On Earth Day, U.S./NASA contaminated Saturn with plutonium-238 — the Cassini probe’s deadly crash

“When I heard that NASA would be dive-bombing Cassini into Saturn with 72 pounds of deadly plutonium-238 on-board, I thought of the Army handing out smallpox laden blankets to Indians on the reservations,” comments Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, which has been in the lead in protesting NASA nuclear space missions. “NASA readily admits that ‘biotic or prebiotic’ life very possibly exists on Saturn—are they trying to kill it?”

“It’s time to put a stop to their freedom to threaten the lives of people here on Earth.” — Allan Kohn, NASA official from 1964 to 1994

The Nuclearization of Space. The Crash of Cassini

Global Research, April 29, 2017
CounterPunch 27 April 2017

Despite protests around the world, the Cassini space probe—containing more deadly plutonium than had ever been used on a space device—was launched 20 years ago
. And this past weekend—on Earth Day—the probe and its plutonium were sent crashing into Saturn.

The $3.27 billion mission constituted a huge risk. Cassini with its 72.3 pounds of Plutonium-238 fuel was launched on a Titan IV rocket on October 17, 1997 despite several Titan IV rockets having earlier blown up on launch.

At a demonstration two weeks before in front of the fence surrounding the pad at Cape Canaveral from which Cassini was to be launched, Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, warned of widespread regional damage if this Titan IV lofting Cassini exploded on launch. Winds could carry the plutonium

“into Disney World, University City, into the citrus industry and destroy the economy of central Florida,” he declared.

Four months before, at an earlier demonstration at the same site, Allan Kohn, a NASA career official from 1964 to 1994 who had been the emergency preparedness officer at the Kennedy Space Center, noted that

we were told by NASA that the odds against the Cassini blowing up and releasing radiation [are] 1,500 to one. These are pretty poor odds. You bet the lottery and the odds against you are one in 14 million.”

As to NASA’s claim that the plutonium system was “indestructible,” he said it is

“indestructible just like the Titanic was unsinkable….It’s time to put a stop to their freedom to threaten the lives of people here on Earth.”

And, indeed, on an Earth “flyby” by Cassini , done on August 18, 1999, it wouldn’t have been a regional disaster but a global catastrophe if an accident happened.

Cassini didn’t have the propulsion power to get directly from Earth to its final destination of Saturn, so NASA figuredImage result for cassini saturn on having it hurtle back to Earth in a “sling shot maneuver” or “flyby”—to use Earth’s gravity to increase its velocity so it could reach Saturn. The plutonium was only used to generate electricity—745 watts—to run the probe’s instruments. It had nothing to do with propulsion.

So NASA had Cassini come hurtling back at Earth at 42,300 miles per hour and skim over the Earth’s atmosphere at 727 miles high. If there were a rocket misfire or miscalculation and the probe made what NASA in its “Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission” called an “inadvertent reentry,” it could have fallen into Earth’s atmosphere, disintegrating, and releasing plutonium. Then, said NASA in its statement, “Approximately 7 to 8 billion world population at a time … could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure.”

The worst accident involving space nuclear power occurred in 1964 when a satellite powered by a SNAP-9A plutonium system failed to achieve orbit and fell to Earth, breaking apart and releasing its 2.1 pounds of Plutonium-238 fuel, which dispersed all over the planet. According to the late Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, that accident contributed substantially to global lung cancer rates.

In her book, Nuclear Madness, Dr. Helen Caldicott, president emeritus of Physicians for Social Responsibility, writes about plutonium:

“Named after the god of the underworld, it is so toxic that less than one-millionth of a gram, an invisible particle, is a carcinogenic dose. One pound, if uniformly distributed, could hypothetically induce lung cancer in every person on Earth.”

Further, the Plutonium-238 used in space devices is 280 times more radioactive than the Plutonium-239 used in nuclear weapons.

Cassini finally reached Saturn and took excellent pictures and provided scientific information about Saturn, its rings, and moons including Enceladus and Titan.

NASA sent it crashing into Saturn on April 22, 2017

“to make sure Cassini is incinerated at the end of its journey to ensure that any of its earthborn microbes do not contaminate the biotic or prebiotic worlds out there,” wrote Dennis Overbye in his front-page story in The New York Times on April 22. (The article didn’t mention plutonium at all.)

