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Rachel's Democracy and Health News

Rachel's Democracy & Health News #922 "Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?" Thursday, August 30, 2007printer-friendly version

Featured stories in this issue...

The Enforcement Game
Unfortunately, every suggestion in this satiric essay is based on actual events and practices. You can't make this stuff up.
More Evidence of Harm from 'Safe' Levels of Toxic Lead in Kids
The official "level of concern" for toxic lead in children's blood is 10 micrograms per deciLiter of blood. Now a new study reveals that children's test scores in school are reduced by blood-lead levels as low as 2 micrograms per decliliter. Many previous studies have shown the same thing.
Bird by Bird the Avian Population Is Shrinking
"The study confirms what my grandfather feared and what most of us now know. Birds that I used to see routinely growing up in New England -- evening grosbeaks, eastern meadowlarks, northern bobwhites -- are in free fall. The losses are mind-boggling."
Study: Tuna on the Decline
"The horrifying reality is that the huge decline in abundance happened so quickly," said Molly Lutcavage, director of the Large Pelagics Research Center at University of New Hampshire.
Will Oceans Surge 59 Centimetres This Century -- or 25 Metres?
"If we follow 'business-as-usual' growth of greenhouse gas emissions, I think that we will lock in a guaranteed sea-level rise of several metres, which, frankly, means that all hell is going to break loose," writes Dr. James Hansen, head of the climate science program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Russia Plans To Build Nuclear Power Plants That Float on the Ocean
Some in the Russian government say the floating nuclear power plants, at $360 million each, are too expensive, requiring a decade to break even. But the state-run company says more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East have expressed interest.
John Gofman Dead at 88; Considered Father of Antinuclear Movement
One of our great heroes has died. In the 1960s, Dr. John Gofman began to challenge the official stories about the safety of nuclear power and medical radiation, and it cost him dearly. His early conclusions were subsequently validated, but the risks he identified have continued to be ignored by the electric power industry and by a medical industry that still uses much larger doses of radiation for medical tests than are required.

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From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #922, Aug. 30, 2007
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THE ENFORCEMENT GAME

By Carolyn Raffensperger

Avoiding enforcement of environmental laws is a political game. The goal of this game is to guarantee that whales, children's health, icebergs and oak savannahs always lose by making sure that nothing, absolutely nothing, interferes with economic growth. The way you win is by guaranteeing that the fate of the Earth is left to the market, not public will, administrative agencies or the courts, which only muck up the pure forces of the economy.

If you want to join the smoke-filled back room and play the game, your job is to avoid any pro-environmental decision made by government. You too can gamble away our future. Here is the playbook... and the loaded dice.

1) Pass complex, ambiguous legislation so the implementing agency is free to interpret it as requiring no changes in business as usual.

2) Have the President attach a signing statement that says he won't enforce the statute.

3) Establish the burden of proof so that it rests on the public and government to demonstrate harm with absolute certainty before allowing the agency to regulate.

4) Take decades to draft the regulations.

5) Before the draft regulations are published in the Federal Register, hold closed door sessions with the regulated industry (preferably with the Vice President so you can claim executive privilege). Obtain administration promises that the regulations won't impinge on business.

6) Challenge the underlying science and refer it to the National Academy of Sciences for a prolonged study.

7) Make sure that all health and safety information sent to the agency is designated confidential business information so the public can be denied access to the data.

8) Require that regulators account for economic factors, minimizing public health and environmental issues. This way, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the White House can use their oversight powers under Executive Order No. 12866 to water down regulations.

9) Have the Department of Justice write a legal memo that nullifies the parts of the regulation that impact industry.

10) Defer finalization of the regulations while industry sues... and appeals.

11) Use the Data Quality Act to obtain and challenge the data and methods of any government-funded study.

12) Peer review all agency science using experts in the field (read "experts" as "employed by industry"). Disqualify any nonprofit or academic scientists who might be biased toward the environment or public health.

13) Lay off agency staff because of budget cuts.

14) Require the states to draft their own regulations and then turn the program over to the states. (Go back to #3 and repeat through the state government.)

15) Delay enforcement while the agency and States harmonize regulations and enforcement.

16) Argue that the community (usually poor, people of color and/or rural) must have the jobs and that enforcement will take those jobs away. Swift-boat the opposition and make it look like the pro- environmental people are outsider radicals who don't understand the necessity of jobs rather than mothers and fathers who are concerned about the health of their children.

17) Set aside any regulation that interferes with the military or any industry that is tied to the military.

18) Make compliance with the regulation voluntary.

19) Hire too few inspectors to do the job.

20) Deny inspectors access to the site because it is under the jurisdiction of the states.

