Friday, 25 Mar 94 Washington, DC
1. REINVENTING NASA: WILL IT BE A SPACE STATION OR SPACE SCIENCE?
A report by the Congressional Budget Office, released yesterday,
warns that "cheaper, faster, better" won't save much in the near
term. Under a flat annual budget of $14B (the best NASA can hope
for) robotic space science would have to be drastically reduced
to pay for the space station. Drop the space station, and NASA
could have everything else for $11B a year. Eliminate piloted
spaceflight, the report says, and NASA could have a robust space
science program on an annual budget of only $7B. NASA Administrator
Dan Goldin labelled the report "defeatist." NASA, Goldin
vowed, would not back away from the Administration's balanced
program of human spaceflight, space science and aeronautics.
2. JOHN NUCKOLLS, LIVERMORE LAB DIRECTOR, IS PRESSURED TO RESIGN!
Lack of leadership in shifting to nondefense programs was cited
in a highly negative report by a University of California review
committee headed by former NASA Administrator Richard Truly. But
Nuckolls is not going quietly. In a public statement, he blamed
the criticism on "dissatisfied employees and special interest
groups." A close associate of Edward Teller and an advocate of
continued nuclear testing, he thinks defense will continue to be
the main business of the Lab "based upon unfolding world events."
Nuckolls was picked to head the Lab six years ago. He replaced
Roger Batzel who got in trouble over exaggerated claims for the
mythical x-ray laser. Only the regents can fire Nuckolls; the
pressure to resign comes from UC President Jack Peltason and Vice
President Walter Massey, who is responsible for Lab relations.
3. "MR. PLUTO" EXPLAINS TO JAPANESE CHILDREN THAT PU IS FRIENDLY!
To prepare the Japanese public for the start-up of the plutonium-fueled
Monju breeder reactor, the government-owned nuclear fuel
company (PNC) distributed an informational video that features a
lovable cartoon character, Mr. Pluto, who explains how benign Pu
is. Like Joe Camel, Mr. Pluto is designed to appeal to the young.
Plutonium, Mr. Pluto tells the kiddies, is safe enough to drink;
what's more, he says, reactor plutonium is not very good for making
bombs. Well, it is true that most ingested plutonium passes
harmlessly through the alimentary canal, and it is hard to make
high-yield bombs from the stuff you get from power reactors. But
some ingested Pu can be absorbed, and even low-yield bombs are
bad enough (WN 28 Jan 94), so the Secretary of Energy--ours, not
theirs--called for the video to be withdrawn. The president of
the Nuclear Control Institute, a Washington-based anti-nuclear
organization, challenged the president of PNC, Tadao Ishiwatari,
to drink a gram of Pu on television. "Drink up or shut up" one
headline read. A gram? The solubility of PuO in water is about
.001 grams per cubic meter. An autopsy would show he drowned!
The Monju breeder reactor is the first step in an ambitious
program meant to make Japan energy self-reliant (WN 15 Jan 93).