Michio Kaku: Speech at Cape Canaveral

Air Force Station Main Gates July 26, 1997

BIO: Dr. Michio Kaku is one of the world's leading authorities on Einstein's Unified Field Theory, co-founder of string field theory and a pioneer in superstring theory, the leading candidate for this theory. He has spoken at numerous international physics conferences on relativity and the quantum theory, including Moscow, Paris, London, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Berlin. He is the author of 9 books and over 70 scientific articles in physics journals.
His technical books are required reading for scores of Ph.D. graduate students in major physics laboratories around the world. He graduated from Harvard (1968) summa cum laude (with highest honors), Phi Beta Kappa, and number one in his physics class. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the Radiation Laboratory at the Univ. of Calif. at Berkeley in 1972. He taught at Princeton in 1973 as a research associate, and is currently the Henry Semat Prof. of Theoretical Physics at the Graduate Center of the City Univ. of New York, where he has been for the past 24 years. He has been a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where Einstein worked, and New York Univ.
He is listed in Who's Who and American Men and Women of Science. He is a Fellow of the American Physics Society, an honor held by about 10% of the nations top physicists.
I was in the United States Military, inside the infantry at the height of the Vietnam war. I was then recruited to be part of the Star Warriors Program. When I met protesters like you standing outside these lonely gates, I began to realize that perhaps everything I had believed in up to that time about war and peace was in fact wrong. We touch people's hearts and minds, and that is what this [protest] is all about. I've been a professor of physics for the past twenty-five years. As a physicist I learned you should always look at both sides of the story. I've gone through thousands of pages of computer output from NASA, and at first it seems they have a convincing case. They have computer programs as thick as the Manhattan telephone book. They have teams of engineers, squadrons of NASA bureaucrats, multimillion dollar budgets and they ask, "So, what do you have? You critics are nothing but scandal mongers, simpleminded know-nothings." They may have computer programs as thick as telephone books, but we have one thing on our side, that is the laws of physics and the truth.
The laws of physics tell us, number one, that a chain is no stronger than its weakest link. And the weakest link in the Cassini is human error and design flaws. How do you quantify human stupidity? How can you write a telephone book to put a number on human error? The real know nothings and simpletons are the NASA bureaucrats who don't understand this. When the Hubble telescope was first launched, this billion dollar pinnacle of American science was sent into orbit near sighted. Why was that? Among several reasons, during its assembly a man used a ruler backwards to measure the mirror, jeopardizing a billion dollar space mission. How do you put a number on that?
So what's inside those telephone-book-size computer programs? I've gone through all of them and I was shocked to find they took their programs directly from the nuclear power plant industry. Event-tree Analyses, Monte Carlo, Single-Event Failure failed to predict Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, events precipitated by human error and design flaws.
A few years ago I was in Los Angeles debating Mr. Jerry Bailey, Senior Engineer at the Bechtel Corporation. They had been asked to remedy the fact that the two billion dollar nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon was installed backwards, the program read backwards by the engineers at installation. All the safety systems were installed backwards by the Nuclear Power plant industry. That's not all that's backwards. The heads of the utilities are screwed on backwards, putting expediency before the health and safety of the people of this country. Mr. Bailey got very angry when I mentioned this to him during the debate. When I added that Diablo was the second California Power plant installed backwards, where they have to run the computer programs backwards to compensate, his face got red and he pounded the table with his fist and said, "Dammit! Sure we put in those two powerplants backwards, BUT THOSE ARE THE BEST DAMN REACTORS THAT WE HAVE EVER BUILT!"
The laws of physics tell us, number two, you should test with full scale experiment. If the RTGs and plutonium are safe, put it in an explosion to prove they're safe. Has NASA done the acid test: raise the RTGs to 3,000 degrees centigrade, fire bullets at it at 1,000 ft/sec while it's under 2,500 psi pressure? No. This violates one of the most precious principles in all of science, "Test your theories before you send them into orbit." So where did they get their numbers from? They made them up. Their numbers claim that .01%, 28.7 curies of plutonium will escape if there's an accident on launch. You too can make up numbers, publish a telephone-book-size computer program, and use that program as a door stop.
