it
really a practical solution for the energy problem today?
Yes, it is. It is a today source of energy and will
be even greater in the future. Today, for example, in the city of Chicago,
they have 32% of their generation from nuclear power. There's 26% in
Milwaukee, 25% in Boston, and 17% in Miami.
So that the actual fact is that nuclear energy is here today and
ready to help.
It is here today. There
are 20,000 megawatts in operation, 20,000 in operation; 75,000 megawatts
have been approved for construction, and another 125,000 megawatts are on
All right, thanks very much, Mr.
Rusher. Let's go now to Mr. Cherry for some questions.
Mr. Simpson, you mentioned that 25% of Boston's
electricity is generated by nuclear. Isn't it a fact that Boston Edison's
Pilgrim plant, just a few miles from where we are here tonight, is shut down
because of a safety-related problem?
the moment it is shut down to correct a small problem that they have in the
reactor, that is correct. This is a normal occurrence in any new plant, and
it had no relationship to the possibility of an accident.
Mr. Simpson, does the scientific community generally
agree that nuclear reactors are safe, as you say?
They most certainly do.
isn't it a fact, Mr. Simpson, that the Rand Corporation, the prestigious
study group in California, ran a study specifically about this subject for
the California legislature in 1972 and concluded that because of safety
problems it was unwise for California to increase nuclear power
The Rand Corporation, doing this
for the state of California, represents a very small minority of the
knowledgeable scientists, or knowledgeable engineers, in the nuclear field.
I doubt that there was any one of those people who had ever designed a
You don't deny that the
Rand study was made, though, Mr. Simpson?
Well, Rand has made many studies on many subjects.
They did make
such a study.
Mr. Simpson, isn't it also a
fact that in August, 1973, another group of scientists, this time the
International Working Group on Radioactive Pollution of the prestigious
Pugwash Conference, concluded that owing to potentially grave, and as yet
unresolved, safety problems, the wisdom of a commitment to nuclear fission
as a principal source of energy for mankind must be seriously questioned at
this time? Isn't that a fact?
have some question as to how you can really consider that as such a
prestigious outfit that would rank in comparison with the National Academy
of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, many of the laboratories' and
most of the university scientists in this country.
Mr. Simpson, do you agree with the statement made by the former
Assistant Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory of the Atomic Energy
Commission, and I quote him, that "Scientists and the public should be
prepared to face the possibility of a nuclear reactor incident just as we
expect major earthquakes that will exact a large toll in property and
lives." Now, that is home, and a scientist from Oak Ridge.
Who said that? Who said that? What was his
That was stated by Walter Jordan,
former Assistant Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in
I'm sure that you can find many
people that have said many things. That bears little relationship to the
majority of scientists.
But at least, Mr. Simpson . . .
Certainly, you can quote
somebody as saying anything. I can even quote the Bible to my own uses;
adversely, the Devil can quote the Bible to his own uses.
Mr. Simpson, is the nuclear industry today prepared
to take financial responsibility for nuclear accident, whatever the amount
I can, of course, not speak
for the entire industry, but it is my belief when the hearings on the
Price-Anderson come about this spring, that you will find a considerable
difference in the belief, and that the industry is willing to step up and
probably will be able to phase out the government's part of Price-Anderson
in the very near future.
Simpson, my question was not whether they want to phase out—and let's talk
about Westinghouse, your company. Is Westinghouse prepared today, tonight,
to state very simply that "any accident that results from a Westinghouse
product, we will stand the financial responsibility of damage of any
amount." Are you prepared to make that statement, sir?
We are prepared to make the statement that we are
willing to pledge the entire assets of the Westinghouse Corporation for any
accident that we cause.
Up to the full
amount? Not limited by $560,000,000?
to the full amount of any accident that the cost is likely to be.
And that is . . .
Obviously we can only pledge our total assets.
All right. That's
simple enough. Let's go back to Mr. Rusher for a question.
Mr. Simpson, there has been a lot of talk about what
who said and what who said. What—if you know—is the preponderance of
scientific opinion on the subject of the safety of our nuclear power
Clearly, the overwhelming
preponderance of opinion of those who have actually worked in the field,
those who know how these reactors are designed, know the care which is taken
in their design, know the competence of those scientists, and it is
irresponsible to simply pick up anybody that can put together a report to
quote against such responsible people.
All right, more questions from Mr. Cherry.
Mr. Simpson, you've given us all sorts of assurances about the
predictability of your safety systems, yet isn't it a fact that your safety
and control systems in the San Francisco mass transit system are a complete
Not at all. It is a great
Well, your perfect system did
allow doors to open while trains were moving and trains to run off track
without control, and I take it we'll take your claims about nuclear power in
light of your categorization of that as a "great success."