“When I heard that NASA would be dive-bombing Cassini into Saturn with 72 pounds of deadly plutonium-238 on-board, I thought of the Army handing out smallpox laden blankets to Indians on the reservations,” comments Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, which has been in the lead in protesting NASA nuclear space missions. “NASA readily admits that ‘biotic or prebiotic’ life very possibly exists on Saturn—are they trying to kill it?”

Said Gagnon:

“We are told that NASA is out searching for the origins of life in the universe but they seem to have forgotten the prime directive from Captain Kirk on Star Trek to ‘do no harm.’”

Felton Davis, an activist with the Catholic Worker movement in New York City, who participated in anti-Cassini protests through the years, said NASA

“should face the environmental reality that other celestial bodies are not garbage dumps.”

After the 1964 accident involving the SNAP-9A plutonium system, NASA moved to develop solar photovoltaic panels to energize satellites, and now all are powered by solar panels—as is the International Space Station.

But NASA has insisted that it needs nuclear power for missions into space—claiming for years that it could not use anything but atomic energy beyond the orbit of Mars. However, that has been proven incorrect by NASA itself. On July 4th, Independence Day, 2016, NASA’s solar-energized space probe Juno arrived at Jupiter. Launched from Cape Canaveral on August 5, 2011, it flew nearly two billion miles to reach Jupiter, and although sunlight at Jupiter is just four percent of what it is on Earth, Juno’s solar panels were able to harvest energy.

Related image

Juno spacecraft above the north pole of Jupiter
Photo from NASA

Nevertheless, the U.S. Department of Energy working with NASA has started up a new production facility at its Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to produce Plutonium-238 for space use. Other DOE labs are also to participate.

Says Gagnon of the Maine-based Global Network (www.space4peace.org):

“Various DOE labs are rushing back into the plutonium processing business likely to make it possible for the nuclear industry to move their deadly product off-planet in order to ensure that the mining operations envisioned on asteroids, Mars, and the Moon will be fully nuclear-powered. Not only do the DOE labs have a long history of contaminating us on Earth but imagine a series of rocket launches with toxic plutonium on board that blow up from time to time at the Kennedy Space Center. They are playing with fire and the lives of us Earthlings. The space and the nuke guys are in bed together and that is a bad combination—surely terrible news for all of us.”

“The Global Network,” said Gagnon, “remains adamantly opposed to the use of nuclear power in space.”

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.


Radioactive goods are being looted, stripped, and exported from Chernobyl – video and transcript

Fort Russ
April 28th, 2017
Translation by Tatzhit Mihailovich

Source Video:


The 31st anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear disaster this Wednesday has attracted considerable media attention in the West. Most of the publications focused on the event itself. Some talked about the recent “accomplishments” of the Poroshenko regime – erecting a steel containment structure over the old concrete one [1], plans to build a solar power plant at the site, and so on [2].

A few articles, like the Associated Press piece (reprinted by most Western outlets – Washington Post, ABC News, Fox, Daily Mail, etc etc)  used to occasion to highlight “anti-nuclear protest in Belarus” [3].

Finally, one or two articles talked about cool projects in the exclusion zone – such as a few Polish “adventurers” moving a generator into Pripyat and turning lights on (source) – but without discussing e.g. the potential for electrical fires, which would spread radioactive smoke, or the fact that random people can freely roam Pripyat.

No one talked about the real problem – the fact that the “closed zone” around Chernobyl is no longer really “closed”, and that everything of value is being looted and sold to unsuspecting buyers [4]. The interview below discusses this problem.

[pictured: school in the radioactive town of Polesskoe, mentioned in interview below, midway through being disassembled for construction materials. Photo credit to zametkiev LJ.]

Interestingly, the man presenting the evidence (Alexander Medinskiy) is actually a Ukrainian nationalist – or used to be, anyway. He even fought in Donbass, but since coming back from the war, he has seen the effects of “Western democracy” on Ukraine and has become a vocal critic of the new regime, calling it corrupt, dictatorial, and criminal (and was branded a “terrorist sympathizer” in return). So, we can hear a report for an “insider”, as it were.


(A) = Aleksandr Medinskiy
(K) = Konstantin Zazvonov

[greetings skipped]

(A) Kostya, everyone in Ukraine understands that the industry is mostly dead, so all that’s left is scrapping the leftovers. Now they are getting into Chernobyl.

