Aletho News


The Nuclear Cult

Zealots of the Atom

By KARL GROSSMAN | CounterPunch | June 18, 2012

Nuclear scientists and engineers embrace nuclear power like a religion. The term “nuclear priesthood” was coined by Dr. Alvin Weinberg, long director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the laboratory’s website proudly notes this.  It’s not unusual for scientists at Oak Ridge and other U.S. national nuclear laboratories to refer to themselves as “nukies.” The Oak Ridge website describes Weinberg as a “prophet” of “nuclear energy.”

This religious, cultish element is integral to a report done for the U.S. Department of Energy in 1984 by Battelle Memorial Institute about how the location of nuclear waste sites can be communicated over the ages. An “atomic priesthood,” it recommends, could impart the locations in a “legend-and-ritual…retold year-by-year.” Titled “Communications Measures to Bridge Ten Millennia,” the taxpayer-funded report says: “Membership in this ‘priesthood’ would be self-selective over time.”

Currently, Allison Macfarlane, nominated to be the new head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says she is an “agnostic” on nuclear power—as if support or opposition to atomic energy falls on a religious spectrum.  Meanwhile, Gregory Jaczko, the outgoing NRC chairman, with a Ph.D. in physics, was politically crucified because he repeatedly raised safety concerns, thus not revering nuclear power enough.

Years ago, while I was working on a book about toxic chemicals, the publisher asked that I find someone who worked for a chemical company and get his or her rationale. I found someone who had been at American Cyanamid, the pesticide manufacturer, who said he worked there to better support his growing family financially.

But when it comes to nuclear power, it’s more than that—it’s a religious adherence. Why?  Does it have to do with nuclear scientists and engineers being in such close proximity to  power, literally?  Is it about the process through which they are trained—in the U.S., many in the nuclear navy and/or in the insular culture of the government’s national nuclear laboratories? These laboratories, originally under the Atomic Energy Commission and now the Department of Energy and managed by corporations, universities and scientific entities including Battelle Memorial Institute, grew out of the World War II Manhattan Project crash program to build atomic bombs. After the war, the laboratories expanded to pursue the development of all things nuclear. And is it about nuclear physics programs at universities serving as echo chambers?

Whatever the causes, the outcome is nuclear worship.

And this is despite the Chernobyl or Fukushima Daiichi catastrophes. It’s despite the radioactive messes exposed at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility and at Los Alamos and other national nuclear laboratories most of which have been declared high-pollution Superfund sites where cancer on-site and in adjoining areas is widespread. It’s despite the  continuing threat of nuclear war and the horrific loss of life it would bring and nuclear proliferation spreading the potential for atomic weapons globally. Still, they press on with religious fervor.

“Most of them are not educated about radiation biology or genetics, so they are fundamentally ignorant,” says Dr. Helen Caldicott, a founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility whose books include Nuclear Madness. “They are ‘brought up’ in an environment where they are conditioned to support the concept of all things nuclear.” Further, “nuclear power evokes enormous forces of the universe, and as Henry Kissinger said, ‘Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” And “they practice denial because I think many of them in their heart really know that what they are doing is evil but they will defend it assiduously, unless they themselves or their child is diagnosed with cancer. Then many of them recant.”

Linking the “nuclear priesthood” to the Manhattan Project is Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “The scientists involved weren’t really sure what they were unleashing, and had to have a certain amount of faith that it would work and it would not destroy the world in the process. After they saw the destructive power of the bomb, they were both proud and horrified at what they had done, and believed they had to use this technology for ‘good.’ Thus nuclear power was born,” says Mariotte. “The problem is when you have this messianic vision that you are creating good out of evil, it is very difficult to turn around and realize that the ‘good’ you have created is, in fact, also evil.”

Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste watchdog at Beyond Nuclear, says ever since the first test of an atomic device, “the diabolically-named ‘Trinity’ atomic blast, when Manhattan Project scientists placed bets on whether or not it would ignite the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s been clear something pathological afflicts many in the ‘nuclear priesthood.’ Perhaps it’s a form of ‘Faustian fission’—splitting the atom gave the U.S. superpower status with the Bomb and then over a 100 commercial atomic reactors, so the ‘downsides’ have been entirely downplayed to the point of downright denial. Perhaps the power, prestige and greed swirling around the ‘nuclear enterprise’ explains why so many in industry, government, the military, and even apologists in academia and mainstream media, engage in Orwellian ‘Nukespeak’ and monumental cover ups….The ‘cult of the atom’ has caused untold numbers of deaths and disease downstream, downwind, up the food chain, and down the generations from ‘our friend the atom’ gone bad.”