21) Refuse to fine industry for violations, and give them decades to rectify their mistakes in a way that best fits their business plan.

22) Fire any inspector for exceeding their authority if they cite or fine industry.

23) Express extreme surprise when (choose one) the bridge fails, the mine collapses, the ship hits a rock and spills millions of gallons of petroleum in a pristine area, or the levies break.

24) Blame the problem on illegal aliens, alcohol, insubordinate or lazy inspectors.

25) Promise to fix the problem.

26) Get a Presidential promise to veto anything that would impinge on national security or business.

27) Rage against the party in power for refusing to fix the problem.

28) Get conflicting science on the "cause" of the disaster.

29) Hold a Congressional hearing on the disaster with the appropriate weeping victims and if possible, a movie or rock star. (Bono is your first choice for a rock star because both political parties like him.)

30) Repeat #1-29.

A similar strategy applies to enforcement by the courts.

1) Prevent citizen suit provisions in legislation and ensure that there are no fee-shifting provisions so plaintiffs have to pay for litigation.

2) Get the court to deny standing.

3) Challenge all evidence in a pre-trial hearing and have it thrown out on Daubert grounds. Do not let the case go to trial, especially before a jury.

4) Hire scientists to perform misleading studies that will "prove" that industrial activities aren't harmful and publish their results in peer-reviewed journals. Don't disclose authorial financial conflicts of interest.

5) Prevent reviewing courts from granting deference to agency findings so the court can freely apply "science" principles to any adverse agency findings.

6) Have the court issue subpoenas to plaintiffs' scientists demanding personal information about participants in research so we can "interview" the participants as well. (Get all their bad habits on record so you can prove their illness was their own fault rather than industry practice.)

7) Coordinate a media strategy as pioneered by the tobacco industry. Manufacture uncertainty in the public's mind.

8) Stack the American Law Institute with friends from industry and guarantee that the Restatements of the law favor business.

9) Take judges on junkets to Hawaii. As you play golf, brief them on sound science and cost benefit analysis.

10) Fund the election of judges who rule your way. Throw out judges who rule against you.

11) If you can settle, make sure all court records are sealed so the next plaintiff has to spend tons of money getting the same information.

12) If you lose, go back to Congress or the states and demand tort reform.

If you win, you get 50 million dollars in bonus points that you can use to:

1) Endow a chair at your favorite university to make sure all future research validates your position;

2) Buy more lobbyists for Congress;

3) Support the political candidates of your choice.

Good work! Ready for Round 2? The same rules apply. Roll the dice.

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Carolyn Raffensperger is executive director of the Science & Environmental Health Network (SEHN).

An earlier version of this essay appeared in the Environmental Law Institute's newsletter, The Environmental Forum, Sep.-Oct, 2007, pg. 20.

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From: Environmental Health Perspectives
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MORE EVIDENCE OF HARM FROM 'SAFE' LEVELS OF TOXIC LEAD IN KIDS

By John Tibbetts

Low-level lead exposure has been linked to decreased aptitude -- or ability to learn -- on standardized IQ tests for school-aged children. Moreover, research studies have suggested that declines in aptitude occur at blood lead levels below the current CDC blood lead action level of 10 micrograms/dL. Now a team of scientists has studied how lead exposure affects educational achievement -- how well children have mastered material taught in school [EHP 115:1242-1247; Miranda et al.]. The results show that blood lead levels far lower than 10 micrograms/dL in early childhood correlate with lower educational achievement in elementary school as measured by performance on end-of- grade (EOG) tests.

Data for the study came from two large databases generated by two different offices of the State of North Carolina for the same population but at different time periods. Blood surveillance data were provided by a state registry for seven adjacent North Carolina counties. The scientists used screening data from 1995 through 1998 for 35,815 children. For children who were screened more than once, the researchers used the highest blood lead level recorded. During this period, an estimated 21.9-30.4% of North Carolina children aged 1 and 2 years were screened for lead.

The North Carolina Education Research Data Center provided educational testing data from 2000-2004 for fourth-grade students in the seven- county study region. In North Carolina, each child in grades 3 through 8 takes a multiple-choice EOG test in reading and mathematics.

The researchers linked the two separate data sets to locate records of children who had been screened for lead and had also taken at least one EOG test. To ensure accuracy, the researchers used 16 different combinations of identifiers, including Social Security numbers, date of birth, the county's Federal Information Processing Standards code, and first and last name. This process linked 42.2% of screened children to at least one EOG record.

