In 1994 President Clinton established the Advisory Committee for Human Radiation Experiments.
(ACHRE) The ACHRE final report was presented in 1995 and a Presidential apology to the people of the United States followed.
The Chair of ACHRE, Ruth Faden, gave a speech in Italy after her tenure at ACHRE had concluded. Her comments regarding the suppression of information by the US government and its agencies warrant repeating in the light of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. The following is a brief set of quotes from her speech. The speech is dated as taking place on 12/5/98 in the course of PARTECIPANTI ALLA TAVOLA ROTONDA , in Milan, Italy. The full text can be viewed at http://www.cesil.com/0798/enfade07.htm
“It’s a great honour to be able to give this lecture in this important context, so I would like very much to thank my hosts. This lecture is perhaps somehow different from what is typically presented in this context. I’m neither a physicist nor a physician, and I’m not an expert in radiological science; what I would be speaking about is the story, and more importantly, the ethics of the enterprise of human research on which advances in the radiological science, and indeed in many sciences, have so often depended.
As it has already been mentioned, I will be giving an account of an American Presidential Commission that I chaired; this Commission is called The Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments.”….
“First let me tell you about the story. In the autumn of 1993, in a very obscure local newspaper in New Mexico, a reporter whose name is Eileen Welsome published a series of investigations in which she claimed that there had been secret experiments conducted by the American Government in the 1940s in which unsuspecting hospital patients had been injected with plutonium.
She identified who these victims, as she called them, were, she interviewed their families and included photographs in the report; she essentially put the human faces in this accusation. For this report she subsequently won the highest prize for journalism in the USA, the Pulitzer Prize.
When the report came out, it captured the imagination of the national press. The stories appeared in the major newspapers of all the USA, and also in the TV news.
The accusations extended not only to these plutonium experiments, but also to claims that there had been experiments involving retarded children, pregnant women, and prisoners.”
“The response from President Clinton to decrease public outrage was to establish an independent National Commission, and this is the Commission I had the opportunity to chair.
President Clinton appointed fourteen members, four of whom had expertise in radiological science.
My other colleagues had expertise in Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Law, Ethics and History. The President gave us four charges.”….”We were to open the secret reports of Federal agencies to the American public. We had responsibility over six ministries: Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Space Agency NASA, and also the CIA. In addition to our authority to demand from these agencies that we reviewed the reports, the agencies were also required to respond immediately to any request that we might have made for the declassification of secret documents.” “All together we had 18 months. Then we published the final report that I would have brought with me but it was too heavy (900 pages long).”
“We were also requested by the President to investigate whether there had been accusations of secret intentional releases of radiation into the environment, or espionage experiments. We also investigated the experiences of what we call in the USA the Atomic Veterans; these were soldiers who in some respect participated in the atomic bomb testing, primarily in the 1950s. We also investigated the experience of the USA’s involvement in testing in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, and also the experience of miners in Uranian mines in the South West of the USA in the 1950s and 1960s.”
…”We were especially disturbed about research that was not therapeutic in any respect; by this I mean research that even at that time offered no prospect of medical benefit to the subject. In such research, even at that time it would have been unethical in terms of the rules of the American Medical Community to conduct such research without express consent.
And yet, this kind of non-therapeutic research was not only conducted on patients without their acknowledge nor their consent, but in a few cases there was a deception to patients and their families about the purpose of the research.”
“We were also very concerned about the selections of subjects for this research, as far as we could discover that research in which the subjects were children was not connected with military objectives.
Much of this research in fact was directed to objectives in nutrition. What disturbed us was not the purpose but the fact that the children that were the subjects were institutionalized, mentally retarded children and children abandoned by their parents.
The rational for selecting these children was that they needed a group of children whose dignity could be controlled, so that the serial could have tracers. However, one of my colleagues said: “Why didn’t they select children institutionalized in selected private schools?”
So although doses were very low, relatively speaking, the concern about ethics come from the selection of the powerless, and the misrepresentation to the children and their parents of what was going on.
Let me quickly tell you about the intentional release of radiation in the environment. When we were commissioned, it was suspected that perhaps there had been six or seven of these releases from the State of Washington, in which there is a very important factory which produces material that supports weapon. In fact there were several hundreds of such releases, but they were not for the purpose of studying the effects of radiation on human beings.
Rather, as I mentioned earlier, their purpose was to establish whether we could detect what the Soviets were producing; if we knew how much we were releasing we could, by spying plans, correctly detect the amount and correctly infer production of the plants in the Soviet Union.
We are currently engaged in carrying out a dose reconstruction research. It’s extremely unlikely however that members of the public were harmed as a consequence of these releases; it must be remembered that these plants continued in their release to contaminate the environment.
What was deeply disturbing, however, was the fact that these releases were not only being conducted secretly, which might have been justifiable at that time, but that they were being kept secret for forty or fifty years, despite repeated attempts by the local community to establish what had happened. Indeed, we concluded that the secrecy with which some of these human radiation experiments and also these intentional releases were conducted was responsible for most of the serious negative consequences in this period of the American history.
And these consequences were primarily the distrust and suspicion that they engendered among the American public.
When we uncovered that in most cases this secrecy was not required for national security, but rather was maintained to prevent legal consequences and also to prevent bad press, it only added to a sense of scepticism and distrust, and this distrust is a great concern to all of us who believe in the importance of the advance in science.
As I’ve mentioned to you, there were already regulations and directives in the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s at the Defence Department and the Atomic Energy Commission requiring consent, but these requirements were never followed.
We have learned from this story that the Government can write the most elaborate regulations, but there are human limits that must be set by ethics; and a good ethics in a professional context most come from within the profession, and so our major recommendation had to do with changing education and the incentives for scientists and medical investigators, so as to make ethics central to their profession.
We had some success from these recommendations, but we still have a long way to go.
Thank you very much.” Ruth R. Faden
I believe that there is further to go now than there was in 1998.
It is often proposed by nuclear industry and its advocates that the only ones entitled to speak on matters relating to unconsented public exposures to ionising radiation are industry qualified nuclear experts.
Nuclear experts, history reveals, do not, by dint of their understanding of the atom, have any more or less native insight into the ethics of their undertakings than other person who is a layperson in the realm of ethics.
If I want electricity, I am not consenting to the compulsory inclusion of Cesium 137 and Iodine 131 into my food and drink. I am not consenting to the undisclosed emission of inhalant reactor created and released radionuclides.
I am not not consenting to government funded deceptive animal experiments which aim to falsely show that alpha and beta emitters embedded into human tissue as a result of compulsory nuclear emissions, merely act in a way similar to that of the ultra low dose external photon radiation.
I would, if I had the rights of an American, demand the establishment of a permanent ethics committee to ensure that critical radiological information was released to the people of America and the world. And to ensure that never again would citizens be kept in the dark to save nuclear authorities time, trouble, humiliation or profit. And I would press for the amendment of the applicable laws so as to ensure that if there is right to self determination in the USA, that right should extend to the right to know one’s exposure dose from nuclear industry emissions. No matter where in the world the point of origin of those emissions lies.
I would also push the United States to ensure that countries with which it has relationships involving nuclear treaties and technical exchanges be pressured to adopt the same level of openness.
The question is not technical. It is moral.
To which the NRC would reply “Give us a break, Japan is trying its best to resolve a crisis.”
But I thought the reactors are in Cold Shut Down? What’s the full story?
“Sorry we can’t tell you.”
How does zirconium behave in the plasma state?
“Find out for yourself”.