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Dr. John Gofman Dies, Most Knowledgeable Scientist Opposing Nuclear Power

It is a very sad month of August, knowing we just
have lost one of our most brilliant critics of nuclear
power….while bobos are saying ‘nuclear is green’

August 26th, 2007

On August 15th, Dr. John W. Gofman died of
heart failure at 88.

After isolating “the first usable quantities of Plutonium-239,
for use in the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic
bombs that were used at the end of” World War II, while
still a graduate student at the University of California at
Berkeley, Doctor Gofman later realized how extreme were
the dangers of radioactivity. He soon became one of the
most vocal and scientific critics of nuclear power.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, whom we might today consider the
grandmother of the anti-nuclear movement, considered
Dr. Gofman her mentor.

John Gofman earned his Ph. D. in Nuclear Physical Chemistry in
1943 at the University of California at Berkeley. He earned his
M.D. in 1946 from the University of California at San Francisco.
Dr. Gofman was the founder and first director of the Biomedical
Research Division of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory from
1963-65; he co-invented the Vida Heart Monitor in 1972.

Over his life, spent mostly in the fields of cardiology and radiation,
Dr. Gofman published over 150 papers and several books on heart disease;
analysis of lipoproteins; lung cancer and plutonium; Radiation and
Human Health; Radiation Induced Cancer From Low Dose Exposure. His
last years of research were concerned with radiation from x-rays and
the cumulative effects of so-called ‘low dose radiation.’

The Committee For Nuclear Responsibility, which promoted
and paid for much of Dr. Gofman’s research until the end of
his life, would solicit funds by sending out a card displaying
the life span of plutonium. This extended 500,000 years,
with Neanderthal Man and the start of recorded history
only covering the first 15% of that period of time along
the card’s black arrow. Plutonium, which Dr. Gofman knew
so well, is produced in every nuclear plant to the tune
of 400-1000 pounds per year per plant [we have 103 nuclear
plants in the USA], with only a microgram being the cancer
causing dose, meaning with 454 grams in one pound,
twenty pounds is enough to kill every human being on Earth,
if the plutonium explodes, is vaporized, can enter the lung of
the victim, who may not develop the lung cancer for 20-30 years,
and never know where it came from, or how he or she got it.

Amongst the many wisdomed things Dr. Gofman said or
wrote down for us over the last several decades, one quote is:

“My particular combination of scientific credentials is very
handy in the nuclear controversies, but advanced degrees
confer no special expertise in either common sense or
morality…That’s why many laymen are better qualified to
judge nuclear power than are the so-called experts.”
– – from the back cover of “Irrevy”

More from that same book:

Actually entitled: Irrevy, An Irreverent Illustrated View
of Nuclear Power.

The following is from pages 55-56.

“Professionals As Apologists

In the early days of feudal societies, the elite could
maintain its power by small private armies and tax-collectors,
and the peons were generally kept in line by these agents,
ofttimes quite brutally. In the more modern, highly
technologically-based societies, the armies are still there,
the tax collectors are still there, but an important
new class of agents for the elite has been created.
This class is constituted of masters of business
administration, scientists, academicians (and the universities
they populate), and sundry professionals such as lawyers,
physicians, and engineers. To this “professional” class,
generously cut in for a modest share of the spoils, falls the
task of convincing the larger society that everything is being
done to assure a good life for that larger society. The pay
has to be relatively high, because the job commonly
requires the sacrifice of intellectual honesty.

On the other hand, we have all witnessed politicians,
economists, and others – – with obviously sincere
concerns for humanity – – who are nevertheless acting
as team-members and automatic apologists for some
anti-human systems. This is the sincere-sycophant syndrome.
It is the natural consequence of an educational system which
features the political philosophies of Plato, Machiavelli, Rousseau,
Hamilton, Madison, and even Marx, but seldom if ever
the libertarian classics of John Trenchard, Thomas Gordon,
Lysander Spooner, and Albert Jay Nock. I, too, am a product
of that educational system. . . and I have certainly made my
share of mistakes.

This restricted education means that an adequate supply
of truly innocent graduates is turned out annually who will
not even REALIZE it when they are being used later on.
So widespread is the sincere-sycophant syndrome that one
case per night is likely to pop out at you from TV news-story.”