The scientists found a strong dose-response effect between early childhood lead exposure and performance on elementary school achievement tests. Childhood blood lead levels as low as 2 micrograms/dL at age 1 or 2 years had a discernible correlation with deficits in later EOG testing. A blood lead level of 4 micrograms/dL was associated with a significant decline in EOG reading and math scores, with an impact nearly equal to that of participating in the free or reduced lunch program, the classic poverty indicator in school data. The researchers want to follow the same children through their elementary, middle school, and high school years to assess the persistence of the effects found in this study.

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From: Christian Science Monitor
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BIRD BY BIRD THE AVIAN POPULATION IS SHRINKING

By Nathaniel T. Wheelwright

Brunswick, Maine -- Forty-three years ago, when I reached what my grandfather imagined to be the eve of puberty, I was summoned to spend the weekend with him at his house in rural Connecticut.

I knew what to expect because my four older brothers had undergone the same rite of passage. The climax of the weekend would be the ceremonial presentation of a double-barreled shotgun, followed by sober instruction on firearm safety and general manliness. Next, my grandfather would take me on an excursion into the woods and we'd fire off a few rounds.

But when my turn came the ritual had changed. Instead of a gun, I was given a double-barreled pair of binoculars, and then my grandfather took me on my first bird walk.

I was bewildered. But within an hour my disappointment was forgotten, shoved aside by sheer awe at the sight of a redstart hovering in midair, the sound of a wood thrush's flute music, the swoosh of chimney swifts rushing in formation overhead. Out of the cacophony of the dawn chorus, my grandfather taught me to pick out the rhythm of a dropped ping-pong ball in the field sparrow's song and the towhee's exuberant "drink your tea!" By their silhouettes alone I learned to distinguish a phoebe and a kestrel.

That weekend my grandfather lifted the veil to a world that had not existed for me before. I didn't want our time together to end because I would have to go back to my family's farm where, to the best of my knowledge, there were no birds.

Of course, back home in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, I found all the birds I'd been introduced to in Connecticut and many more, ambassadors of every color: electric-blue indigo buntings, blood-red scarlet tanagers, earth-toned veeries. I still remember the first blackburnian warbler I ever saw, his throat and cheeks so vividly orange, his face looked like it might burst into flames.

Spring and summer mornings thereafter, I'd wake up and listen to the birds singing in my backyard. If there was a sound I couldn't recognize, I'd throw on a shirt and pair of pants, grab my binoculars, and track it down, something I still do today.

In his later years, my grandfather used to grumble that birds were becoming scarcer and scarcer. It was tempting to write off his gloom as the natural tendency of the elderly to romanticize the past, or maybe just an old man's deteriorating hearing and eyesight. But it was true that the whippoorwill that had kept me awake nights when I visited him as a boy had gone quiet, and the woods and fields of the Northeast felt emptier to me.

Earlier this summer, the National Audubon Society released a definitive study of population trends of North American birds, a monumental effort based on decades of Christmas bird counts and breeding bird surveys. The study confirms what my grandfather feared and what most of us now know. Birds that I used to see routinely growing up in New England -- evening grosbeaks, eastern meadowlarks, northern bobwhites -- are in free fall. The losses are mind-boggling. Since my grandfather introduced me to birds just half a lifetime ago, once-common species have declined by as much as 80 percent due to the usual suspects: habitat loss, pesticides, introduced species, and climate change. The songs of tens of millions of birds have been silenced. It feels as if the lights are dimming.

In one sense, extinction is hugely overrated. The vast majority of animals and plants that disappear hardly leave a ripple in the pool of life. Species become rare, they disappear, yet ecosystems persist. In some cases biological communities are fundamentally altered because of the missing pieces, but most of the time the ecological effects of extinction of species like Bachman's warbler or even ivory-billed woodpeckers are hardly measurable.

The true loss is spiritual and aesthetic, not functional or economic. Life would go on if every Shakespeare play and Beethoven sonata were destroyed, but to use the words of the Audubon report, our skies would be "a little quieter and the landscape a little drabber." Of course, we'll always have CDs of bird song and DVDs of bird behavior to fall back on -- a digital memory, as it were -- but will that be enough?

I can see now that my grandfather's rite of passage was really about connecting us with the land. It was about learning how to become intimate with our world's signs, smells, sounds, textures and rhythms. It was about knowing where we are and who we are. How wonderful it would be to be able to pass that gift on to my own grandchildren.

** Nathaniel T. Wheelwright studies the behavioral ecology of birds and teaches biology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

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From: SeaCoastOnline.com
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STUDY: TUNA ON THE DECLINE

Durham, N.H. (AP) -- The number and quality of giant bluefin tuna are declining in the Gulf of Maine, endangering the popular catch, according to University of New Hampshire researchers.

Their study does not pinpoint why the number of bluefins is falling dramatically or why the remaining fish are getting slimmer, but the researchers suspect a number of factors, including over-fishing from European countries in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea and shifts in migration and foraging patterns due to global warming.

