Latest Reader Question (October 17, 2017)

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Kevin asks: My name is Kevin and my mom told me about you and that she syndicates your column and that you helped out my parents when they bought their Volvo back in 2003. I inherited a 1999 Ford Ranger 5-speed from my uncle and it needed basically a new front end and got it fixed and drove it daily since I had just gotten my license. It’s rear wheel drive so here in Chicago it’s not the best or safest car, and I spun out a couple of times so my parents decided to let me get a Volvo, which I did. It was a 2005 Volvo XC90 and ended up having to replace the VVT hubs which was a bit expensive. A few weeks ago it was making a bad noise and long story short I found out that the engine was toast so I sold it for cheap on Craigslist. I have the truck still but I needs a brake line and a few other small things. I came across a Volvo that my parents had sold to Carmax a few years ago and it’s for sale and I would like to buy it back. I had my Volvo mechanic look at it and it needs $1,800 in work for some front axle work and a timing belt. It’s a 2009 Volvo S60 2.5T with 125k on it and it’s been a dealer’s employees car for about 2 or 3 years now. it’s the base model but it’s still a Volvo. The Volvo my parents bought it 2003 saved my dad’s life a few times so I think it’s worth the money but was wondering if you have any thoughts? Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

My reply: Well, a known used car is already a step in the right direction. The chief risk with any used car being that it’s unknown – in terms of its history (especially as regards maintenance and how it was treated generally). You already know something about this Volvo’s history, so that’s big.

You didn’t mention the asking/selling price of the car, so it’s harder to comment on the $1,800 repairs relative to the cost of the car. Hopefully, the asking/selling price reflects that this work needs to be done. Put another way, you should compare the asking/selling price of this particular car – plus the $1,800 you’re looking to spend on repairs – and compare that with the prices of same-year Volvo S60s, in otherwise similar condition. Bear in mind that the timing belt replacement may be part of routine maintenance for this car (check the service schedule in the owner’s manual) and so any S60 you look at with similar mileage will either need to have this done or has already had this done. If a car has not had it done, assume it will need to be done – and adjust the price accordingly. And if the car has had it done, expect that its price will be (legitimately) higher than one that has not had it done.

In general, Volvos are good cars – and the mileage of the one you’re looking at is relatively low for the year. Assuming it is in good shape mechanically and the price is fair, I’d say jump on it.

PS: Say hi to your mom for me!

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Q: Can a nuclear plant explode?

    GW: Only like any other steam plant, like Laughlin, Nevada, had a steam explosion. It’s a coal-fired plant, but six men were killed there last year. That could happen at a nuclear plant, but as far as an atomic explosion? Good heavens, no. No way.

    Q: What kind of accidents can actually happen at a nuclear reactor generator plant?

    GW: You could lose your moderator, and the reactor would shut down, the control rods would stick in and you wouldn’t be able to start it up. You might do several things that would invalidate some of the safety controls; for instance, an emergency core cooling system. The only reason they put ECCS on a reactor is to destroy it. When you start these big babies up, because they’re so big, you only warm them up 50 degrees an hour and they say, “We’ve got an emergency,” so they say turn on the emergency core cooling system like they did on the Three-Mile Island 2, now you’re gonna thermally shock that big machine and ruin it so it can never be used again.

    Q: Let’s talk about Three-Mile Island. What really happened there? We’ve heard all kinds of stories about meltdown, and they made movies on it that this meltdown could melt right through the earth clear to China, and we’ve seen a lot of scare stories. What really happened at Three Mile Island? Do you know what really happened there?

    GW: Yes, I do. I followed that one very closely. In fact, I know the guys personally who wrote the script for China Syndrome and also wrote the script for the Three-Mile Island Fiasco. Dale Bridenbaugh, Rick Hubbard, and Greg Minor used to work with me at General Electric or the MBH Associates that wrote that China Syndrome script. Not only that, remember that was the time that China Syndrome came out, Jane Fonda story, 14 months ahead of the TMI-2 accident, it was predicted in writing in New York State that that accident would happen one year from the date that that Three Mile Island 2 reactor started up. It started up in March 1978, and it went down on March 28, 1979, right on the day, one-year anniversary. In other words, with 14 months advance notice, the industry still went along with the sham. Nothing happened there except that the owner, the operator, and the regulators conspired to turn it off.

    Q: What melted?

    GW: The top of the fuel rods, the third time that the core got uncovered, due to internal pressure, blew the top off of some of those rods. They have Inconel springs in them to keep the fuel pellets from vibrating when it’s running. Those things are under compression, and when they reduced the outside pressure and the fuel rods were still hot, it blew the top off of some of those fuel rods. The fuel rods in TMI-2 were internally pressurized to about 1,200 PSI with helium gas so that they don’t reverse dent when they’re hot and running for five years, and when they drop the outside pressure, why, that internal pressure where those hot rods blew a side out of some of those rods at the top. But melting? The fuel is already an oxide ceramic. It’s a pellet. It’s been pressed into a ceramic. When you pick it up and feel it, it feels like metal. It’s pressed so very, very tight and hard, and so no, the fuel didn’t melt. The China Syndrome is a scriptwriter’s fantasy.

    Right here, I’ll tell a story, I guess. See, I spent three weeks on the island in March of 1981, the two-year anniversary of this particular “accident,” and Tom Hall, who stood alongside Enrico Fermi when they pulled the control rods on 100-B in October 1944 at Hanford, and I were delegated to go to the island and find out what happened, and so we did. We went over all of the records, and everything else and as near as we could tell from performance records, 51 thermocouples for instance, only one of which went over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The center-lying temperature of those rods when they’re running is 4,032 degrees Fahrenheit. And so they say things like, “Over 50% of the core was greater than 4,000 degrees.” Yes, it was. If it wasn’t, it wasn’t running at 100% power. So they take that kind of information and bugger it all up so that you don’t understand what’s going on. They give you a little bit of it. Well, the worst joke that people could dream up and they say, “You know what the NRC’s worst nightmare is?” No, I don’t know what that is. “Galen Winsor and Tom Hall in the TMI-2 control room for an hour by themselves.” You know why people that know laugh? These crazy guys from Hanford would’ve started that baby up and shown that it would run. We’d have started it up, and they were afraid of us.

    Q: So there was no accident at Three Mile Island?

    GW: No, they did it on purpose. Shut it down.

    Q: Very interesting. Can nuclear radiation cause mutation in people and animals?

    GW: If a cell gets too much radiation, it dies. And so if it is a sperm or an oocyte, why, they die. They don’t reproduce, and there are no mutations. I think the good Lord built that safety factor in.

    Q: So you’re saying that mutation in future generations is an unfounded fear?

    GW: Yes. And the studies of the people at Hiroshima and Nagasaki have borne that out. Those people do not have that. Now they show the immediate effects of too much radiation. The women who were pregnant, the embryo showed very similar effects to rubella, to measles, some deformities certainly from that radiation insult, but that’s not the kind of mutation that’s going to go on to the next generation.

