RE: HFBR, Professional Ethics, accountability, & Christian convictions

Vandergraaf, Chuck (
Thu, 4 Sep 1997 10:14:27 -0400

Re: Joe Carson's posting on the future of the Brookhaven HFBR.


The knee-jerk reaction by U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato and U.S. Rep.
Michael Forbes is typical in the present political climate in the
developed world, where the shutdown of nuclear power and research
reactors is seen as progress. The proposed shutdown of a number of
CANDU reactors by Ontario Hydro because of poor management and not
because they are unsafe is a case in point. The planned shutdown of a
perfectly good nuclear power reactor in Sweden, just to appease the
general public and to honour the outcome of a flawed, 10+year old
referendum is another. In both cases, the electricity will now have to
be provided by fossil fuel, with the emission of copious quantities of
carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

As a scientist who has been involved nuclear research for 28+ years, I
support your campaign to keep the HFBR at Brookhaven operational. I
would be very much opposed to the idea of shutting down any research
reactor for trivial reasons (I'm assuming the tritium leak has no
measurable impact on the groundwater quality or on human health).

I think that, of all people, we as Christians should lead the way in the
fight against ignorance and superstition. The general public appears to
have no concept of risk assessment and makes its decisions on the basis
of which fearmonger is the loudest.

Shutting down a facility is never an isolated activity. Shutting down
the HFBR means that the research will either not get done or it will get
done somewhere else (Grenoble or Japan).

According to the accompanying mailing,

"the reactor has been
involved in a range of scientific discoveries, including the
development of radioactive isotopes used to diagnose heart disease
in 10 million patients each year to research on enzymes that
dissolve blood clots, officials. Today, nearly 300 scientists use
the reactor, with research involving the development of tin-based
isotope that could be used to ease the pain of bone cancer
sufferers to improving telecommunications equipment."

To me, this is one of the contributions by the HFBR that needs to be
emphasized. D'Amato & Forbes and the general public need to be made
aware in no uncertain terms that they have to weigh the perceived risk
of tritium to the environment against the risk of not having a source of
isotopes to serve mankind. Producing the isotopes elsewhere simply
moves the risk somewhere else and I am in principle opposed to
separating the risk from the benefits. Invariably, the poor end up with
the risk while the rich reap the benefits.

T.T. (Chuck) Vandergraaf, PhD, FCIC
Geochemistry Research Branch
Whiteshell Laboratories
Pinawa, MB R0E 1L0
((204) 753-2311 xt. 2592