Protests Against Deployment of 5G — and the 5G-Military Connection

By Karl Grossman

Demonstrations will be held this coming Friday and Saturday protesting the deployment of 5G—a technology that, among other issues, presents huge health risks by blanketing the Earth with radiation resulting in cancer and other illnesses, encourages satellite collisions generating space debris, causes depletion of the ozone layer by the huge number of launches planned, and is a major factor in the weaponization of space.

A key aim of the U.S. military is utilizing 5G for “re-targeting” the hypersonic missiles it has been developing—missiles that fly at five times the speed of sound so guiding their trajectories must occur with extreme rapidity.

A “5G SpaceX Satellite Protest” is to be held Friday, March 19 at the headquarters of SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. SpaceX, of which Elon Musk is founder and CEO.

Information on the California protest is available at

SpaceX is deeply involved in launching the small satellites being placed in low-earth orbit for 5G. Last week, it launched a rocket carrying another 60 and plans to send up tens of thousands in the next few years in a program SpaceX has named “Starlink.” Also, as part of “Starlink,” SpaceX last year was given permission by the Federal Communications Commission to erect up to one million antennas on earth to serve as transceivers linked to the satellites.

On Saturday, March 20, a “5G Global Protest Day” will be held with protests planned around the world. Information on the “5G Global Protest Day” is available at

Says Julie Levine, coordinator of the organization 5G Free California: “The planet is calling out to us. If ever there was an existential crisis on earth, we are in it now. Please join us in taking action.”

The term 5G represents what is described as a fifth-generation of wireless communication technology. The drive for it has been intense. There has been a barrage in recent times of advertising by telecommunications companies for 5G.

And, with the military component a large factor, there’s been a big Pentagon push.

Dafna Tachover, director of Stop 5G and Wireless Harms Project of the organization Children’s Health Defense, says: “Science on the health risks of wireless radiation has been accumulating for decades. Heedless of the dangers, government and the telecommunications—‘telecom’—industry continue to propagate wireless technologies and infrastructure, helped along by captive regulatory agencies and successful efforts—including legislative—to silence public debate about health effects. At the same time, media campaigns and apps designed to addict the public—and especially children—have been effective in generating consumer enthusiasm. As a result, the wireless transformation has been hugely profitable.”

Epidemiologist Dr. Devra Davis, founder and president of the Environmental Health Trust, says: “The transmissions to and from proposed 5G wireless installations are radiofrequency emissions that are an environmental pollutant found to cause cancer in both experimental animals and humans, DNA damage, neurological damage and other adverse health and environmental effects, e.g., on birds, bees, and trees, according to internationally recognized authoritative research. The prestigious institutions that have conducted these studies include the U.S. National Toxicology Program, the nation’s premier testing institute, and the Ramazzini Institute, a foremost testing center in Italy.”

Dr. Davis notes that “an immediate moratorium on 5G” has been “called for by more than 400 scientists and supported by thousands of medical doctors,” as cited in a court challenge last year by the Environmental Health Trust to the Federal Communications Commission’s actions—and inaction—on 5G.

Moreover, she says, “Wired technologies such as fiber or coaxial cable are far superior to wireless as they are faster, more reliable, resilient, energy-efficient, and more easily defended from cyber-attacks. Above all, wired connections are significantly less hazardous to our health and to other life forms with whom we share this planet.”

In a Scientific American article, Dr. Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, states: “The latest cellular technology, 5G, will employ millimeter waves for the first time in addition to microwaves that have been used for older cellular technologies, 2G through 4G. Given limited reach, 5G will require cell antennas every 100 to 200 meters, exposing many people to millimeter wave radiation.”

His article, titled “We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe,” further notes that “we have considerable evidence about the harmful effects of 2G and 3G” and “little is known about the effects of exposure to 4G, a 10-year-old technology, because governments have been remiss in funding this research.”

Dr. Moskowitz asks: “As a society, should we invest hundreds of billions of dollars deploying 5G, a cellular technology that requires the installation of 800,000 or more new cell antenna sites in the U.S. close to where we live, work and play?”

“What 5G means to the military”—was the headline of an extensive article this past December on the Military & Aerospace Electronics website. It began: “Emerging fifth-generation wireless communications—better-known as 5G—will be far more than quick-connect phone calls and fast movie downloads, particularly for the U.S. military.”

“5G holds the promise of ubiquitous high-speed data connectivity; vastly improved intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; fast and secure command and control; more efficient logistics; swarming unmanned vehicles; and wide use of virtual reality and augmented reality,” the piece states.

“The promise of 5G is for instant situational awareness anywhere on earth, smart hypersonic weapons with re-targeting on-the-fly, rich access to mission-critical data on the leading edge of the battlefield,” the article declares.,on%20demand%20for%20the%20battlefield.&text=5G%20telecommunications%20technology%20offers%20far,today’s%20voice%20and%20data%20radio.

The “re-targeting on-the-fly” is critical for the newly-developed hypersonic missiles—the first test of which occurred last March 19th from the U.S. military’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. Hypersonic missiles fly at some 3,600 miles per hour or one mile per second. A “re-targeting on-the-fly” thus needs to happen with great quickness. The hypersonic missiles are “nuclear capable.”

The U.S. is seeking to acquire “volumes of hundreds or even thousands” of “stealthy” hypersonic missiles, reported an article last year in Aviation Week & Space Technology.

“Military experts foresee that the 5G system will play an essential role for the use of hypersonic weapons—missiles, including those bearing nuclear warheads, which travel at a speed superior to Mach 5…in order to guide them on variable trajectories, changing direction in a fraction of a second to avoid interceptor missiles,” says an article headed “The Hidden Military Use of 5G Technology.” Written by Manlio Dinucci, it first appeared in 2019 in the Italian web newspaper, Il Manifesto, with an English version published by Global Research

The article cites a report, “Defense Applications of 5G Network Technology,” issued by “the Defense Science Board, a federal committee which provides scientific advice for the Pentagon.” It quoted the report as stating: “The emergence of 5G technology, now commercially available, offers the Department of Defense the opportunity to take advantage, at minimal cost, of the benefits of this system for its own operational requirements.”

“DOD Announces $600 Million for 5G Experimentation and Testing at Five Installations” was the heading of a Department of Defense press release. “Today, the Department of Defense announced $600 million in awards for 5G experimentation and testing at five U.S. military test sites, representing the largest full-scale tests for dual-use applications in the world,” said the press release. The term “dual-use” is common in the U.S. space program standing for a program that has both a civilian and military purpose.

“The Department of Defense is at the forefront of cutting edge 5G testing and experimentation, which will strengthen the Nation’s warfighting capabilities as well as U.S. economic competitiveness in this critical field,” the press release went on.

It identified the five 5G test sites as: Hill Air Force Base in Utah; Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington; Marine Corps Logistics Base in Georgia; Naval Base San Diego in California; and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

“Pentagon Looks to Tap 5G in Space,” was the headline summing up the U.S, military’s 5G drive of an article in February 2021 on the website Defense One.

As for the military component of 5G, Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space — — said in an interview: “It is no surprise that the corporate media is pushing 5G so widely and eagerly—without the slightest bit of critical thought.”

“The Pentagon knows that faster speeds from 5G will enable greater space surveillance, targeting, and offensive military operations as a result,” he noted.

“Launches of tens of thousands of 5G satellites will ensure that every person on Earth will have a satellite over their head 24/7,” Gagnon continued. “Imagine the surveillance and targeting capabilities that would become available.  And the taxpayer is fronting much of the money. The DOD and NASA are awarding hundreds of billions of dollars to the likes of Elon Musk of Space X and other private launch corporations to hoist the 5G satellites into the heavens.”

“There is an additional downside to all of these 5G satellite launches,” says Gagnon of the Maine-based international organization. “With each launch the resulting toxic rocket fuel is punching a larger hole in our planetary ozone layer which exacerbates the climate crisis. In addition, the orbital parking lots, which are already quite crowded, are quickly filling up which will become a point of conflict in the near future as other nations become agitated that the U.S. is grabbing most of the parking spaces in the increasingly contested orbits.’

Points out Gagnon: “There is presently no national or international regulation over the use of space. Not only is this a worry, because of the resulting increase in dangerous space debris, but one must recognize that humankind is creating a deadly new arena of competition and military confrontation.”