You'll find that the Bart system will continue as
the best transit system in the United States or the world today.
You have another question, Mr. Cherry, if you'd
Yes. Is it not a fact, Mr. Simpson,
that the head of the Aerojet Nuclear Company, the former head, testified
that there is absolutely no way of knowing whether or not the emergency core
cooling systems will work?
talking about Dan Kimball, the ex-Secretary of the Navy?
not a technical mind?
No, sir, I am
talking about Mr. George Brackett, who was the head of the Idaho Safety
Program, had testified . . .
Oh, I see.
You're talking . . .
. . . that your
computer programs are such that it's a flip of the coin, that just no one
knows that it will work.
Not true. That
is not true. He was talking about—and he has so stated in the public
record—only about the competence of the Aerojet people in this area, not of
the total state of the art of the industry. The state of the art of the
industry is much more sophisticated.
Okay, Mr. Simpson, I want to thank you very much for being with us
And now, with apologies for
getting necessarily a little bit technical—I hope not too much so—I call on
this matter of safety particularly on Professor Walter Meyer.
Professor, I want to welcome you to The
Professor Meyer is Chairman of
the Nuclear Engineering Program at the University of Missouri in Columbia,
Missouri. Professor Meyer, you heard Mr. Simpson say that nuclear energy is
the safest form of power that we can turn to. Is that true?
Absolutely. There has never been a fatality resulting
from the operation of a commercial power reactor. You could say the same
thing in terms of naval reactors, the pressurized water naval reactors, and
there are 123 of these operating. A fatality has never occurred from the
result of the operation of these reactors. If we couple the experience with
both of these reactors, both the commercial and the naval, we're talking
about 1,600 reactor years of experience without a fatality.
And what, then, is the chance of a major incidence
of uncontrolled radiation release in a nuclear reactor in any given
The probability of this is less than
one chance in ten million, and maybe smaller, or about the size of one
chance in ten billion.
What would that mean in terms of actual plants?
We're talking about, let's say, a thousand reactors operating. This would be
a chance of one accident in ten thousand years, an extremely remote
What if you threw in the amount of
fatalities in, say, mining uranium?
if we include that part of the fuel cycle, we're possibly talking about
eight deaths from the mining of uranium. Today, with the mining of coal,
we're experiencing—and these are hard figures—246 mining deaths in coal each
And I presume there are
others in oil and elsewhere.
Yes, we can
expect—and there have been instances where we have seen deaths resulting
from the drilling for oil and also natural gas.
Well, what about these stories we hear—and I'm sure we'll hear many
tonight—about accidents in nuclear power plants?
That depends on how you want to define an accident. If we talk about
the nuclear power system, to be sure there have been minor nuisance
situations, but none of these have threatened anyone's life, and in fact, no
one has been injured from such an incident.
Can you give me an illustration of an injury in the non-nuclear
part of a plant?
Yes, there have been
cases. With regard to a reactor in Virginia, two men were scalded, but that
same sort of incident could occur in your local power plant which may not be
nuclear. It could occur in your local high school if the steam power plant
is big enough.
Wherever the steam is
enough, there could be a steam accident, in other words.
what would have happened—what would have to happen—to cause a serious
accident in the nuclear reactor of a nuclear power plant?
You've got to talk first of all about a very
improbable break of a three foot diameter, three inch thick, high alloy
steel pipe, and we're talking about breaking that pipe and displacing it
several inches from its two ends. This must be followed by failure of the
redundant, emergency core cooling system, followed by failure of the spray
system that protects the building that contains the system. We then must
talk about volatizing all of the material that's in that core out through a
crack in the containment building. We then must talk about it falling down
on a population who just sits there and exposes themselves to it. This is
all very improbable; in fact, you cannot think of a test to cause this
initial break that must lead to this incident.
You can't devise such a test?
Finally, what about the problem of
radioactive waste, which we hear so much about?
Well, it's alluded here that these wastes will escape into the
biosphere and affect our lives. First of all, let's look at the dimensions
of the problem we're talking about. Let's say that we have on line in the
United States 1,000 reactors in the year 2000. If we take all the waste from
now to the year 2000, allow that to accumulate, you could put it in a 100
All right, thanks very much.
That's interesting testimony. Let's hear now from Mr. Cherry, who, I think,
is eager to ask you some questions.
it from your testimony and Mr. Simpson's, Professor Meyer, that because
there have been no fatalities in space that space travel is, then, the
safest form of travel. By the way, is plutonium...
I'm not speaking relative to space.
Is plutonium a toxic substance. Professor?
