We publish below a sampling of recent reader mail concerning dirty bombs and Chernobyl, WMDs in Iraq, free expression in the Peace Corps and Senator Robert Byrd.
While Paul Webster should be applauded for highlighting the neglect of follow-up research on the victims of Chernobyl in his June 8 Nation web article, his introduction may leave readers confused about important distinctions between nuclear weapons, radiological or “dirty” bombs, and reactor accidents.
When Chernobyl reactor number four ran out of control on April 26, 1986, a series of two explosions took place. The first was a steam explosion that blew the top off the reactor, and the second, which came two minutes later, may very well have been an explosion of the reactor fuel itself, that is, a low-grade nuclear explosion. But whatever its cause, the power plant accident was qualitatively different from a “massive nuclear explosion,” and it generated a much smaller explosive yield.
The article also states, “You could call it the dirtiest bomb of all,” but Chernobyl is on a vastly different scale from that of a radiological weapon. A plausible radiological bomb would release, at most, thousands of times less radiation than Chernobyl and would more likely release a million times less.
With much public debate swirling around the threat of “dirty” bombs and “loose nukes,” it is crucial to make clear distinctions between these types of events to avoid unnecessarily inflaming public fear.
JAIME YASSIF Moscow, Russia
Although I thank the Federation of American Scientists for its praise for my work, I must say I am surprised the FAS seems to be downplaying the significance of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion.
Bush’s current frantic search for WMDs is virtually admitting he lied to the American people when he used WMDS as a pretext for war.
If he really had sufficient evidence for their existence before invading Iraq, he should present that evidence now. Why search for more evidence now if he really had sufficient evidence before the war? There’s no need to search for further evidence if you already have sufficient evidence.
This is an obvious ploy to fool the American people a second time about WMD. If he finds WMD tomorrow, he’ll claim: “There’s your evidence.” But finding weapons now won’t show he had sufficient evidence before sending our troops to die.
If the media and Congress had any integrity, they’d push for the evidence he supposedly had before the war. Trying to use after-the-fact evidence to justify this war is clearly admitting he didn’t have sufficient before-the-fact evidence and thus was lying to the American people.
DIRTY BOMBS AND CHERNOBYL
Federation of American Scientists
Strategic Security Project
WILES OF MASS DELUSION