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Faculty Forum Papers

November 1975 - Hillemann Rebukes Spinrad
Howard H. Hillemann, Ph.D.
College of Science (Zoology)

October 27, 1975

   Bernard I. Spinrad has imputed to himself pontifical powers of nuclear omniscience in writing ex cathedra from his quasi-prestigious citadel of technologic insolence (Faculty Forum Papers, OSU, October 1975).

   Spinrad's "conviction" that nuclear power is the "most desirable" source of electrical energy "now available", rests on no more credible foundation than his own "misleading forensics" coupled with a plea for the "honor of a profession" now apparently in doubt in his own mind.

   Spinrand's outrageous hateur pronounces "leading opponents of nuclear power" as "shockingly ignorant". I presume he would include R.E. Bellman , J.T. Edsall, P.R. Ehrlich, R. Inglis, L. Pauling, H. Urey, G. Wald, and D.D. Watson (Committee for nuclear Responsibility), along with the National Committee To Stop Environmental Pollution, the Task Force Against Nuclear Pollution, and the trouble-making nuclear analyses and appraisals published in Environment, June 1975, vol. 17(4) Sheldon Novick, "A Troublesome Brew"; Environment, July/August 1975, vol. 17(5) D.F. Ford and H.W. Kendall, "Nuclear Misinformation".

   Spinrad engages in the spurious use of the analogy (which is not logic) in saying that it is not necessary for the department of religion to defend itself against astrology. Fact is, that it would be equally asinine to expect astrology to defend itself against religion or even Spinrad. Analogies prove nothing, but have been used historically by hood-winking Jesuits to make a metaphysical appear plausible and rational. Bernard I. Spinrad could conceivably benefit from a reading of his namesake Claude Bernard (1813-78) who wrote: "Whereas the scholastic is…. Proud, intolerant, and does not accept contradition…., the experimenter, who is always in doubt and never believes that he has achieved absolute certainty, succeeds in becoming the master of phenomena and in bringing nature under his power".

   Spinrad disregards the telling arguments of the "antinuclear movement" because he apparently cannot provide valid answers. Thus under the smoke screen of "garbage" vilification, he dismisses informed intellectual opposition, as if he were defending untenable conflicts of interest. Better for Spinrad the Great to condescend from an assumed position of mitral magnificence and arrogance to make credible reply to a scientific, public, economic, moral and ethical issue. Until the all-knowing fission nucleologist answers intelligibly, responsibly, and scientifically on major points of conflict in lieu of "charging off" with a crackpot essay composed of an assured self-apotheosis spewing forth nonsensical personal opinion against dissenters, there shall remain those of us who are unperturbed by accusations implicit in compostable assertions. Spinrad's abrasive insults generate plenty of heat but without a flicker of illumination.

   Spinrad might demonstrate how one can proceed with construction of liquid metal fast breeder reactors and meanwhile have "faith" in the outcome of further research, as well as trust that no disaster will eventuate. In theory the dangers in that program are immense. Since apparently during the next forty years or so, the above-mentioned reactors will not be able to produce electricity as cheaply as existing sources, why start them? Instead, in this interval of grace, we could develop alternate safe sources of power (solar and geothermal, wind and wave electric, ocean water temperature differences) while cautiously using current hydroelectric power and some of the remaining fossil fuels (gas, oil, coal). Thereafter, any residues of fossil "fuels" (chemically-bound energy low) could be reserved as raw material for the manufacture of durable goods.

   Spinrad should know that D. F. Ford and H. W. Kendall maintain that research in nuclear safety has been either diverted or sometimes distorted, and that there has been concealment of research and inaccurate reporting on many occasions. Emergency cooling systems are subjected to severe criticism. Storage of nuclear wastes may be for as long as a half-million years, long after known fission fuels are exhausted. How can storage be achieved with guaranteed safety from national and military catastrophes and from human intent, error, or lethargy? I can list a dozen substantial objections to nuclear technology in its present state of the "art".

   It should bemuse Spinrad that there circulates in Oregon an initiative petition to prohibit nuclear power plant operation. The measure proposes a Constitutional Amendment (Oregon) to prohibit all nuclear plants in the State, except for small plants for research and medical purposes. Included is a prohibition of transportation and storage of nuclear fuels and wastes. The Trojan plant would be condemned and acquired by the State, with requests for Federal funds to cover major costs. Any alternative use of Trojan would be by vote of the people.

   And what is the moral of all this? Look first, before you leap. Don't leap first and then reflect as you assess the damage. Be mindful of the ram who counseled as he went off the cliff --- "I didn't see that ewe turn".