    Q: Galen, what and where are these burial sites and what’s in them for this so-called nuclear waste? I’ve been hearing stories about stainless steel containers buried in concrete under the ocean boiling for over 2,000 years.

    GW: That sounds like a real story. Let me start out by saying there is no nuclear waste, only materials created in a reactor to be recovered and used beneficially. Now high-level waste is radioactive and self-heating, and so fuel, reusable uranium fuel, fits that definition. But if you disregard its intrinsic worth, then yeah, it would fit the definition of high-level waste. But let’s say there isn’t any high-level waste, only material to be recovered and used beneficially. Then what’s the low-level waste fiasco? That’s an excuse for a federally mandated, non-inspectable disposal system so that organized crime can get rid of any evidence that they want, and it can never be dug up again.

    Q: They’re afraid to look in there.

    GW: They’re not afraid. They don’t want you to. They’ve got rules on the transport, so that if you have an accident with a low-level radioactive waste shipment, why, you call out all of the state police and make sure that nobody looks at it, that nobody gets exposed, that there’s no spreading of the contaminated material, and it’s also so you don’t find out whose body’s in that drum. The situation got so bad that the smell of human flesh was so great that they made it so that you can ship animal biological waste in refrigerated vans so it wouldn’t stink up before you got it buried.

    Q: What is, then, in these low-level or high-level or whatever, containers under the ocean?

    GW: Nothing. But, you see, they were at one time dropping barrels of radioactive waste off barges in the ocean. Do you know what was in them? Not high-level, self-heating radioactive waste. Probably had a few bodies and a few guns and a few knives and a few evidences in them too. If you drop them in the ocean, they are truly disposed of. You know there’s an international trade in that right now? You can’t do it in the United States so they transship it across the ocean to South Africa, and they can bury it offshore. What is in those drums?

    Q: So, you’re telling me then that I needn’t worry about boiling drums under the ocean for 2,000 years.

    GW: No. No way.

    Q: Thank you. I’m glad to know that. Well, one more question, Galen. Do you feel like a good portion of these men in Congress know this already?

    GW: I know they do. I went there four years ago and sat down with the Senate legal staff and told them my hour and a half long sad story and Sam Bollinger, one of the lawyers, stood up and he says, “Galen, if I understand you right, why, you want President Reagan to snap his fingers and make this thing come up straight.” And I said, “Hey, Sam. Terrific. You go ahead and do it.” He didn’t take that challenge. He said, “No, I’ll tell you what, Galen. Industry likes it the way that it is.” I said, “Sam, you really know how to hurt a guy.” And he says, “Well, if we change it, what are we going to do for an encore?” Yeah, they’re fully aware that this thing goes on as far up as the President of the United States. It’s the way that industry wants it. The industry is its own problem, then.

    Q: So the question is, then, what is the industry? What is the real story here? Is this an industry of nuclear energy?

    GW: The industry has been ripping it off for years and years. In 1975 we knew that large nuclear reactors were dead, that large was not the way to go. The way to go was small mass-produced nuclear reactors sitting right in the middle of town, one every 10 blocks, producing power. We haven’t built a reactor right yet. It’s time that we do it. Why haven’t we? Because of a federal energy cartel. These guys control the amount of electricity, the availability, and the price and they say, “You do not have a choice.” I have a choice. I’m gonna take one of those decommissioned nuclear subs up in Puget Sound, refuel it, and make my own electricity. Save the government $5 million because that’s what they want to throw them away. And I will use it for my own power probe. Quinn Millian [phonetic] up in Omak, Washington and I are moving on that and one of these days, if I hook one of them up to Pier 91 in Seattle, don’t be surprised.

    Q: Well, good luck.

    The Nuclear Scare Scam—Part 3

    I’m Galen Winsor, and I thought I’d share a few hands-on practical things that have to do with this nuclear scare scam. Now you’ve heard that gamma energy, the kind of energy that comes off a rock like this, is the most penetrating, the most damaging of all radiation. And not only that, here is uranium, the parent of radon. And they say if you can measure, detect radon in a home, then it’s bad. If you exceed the EPA’s limit, it’s reason to run you out of your home, spend $13,000 like they did with Stanley Watras’s house in Pennsylvania the other day to get rid of the radon, to ventilate it out. Ridiculous.

  2. Tritium. Heavy water. Deuterium is hydrogen-2, tritium is hydrogen-3. If you let an inventory get away from you, what’s going to happen to it out in the biosphere? Nothing other than it will become diluted and join the naturally occurring inventory of tritium, because tritium is created in the upper atmosphere by sunlight. We have a natural inventory of tritium. Then the only thing that happens when you release tritium, which is the trigger mechanism for bombs—it’s the source of the push that makes it go—is that you lost a valuable inventory. Then what of these people that are pretending that a little bit of tritium is going to do you in? It is not so.

    What are those two points? Only if it is an economically recoverable concentration or if it has a natural reconcentration mechanism. You know there isn’t any one of the radioisotopes out there that has a meaningful level of reconcentration in any of the species, not even the oysters in the bays in Maryland below Calvert Cliffs? Hmm. Why then are we still playing this game that any amount of this material is of hazard?

    Reusable uranium fuel, which has been isotopically enhanced in power-producing reactors, is a valuable national resource, not a high-level waste. The utility operators recognize the future worth of this commodity. Mo Udall, in that Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 imposed a tribute of a mil/kilowatt hour, a dollar per megawatt hour, on all electricity produced in a nuclear plant so that they can research and develop methods to throw it away.

    Why do the utilities willingly pay this amount to the Secretary of Energy to limit their liability exposure? Who pays that amount anyway? The consumer of nuclear-generated power. You have no choice, and therefore, I call it a tribute. At the same time, they have provided their own storage basins at these reactors at ratepayers’ expense to retain ownership control of the plutonium resource. So you consumer, you ratepayer, you taxpayer, are paying for the storage of this fuel, and WNP-2 at Hanford has storage that will take them through the turn of the century and yet every day they are paying a tribute to the Secretary of Energy with the concurrence of the United States Congress and signed by the President of the United States in 1982, 1983. Who was that? Ronald Reagan.

    They have provided those storage basins at ratepayer expense to retain ownership control of the plutonium resource. I started playing a game one day, seven years ago. I said, “Okay, Portland General Electric. You got the Trojan reactor; you got a storage basin problem. I’m gonna make you an offer.” I made them an offer that says, I will take all of your spent fuel, FOB your basin, if you will give it to me. In other words, I will take it off your hands at no expense to you. I will ship it. I will store it. I will do everything that needs to be done to that fuel. And you know what they told me? Can I quote them? “Go to hell, Galen Winsor. We value it more valuable than platinum or gold. We’re going to play the plutonium futures ourselves.”

    Now where did I learn that the name of the game is “Who Owns the Plutonium and How Much Is It Worth?” The first plutonium I saw was in a glass tube on the newsreel when I got back from the Pacific in 1946 and that that they had in a glass test tube they said was worth half a million dollars. Certainly they had less than 5 grams of plutonium in that tube. That’s pretty expensive stuff. And so for the show, they put a pot underneath it in case they dropped it. They said, we don’t want to have to pick it up out of the rug.