“It is up to all of us,” says Gagnon, “to speak out and demand that NASA, the Federal Communications Commission, the United Nations and the Pentagon quickly undertake a process of fair regulation of space launch operations.  If not done immediately we will face a cascade of deadly collisions and even war in space.”

“There are many reasons to oppose 5G—health impacts, environmental impacts, loss of the night sky which is angering astronomers—but the military use of 5G is possibly the worst,” says Gagnon, “as it needlessly accelerates the already huge concern about keeping space for peace.”

The Stop 5G International announcement on Saturday’s “5G Global Protest Day” includes a “Stop5G International Declaration” which relates: “We envision and seek to ensure a world where 5G, 6G or any other ‘G’ is replaced by safe technology that has undergone scrutiny to ensure the health and well-being of all life on the planet before being unleashed. We envision and seek to ensure a world where the health and well-being of all life takes precedence over corporate self-gain.”

The announcement also states: “The Heavens, our planet’s last precious frontier, are not a commodity to be bought and sold and degraded for private commercial gain; but rather, they are Sacred and held in public trust; and we stewards here on planet Earth are legally and ethically responsible for their wise and careful exploration.”

StopG International has prepared an “Open Letter to Elon Musk & SpaceX” which it is asking individuals and organizations to sign on to. It declares: “We are writing to you at this time because SpaceX is in the process of surrounding the Earth with a network of thousands of satellites whose very purpose is to irradiate every square inch of the Earth. SpaceX, like everyone else, is treating the radiation as if it were not there….We write to you today to ask you to halt the Starlink project because it is so destructive.”



Plutonium and NASA’s 1-in-960 Odds of It Being Released in a Perseverance Accident

By Karl Grossman

With all the media hoopla last week about the Perseverance rover, frequently unreported was that its energy source is plutonium—considered the most lethal of all radioactive substances—and nowhere in media that NASA projected 1-in-960 odds of the plutonium being released in an accident on the mission.

“A ‘1-in-960 chance’ of a deadly plutonium release is a real concern—gamblers in Las Vegas would be happy with those odds,” says Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

Indeed, big-money lotteries have odds far higher than 1-in-960 and routinely people win those lotteries.

Further, NASA’s Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the $3.7 billion mission acknowledges that an “alternative” power source for Perseverance could have been solar energy. Solar energy using photovoltaic panels has been the power source for a succession of Mars rovers.

For an accident releasing plutonium on the Perseverance launch—and 1 in 100 rockets undergo major malfunctions on launch mostly by blowing up—NASA in its SEIS described these impacts for the area around the Cape Kennedy under a heading “Impacts of Radiological Releases on the Environment.”

It states: “In addition to the potential human health consequences of launch accidents that could result in a release of plutonium dioxide, environmental impacts could also include contamination of natural vegetation, wetlands, agricultural land, cultural, archaeological and historic sites, urban areas, inland water, and the ocean, as well was impacts on wildlife.”

It adds: “In addition to the potential direct costs of radiological surveys, monitoring, and potential cleanup following an accident, there are potential secondary societal costs associated with the decontamination and mitigation activities due to launch area accidents. Those costs may include: temporary or longer term relocation of residents; temporary or longer term loss of employment; destruction or quarantine of agricultural products, including citrus crops; land use restrictions; restrictions or bans on commercial fishing; and public health effects and medical care.”

NASA was compelled to make disclosures about the odds of an accident releasing plutonium, alternatives to using nuclear power on the Perseverance and consequences of a plutonium release under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Its SEIS can be viewed online at

Meanwhile, the U.S. is now producing large amounts of Plutonium-238, the plutonium isotope used for space missions. The U.S. stopped producing Plutonium-238 in 1988, and it began obtaining it from Russia, in recent years no longer happening. A series of NASA space shots using Plutonium-238 are planned for coming years.

Plutonium-238 is 280 times more radioactive than Plutonium-239, the plutonium isotope used in atomic bombs and as a “trigger” in hydrogen bombs.,cardiac%20pacemakers%20and%20space%20vehicles.

There are 10.6 pounds of Plutonium-238 on Perseverance.

We might have dodged a plutonium bullet on the Perseverance mission. The Atlas V rocket carrying it was launched without blowing up. And the rocket didn’t fall back from orbit with Perseverance and its Plutonium-238 disintegrating on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and plutonium dispersed.

But with NASA planning more space missions involving nuclear power including developing nuclear-powered rockets for trips to Mars and launching rockets carrying nuclear reactors for placement on the Moon and Mars, space-based nuclear Russian roulette is at hand.

The acknowledgement that “an accident resulting in the release of plutonium dioxide from the MMRTG [Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator] occurs with a probability of 1 in 960” is made repeatedly in the SEIS.

The amount of electricity produced by the MMRTG on Perseverance is miniscule—some 100 watts, similar to a light bulb.

A solar alternative to the use of plutonium on the mission is addressed at the start of the SEIS in a “Description and Comparison of Alternatives” section.

First is “Alternative 1” which proposes that the rover use a plutonium-fueled MMRTG “to continually provide heat and electric power to the rover’s battery so that the rover could operate and conduct scientific work on the planet’s surface.”

That is followed by “Alternative 2” which states: “Under this alternative, NASA would discontinue preparations for the Proposed Action (Alternative 1) and implement a different power system for the Mars rover. The rover would use solar power to operate instead of a MMRTG.”

The worst U.S. accident involving the use of nuclear power in space came in 1964 when the U.S. satellite Transit 5BN-3, powered by a SNAP-9A plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generator, failed to achieve orbit and fell from the sky. It broke apart as it burned up in the atmosphere. That accident was long linked to a spike in global lung cancer rates where the plutonium was spread by Dr. John Gofman, an M.D. and Ph. D., a professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley. NASA, after the SNAP-9A (SNAP for Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power) accident became a pioneer in developing solar photovoltaic power. All U.S. satellites now are energized by solar power, as is the International Space Station.

The worst accident involving nuclear power in space in the Soviet/Russian space program occurred in 1978 when the Cosmos 954 satellite with a nuclear reactor aboard fell from orbit and spread radioactive debris over a 373-mile swath from Great Slave Lake to Baker Lake in Canada. There were 110 pounds of highly-enriched uranium fuel on Cosmos 954.

I first began writing widely about the use of nuclear power in space 35 years ago when I broke the story in The Nation magazine about how the next mission of the ill-fated shuttle Challenger was to loft the Ulysses space probe fueled with 24.2 pounds of Plutonium-238 (to conduct orbits around the sun).

If the Challenger had blown up on that mission, scheduled for May 1986, instead of blowing up on January 28, 1986, and the plutonium released, it would not have been six astronauts and teacher-in-space Chris McAuliffe dying but many more people.

Pursuing the issue, I authored the books The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet and Weapons In Space, and wrote and presented the TV documentary Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens and other TV programs. And I have written many hundreds of articles.

The absence in media reporting on the Perseverance Mars rover of the dangers involving the nuclear material on it and the chances of that plutonium being dispersed is not new.

In The Wrong Stuff I include a section on “The Space Con Job.”

I quote extensively from an article published in the Columbia Journalism Review after the Challenger accident by William Boot, its former editor, titled “NASA and the Spellbound Press.” He wrote: “Dazzled by the space agency’s image of technological brilliance, space reporters spared NASA thorough scrutiny that might have improved chances of averting tragedy—through hard-hitting investigations drawing Congress’s wandering attention to the issue of shuttle safety.”

He found “gullibility” in the press. “The press,” he wrote, has been “infatuated by man-in-space adventures.” He related that “U.S. journalists have long had a love affair with the space program.” He said “many space reporters appeared to regard themselves as participants, along with NASA, in a great cosmic quest. Transcripts of NASA press confernces reveal that it was not unusual for reporters to use the first person plural. (‘When are we going to launch?)”

Also, in The Wrong Stuff I wrote about an address on “Science and the Media” by the New York Times space reporter John Noble Wilford in 1990 at Brookhaven National Laboratory. In it he declared: “I am particularly intrigued by science and scientists…My favorite subject is planetary science.” After his talk, I interviewed him and he acknowledged that “there’s still a lot of space reporters who are groupies.” Still, he went on, “some of the things that NASA does are so great, so marvelous, so it’s easy to forget to be critical.”

On NBC’s Today show, the attitude of the reporters was as celebratory on the morning of the landing as the label of the video aired showing “Jubilation at NASA Control.” Never was there a mention of nuclear power or plutonium or the acknowledged risks of an accident and dispersal of plutonium.

