January 1997 (vol. 13, #2) 1601 N Tucson Blvd #9, Tucson AZ 85716 c 1997 Physicians for Civil Defense




In the 1980s, groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and Physicians for Social Responsibility toured the nation, calling for a Nuclear Freeze.

At one such meeting, the question was asked: aren't you calling for unilateral disarmament of the United States?

This was met with vehement denial. The focus was said to be on the U.S. because Americans can influence only U.S. policy; moreover, economic strength (achieved by decreased military spending) was essential to our Superpower status.

We hear no calls for a Nuclear Freeze in the 1990s. But why should we? One of its advocates-Madeleine Albright-is now Secretary of State. And while much of the Peace Movement's agenda was controversial, and probably never could have been enacted by Congress, it nonetheless happened quietly.

With barely an audible whisper of dissent, the U.S. destroyed neutron bombs and tactical nuclear weapons (which might be useful in defending its borders against invasion) and its nuclear weapons manufacturing capability (the sites now being devoted to environmental cleansing). Its strategic deterrent drifts toward obsolescence, and nuclear testing is now done by computer simulation only. Its conventional forces have deteriorated to the point that the U.S. would probably be incapable of an effort comparable to Desert Storm (Caspar Weinberger and Peter Schweizer, National Review, Dec. 23, 1996).

Now, U.S. economic strength is also threatened by an increasing burden of ``environmental regulations,'' even without the crippling expense of ``stabilizing greenhouse emissions,'' the new focus of activism by Freeze proponents. (The net discounted cost of reducing emissions to 1990 levels is estimated to be $7 trillion, according to a study by the Center for the Study of American Business, available at (``The Quiet Reversal of US Climate Change Policy'').

At the End of the Cold War, tensions relaxed so much that no public alarm followed the allegation that the whereabouts of the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces is sometimes unknown (Gary Aldrich, Unlimited Access). This is all the more remarkable since ``this may be the first modern war...wherein the vanquished was allowed to retain its entire military force'' (John B. (Jay) Stewart, Jr., Rethinking the Unthinkable: Russia's Evolving Nuclear Weapons Threat, George C. Marshall Institute, Apr. 11, 1996). Moreover, the U.S. appears to base its entire post-War defense strategy on implicit trust in the good intentions of the former ``Evil Empire.''

Even an open threat from China to hit Los Angeles with a nuclear-tipped warhead caused no outcry to defend America, and discussion of a theater defense (say in the third world) is fraught with controversy. The Clinton Administration has refused to comply with the Ballistic Missile Defense Act that Bill Clinton signed into law, leading 41 Republican Congressman to file a federal law suit in an attempt to force compliance (Wall St J, 1/22/97). The Administration seeks to expand the ABM Treaty.

The rationale for leaving America undefended is contained in the 1996 Democratic platform: ``Today, not a single Russian missile points at our children, and through the START treaties, we will cut American and Russian nuclear arsenals by two-thirds from their Cold War height.''

But are we really safe? Russian officers claim that it would take only 10 or 15 minutes to retarget the missiles. Stewart states that the time would be more like three minutes, and in any case, ``we have no idea of whether they have actually retargeted anything'' (ibid.). Furthermore, the ``No-First Use'' doctrine was officially renounced in Nov., 1993, and U.S. Defense Secretary Perry was officially notified of this in 1994. Ironically, Stewart states, START II might have encouraged the resuscitation of the first-strike concept by reducing the arsenal that would need to be destroyed to prevent retaliation to a level of 3,000 to 5,000 warheads. In any event Russia at present has between 17,000-23,000 nuclear warheads, and there is no evidence that the control system has not degraded in the chaos of the present Russian economy. (Others say that Russia still has 25,000 ready and 75,000 semi-ready nuclear weapons, including 6,000 missiles capable of reaching the U.S.-JKC de Courcy, Intelligence Digest 9/20/96).

And how many Russian warheads have been dismantled? According to Stewart, ``no U.S. eyes have ever actually physically witnessed the dismantling of a warhead...We have to...accept the Russian military's word that the materials we examine have in fact been derived from a warhead.''

There has even been a largely unreported Russian nuclear alert, in January, 1995, in response to a false warning triggered by the launch of a Norwegian meteorological satellite. ``One U.S. expert described this threat miscalculation as coming closer to a Russian nuclear launch than at any previous time..., including during the height of the Cuban missile crisis'' (Stewart, op. cit.) This time, there was no duck-and-cover drill.

Russia aside, 25 countries may be acquiring ballistic missiles and/or weapons of mass destruction, ``the weapon of choice for international coercion,'' according to Angelo Codevilla (``Defenseless America,'' Commentary Sept. 1996). ``While we go on dithering, others go on buying, building, and laying their plans.''

What is to be done? Codevilla states that ``technically, defending against ballistic missiles presents a challenge not much greater than building them.'' The viability of the key Brilliant Pebbles technology was demonstrated by the launch of the Clementine rocket in 1993. This first mission to the Moon in 20 years mapped the entire surface of the Moon before swinging into deep space, where it is now ``lost and gone forever'' (The Shield Nov/Dec 96). The entire Dec. 16, 1994, issue of Science was devoted to the preliminary results. (An update on strategic defense technology is scheduled for the June 14-15 meeting of DDP).

