Friday, 21 Mar 97 Washington, DC
1.**BROOKHAVEN: SENATOR D'AMATO CALLS FOR SENATE HEARINGS.**
The disclosure of high levels of strontium in a single-
lined 50-year old concrete tank was pounced on by BNL critics
this week. The tank was used to collect drainage from the High
Flux Beam Reactor and a reactor that was closed in 1968; the
strontium is believed to be from the older reactor. Strontium
was apparently first detected in 1991, but no one seems to have
been in charge of follow-up. There's no evidence of a leak, but
BNL had agreed in 1987 to abide by a county law banning storage
of hazardous waste in single-lined tanks. Two months ago it was
discovered that tritium contaminated water has been leaking for
years from another single-lined pool (WN 14 Mar 97). The steady drip of
new disclosures since then is rocket fuel for political
2. ITER: DOE ASKS THE ACADEMY TO ASSESS THE PROGRAM'S MERIT.
Turbulence was generated last fall by a model presented at
the APS Plasma Physics Division meeting, which predicted that the
humongous International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor would
not even come close to ignition due to turbulence (WN 6 Dec 96). Without directly
referring to the turbulence controversy, DOE asked the NRC to
address: Will ITER work? What new research will it make possible?
What is its value to the fusion program?
3. NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD: ZARE SAYS NSB WANTS A BIGGER
The NSB chair, Richard Zare, told the House Science
Committee this week that members are focusing on "what the board
wants to make of itself." This seems to come up about every 5
years. The original NSB charter gave the board broad
responsibility for "the health of fundamental research," but as
White House Science Advisor Alan Bromley pointed out in 1992, the
board had from the start confined itself to NSF (WN 6 Nov 92). "It's inappropriate,"
Bromley said, for the board, 40 years later, "to attempt to
reclaim that turf." What he left unsaid was that the turf had
been taken over by the Director of OSTP. One may speculate,
however, on whether OSTP is as strong today as it was in 1992.
4. BUDGET: SCIENCE COMMITTEE AGREES REQUEST IS INADEQUATE.
James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), chair of the House Science
Committee, yesterday called for an increase of 3% for civilian
programs, three times the 1% requested by the President. Ranking
member George Brown (D-CA) applauded Sensenbrenner's direction,
but thinks it should be 5%. Most scientific societies think it
should be 7% (WN 7 Mar 97)--
except those holding out for 9%.
5. DISASTER: ARKANSAS GOVERNOR UNWILLING TO PIN BLAME ON GOD.
Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, rejected legislation
providing insurance protection for victims of tornadoes and
floods because it refers to such disasters as "acts of God." "Good God!" a legislator exclaimed when he heard. Exactly!