“I am disheartened that the media shows little inclination to mention the words ‘plutonium’ or ‘probabilities of accidental release’ in their so-called reporting of the Mars rover arrival. You have to question who they work for,” says Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network.

“We daily hear the excited anticipation of the nuclear industry as stories reveal the growing plans for hosts of launches of nuclear devices—more rovers on Mars, mining colonies on the moon, even nuclear reactors to power rockets bound for Mars. The nuclear industry is rolling the dice while people on Earth have their fingers crossed in the hope technology does not fail—as it often does,” said Gagnon, of the Maine-based international organization that since its formation in 1992 has been challenging the use of nuclear power and the deployment of weapons in space. The U.S. has favored nuclear power as an energy source for space-based weapons.

Further, said Gagnon, “the media, while ignoring the Mars rover plutonium story, is also guilty of not reporting about the years of toxic contamination at the Department of Energy nuclear labs where these space nuclear devices are produced. The Idaho Nuclear Laboratory and Los Alamos Nuclear lab in New Mexico have long track records of worker and environmental contamination during this dirty space nuke fabrication process.”

Declared Gagnon: “The public will need to do more than cross our fingers in hopes that nothing goes wrong. We need to speak out loudly so Congress, NASA and the DoE hear that we do not support the nuclearization of the heavens. Go solar or better yet—stay home and use our tax dollars to take care of the legions of people without jobs, health care, food, or heat.  Mars can wait.”


Report Urges Nuclear Rockets, Lays Out “Synergies” Between NASA and Military

By Karl Grossman

A report advocating rocket propulsion by nuclear power for U.S. missions to Mars, written by a committee packed with individuals deeply involved in nuclear power, was issued last week by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The 104-page report also lays out “synergies” in space nuclear activities between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. military, something not advanced explicitly since the founding of NASA as supposedly a civilian agency in 1958.

The report states: “Space nuclear propulsion and power systems have the potential to provide the United States with military advantages…NASA could benefit programmatically by working with a DoD [Department of Defense] program having national security objectives.”’

The report was produced “by contract” with NASA, it states.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) describe  themselves as having been “created to advise the nation” with “independent, objective advice to inform policy.”

The 11 members of the committee that put together the report for the National Academies includes: Jonathan W. Cirtain, president of Advanced Technologies, “a subsidiary of BWX Technologies which is the sole manufacturer of nuclear reactors for the U.S. Navy,” the report states; Roger M. Myers, owner of R. Myers Consulting and who previously at Aerojet Rocketdyne “oversaw programs and strategic planning for next-generation in-space missions [that] included nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric power systems; Shannon M. Bragg-Sitton, the “lead for integrated energy systems in the Nuclear Science and Technology Directorate at the Idaho National Laboratory:” Tabitha Dodson, who at the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency is chief engineer of a program “that is developing a nuclear thermal propulsion system;” Joseph A. Sholtis, Jr., “owner and principal of Sholtis Engineering & Safety Consulting, providing expert nuclear, aerospace, and systems engineering services to government, national laboratories, industry, and academia since 1993.” And so on.

The NAS report is titled: “Space Nuclear Propulsion for Human Mars Exploration.” It is not classified and is available at

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, from its offices in Maine in the U.S., declared: “The nuclear industry views space as a new—and wide open—market for their toxic product that has run its dirty course on Mother Earth.”

“During our campaigns in 1989, 1990, and 1997 to stop NASA’s Galileo, Ulysses and Cassini plutonium-fueled space probe launches, we learned that the nuclear industry positioned its agents inside NASA committees that made the decisions on what kinds of power sources would be placed on those deep space missions,” said Gagnon. “Now it appears that the nuclear industry has also infiltrated the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that has been studying missions to Mars. The recommendation, not any surprise, is that nuclear reactors are the best way to power a Mars mission.”

“It’s not the best for us Earthlings because the Department of Energy has a bad track record of human and environmental contamination as they fabricate nuclear devices. An accident at launch could have catastrophic consequences.”

Stated Gagnon: “We fought the DoE and NASA on those previous nuclear launches and are entering the battle again. The nuclear industry has its sights set on nuclear-powered mining colonies on an assortment of planetary bodies—all necessitating legions of nuclear devices being produced at DoE and then launched on rockets that blow up from time to time.”

“We urge the public to help us pressure NASA and DoE to say no to nukes in space. We’ve got to protect life here on this planet. We are in the middle of a pandemic and people have lost jobs, homes, health care and even food on their table.”

“Trips to Mars can wait,” said Gagnon.

There have been accidents in the history of the U.S.—and also the former Soviet Union and now Russia—using nuclear power in space.

And the NAS report, deep into it, does acknowledge how accidents can happen with its new scheme of using nuclear power on rockets for missions to Mars.

It says: “Safety assurance for nuclear systems is essential to protect operating personnel as well as the general public and Earth’s environment.” Thus under the report’s plan, the rockets with the nuclear reactors onboard would be launched “with fresh [uranium] fuel before they have operated at power to ensure that the amount of radioactivity on board remains as low as practicable.” The plans include “restricting reactor startup and operations in space until spacecraft are in nuclear safe orbits or trajectories that ensure safety of Earth’s population and environment” But, “Additional policies and practices need to be established to prevent unintended system reentry during return to Earth after reactors have been operated for extended periods of time.”

The worst U.S. accident involving the use of nuclear power in space came in 1964 when the U.S. satellite Transit 5BN-3, powered by a SNAP-9A plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generator, failed to achieve orbit and fell from the sky, disintegrating as it burned up in the atmosphere, globally spreading plutonium—considered the deadliest of all radioactive substances. That accident was long linked to a spike in global lung cancer rates where the plutonium was spread, by Dr. John Gofman, an M.D. and Ph. D., a professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley. He also had been involved in developing some of the first methods for isolating plutonium for the Manhattan Project.

NASA, after the SNAP-9A (SNAP for Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power) accident became a pioneer in developing solar photovoltaic power. All U.S. satellites now are energized by solar power, as is the International Space Station.

The worst accident involving nuclear power in space in the Soviet/Russian space program occurred in 1978 when the Cosmos 954 satellite with a nuclear reactor aboard fell from orbit and spread radioactive debris over a 373-mile swath from Great Slave Lake to Baker Lake in Canada. There were 110 pounds of highly-enriched (nearly 90 percent) of uranium fuel on Cosmos 954.

Highly-enriched uranium—90 percent is atomic bomb-grade—would be used in one  reactor design proposed in the NAS report. And thus there is a passage about it under “Proliferation and security.” It states that “HEU [highly enriched uranium] fuel, by virtue of the ease with which it could be diverted to the production of nuclear weapons, is a higher value target than HALEU [high assay low enriched uranium], especially during launch and reentry accidents away from the launch site. As a result, HEU is viewed by nonproliferation experts as requiring more security considerations. In addition, if the United States uses HEU for space reactors, it could become more difficult to convince other countries to reduce their use of HEU in civilian applications.”

As for rocket propulsion in the vacuum of space, it doesn’t take much conventional chemical propulsion to move a spacecraft—and fast.

And there was a comprehensive story in New Scientist magazine this past October on “The new age of sail,” as it was headlined. The subhead: “We are on the cusp of a new type of space travel that can take us to places no rocket could ever visit.”

The article began by relating 17th Century astronomer Johanne Kepler observing comets and seeing “that their tails always pointed away from the sun, no matter which direction they were traveling. To Kepler, it meant only one thing: the comet tails were being blown from the sun.”

Indeed, “the sun produces a wind in space” and “it can be harnessed,” said the piece. “First, there are particles of light streaming from the sun constantly, each carrying a tiny bit of momentum. Second, there is a flow of charged particles, mostly protons and electrons, also moving outwards from the sun. We call the charged particles the solar wind, but both streams are blowing a gale”—that’s in the vacuum of space.

Japan launched its Ikaros spacecraft in 2010—sailing in space using the energy from the sun. The LightSail 2 mission of The Planetary Society was launched in 2019—and it’s still up in space, flying with the sun’s energy.

New systems using solar power are being developed – past the current use of thin film such as Mylar for solar sails.

The New Scientist article spoke of scientists “who want to use these new techniques to set a course for worlds currently far beyond our reach—namely the planets orbiting our nearest star, Alpha Centauri.”