Think about that when you watch your edited evening broadcasts,
and all the be-suited post-yuppie me-me-me-and My Hummer “success”
mates living for the material end, while the planet and the neighborhood
is sacrificed to the profit motive.

Another thing Dr. Gofman would oft repeat is that
“We cannot win the war on cancer by putting more carcinogens
into the environment.” Makes sense, no?

In concert with that, Dr. Gofman’s essay ‘Concentrated Benefit
over Diffuse Injury’ written with Egan O’Connor in 1993, and
available on the website right now amidst their
mid-2007 post ‘Out Of Control’ re radioactive wastes being
dumped and deregulated to save the generators [especially
nuclear power plant owners/utilities] the cost of properly
containing these long lived supertoxic wastes, as Appendix M.

Here are some points, from section 3: “Narrow, special interests can
prevail via governmental force, via direct force, or via deceit. Direct
force is used by gangs and tyrants, but polluters achieve their aims
“peacefully” by using both deceit and the force of government on their behalf.”

“The axiom of Concentrated Benefit over Diffuse Injury accounts
for the current promotion of a “de minimis” policy toward nuclear
(and other) pollution. A de minimis policy asserts that society
should not concern itself with trivia. (Latin: De minimis non
curatlex. The law does not concern itself with trifles.) A de minimis
policy toward POLLUTION asserts that poisonous discharges and
human exposures below a certain level should be treated as
non-existent – – because their consequences are allegedly trivial.

Trivial. That is the essence of the axiom. Triumph for each
injustice is virtually assured if the advocates succeed in
presenting it as trivial.

When polluters and their agents accuse citizens who
oppose them (“activists”) of being Chicken Littles and
hysterics and ignorant extremists, the polluters are
working for a public perception that the injury is trivial.

And because the general public cannot afford to do battle
against TRIVIAL injustices, citizen activists against
pollution know that their chances of prevailing are
improved if they can show that the pollution constitutes
a calamity for the community. Anyone who has been an
activist for a year has learned how the axiom of
Concentrated Benefit over Diffuse Injury “demands”
proof of a calamity.”

In section 11 of the same essay, this statement appears:

“Low level pollution must stop because narrow special
interests (polluters) have NO RIGHT to impose, trespass,
experimentation, or diffuse injury upon the general public
and its common property.”

followed by this quote from Peter Montague, the
director of the Environmental Research Foundation in
Annapolis, Maryland:

“I’ve seen more people win what they wanted by informing
themselves about the nature of the problem and the process
that they’re involved in, and then expressing their goals in
terms of their feelings…. Our emotions were put into us by
the evolutionary process for good reason … I often hear
government officials or corporate officials say this person is
‘just an hysterical housewife.’ I have high regard for hysterical
housewives. I think they’re a very good force in American society.
And I think we need more of them.”

Dr. Gofman was a meticulous scientist who spent tedious
hours upon hours noting his findings during many years of
studies and experiments. But he also was an activist heading
the fight against nuclear power. Cancer and calamity, and
plenty of ‘trivial’ radioactive discharges and leaks were the
things he feared from this foolish attempt at boiling water to
make steam to turn a turbine to produce energy that would be “too cheap
to meter.” Which has not quite turned out that way. Nuclear power
is the MOST expensive form of energy we have, and then
there was Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Dr. Gofman predicted
back in 1986 when Chernobyl occurred that there would be
about 400,000 – 500,000 radioactively caused deaths, and
twice that number of cancers resulting from the worst
man-induced industrial accident EVER. And his
predictions are proving to be right. [See the April 2007
Chernobyl post on this website.]

We have lost a great brilliant human being, and patriotic
American who is surely turning over in his grave due to all
the morons like Thomas Friedman proclaiming ‘nuclear power
is green.’ Have you ever heard of radioactive waste, Thomas???
The most toxic waste there is!

Russell Hoffman has allowed me to add some more info
and feelings about Dr. Gofman from a recent email he has
sent about the internet:
[Thanks, Russell]

“By 1978 (when he had to submit an affidavit in a
nuclear case) he had published over 150 scientific papers
on the following topics:

(1) Lipoproteins, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease.
(2) Ultracentrifugal discovery and analysis of the serum lipoproteins.
(3) Characterization of familial lipoprotein disorders.
(4) The determination of trace elements by X-ray spectrochemical analysis.
(5) The relationship of human chromosomes to cancer.
(6) The biological and medical effects of ionizing radiation, with
particular reference to cancer, leukemia, and genetic diseases.
(7) The lung-cancer hazard of plutonium.
(8) Problems associated with nuclear power production.

