Ira PilgrimIRA'S CORNERFilename:N-program

November 20, 3003 (Ira Pilgrim)

The Atomic Energy Commission

I often marvel at our ability to disregard nooses around our necks, so long as the hangman in charge tightens them slowly. Plop a frog into hot water and he will immediately jump out. But if the temperature is raised gradually, he will sit there until he boils to death. So it is with environmental radioactivity. We are worse off than the frog, because we have no direct way of sensing the hot water we are in.

L. Douglas DeNike

During the era of nuclear testing, some 20 years after W.W.II, I got to know Dr. Robert Pendleton. He was a radiation ecologist and a member of the Biology Department at the University of Utah. He was also the university's radiation safety officer. We were good friends, even though we were very different. He was the epitome of a conservative, Republican and a member of the National Rifle Association. He was a skilled hunter and, when we hunted rabbits, he would shoot them in the head with his shotgun, while I managed to just frighten them. He taught me how to hand load ammunition and some hunting skills which I never perfected.

One summer day, he took his class into the hills behind the university, where they checked various plants with a Geiger counter to see which ones concentrated radiation. They spied a dust cloud coming toward them; not an unusual event in the Salt Lake area. When the cloud reached them, their radiation counter went wild. This was his introduction to the activities of our government and the complete ruthlessness of those in charge of our country's nuclear weapons. It was the year when the Nevada tests spread large amounts of highly radioactive fallout over Utah. The Cache valley, Utah's dairyland, was heavily radiated and children were given doses of radioactive iodine through their milk. If people had been warned, that could have been easily prevented, but they had no idea that it was happening. To avoid giving children radioactive iodine, all that would be necessary would be to divert the milk to cheese making; most of the radioactivity would decay in a relatively short time. The town of St.George, in southern Utah, got enough fallout to give some people radiation sickness and, subsequently, leukemia. There was no warning to give people an opportunity to protect themselves and when what had been done was discovered, the Atomic Energy Commission(AEC) denied it.

When the complete story is told about what the Atomic Energy Commission did, it will dwarf any scandal that our government has ever had. We will find out about the atrocities that our own government has done to its own people. I use the term atrocity because that is what it was. What else would you call irradiating a whole state without so much as warning the public health people?

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