The NAS committee, however, was mainly interested in a choice between a “nuclear thermal propulsion” (NTP) or “nuclear electric propulsion” (NEP) for rocket propulsion.

The NAS report states: “Although NEP and NTP systems both use nuclear power, they convert this power into thrust in different ways based on difficult technologies.”

As the report explains NEP systems, they “convert heat from the fission reactor to electrical power, much like nuclear power plants on Earth. This electrical power is then used to produce thrust through the acceleration of an ionized propellant.” As for an NTP system, it “is conceptually similar to a chemical propulsion system, where the combustion chamber has been replaced by a nuclear reactor to heat the propellant.”

“Advanced nuclear propulsion systems (along or in combination with chemical propulsion systems) have the potential to substantially reduce trip time” to Mars “compared to fully non-nuclear approaches,” says the report.

An issue: radioactivity from either of the systems affecting human beings on the rockets with nuclear reactors propelling them. Back after World War II with the Cold War beginning, the U.S. began working on bombers propelled by onboard nuclear reactors—even built one. The idea was that such bombers could stay aloft for days ready to drop nuclear weapons on the Soviet Union. No crews would need to be scrambled and bombers then sent aloft.

But, as The Atlantic magazine noted in a 2019 article titled, “Why There Are No Nuclear Airplanes”—”The problem of shielding pilots from the reactor’s radiation proved even more difficult. What good would a plane be that killed its own pilots? To protect the crew from radioactivity, the reactor needed thick and heavy layers of shielding. But to take off, the plane needed to be as light as possible. Adequate shielding seemed incompatible with flight. Still, engineers theorized that the weight saved from needing no fuel might be enough to offset the reactor and its shielding. The United States spent 16 years tinkering with the idea, to no avail….

The Eisenhower administration concluded that the program was unnecessary, dangerous, and too expensive. On March 28, 1961, the newly inaugurated President John F. Kennedy canceled the program. Proposals for nuclear-powered airplanes have popped up since then, but the fear of radiation and the lack of funding have kept all such ideas down.”

The NAS report says, “Space reactor shielding has been analyzed and designed for a range of power levels…To minimize mass, the shield for an NEP system is designed using a ‘shadow shield’ approach, taking the form of a conical or cylindrical barrier that attenuates radiation in a conical region extending behind the shield, within which the spacecraft and payload are located. For any spacecraft with a source of nuclear radiation, the dose rate is managed by a combination of (1) distance between the reactor (or other source) and the payload and (2) attenuation by the shield.”

The “synergies” in space nuclear activities between NASA and the U.S. military advanced in the NAS report mark a change in public acknowledgement. The agency was supposed to have a distinctly civilian orientation, encouraging peaceful applications in space science.

However, throughout the decades there have been numerous reports on its close relationship with the U.S. military—notably during the period of NASA Space Shuttle flights. As a 2018 piece in Smithsonian Magazine noted, “During the heyday of the space shuttle, NASA would routinely ferry classified payloads into orbit for the Department of Defense among other projects the agencies have collaborated on.”

With the formation of a U.S. Space Force by the Trump administration in 2019, the NASA-Pentagon link would appear to be coming out of the shadows, as indicated by the NAS report. The Biden administration is not intending to eliminate the Space Force, despite the landmark Outer Space Treaty of 1967 put together by the U.S., the then Soviet Union and the U.K, setting aside space for peaceful purposes. It is giving the new sixth branch of U.S. armed forces “full support,” according to his spokesperson Jen Psaki.

The NAS report says, “Areas of common interest include (1) fundamental questions about the development and testing of materials (such as reactor fuels and moderators) that can survive NTP conditions and (2) advancing modeling and simulation capabilities that are relevant to NTP.” And, “Additionally, a NASA NTP system could potentially use a scaled-up version of a DoD reactor, depending on the design.”

It declares: “Threats to U.S. space assets are increasing. They include anti-satellite weapons and counter-space activities. Crossing vast distances of space rapidly with a reasonably sized vehicle in response to these threats requires a propulsion system with high Isp [Specific Impulse] and thrust. This could be especially important in a high-tempo military conflict.”

Moreover, on December 19, just before he was to leave office, Trump signed Space Policy Directive-6, titled “National Strategy for Space Nuclear Propulsion.” Its provisions include: “DoD [Department of Defense] and NASA, in cooperation with DOE [Department of Energy}, and with other agencies and private-sector partners, as appropriate, should evaluate technology options and associated key technical challenges for an NTP [Nuclear Thermal Propulsion] system, including reactor designs, power conversion, and thermal management. DoD and NASA should work with their partners to evaluate and use opportunities for commonality with other SNPP [Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion] needs, terrestrial power needs, and reactor demonstration projects planned by agencies and the private sector.”

It continues: “DoD, in coordination with DOE and other agencies, and with private sector partners, as appropriate, should develop reactor and propulsion system technologies that will resolve the key technical challenges in areas such as reactor design and production, propulsion system and spacecraft design, and SNPP system integration.”

It’s going to take enormous grassroots action—and efforts by those in public office who understand the error of the space direction being taken—to stop it.


The Leadership Institute

We’re familiar with Fox, the TV propaganda arm of the Trump administration remaining a far right-wing outlet under Rupert Murdoch and his mission of using media to push an arch-conservative agenda.

And we’re becoming aware of other radical right efforts to use media to indoctrinate people. There’s the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group seeking to buy up more local TV stations to deceive and lie from, and One America News and Newsmax TV.

As the headline of a recent article in The New York Times declared: “Pro-Trump Media Keeps the Disinformation Flowing.”

Much has to be done about this radical right drive to destroy the ideal of media being an independent monitor, a watchdog taking on power—not a partisan handmaiden.

Use of anti-trust regulations and implementation of Federal Communication Commission broadcast rules are on the top of the list.

But largely flying under the radar has been the training operation for right-wingers to be taught how to work the media, infiltrate government and otherwise promote a right-wing agenda in the United States and in recent years extending itself through the world especially to Europe.

It’s called The Leadership Institute and since it was set up in 1979 “has trained,” according to its website, “more than 200,000 conservative activists, leaders and students.”

One proud graduate of The Leadership Institute is Mitch McConnell, minority leader of the U.S. Senate, who on its website, below his photo, declares: “Thanks to you (Morton) and everyone who has served on your staff. There are countless conservatives making a difference in public policy across the country. As one of your earliest students, I know firsthand what a wonderful foundation the Leadership Institute’s education provides for someone involved in public service.”

The “Morton” he is referring to is Morton C. Blackwell, who founded The Leadership Institute, and remains its president and runs it.

Another graduate is now former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

As The Leadership Institute says on a page about its “Mission” on its website: “The Leadership Institute’s mission is to increase the number and effectiveness of conservative activists and leaders in the public policy process.”

“Institute programs prepare thousands of conservatives each year,” it says. And from it, “Conservatives learn how to…Succeed in the competitive field of broadcast media, Run successfully for elected office…Communicate a conservative message using the media…Formulate policy as elected officials or key staff members. The Leadership Institute is the center of conservative activist training. No other organization provides more training to conservative activists each year.”

Describing under “Headquarters” The Leadership Institute’s “facility” in Arlington, Virginia, the website says it includes “a training center, professional multimedia studies, dormitories.”

Blackwell’s trajectory through the years has been allied with the most conservative streams in U.S. politics as detailed on The Leadership Institute’s website.

“Mr. Blackwell was Barry Goldwater’s youngest elected delegate to the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco,” it says. “He was a national convention Alternate Delegate for Ronald Reagan in 1968 and 1976, and a Ronald Reagan Delegate at the 1980 national convention. In 1980, he organized and oversaw the national youth effort for Ronald Reagan. He served as Special Assistant to the President on President Reagan’s White House Staff 1981-1984. Mr. Blackwell is something of a specialist in matters relating to the rules of the Republican Party….He serves now on the RNC’s Standing Committee on Rules and has attended every meeting of the Republican National Conventions’ Rules Committees since 1972.”

The biography also notes that The Leadership Institute’s total revenue since 1974 is $274 million. It currently has revenue of over $16.9 million a year and a full-time staff of 70.”

Despite its political purpose, The Leadership Institute has received 501(c)(3) non-profit status from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

In recent years, The Leadership Institute has extended its reach worldwide, especially to  Europe.