At the time his honors and awards included the Gold-headed Cane
Award as a graduating senior from UC Med. School in 1946, the
Modern Medicine Award in 1954 for outstanding contributions to
heart disease research, the Lyman Duff Lectureship Award of the
American Heart Association in 1965 for research in atherosclerosis
and coronary heart disease, the Stouffer Prize (shared) in 1972 for
outstanding contributions to research in arteriosclerosis, and
in 1974, the American College of Cardiology selection as one
of 25 leading researchers in cardiology of the previous quarter century.

He also was Associate Director of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory
from 1963 to 1969 and holds three patents. One is on the slow
and fast neutron fissionability of Uranium-233, one is on the
sodium uranyl acetate process for separation of plutonium
from uranium and fission products from irradiated fuel, and
one is on the columbium oxide process for the separation of
plutonium from uranium and fission products from
irradiated fuel.

Regarding nuclear weapons testing, he wrote:

“I am prepared to defend, before any scientific body, and under
oath in full public view, my estimate that ONE MILLION people
(perhaps only 500,000 or as many as two million) in the Northern
Hemisphere have been irreversibly condemned to die of lung cancer
from those 5 tons of plutonium. Indeed, were it not for the fact that
by far MOST of the plutonium fell either upon the oceans or uninhabitable
land, the figure of one million would be enormously larger.” (“Irrevy” by
J.W. Gofman, 1979, page 39.)

Dr. Gofman’s estimates were based on the concept that a given quantity
of plutonium, if divided among 1, 2, or any number of people, will
have (statistically speaking, of course) approximately the same
effect, that is, that on average one person will die from a “lethal dose”
of plutonium, whether that plutonium is all given to one person or
divided out among many people.

He was co-discoverer of Uranium 233 and the first of the three patents
in his name, on the slow and fast neutron fissionability of Uranium 233,
was described by former AEC chairman Glenn T. Seaborg as being worth
in the neighborhood of “a quatrillion dollars” to the nuclear power industry.

Gofman also developed (in 1943) the chemical techniques to deliver
the first milligram-quantities of plutonium to J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Prior to that, all anyone had were microgram quantities, but “Oppy”
needed milligrams, and he went to Gofman for it, who was a graduate
student at Berkeley at the time. Gofman produced more than twice the
amount his friend “Robert” needed and was able to keep the rest to play
with for himself. (Okay, Okay. It wouldn’t be my choice of toy either.)

Gofman was the Chairman of the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility,
which he founded in 1971. CNR is a non-profit, educational group
organized to provide independent analyses of the health effects
and sources of ionizing radiation. Gofman was also Professor Emeritus
in Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California at Berkeley.
While at Livermore National Lab in 1963 he established the Biomedical
Research Division where he examined the health effects of radiation and
studied chromosomal origins of cancer. He authored six books on the
health consequences of ionizing radiation — in 1981, ’85, ’91, ’94, ’98
and ’99, with various updates into the new millennium.

Scientific studies conducted over the past few decades have borne
out Gofman’s warnings. Even the latest “BIER” study (BIER VII) agrees
that there is no safe dose — no threshold — below which radiation is
not harmful and cannot cause cancer, leukemia, heart problems, birth
defects, and literally hundreds of other ailments.

I met Dr. Gofman after he spoke in New York City, around 1979 or 1980.
I sent him several of my first essays on nuclear power, which he
approved of. We spoke by phone occasionally after that, but often at
length when we did speak, and he always remembered the details of
the previous conversations far better than I did — and yet I was the one
in awe, hanging onto every word! His mind was amazing. He counted
as his friend — not just his colleague and certainly not just his
adversary — such men as Glenn Seaborg. The last time Gofman and
I spoke was probably about 10 years ago, and at that time, nearing 80,
he was working feverishly on additional epidemiological studies of the
health effects of x-rays given by the medical community. Since then,
average dose rates for individual medical procedures have continued to
drop, as better technology has been developed and the dangers of
“LLR” (low-level radiation) has become more and more undeniable.
That trend continues, but slowly.

An American icon and unsung hero had faded away.

Rest In Peace, John. We loved you.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

(Portions of the above were created from previous essays about Dr. Gofman.)

