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"Media Terror"

     We sent out twenty-one letters, twelve FAXes, and two local
e-mails, calling a local press conference to introduce our latest
SURVIVAL EQUATION, by Charles L. Hyder, an Albuquerque scientist. 
One reporter attended.

     Forty years ago people explained non-attendance at meetings
that I thought they should have attended by saying, "This is New
Mexico.  It rained on the day of your meeting, so no one came."

     It turns out that rain is dangerous, according to our latest
author.  Could all those media-persons have been aware of that,
and acted cautiously?  Every time it rains, it rains not pennies
from heaven, but rather plutonium and strontium-90 and
radioactive cesium from heaven.

     Our letters and FAXes told just enough of what the book is
about that I have to conclude that the media's non-attention was
deliberate, and not because it was raining.  The book states that
plutonium places all life forms in jeopardy.  The amphibians are
in dire trouble already, and that is because they have the largest 
genome size of all animals.  Radioactivity tears up the DNA-bearing 
nucleus of the cells, and the amphibians present the largest targets.
Other animals, especially carnivores, will be in danger as the amount 
of plutonium loose in the world increases.

     At the press conference Dr. Hyder gave that lone reporter
the full story, telling things that simply add to the terror the
media already sense instinctively about this "story."  [Can
extinction be dismissed as simply "a story," a story which we can
choose not to cover, not to disseminate, not to know or tell? 
Probably not, in the long run...]

     If the DOE ever opens the Waste Isolation Pilot Program
[WIPP], DOE's dump near Carlsbad for transuranic waste created in
the manufacture of the USA's nuclear arsenal, it will double the
amount of plutonium loose in the environment.  Wet salt is no
place to bury lethal material.  Hyder has chapter and verse on
how and why WIPP will "leak."

     The DOE promises that only 0.l% of the plutonium will escape
confinement at WIPP.  There are trillions of hld's [human lethal
doses] in the quantity of plutonium planned for WIPP.  How much
is 0.1% of one trillion?  [Most Americans can't deal with large
numbers, any better than users of those primitive languages that
had no number larger than twenty -- after that it was simply
"very large number."  But we need to learn to master large
numbers, because of what threatens us.]  0.1% sounds like a very
small percentage [the small numbers are even more elusive to
modern Americans, educated or not].

     0.1% = 1/1000

     One one-thousandth of the plutonium put into WIPP will
escape, they admit.  How many hld's out of every trillion that
are to be put in there will escape, according to DOE's own
statement?  Answer:  One billion.  One billion human lethal
doses.  And we are convinced that it will all escape eventually.

     Part of the problem is that the DOE doesn't intend that
anyone subject its PR statements to scientific analysis.  The
population is supposed to allow itself to be bamboozled by the
mere stating of the statements.  And so far the media have not
been helpful at all to the population.  They allow those public
relations statements to stand unchallenged.  They stay away from
opportunities to "find out."

     Dr. Hyder has been giving science-based testimony at DOE
hearings for three decades.  On one occasion, when he was in
Washington, DC, he went to DOE headquarters to find out what had
become of his testimony, what their scientists and technicians were 
making of it.  The secretary he confronted tried to be very helpful,
 but she simply couldn't find it.  A high-ranking manager happened 
by and she asked him.  "Oh," he said, "it's filed under P.R."
     "So who has read and analyzed it?"
     "No one."
     "No scientist or technician studies the testimony we outside
scientists give you?"
     "It's filed under P.R.  No one looks at it."
     We suspected that, those of us who have testified over and
over, at one hearing after another.  Dr. Hyder learned this
tidbit about the DOE budget breakdown:
          70% -- public relations
          25% -- management
           5% -- technical
The "technical" consists of digging an impressive hole deep
underground with impressive machinery, and hiring "scientists" to
assert that the facility will be safe.

     This book is a very serious, deadly serious, companion-piece
with all this by means of fiction, satire and humor.  ["Humor? 
What's funny?"  Well, very dark humor, to be sure, some of it, 
like the persistent question about whether or not there is 
intelligent life on earth?]

     Dr. Hyder pledges to initiate a fast, which he labels 
"terminal," at the gate of WIPP, if and when the DOE trucks 
actually begin to move transuranic waste toward WIPP.  It will 
remain open "over my dead body," he says.  That's how serious 
he is.  We wonder when the media will become serous enough to do 
their job.

     Before I go, I need to thank Frank Johnson, the fellow who
does the marvelous job of keeping this web-site ship-shape, for
his work on the graphics in Dr. Hyder's book.  One illustrates
comparative genome sizes.  The other is the graph of the newly
discovered "survival equation," which combines the variables of
plutonium concentration, reproductive time, and genome size. 
"The ailing amphibians are our dying canaries."  There they are
on the graph, in trouble.  Everything to their right on the graph
will be in trouble, also, sooner or later.

     Oh, one more tidbit.  One nuclear power plant creates the same
amount of plutonium as three Hiroshima-size bombs -- per day! 
Just what we need, right?  Extinction be damned. 

                            *   *   *

Copyright © 1998 Harry Willson

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