Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 28, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
ihurtday, February 21, 10.4 iHE LETHBRIOQE HERALD-9 Deadly danger in nuclear reactor plan By Nigel Hawkes, London Observer commentator WASHINGTON Critics are beginning to turn an unflattering spotlight on to the of America's nuclear program, the fast breeder reactor. What they to say has implications which go far beyond American because Britain, Rrance and the Soviet Union also given the fast a prominent place in their energy planning. Recently a public interest group, which calls itself National Resources Council, issued a Jw'report with major implications for fast breeder reactors all over the world. The report calls for the Drastic tightening of 'regulations governing the release of the radio active element plutonium, an essential ingredient in fast breeders and quite possibly the nastiest material known to man. Plutonium is a product of the nuclear age. It does occur naturally, but in such tiny amounts as to be barely detectable. But it is produced in substantial amounts in nuclear reactors by the neutron bombardment of uranium-238. One of the first two atomic bombs dropped on Japan was made of plutonium. Today's commercial nuclear plants produce plutonium as a by product of the generation of electricity. IC'i JEWS WORLD Jtlf. t MUDDLE THROUGH The fast breeder is simply an. attempt to increase the output of this by product so that it can be used in its turn to fuel new nuclear plants. A breeder, if successfully designed, will actually manage to produce more fuel, in the form of plutonium, than it burns in the form of uranium. Hence its name, and its magnetic attraction to governments worried about the possibility that uranium supplies will dry up within the next few decades. But plutonium has a major drawback: it is, in the words of experts, "fiendishly toxic." So far, man's tampering with nature has produced only relatively small amounts of the element, but fast breeders will change all that. The U.S.. Atomic Energy Commission estimates that by the year 2000, cumulative production of plutonium in the United States alone will have reached tons. A fair proportion of this will be shipped about the country in trains, from reactors to reprocessing plants. If fast breeders are to come, man must learn to live with an extensive traffic in one of the deadliest poisons he has yet discovered. Just how deadly was emphasized in the report from NRDC, which calls for the standards on the handling and accidental release of plutonium to be made more than times more 'stringent. The basis for the estimate comes from a careful examination of how tiny particles of plutonium affect the human system, carried out by Dr. Arthur Tamplin, a biophysicist, and Dr. Thomas Cochrane, a nuclear physicist, both of whom are working for NRDC. "There is little say the two scientists, "that inhaled plutonium is one of the most potent respiratory carcinogens known." In dogs, experiements have shown that as little as three millionths of a gram of plutonium is sufficient to produce cancer. This means that the amounts of plutonium in existence in the United States by 2000, if distributed in the form of an aerosol all over the world, would be sufficient to produce million million cases of cancer. In other words, there will be enough piutonium around to give every person on earth more than 10 million times the cancer producing dose each. These frightening show just how careful man must be in handling plutonium. So far, the safeguards in the United States have been sloppy or non existent. Already there has been one closely documented case in which less than one ten millionth of a gram of plutonium, embedded in the skin of a worker, produced a pre cancerous condition. That case was identified in time to save the man's life, but in another case Dr. Tamplin is convinced that plutonium claimed a victim. He was Mr. Edward Gleason, a freight handler who unloaded and handled a crate containing a leaking carboy of a plutonium solution. He developed a cancer on his left palm which eventually claimed his life. Although it is possible for such a cancer to develop naturally, Dr. Tamplin believes that there is an overwhelming medical probability that the cancer was caused by plutonium. A fast breeder reactor will contain at least one ton of plutonium. The question Drs. Cochrane and Tamplin pose is whether any system can be made so safe as to limit plutonium release below the very low levels they believe necessary. "Plutonium as an aerosol is every bit as poisonous as botulin says Dr. Cochrane. "If I went to the American people, or to the British people, and said that I'm going to breed botulin toxin (which causes acute food poisoning) in these amounts, that I'm going to have more than a ton of it inside the reactor at any one time and