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November 30, 1978 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1978-11-30

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Page 4-Thursday, November 30, 1978-The Michigan Daily

tie mtichia Bi
420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Eigh!t-Nine Years of Editorial Freedom

Nuclear power is a labor issue

Vol. LXXXIX, No. 69

News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

The Supreme Court on Farber

HE SAD, FINAL chapter was
written Monday in the story of
New York Times reporter, Myron
Farber's dispute with a New Jersey
judge over his right to protect
confidential news sources.
Mr. Farber and his employer, the
Times, saw their last hopes dashed as
the U.S. Supreme Court refused to
review contempt convictions against
them for refusal to provide
unpublished notes and records to a
trial judge.
Investigative stories by Mr. Farber
in 1976 led to the reopening of a probe
into the mysterious deaths of 13
hospital patients in a Bergen County,
N.J. hospital in the late '60s. As a
result, Dr. Mario Jascalevich was
arrested and charged with
administering a muscle relaxant to the
During the trial, Mr. Jascalevich's
lawyers tried to obtain Mr. Farber's
notes, claiming the records would help
exonerate their client. Mr. Farber and
the Times refused to turn them over,
claiming protection under a New
Jersey shield law.
When they rejected the trial judge's
order to relinquish the documents, he
held them in contempt of court, jailed
Mr. Farber, and fined the Times a total
of $285,000.
Qtly Mr. Jascalevich's acquittal
Oct. 25 brought an end to Mr. Farber's
jail term and further accumulation of
the $5,000 a day fine against the
The importance of the
confidentiality of a reporter's sources
and notes is well illustrated by the
Farber case. Through use of sources,
whose anonymity he promised, Mr.
Farber was able to gather important

new evidence pointing to Mr.
Jascalevich as the person responsible
for the deaths. The prosecution's later
failure to convince a jury of the
doctor's, guilt beyond a reasonable
doubt does not detract from Mr.
Farber's contribution to justice in the
murder probe.
Journalists occasionally need to rely
on guarantees of confidentiality to
elicit information of public interest and
importance. The public's right to know
is damaged by judicial infringement
on reporters' right to assure the
anonymity of such sources.
Courts which try to force reporters to
reveal confidential sources whittle
away at constitutional guarantees of
press freedom and abuse their own
Mr. Farber and the Times have
shown great courage in standing up to
such efforts. It is unfortunate that a
newspaper and a reporter must pay
such a high price to defend a basic
constitutional right and a basic public
An unfortunate aspect of the
Supreme Court's refusal to hear
Farber's appeal is that its review of
the case could have damaged press
rights more than helped them. The
high court has generally acted to limit
press rights in the cases it has heard in
recent years.'
The best thing that can be said about
the case is that it establishes no
national precedent. State courts
outside New Jersey are not
constrained to follow the same
restrictive path. Meanwhile, only time,
and more liberal Supreme Court
appointments, can hope to undo the
damage to press freedom brought by
the Farber case.

Editor's note: This article is the second
in a two part series written in response to
an article by the U. S. Labor Party.
According to the Environmentalists For
Full Employment, clean decentralized solar
energy projects could produce up to seven
times as many jobs per dollar as nuclear
energy. and the ratio of regular workers to
experts in the solar field would be much
higher. That means there would be nine
carpenters or sheet metal workers, for
example, for every highly trained solar
engineer, creating jobs for a broad range of
people. In the nuclear field, the ratio is two to
one. The Massachusetts Energy Policy Office
has concluded that by 1985, widespread
adoption of solar space and water heating
would create more jobs for the unemployed
construction workers than offshore oil and
new power plant construction combined.
This approach is not"anti-technology", as
sometimes is alleged by the large energy
interests. In fact, technological innovation
will be a key toachieving success with this
approach but the technologies involved need
be ones which genuinely serve people's needs.
Nor is this a "no growth" approach, or one
which advocated a return to drudge labor. To
the energy industry, "growth" has always
meant growth in energy production in order
to satisfy its own needs, no matter the
consequences for the rest of society. But to
others, "growth" means a national policy of
full employment, improved standards of
living, improved job safety and public health.
Nuclear energy produced fewer jobs per
dollar than any other energy source. The
average nuclear power plant provides wages
for 2,000-3,000 construction workers for a
period of 3-5 years. After that, only a tiny
crew is needed to operate the plant. Focusing
on both the long-and short-term interests of
working people, UAW President Douglas
Fraser has stated: "Organized labor will
accept nothing less than a well-planned
switchover (from nuclear and conventional
energy industries) to solar power which
includes protection of the income, equity, and
benefits of men and women working today."
The price we might pay for lax regulation is
indicated by a study commissioned by the
AEC in 1967 but surpressed for eightryears
after its completion. According to the report,
a major reactor accident would cause 27,000
deaths, 73,000 cases of severe radiation
sickness, and the contamination of an area
the size of Pennsylvania. More recently. a
government-sponsored study, the Rasmussen
Report, concluded that the probability of such
an accident at our current and planned
nuclear plants is infinitesimal. But highly
respected scientists outside of the
government have challenged the report's
validity and the NRC recently admitted that
the methods employed in the study are
without foundation and the results are
Nuclear accidents imperil the whole
community, and, in extreme cases, the whole
region in which they occur. Serious accidents
have occurred in nearly every facet of the
nuclear industry. A few examples
demonstrate the danger.
In 1957 and again in 1969, serious plutonium
fires broke out at the Rocky Flats nuclear
facility. The first fire involved about 110 lbs.
of plutonium. Plutonium is the most
hazardous substance known and the material
from which most atomic bombs are made.
Plutonium decays very slowly, remaining
dangerous for more than 250,000 years. The
maximum permissible dose is approximately
one millionth of a gram (an invisible speck)
which, if inhaled or swallowed, makes cancer
of the lung or digestive tract the likely result.
This, is a single pound were widely dispersed
in the form of tiny particles, it would have the
potential for producing 500,000,000 cases of
cancer. Had all the plutonium involved in the