The British-based organization openDemocracy (yes, the “o” is not capitalized and the words are combined) which seeks “to educate citizens to challenge power and encourage democratic debate across the world,” conducted an investigation that resulted in a report it published in October of last year.

It was headlined: “Undercover with the US conservatives who trained Mike Pence. This is how the architects of America’s culture wars are trying to export their tactics to Europe.”

Its authors, Adam Ramsay and Joni Hess, write: “Our host via Zoom, the Leadership Institute, exists to ‘place conservatives in the government, politics and media’– and it says its graduates include Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence. Like a multi-level marketing scheme, the workshop taught us to recruit students to right-wing activism, who would in turn recruit others. Blair stressed a growing marginalisation of conservative ideology on college campuses, and a ‘moral obligation to save the US….Over several hours, we were taught to polarise discussions, to war game public debates, to reframe ‘anti-worker’ policies as ‘right to work’, to characterise pro-choice activists as ‘hating babies’.”

Under a subtitle, “The US culture wars go global,” they continue: “This bare-knuckled politics is no longer confined to the US. The Leadership Institute has spent around $350,000 bringing its agenda to Europe since 2016, according to a new investigation by openDemocracy. There has been a marked increase in its European activities in recent years—and it spends more money in Europe than anywhere else in the world, outside the US. openDemocracy’s research also reveals that the organisation has worked with controversial ultra-conservatives in Europe including a Lega politician in Italy, the Spanish far-right group CitizenGo, Croatia’s anti-LGBT ‘In the Name of the Family’ coalition and the neo-feudalist Tradition, Family and Property movement’s branches in Austria and France, as well as across Latin America.”

“The Leadership Institute has also worked with a number of conservative groups and politicians in the UK—including Tim Evans, a former lobbyist for privatised healthcare; a former chair of the conservative Bow Group think-tank; and Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Vote Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum campaign.”

It continues: “Speaking to openDemocracy, the prominent UK LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell accused the Leadership Institute of ‘a form of cultural imperialism’. ‘It is exporting culture wars to subvert our democracies and influence our politics. We [didn’t] even know it is happening, until now,’ he said.”

The piece goes on: “Leadership Institute was founded by its current president Morton Blackwell in 1979. Since then, it says it has trained thousands of US conservatives, from high-school students to senior politicians, in skills from email marketing to how to get jobs on Capitol Hill. In our workshop, we were told that Blackwell thought 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was ideologically correct, but saw that that didn’t help him win. So he and other Goldwater supporters launched some key institutions of US conservatism: the anti-abortion and gun-rights movements, the Heritage Foundation think tank and the Leadership Institute, which works behind the scenes, recruiting, training, connecting—pushing allies onto the front lines of US politics. In the future, they swore, they’d win. And they have: their alumni, in addition to Pence, include George W. Bush’s strategist Karl Rove and Republican senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.”

Blackwell received the “Titan of Conservation Award” from the Heritage Foundation this past December. A Heritage Foundation press release said the entity’s president, Kay C. James, “who calls Blackwell a personal mentor,” asserted: “Morton Blackwell is a living legend of the conservative movement.”

Trump is most thankfully gone. Trumpism, most unfortunately, is still with us—as is The Leadership Institute with its arch right-wing operation now extending globally.


“This Reckless Path”

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a “public meeting” today on what it titled “Development of Guidance Documents To Support License Renewal For 100 Years Of Plant Operation.”

Comments from the “public” were strongly opposed to the NRC’s desire for it to let nuclear power plants run for a century.

“I request you pause and consider before you go ahead on this reckless path,” testified Michel Lee, chairman of the New York-based Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy.

“Our position and that of our constituents is a resounding no,” declared Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at the national organization Beyond Nuclear.

“It’s time to stop this whole nuke con job,” said Erica Gray, nuclear issues chair of the Virginia Sierra Club. There is “no solution” to dealing with nuclear waste, she said. It is “unethical to continue to make the most toxic waste known to mankind.” And, “renewable energy” with solar and wind “can power the world.”

Jan Boudart, a board member of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, spoke, too, of the lack of consideration of nuclear waste.

Cited was the higher likelihood of accidents with plants permitted to run for 100 years.

Whether the NRC—often called the Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission—listens is highly unlikely considering its record of rubberstamping whatever has been sought by other nuclear promoters in government and the nuclear industry.

Nuclear power plants when they began being built were not seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. So operating licenses were limited to 40 years.

But with the major decline of nuclear power—the U.S. is down to 94 plants from a high of 129 and only two are now under construction—the nuclear promoters in the U.S. government and nuclear industry are pushing to let nuclear power plants run for 100 years to somehow keep nuclear power going.

Among federal officials speaking at the all-day “public meeting” was Thomas M. Rosseel of the Materials Research Pathway of DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy and a senior program manager in the Nuclear Structural Materials Group at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. He showed PowerPoint slides including one with the heading “Sound Nuclear Materials Research Approach.” It listed in this process an “expert panel approach from the nuclear community led by the U.S. NRC and including industry, universities and international experts.”

In further discussing the “Life Beyond Eighty” scheme for nuclear power plants, Rosseel showed a U.S. Energy Information Administration slide projecting the amount of energy nuclear power would contribute to the U.S. energy supply in decline from 19% in 2019 to 12% in 2050 while renewable energy sources would jump from the current 19% to 38%.

For the DOE, which inherited the role of promoting nuclear power from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, abolished by Congress in 1974 for being in conflict of interest for having a dual role of both promoting and regulating nuclear power, this decline is of great concern.

At the start of the “public meeting”—held online as a teleconference—Allen L. Hiser, Jr., senior technical advisor for the Division of New and Renewed Licenses of the NRC, said the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 gave authority to the U.S. government to license nuclear power plants for 40 years. “But nothing in the AEA [Atomic Energy Act] prohibits a number of license renewals,” said Hiser.

Using this lack of prohibition in the Atomic Energy Act, the NRC is now pushing ahead on the scheme to let nuclear power plants run for 100 years.

The NRC—which was supposed to only get the regulatory function from the eliminated U.S. Atomic Energy Commission—has also, with DOE, been a promoter of nuclear power.

Earlier, it began extending the operating licenses of nuclear power plants to run for 60 years—and most of the plants in the U.S. now are being allowed to run for 60 years. And in recent years it has given the go-ahead for nuclear plants to run for 80 years, and several have been licensed for that length.

In granting the license extensions to 60 and 80 years, the NRC has also been allowing the plants to be “uprated” to generate more electricity—to run hotter and harder—further asking for disaster.

Gunter testified about an NRC cover-up involving the extending of nuclear power plant licenses. Using PowerPoint to reinforce his points, Gunter displayed a 2017 report commissioned by the NRC made by the DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The “very critical report,” said Gunter, looked at conducting research on the impacts of extending nuclear power plant operating licenses. It is titled “Criteria and Planning Guidance for Ex-Plant Harvesting to Support Subsequent License Renewal.”

The report listed many significant issues considering the “harsh” degradation of nuclear power plant components over the years, he said. It pointed to “a host of critical technical gaps.”

After he “raised questions about” issues in the report at a meeting on operating license
extensions held in 2018 at the NRC’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, the report was “taken down from government websites,” said Gunter. However, Beyond Nuclear saved a copy of the report. He spoke of an email that Beyond Nuclear obtained, after two years of trying under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, from an NRC employee saying: “Big picture, I think the entire report needs to be scrubbed.” A “sanitized” version of the report, said Gunter, was “republished” in 2019. Gunter spoke of “public safety” being threatened.

Gunter, also at the “public meeting” this week, said among the issues not being considered in the NRC’s drive to extend the licenses of nuclear power plants to 100 years is the management of the radioactive waste generated by the plants and “the advent of reliable, competitive and abundant renewable energy.”

The oldest nuclear power plant in the U.S. was Oyster Creek in Toms River, New Jersey which opened in 1969 and was shut down 49 years later in 2018.

What President Joe Biden does about nuclear power—he has said he is for “advanced” nuclear power—and the pro-nuclear NRC remains to be seen. The president appoints the five members of the NRC, and its current chairperson, a nuclear engineer and Trump appointee, is resigning.

Biden could move to have done to the NRC what was done to its predecessor agency, the AEC, to have it abolished. And to push to end nuclear power in the U.S.

Most U.S. nuclear power plants, according to a PowerPoint slide shown by the NRC’s Hiser, have already operated more than 40 years—the numbers of years they were seen as running safely when they began operating.

