Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

October 4, 1997: Anti-Cassini Plutonium Protest at Cape Canaveral


October 4, 1997 (Space Nuclear History Lesson)

Demonstrations at Cape Canaveral, Florida (more than 1,000 attended) and across the country occurred protesting the scheduled launch of the space probe Cassini because its power source was three plutonium-fueled Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators.

The probe carried 72.3 pounds of plutonium, the most ever put on a rocket (with a 10% failure rate) to be launched into space.

The concern was for an accidental release in the event of a launch mishap.  NASA's own Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) reported that in a worst case launch explosion and release of the deadly plutonium the winds would carry radioactive debris for a 60-mile radius.  Every person, building, animal, plant & tree, and the top inch of soil would have to be removed as the area would be radioactive for thousands of years.

NASA continues to plan for more nuclear-powered space missions in the years ahead. The nuclear industry views space as a new market for nuclear-powered mining colonies on the Moon, Mars and other planetary bodies.

At a string of Department of Energy (DoE) labs across the nation the plutonium generators are produced.  In 1997 a newspaper in Santa Fe, NM reported 244 cases of worker contamination as they were fabricating the Cassini plutonium devices at Los Alamos Labs.

Plutonium is the most toxic substance known. "It is so toxic," says Helen Caldicott, president emeritus of Physicians for Social Responsibility, "that less than one-millionth of a gram is a carcinogenic dose. One pound, if uniformly distributed, could hypothetically induce lung cancer in every person on Earth."

You can read the 1997 coverage of the Cape Canaveral protests against the launch of Cassini by the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice here

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