A parallel situation exists in Russia, the other nuclear superpower. Dr. Alexey Yablokov, a biologist, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and environmental advisor to Presidents Yeltsin and Gorbachev, says the nuclear scientists there refer to themselves as “atomschiky” or “nuclearists” and “think and act as a separate, isolated caste.” From the beginning of nuclear technology in the Soviet Union, they “were enthusiastic about the great, the fantastic discoveries of splitting the atom and developing enormous power. This ‘secret knowledge’ was magnified by state secrecy and a deep belief—in the Soviet Union as in the United States—of atomic energy ‘saving the globe’… There is a remarkable similarity in the argumentation of these groups here and in the United States. Step-by-step, they turned to an atomic religion, closed societies, a ‘state inside a state.’”

Dr. Heidi Huttner, who teaches sustainability at Stony Brook University, explains:

“As in so many parts of our industrialized and mechanized culture, there is no thought of consequences, or connections to the larger web of science, health, and human and nonhuman life… The nuclear culture becomes absolutely caught up in its own language and story. This self-enclosure feeds, validates and perpetuates itself. Without an outside critique or ‘objective’ third eye, any such culture loses the ability to self-regulate and self-monitor.  This is where things become dangerous.”

Russell Ace Hoffman, author of The Code Killers, Why DNA and Ionizing Radiation Are a Dangerous Mix, says: “It is a cult. It fits all the classic definitions of a cult. It’s an elitist, war-mongering, closed society of inbred, inwardly-thinking, aggressively xenophobic, arrogant pseudo-nerds stuck in ideas that are at least half a century out of date… Another cult-like behavior is they don’t care about the suffering of their victims.  Not one bit.”

Dr. Barbara Rose Johnston, an anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Center for Political Ecology in Santa Cruz, recounts spending three days at a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored conference for people involved in the atmospheric monitoring program at the nuclear weapons test site in Nevada. “Many of the scientists and technicians in attendance were from southern Utah and St. Georges County area where the heaviest atomic fallout from the Nevada test site occurred… I did not find a single man who saw a connection between fallout and cancer rates, despite the fact that most had suffered. My initial reaction was that these folks truly ‘drank the Kool-Aid’—true believers through and through.”

“The nuclear industry requires buying into an orthodoxy,” explains nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson. “I know, as I was in it as a senior VP.” He tells of how, after he voiced concerns and criticism, an industry lawyer “told me, ‘Arnie, in this industry, you are either for us or against us, and you just crossed the line.’ The same thing happened to [outgoing NRC Chairman] Jaczko  I know of one nuclear engineer with 40 years of experience who committed suicide five days after Fukushima because he simply could not accept that his life’s work was based on erroneous assumptions.  He had worked on the Mark 1 design [the GE design of the Fukushima Daicchi plants].”

Alice Slater, New York representative of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, says the “nuclear scientists are out of touch with reality. They talk about ‘risk assessment’—as though the dreadful, disastrous events at Chernobyl and Fukushima are capable of being weighed on a scale of ‘risks and benefits.’ They’re constantly refining their nuclear weapons—Congress has budgeted $84 billion for over the next 10 years to maintain the … ’reliability of the nuclear arsenal,’ and $100 billion for new ‘delivery systems’—missiles, submarines and airplanes. After the horrendous effects on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, everyone knows these catastrophic weapons are unusable and yet we’re pouring all this money into perpetuating the national nuclear weapons laboratories. They’re not including the Earth in their calculations and the enormous damage they are doing. They’re involved in the worst possible inventions with lethal consequences that last for eternity. Still, they continue on. They’re holding our planet hostage while they tinker in their labs without regard to the risks they are creating for the very future of life on Earth.”

Dr. Chris Busby of the Health and Life Sciences faculty at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and author of Wings of Death, Nuclear Pollution and Human Health, says:

“What we are seeing with nuclear scientists is a desperate need to control their environment and their lives and the forces that may affect their lives by creating a virtual universe which they can deal with by mathematics and by drawing straight lines on paper.”