Donald Trump Has Been the Worst President in the History of the United States

Donald Trump has been the worst president in the history of the United States.

The attack by his supporters on the Capitol was a capstone of his presidency—lawless, an attack on democracy, a U.S. counterpart of the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s.

It was a horror representative of his tenure.

Thank heavens and thanks to successful and hard political work, he will in days be out of office. And there must be criminal prosecutions on the state and local levels as well as the federal level which he’ll likely try to wrangle out of with a pardon. There must be consequences to his horrendous term in office.

“An American Tragedy” was the title of a piece by David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker magazine, right after Election Day 2016. “The election of Donald Trump,” Remnick wrote, “is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.”

There would be “miseries to come”—and there have been.

Remnick warned against an “attempt to normalize” the election of Trump. “Trump is vulgarity unbounded, a knowledge-free national leader…a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right…a flim-flam man” with “disdain for democratic norms.”

The attack on the Capitol by the Trumpsters was an attempt at a coup to undo a presidential election in which a record number of voters came out to dump Trump and elect Joe Biden.

It was an act of insurrection incited by Trump.

As he tweeted to followers on December 20th—“Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Yes, and indeed it was wild.

And then, in a speech in front of The White House on Wednesday, addressing his backers who had arrived, said: “We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue…and we’re going to the Capitol.” He added: “You have to be strong.”

His call was preceded by his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, proclaiming “let’s have trial by combat.”

Giuliani, who took an oath to be an attorney and adhere to rule of law, represented Trump in many courts in challenges to his election defeat with claims which judges found totally untrue—but Giuliani opted instead, in violation of that oath, for “trial by combat.”

Remnick warned about an “attempt to normalize” Trump, but so much of media have engaged in “both sides-ing” the situation, as Julie Hollar of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has written.

When a person tells an out-and-out lie, there is no journalistic obligation to “balance” a story with a falsehood. And Trump, The Washington Post report, has recorded, has uttered more than 20,000 falsehoods in his term in office.

And then there have been the Trump disinformation machines led by Fox —about which Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels would smile.

But this is far more than a media problem.

Trump tapped into a vein of racism and other poisons in the United States.

He soon will be out of The White House but Trumpism, so horribly, is will still be here.

“You have to summon an act of will, a certain energy and imagination, to replace truth with the authority of a con man like Trump,” George Packer wrote in the current issue of The Atlantic.

Trump’s “barrage of falsehoods—as many as 50 daily in the last fevered months of the 2020 campaign—complemented his unconcealed brutality,” writes Packer.

“Two events in Trump’s last year in office broke the spell of his sinister perversion of the truth,” he says: Covid-19 and a free election.

“The beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency arrived on March 11, 2020, when he addressed the nation for the first time on the subject of the pandemic and showed himself to be completely out of his depth. The virus was a fact that Trump couldn’t lie into oblivion or forge into a political weapon—it was too personal and frightening, too real. As hundreds of Americans died…and the administration flailed between fantasy, partisan incitement, and criminal negligence, a crucial number of Americans realized that Trump’s lies could get someone they love killed,” says Packer.

He continues: “The second event came on November 3”—the election.

And that is what Trump and his followers who attacked the Capitol sought to undo. And, on the same day, Trump enablers in Congress were trying to undo it by having the votes of the Electoral College denied.

“The election didn’t end his lies—nothing will….But we learned that we still want democracy. This, too, is the legacy of Donald Trump,” Packer concluded.

Yes, most Americans still want democracy, but the history of authoritarian takeovers shows that a relatively small group of fanatics can beat the majority.

And we still are left with those toxic issues which Trump capitalized on.

Another component here is the enabling of Trump by all those Republicans.

Margaret Sullivan wrote a piece earlier this week in The Washington Post, headed “We must stop calling Trump’s enablers ‘conservative.’ They are the radical right.”

She wrote: “These days the true radicals are the enablers of President Trump’s ongoing attempted coup: the media bloviators on Fox News, One America and Newsmax who parrot his lies about election fraud; and the members of Congress who plan to object on Wednesday to what should be a pro forma step of approving the electoral college results, so that President-elect Joe Biden can take office peacefully on Jan. 20.”

“But instead of being called what they are, these media and political figures get a mild label: conservative. Instead of calling out the truth, it normalizes; it softens the dangerous edges,” she continued. “It makes it seem, well, not so bad. Conservative, after all, describes politics devoted to free enterprise and traditional ideas. But that’s simply false. Sean Hannity is not conservative. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama are not conservative. Nor are the other 10 (at last count) Senators who plan to object” to the Electoral College vote.

She notes Tim Alberta wrote on Politico that “’There is nothing conservative about subverting democracy.’ He suggests ‘far right’ as an alternative descriptor. Not bad. But I’d take it a step further, because it’s important to be precise. I’d call them members of the radical right.”

Members of the radical right won’t like this, of course. They soak in the word ‘conservative” like a warm bath.”

“On Jan. 20, we can still presume Trump will be gone from the White House,” she writes. “But his enablers and the movement that fostered him, and that he built up, will remain. That’s troubling. We should take one small but symbolic step toward repairing the damage by using the right words to describe it. It would be a start.”

Journalist Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, says Trump “will be in our history books as a dark, dark stain unlike any president of the United States.” And he investigated Nixon.







Asking for Nuclear Disaster — NRC Considering Extending Nuclear Plant Operating Licenses to 100 Years

Nuclear power plants when they began being constructed were not seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. So operating licenses were limited to 40 years. But in recent decades, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the operating licenses of nuclear power plants from 40 years to 60 years and then 80 years, and is now considering 100 years.

“It is crazy,” declares Robert Alvarez, a former senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy and a U.S. Senate senior investigator and now senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. He is an author of the book Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation.

“No reactor in history has lasted that long,” comments Alvarez. The oldest nuclear power plant in the U.S. was Oyster Creek, five miles south of Toms River, New Jersey, which opened in 1969 and was shut down 49 years later in 2018.

The move is “an act of desperation in response to the collapse of the nuclear program in this country and the rest of the world,” he declares.

The nuclear industry and nuclear power advocates in government are “desperately trying to hold on,” says Alvarez. With hardly any new nuclear power plants being constructed in the U.S. and the total number down to 94, they seek to have the operating licenses of existing nuclear power plants extended, he says, to keep the nuclear industry alive.

It’s a sign of “the end of the messy romance with nuclear power.”

The NRC will be holding a webinar on January 21, 2021 to consider the extending of nuclear plant operating licenses to 100 years. As its announcement is headed: “PUBLIC MEETING ON DEVELOPMENT OF GUIDANCE DOCUMENTS TO SUPPORT LICENSE RENEWAL FOR 100 YEARS OF PLANT OPERATION.”

Nuclear power plant construction has been in a deep depression for some time. Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in Georgia are “the first new nuclear units built in the United States in the last three decades,” notes on its website Georgia Power, one of the companies involved in that project. The cost projection in 2008 to build the two nuclear plants was $14.3 billion. “Now, updated estimates put the total project cost at roughly $28 billion,” states Taxpayers for Common Sense, and construction is more than five years behind schedule.

It’s not just the gargantuan price of nuclear power, and the preferability economically today of green, renewable energy led by solar and wind. Nuclear plant construction in the U.S. and much of the world has been in the doldrums because of the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear power plant catastrophes. People not only don’t want to waste their money—they don’t want to lose their lives to nuclear power.

“There is no empirical evidence” to support the notion that nuclear plants can have a century-long life span, says Alvarez. There “is no penciling away the problems of age” of nuclear power plants which operate under high-pressure, high-heat conditions and are subject to radiation fatigue. “The reality of wear-and-tear can’t be wished away.”

“Who would want to ride in a 100 year-old car?” he asks.

Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project of the organization Beyond Nuclear, says: “The new construction of nuclear power plants is proving to be more expensive and more dubious than ever before. So, the nuclear industry and the NRC are in the process of developing a plan to get these existing aging and inherently dangerous machines to run for 100 years.”

“This raises all kinds of problems that have never been addressed,” says Gunter.
And the NRC and the U.S. Department of Energy don’t want to address them.
Gunter points to what happened to a report which the NRC commissioned the DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to make. “The federal laboratory was contracted by the NRC to develop the criteria and guidance document to address and close numerous ‘knowledge gaps’ in the license renewal safety review process to provide the ‘reasonable assurance’ that the reactors could be operated reliably and safely into the license extension period,” relates Gunter. The 2017 report raised many significant issues regarding extending the operating licenses of nuclear plants.