Isn't it a
fact that a small amount of plutonium, if inhaled, will cause
That has been alluded to,
Well, isn't it true? Do you
it may be true. There have been
instances where people have inhaled plutonium, in fact, to a sufficient
amount that they could peg an ionization meter across the room. These people
have not so far shown evidence of cancer.
Would you try it, Professor?
I would not
try it. I would not try drowning myself either.
Well, I would agree. The analogy is apt. Tell me, Professor Meyer,
how long is plutonium dangerous?
has a half-life of 25,000 years.
means that if it dies half its life in 24,000 years, it's around essentially
No, there are many ways you
could handle this problem. You could take plutonium, for example . .
But it exists through eternity, is that
Not necessarily, if you take
measures to eliminate it, and there are such measures.
You're saying that you can neutralize
You can take plutonium, recycle
it back to a reactor, convert it to a species which will decay rather
Is plutonium a by-product of
Yes, maybe an important
fuel in future reactors.
Professor, you talked about storage. The Atomic Energy Commission presently
has a storage facility in Hanford, Washington, How many gallons were leaked
in June, 1973?
gallons leaked, but that situation is not relevant to the commercial power
How did it happen,
This was a single-wall, steel
tank—it was not a stainless tank. A leak developed and went unnoticed for
about a week.
Well, isn't it true that,
in fact, it took seven weeks before the leak was discovered?
No, I do not believe that it was that long. But
there have been leaks . . .
this evening, Professor, and seven weeks is the correct figure.
Well, there have been leaks at that site for a very
long period of time, but the fact is that it causes no effect on the
Professor, let me see if
I can clarify something with you. You've testified that as far as you're
concerned the chances of an accident with a nuclear reactor are very
Let's assume for purposes of argument that that's so. That isn't
really the whole story, is it? Isn't part of the problem the magnitude of
the accident that can result if by chance such an accident did
That may be your
Well, I mean, don't you
agree that that is part of the problem?
There may be from that accident no effect, or there may be an
Well, assuming that . .
You have to spell out to me in detail
what you mean by an effect and what is the sequence of events that led to
this accident you're talking about and the results of the accident. There
are many mitigating effects that occur that could produce an accident or an
insignificant event. It depends on what sort of a scenario you want to
Well, do you acknowledge that
the reluctance on the part of at least some part of the population to be
close to operating nuclear reactors is the concern for the magnitude of the
problem regarding an accident, if it should occur.
That's possible, but they might better worry about
such things as being hit by a meteor. That's more likely to occur, and it
could produce huge devastation.
All right, go ahead, Mr. Cherry.
on that, Professor Meyer, I wonder if you could tell me what were the
probability of occurrences of the East coast black-out in 1965, or whether
you're aware of the fact that the space administration predicted as
impossible the fact that oxygen tanks would explode in air, yet it happened,
and we all recall, do we not, Professor, that the Titanic was built as an
unsinkable ship. Isn't it a fact that . . .
The redundant systems there were not the sort of systems we're
talking about here, that we have particularly . . .
No, no, but they are examples of highly unlikely
events happening. Professor, isn't it a fact that a recent study of the
United States General Accounting Office concluded that nuclear weapon
material was obtained from a storage facility by entering a hole in the
fence, jimmying a window and reaching in and getting it? Do you regard that
. . .
It didn't conclude ... It said it
might be obtained through that procedure.
But in fact it was obtained. That was a study. The investigators went out
and did exactly that in a facility that was built as safe from sabotage in
The investigators did, but a
purloined or clandestine group did not do this.
All right, let's go back to Mr. Rusher.
Professor, is there such a thing as an absolutely,
totally safe power system on earth?
Will there ever be—can there be in
the nature of Physics and sciences?
not even safe from our own sun.
All right, how about some more questions, then, from Mr. Cherry?
Professor Simpson, we talked about nuclear storage
waste. Does the Atomic Energy Commission today have a firm basis—have they
told us what they're going to do with this waste, or in fact, is quite the
opposite the case?
Right now we're not
separating any waste. The Atomic Energy Commission has some time now to make
the optimum choice. I expect they will do so in the time.
Do you agree with Dr. Frank Pittman who is head of
the Atomic Energy Commission's division of waste management that there is
today no technically, or economical, solution to disposal of high-level,
I believe there are
many ways, many options, we have available to us to store waste.
So you disagree . . .
Some of these deserve further development certainly.
So you disagree with the head of the Atomic Energy
Commission's waste management program . . .
That is a statement I would disagree with.
. . . who made that statement. I see. Professor
Simpson, you have talked about . . .
