U.S. Harassment of Nuclear Scientists, Nuclear Plant Workers and Grassroots Anti-Nuclear Activists

By Hardert, Ronald A. | International Journal of Humanities and Peace, Annual 2001 | Go to article overview

U.S. Harassment of Nuclear Scientists, Nuclear Plant Workers and Grassroots Anti-Nuclear Activists


Hardert, Ronald A., International Journal of Humanities and Peace


"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." --George Orwell

What finally triggered the writing et this article was a recent e-mail form a librarian friend residing in Denver. The e-mail related to an article by Frank Munger (June 21, 1999) on the death and life of Karl Z. Morgan, former Director of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The Munger article laments the recent death of Morgan and the fact that Munger had never published anything on an interesting 1993 interview he had done with Morgan. Morgan was the acknowledged "father" of health physics, the science of radiation protection, and he was the first President of the Health Physics Society. After retiring from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Morgan often found himself on the opposite side of the nuclear establishment. This was due to the fact that the scientist had turned against nuclear power because he thought the reactor designs were not sufficiently safe.

In 1971, Morgan, who had been Director of Health Physics at Oak Ridge for nearly thirty years, was en route to Nuremburg to present a paper that questioned the safety of both plutonium and breeder reactors. He was contacted in Switzerland by Oak Ridge officials who told him that the section of his paper on the liquid metal, fast-breeder reactor was unsuitable for publication and that he should not present that version of the paper (Munger, June 21, 1999). Oak Ridge officials also arranged to have over 500 copies of the original paper destroyed and replaced with edited versions that deleted all references to the breeder reactor. Morgan, nearing retirement, argued with the associate director of the lab for awhile, but finally gave in when he realized that he might lose his entire pension in the last few months on the job. It is clear in the 1993 Munger interview with Morgan that the scientist was still agonizing over the Nuremburg incident and whether or not he did the right thing:

So, that was something that displeased me very much. Maybe I should have just bitten the bullet and of lost out on that (retirement money) ... that normally isn't the primary motivation of my life.

Having read the Munger (June 21, 1999) article on Morgan's experience with ORNL, led me to recall other incidents involving the harassment of nuclear scientists, nuclear workers, and anti-nuclear activists, both in published accounts and in my own interviews of "environmental heroes" (Harden, 1997). And, in recollecting C. Wright Mills' (1959) contentions about the ascendancy of the military as America's most powerful institution, I began to wonder what an analysis of the lives of various other nuclear scientists and nuclear whistle-blowers might reveal. I further reasoned that social scientists should be looking for patterns of experience, linkages in behavior, and other generalizations that might characterize the lives of those connected to the nuclear (electric) and weapons cycles.

The plan for the rest of the present study was to attempt to discover the underlying nature of nuclear whistleblower complaints and to understand what has happened to the lives of these respondents as a consequence of their particular type of whistle-blowing.

DISCREDITING NUCLEAR SCIENTISTS

Analysis of media accounts of nuclear whistle-blowers was instructive regarding what would later be found in my own interview data. For example, in writing an earlier article about the effects of radiation on the health of children (Hardert, 1987), I discovered that some highly regarded radiation health scientists (in addition to Morgan) have been stigmatized, ridiculed and punished for their views. Irwin Bross, Carl Johnson, John Gofman, Thomas Mancuso, Thomas Najarian, Ernest Sternglass, Alice Stewart, and Arthur Tamplin have questioned nuclear safety standards or reliability of official radiation statistics and have been viewed by the nuclear establishment either as whistle-blowers, eccentrics, or some type of environmental fanatics (Reader 1987). …

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