The URL for CNR is:

Also, here are some excerpts from a New York Times’ obituary,
from August 26, 2007:

“John W. Gofman, 88, Scientist and Advocate for Nuclear Safety,

“Dr. John W. Gofman, a nuclear chemist and doctor who in the 1960s
heightened public concerns about exposure to low-level radiation and
became a leading voice against commercial nuclear power, died on
August 15 at his home in San Francisco.

In 1964, while he was director of the biomedical research division
at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, Dr. Gofman
helped start a national inquiry into the safety of atomic power. At a
symposium for nuclear scientists and engineers, he raised questions
about a lack of data on low-level radiation and also proposed a
wide-ranging study of exposure in medicine and the workplace,
from fallout and other sources.

With a colleague at Livermore, Dr. Arthur R. Tamplin, Dr. Gofman
then looked at health studies of the survivors of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, as well as other epidemiological studies, and
conducted his own research on radiation’s influences on human
chromosomes. In 1969, the two scientists suggested that
federal safety guidelines for low-level exposures be reduced
by 90 percent.

The findings were contested by the Atomic Energy Commission,
and the furor made Dr. Gofman a reluctant figurehead of the
antinuclear movement. In 1970, he testified in favor of
a legislative bill to ban commercial nuclear reactors in New
York City and told the City Council that a reactor in urban environs
would be “equal in the opposite direction to all the medical advances
put together in the last 25 years.”

Both he and Dr. Tamplin left Livermore in the 1970s, and
Dr. Gofman went on to become an expert witness in
radiation-exposure lawsuits and help found an advocacy group,
the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, based in San
Francisco. In an unsuccessful project, he and others called
for a five-year federal moratorium on new nuclear power
stations, citing problems in the safe storage of
radioactive waste. Yet, for all his efforts as a nuclear gadfly,
he did not oppose the building of nuclear missiles.

“Because we live in a dangerous world,” he said in 1993,
“I think the only thing you have is the deterrence value”
of such weaponry.

Dr. Gofman’s appearance in the nuclear debate surprised
some colleagues, since a thrust of his earlier research had
been in cardiology. In the late 1940s and ’50s, he and his
collaborators investigated the body’s lipoproteins, which
contain both proteins and fats, and their circulation within
the bloodstream. The researchers described low-density
and high-density lipoproteins and their roles in metabolic
disorders and coronary disease.

In his earliest work, while still a graduate student
at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Gofman
studied nuclear isotopes and helped to describe several
discoveries, including protactinium-232, uranium-232,
protactinium-233 and uranium-233. He also helped to
work out the fissionability of uranium-233.

John William Gofman was born in Cleveland. He graduated
from Oberlin College, and received a doctorate in nuclear and
physical chemistry from Berkeley in 1943. Dr. Gofman went
on to earn a medical degree from the University of California,
San Francisco, in 1946.

He joined Berkeley in 1947 and retired as professor
emeritus of molecular and cell biology in 1973.

With Egan O’Connor, he wrote a book, “X-Rays: Health Effects
of Common Exams” (1986). He also wrote “Radiation-Induced
Cancer from Low-Dose Exposure: An Independent Analysis” (1990).

Dr. Gofman’s wife, Dr. Helen Fahl Gofman, a pediatrician, died in 2004.

He is survived by a son, Dr. John D. Gofman, an ophthalmologist, of
Bellevue, Wash.”


Watch for radioactive wastes being deregulated and ending up in
your dump or zippers in the very near future. Dr. Gofman spoke
against the computer modeling for this over the years. Because
each individual dumping or deregulating is minimized or allowed,
but who knows where these dumpings may coalesce or concentrate?
And YOU may be the one affected! It all fits with what you have read
above. And with more nuclear power plants, there will be more
radioactive waste produced that has to be gotten rid of, or legislated
away as ‘trivial’ and don’t worry abouttit! Shift the liability to the
public, and shaft ’em when they get their cancers, as Diane D’Arrigo
might tell us.

Remember what you have read above. Dr. Gofman was
a man who we wish would never die, never disappear from
the nuclear power debate, because he knew so much about
all sides of it.

Check the ‘Out Of Control’ report on if you want
to learn about the next tricks to be played on us all by the
nuclear apologists and opportunists.

All the Best,
We Will Always Love You, John,
Conrad Miller M.D. August 28, 2007

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