Anti-nuclear activists tour Europe to protest plutonium-powered Cassini space probe
The Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power In Space will be holding a series of meetings and press conferences in Europe March 15-24 to challenge U.S. plans to launch the Cassini space probe with 72.3 pounds of deadly plutonium--more plutonium than has ever been used on a space device.
The tour will include a press conference in London on March 18 including a public presentation after the press conference with speakers including Bruce Gagnon, co-coordinator of the Global Network as well as coordinator of the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, and State University of New York Professor Karl Grossman whose book on the use of nuclear power and weapons in space, The Wrong Stuff, is soon to be published and whose journalism on the issue is being cited by Project Censored, a U.S. media monitoring program, as involving among the most "under-reported" stories in the U.S. in 1996. Grossman also is the writer and narrator of the award-winning video documentary "Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens."
NASA plans to launch the Cassini space probe, with 72.3 pounds of plutonium, in October. Activists point out that NASA admits that there could there be a disastrous accident on launch releasing plutonium. But then NASA intends to have the Cassini probe hurtle back at the Earth for a low-level (500 km-high) "flyby," in what it calls a "slingshot maneuver" to give it the velocity to get to Saturn.
But, NASA says in its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini mission, if the Cassini probe makes an "inadverent reentry" into the Earth's atmosphere on the "flyby" and disintegrates, dispersing the plutonium, "5 billion of the estimated 7 to 8 billion world population at the time ... could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure."
Dr. Ernest Sternglass, professor emeritus of radiological physics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, says that based on NASA's data, 10 to 40 million people could die from exposure to radioactivity from plutonium in the event of such a Cassini disaster.
The NASA Final Environmental Impact Statement actually provides, in the event of a catastrophic Cassini accident, for a "ban" on "future agricultural land uses" and if an "urban" area is involved provision is made to "Relocate affected population permanently."
The Global Network stresses, moreover, that the plutonium and the lethal danger it poses are unnecessary. The European Space Agency has achieved what it termed a "technology milestone," a breakthough in the development of solar photovoltaic power for deep space probes. "We demand safe solar power be substituted for life-threatening nuclear power on Cassini and other space missions," says Gagnon.
NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy have entered into a "Space Nuclear Power Agreement," said Professor Grossman, providing that if an accident befalls a U.S. nuclear space system like that to be on Cassini and impacts on other nations and people on Earth, U.S. liability would be limited to a total of $l00 million--"no matter how many people might end up with cancer, how many nations are exposed to radioactivity," he said.
Further, the Cassini mission is part of a wider U.S. program of nuclear power in space--with nuclear technology seen by the U.S. as a power source for space weapons, states Global Network Co-Coordinator Bill Sulzman, who is director of Citizens for Peace in Space.
He noted that recently the Clinton administration ordered the development of nuclear-propelled rockets for military and civilian uses. The U.S. Air Force last year issued a report, "New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 2lst Century," which declared that "space-based weapons" need "large amounts of power" and thus the Air Force "should continue" developing nuclear power in space. "We don't want weapons, we don't want nuclear power in space," said Sulzman. "The motto of the U.S. Space Command is 'master of space.' The Pentagon seeks to attain what it terms the 'ultimate high ground' and with space weapons 'control' the Earth below. This is unacceptable to the U.S. people. It is unacceptable to the people of the world."
Among the Global Network events during the 10 days in Europe are conferences and meetings in Germany, England, the Netherlands and Belgium.
The fiery descent of the Russian Mars space probe with a half-pound of plutonium onboard November 16 on Chile and Bolivia made "real and imaginable" to the people of the world an accident involving a nuclear-fueled space device," said Gagnon. "This October 6 NASA wants to launch a space device with l50 times that amount of plutonium. This is sheer and utter madness--and we will stop it."
For further info call: Bruce Gagnon, Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, (352) 468-3295
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