Rocky Flats fire been burned, the smoke
generated would have contained 1.4 million
doses, each one million times the maximum
legally allowed for humans. Although the heat
of the Rocky Flat fire weakened the roof of
the building, no collapse occurred and a
major catasstrophe was averted. It is
perilous to expect that such good luck will
continue indefinitely. altogether, there have

By the Arbor Alliance
been 271 fires and 410 "contamination
accidents" at Rocky flats. Already, the
cancer rate among Rocky Flat employees is
seven times the national average. This may,
however, be only the beginning. Government
estimates imply that a full-fledged nuclear
reactor program would result in the
production of 30,000 tons of plutonium by the
year 2000.
Although to, date catastrgphic accidents
have been arrowly averted, less dramatic but
nonetheless serious accidents continue to
occur. One problem has been the
contamination of water supples. On
November 19, 1971, the Monticello (Minn.)
nuclear power plant began spilling
radioactive water into the Mississippi River.
By November 21, when the gates were closed,
more than 50,000 gallons had been dumped
into the river upstream from the intakes for
the municipal water supply of Minneapolis. In
a similar accident resulting from the failure
of a faulty valve, the Vermont Yankee plant
spilled 83,000 gallons of radioactive water into
the Connecticut River..
Leakage of nuclear wastes has also become
a problem. Plutonium contamination
resulting from waste leakage at RockyFlats
has been detected throughout the Denver
area. Such leaks frequently occur at storage
facilities. Between 1958 and 1975, a total of
549,400 gallons of radioactive wastes leaked
from containers at the federally-owned
Hanford, Washington site. Leaks have also
occurred at commercial storage sites such as
those at West Valley, N.Y., and Maxey Flats,
Ky. A recent government report cautiously
observes, "Environmental and health effects
from these leaks are not yet clear."
Obviously, existing waste storage facilities
constitute a threat to the public health. Even
the nuclear industry representatives agree
that some other solution is needed. Yet no
proven technology for the actual disposal of
these wastes exists and there istno consensus
among reputable scientist that such a
technology is possible.
Workers in the nuclear industry are
exposed to radiation hazards at each stage of
the nuclear fuel cycle: mining and milling,
fuel fabrication, reactor operation, fuel and
waste transportation, waste reprocessing and
storage. Even if the danger of accidents were
minimized, nuclear workers would be
subjected to many routine hazards,
During the mining process, radioactive
dust containing both uranium and radium is
produced. Miners who inhale or swallow these
radioactive particles risk leukemia, bone and
lung cancers. also released in the decay of
radium is the radioactive gas radon. Radon
inhalation probably accounts for 20 per cent
lung cancer rate smong uranium miners.
At the fuel fabrication stage, workers are
exposed to even higher levels of radiation.
But workers involved in maintenance and
repair of operational reactors are subjected
to the- greatest dangers in the industry.
Accordingly the nuclear industry employs
many temporary (often non-union) workers
for the most dangerous tasks. Between 1966-
71, Getty Oil Company's Nuclear Fuel service
Facility employed an average of 1400
temporary workers each year at radioactive
"hot spots." In another instance,
Consolidated Edison brought in 1500 wlders to
locate, repair, and insulate six 4%-inch hot
water pipes in radioactive areas of one of its
reactors. Each welder worked 15 minutes,
receiving during that time the maximum
permissible dose of radiation.
Waste transportation poses further
hazards. In a "breeder" reactor economy,
reactors would be designed to maximize the
production of plutonium. This element would
be extracted from spent fuel rods and used to
produce new fuel rods. Large quantities of the