that I don't really know what the dangers of an explosion are, then they would say I was mad. Yet that is exactly what the Atomic Energy Commission is saying today." Drs. Cochrane and Tamplin believe that their calculations effectively rule out fast breeder reactors as a sensible method of generating electricity. The AEC, which is spending million on the fast breeder program this year (the largest single item on the entire U.S. energy budget) has promised to give their report "full and very careful consideration." They recognize that Dr. Cochrane and Dr. Tamplin are not opponents to be trifled with, as Dr. Tamplin has already successfully waged a two year battle to get other radiation standards tightened. Dr. Tamplin, indeed, was himself an employee of the AEC and something of a thorn in its side until he applied for and was granted alacrity" he says) a year's leave of absence to work for NRDC. NRDC has now petitioned both the AEC and Environmental Protection Agency to tighten their standards as they apply to small particles of plutonium. Their aim, they say, is not to price reactors out of business but to protect public health. It seems certain to be only the first shot in a campaign which could well reverberate all round the world. A collection of brief book reviews "'Dickie's List" by Ann Birstein, (Longman Canada rLtd. This is a well-written novel about the thoughts and 'ICIhappehings over a couple of months, of the Jewish wife of a New York publisher. The world of that society is well portrayed, but there are generalizations offered to the outsider. 7r A. R. F. WILLIAMS. "The Trapp Family Book of Songs" selected nv-vand arranged by Franz i: H.Wasner and illustrated by Agathe Trapp (Pantheon Books, distributed by Random House, 128 pages) Arranged for voice and piano, there are about 60 Christmas songs from many countries. Some include words of the native tongue as well as English (German, Czech, Polish, Swedish, Spanish, French, Italian, There are some very familiar carols and many not so familiar. There are also some notes at the back of the book to enhance the meaning of some of the songs. ELSPETH WALKER "A Happy Man" a novel by P. J. Kavanagh. (Clarke, Irwin Company Ltd., 227 After reading the first few pages and slowly losing interest, I realized this book could be read only by those who understand a confused and frustrated mans' feelings, as well as the crude language it was expressed in. Basically it is the story of a man, whose father dies quite suddenly, and is severely shaken by it. With his girlfriend he moves to an island in the south seas, and becomes involved in a series of guerrilla shooting incidents, and fights. Just when he decides to straighten himself out, he gets wounded in a shooting accident at bis home, and after weeks in a hospital decides to give it another go. CATHY de JONG "Crosscountry Skiing for the fun of by Margaret Bennett, (Dodd, Mead and Company, 206 pages, Crosscountry Skiing for the fun of it is fun to read (even if you don't crosscountry The book is written in an easy, light manner by two well-skieu "skinny Barbara Toohey and Jane Biermann (under the name Margaret Anyone who is just at the stage in his X-C skiing where he is still struggling with this newly popular sport, but can laugh at his slips, will find this book delightful (helpful This twosome has also written How to Ski Just a Little Bit, Alice in Womanland, From Baedeker to Worse and The Peripatetic Diabetic. JUDI WALKER Misreading interest rate changes By Bruce Whitestone, syndicated commentator .37, r_; Prior to their recent 'decline, short term interest J.jates have reached their highest levels since Confederation. Long term rates attained levels in mid summer that were exceeded by the highs of the 1969- 1970 credit squeeze. Interest rates affect the entire state of Xthe economy, so what will happen now is of over-riding The latest consensus on the 'subject has it now that money- -market rates have crested and .'are poised for rapid, further 'declines. The drop in interest rates, in turn, is viewed widely as merely the beginning of a sustained move to lower interest rate levels. However, this entire year J has been marked by optimistic interest rate projections a veritable interest rate euphoria in the face of unexpected and persistent rate increases. Al the beginning of 1973, the forecast projected a "'moderate rise in interest rates to mid year followed by a gradual retreat during the second half. This outline should have been challenged from the outset as only a credit contraction with much higher interest rates could control the runaway inflation. Similarly, the latest plnnge in interest rates should be called into question; unless the economic slowdown promptly becomes serious and inflationary pressures dimmish, the Bank of Canada and the U.S. Federal Reserve Board cannot permit