In the mid-1990s, UNH scientists documented 500 to 900 schools of bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Maine averaging 100 to 150 fish each, said Molly Lutcavage, director of UNH's Large Pelagics Research Center. She said only a "few" schools would be seen in today's waters.

"The horrifying reality is that the huge decline in abundance happened so quickly," she said.

The toll is evident in the number of commercial tuna fishing permits, said Rich Ruais, executive director of the East Coast Tuna Association, who estimates that in the mid-1990s, there were 15,000 permits from Maine down to Texas, where today there are about 4,400.

With relatively low fishing quotas strictly enforced in the Western Atlantic, many point to Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean fishermen for the decline in stocks.

Atlantic bluefin tuna are known for being highly migratory, with spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean. Tagging from UNH scientists has shown the fish travel long distances, often mixing with stocks in the Eastern Atlantic.

Bob Campbell, of Yankee Fisherman's Co-Op in Seabrook, kept track in a log book of the 3,082 bluefin tuna he handled, providing the researchers a unique record of their numbers and quality.

"In a drawer, he had two or three notebooks with every fish he graded in the last 14 years, from 1991 to 2004," said UNH graduate student Walter Golet. Golet's findings corroborated observations by fishermen, brokers and cooperative managers that the quality and quantity are declining.

Golet's research showed that a fish caught in September 1991 had only a 9 percent chance of being a C+ grade, with A being the highest, based in part on fat content. In contrast, a fish caught in September 2004, even after a season of feeding in the Gulf of Maine, had a 76 percent chance of being a C+.

The fat content is not just important for taste. The researchers say it's an indicator of the overall health of the bluefin and of its future.

"One of the big consequences of not fattening as much is the potential impact it could have on reproduction," Golet said. "Reduced energy stores can often force a fish to skip spawning in a particular year."

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From: Toronto Globe and Mail
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WILL OCEANS SURGE 59 CENTIMETRES THIS CENTURY -- OR 25 METRES?

By Zoe Cormier

LONDON -- When Al Gore predicted that climate change could lead to a 20-foot rise in sea levels, critics called him alarmist. After all, the International Panel on Climate Change, which receives input from top scientists, estimates surges of only 18 to 59 centimetres in the next century.

But a study led by James Hansen, the head of the climate science program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and a professor at Columbia University, suggests that current estimates for how high the seas could rise are way off the mark -- and that in the next 100 years melting ice could sink cities in the United States to Bangladesh.

"If we follow 'business-as-usual' growth of greenhouse gas emissions," he writes in an e-mail interview, "I think that we will lock in a guaranteed sea-level rise of several metres, which, frankly, means that all hell is going to break loose."

The scientific basis for this idea -- which Prof. Hansen and five co- authors gleaned from geological records, ice core samples and analysis of the sea floor -- is outlined in a recent paper published by the British journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

In stark contrast to estimates put forward by the IPCC, Prof. Hansen and his colleagues argue that rapidly melting ice caps in Antarctica and Greenland could cause oceans to swell several metres by 2100 -- or maybe even as much as 25 metres, which is how much higher the oceans sat about three million years ago.

Their argument goes like this: As the atmosphere warms and the ice caps melt, they will not melt in a consistent, gradual fashion. Rather, they will start to melt faster and faster as the century progresses, quickly reaching a point where they could disappear altogether. This is because of "positive feedback" effects -- factors that create a loop of exacerbated melting and global warming.

For example, snow and ice reflect sunlight and reduce global warming. But as the temperature of the planet increases and the polar caps melt (as scientists are already observing at both poles), there is less ice to reflect sunlight and more water to absorb it, thus making the planet warmer and increasing ice cap melting further.

Likewise, the mass release of methane from thawing permafrost (happening now in the Canadian Arctic) means that natural greenhouse- gas emissions could be added to man-made emissions -- potentially speeding up climate change. And as meltwater from polar caps lubricates the contact points between the ice and the bedrock below it (evidenced by an increase in "ice quakes" in Greenland), ice sheets could be further destabilized and result in increased melting.

So why the radical discrepancies between Prof. Hansen's predictions and those of the IPCC? Certain positive feedback effects, as well as recent data on the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, were not included in the IPCC's report. "Because of the cumbersome IPCC review process, they exclude recent information," Prof. Hansen says, "so they are very handicapped."

Richard Peltier agrees. A University of Toronto physicist and the director of the Centre for Global Change Science, he works on mathematical models to explain the melting and freezing dynamics of the Greenland ice sheet and has contributed to the IPCC publications - but even he agrees that their assumptions tend to be "extremely conservative."