    When we decided, when it was decided for us, not to operate this plant, plutonium was guaranteed and backed by the federal government at $43/gram. That’s quite a price drop, don’t you think? When that price guarantee went away in October of 1971, the price of plutonium became $10/gram. It steadily went down to where its present worth on the market is minus $2/gram per year. That’s what it costs you to hold on to a plutonium inventory on a material that has been declared worthless by the utility owners and rubber-stamped by the Congress of the United States and they’re spending billions of dollars building holes in ordinary rock so that they can throw it away, dispose of it.

    Okay. What are you gonna do with it? Reusable uranium fuel may be properly stored in air-cooled dry storage in a cost-effective manner. Newchem in Germany offers this immediate and long-term option as a necessary and safe step prior to reprocessing. They’re doing it in Europe. At least four regionally located facilities are available in the United States where this concept can be used right now: Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant in South Carolina; Midwest Fuel Recovery Plant in Morris, Illinois (this one); Nuclear Fuel Services in Upstate New York; and REDOX Processing Plant at Hanford, Washington. These fully shielded, already radioactively contaminated storage areas have secure limited access. All have been operated under processing conditions of 10 CFR 50 and the MFRP has a 10 CFR 70 storage license, the only licensed storage facility away from a reactor in the United States. It singly, all by itself, is capable of storing all the reusable uranium fuel that needs to be moved away from power reactors for the remainder of this century. We had that storage designed in 1975 and had the approval of the design. Why then are you spending money over here in New Mexico on the Waste Isolation Project? Why are you spending money at Hanford at the Basalt Waste Isolation Project? Why are you spending money at Beatty, Nevada, for storage when I can already store it in this building that’s already built? I just named you three others that can do the job all by themselves too, and I know where there’s 14 more buildings that can do it.

    REDOX (The Reduction Oxidation Plant)and other excess facilities at Hanford are capable of dry storing all commercial ruthenium fluoride (RuF6) until plutonium recycle, at least through 5% enrichment is reestablished, or until the 22nd century, whichever comes first. RuF6 can be cost-effectively stored in existing facilities. Where does Mo Udall come off then saying that you cannot use this plan for its intended purpose unless it is owned by the United States government? He has said that.

    The waste isolation projects are politically mandated wasting of national energy and construction resources. Plutonium proliferation by diversion of stored reusable uranium fuel is of minor importance compared to global availability of fully enriched uranium by laser isotopic separation. Let me explain that last thing that I said. Jimmy Carter said you can’t ship plutonium to India, but in the same paragraph said you may ship them fully enriched uranium. Oh, Jimmy Carter. That peanut brain. What did he just say? He says that when the Israelis took out the reactor in Iraq they had fully enriched uranium from France. And they said, those rascals, those Iraqis, are going to take that fully enriched uranium, put it in that reactor, irradiate it to plutonium, and therefore have to recover the plutonium in a plant like this, and we stopped them. When the fully enriched uranium makes a better weapon than the plutonium in the first place.

    Now when the President of the United States says things like that, and when the press gives it credibility, I get insulted. And right after I get insulted, I get angry. And I’ve been angry for quite a while now. And finally one day, I said, “My own personal security is not important. I think I’ll go tell this tale.” All I want is to tell my story. The commodity that I communicate is called truth. And so then I ask you a question, a very brief, pointed question: Who owns the plutonium, and how much is it worth? Then I’m going to attach onto that a question I want you to think about until we talk again. If you haven’t been burned by this particular source of radiation, what is your problem? You obviously have one. Otherwise, you would join with me in telling the truth about this particular commodity. And so yes, I’m recruiting helpers. What happened to the guys who taught me the business? Thousands of them. The hands-on business. Where are they? They’re still there. Why don’t they talk? Who are the “they” that say, “This is the way the business is going to be run whether it makes sense or not”?

    The Nuclear Scare Scam—Part 2 (Interview)

    Q [Questioner]: We’re back with Galen Winsor and we’re talking about the nuclear scare scam. Galen, it seems to me that from what I’ve heard you say, that this scaring of the people is better than a lock and key to keep this stuff out of the hands of those who might be interested in investigating and keeping this valuable material hidden for just an elite few.

    GW [Galen Winsor]: This is probably the way that it works best, and so then the secret was to keep from letting other people know that it could be handled because first of all, we weren’t accepted by the community, and the materials that we were working with, they feared. But there were a certain few people that realized its real worth, its potential to be used in ways other than to support our national defense.

    Q: Let me ask you a question, Galen. Are you worried, do you have reason to be worried about your personal safety? Because the kind of people that you’re describing here are powerful people and if you’re still around, I wonder how much longer we can expect you to be in this game.

    GW: Well, on the 13th of December last year, the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) Region 5 turned out a federal SWAT team to get me on a federal warrant issued by Bob Thomas out of Walnut Creek, California. It was kind of funny in a way. They turned out this federal SWAT team at Hanford. They had my picture and alongside it says, “This is an irrational individual. He poses a threat to our security. Take aim at any cost.” Now the reason that I’m still here only has one logical conclusion. I have lots of help.

    Q: Well, you’ve told us about how that you and others of your friends and colleagues have handled many times this so-called deadly nuclear energy material that the whole world is so scared of. Why weren’t you afraid of it?

    GW: Because we did silly things like recover some of the undissolved fuel elements out of the REDOX dissolver that burned a hole in it and we went in and sampled these things by remote process. We got it out into our hands and found out that we could walk around the lab with them barehanded and they wouldn’t hurt us. And we were standing there in the lab tossing them back and forth—uranium metal that wouldn’t dissolve in the boiling nitric acid. Well, if you find out that you can play with it, and it was only 90 days since that thing came out of the reactor and it doesn’t burn you, why should you be afraid of it?

    Q: So in other words, you’re telling me that you learned to not be afraid of it because of practical use and application and hands-on experience.

    GW: Hands on. We might even have been playing games.

    Q: Okay. You say that you swam in this water that was straight from spent fuel used to cool that fuel. And you swam in it.

    GW: Yeah.

    Q: You told me earlier that you went a little bit beyond that. Would you share a little bit of that story?

    GW: Well, swimming in it didn’t have the desired effect. So I decided that I had to be more direct with these people that were giving me trouble. They were kind of hard to teach, so I went to drinking a glass of it a day. I had a bottle of it. The last time I went swimming I filled a 2-liter bottle with water and washed it off on the outside in the shower when I washed me off on the outside so that we didn’t tattletale. You know, with radioactive material, just a trace is a tattletale, so you gotta get it off so they don’t know that you’ve been swimming in the pool and drinking the water. So I took this bottle in and set it on my desk. Who would suspect that the manager of safety and analytical service had a bottle of spent-fuel-pool water sitting on his desk, and he drank a glass of it every day?

    Q: And this was unheard of?

    GW: Nobody ever did that crazy stunt before.

    Q: How has that affected you, Galen?

    GW: Well, as near as I can tell, it made me about 6 foot 4 in my cowboy boots, 210 pounds, and really quite a nice fellow.