credit to become more plentiful. So far, the Canadian and U.S. economies retain more near-term strength than had been anticipated. This will reinforce the determination of the central banks in both countries not to retreat to easy money here. Hence, the risk of real hurt is underrated, "while the chance for an early return to normal conditions (the so-called "soft is less likely. At the start of the year, the projected downward trend in interest rate stemmed from the widespread under- assessment of both the inflationary thrust and the forward momentum created by the previous easy credit policies. Inflationary expectations are widespread now, and the slower growth of our economy in the second half of 1973 could indicate that a sharp slowdown is well unoerway. However, the timing and extent of this slowdown is crucial now. This slower growth has become the launching pad for the soft landing in 1974 (that is a pickup during the second The trouble with this reasoning is that real growth in the economy now is running higher than expected. While a decline in housing is well underway, actively here has not collapsed despite (he high short term interest rates. Moreover, capital government spending, and inventory accumulation will provide some counter weight to the decline in noosing and consumer spending in the months to come. On balance there is reason to believe that (he economy is weakening more slowly aad retaining more strength than may be consistent with the projection of shallow decline or smooth rebound or with current expectations about interest rates. In the end, the Bank of Canada and the U.S. Federal Reserve Board hold the key. Most experts have underrated their commitment to fight inflation while over-rating the concern over high interest rates and the risks of recession. Many claim that the political and social implications of a period of credit restraint will prevent such a policy from being implemented. These comments ignore the fact that a continuation of a policy of credit ease would have even more serious politifal and social consequences, namely wild inflation followed by a major economical collapse. Economic restraint leading to abatement of inflation is really the only course of action that can be pursued. Nevertheless, the fear of "missing the market" by bond buyers and the current scarcity of new, bond issues have extended a limited technical correction in interest rates into a massive swing. Thus far, corporate treasurers have continued to pay high interest rate premiums on short-term borrowing in the hope that a large decline in long term rates is just around the corner. Also, the need for financing has been kept down by the rapid surge in corporate profits. However, corporate profits will soon deteriorate while capital speiiuin? increases the need tor money. Before long, corporations will rush to the market to borrow money. At that point, the number of new bond issues will pick up while long term rates start increasing again. At the moment, the decline in interest rates is being misread as a signal of a trend to easier credit. A reversal in interest rates must be forthcoming soon. Unless the money growth BERflrS WORLD remains at low levels, unless the economy weakens drastically and inflationary pressures wane, there must be higher interest rates. Credit restraint will become obvious again. The very stability and existence of our economy is at stake. The danger of misinterpreting central bank policy, thus, could be serious for us all. Universities old and new By Peter Hunt, local writer For those who cherish the genuine university tradition, with its core of wisdom and its guild spirit, perhaps the only light in the dark is the truth that a truly human tradition, one that is a rich heritage of man's intellectual and spiritual needs, cannot easily be submerged or obliterated by the seemingly irresistible flood of sophistry and secularism which swamps institutions of learning today. History shows that renaissance is always possible. And for those who are convinced, as this writer is, that the Western European university tradition springs from a source which fulfills man's highest needs and inspires his best endeavors, the university tradition coming down from Oxford, Paris and Bologna in the middle ages, is always living and dynamic. As long as there is learning, in the only viable sense of seeking truth and desiring to teach it. the guild tradition of scholarship must run like a thread of gold through an otherwise grey mass of fragmented and confused addiction to mere accumulation of knowledge. The classic expression of the evolutionary, adapting university, or as it is aptly named, the multiversity, is of course, that of Clark Kerr. Appropriately, the renaming of the university as multiversity destroys the root meaning of the original title. For the modern multiversity is not