Friday, 26 February 1999 Washington, DC
1. NMD: WHO SAYS CONGRESS ISN'T DOING THE PEOPLES BUSINESS?
We can all sleep better tonight. By an overwhelming 50-3, the House
Armed Services Committee yesterday approved the National Missile
Defense Act: "It is the policy of the United States to deploy a
national missile defense"
(WN 5 Feb 99).
There is no mention of
when, what it might cost, whether it should work, or the White
House promise of a veto in its present form
(WN 12 Feb 99).
2. BROOKHAVEN: NO SIGNIFICANT SAFETY ISSUES FOUND AT HFBR.
At the request of DOE, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducted a
six-week on-site assessment of safety issues at the High Flux
Beam Reactor. The NRC report concludes that: "Actions taken to
characterize and control the tritium plume were conservative, and
this plume does not represent a radiological hazard to public
health or safety." Uh, does it mean that the decision to
shutdown HFBR and terminate the Associated Universities contract
(WN 2 May 97).
Of course, we won't know for sure
until the STAR panel completes its safety review
(WN 12 Feb 99).
3. RADON: EFFECT OF SINGLE ALPHA PARTICLE IS STUDIED DIRECTLY.
Just one year ago, a NRC report on residential radon risk (BIER-
VI) relied on the dubious linear-no-threshold extrapolation from
data on uranium miners to evaluate residential radon risk
(WN 20 Feb 98).
Using a charged particle microbeam system, however,
researchers at Columbia's Center for Radiological Research have
directly studied cell damage from multiple alpha traversals,
which are experienced by miners, down to single alpha traversals
in a lifetime, that result at residential levels. They found no
difference between single traversals and zero. While the studies
were done using mouse cells, they indicate that the linear-no-
threshold model strongly overestimates residential radon risks.
The new technique may also offer a way to evaluate the risk from
high-energy, high-Z radiation in space travel
(WN 20 Dec 96).
4. CIRCULAR A-110: EARMARK HAS UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.
Executive Board on Saturday affirmed the position of the APS that
scientists have an ethical obligation to make public the data on
which their findings are based. The proposed revision of OMB
circular A-110, however, which requires that all data resulting
from federal funding be publicly available under the Freedom of
(WN 12 Feb 99),
is overly broad. The law could
force premature release of data. It was slipped into the omnibus
appropriations bill under the cover of darkness by Sen. Richard
Shelby (R-AL). At a meeting at the AAAS this morning, a staffer
for Sen. Shelby confirmed that the target was the EPA, which had
taken actions based on data that was not in the public domain.
However, using an appropriations earmark to legislate, thus
avoiding debate or hearings, commits the same sin. In a war
between Shelby and the EPA, science was an innocent bystander.