I'm sorry. Professor
Meyer, you have talked about nuclear power plants being reliable and safe.
Are you aware that in the East coast right now substantial segments of
nuclear power plants are down. For example, Indian Point, number one, a
nuclear power plant in upstate New York, has been down for one year for
safety problems. Indian Point, number two, had a pipe break, the highly
improbable break, about three weeks ago, and both of these were . .
I might mention of that for a particular
reactor that was in the start-up phase, was just being checked
Well, was it part of the start-up
phase to have a pipe break?
but that's part of this operation, to explore those
You mention that
radioactive waste can be stored in a nuclear park. Would it be more
appropriate to call that a nuclear cemetery?
I don't remember using those words, nuclear parks.
Professor Meyer, I want to thank you very much for being with us tonight.
Let me simply reiterate in
concluding our direct case, as we've seen on cross-examination already, as I
suspect we're going to see on the other side's direct case, there is going
to be a major effort here to intimidate with the supposed technical dangers
of a power system which has not caused a single fatality as a result of a
nuclear accident in America yet. Don't let yourselves be intimidated by
this. The Titanic sank. What are we going to do? Ban ocean liners? That's
the logic that we're being confronted with tonight.
Thank you, Mr. Rusher. Now, for those of you in
our audience who may have joined us late, Mr. Rusher and his witnesses have
just presented their case in favor of nuclear power to help supply our
future energy needs. And now for the case against, Mr. Cherry, the floor is
Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen,
nuclear power is an ultra-hazardous technology. The Rand Corporation has, in
fact, told the state of California that it should not allow any more plants
to be built until safety problems are solved. The German government's
Reactor Safety Commission has recommended a nuclear moratorium. The head of
the British equivalent to the Atomic Energy Commission has expressed strong
reservations to the purchase of American-built reactors on grounds of
safety. And, of course, it is common knowledge that many of the Atomic
Energy Commission's own reactor safety staff raise strong objections. A
prudent society should never have allowed itself to become dependent on a
technology as risky as this. It certainly must not increase that dependence.
We do not know enough about nuclear safety, we do not have a way to store
highly poisonous waste for thousands of years, and we have not tried to
develop all other sources of energy where there is no question of mortal
risk. The case for nuclear reliance just doesn't wash. To describe to us the
hazards and unreliability of nuclear power plants, I call to the stand my
first witness, Dr. Henry Kendall.
Dr. Kendall, welcome to The Advocates.
Dr. Henry Kendall is a Professor of
Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a member of the
Union of Concerned Scientists, and he has done reactor safety standards. Dr.
Kendall, what's the hazard in a reactor?
Well, the hazard is associated with the prodigious quantities of
radioactivity that necessarily accumulate during the burning of uranium to
produce power. These materials are enormously toxic, they are enormously
persistent, they are among the most toxic materials that we know about, and
they can cause cancer, radiation injury, genetic damage in very small
Dr. Kendall, give us an idea
about how much radioactivity is in an average reactor such as Boston
Edison's Plymouth reactor not far from here.
Well, the most persistent materials, for example in the Pilgrim
reactor, are there in quantities equivalent to what is created in thousands
of nuclear weapons bursts.
In each reactor. And of course
we're projected to have a thousand such reactors by the end of the
Let me understand that. Each
reactor has the equivalent of the fall-out of thousands of
Dr. Kendall, what happens if some of this
radioactivity gets loose in the environment?
Well, it has the potential for causing a catastrophe of absolutely
unparalleled proportions. Some of these materials are gases, and if they
leak out of the reactor in the course of some kind of accident, they can be
borne across the countryside by the wind, and they can be lethal to human
beings at distances approaching a hundred miles. In the words of one A.E.C.
study carried out in 1964 and 1965, which they suppressed, incidentally, the
area of disaster in such an accident could be equal to the size of the state
Dr. Kendall, how could
this radioactivity get loose?
radioactivity is not only toxic. It generates a great deal of heat. In a
reactor the radioactivity generates two hundred megawatts or more and it has
to be constantly cooled by water passing through the fuel elements. Now, if
this cooling water is lost by some means or other, then the radioactivity
develops soaring temperatures. The temperature rises can be something like a
hundred degrees Fahrenheit a second, and very soon the center of the reactor
begins to melt, and you develop a white-hot, radioactive blob of material
which will melt down through all the various barriers, through all man-made
structures, deep into the earth, and essentially, inevitably, releasing a
large quantity of radioactivity.
Kendall, it is true that this cooling water would be lost through a pipe
break, or operator error, or through a variety of ways. The water can be lost
through a variety of ways.
