I received a few days ago what I call the "current issue" for April 2004. I have subscribed to the US edition. I have not noticed any letter about a radon mine in it, and the ZIP USA article is mostly about worms. Maybe the Canadian NG is different from the US edition? The German edition is for sure.
Dear Franz & Radsafers,
You may have missed it because, as I recall (I don't have the copy of the magazine here), the letter was in the back of the issue, not the front (where other letters are).
Sorry -- I guess I should have mentioned that earlier.
As regards the earlier NG article on nuclear waste, you may recall this excellent letter posted on Radsafe by Dr. Ruth Weiner :
From: RuthWeiner@AOL.COM [mailto:RuthWeiner@AOL.COM]
Sent: Tuesday June 25, 2002 10:06 PM
Cc: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: A critique of the article on radioactive waste in the July, 2002, issue
National Geographic Society Forum
PO Box 98199
Washington, DC 20090-8199
To the Editor:
Your masthead states that the Society is "chartered ... as a scientific and education organization" and your web page states that the society "has been organized to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge." How the article titled "Half Life: the Lethal Legacy of America's Nuclear Waste" (July, 2002) conforms to this charter and organizational purpose has escaped me completely.
The article is not scientific by any stretch of the imagination, and does not even qualify as adequate reporting or journalism. About all that can be said in its defense is that it has the usual National Geographic complement of striking color pictures. The article is blatant and clever propaganda, with an occasional nod to an actual fact. It is riddled with the cheap shots at the U. S. government and the distortions that the anti-nuclear movement in the United States is so adept at. "One environmentalist" is quoted as saying "the government will just lie to you." The environmentalists' quotations in the article are ample evidence that "the government" has hardly cornered the market in deliberate lies.
A few examples of the questionable "science" and "information" presented in the article follow.
Is the statement "Plutonium or cesium or strontium or other '-ium' elements created in a nuclear reactor emit dangerous radiation that can literally knock electrons off the atoms in our cells, disrupting or destroying cellular function..." an example of "science" or "knowledge?" Has the author ever heard of non-radioactive (stable) cesium and strontium? Is he so unfamiliar with the periodic table that he never heard of sodium, potassium, germanium, helium, titanium, or aluminum? Has he stopped having dental x-rays because x-rays, like the gamma rays emitted from radiocesium, are "dangerous radiation that can literally knock electrons off the atoms in our cells..."?
Does the author's deliberate harassment of an Air Force weapons shipment qualify as "diffusing geographic knowledge" or any other kind of knowledge?
Is the statement "it took the DOE more than four months to respond to an important question: how much nuclear waste exists in the U. S.?" intended as praise or criticism? How long should it have taken? A week? A month? A year? How does the author know?
What does the phrase "the lethal punch of radiation depends on such obscurities as rem, curies, alpha particles, and the like" mean to convey? How about the "lethal punch" of x-ray, bone scans, diagnostic radioiodine treatment, and PET scans? What is "obscure" about rem, curies, and alpha particles, which are defined in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary?
The description on page 13 of the casks used to transport spent nuclear fuel (belittled as "transportation containers") focuses on wooden impact limiters and fails to mention the foot- thick steel and lead, or steel and depleted uranium, walls of the cask itself. The cask construction, not the impact limiters, enables the cask to withstand the test regimen. Casks are tested without impact limiters.
The testing regiment for transportation casks is described, but crucial details are glossed over or omitted. The article says: "The NRC specifies that casks be tested by burning them in fuel for half an hour at ...1,475 degrees F." but fails to say that the test specifies a fully engulfing fire at that temperature for half an hour -- a fire that fully engulfs a cylindrical cask 16 feet long and about 3 feet in diameter
The article, apparently deliberately, confuses plutonium contamination of the DOE defense sites with material bound for the Yucca Mountain repository, 90% of which, by weight, is commercial spent nuclear fuel, not plutonium.
This is a small sample of the distortions with which the article is replete. Even worse than the distortions is the timing of the article. I suspect that the timing and the placement, in a reputable (or as I must now conclude, once reputable) magazine, are designed to influence the upcoming Senate vote on Yucca Mountain. If either the author or the magazine were so desperately concerned about radioactive waste, where have they been for the last quarter century, during the ongoing investigation of mined geologic storage of spent nuclear fuel?
By the time this letter is printed (if it is printed) the Senate will have voted, and the National Geographic Society will have either succeeded in helping to kill the Yucca Mountain project or failed in this attempt to kill it. Suppose you succeed. What then? Any suggestions about radioactive waste disposition? Or are you resorting to the hoary "environmentalist" platitude that "it's the utilities' problem, not ours."
National Geographic, you should be ashamed. You are a Federally chartered non-profit organization, with a historic commitment to presenting information and increasing knowledge. Your reputation is ill served by this article.
Ruth F. Weiner, Ph. D.
Von: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]Im Auftrag von Franta, Jaroslav
Gesendet: Montag, 26. April 2004 16:47
An: Multiple (E-mail); Radsafe (E-mail)
Betreff: RE: News report on the National Geographic Basin MT "USA Zip" article
FYI, an EPA anti-radon scarecrow has a letter about the Basin MT radon mine printed in the current issue of NG (sorry, I don't have a copy of the text in electronic form).
This makes for an interesting comparison with NG's earlier article, "Nuclear Waste - Seeking Solutions" NG July 2002, following which NO letters pointing out the various errors & misconceptions in it were published.
From: Jim Muckerheide
Sent: Monday, January 12, 2004 1:13 PM
Subject: News report on the National Geographic Basin MT "USA Zip" article
See the following news item in the Helena (MT) Independent Record,
Friday Jan 9, reporting on the National Geographic "USA Zip" feature on
Basin Montana and the radon mines. It adds to the content about the
radon mines, and highlights the author's "field notes" about becoming "a believer."
Regards, Jim Muckerheide
Mining for Miracles
National Geographic 2004 jan, page 118 - 122
Images and more text are available at http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0401/feature7/index.html