The laws of physics tell us, number three, to look at the track record, the actual experience. The second weakest link in the chain after human error, is the Titan IV booster rocket. Its failure rate is one out of twenty. Would you put a gun at your head with twenty chambers in it and one bullet, keep firing it while telling your friends, "Nothing is going to happen. It's safe. Believe me. Honest." That's what the NASA bureaucrats are telling you. One in twenty, not one in a million, are the true odds of an accident for this mission. One in seventy are the odds for the average booster rocket. The actual failure rate of past plutonium missions is three out of twenty-three. Rely on the actual experience. The laws of physics tell us, number four, that winds can blow this material many miles. In their accident scenario, NASA used to say that 2,300 people could be killed from cancer over a fifty year period from a maximum accident. Now they say 120. From which hat did they pull that number? I went through their calculations, through hundreds of pages. The reason they now say only 120 people will be killed when Cassini comes flaming back down, releasing one third of its plutonium in the upper atmosphere --- is because they assume all its plutonium will be concentrated in one square mile. NASA has discovered a fantastic, remarkable new law of physics that will kick in during an accident. It's called: "The winds do not blow within one mile of a shattered space probe." No place in their calculations do they factor in wind effects. I'm trying to tell you something very simple. NASA is engaged in scientific dishonesty. It is dishonest to make up numbers without full-scale tests, to use computer programs without considering human error or design flaws, to not consider the actual track record. They are also not considering billions of dollars in law suits. So what could happen in October when we have that Cassini launch? Maybe nothing. Maybe, out of twenty chambers pointed at your head, the gun will say, "Click". It may be, and the next one may be a perfect launch. But sooner or later the laws of physics catch up with you. Let's now go through what will happen in case of a booster rocket failure at launch. Temperatures will climb to 2,500 centigrade, above the melting point of the plutonium's iridium casing. Local temperatures will be 3,300 degrees, like an acetylene torch. Shrapnel will begin piercing the RTGs. These RTGs fail at room temperature with aluminum and titanium bullets fired at 1000 ft/sec. At 2,500 degrees the RTGs will be ripped to shreds by the shrapnel, its iridium casing melted. At room temperatures the RTGs have withstood overpressures a little over 2,000 psi. Put all these things together at one time like it will be during an accident: the high temperature, the high pressure, the flying shrapnel. I estimate that 30 to 40% will come out, not 0.01%. Then we will look in the sky. This plutonium will be dispersed as a fine, invisible mist. At that point the radios will announce that there's been a mishap, but there's nothing to worry about because NASA has everything under control. Then the radio will announce the wind conditions. And the people of Florida will put two and two together, get into their cars and try to hit the road. Evacuation will be impossible, a massive traffic jam with everyone on the road tracking wind conditions, trying to find their husband/wife or child. Within two hours the dust will begin to settle over your homes. Plutonium dioxide is a greyish, invisible dust, much of it submicron in size. It will get in your hair, in your lungs and stay lodged there: Micron and submicron size particles can not be expelled from the lungs by ciliary action. Even after you die, your grave will be slightly radioactive. Some of it will get into your bloodstream where it will be carried to your bone marrow, your kidneys, your liver. Then the Governor of Florida will come on the radio and announce that the National Guard has been mobilized. They will come out and try to loosen up some of the traffic bottlenecks. But there will be mutinies among some of the National Guardsmen. They will say, "Why should I risk my children, my wife, my child at the day-care center?" They will mutiny. How do I know all this? Its happened before. This is what happened at Chernobyl. Fire trucks came down the streets of Kiev to hose down all the radioactive isotopes that had landed on people's homes and people's clothing. Crops had to be impounded. At that point the Florida Growers associations will get on the radio and television and say, "Nothing to worry about. The food from Florida, the orange juice, is perfectly safe. So it's slightly radioactive...what's a little radiation?" Then the lawsuits. What is Walt Disney going to say when people don't want to take their children into a place reputed to be radioactive? Do you realize at Three Mile Island they said only 13 curies came out of that reactor, 13 curies created billions of dollars in lawsuits. Cassini contains 400,000 curies of plutonium. Let me pose a riddle. What do oil company executives, vampires and NASA bureaucrats all have in common? They fear solar energy. They fear the power of the sun. There is only one paragraph in NASA's Environmental Impact Statement that states you can't equip the Cassini with solar panels because it is 130 pounds over weight. The pay load is 13,000 lbs. One percent overweight and they can't do it. Lose the weight! NASA admits they can downsize the mission. On Mars today, the Mars Rover is a by-product of a new strategy: smaller, better, faster, cheaper. The old probes were like the Mars Observer which blew up in '93 on its way to Mars, a leftover from the cold war. The new mission philosophy is downsize your space probes: make them half the size and send them twice as often. THAT is the future of Cassini. We should downsize all these leftovers from the cold war, make them half the size, send them twice as often and energize