You can lose the water through a break in this pipe here. The vessel itself
could rupture, which the A.E.C. doesn't admit, but which so disturbs the
British government. And, of course, there are other means: failure of the
shutdown mechanism, operator error . . .
Dr. Kendall, does the A.E.C. require these plants built so that pressure
vessels don't rupture or pipes don't break?
Well, the A.E.C. doesn't believe that a pipe break cannot happen,
and they require that emergency cooling systems be installed in these
reactors in order to put emergency water back into the reactor in case the
main water is lost.
Dr. Kendall, we heard
of the Indian Point II pipe break accident recently. Is this experience
The nuclear industry has
not had a very satisfactory record with respect to accidents, and that
Indian pipe break was a little bit scary. It was the break of eighteen inch
pipe of absolutely the highest quality, the same quality of the piping that
is installed right here.
that's highly interesting testimony. I think Mr. Rusher is eager to ask you
Dr. Kendall, on June 13th
of last year I believe you told a hearing board of the Atomic Energy
Commission, under oath, and I quote, "I do not at all claim to have an
expert knowledge of the general field of reactor Physics." Did you say
Yes, I did, Mr. Rusher.
On March 2nd, 1972, a little over a year before
that, did you tell another A.E.C. hearing board, also under oath, that you
had, and I quote, "a total lack of knowledge of the Westinghouse
I made that statement, but I
made it in a particular context which did not imply that I was unable to
judge these matters. I am a nuclear physicist by trade, and you have to
remember that where there is a major controversy about reactor safety, of
the kind that we have now, that you do not, to use an analogy, you do not
have to be a hen to judge eggs.
not indeed. You, in fact, however, though not claiming an expert knowledge
of the general field of reactor Physics, and confessing to a total lack of
knowledge of the Westinghouse reactor, you nonetheless do sit there this
evening prophesying and encouraging these people to believe in the
likelihood of cancer, of genetic damage, of a rain of radioactive death over
an area the size of Pennsylvania, is that right?
We've carried out a very detailed study, Mr. Rusher, of these
matters, and, as you are aware, and as many scientists in the community are
aware, these safety issues are of great concern, and they have been of
concern to atomic energy scientists within the Atomic Energy Commission, and
the Commission has moved to suppress this information.
Now, this next question is important, and its form
is important, and I would like for you to address yourself, then, directly
to it in reply. How many people have actually died in this country as a
result of accidents in commercial nuclear reactors?
Well, there were two people that died at the
Virginia nuclear power plant.
now, just a moment. As Professor Meyer testified, that was not in the
nuclear reactor, and that was therefore not the question I was asking you.
You can have deaths from steam accidents, not just in nuclear power plants,
but in coal power plants, or in any plant, or industrial capacity that
contains enough steam. No, now let me restate the question: How many people
have actually died in this country as a result of accidents in commercial
There have been no
In the sense in which you mean that.
Do you favor a total moratorium on building of new
nuclear power plants?
I'm sorry, I
couldn't hear you.
Do you favor a total
moratorium on the building of new nuclear power plants?
Well, I believe that reactors which are presently
under construction should be completed and run under stringent safety
In that, then, you disagree with
Senator LaFollette who has introduced a bill for an immediate, three-year
Well, I am stating my
position on this.
Right. With regard to
radioactive waste, we heard about the 150,000 gallons of radioactive waste
that was leaked not long ago out of that tank in Han-ford, not a commercial
plant to be sure, but nonetheless radioactive waste that was leaked out into
the ground. What happened as a result of that leak?
Well, we don't know what will happen . .
No, that's not what I asked, Dr.
Kendall. What happened? I'm no longer, for the moment, if you don't mind,
interested in your speculations as to what may, or what you don't know may.
What happened was a great
concern about atomic energy practices in dealing with radioactive waste.
That's the first thing.
An inspection of the bad
procedures that led to those leaks.
Not only corroding tanks, but new
equipment which failed.
Did anything else
Well, I'm not certain what you
mean. There has been a detailed investigation . . .
Come on! If we have 150,000 gallons of radioactive
waste spilling out onto the ground, I would assume, on the basis of the
testimony that you have given and that Mr. Cherry has alluded to here, that
something would happen, something negative, something undesirable.
Mr. Rusher, these are insidious materials, and the
potential is there for devastating difficulties in the future...
I know the potential is there.
. . . and it is no way to run the program, to have
these . . .
May I assume that your answer
is that nothing happened?
It was like the Sherlock Holmes dog
that didn't bark in the nighttime.
All right, let's go back to Mr. Cherry.