(K) Isn’t it supposed to be closed off?

(A) It used to be “restricted” before. And even then, not guarded well. And now, it’s not just lone looters. It goes all the way to the top, so restrictions no longer apply.
Moreover, most of the policemen that were guarding Chernobyl have been laid off now, so it’s standing wide open.

(K) Got it. What exactly is being looted? [Irradiated] vehicles from storage areas, or building materials and infrastructure?

(A) Anything and everything of value, Kostya.
First of all… Let’s show a photo here… On Google photos we can see that in 2002, this “vehicle cemetery” was completely full and by 2013, it was all taken. So first they looted the vehicles – those are the most valuable. Not every last one, but most.

Now they’ve moved on to houses – taking them apart for pipes, rebar, and so on.

Here we can see how the school in Polesskoe [ghost town about 20 mi downwind from the reactor – ed.] is being disassembled into concrete slabs.

No idea where those slabs will turn up, because it is very tricky to figure out the schemes being used there.

But… I can say that, some time ago, businessmen I know personally have bought a load of used metal pipes, supposedly originating from Dnepropetrovsk.

And when the load was delivered, they were smart enough to check it with a radiation counter – the levels were off the charts, pretty much lethal.

They weren’t able to find out where the pipes originated from, but it certainly wasn’t Dnepropetrovsk. Somewhere within the exclusion zone, apparently.

(K) So is it sold within Ukraine, or exported? Or you don’t have that sort of information?

(A) I’ll put it this way. If you really look into what’s happening into exclusion zone, this is a large-scale, industrial effort. They are disassembling buildings using cranes. This isn’t merely a couple hobos trying to scavenge.

We can see heavy construction vehicles being moved in. We can see buildings being disassembled in a professional manner, with cranes.

We can see heavy vehicles being used to drag radioactive barges onto the shore, where they are cut for scrap. There are videos of that as well.
Where does all of this go is anybody’s guess. Some of it is bought by unwary people within Ukraine. Some of the metal is probably molten down, re-cast, and then exported.

Everybody knows that, [unfortunately], our government is among the world’s most corrupt ones. Thus, it is no problem to make real and proper documents verifying that these goods have “successfully passed” radiological inspection.

The real horror of the situation is that these materials can be anywhere in Ukraine now. Those radioactive pipes I told you about – they were brought to the capital!

And after those businessmen refused – where did they take those pipes? Maybe sold them to somebody else?

(K) I’d bet they didn’t take them back to Chernobyl! Yeah, probably resold.

You know, in one of my future videos, I plan to talk about contraband to Poland – how cigarettes and [medical] drugs are being smuggled across the border via drones.

And about Chernobyl – how is it all transported, do you think? How do they smuggle all those vehicles and building materials? Do they do it at night, do they camouflage it, or what?

(A) Let me explain how things work here. “Illegal” smuggling isn’t the main problem here, not really.

The problem is that the government officials are so corrupt, this wave of contraband is going “semi-legally” – through the checkpoints, with all the proper documentation, with knowledge of those in charge.

We’ll talk about that in more detail later. As for items from the exclusion zone, they can be split into several segments.

The most basic category are the hunters, poachers, the people who hunt for meat here. As you can guess, no one checks the meat with any sort of radiation counters.

And the exclusion zone is kind of interesting. There are some patches that are relatively clean, and there are patches that are extremely radioactive.

For example, aforementioned Polesie, [where the school was being taken apart for slabs] – that area is extremely “hot”.

There are people who gather mushrooms, berries, and so on – [Chernobyl] exclusion zone obviously has all of that. And then this food can go to the markets in Kiev, maybe even exported abroad, zero control for that.

Then there are the midlevel “harvesters”, who cut up pipes, rebar, the aforementioned barges, and so on. They pay off the officials and transport the loot semi-legally.

And there is an even higher level. [Irradiated] vehicles aren’t usually cut for scrap, unless they’re completely unserviceable. And if they can still work…

There was discussion of using the remaining helicopters [from the “radiation graveyard”], some tracked vehicles – to use them in the warzone. Can you imagine that?

(K) I thought it was actually done in the end?