"[Prof. Hansen's] basic thesis is undeniable, because the mathematical models, which we have developed to describe the evolution of ice sheets, do not include certain processes that control how quickly an ice sheet could respond to climate warming," he says. "You need a model that incorporates all physical processes -- and no such model exists."

However, Prof. Peltier does not think that the ice caps are likely to melt as quickly as Prof. Hansen suggests. "We really don't know what the future has in store. I am incapable of predicting how fast the ice sheets will melt, and so is he. But I don't think we are going to hell in a handbasket."

Others are even less convinced of the catastrophic predictions put forward by Prof. Hansen. Andrew Weaver, a physicist at the University of Victoria who works on the dynamics of the polar ice caps and also contributes to the IPCC reports, says he thinks the "upper bound for sea-level rise this century is a metre.

"I don't disagree with the seriousness of the issue or the importance of these positive feedback effects," he says, "but runaway feedbacks have extraordinarily low probabilities, which is why they are not given much attention by the IPCC."

He adds that the Greenland ice sheet will almost certainly melt away completely, but the IPCC predicts that this will take 1,700 years - not a century. "The complete disintegration of the ice sheets cannot happen in 100 years," he says.

Moreover, although he calls Prof. Hansen his "hero" for speaking out about global warming in the 1980s "when nobody was listening," he criticizes the tone of his recent paper and the use of words such as "cataclysm," which he believes move "dangerously away from scientific discourse to advocacy."

And at any rate, Prof. Weaver says, we have enough to worry about, regardless of what the future holds: The disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers threatens the source of fresh water for about one billion people and climate change is causing severe weather ranging from the droughts in Darfur to the flooding seen in Britain this summer.

Still, Prof. Hansen insists that his predictions are on target -- and that the conservative take on climate change put forward by the IPCC and others could result in catastrophe.

"I believe there is pressure on scientists to be conservative. Caveats are essential to science. They are born in skepticism, and skepticism is at the heart of the scientific method and discovery," he wrote in New Scientist magazine last month. "However, in a case such as ice- sheet instability and sea-level rise, excessive caution also holds dangers. 'Scientific reticence' can hinder communication with the public about the dangers of global warming. We may rue reticence if it means no action is taken until it is too late to prevent future disasters."

Instead, Prof. Hansen urges a swift curb on greenhouse-gas emissions. The last time sea levels rose by almost 25 metres, he points out, was when the greenhouse-gas levels in the atmosphere were on par with what may happen if fossil-fuel emissions continue unchecked. He believes we should keep the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere below 450 parts per million. Right now, it stands at about 385 ppm.

"The first step should be a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants until technology is available to capture and store the carbon dioxide," he says, "and a gradually rising tax on carbon emissions."

Zoe Cormier is a science and environment writer based in London.

Copyright Copyright 2007 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc.

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From: Wall Street Journal
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RUSSIA PLANS TO BUILD NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS THAT FLOAT ON THE OCEAN

By Tom Wright in Jakarta Aad Gregory L. White in Moscow

In an industrial park in northern Jakarta, traders hawk electronics and pirated DVDs. From a steel-grated storefront here, Alexander Chilikov is trying to sell a floating nuclear power plant.

"There's 100% no risk," says Mr. Chilikov, a 44-year-old former vodka salesman from Russia who says he spent six years in prison there. "If you have the information, you can't be against this."

Last year, Russia began a broad drive to reinvigorate its nuclear industry. Among the initiatives: At a top-secret shipyard in the country's far north, Russia's state-run atomic energy company is overseeing construction on the first of what it says will be a fleet of reactor-equipped ships. The vessels are meant to provide electricity to remote areas, mooring just offshore and supplying enough power to run a small city. Russian officials say the floating plants have generated strong interest among foreign customers.

In countries such as Indonesia and Russia, ad hoc personal ties are often critical to getting business done. That has opened the way for self-styled brokers such as Mr. Chilikov. Billing himself as an intermediary, he has built contacts with the governor of a poor province on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, Russian power-company executives and a Moscow lawmaker. Last year, Mr. Chilikov led an Indonesian delegation to Moscow to discuss the floating power plants, participants in the meetings say.

Still, it isn't clear whether he is acting with a mandate. Two Russian officials who provided Mr. Chilikov with reference letters later distanced themselves when contacted about his role. The state atomic energy company that oversees the plants, Rosenergoatom, says it doesn't know Mr. Chilikov.

Mr. Chilikov says that as one of few Russians with experience in Indonesia, he's indispensable. "I have a name and many connections," he says.

