Galen Winsor was a hands-on nuclear expert in the fullest sense of the phrase. Before irrational radiation protection rules were imposed, he and his colleagues directly handled used fuel. Since they needed to touch radioactive materials to accomplish their mission, they could not maximize distance or use shielding. Instead they limited their exposure time and depended on just one out of three of the triple protection means learned by all radiation professionals – “time, distance and shielding”.
According to his story, Winsor and his colleagues knew enough about the material that they were handling to prevent most skin burns, but they had a job to do and did not allow a desire to lower doses below the level of immediate risk to impede their successful accomplishment.
During his more than 30 years of professional involvement in handling nuclear materials, Winsor stubbornly refused to change his habits. He considered the used fuel pool at the Morris, IL recycling plant to be his personal “warm swimming hole”, he gave talks during which he licked uranium dioxide off of the palm of his hand and he once filled a two liter bottle from a used fuel pool and kept that water on his office desk for a daily drink.
If you pay close attention, you should come away with the impression that Winsor was not foolhardy; he was well aware of the real behavior of the materials that he measured. In Winsor’s opinion, imposition of unreasonably tight rules associated with radiation protection has been a cost-increasing strategy akin to the “feather bedding” practices of railroad engineers.
Winsor passed away a few years ago. He was in his 80s and his death was apparently from the normal kinds of natural causes that afflict people of a certain age.
Throughout Winsor’s talk, he points out the physical value of the irradiated material that some people insist on calling high level waste. He asks the final important questions – “Who owns the plutonium?” and “How much is it worth?” He recognizes that using it beneficially threatens a number of powerful interests.
Unfortunately, Winsor’s message did not receive widespread attention in the 1980s when he gave his talks. He did not live in the internet era and did not have access to tools like blogs and YouTube. Fortunately for us, someone saved video tapes of his talks and converted them to a digital format. A couple of days ago, an Atomic Insights reader sent me a link to a longer, 1.5 hour compilation video hosted by Liberty in Our Time. That video has been on the web for a year and has been seen by just 25,000 people; that number needs to grow rapidly.
I would be remise if I did not discuss the idea that Winsor’s message might have gained some detractors from its overly conspiratorial tone. As a Naval Academy graduate and retired Commander, I’m a card carrying member of “The Establishment”. I can testify based on a three decade-long career that there is no need to assume that some kind of secretive agreement must exist in order to encourage people with aligned interests to successfully work without any coordination to discredit a common enemy.
There are plenty of people that have long recognized that atomic energy directly threatens their interests by offering a superior product that can permanently capture profitable customers. Their interest in slowing nuclear energy development has been matched by those who have recognized that it is easier to build enormous infrastructures and obtain valuable contracts when people are confused, fearful or purposely kept ignorant through secrecy.
Unnecessarily stringent radiation protection regulations leads to huge contracts for what we used to call “digging and filling” on the military bases where I worked for several decades. Both construction contractors and hydrocarbon suppliers continue to be aided by media interests that carry their advertising messages, by financial institutions that make money by lending to gargantuan projects, by transportation industries that carry their massive quantities of daily deliveries, and by politicians that accept political contributions (sometimes bordering on bribes), employee votes and post government employment.
The gradual imposition of ever tighter regulations enforced by the kinds of employment threats that Winsor describes in the above video helped to increase profits and also reinforced the public fear factor by building an ever growing body of compliant workers taught to have a questioning attitude that defaulted to extreme conservatism while blindly following stringent rules, even without any physical evidence of harm.
A large and growing body of documents, personal testimony and anecdotal stories has convinced me that the world has wrongly accepted incorrect information about the relative hazard of atomic radiation compared to many other casually accepted materials and influences. Watching Winsor’s talk reminded me of a practically-minded senior chief petty officer named Tess who once demonstrated to me how he would simply wipe his hands on his pants if he found a little contamination. It reminded me of numerous occasions when Ted Rockwell repeated that money spent on radiation protection did not disappear into a rat hole, it disappeared into some rats’ pockets.
It also reminded me of my conversations with Ray Haroldsen, the electrical technician who told Atomic Show listeners stories (The Atomic Show #068 – Ray Haroldsen, Atomic Tinkerer who has tested the limits and The Atomic Show #069 – Ray Haroldsen, Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 stories) of picking up the pieces from the BORAX destructive test. When I spoke with Ray just two years ago, he was still in good health, even though he was an adult nuclear energy professional in 1951, more than 60 years ago. The risk from moderate doses of radiation or ingestion of radioactive material has been highly exaggerated for very logical, but greed driven reasons.
It is long past time to aggressively fight back and challenge the status quo. My burning desire for more widely distributed prosperity and my need to strive to help reduce the risk of dramatic climate change demands that I promote the truth. Please join me in the effort to tell the world that atomic fission is a great way to boil water to provide useful power to an ever growing number of happy and healthy customers.
On a related note, Jerry Cuttler highly recommended that I share a link to Wade Allison’s paper about the Goiania accident and what it should teach us about the minuscule health hazards from the materials released at Fukushima and any future, probably less severe accident. Here is a sample quote:
In the 25 years since 1987 there has been no case of cancer due to radiation among those contaminated – none at all. This observation is compared with measurements from Fukushima and elsewhere in the Table below. As shown in the third column the lowest measured internal radioactivity for any casualty at Goiania was far more than 1000 times greater than the largest internal radioactivity measurement for any resident in a large survey of those affected in Japan . For children this ratio was even larger. At Goiania one woman, already four months pregnant, got a significant dose and gave birth normally; and another who had received one of the highest internal doses gave birth to a healthy child four years on.
Please go now and read Allison’s footnoted paper. Your comments are always welcome.