(A) I can not claim that it was done. I know it was discussed, that’s all.
So, we can see that the “graveyards” are now empty. Where did the vehicles go…

Maybe they sold the armor to some warring African state. Or to South-East Asia somewhere – not everyone is smart enough to do their own radiological inspection of our country’s exports.

(K) So you suspect UkrSpetsExport (Ukraine’s arms export monopoly – ed.) could have made some money there?

(A) I don’t want to make any such statements. Because we want to be… [Ukrainian word] how do you say this in Russian… We want to be objective, evidence-based.
What I wanted to tell here is that the problem exists, and that its rapidly getting worse.
Right now they’re taking apart Polesskoe, then they’ll move on to Pripyat – the probably already started, then they’ll start taking apart the reactor building itself…

You see, that place can be looted for decades. There are construction materials, scrap metal,  venison, mushrooms, and so on. It can be a serious source of income.

The problem is that the whole government system is corrupt. UkrSpetsExport is part of it, so we can not honestly conclude that it is not involved, either. Any part of the system could be.

(K) Thank you very much for your insights on [what’s currently going in] Chernobyl

(A) Yes, thank you too, for raising awareness about this problem. Its being swept under the rug, not talked about, but it’s actually huge. Radiation is an invisible killer.

There are many survivors of Chernobyl among the Ukrainian people, and they should know about this. Also, this problem needs to be discussed internationally. We will continue investigating this matter over here.

(K) Thank you Alex. Use your radiation counter, be safe. All the best!


[1] The project was funded by foreign countries, started in 2007 and slated for completion in 2014.
Of course, the Maidan “revolution” set the project back a few years and incurred mysterious additional costs that required further foreign funding. In the end, the new regime was able to claim credit for finishing a project they didn’t start, didn’t pay for, and actually delayed.
[2] An interesting contrast can be seen here: VOA propagandists claim that the Chernobyl solar plant will generate 2.5 Gw and the project will be complete by May (link), while the somewhat more reasonable BBC propagandists talk about 1 Gw, built by 2019 or so (link).
In reality, most likely, none of these output figures and deadlines will be met – no work has been done so far, and no contracts have been signed.
[3] There is almost no information on this anti-nuclear protest in Belorussian or Russian-language sources; even the Youtube videos put out by the organizers have a couple thousand views at most.
The number of Western journalists and bloggers discussing this tiny gathering of professional “opposition activists” might very well be greater than the number of actual Belorussians who support the protesters.

[4] The lack of attention to what’s going on in the exclusion zone is especially puzzling considering how much the Western mass media love scaring their audiences – fear is the most powerful of human emotions, after all, and scare stories bring the most ad profits.
I suppose that in this case, profits had to take a back seat to the political goal of supporting the Poroshenko regime.


More wildfires in Chernobyl exclusion zone

Posted on Optimal Prediction.com July 2, 2015

The latest wildfire to break out near Chernobyl has consumed 130 hectares. It started on June 29, and it is unclear whether it is still burning or not.

Experts have recorded 0.0025 becquerels of Cesium-137 per cubic meter of air. The inspection found that it is beyond the measures usually observed.

According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Emergency Situations, the fire in the Chernobyl exclusion zone continues, firefighters are unable to resolve the situation. (link)

Air near the desolated settlement of Polesskoye in the Chernobyl zone is contaminated with the radioactive element cesium-137. Its content in the air has reached a level called “sequence above the norm” (approximately ten times the norm), the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRI) reported on Wednesday.

Cesium-137 is one of the most dangerous nuclear elements, as it accumulates in the body and can lead to leukemia. (link)

The radiation risk involves the fire spreading to areas closer to the plant. But there is no danger of a new explosion.

Fire near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine poses a danger to the surrounding regions, expert of the Polish branch of Greenpeace Jan Haverkamp told TASS on Thursday.

“We are monitoring the situation. Fortunately, the fire has not yet reached the NPP reactor zone. It’s very dangerous that everything is happening in the nuclear power plant area. If the fire spreads there, a huge amount of radiation will get into the atmosphere,” he said. “It’s a risk, but the risk primarily to Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, as they are located in close vicinity,” Haverkamp said.

According to him, there will be no explosion, similar to the 1986 accident, and Eastern European countries, including Poland, have now nothing to worry about.

“We welcome the efforts of Ukrainian authorities that are doing their utmost to prevent the fire from spreading,” the expert said. (link)