The report is titled “Criteria and Planning Guidance for Ex-Plant Harvesting to Support Subsequent License Renewal.”

It “was publicly posted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to its website in December 2017,” relates Gunter, “as well as to the websites of the Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information and the International Atomic Energy Commission’s International Nuclear Information System.”

But then Gunter attended a public meeting at the NRC’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland on September 26, 2018 on operating license extensions “and I started asking questions citing the report” of the year before. The NRC officials there “were quite surprised.”

And the NRC “wiped all three websites of the report.”

The NRC was to repost the report, but it was then “scrubbed clean of dozens of references to safety-critical knowledge ‘gaps’ pertaining to many known age-related degradation mechanisms described in the original published report,” says Gunter. “The NRC revision also scrubbed Pacific Northwest National Laboratory findings and recommendations to ‘require’ the harvesting of realistic and representative aged materials from decommissioning nuclear power stations—base metals, weld materials, electric cables, insulation and jacketing, reactor internals and safety-related concrete structures like the containment and spent fuel pool—for laboratory analyses of age degradation. The laboratory analyses are intended to provide ‘reasonable assurance’ of the license extension safety review process for the projected extension period.”
However, Beyond Nuclear had downloaded and saved a copy of the original report which you can view at:

And you can view what Gunter terms the “sanitized version” of the report which has the same title but is dated March 2019. It’s at

The omissions start with what is headed “Abstract” in the 2017 report. The “Abstract” states: “As U.S. nuclear power plants look to subsequent license renewal (SLR) to operate for a 20-year period beyond 60 years, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the industry will be addressing technical issues around the capability of long-lived passive components to meet their functionality objectives. A key challenge will be to better understand likely materials degradation mechanisms in these components and their impacts on component functionality and safety margins. Research addressing many of the remaining technical gaps in these areas for SLR may greatly benefit from materials sampled from plants (decommissioned or operating). Because of the cost and inefficiency of piecemeal sampling, there is a need for a strategic and systematic approach to sampling materials from structures, systems and components in both operating and decommissioned plants.”

But in the 2019 version of the report, this “Abstract,” among other material, is gone.
Meanwhile, says Gunter, it is the practice of the nuclear industry as part of decommissioning nuclear power plants “to knock these plants down and bury them as quickly as they can” and “ignore having critical post-mortem autopsies.” Components of the plants are not studied to determine the extent of wear including “how radiation affects concrete and impacts on what had been inaccessible areas of the plants.” Not being done are analyses of the impacts of embrittlement of metals notably on the reactor pressure vessel caused by radiation exposure, as well as “extreme temperatures and vibration.” The industry resistance, he said, is based on the cost of such examinations. Further, there “are 600 miles of electrical cable in a typical nuclear power plant” which energize control monitors and other components. Cabling and its “insulation and jacketing” are also not being inspected but “buried with the plant.” Overall, the “real world effects of aging” are not being gauged, says Gunter. And the original Pacific Northwest National Laboratory report, he emphasizes, would “require” this be done.

The first nuclear power plants given permission by the NRC to operate for 60 years were, in 1999, the two Calvert Cliffs plants located on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay near Lusby, Maryland 45 miles southeast of Washington D.C. Most U.S. nuclear power plants are now licensed to operate for 60 years.

The first U.S. nuclear power plants to have their operating licenses extended to 80 years were, in 2019, Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point Units 3 and 4 near Homestead, Florida, 25 miles south of Miami.

The Associated Press conducted “a yearlong investigation of aging issues at the nation’s nuclear power plants” and, in an article in June 2011 by Jeff Donn, reported: “Regulators contend that the 40-year limit was chosen for economic reasons and to satisfy safety concerns, not for safety issues. They contend that a nuclear plant has no technical limit on its life. But an AP review of historical records, along with interview with engineer who helped develop nuclear power, shows just the opposite: Reactors were made to last only 40 years. Period.”

Further, the piece—”Aging Nukes: NRC and industry rewrite nuke history”—said “the AP found that the relicensing process often lacks fully independent safety reviews. Records show that paperwork of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission sometimes matches word-for-word the language used in a plant operator’s application.”
Getting operating license extensions “is a lucrative deal for operators,” said AP.

Priscilla Star, director of the Coalition Against Nukes, said of extending the operating licenses of nuclear power plants to 100 years: “There is no sane argument to perpetuate the lifespan of our already decrepit nuclear reactors other than the NRC seeking to perpetuate the endless profits to its licensees.”

“All kinds of technical foul-ups occur in the daily operations of a nuclear power plant,” she continued. “It’s a crap shoot running any of them safely on any given day because human error plays such a big part of operational safety. More frequent cyber hacking will also put hs at greater risk if this form of energy production is not abolished in favor of renewables. It’s time for a presidential administration to curb the noblesse oblige appetite of the NRC and once and for all consider it unsafe and unsound as a regulatory agency putting profit before public safety.”

What the NRC has also done in extending nuclear power plant licenses to 60 and then 80 years is to allow the plants to be “uprated” to generate more electricity—to run hotter and harder increasing the chance of accidents.

It is asking for nuclear disaster.

The late Alvin M. Weinberg, long-time director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a major promoter of nuclear technology, in 2004 published an essay in the journal Technology in Society titled: “On ‘immortal’ nuclear power plants.” He wrote about that a nuclear power plant could operate “100 years or more.” Earlier Weinberg coined the term “nuclear priesthood” for scientists being in a leading role in what he called the “Faustian bargain” of using nuclear power.

The link to the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. NRC webinar on January 21 is on its announcement which states that the “NRC is seeking public dialogue.” The meeting’s agenda on the announcement lists several time segments for “Open Discussion…Including General Public.” The announcement is at:

Nuclear-Free Earth

A presentation I gave at the Long Island Earth Day 2020 Program on September 21, 2020.

Nuclear-Free Earth

The two gargantuan threats—the climate crisis and nuclear weapons/nuclear power.

At the start of 2020, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday clock 100 seconds to midnight –the closest to midnight, doomsday, since the clock’s start in 1947.

The only realistic way to secure a future for the world without nuclear war is for the entire planet to become a nuclear-free zone¬. No nuclear weapons, no nuclear power.

A nuclear-free Earth.

How did India get an atomic bomb in 1974? Canada supplied a reactor and the US Atomic Energy Commission provided heavy water for it under the U.S so-called “Atoms for Peace” program.

From the reactor, India got the plutonium for its first nuclear weapon.
Any nation with a nuclear facility can use the plutonium produced in it to construct nuclear arms.

Nuclear technology continues to spread around the world. A recent headline: “Trump Administration Spearheads International Push for Nuclear Power.” Russia, despite Chernobyl, is pushing hard at selling nuclear plants.

Can the atomic genie be put back in the bottle?

Anything people have done other people can undo. And the prospect of massive loss of life from nuclear destruction is the best of reasons.

There’s a precedent: the outlawing of poison gas after World War I when its terrible impacts were tragically demonstrated, killing 90,000.

The Geneva Protocol of 1925 and the Chemicals Weapons Convention of 1933 outlawed chemical warfare and to a large degree the prohibition has held.

There are major regions of the Earth—all of Africa and South America, the South Pacific and others—that are Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones based on the UN provision for such zones.

But if we are truly to have a world free of the horrific threat of nuclear arms, the goal needs to be more.

A world free of the other side of the nuclear coin—nuclear power—is also necessary.

Radical? Yes, but consider the even more radical alternative: A world where many nations will be able to have nuclear weapons because they have nuclear technology. And the world continuing to try using carrots and sticks to try to stop nuclear proliferation, juggling on the road to nuclear catastrophe.

As for the connection between purportedly “peaceful” atomic energy and nuclear weapons, physicist Amory Lovins and attorney Hunter Lovins spell it out well in their book Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link. They write: “All nuclear fission technologies both use and produce fissionable materials…Unavoidably latent in those technologies, therefore, is a potential for nuclear violence…Little strategic material is needed to make a weapon of mass destruction. A Nagasaki-yield bomb can be made from a few kilograms of plutonium, a piece the size of a tennis ball” and a nuclear plant “annually produces hundreds of kilograms of plutonium.”