in the guild tradition, though individual scholars and some depaitmsnts may struggle to maintain it. The multiversity, as Kerr makes it very clear, merges with industry and megalopolis, and the curriculum and priorities within it change with the demands of the evolving technological society. Everywhere, universities large and small have succumbed to the disease of physical growth and utilitarianism. They have lost any real autonomy they may have had and priorities are ultimately dictated by those who finance them: the governments, and behind them, the managers and entrepreneurs. Thus the denominational university is disappearing. For the church foundation is, of its nature, oriented to ends above secular and industrial ones, and its ideals can hardly survive when universities depend on the recommendations of commissions which influence government financing; commissions which are imbued with the unquestioned conviction that universities ought to concentrate on meeting the demands of the existing social order rather than offering a radical alternative. One after the other denominational universities have been disappearing in Canada. Secularism, instilled by poor philosophy and the dominant influence of the social sciences, with their emphasis on "value-free" approaches, and their sterile support of "adjustment" and modernism, has spread like a cancer. Only a few denominational universities like St. Francis Xavier, Antigonish, Moncton, Acadia, Mt. St. Vincent, St. Mary's, St. Thomas, and Notre Dame of Saskatchewan remain. And most of these, together with some colleges classiques in Quebec, are increasingly under pressure to abandon their denominationalism and be remade in the image of multiversity, the essence of which is secularism; a reflection of, rather than an alternative to, the mass-consensus of consumerism and the values, tastes and habits of the "secular city." Canada participates in that complex set of changes and pressures which Jencks and Reisman, in their massive study, The Academic Revolution, show have developed with the onset of academic professionalism and its associated specialization. The integration of learning with a religious or philosophical core, has been strained and broken; the "knowledge industry" has. replaced knowledge for understanding. Yet Canada had developed in the past because of the French presence; because of the scattering of communities across a vast and varied land; because of a rich interaction of European and North American influences, one of the most interesting, creative and diversified patterns of higher education in the modern world. Laval has been a great centre of French letters; Ottawa, founded by the Oblates, a philosophical and theological light to Canada; St. Francis Xavier, the home of a co-operative effort in adult education and social justice noted around the Waterloo, (now secularized) an important Lutheran centre of scholarly teaching. The two small institutions, one Catholic the other Anglican, on Prince Edward Island, were destroyed by consolidation a few years ago; plans are now afoot to consolidate and secularize the range of smaller universities in Nova Scotia. Notre Dame, Nelson, B.C. lost its Catholic character in the last few years. In all of this ruin, the two key pressures are finance by the state and lack of wisdom on the part of university leaders. Even Dr. L. K. Shook, president of St. Michael's College in Toronto (once graced by the eminent Thomists, Gilson and Maritain) sees dominant trends as both desirable and inevitable. His recent book, Catholic Post- secondary Education in English-Speaking Canada, has a preface by Dr. Robin Harris, who, although he admits that "universities in Canada, as everywhere else, are not in control of their destinies and it is government, whether provincial or federal, which calls the praises the book for its support of the trend to adaptation to the "new Canada." Dr. Harris, lauding the demise of a "sectarian" approach even refers to Vatican II as inspiring the "new" trend in Catholic universities and colleges, because it was, in his estimation "philosophic rather than religious." Was there ever such confusion? It is common knowledge that Vatican II was primarily pastoral. With that kind of support, Dr. Shock's lukewarm opinion that Catholic universities "should probably be preserved" in some form or other, is not likely to be fulfilled. But let me strike the note of hope again. Dynamic traditions die hard. As the crassness of existing institutions, with their lack of meaning, their increasing mediocrity in education or teaching communities and their loss of autonomy, become more evident, there may be more initiatives like that of Donald Kantel who is about to launch a new Christian university in New Brunswick without government funds. Perhaps something so fresh could emerge in Alberta. Beauty