Dr.Kendall, if there is no accidents, what happens to the radioactivity from
these nuclear power reactors?
after the fuel is used in a reactor, these materials are separated out,
these very toxic materials, and they have to be stored for tens or hundreds
of thousands of years until they become innocuous, and we have no
satisfactory way of doing that at the moment.
Just one other question. Dr. Kendall. Mr. Rusher has alluded to the
fact that you've never designed a nuclear reactor, could you speak to the
question as to whether or not a nuclear physicist with your experience on
the Jason Committee and otherwise is competent to analyze these issues, Dr.
I believe we're certainly
competent to do it, and the A.E.C. acknowledgements of the weaknesses that
our group has shown up is certainly clear verification of the existence of
Didn't the A.E.C. write
you a letter . . .
All right, let's
return to Mr. Rusher. Excuse me, let's return to Mr. Rusher for some
Since we appear to be dealing
so heavily, and I guess understandably, with the scientific opinion on this
subject, December 28th the Christian Science Monitor stated: Nuclear
reactors, as now operated in the United States, are reasonably safe. That is
the overwhelming response of reactor safety experts to a Monitor survey. Are
they all wrong?
The question is not
about what has happened in the program to date; the question is you have a
tiny industry with serious, projected difficulties, and the question is
whether we should continue to build more until the safety issues are
And I take it you . .
It is very gratifying to have a safety
record of this kind to date, but it is not sufficient proof.
When it says that they are reasonably safe, were
they wrong, those experts, the overwhelming response?
They have been reasonably safe so far, but there
is too little experience...
they've been reasonably safe.
plunge into the future with the extreme controversy that exists on this
subject at the present time.
All right. Dr. Kendall, thanks very much for being with us tonight. Okay, Mr.
Cherry, could we have your next witness, please?
Well, I have one point before I bring on my next witness. Ladies
and gentlemen, what you see here is a solar generator. It is producing
electricity without batteries or any source of energy except the lights in
this room. They're bright, but infinitely less powerful than the sun. Solar
energy is free; we've had the technology for thirty years. Does it make any
sense to put fifty times the research money in the hazardous nuclear
technology as in the solar energy, as we do now, and claim we have no
choices? To tell us how our priorities are distorted indeed, I call as my
next witness Douglas LaFollette.
Senator, welcome to The Advocates.
Douglas LaFollette is a State Senator from Wisconsin. Before elected to the
State Legislature, he was a Professor of Chemistry and Environmental
Science, and he holds a PhD in Chemistry. Senator LaFollette, as an elected
representative of the people, you have taken a position against nuclear
power and have introduced a bill in the legislature to have a moratorium on
nuclear construction in order to accomplish a solid program of nuclear
safety research. Explain to us why you have reached this decision.
Well, as a scientist, I have been watching the
nuclear controversy for many years and have been extremely troubled by the
fact that the Atomic Energy Commission cannot give us reasonable assurances
about many of these safety problems. I have also become deeply troubled
about the serious social and political issues that have no solution at the
present time. I finally came to a conclusion to support a moratorium on new
plants when I heard a speech by Alan Weinberg, who is the director of an
A.E.C. laboratory. Oak Ridge, in Madison about a year ago. And he said at
that time that in order to benefit—he made this quite clear—from the great
promise of nuclear energy, we had to make sort of a deal with the devil, and
we had to assure Dr. Weinberg and other physicists that were promoting
nuclear power that we'd give them a super stable society, sort of a new kind
of social order without social turmoil and disruptions, and as I heard him
say that, I thought this man doesn't understand human nature. And I can't
support this kind of proliferation of more nuclear plants when human nature
is not going to give us this super society.
Senator, do we need an unusually stable society to harbor nuclear
there are many reasons to worry greatly. The first, of course, is the
storage of the radioactive waste, which has to take tens of thousands of
years to protect it from society. And we have to count on sort of a nuclear
priesthood—to use Mr. Weinberg's terminology—that's going to be around ten
thousand, fifty thousand, a hundred thousand years from now to know how to
protect us from this dangerous material. Then you've got the fact that if we
go to more and more nuclear plants, it's going to become easier and easier
for fringe terrorists, for saboteurs, to obtain nuclear material, which they
could use to make a crude bomb, or use it just as it is to blackmail
society. And finally, you've got the simple fact that as you build more and
more plants, you have sort of a need for a super-perfect technology with an
unbelievable quality of control, and the same ministry that's giving us
defective products in our homes and garages are now going to somehow come
along and give us technology we can rely on. It's sort of scary.
What you're saying, Senator LaFollette, is if we
continue to build nuclear power plants before we've solved problems, by the
time we get a lot on line we'll sort of be trapped.
Exactly. And I think this is one of the reasons
why I am particularly worried about going ahead with this.