    Q: All right. What then happened as a result of your doing this strange experiment on your desk with this water? What was the result?

    GW: Can corporations have a heart attack? I think General Electric had one. Because after they ran me through a whole-body gamma scan in December of 1974, by the time I got out, because I had a plutonium lung burden and it took 45 minutes to an hour to count that, everybody onsite knew that the manager of safety had been swimming and drinking in the swimming pool, the spent fuel storage pool. That cesium-137 had a ferociously high level, even exceeded the NRC’s limit, and I had been drinking it? They knew the fat was in the fire. Now where do we go from here? Well, first of all I got a poison pen letter from the people in San Jose, and they said, “Thou shalt not do those things. They’ll find out that the inventory can be stolen.” Well, that didn’t sit very well with this cowboy because nobody tells me what to do, particularly when what I do is right and hasn’t harmed me. Who are they to tell me what I want to do? This didn’t set very well. I was going to do something about that.

    Q: What was your motive in this?

    GW: Correct information. As an expert in the measuring system, it was very obvious that I knew the parameters of inventory control, the disintegration rate of each of these isotopes, how to measure them. That’s how we regulated our inventory. And to have these rascals come along and start playing games with the information that I was very expert in, that I had designed the analytical system for this plant around, disturbed me a little bit. No, it made me fighting mad, and I got angry, and I have to admit in retrospect that for the next five or six years, I was more than angry, I was hard to live with. Just ask my wife.

    Q: Well, in your estimation then, how dangerous is a nuclear reactor plant?

    GW: A nuclear reactor plant is just a way to boil water that’s the cleanest, neatest, most economical way to boil water that you’ve ever seen. And so in my estimation, nuclear reactors ought to be insured under the same insurance policy as any other steam boiler plant, power generating plant, and to have special consideration under the Price-Anderson Act, that means that the insurance industry has already paid off the Congress so that they can have a rip off, charging ever and higher and higher insurance premiums, total coverage much, much greater for a nonexistent risk. What a racket.

    • Let’s take them one at a time. This is a rock that I picked up in Naturita, Colorado. 16 percent uranium by weight, high-grade uranium. Hot. I read a thing the other day that says they had high-grade uranium, and lo and behold, it’s too hot to transport, so they had to bury it onsite. Oh, wonderful. Let’s talk a little bit about radiation. If we can…yeah. We picking up? [Radiation meter turned on and clicking.] If you put the probe right there, the meter goes off scale and you can hear it. Yep? Hot. Radiation, gamma radiation, is the most penetrating of all radiation. Oh, is it? All I’ve got between the rock and the probe is my hand. It doesn’t count for very much, does it? What if I put the rock behind me? [Counts audibly diminish.] You don’t suppose they’ve been lying to you, do you? I suspect they have.

      Well, let’s do a little bit more. I got a black bottle. This stuff comes in a white bottle. A bottle of NoDoz. You can send children down to the drugstore to buy NoDoz. All they need is money. In this are 60 white caffeine pellets. In this one is uranium oxide U308. You can’t buy it for love or money. The state of Washington sent two of their Gestapo agents over to my home to confiscate my uranium samples on the 17th of December last year.

      Got a challenge. I’d like to have somebody in the room to volunteer to take all of this bottle or all of this bottle. The only thing that I’ll tell you is that one of them won’t hurt you and the other one will kill you. Do you want the white stuff or the black stuff? White stuff? If you do, there’s enough in there to kill four men your size.

      The government says, “We got to ban this material. It’s radioactive.” Let’s check it on the bottom of the bottle. Not very radioactive. Let’s take the cap off. Oh, goodness. Very radioactive. This instrument will only count gamma energy. It’s just energy. Like what’s coming from those lights. Only you’re getting a lot of infrared from the lights as well as ultraviolet, energy response, and it’s very carefully damped to only discriminate it so it only gets the energy that comes to this. I don’t want it to respond to a light, just to this. It cost me a $1,000 to get an instrument that’ll just respond to this [gamma] and not that [light]. This is radioactive by any definition. Radioactive material giving off radiation that is read by an instrument like this.

      The daughter of this, radon, cannot be read on this instrument because it gives off alpha particles. An alpha particle is a di-positive particle that comes from the nucleus. It has two protons and two neutrons; therefore, an atomic weight of 4, and it has minus 2 electrons. And if you grab it with a high ionization potential counter, it’ll count. But if it travels two inches in the air or through a piece of paper, it picks up two electrons, two beta particles if you will, and becomes helium gas and it won’t count on an ionization chamber. Did you know that this thing right here is giving off helium gas? Alpha comes from uranium.

      Okay, radioactive material. You pour it out in the hand, and that’s radioactive contamination. Is it radioactive? Yeah, it is. Very radioactive. Now decontamination is nothing but scooping it back up and putting it in the bottle. I just now decontaminated my hand. No, I didn’t do such a good job. Not good at all. Is it still radioactive? Yeah, that’s called residual radioactivity. Now under the decontamination rules of the government, when you decontaminate someone like this that’s that contaminated, and this is certainly a reportable incident under current DOE regulations, when you decontaminate it, it has to go down a controlled drain so that you don’t disperse radioactivity.

      Do I qualify as a controlled drain? [He licks his hand.] That material that I just ate is not soluble in body fluids. It was originally at 940 degrees Celsius where it becomes U3O8, known in the industry as HCl insoluble. In other words, it will not dissolve in concentrated hydrochloric acid—hot. Your stomach has 10th normal hydrochloric acid in it, so it won’t even dissolve. The stuff is so fine that it has no texture to it. It doesn’t even feel rough. So it’s tasteless, odorless, has no texture, how’s it supposed to hurt me? Because I’ve been eating this on lecture tour for two years, the state of Washington felt it necessary to confiscate my uranium samples so that I would be safe.

      Dr. Fulton from the Hanford Environmental Health Foundation called up and he said, “Hey, I heard one of your guys OD’d on uranium today, Galen.” And we talked for a little while and he said, “Oh, that was you!” And I said, “Listen, I can eat all that stuff I want.” He says, “It’ll ruin your kidneys. How’re your kidneys?” “They’re fine.” “Well, you should’ve been chelated within four hours.” And I said, “You mean you guys gonna follow me around the country and give me chelating agents every four hours after I eat it on lecture tour?” He says, “We’ll give you any medical assistance that you need, Galen. We don’t want anything to happen to you.” I said, “Does that include turning out the federal SWAT team four days ago to get me?” Where are these guys coming from?

      Well, here’s a piece of metal, density of 19.0. If you know your chemistry and physics, you know there are two metals that have that density—plutonium and uranium. Radioactive, pyrophoric, density of 19. Outside of a laboratory, most of you can’t tell me whether this is uranium, plutonium, or a mixture of the two. Now I said that it’s heavy, and it is. Let’s see if it’s radioactive. [Holds radiation probe near it.] Yeah, it is. Pyrophoric. What does that mean? Pyro—fire. Black on the end. The spark that just came off there is pyro (fire, burn). If it’s plutonium, I just contaminated this area of Arizona in excess of the EPA’s limit of one square mile of surface.