With its shipboard-reactor program, Russia is reviving a decades-old idea. In the U.S., Westinghouse Electric Corp. proposed building such plants in the 1970s. In early 2001, Congressman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, suggested alleviating California's energy crisis by harnessing power from nuclear-powered Navy ships. The Soviet Union, a pioneer in nuclear-powered submarines and icebreakers, had its own plans. Following the Soviet Union's collapse, the floating-reactor project languished deep inside Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry.

The Kremlin jump-started Russia's nuclear industry last year when it announced a $60 billion program to build 42 land-based reactors -- more than double the 31 currently in operation -- by 2020. As part of the atomic push, construction on the first floating plant began earlier this year, on April 15. State television covered the keel- laying ceremony in the city of Severodvinsk, on the White Sea.

Sergei Krysov, head of the Rosenergoatom department that is overseeing the project, says the first vessel will be finished in late 2010. It will be a demonstration model, powering the shipyard and other facilities in Severodvinsk. Mr. Krysov says the facility will be able to start a new ship every year, each taking about three years to build. Rosenergoatom says the next plants will be used in domestic areas in Siberia and the Far East.

Mr. Krysov's 12th-floor Moscow office, in a building guarded by security-coded glass gates, looks out across the Moscow River to the Kremlin's golden domes. Sitting in a room adorned with a Russian Orthodox icon and pictures of nuclear plants, he produces the plant's marketing materials, including a glossy English-language brochure and a video presentation with a techno-music soundtrack.

Crew Sauna

Mr. Krysov says each ship will include two reactors that plug into the local grid. The first -- a 460-foot vessel named after Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov -- will have a 76-megawatt capacity, less than one-tenth the output of a traditional land-based plant. The vessels can be modified to desalinate sea water and will have crew quarters with a sauna.

The plants are already controversial. Vladimir Chuprov, the head of Greenpeace's nuclear energy team in Russia, cites 117 incidents in sea-going nuclear vessels in the past 50 years. Mr. Chuprov adds that floating plants could be a target for terrorists and provide material for dirty bombs.

The vessels' makers say the reactors will use a less-concentrated form of uranium than that used in nuclear weapons. Russia would tow the ship into place and tow it back to Severodvinsk every 12 years to offload spent fuel and other waste, they say. After about 40 years, the ships would be decommissioned in Russia. Russians will own and operate the vessels, overseers say, so there will be no transfer of nuclear technology. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency says it is working with an international group that is studying the Russian plan's legality and safety.

Rosenergoatom's general director, Sergei Obozov, compares the plants with a storied Soviet gun. "Floating nuclear reactors will be no less reliable than the Kalashnikov," he told Russian journalists in June 2006.

Some in the Russian government say the plants, at $360 million each, are too expensive, requiring a decade to break even. But the state-run company says more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East have expressed interest. Mr. Krysov says he went to the island nation of Cape Verde in June to sign a preliminary agreement to study a floating plant there. Local press reports confirmed Cape Verde's interest; country officials did not respond to interview requests. Mr. Krysov says stations could be ready for export as soon as 2014.

Mr. Chilikov, a slim chain-smoker who favors tie-dyed shirts, does not look the part of nuclear-plant salesman. His office in Jakarta's Marina Complex, which doubles as his home, is dotted with models of Russian tanks and helicopters. He says he plans to sell Russian helicopters to rich Indonesians. So far, he says, the business hasn't done any deals.

Born in Perm, a city at the foot of the Ural mountains, Mr. Chilikov did a short stint in the army and spent most of 1980s without work, he says. At the end of the decade, he set up a bread-baking business. In 1991, he says, he moved to Moscow and opened a company that sold vodka.

Mr. Chilikov says his break came in 1993, as former Soviet enterprises struggled to adapt to a market economy. A contact at Gazprom, the state-owned natural-gas company, told Mr. Chilikov the enterprise was having trouble collecting payments from an electric station near Moscow. The plant was broke, he says, because their industrial customers were late on their own bills. Mr. Chilikov suggested setting up a barter system. He describes receiving cars from a factory, then selling them to pay the electricity station and Gazprom.

"The Russian government was happy," he says.

Mr. Chilikov began to make government contacts in Moscow, he says, and was introduced to people in the Indonesian embassy. Indonesia's state- owned fertilizer company was having trouble getting a key chemical, potassium chloride. Mr. Chilikov says he shipped 25,000 tons of the chemical to Jakarta. A spokesman for the company, PT Pupuk Kaltim, says its records don't go back that far but that Russia is a regular supplier.

Mr. Chilikov traveled to Indonesia in 1994, his first trip outside Russia. He says the fertilizer deal helped him to forge connections with Indonesia's political and army elite. "All the other Russians were going to America," says Mr. Chilikov. "I was the only one who came to Indonesia."