Senator LaFollette, let's talk about alternatives
for a minute. Are there alternatives, practical and theoretical, which could
be exploited? I'm sure you've considered the energy crisis in the proposal
of your bill.
Well, certainly. I
think that before anyone is going to criticize the expansion of nuclear
power as I'm doing, we have to have a very strong responsibility to the
public to show them that there are solutions available, safe solutions that
don't have the risk of nuclear power. In the short term we have conservation
techniques we're already beginning with. We can use coal, which can be used
in a clean way with present technology. But more importantly, in the middle
range, in the ten or fifteen year period, this is where it's important to
consider things like coal gasification, use of more geothermal energy, solar
energy is fine for heating homes and possible air conditioning, and the
important point here is nuclear power is no solution for the short range. It
takes ten or twelve years to get a nuclear power plant building going. In
that period we have plenty of time to develop these other techniques which I
think are important. In the long range, from the fifteen year period on, we
should put some money and research into solar energy, like we've seen
operating here. We have put pennies and nickels into that, and billions into
nuclear energy, which has still not given us a reliable source of power for
Okay, thank you, Mr. Cherry.
Mr. Rusher, your witness.
LaFollette, are you a relative of the great, fighting Bob LaFollette, by the
Good. In this matter of alternative energy sources,
you're rather well known for a proposal to utilize the winds they have out
in Wisconsin, aren't you?
think it's quite obvious that these techniques that just sit around on farms
all through the Mid-west pump water for years and now can also provide
energy for these farms.
On December 14th,
as a matter of fact, little over a month ago, you were quoted by a Racine
newspaper as the authority for an estimate that from twenty-five to thirty
percent of Wisconsin's electrical energy needs in the next thirty years
could be supplied by wind machines, or windmills, or something like that. Is
that your belief?
Exactly. This is
the result of an extensive study done by Professor Heronemus of University
of Massachusetts at Amherst in which he analyzed Wisconsin's wind
conditions, Wisconsin's terrain, and made a very careful—which I'll provide
for your scrutiny- -engineering study of the ability to produce electric
energy which could be usable in Wisconsin.
It would certainly have to be a windy place anyhow. Let's compare
the relative environmental impacts of various of the more familiar types of
energy source. The environmental impacts, now. I have a study of the Council
on Environmental Quality that was released in August, 1973, comparing the
environmental impacts of coal, oil and nuclear energy. Would you care to
guess in the specific case of air emissions which was the worst
I presume they're talking
about sulfur-dioxide problems which are related to coal, not to nuclear
Coal, indeed, and oil was second,
and nuclear energy had the least impact on the environment. How about water
discharges? Would you care to guess what was the leader there?
Well, the technical figures, I believe, rate
nuclear power at slightly less efficient in terms of its thermal
Slightly less efficient. I'm
talking about the environmental impact of water discharges from respectively
coal, oil and nuclear power.
you're worried about thermal pollution problems, of course nuclear has more
discharge and therefore has more impact.
Well, the Council on Environmental Quality found that nuclear power actually
had less impact environmentally in that field too. And how about land use?
Which of them do you think had the greatest impact on land use?
Well, I know Wisconsin well, and I know that
the situation right now where we have condemning of land, over 6,000 acres
of prime farm land being condemned to build one nuclear power plant. That's
a lot of land use . . .
Maybe that's what
has prejudiced you. Senator, because in the country at large, again, nuclear
power is the smallest offender in terms of environmental impact, according,
at any rate, to the Council on Environmental Quality. Again, going to this
matter of how much you can suffer from nuclear radiation, normal types of
emission problems, a study has been made by the American Nuclear Society
that indicates actuarially that if you live in the city as distinguished
from the country, your life expectancy shortens by five years. Would you
dare guess if we consider the present output of the nuclear power industry
of America how much that can be calculated as having shortened, in one way
or another by what has happened in it to date, the life expectancy of the
Well, I'm not
worried about the normal…
you're not worried, but less than a minute is the answer to the question.
Let's worry a little bit more. Suppose we went all the way to the year 2000
and increased our nuclear power a hundredfold and have the same experience,
no better and no worse, than we have had with it heretofore, as
distinguished from five years, if we went to live in the city as
distinguished from the country, how much, do you think, it would diminish
our life expectancy?
This time I'll
try to complete my answer and tell you that . . .
I'm not worried,
as are the other critics, about the normal discharge from a power plant. We
know the power companies try their best to make these plants operate safely,
and they do a pretty good job. We're talking about the extraordinary
releases, the storage problems and the diversion of the material by
saboteurs, not a normal operating plant. I've never said that's not
I'm talking not either about my
hypothesis or yours, but about what has happened.