      Somebody laughed. It’s serious. The end of progress altogether says that I just contaminated you in excess of the limit for one square mile. It’s now silver on the end. Tomorrow it’ll be black because it self-oxidizes this black color, like this. All by itself. Plutonium does that, and uranium does that. Is it hazardous? Yeah, it is. Because they take depleted uranium metal and make it into 50-caliber bullets, fire them from shoulder-held weapons. In 1976 they obsoleted tank warfare with these things because it only takes one dogface with one weapon to knock out a 65-ton tank. It’ll go through three inches of armor plate and when it comes out the other side, it’s that white hot spark that we just made. And the five men in that tank are dead. Because it’ll burn all the oxygen out of the air and burn your flesh. In 1976 they obsoleted tank warfare and you never even knew that.

      They make 10,000 of those bullets every day in the United States. We got enough of an arsenal to sink all of Russia’s tanks, and our boys in the defense department don’t even talk about it. Yeah, it’s hazardous to your health. It reminds me. Lead is hazardous to your health too, isn’t it? Particularly if it’s in a .45 slug like this and it hits you right here going about 2,600 feet per second. It’s not the material; it’s the impact from the velocity. Let’s be very specific in the words that we use. This particular chunk of lead came out of a human body. My son, who’s a deputy sheriff, thought maybe I could use it on tour. That’s called dying of lead poisoning. Anything less is a figment of the imagination because it’s not soluble in body fluid either.

      This is a pellet of cobalt–59. If you put it in a reactor into a neutron field, you can convert cobalt 59 to cobalt-60, which gives off a gamma. It becomes the source that doctors use to irradiate patients to 7,000 Roentgen. The total dose absorbed by radiation workers at Three Mile Island in the last six years is something like 1,500 Roentgen. Five times more is given to a single individual in a doctor’s facility. Now how do you know why I say that the federal regulations are absurd, and if you live by those federal regulations, maybe you’re being absurd too?

      Now a pellet of cobalt-60 this size got shipped by mistake to Mexico, got diluted into 5,000 tons of iron. Some of the reinforcing rod came up to Los Alamos, New Mexico, and they said, “Hey, that stuff’s radioactive.” Understand that this single pellet diluted roughly a factor of 1 billion was what they were reading on a detector like this at Los Alamos, and so they pulled back table legs that were in Spokane, Washington, that were made out of the same batch because it was hot and radioactive and it would burn you. When the pellet itself could be held in your hand like that for a few minutes without it burning you. Now Christ walked the earth a billion minutes ago. If I could stretch this pellet out into a wire, and it went clear around the earth and right back here to Phoenix, a billionth of this amount is 1.7 inches of that wire so stretched out. Stagger your mind? It ought to.

      Now. Let’s try a little game. The EPA says that 5 pCi/L of air is the limit for radon-222. And they handle that like it’s a real number. Madame Curie says that 1 g Radium = 1 Ci = 2.22 x1012 disintegrations per minute, and that’s the basic definition of radioactivity. How many disintegrations is [the EPA limit]? … The EPA, in its wisdom, says that with11 disintegrations per minute from 1 liter of air, you have exceeded the limit.

      You know what I did the other day? I’ve been having a little talk with some legal authorities up at my house, so I took one of these bottles of uranium like this and I dissolved it in an Erlenmeyer flask with nitric acid. I have a crack in the basement floor, and I squirted that whole bottle into that crack on the basement floor in acid solution, so it’ll drive that counter off its scale any place along a 10-foot section of that crack…. When they bring the radon measurement in there, you know what the radon’s going to do? It’s going to go off scale in their measurement. [Their instruments] won’t go that high. If Watras’s house was 17 times this limit in it, which caused him to spend $13,000 and give it national TV coverage, press coverage, think what Galen Winsor’s house is like.

      I went to the trouble of notifying my congressman about it. Also Mike Lawrence, the manager of the department of energy in the Pacific Northwest, my state representative Ray Isaacson, and a few other astute people, including the bankers and the lawyers and the appeal court. What are they gonna do with that? I set them up on that last Thursday, and I came down to Phoenix. I escaped the folderol. What I’m saying to you is that the federal regulations are absurd. The congressmen that put them into place ought to be fired. They ought to be sent home. The regulators—what do you do with them? Quit paying them! The taxpayer, the electorate, elects those people to go out and do a job. Why do you continue to pay them when they’re teaching you baloney? When they’re putting in regulations that don’t make any sense? Cut it out! Quit paying them. Fire them. Send them home. The term I grew up with says “Can them.” Is it easy? Apparently not. You haven’t got the job done. The majority of the Congress is irresponsible, amoral, atheistic, irresponsible…let’s see, how many more adjectives can I drum up? But that many.

      Let me tell you. We as a people sent a bunch of rascals out to the energy store with a signed blank check, and we say, “Hey, fellows. If you run out of money, just go build us a good power plant. If you run out of money, come back and we’ll give you another signed blank check, and guarantee the payment out of the ratepayer’s pocket. Tennessee Valley Authority has the most nuclear reactors of any outfit in the place. Not one of them has produced any power since last August. Browns Ferry 1, 2, and 3 in Mississippi hasn’t produced any power since last March. And they don’t plan on producing any power at Browns Ferry until mid-year in 1986 at a million dollars a day in lost power revenue per plant? And held off in the name of health and safety? Now tell me we didn’t send rascals out to the energy market place with a signed blank check. They’re still getting paid. Those reactors are all fully fueled, fully staffed, and just sitting there. Who’s getting taken? The ratepayer. You’re still paying more and more for your electricity all of the time.

      Now Bonneville Power Administration says that 57% availability is okay for a nuclear reactor. Main Yankee is often run at 103% availability, which means that it’s running over nameplate rating and up days out of the year that its average availability is 100%. Bonneville Power Administration and the Department of Energy say that 57% availability is okay. That means that you can let those things sit down 43% of the year, and that’s judged as an acceptable performance on the part of the government. There’s an obvious answer. Get the government out of the energy regulating business. Turn those plants over to people who will run them efficiently 100% of the time.

      When we put in zero-release containment we started playing games. About the time that we proved that a nuclear reactor has no measurable impact upon the environment, that’s when they bottled them up, put catalytic recombiners on them. Some of the reactors in Texas were designed not to breathe for eight years, at great expense. Why? When you bottle up a reactor like TMI-2 does, then you get radiolytic hydrogen and indeed, they had a radiolytic hydrogen burn at TMI-2. And they moan and they groan about that, and all they had to do was open up the windows and let the breezes blow through.

      • You don’t need containment on them. I’m going up to Colorado this weekend to meet with the Uranium Producers Association, and they’re upset because the government is dumping uranium on the market and ruining the price of the commodity that they get their bread and butter from. But what they’re totally unaware of is that the Grand Junction operation office is going to issue a contract so that the new operator has a $25 million budget over the next five years, 80% of which will be spent for remedial action, where you take this material and dig it up. If you find it and it counts on a Geiger counter, you can have them come in and change out the whole front yard of your house, give you a new front yard and a new foundation under your house at government expense. If you don’t do it, they’ll take you down to the courthouse and blacklist your property so that you have to remove the radioactivity at your own expense before it can be sold.