of unproductive land ty "Excuse me, is this the unemployment Ime or the line for tickets to 'The "How sterile all this is! "I thought, as we drove through an area not far from Lethbridge. Unfortunately, I had thought out loud, and my companion's reaction was immediate and vehement. "Sterile! Are you kidding? This is some of the most productive farmland in He was right of course. We were in the midst of some of the best irrigation land in the country an extremely efficient food factory. The land had been tamed, subdued and beaten into a flat monotony, totally devoid of contour, contrast or character. Every inch had been utilized for man's use. Its former diversity and wealth of flora and wildlife had been completely eliminated. We may as well have been driving down a city street. I couldn't help comparing this with the country of my childhood. The wolves, plains grizzly and kit-foxes were gone exterminated long ago by wolfers and trappers. Our horses and cattle had replaced the buffalo. Tfc: ,nly evidences of the r-- 5.nal human inhabitants few small scattered groups, and the graves and tipi-rings here and there on the hiils. We had some cultivation, both for and cropland, but for the most part, the land was undisturbed and life went on much as it had before invasion by the whites. We enjoyed the bounty of the wild fruits saskatoons, chokecherries. pincherries and cranberries in 'he uncleared bosh land, and cactus on the prairie. We had wood to warm us and swpet water. Above ,41, we had the joy of beauty and discovery. We knew where grew the sweetest and longest- stemmed blue violets, the tallest and most brilliant shooting stars, the earliest By Helen Schuler, local writer crocuses to grace a child- charred Mother's Day breakfast. We knew where the prairie chickens danced, where the hawk nested and the coyote reared her young. Anywhere we went there was something new to see, some fascinating revelation in the lives of the creatures who shared our land. The land was so varied creeks, sloughs, prairie, bush; and the different habitats gave us such diversity of plant and animal life. How different from tiie paucity of life in the intensively farmed areas. Perhaps what underlines most vividly the changes due to various agricultural practices are observations during the breeding bird surveys we do each spring for the Canadian Wildlife Service. Much of the identification of numbers and species is done by ear. There is such a dramatic difference in the numbers and species of birds found in cultivated areas, open grassland and brushy areas, that one could be blindfolded and still tell, simply by listening, what the surrounding landscape was like. The cultivated areas yield a few Irorned larks and meadpwlarks. blackbirds and magpies, with perhaps a few ducks feeding in the stubble. But hit a stretch of prairie and the tinkling songs of Sprague's pipits, homed larks, chestnut- coHared iongspurs, trills of the various sparrows, the rich warble of the lark bunting, the calls of the curlew and screams of the hawk, all mingle to weave a rich tapestry of sound. Wooded coulees or even brushy patches give cover to partridge, pheasant, yellowthroats and many others. Comical little burrowing owls, who nest in deserted badger holes, short- eared owls, coyotes, badgers and weasels, deer and antelope appear on the prairie. But on the worked land we saw only gophers. One cannot necessarily blame the farmer for this. After all, in a society which values commercialism and exploitation above all else, the fanner has to keep up. He too has mouths to feed and backs to clothe and children to educate. And if there is a corner somewhere that is wild and "non-productive" then it must be brought into line. This philosophy of course, does not apply purely to farmland. It applies equally to rangeland overgrazed down to the roots; timberland stripped; mountains demolished for their coal and thousands of square miles flooded to provide "cheap" electricity for a wasteful people. Is it a cardinal sin, I wonder, for land to produce only beauty? We tend to designate Ian) which does not produce something which we ran sell for dollars and cents as worthless wasteland there is no worth in refreshment of the spirit We realize of course that the world needs food that the fanner has to make a decent living he has long been bottom man on the economic totem pole. But surely some bright son! could come up with a tax formula which would make it economically feasible for the landowner to leave some corner undisturbed for the wild things the flowers, birds and mammals to give them their place too. Many people would ask "Why bother? What' difference does it make whether there is wildlife around or not? They are of no economic use." Perhaps but the day we measure everything in purely economic terms, we may as well pack it up. We are a nothing.