It’s the “cult of the nuclearists,” says Busby. And this construct of the nuclear scientists seeking to “control nature with mathematical equations that make them feel safe” sets up a “collision with reality”—and a “way we are going to destroy ourselves.”  The belief in nuclear power is “far beyond anything scientific or rational,” says Busby, who has a Ph.D. in chemical physics.

Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, says the “religious passion for nuclear technology” started with the “guilt” of those in the Manhattan Project. “Those in the ‘nuclear priesthood’ knew that these horrible bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives and they wanted to make up for that… They developed atomic energy for warfare and then thought it had other uses—and they would do anything to make that work.” But the civilian nuclear technology they devised was also deadly, and this realization was too “devastating to be accepted” by the “nuclear originators” or those who followed who “spend their days with their buddies, their colleagues, all thinking the same way.”

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project, in his 1955 book The Open Mind, wrote: “The physicists felt a peculiarly intimate responsibility for suggesting, for supporting, and in the end, in large measure, for achieving the realization of atomic weapons…. In some sort of crude sense…the physicists have known sin.”

Whether out of indoctrination, misguided belief, an obsession to “control nature,” the lure of the cult, closeness to power, job security, or their seeking to perpetuate a vested interest, the “nuclearists” have a religious allegiance to their technology. On a moral level, they have indeed sinned—and continue to do so. On a political level, they have corrupted and distorted energy policy in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. On an economic level, they are wasting a gargantuan portion of our tax dollars.

Choices of energy technology should be based on the technology being safe, clean, economic and in harmony with life. Instead, we are up against nuclear scientists and engineers pushing their deadly technology in the manner of religious zealots.


Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on The Nuclear Cult

Taliban praise India for not acting as US lapdog

Rehmat’s World | June 18, 2012

To great surprise to New Delhi, Pakistan-supported anti-US Afghan Taliban leaders have praised India for resisting US-NATO calls for greater involvement in Afghanistan.

There had been no assurance for the Americans, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters on Sunday. “It shows that India understands the facts,” he said.

Regional analysts believe India, Pakistan and the Taliban are asserting their independence from the American world order.

Last month, Hillary Clinton visited India in the hope of persuading the country to halt oil imports from the Islamic Republic or face sanctions itself. She was told by Indian officials that India needs to look after its own national interests rather than bow to US interests in the region. Last week, Barack Obama exempted India along with Turkey and Japan from the Zionists’ list of countries to be sanctioned for not following Israel’s anti-Iran agenda.

Early this month, US secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, made a 3-day stop in India on his way to Afghanistan. In New Delhi, he urged Indian leaders to take a more active military role in Afghanistan. During his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India national security adviser, Shiv Shankar and Indian Defense Minister A.K. Anthony – Panetta did not find them willing to have a military conflict with Pakistan by fighting against pro-Pakistan Taliban. India is America’s valued customer. In the past eleven years, India has bought around $8.5 billion worth of defense equipment from the United States.

Zionist Jewish professor Joel Brinkley (Stanford University) lamented in the San Francisco Chronicle (June 17, 2012) that after spending $1 billion and more than 3,000 lives lost during the last ten years – the victors in Afghanistan are China, India and Iran. … Full article

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Comments Off on Taliban praise India for not acting as US lapdog

Scotland against London’s plan to upgrade nuclear weapons

Press TV – June 18, 2012

The Scottish ruling party SNP says the British government has “no democratic mandate to impose” a planned £1 billion project for renewal of Britain’s nuclear-armed submarines on Scotland, where the boats are based.

SNP defense spokesman Angus Robertson said there is overwhelming opposition to the Trident nuclear program in Scotland.

“People in Scotland do not want Trident. Church leaders, the Scottish Trades Union Council, The Scottish Government and the Scotland’s Parliament are all against weapons of mass destruction being in our waters,” Robertson said.

“Despite this the UK Government is prepared to spend £1 billion of taxpayers money on a needless program and then expect the people of Scotland to accept weapons of mass destruction being dumped here,” he added.

He further called for a “world free from nuclear weapons” saying the party, which is leading a campaign for Scotland’s independence from Britain, has a “solid commitment” to the “earliest possible withdrawal of Trident from Scotland.”

SNP’s reaction came after British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said the government plans to announce a contract ordering nuclear reactors for a new class of submarines to replace the current Vanguard fleet that carries the Trident nuclear missiles.