Stewart notes that the major nuclear powers now allocate about 100 times as much to deterrence as to prevention, mitigation, and protection from nuclear catastrophes. And strategic defenses are not the only lack: ``As a form of worst case planning, the U.S. government should prepare for post-nuclear attack measures that can be used to mitigate and recover from the catastrophic damage and loss of life that will occur if a nuclear warhead ever detonates in one or more large U.S. cities. At the moment, the nation seems totally unprepared for this unthinkable possibility.''

Saving the Radiation Meters

Saving the Radiation Meters 


The Office of Civil Defense now is closed, and FEMA appears to be dismantling the rest of the pathetic American civil defense program. It may be possible to salvage some of the equipment-at least for educational use-as explained by Steve Jones in this letter to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT):

``A Deseret News article, Jan. 25, 1997, tells how more than a million dollars worth of Geiger counters nearly got shipped to a landfill. State Senator Duane Bourdeaux intervened and saved them for Utah science teachers and schools.

``The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is paying the states if they return the meters. According to Jose Cortez, who is in charge of this FEMA program, the Geiger counters will be stored temporarily and then sent to a landfill.

``If FEMA proceeds with this program, several hundred thousand Geiger counters and radiological survey meters will be destroyed. Our schools desperately need these instruments for their science programs.

``Some states have surplused their meters; others like California and Illinois are distributing them to their science teachers. However, others states are just sending their instruments to FEMA without notifying schools of their availability (as Utah almost did).

``Please let me know whether your office can stop this pending waste of possibly hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.''

Mr. Jones was told by Russian teachers that all science teachers have Geiger counters in their classrooms. But American teachers generally have no equipment to teach about radiation. When 200 meters were offered to Utah teachers, they were gone within two hours. Gov. Michael Leavitt received a huge postcard with ``thank you'' notes from 300 teachers.

It took Mr. Jones a week of intense effort (and a $200 cellular phone bill) to save the meters. In other states, they may have already been shipped. If this is the case, it might be possible to get them back. They will probably not be destroyed until August. If science teachers did not receive proper notification (or if their request is denied-they should be able to obtain enough meters for the whole class), they can file a citizen's complaint with the State Attorney General, and the state is obligated to answer, said Mr. Jones.

Among the reasons given for disposal of the meters: ``the radioactive check source on the meter makes them a hazard in the classroom.'' This is simply untrue. It is less radioactive than a smoke detector, which is not hazardous at all.

Also, ``many of the meters measure only high-level gamma radiation and will not work with classroom sources.'' This is true, but it takes less than 60 seconds to convert the meter so that it will work.

For a copy of the materials used successfully in Utah, or for advice on how to file a complaint, call Mr. Jones evenings at (801)972-0863.

FEMA apparently has no plans to replace these meters with better, modern equipment. The state-of-the-art radiation monitoring equipment in the U.S. for civil defense purposes remains the home-made Kearny Fallout Meter (KFM). (For instructions, see Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson Kearny, $12.50 from the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, PO Box 1279, Cave Junction, OR 97523, or

Kits for making the KFM are available from Steve Jones for $6, 1402 South 1000 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84104. A set of 20 assembled meters with smoke detectors for testing, plus instructions and a piezo electric charger, can be obtained for $110. These are excellent teaching tools for explaining some facts about ionizing radiation.

At the annual convention of the National Science Teachers Association in New Orleans, it should be possible to distribute FEMA Geiger counters to 15,000 teachers: an opportunity that must not be missed.


About Blocking the Thyroid


In the Dec. 6, 1996, issue, Science published a much abbreviated version of the letter that follows:

We are surprised that Science has not yet published a correction of the potentially life-endangering scientific error in ``Children Become the First Victims of Fallout,'' Michael Balter's article in the April 19, 1996 issue. In the last paragraph of his otherwise informative article, Balter stated: ``Much of the radiation exposure [caused by fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident], for example, could have been countered by rapid administration of nonradioactive iodine to `flush out' the radioactive isotopes from binding sites in the thyroid.''

In fact, radioactive isotopes, once bound in the thyroid, cannot be flushed out by subsequent administration of nonradioactive iodine. To be effective in preventing the uptake and binding of radioactive isotopes, stable iodine must be administered before exposure. A daily 130-mg dose of stable KI, starting one-half hour to one day before the arrival of fallout or other material contaminated with radioactive iodine, will effectively saturate the thyroid, giving 99% effective protection. A 130-mg tablet or four drops of a saturated solution of KI may be used.

Cresson H. Kearny, Research Engineer

Retired, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

and Jane M. Orient, M.D.



1.Report of the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, pp. 37, 41, 42, 75, available from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Public Documents Room, Washington, DC 20555.

2.Wallace Laboratories, Patient Package Insert for Thyro-Block Tablets (Potassium iodide tablets, USP), available from Wallace Laboratories, Cranberg, NJ 08512.

3.Kearny, C: Nuclear War Survival Skills (ORNL-5037, a book originally published by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Sept., 1979; see address above to order from OISM).


Proliferation Reports: a Small Sample


Afghanistan - Yemen: The Shield, Special Issue on the proliferation threat, July/Aug 1996, (703)671-4111.

North Korea: The military commands nearly 80% of the economy of this nation, which is ``rehearsing an invasion of the South.'' It is likely to deploy a 1000-km range Nodong-1 ballistic missile this year (Intelligence Digest 11/15/96).

Russia-Iran-India Axis: In Iran, a fighter plane has successfully fired an air-to-sea missile. The third Russian-built Kilo-class submarine is on its way to Iran (Intell Digest 12/6/96).