        Now do you know what I did when I took that uranium solution and poured it into the crack in my house? I set up the United States government, and that episode is about to be played. Did I do it on purpose? Yeah, I did. Just like I used to dive into that swimming pool and drink that cesium-contaminated water. I found out that it doesn’t hurt me. You need to find out that it doesn’t hurt me or you.

        In fact, the only reason for the existence of these big transcontinental distribution lines would be if they could compete with a small, mass-produced reactor sitting in your back yard. Why don’t they want you to? Because they are the federal energy cartel. They like to set the price, the total availability, and whether you can hook onto it and if you don’t pay your bill, cut you off. That’s called power, domain, and control. And they like that. They do not want you to be energy independent. If you had one of these sitting in every 10-block area in Phoenix, you could tell the rest of the world to go get lost.

        Oh, there’s another use for that heat. You could heat your homes in the wintertime and you could be cooling in the summertime with it. Heating, ventilation, air conditioning they call it—HVAC. In countries where it freezes, you could run that hot water out and chase the frost away in the spring and in the fall. And they found out that plants grow faster in warm water anyway. So you’d irrigate with it all summer. So cooling towers are called wasting towers. They throw more than 50% of the heat away.

        The other morning, coming out of tri-cities, WNP-2 was putting its 700 megawatt electric up through the clouds…. And the clouds were lying all over the ground, and there was a little ice cream cone right out there, and I said, “There’s WNP-2.” It snows five inches every night out at WNP-2, and the rest of us don’t get any. Where’d the water come from? That’s cooling the heat from the condenser cooler. You should have a business right out there, an oil-cracking plant, something taking that heat and using it. Like they built at Midland, Michigan, 10 years ago and they’ve never used. And so Dow Chemical is suing the utility because they never produced the steam for their chemical plant right alongside it.

        We got troubles in this country. I’m telling you what the problem is. The doing-something-about-it responsibility is yours.

  3. We processed that stuff and packaged it outside at Hanford. We had rules that said 3 R per year, your allowable exposure, that amount of gamma energy that will expose a film pack, but that was for the people that didn’t know. We weren’t about to follow those rules. We just went ahead and did the job.

    They sent around an investigation slip that says, “Your dosimeter was overexposed two weeks ago. What did you do?” And they had a cute little form on it that says, “Accidentally exposed to light” and that was the one I always used to check. Because it’s the same amount of light. You know, if you get gamma through the film pack, it’s the same amount of light as you get when you click the lens on a camera. They wanted to limit us to that and one day we looked up and they had.

    They had limited us to that amount of exposure. Then the fun part of the game begins. You say, “Who limited us to that?” Are they powerful? Yeah, they control the purse strings. They live by the Golden Rule: Them that’s got the gold makes the rules. If you like your work, you keep the rules. If you don’t keep the rules, you disappear. Sure enough, some of us disappeared. Some of my friends? Gone. Where’d they go? I don’t know.

    Well, two years ago I started traveling for the American Opinion Speakers’ Bureau, and one of the documents that they had was Major Jordan’s diary. A story of shipping the technology and the materiel that was developed at Hanford in 1944 directly to Russia on US Air Force planes out through Great Falls, Montana, and Fairbanks, Alaska, under the auspices of one Harry Hopkins and with the at least tacit approval of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Now what are you gonna do? That thing that we had been doing and feeling so good about had been shared at no expense with Russia. You go back and you check the record and you find Russia did not develop their own nuclear atomic weapon until 1949, even when we supplied them the material and the knowledge—four years after we touched them off at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We weren’t happy with that. We were just happy doing our job.

    Well, in 1965, General Electric was ready to leave Hanford. I’d worked for General Electric for that 15 years and they took me out to California, San Jose, and we had in mind to design and build this nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at Morris, Illinois. They told me they were going to build it at San Luis Obispo, that’s how they got me away from Hanford. But that was just to get me away from Hanford.

    I got to design the sampling analytical system for this plant. The sample cell was the hydraulic heart of this place. I got to dictate where they put the columns, how high the columns were in relation to my sample cell. One man standing in front of a lead glass window could sample any liquid stream in that whole plant. It took crews of men at Hanford to do the same thing. I wasn’t happy with that, so I built an efficient system. I got to design that. I got to build it—conceptual design, detail design, build it, operationally test it. In 1973 they said, “Forget it, friends. You don’t get to run it.”

    We had 170 tonnes, metric tons, of spent fuel stored in the basin and the then-president of the United States, do you remember who it was? Gerry Ford. He says, “Huh-uh, friends, no way. You don’t get to run it.” That’s when I started to kick over the traces. Up to that point in time, I thoroughly enjoyed my work. I had no limitations, practical limitations. I had all the money to spend. I was in charge of the design effort. I built it the way that I wanted to because it was technically correct. All I had to do was check with engineers and make sure that it was right and all of a sudden, I was told, “You must reduce your limits of exposure by a factor of 10.” I say, “Huh-uh. I won’t do it.” First thing you know you got the word that says, “Oh, yes you will.” I said, “No way.”

    Well, that’s when the rebel Galen Winsor started to show up. And when I found out that by management conference I couldn’t get to these guys, I figured out another way. Now in this pool, in this plant, is a beautiful pool. It’s got a place to store spent fuel bundles that won’t stop. 660,000 gallons of water, demineralized, just as clear and pretty as it can be, heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperatures were -20 with wind chill factors down to -60, and I found out that I could swim in that rascal. You turn off the lights at night, and it had a light blue Cherenkov effect. And this kid from Nevada that never could pass up a warm swimming hole used to go swimming in that pool. There wasn’t anybody that had the nerve to swim with me, but since I was manager of safety and analytical services of this plant, it was mine to use. Oh, boy. I found out that I could do that.

    I showed some financial types one time that I could stir that pool with my bare hand and check out through the same radiation monitors that they did without triggering it. GE didn’t like it. I got a letter from them that says, “Thou shalt not tell financial types that you can swim in the pool, that you can stir it with your hand, because if they find that out, they will steal the inventory. They will know that the inventory can be stolen. Oh? Is that a valuable inventory? This same material that’s been labeled high-level waste by our current government, our current Congress?

    Now plutonium is an interesting chemical element. It is created in a nuclear reactor. The Manhattan Project built eight of these reactors at Hanford. The first one took 12 months from sagebrush to nuclear steam to build. It had never been done at that size before. How could they do that? Why did they do it? To create this element called plutonium. Plutonium has been assessed as being the most hazardous material on earth. Now from the standpoint that you can make an atomic weapon out of it, yes it is quite hazardous. Because of piece of it that big (2 ½ kilograms—that’s only five pounds) is the force that delivered 20,000 tons of TNT equivalent over Nagasaki. Indeed it is hazardous. The one over Hiroshima that had fully enriched U-235 in it was five times as big. So plutonium is more dangerous than U235, is it not? By a factor of five. It takes five times as much U-235 as it does plutonium. Therefore, it is the most hazardous thing.