In 1995, Russian police arrested Mr. Chilikov in connection with his Indonesian business ties. He was convicted, he says, on charges of setting up fake Indonesian companies to channel money out of Russia. Mr. Chilikov says he was innocent and that the government wanted to seize his assets. Russian court files are not made public. He says he served his term in Perm.

Released in 2001, he looked again to Indonesia.

Mr. Chilikov joined forces with an Indonesian businessman who runs a factory that makes boots for the army and police. The two set up a company, PT Altair Indonesia, to import Russian technology.

In Moscow, he met Valentin Ivanov, a member of the energy committee of Russia's lower house of parliament and a former top official at the Atomic Energy Ministry. To demonstrate his contact, Mr. Chilikov shows a one-sentence letter of introduction, dated May 2006, from Mr. Ivanov.

In July 2006, Mr. Chilikov led a delegation of Indonesian businessmen to Moscow that included a former high-ranking army general, Moerwanto Soeprapto. In one meeting, the delegation met with officials from Gidroproekt, a unit of the Russian state-controlled electricity monopoly RAO UES. Gidroproekt outlined opportunities to develop tidal- and hydropower in Indonesia. Participants also discussed floating nuclear plants, according to English-language notes on the meeting that Mr. Chilikov provided. Mr. Soeprapto and other attendees -- including Alexander Fink, a deputy director at Gidroproekt -- confirm the meeting and topic.

Back in Jakarta, Mr. Chilikov began shopping the idea around. Bambang Waskito, a former senior official in Indonesia's state-owned electricity company, says he introduced Mr. Chilikov to the governor of the province of Gorontalo.

The governor, Fadel Muhammad, says he jumped at the idea of buying a floating nuclear plant. Gorontalo, which sits at the remote northern tip of the island of Sulawesi, faces almost daily power outages, Mr. Muhammad said in an interview. The blackouts are stymieing his attempts to attract tourism and fisheries investments, he said.

In December, the governor wrote a letter to Mr. Obozov, the Russian nuclear agency's director, expressing interest in a reactor and asking to visit the production site in Russia. He says he didn't receive a reply. Rosenergoatom officials said they couldn't recall the letter but said they regularly inform Indonesian officials about the floating-reactor project's progress.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fink, the Gidroproekt official, wrote a letter to Mr. Muhammad authorizing Mr. Chilikov to conduct "preliminary negotiations" about a floating plan on its behalf. Mr. Fink confirmed the letter in a telephone interview.

No Experiments

A UES spokesman, however, says the electricity enterprise handles only non-nuclear projects. Mr. Krysov, the reactor program's overseer, said his agency is the only authorized seller and that Gidroproekt isn't involved.

Indonesian officials balked at the idea of Mr. Muhammad buying a reactor or transporting one through national waters. The country doesn't have nuclear power but is looking into building a land-based plant. "I don't want Indonesia to be used as an experiment," says As Natio Lasman, deputy chairman of Indonesia's nuclear agency. A spokesman for the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said Mr. Muhammad cannot proceed without central government permission.

A few hundred kilometers from Gorontalo, in central Sulawesi, the Poso district has seen fighting in recent months between Muslim extremists and Indonesia's U.S.-trained anti-terrorism police. A bit north, in the southern Philippines, Muslim rebels are waging a separatist insurgency against the central government.

Mr. Muhammad believes the plant will be safe. Asked if he knew that Mr. Chilikov says he spent time in prison, he said he did not. But Mr. Muhammad says he's pushing ahead, selecting a mooring site and arranging for an army unit to defend it.

Mr. Chilikov has been touring Indonesia to meet with other provincial governors. His main challenge, he says, is persuading Indonesia that the plants are safe. He's now organizing a seminar in Jakarta to outline their benefits. He hasn't contacted the Russian agencies lately, he says, because there's little progress to report.

In Moscow, Mr. Ivanov, the legislator, confirmed by telephone that he wrote an introduction letter for Mr. Chilikov, but that he considered him nothing more than a conduit. "I gave him public information that you can find on the Web site," says Mr. Ivanov, adding that Mr. Chilikov has no official status to broker a deal. The Russian's efforts, Mr. Ivanov says, "smell of adventurism."

Adds Mr. Fink, the Gidroproekt official who wrote the letter that authorized Mr. Chilikov's preliminary negotiations: "We warned him that if he misbehaves, we'll pull the letter."

--Svetlana Rubalskaya in Moscow and Yayu Yuniar in Jakarta contributed to this report.

Write to Tom Wright at tom.wright@dowjones.com and Gregory L. White at greg.white@wsj.com

Copyright 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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From: Boston Globe
[Printer-friendly version]

JOHN GOFMAN DEAD AT 88; CONSIDERED FATHER OF ANTINUCLEAR MOVEMENT

By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Dr. John W. Gofman, the medical physicist whose fight for what he considered scientific honesty in understanding the health effects of ionizing radiation made him a pariah to the nuclear power industry and the US government, died of heart failure Aug. 15 at his home in San Francisco. He was 88.