The London governement is also facing strong opposition to Trident replacement due to its massive costs to an already sinking British economy.

Scottish government Strategy ­Secretary Bruce Crawford earlier said the costs for the new Trident weapons system are estimated to “be anything up to £25billion and, over the lifetime, £100billion.”

“I think it’s an obscenity that we’re going to be pressing ahead at this time with this particular system,” he added.

British Royal Navy is now operating 58 nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles as well as around 200 nuclear warheads on four Vanguard-class submarines based in Clyde Naval Base at Faslane, western Scotland.

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Three Palestinians, One Israeli, Killed In Clashes Along Egyptian Border

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | June 18, 2012

Three Palestinians and one Israeli were killed during clashes that took place, Monday morning, along the Egyptian border with Israel. The army claims that a Palestinian armed group, on the Egyptian side of the border, fired an RPG at the army before engaging in an automatic fire attack.

The fighters, according to initial information, opened automatic fire at Israeli military vehicles driving in the area before firing a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) shell.

According to the Israeli Ynet News, the fighters intended to use roadside bombs to target two army contractor crews responsible for building the wall Israel is building along the border with Egypt; one Israeli was killed and two others were wounded.

Ynet reported that the attack took place close to the so-called Philadelphia Route, near what Israel calls the “dune sector”; The Philadelphi Route is a 14 kilometer road along the border between Gaza and Israel. The route was built at the expense of Palestinian lands, and led to the destruction of numerous homes.

Following the attack, the Israeli army ordered all residents in the area to remain home, as initial reports indicate that some of the gunmen might have managed to infiltrate into Israel.

More soldiers were deployed into the area; the Israeli military sealed roads number 12 and 10 along the border with Egypt.

Israeli security sources reported that it is highly unlikely that this attack is connected to the presidential elections in Egypt, adding that Israel had information about attacks planned across the border with Egypt, and that the attacked was likely carried out by a Palestinian armed group based in the Gaza Strip.

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | Comments Off on Three Palestinians, One Israeli, Killed In Clashes Along Egyptian Border

Muslim Brotherhood Announces Mursi’s Victory in Elections

Al-Manar | June 18, 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood declared early Monday that its candidate, Mohammed Mursi, won Egypt’s presidential election over Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmad Shafiq.

But the military handed itself the lion’s share power over the new president, sharpening the possibility of confrontation. With parliament dissolved and martial law effectively in force, the generals issued an interim constitution granting themselves sweeping authorities that ensure their hold on the state and subordinate the president.

The Muslim Brotherhood said Sunday it did not recognize the dissolution of parliament, where it was the largest party. It also rejected the military’s right to issue an interim constitution and oversee the drafting of a new one.

Official final results are not due until Thursday, and Shafiq’s campaign challenged the Brotherhood claim, which was based on the group’s compilation of election officials’ returns from nearly all polling centers nationwide.

But at their campaign headquarters, the Brotherhood officials and supporters were ebullient over the turn of fate.

In a victory speech at the headquarters, Mursi said he seeks “stability, love and brotherhood for the Egyptian civil, national, democratic, constitutional and modern state”.

“Thank God, who successfully led us to this blessed revolution. Thank God, who guided the people of Egypt to this correct path, the road of freedom, democracy,” the 60-year-old U.S.-educated engineer declared.

He vowed to all Egyptians, “men, women, mothers, sisters … all political factions, the Muslims, the Christians” to be “a servant for all of them.” “We are not about taking revenge or settling scores. We are all brothers of this nation, we own it together, and we are equal in rights and duties.”

“Down with military rule,” the supporters chanted at the headquarters.

“The next phase is more difficult. We must all unite against the oppressive rule of the military council,” MB founder Ahmed Maher said.

By the group’s count, Mursi took 13.2 million votes, or 51.8 percent, to Shafiq’s 48.1 percent out of 25.5 million votes with more than 99 percent of the more than 13,000 poll centers counted.

The Brotherhood’s early, partial counts proved generally accurate in last month’s first round vote.

The Shafiq campaign accused the Brotherhood of “deceiving the people” by declaring victory. A campaign spokesman on the independent ONTV channel said counting was still going on with Shafiq slightly ahead so far.

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , | Comments Off on Muslim Brotherhood Announces Mursi’s Victory in Elections