    Enter the great pretenders. They said that five grams of plutonium properly distributed over the face of the earth would kill everybody on earth. Now if you can only get one 20-kiloton weapon to go on 2500 grams, how’s 5 grams going to kill everybody on earth?

    Early on I had a fear that said, if there is this much fissile material that can undergo a chain reaction, we called it in the beginning, then if you set a match to it, all the fissile material in the world is just going to keep right on going. Totally unfounded fear. It turns out that when you’re in this business recovering plutonium, like we recovered so much of it at Hanford, we found out that if you have it in a solution where it’s less than 5% plutonium, it won’t go critical any which way you kick it. And when you get it to 100% plutonium, you’d better be careful. Because if you put it in more than a five-inch diameter cylinder, you’re playing with fire. You can undergo what is known as an uncontrolled criticality, accidental criticality. The air turns blue. If the cylinder is sealed, it will explode from steam pressure. Steam pressure builds up in a millisecond, which is about [snaps fingers] that long. Well, you don’t horse with it.

    And then you find out that there were 8-foot thick shielding walls on those canyons that were put there because they didn’t know how much was a critical mass. They said, “If we make a mistake, we don’t want to die, so we will provide the shielding.” And so the shielding thing started for no other reason than they didn’t know what was a critical mass.

    Well, through the years we got pretty good at telling what a critical mass was, and I have worked in a plant where I had half a critical mass in this hand, barehanded and dressed in street clothes, and half in this hand, wearing a lab coat, and I’d put this half in a pocket on this side and this half in a pocket on this side and walk down the hall. If those two ever got together, there’d be a blue flash. They never got together because I was in between them. And we’d do that every day. And each half had definite dimension characteristics, and so we’d take them down and pass them one half at a time and they’d measure it and say, “Yeah, that one passed.” And then we’d pass the other half, and that one will pass too, but they were carefully put in separate bird cages so that they couldn’t get together accidentally. Well, those of us who worked with it enjoyed it. We knew what we were doing. We worked at it.

    When the President of the United States decided not to operate that fuel reprocessing plant, I started scrambling to find out what was going on. Many things have been done in the name of health and safety. Don’t get burned; you gotta have a safety record; you have to be safer than anybody else. We were already safer than anybody in the whole world. Well, you can’t afford to get burned with this. You gotta enforce the limits and you gotta keep it, and I said, “Hey, that’s not what the ballgame is at all. I’ll bet you the ballgame is something else.”

    And in 1982, when the congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982, a guy by the name of Mo Udall, I don’t know whether you people in Arizona have ever heard of him or not, authored that bill. It’s called the High-Level Waste Disposal Act of 1982. The material he called waste is the reusable uranium fuel that I had been working on for 32 years. Needless to say, Mo Udall and I do not agree on whether that material is waste or not.

    The name of the game, then, is “Who Owns the Plutonium and How Much is it Worth?” The government says to bury it 3000 feet deep into salt and we’ll hold a contest among the states to see who gets to bury it. Oh? Why do you want to bury it? Did you ask the owners? Who is the owner of the plutonium? May I submit that it’s most likely the nuclear power ratepayer. He is paid for the mining, the fabrication of the parent uranium, power generation, and is being charged in advanced for its burial. If you’re paying for it, to whom does it belong? How much is it worth? In inflated dollars, a ton of reusable uranium fuel contains useful metal isotopes are worth upwards of $10 million a ton. Mo Udall says it’s high-level waste. The value of reusable uranium fuel scheduled for permanent disposal probably exceeds the national debt.

    Naturally occurring plutonium quantities. You know, plutonium does occur naturally. Plutonium 244 is found at the residual activities of the several, eight at least, Oklo phenomenon reactors across the world, the first one found at Gabon, Africa. Naturally occurring plutonium quantities have been enhanced by transmutation of uranium. That’s the reason we built reactors in the first place. Our ability to detect and measure emissions from these elements is useful in inventory control. When fissile isotopes are present at less than five weight percent, plutonium-239 equivalent and the heavy metal oxide matrix is stored dry in air. It has no critical mass. Remember we talked about shielding because they didn’t know what a critical mass was? If it is light water reactor fuel, at less than 5% equivalent fissile content, you can handle it. You can do anything you want with it. You can stack it up. You can have a roomful. You can have a handful. As long as you keep it dry, it will not sustain a chain reaction. What then is all this folderol about a little bit, 5 grams, will kill everybody in the world? Huh-uh. They don’t know what they’re talking about. And when they say that, they’re thumbing their nose at measurement experts like Galen Winsor. I am insulted when they say those things and get away with it because it has no bearing on the truth.

    [This reactor fuel] cannot be mishandled. It will not expose any person to an unshielded nuclear reaction. In other words, no controls are necessary except to prevent the pilferage of the inventory. Have you got that one? Let it register. Do you need governmental rules and regulations and instructions? No way! Then why do we have all of those rules? Inventory control practices capitalized on the fear of undereducated masses who work in the industry. I didn’t say anything about ordinary people, now. I’m talking about the people who have worked in the industry, and those who cast stones from without. The Ralph Naders, the Jane Fondas.

    Now it doesn’t take you much thinking to find out that maybe the industry is the source of the problem. The industry is the one that made up the committees that made the rules that the Congress enforced. You ever thought of it that way? The strangest kind of featherbedding that’s ever been dreamed up? It makes railway engineers look like pikers. The only amounts of fissile process materials that are of health concern to the handlers are those that can accidentally cause an unshielded nuclear chain reaction or that will cause erythema from the shortest wavelength, highest frequency, and therefore the most easily shielded ultraviolet light emissions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

    Big words. Let’s see what they mean. The emissions from uranium, plutonium, cesium, all of those things are only important if you assemble an amount that if you get this amount and this amount together it can go critical. You can get a blue flash and therefore get burned and that’s happened 34 times in the business, and eight men have died as a result of that. Accidental criticality. Documented in Los Alamos document 3611, if you want to check the source. Or if you got enough of it together that it’s giving off ultraviolet light of this particular wavelength and frequency, without any intervening shielding, enough to burn you—sunburn you—erythema, reddening of the skin. If it’s less than that, if the effect is less than that, then what is the problem? Excessive government regulation. That’s what the problem is.

  4. Transcript of Galen Winsor talk in the 1980s. He died in his 80s of natural causes in 2008.

    I am pleased to have as our guest Mr. Galen Winsor from Richland, Washington. I found his story to be absolutely fascinating. His story is unique, to say the least.

    Galen has been in 77 different cities in the last two years lecturing on the subject of nuclear energy. The majority of his life, the last 35 years, he spent processing plutonium from nuclear reactor sites.

    He has worked in the Manhattan Project facilities in Hanford, Washington; Oak Ridge National Laboratories and Nuclear Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; General Electric’s Midwest Fuel Recovery Plant in Morris, Illinois; General Electric’s Fuel Fabrication Facility in San Jose, California and Wilmington, North Carolina; and he has worked in every major reactor decommissioning project around this nation up to this present time.