There must be, they say, “civil denuclearization.”

As to claim the energy generated by nuclear power plants is necessary, that’s false. Safe, clean, green, renewable energy led—by solar and wind technologies—is available to provide all the power the world needs.

Of the assertion that nuclear power is carbon-free, that’s untrue. The nuclear fuel cycle—mining, milling, enrichment is carbon-intensive—and nuclear plants themselves emit radioactive Carbon-14.

It took decades of struggle to make Long Island nuclear-free. The Shoreham nuclear plant was stopped, and the six to ten more nuclear power plants the Long Island Lighting Company wanted to build prevented. The two reactors at Brookhaven National Laboratory leaking radioactive tritium into our underground water table have been shut down.

On this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, let us strive for the goals of defeating global warming and having all the Earth nuclear-free.

Scenes From An Epidemic

My column in Long Island newspapers and on LI news websites this week. This version in The Southampton Press and The East Hampton Press, April 6, 2020.

Among the most moving words about the novel coronavirus outbreak were those of Governor Andrew Cuomo to National Guard troops involved in converting the Javits Center into a hospital for coronavirus patients.

“You are living a moment in history,” said Mr. Cuomo. “This is a moment that is going to change this nation. This is a moment that forges character, forges people, changes people — makes them stronger, makes them weaker.

“Ten years from now, you will be talking about today to your children, and your children and you will shed a tear, because you will remember the lives lost … and you’ll remember how hard we worked, and that we still lost loved ones.”

But “you will also be proud. You’ll be proud of what you did. You’ll be proud that you showed up … When other people played it safe, you had the courage to show up, and you had the courage and professionalism to make a difference and save lives.”

James Larocca, a former state commissioner of energy and commissioner of transportation, and now a Sag Harbor Village trustee, penned an op-ed about Mr. Cuomo which ran in Newsday. “If extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, and they do, then this is the time for the Democratic Party to nominate Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for president,” he wrote.

Mr. Larocca said Mr. Cuomo is “the only elected official in the United States today who has fully demonstrated the leadership, toughness, management skill and humanity that meeting the coronavirus pandemic demands.”

He said that “if a nominee is not chosen on a first ballot at the convention,” it can “open up to other candidates.”

Whether Mr. Cuomo might become the Democratic candidate for president because of his leadership in this crisis may or may not happen — he emphasized last week, “I am not running for president” — but certainly he has been catapulted into great political prominence.

Among the many TV pieces involving the gigantic number of people homebound to prevent the spread of the virus was a report by David Pogue, technology and science reporter on “CBS News Sunday Morning.”

“Welcome to lockdown!” he said into a camera he set up himself at his home. “How to live and work at home without losing your mind. First of all: curse the virus, but bless high-speed internet! The internet is our lifeline through this thing. It’s how we socialize, it’s our entertainment, it’s how business gets done. This is the internet’s big moment.

“It’s incredible what’s going on over video chat these days,” he continued. “Meetings, of course, but also exercise classes, concerts, church services, game nights, even weddings!

“Life goes on — you just have to go at it a little differently,” Mr. Pogue concluded.

Quite differently.

A rub regarding computers and the internet is that not everyone has the hardware. This is explored in a piece in the current issue of Time magazine, titled “The Online Learning Divide.” It focuses on online teaching caused by schools being closed, but it applies generally. It quotes a New York City English teacher saying: “I am concerned that, in 2020, all of our students don’t have access to technology or internet at home.”

The Stone Creek Inn in East Quogue reached out to “all our Socially Distanced Friends” in an email saying: “Hello … We finally have a day to reflect on this whirlwind of a week. Like you, there were moments we all felt overwhelmed, emotional, anxious, exhausted.”

The inn is limited to offering takeout meals, of course. It referenced a quote from former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson: “Let us all remember that ‘The manner in which one endures what must be endured is more important than the thing that must be endured.’ … Stay well!”

For Suffolk County, an issue has been raised about folks from New York City seeking refuge here. An article in the New York Post was headlined: “‘We should blow up the bridges’ — coronavirus leads to class warfare in Hamptons.”

High up is a quote: “‘There’s not a vegetable to be found in this town right now,’ says one resident of Springs, a working-class pocket of East Hampton. ‘It’s these elitist people who think they don’t have to follow the rules.’”

Phil Keith, a columnist colleague here, posted on Facebook: “Where’s our community spirit? I’ve seen so many posts and articles complaining about ‘city people’ coming out here and hogging our groceries and toilet paper. What — we only like their money in the summer? They have kids, and fears, and parents and grandparents, just like the rest of us. Why not just extend an elbow and say, ‘Hey, neighbor — how can I help?’ I’d like to think they’d do the same for us if, for example, a hurricane devastated the East End. C’mon, everyone, lend a hand — and a smile.”

In the obituaries are the names of more and more people — heading for 200 in Suffolk County as of this writing — who have died in this terrible epidemic. All that can be done to reduce the death toll, here and everywhere, must be done.

Why Does Journalism Matter?

Here’s an article by me just out in “The Journalism Issue” of The Waldo Tribune, “The Children’s Newspaper…that’s Read by Parents and Grandparents, too!” which has just started on its 30th year of publication.

By Karl Grossman

Journalism has been defined as the activity or profession of writing for newspapers, magazines and news websites and preparing or communicating news for broadcast on radio and on television and, now, on the Internet, too.

But it is more than that.

Journalism serves as a watchdog—a monitor—of government and business. It is a necessary part—a vital part—of the democratic process.

Journalism begins with the invention of the printing press in 1440. The printing press allowed writing to be communicated by mechanical means. Given credit for inventing the printing press is Johann Gutenberg.

But newspapers were slow to emerge.

Indeed, the first newspapers sprung up—in the early 1600s—in countries where the rulers were tolerant, such as Holland, Belgium and Switzerland, or where there was no strong central government. Why? Because from the beginning of the printing press, most kings and queens and other rulers feared it.

They were afraid that through the press, information could be communicated that would challenge them.

For example, in England, King Henry VIII started—in 1529—the control of the press with a list of prohibited books. And he required printers to have royal permission before setting up shop. Moreover, the powers of the Privy Council in England were expanded to control the press.

These days in the United States, President Donald Trump regularly describes the press as “the enemy of the people.” This dislike of the press by Trump goes back centuries among many rulers.

A big breakthrough in achieving freedom of the press happened in what became the United States when it was a colony of England.

John Peter Zenger’s New York Weekly Journal criticized the colonial governor of New York, William Cosby. Zenger published articles telling of how Zenger was corrupt.

So Cosby had Zenger jailed on a charge of that his newspaper’s articles were “false, scandalous, malicious and seditious.”  Zenger, after nine months in jail, went on trial in Manhattan in 1734.

Zenger’s lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, in his summation to the jury said that “men who injure and oppress the people under their administration provoke them to cry out.” Zenger’s trial, he said, involved “the best cause. It is the cause of liberty….Every man who prefers freedom to a life of slavery will bless and honor you as men who have battled the attempt of tyranny, and by an impartial, and incorrupt verdict have laid a noble foundation for securing to ourselves, our posterity and our neighbors, that to which nature and the laws of our country have given us, a right to liberty of both of exposing and opposing arbitrary power, by speaking and writing truth.”

The jury found Zenger not guilty.

As The New York Times editorialized on the 250th anniversary of the Zenger trial, it “turned common law on its head and established the freedom of our press.”

“The Zenger case,” said the The Times, “planted the seeds that flowered a half-century later in the First Amendment.”

The First Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights declares that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.”

The founders of this great democratic experiment called the United States of America established a system of checks and balances with the three branches of government—legislative, executive and judicial—checking upon and balancing each other. And the vision was that there would be a free press checking all of government.

Some 100 years later, when big corporations arose in the United States, our system was flexible enough to have the press not only be a watchdog of government but also of the huge businesses that formed, many of them monopolies. This period between 1900 and 1914 is known as the “Muckraking Era.” It was an early application of the investigative reporting of recent decades that has included the revelations by The Washington Post of the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s. This courageous journalism brought down the Nixon administration and caused President Richard Nixon—like Trump also a bitter opponent of a free press—to resign.

Still, around the world, the press in most other nations is not free. Rulers just won’t let it be a watchdog because they fear being challenged.

And today in the United States, the press is under attack.

A free press is a wonderful and delicate thing—and every generation must work to preserve it.