Often called the father of the antinuclear movement, Dr. Gofman and his colleague at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Arthur R. Tamplin, developed data in 1969 showing that the risk from low doses of radiation was 20 times higher than stated by the government .

Their publication of the data, despite strong efforts to censor it, led them to lose virtually all of their research funding and, eventually, their positions at the government laboratory.

Most of their conclusions were subsequently have been validated, but critics say the risks have been ignored by an electric power industry that sees nuclear energy as a pollution-free alternative to fossil fuels and by a medical industry that continues to use much larger amounts of radiation for medical tests than are required.

"He always stood up for the integrity of science," said Charles Weiner, professor emeritus of the history of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"He was really an original voice" in the debate over the risks of nuclear power, Weiner said, "someone who was an insider in nuclear weapons production who was very highly regarded by leaders in the field... and who brought credential, credibility, and authority."

Until his death, Dr. Gofman continued to argue that there is no safe level of exposure to ionizing radiation.

"Licensing a nuclear power plant is, in my view, licensing random premeditated murder," Dr. Gofman said in the 1982 book "Nuclear Witnesses: Insiders Speak Out."

"First of all, when you license a plant, you know what you are doing -- so it's premeditated. You can't say, 'I didn't know.' Second, the evidence on radiation-producing cancer is beyond doubt.... It's not a question anymore: Radiation produces cancer, and the evidence is good all the way down to the lowest doses."

Dr. Gofman and Tamplin's data about the health effects of radiation -- and their revelations about the Atomic Energy Commission's attempts to silence them -- played a large role in the demise of that organization in 1974.

The Atomic Energy Commission was divided into two organizations: the Energy Research and Development Administration, whose goal was to promote the development of atomic energy, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which was supposed to monitor the safety of the nuclear industry.

Dr. Gofman argued, however, that the changes were merely cosmetic and that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission continued to promote nuclear power to the detriment of the public at large.Continued...

In 1971, he helped found the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, a San Francisco-based advocacy group that studies the health effects of ionizing radiation.

More recently, Dr. Gofman had argued forcefully that radiation is overused in medicine, both for diagnosis and treatment, without a full consideration of the risks. He noted that some hospitals use as much as 100 times the required radiation for imaging. He also argued that CT scans are used too often when less dangerous approaches are available.

John William Gofman was born Sept. 21, 1918, in Cleveland, the son of Russian immigrants. After finishing high school during the Great Depression, he attended nearby Oberlin College.

After graduating, he enrolled in medical school at Cleveland's Western Reserve University. After a year, however, he took a leave of absence and enrolled in the chemistry program at the University of California, Berkeley.

Upon his arrival there, he met with future Nobel laureate Glenn Seaborg, who suggested that he might examine whether uranium-233 could exist in nature.

Intrigued, Dr. Gofman signed on, and he and his colleagues produced four one-millionths of a gram of the isotope in the Berkeley cyclotron and proved that it would fission spontaneously.

He was also the codiscoverer of protactinium-232, uranium-232, and protactinium-233 during his graduate student years.

In 1942, physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who headed the Manhattan Project, came to Dr. Gofman and told him that half a milligram of plutonium was needed immediately for crucial experiments that would determine the future direction of the project.

Dr. Gofman and his colleagues packed a ton of uranyl nitrate around the Berkeley cyclotron and irradiated it with neutrons day and night for six weeks. Then, working with 10-pound batches of the uranium, the team spent three weeks working around the clock to isolate half a cubic centimeter of liquid containing 1.2 milligrams of plutonium -- twice as much as they had expected.

Despite his later antinuclear stance, Dr. Gofman said, he had no guilt about his role in the development of the atomic bomb, citing the "human monstrosity" of Germany's Nazi regime.

After his work on plutonium was completed, Dr. Gofman returned to medical school at University of California at San Francisco. He earned his medical degree in 1946.

Dr. Gofman taught at Berkeley and UC San Francisco.

Dr. Gofman shifted his research to study trace elements in human biochemistry. But, in 1962, John Foster, director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, invited him to set up a radiation biology laboratory there.

With a budget of $3 million a year, he began studying potential hazards of radiation but immediately began butting heads with Washington bureaucrats. He retired formally in 1973 and spent the rest of his career writing books about the risks of medical radiation and continuing his research on nuclear hazards.

Dr. Gofman leaves a son, John D. Gofman, an ophthalmologist, of Bellevue, Wash.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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