them with solar power. On the Cassini we're only talking about eight light bulbs worth of energy needs. The peaceful solution to this problem is for NASA to get with its own program: cheaper, smaller, faster...and go solar. Today I'm calling on President Clinton to personally come in on this case and postpone the launching of the Cassini Probe. I'm calling on the White House because enough scientific uncertainty exists. I want to see us to explore outer space. But I want to do it safely, without the loss of human life, and democratically: where is the free-wheeling debate on this question? Only one force can stop this mission: the will of the American people. They have not been asked. Do they want to endanger their loved ones, their industry with this launch? One force is more powerful than plutonium, the spirit of the American people united. ALAN KOHN: Cape Canaveral AFS Main Gate, July 26, 1997 NASA is lost in space and can not find its way home. My name is Alan Kohn and I worked here (at NASA) for thirty years. I've been in the Missiles and Rockets business since 1955. I know the mind of NASA, and its heart...that is if they still have a heart. Things have deteriorated a little bit of late. We've all seen NASA and the Air Force light up the sky out here with rocketry mishaps, every single year. Rocketry, believe me, is still in its infancy. There is no safe rocket. Not out here there isn't. Not in today's world there isn't. Rockets blow up very easily. And the plutonium canisters, NASA says they are indestructible. There's no such thing as a man made object that's indestructible. That claim is totally ridiculous. As the Emergency Preparedness Officer on the Ulysses and Galileo missions my responsibility was to protect the government workers from the possible catastrophe of a plutonium release. They didn't give me a budget until I threatened to go public and that scared them so they gave me a budget. I converted the government buildings to fallout shelters with a lot of people's help, and there are a lot of people in there that agree with us. But they can't say so without losing their jobs. But I didn't do anything to protect the public. The notion that the public could be protected is a farce. Once plutonium is released and it begins to fall --and it would fall over populated areas onto a footprint according to wind direction, velocity and the height of the RTG breech-- there would be absolutely nothing they could do to evacuate the area. If the public were given a few minutes' notice, there would be pandemonium and gridlock. No one could get out. People would lose their lives, their homes and their health insurance. Property and health insurance, all insurance policies have exclusions due to war, terrorism and nuclear accidents. I'm not just talking about people here in Brevard County. A strong wind condition and fine atomization of the plutonium could carry this deadly poison a long way. And plutonium is the deadliest known poison. One pound of this equally distributed could kill all 5.5 billion of us and we're talking here of 72.3 lbs. This is not a game. According to the May fifth, 1997 issue of "Aviation Week and Space Technology" the Cassini mission after its eleven year cycle will cost you the taxpayers more than 3.2 billion dollars. That's a lot of money, that's a lot of clout, that's a tough thing to stop. Tough even to delay it to convert it to solar. I don't know if we can stop Cassini or not, or if we can stop future plutonium launches. But I do know this. If NASA spills plutonium on the heads of the people, we can vote out everyone who's in Washington. Because every member of the Congress and Senate plus the President and Vice President were personally handed petitions asking them to have public hearings and to please stop this insanity. And if this happens, there won't be anything left of NASA either except for a dirty smudge on the pages of history. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX FOR GENERAL E-MAIL REDISTRIBUTION: Comments garnered from activists, bystanders, protesters and sympathizers during various anti-Cassini demonstrations and rallies over the last two years (1996 & 1997). BACKGROUND: NASA begins a long term program of launching plutonium 238 in unprecedented quantities this October 6 ('97) ostensibly for reasons of science and for the Department of Defense. Many point to how much all this is costing in tax revenues, who benefits from those large and long term revenues, and arguing the reason is neither good science or defense, but Corporate welfare in a very big way. Many in the scientific community who are not on the government pay roll are pointing out precisely how dangerous launching plutonium 238 can be to life on earth should any one of these launches fail, either at launch or in the upper atmosphere. In spite of years of lack of news coverage (Sonoma University calls it censorship) people are beginning to talk about this. Public awareness of plans and activities held in secrecy is the last thing NASA wants. Functional democracy begins with free and open discourse. Some argue that the reason U.S. leadership can afford to be so disconnected from the interests of working people in the rest of the country is because public engagement of the issues (discourse) is diminished or so skewed. The following spontaneous and unpolished material is presented in the interests of stimulating discussion on the issue of plutonium launching. "The October 6 Cassini launch is a point of no return. With Cassini's launching the U.S. empire lays the final seeds of its own undoing." "Do you remember all those old black and white movies about the mad scientist making some poison or some machine to destroy the world? Well, they're all employed now, getting that nice fat, bi-monthly government check...thanks to NASA." "Prophecy is not a spiritual thing. Its mathematical, around the fourth or fifth grade: the trajectory of physical and historical events. Any fourth grader