    His major work in these projects has been in the analytical process inventory control, which means that he was responsible for the measuring and controlling the nuclear fuel inventory for these projects. Galen Winsor has few peers in the world in this area of expertise, and those few peers admittedly know and agree with the things that you’ll be hearing on this tape; however, except for two or three of these experts, they have all chosen to remain silent for reasons which only they know, leaving this man then the burden of leading this lonely battle of exposing what we call The Nuclear Scare Scam.

    He is without question one of the world’s foremost authorities in nuclear radiation measurement, and he is recognized by members of the Atomic Energy Commissions of all the major nations of the free world. Mr. Galen Winsor.

    Thank you.

    We’ve been considering today how best to approach this subject so that you would feel comfortable with where I am, and we thought it might be appropriate to start with how I got involved in this game.

    Now in 1945, I was a navy radioman out in the Pacific on a destroyer aimed for Japan. We had a one-way ticket (that’s all you get, just one way). So as we were becoming proficient at our business of fighting war, the Manhattan Project caught up with us and did a job.

    Now the weapon that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, was a U-235, a fully enriched U-235 weapon, where the material was separated and purified in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The one that was dropped August 9th on Nagasaki was a plutonium weapon made at Hanford. But to those of us out in the Pacific, it was quite interesting. It had a ticket on it that said, “You get to go home.” I was impressed.

    Now I was stuck out on Guam after the hostilities quit and was running a radio broadcast that communicated with 4500 ships…, quite a few to listen to every dot and dash that I made, so I was used to having people listen to me. They couldn’t see me, but they could sure hear me. I had all of the good messages that were to come to them. Fleet movements to Red Cross messages. They came along one day and said, “We’d like to have radiomen to Eniwetok for the atomic bomb test.” Not me. No way. I want to go home. So they went through and they took every third radioman to go to Eniwetok. I didn’t go. They let me come home.

    But I wanted to go home. I had a driving need within me that said, “Hey, that big firecracker—I want to know how it works. I want to know everything about how it works.”

    So, back to the ranch in Nevada where I grew up and stacked hay all summer, gained back the 40 pounds I lost out there in the islands and went to Brigham Young University in fall of 1946 in chemistry classes. Dr. Joseph Nichols could make an old farm kid like me love chemistry. I hadn’t had any chemistry in high school, but the way Joe Nichols taught it, I wanted to know. So chemistry it was. And some neat guys like Carl Eyring [?] taught me physics.

    Along in ‘47 I ran across a cute blonde from Richland, Washington. Now this girl had been a telephone operator for General Leslie Groves and Enrico Fermi on the Manhattan Project. She got to put through the calls to Franklin Delano Roosevelt for these guys. So she talked personally to FDR, and she told me some of the stories like you never heard. She said, “Oh, in those canyons, great things are done.” This cowboy from Nevada couldn’t even imagine what she was talking about.

    Well, in 1947, after we were married (I ran until she caught me),… we went to Richland, Washington, for the first time in September of 1947. I saw that those buildings she was talking about were there—1,000 feet long, 11 stories high (five of them below ground)—tremendous things. And people all over Camp Hanford—in those days was a whole army camp just there to secure that place, to provide security—thousands of soldiers. You move around in the desert and out of a foxhole would pop a soldier with a gun in his hand. There wasn’t any horsing around; it was all business.

    Back to school. In 1950, I applied for a job up there before I had graduated and they were in such bad need of chemists, I had a job before I had my degree. And so in the last year of [courses for my chemistry degree], mostly English, I did [my homework] on a bus riding 25 miles to work in the morning and 25 miles back at night. I did grammar and business writing and all those things on that bus.

    But in September of 1950, I got into this thing called plutonium processing when we did it barehanded, without instruments, without coveralls. We had some of the most peculiar acid burns on some of the shirts. I found one of those the other day. It’s got acid burns all up the front of it. Plutonium on it, too. Amazing. That was normal operation in those days.

    We ran those facilities and we ran them so well that by 1965, we had separated enough plutonium when it only existed in the parent uranium matrix to a half of a single weight percent, 0.005 weight fraction of plutonium maximum in that fuel, and we processed enough tons of uranium to recover enough plutonium by 1965 to meet the weapons needs of this country 10 times over for the foreseeable future.

    Now we’re talking about a massive amount of work. Hands on. “Do it” type thing. Now there were a couple thousand of us and we were as happy as could be, just working like mad, making those plants run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a community that ran on shift work—A, B, C, and D shift. The whole community that way—a wartime community—people dedicated to doing a job and we were doing it. And we did it well. No pretense.

    [At some point], they began to sneak in people who wanted a radiation monitor behind every reactor operator. Why? We knew how to make these things run. When we got a metal fuel element stuck and it fell back on the trampoline back to the reactor we’d go back in with our feet and kick it off into the pool—smoking, burning. If you didn’t have an instrument, you didn’t know it was too hot, so you just went in and kicked it.

    Finally, along came a rule maker that said, “Thou shalt not do that. You’ll get burned.” Oh? I didn’t get burned when I did it last week. But you exceeded the limit. Well, where did this limit come from? Turns out that in 1934, the International Commission on Radiation Protection fabricated a limit for x-rays. It was no longer permissible to be burned by them, erythema (reddening of the skin). You now had to keep a limit of 0.2 R per day. How much is that? Well, you gotta have one of these Beckman instruments to read it and you have to keep time of exposure. There are four requirements on this thing—the size of the source (therefore the strength of the source), the distance from the source, the time of exposure, and the intervening shielding to keep from getting burned.

    Oh, fine. We’ve been doing this thing for years now and we’ve never gotten burned, so now why have we got these rules? They said, “Yours is not to ask questions, yours is to do and die. Don’t you ask questions. If you do, you might disappear.” Those who broke the rules didn’t appear the next day. Military rule? Oh, yes. Absolute? What was your appeal? The people you were working with one day, when they weren’t there the next day, you didn’t go and inquire why. You were just grateful you still had your work to do, and you kept right on doing it. Now this is in the United States of America.

    Well, in 1960, we found out that the materials we were working with, the things we called “high-level waste,” that if you waited three years, these million-gallon tanks that high-level waste went into boiled off 15,000 gallons of water a day. Fairly hot? Oh, yes. This material, if it ever broke a line, would seal itself off in the ground within about a foot, make its own glass. It wasn’t going to go anyplace. We did that a time or two (accidentally, of course).

    And so we started packing this cesium-137 in casks and railroad cars like that and shipping it to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. And they took it out and made it into a barium titanate and pressed it into a pellet, and those these were so hot that they actually glowed in the dark from the infrared heat. Now thermoionic conversions came along at this time, so you hooked these little heat sources up to thermionic converters and you took electricity out the side. No moving parts. These things went into the SNAP [Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power] program and these early SNAP power generators are what power the underwater power transmitters for our nuclear navy. We’ve got a regular roadmap under the sea. All you gotta have is an instrument that knows where to find it and then you’ve got eyes on the submarine. You didn’t know that, did you? The power of it came from this material that they now call waste.


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