hazardous substance (in purified form) would
be transported from one plant to another
along highways or rail lines. Tens of
thousands of transportation workers and
millions of ordinary citizens who live along
the routes would be. exposed to ptential
radiation hazards.
The cancer rates among nuclear employees
which result from radiation exposure have
been documented in several recent studies.
for 14 years, Dr. Thomas Mancuso of the
University of Pittsburgh and the
acknowledged founder of the occupational
health profession, has been studying the
health histories of the entire population of
workers who have ever been employed at the
AEC's Hanford (Washington) and Oak Ridge
(Tenn.) facilities since each was established
in the early 1940's. His findings indicate that:
the levels of radiation in the so-called
"safe" area definitely cause cancer,
specific t-ypes of cancer, and . . . levels
much below the (safe) standards are
carcinogenic . . . The estimated cancer
risk was about ten times higher than
had been estimated before.
In 1978, the Atomic Energy Bargaining
Conference of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic
Workers passed a resolution calling this study
"..probably the most important study on
atomic workers ever conducted, with
implications that challenge the arbitrary and
capricious way management and the
government have dealt with worker health
and safety in atomic installations."
Corporations have a very clear interest in
keepingunemployment high. The more
people there are out of work, the more
competition there is for what jobs are
available and the easier it is to beat down
wages and beat back unions. It has already
been shown that nuclear generating plants
require large amounts of capital but rather
few employeesaso that the nuclear industry is
a net destroyer of jobs. As we have seen,
many of these employees are temporary. non-
union workers. Accordingly, during the
recent coal strike, the utility industry took the
opportunity to portray nuclear plants as
The utility companies, however, do not rely
only upon these structural weapons against
organized labor. Around the country there are
increasing reports of workers being fired for
complaining about safety violations in
nuclear facilities. Recently, in Van Buren,
Michigan, eight nuclear workers were
demoted and suffered pay cuts for refusing to
work in high radiation areas.
In contrast, nuclear plants are
advantageous for business interests. electric
utilities make a fixed percentage of every
dollar they invest, so the more they invest, the
more they make. Because nuclear plants
require a larger investment per unit of energy
produced than to conventional plants, they
generate higher profits for the utilities.
As a result, a list of the financial interests in
the nclear field reads like a who's Who
among corporate and banking giants in the
The enemy of this (anti-nuclear) movement
is the same as the enemy of the labor
movement. and that's the big corporations in
this country, and the politicians, and the
bureaucrats that carry out their desires.
(Jerry Gordon of the Amalgamated Meat
Cutters and Butcher Workers International at
the June 1978 Seabrook anti-nuclear
Our position is simple: We think that nuclear
fission is too dangerous to be accepted as a
source of electric power. It endangers not
only the workers employed in the nuclear
industry but whole regions of the country as
well. Dependence upon nuclear power will
tend to strengthen the opponents of organized
labor and to throw people out of work in a
society in which unions are already under
attack and high unemployment is becoming
commonplace. In contrast, we favor reliance.

upon concervation and solar power. Such a
solution would render our energy policy
consistent with the goals of full employment
and the provision of safe and healthy
communities and workplaces.
The Arbor alliance is an Ann Arbor
based organization opposed to nuclear



Ibr 3iC~b43a

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colonels. Had South Vietnam had
more leaders like him, it might
still be independent.
Mr. Loan was always a
maverick who never conformed
to anyone's stereotype of the
compliant officer; trained by
French and Americans, he
greeted the preachments of both
with the same restrained
skepticism. In particular, he was
alive to the difficulties of
imposing instant democracy
upon an age-old hierarchial
society embroiled in bitter civil

unintentional but nonetheless
inevitable toll of Vietnamese
civilian non-combatants that
resulted from modern military
technology's emphasis on
massive firepower. Given the
circumstances of the Vietnamese
war, one must indeed have acute
ethical perception to distinguish
between villians and heroes.
Here at home, the people who
are now harassing Mr. Loan by
such unedifying devices as
slashing the tires of his car do not
strike me as moral exemplars.


Arts Editors


Editor's note: The following
letter was written to the editor of the
Washington Post and appeared in that
publication on November 12. There is

trouble envisaging him as a "war
He was an unassuming man,
even at the height of his



TlTTf'IYWT"n CI nr" A T1T1

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