could see we're heading for horrific times if they were given the facts of what all is going on now. That's the key. Keep people in the dark." "This is all about empire and violence. Look for violence and you'll see empire at various stages of development, right from the very beginning. The greatest violence is global destruction and unaccountability. That is the pinnacle of power. People used to think that position was reserved for God. Not any more. Not at NASA. Playing God is clearly their objective. You think they'll get by with this? Sure, maybe for a year or two. But the statistics and probabilities are against them on something this risky and long term -their history of "human error". I know I don't want to be around when their shit finally hits the fan (as it inevitably will), not with this plutonium loaded on everything. Do you know how many years that stuff can eliminate life by what it does at the cellular level? Its remarkable. NASA can get by with launching plutoniu because people aren't thinking , no body is home. Grab a beer, sit back on your couch, and watch it on TV this October 6: NASA beginning to set the stage for the end. Doesn't it make you proud to be an American?" "NASA has bragged for years that the reason their existence is relevant to the rest of us is because they invented Teflon. Tell me, when we can no longer grow vegetables in Florida, we going to eat Teflon? I guess were going to have to learn to do that if we're going to learn how to survive this here plutonium launching business." "I think plutonium launching is great. I've been praying all my life for Christ to return. With the global conflict NASA's fixen to set up, I'll see Christ's return in my life time. And with people everywhere rendered helpless by this stuff falling from the sky, they'll finally pray and repent of their sins like they should've a long time ago." "I feel this is a Black issue. African Americans need to think about their brothers and sisters in Africa on October 6 and pray hard. The launch trajectory is over Africa. This could come down on the continent of our origins if some final booster rockets fail. Now you damn sure know why they're not launching this poison over their white brothers in Europe. If one of these plutonium mother loads lands in Paris, Moscow or Shanghai they'd have damn good reason to launch one of their's back at us. You know of anyone in Africa (that) has an ICBM?" "They run out of places to put this trash down here. So they puttin' it up there. Its going to come back down and kill us all. And all because they can't figure out another way to make a living." "The nameless and forever unnamed Decision Makers made a big mistake deciding to go ahead with this Cassini thing. They are either mad or clueless about what will be the cost of this thing to themselves...personally. Not only are their positions history. We are." "What Cassini can do reminds me of the song "Red Rain" on Peter Gabriel's CD "SO"...or like that artist's depiction on that NOVA special of what happened when that large meteor hit the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. If I were the government, I'd tell PBS not to run that segment any more, and I'd pull Peter Gabriel from the shelves." "Violence is what this is about. State sponsored violence. There is no intelligent life across that fence (pointing at Cape Canaveral). Just violence, plans and schemes for more violence: uncalled for violence upon you and me and our kids and their kids. God I'd hate to be one of those people. Idiots, liars and thugs. No moral backbone or public consideration whatsoever. Kind of like the politicians in Washington, wouldn't you say?" "A science magazine recently featured a full page picture of deformed frogs with legs growing out of their heads. The caption stated that frogs are called a "sentinal species". The slightest thing wrong with their environment they get deformed or they die off. These frogs are being found all over the world. The magazine didn't speculate what was going on. But plutonium dioxide messes up the genes like that. After a half a century of exploding nuclear materials underground, in the oceans, overhead, the rising background radiation is starting to show its effects. Every other launch out here is a secret military launch. Why the secrecy? Plutonium on board, I think. You know what we'll be seeing next century if NASA goes ahead with all this plutonium launching? More and more people looking like those frogs." "Have you noticed how the lightning has been more violent and frequent this year? Most people wouldn't notice this because they live in closed, moving coffins called automobiles and they sleep inside hermetically sealed, air-conditioned cubicles called apartment complexes watchin' "reality" on an idiot box centrally placed in their living rooms. But getting nixed by a bolt of lightning is exactly what its like to get hit by one of these highly selective and "surgical" orbiting lazar battle stations they've built. Don't like Arafat? NIX. Don't like you? NIX. Their hands stay clean and no one can say who did it, although its not difficult to imagine. Have you seen that glossy brochure they've put out bragging on this capability? Bragging about it!" "Up to this point (July 26, 1997) no politician and no network news has touched this issue (NASA's long term plutonium launching plans) because no one has the balls. Plutonium launching represents the pinnacle of the U.S. imperialistic development. The politicians are all sold out to it -all of 'em done bought and paid for several times by GE, Westinghouse, Lockheed, you name it. This here is legislatively guaranteed welfare for white-collar workers far into the next century...and more bubbly for Wall Street. This here Cassini WILL fly on October 6 just to prove that we taxpayers don't run things; centralized capital runs things. At the end of this century this here country is "Of the Corporation, By the Corporation and For the Corporation."