Excuse me. All right, let's go back to Mr. Cherry for a
Senator LaFollette, what Mr.
Rusher didn't tell you about those environmental quality studies is they
compared unfairly a dirty coal plant to an accident-free nuclear plant, just
not the issue. Can we clean up our dirty coal plants, Senator?
No question about it. Present technology is
available to do that and should be used.
All right, let's get back to Mr. Rusher.
I was so guilty that I actually described an
accident-free nuclear plant, when we have heard from Professor Kendall a
moment ago that there has never been a single fatality in the entire history
of American commercial nuclear reactors. What is so reckless about
I don't think I understand your
question. What was your question?
merely suggesting that all we have done is refer to the experience of the
country, sir. Is that unreasonable?
My experience in the country is that we cannot provide the kind of perfectly
stable society, socially and politically, that can allow the kind of risk
that the proponents, the A.E.C. people themselves, say we have to have in
order to develop nuclear energy and to continue the development to ten or
twenty or thirty times the present. I know, as a politician that shakes
hands and kisses babies across his country, we can't provide that kind of
stable society, and I'm not willing to deal with the devil.
Are you suggesting that a fascist America is in
I can see, as a fellow
colleague pointed out to me the other day, if we have to go to very rigid
controls—I'm against these kinds of rigid controls— if we have to have rigid
controls over the plants, the storage sites, the transportation sites, the
depositories, the Hanfords, the Point Beaches all over this country, that's
going to a lot of control, whether it's by A.E.C, priesthoods like Mr.
Weinberg's, whether it's the military . . .
We have the controls right now. Do you feel that we are living, as
a result of these controls, in a fascist society?
We're living in a society where we have a lot less freedom of
action than we would without the controls.
Because of the controls?
right, Senator, I want to thank you for being with us tonight. Thanks very
much. All right, thank you, gentlemen. That completes the cases. Now it's
time for each of our advocates to present their closing arguments. Mr.
Cherry, could we have yours, please?
Thank you. Senator Howard Baker from Tennessee, a proponent of nuclear
power, has acknowledged the risk involved, and he called it "probably the
biggest single risk any civilization has ever taken." We find the risk to be
indeed as large as Senator Baker stated, but we don't find a justification
for taking that risk. Nuclear power plants are today only a fraction of our
nation's energy producing. If we adopt thoughtful programs to control the
demand for energy by eliminating wasteful and inefficient uses, we need not
proceed with the construction of large numbers of nuclear power plants.
There is another path to rational planning: we have available numerous safe
alternatives, particularly within the time frame it would take to resolve
nuclear problems, if indeed they can be resolved. As you sift the
conflicting arguments, remember that the belching smoke stacks, the oil
spills and the coal mine accidents of our sorry past were brought to you by
the same energy combine that now promises this time is different, this time
they'll do it right, yet this time it's for keeps,
Thank you, Mr. Cherry. Mr. Rusher, could we have
your argument, please?
progress is nothing new. When the steam engine was introduced, there were
plenty of people around to predict that the terrible heat and pressure in
those great boilers would blow us all to kingdom come. And you have heard
their lineal descendants here tonight predicting much the same thing about
nuclear power. But if you've listened closely, you also heard Professor
Meyer testify that in the entire history of the 163 nuclear power reactors
already operational in this country, forty of them commercial, there has
never been a single fatality, not one. Can Mr. Cherry say as much for the
coal mines he prefers? No, they kill an average of 246 miners a year in
America alone. And what about the oil he wants to make us even more
dependent on? Four people died in this explosion in an offshore oil rig in
the Gulf of Mexico. Or how about this gas storage tank that took the lives
of forty men in New York just last year? Ladies and gentlemen, let's be more
humane than that. And let's reduce our dependency on Arab oil, and on coal,
the worst polluter of them all. Let's give nuclear energy the chance to
serve as only it can the high and honorable purposes of mankind.
Thank you, gentlemen. And now it's time for you
in our audience to get into the act. What do you think about tonight's
question? Should we rely on nuclear power to help supply our future energy
needs? Send us your "yes" or "no" vote on a letter or postcard to The
Advocates, Box 1974, Boston 02134. Congress, in its next session, will
confront proposed legislation which would streamline the licensing and
site-selection procedures for nuclear power plants. These proposals aim to
reduce the time between site selection and plant operation from ten to six
years. We want Congress to consider your opinion. So write us and we'll
forward your vote to members of Congress and the Atomic Energy Commission.
Remember the address: The Advocates, Box 1974, Boston 02134.
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And now let's look
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now, with thanks to our able advocates and their able witnesses, we conclude