Kamer-Singer Cygnus Satellite
& Radio NWPO
Obviously, the pro-nuclear forces weren't the only ones capable of playing dirty tricks in the public relations wars. In fact the State waged a vigorous campaign that took advantage of a number of foot soldiers: Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, Joy Hamann Advertising, Kamer-Singer Public Relations, Cygnus Scientific, and a radio show produced on KDWN. We've already examined the contributions of Judy Treichel's Nuclear Waste Task Force to the war. The late Joy Hamann and her advertising company played a less combative role and were not part of the bloodfest. This leaves three very interesting entities, Kamer-Singer Public Relations, Cygnus Scientific and what we will term Radio NWPO.
KAMER-SINGER PUBLIC RELATIONS
Kamer-Singer Public Relations of San Francisco was brought on by NWPO to provide the professional muscle to fight the public relations wars. The agency is perhaps best known for helping the Culinary Union in Las Vegas sooth ruffled feathers after tourists were attacked by strikers. The fact that the words Public Relations appears in this company's title highlights the fact that NWPO conveniently ignores the Federal Acquisition Regulations prohibiting such activities by DOE grantees.
Originally, Joy Hamann of Joy Hamann Advertising had the public information contract for the state, but as Hamann's health failed in 1992 Sam Singer was brought on as part of that contract. With Joy Hamann's passing, in 1993 Singer was awarded the full contract for $235,000. Judy Treichle's contract was at the same time diminished from $165,000 to $35,000. Interestingly, Bob Loux rejected results of a competitive bidding process to award Kamer-Singer the latest contract, apparently the perogative of the NWPO director.
Singer had worked for Richard Bryan on his 1988 senate campaign and had been involved in nuclear issues then, helping whip up anti-nuclear passions as a campaign tactic. A former journalist, Singer views his objectiveas a consultant to NWPO as keeping nuclear waste out of Nevada rather than to act as a nuclear information officer:
"We are up against a formiddable opponent, very slick. Our job is to show that most scientists, even nuclear power scientists, don't think its a safe place to put it. It is only a convenient place to put it." [KDWN Radio, "Yucca Mountain: Fact Not Fiction", sponsored by NWPO, Nov. 24, 1992]
Of course, most nuclear scientists do believe geologic storage is safe, while Singer himself is not necessarily an expert on the Yucca Mountain issue. A caller to Radio NWPO reduced Singer to name calling:
CALLER: I heard a statement that DOE testing showed water might upwell. But Syzmanski has been completely discredited.
BAUGHMAN (HOST): Jerry has not been discredited!
CALLER: Trench 19 shows proof water never upwelled! If you go there yourself or had any scientific inclinations you would see. It is as clear as it could be!
SINGER: Trouble is, it is not so clear!
CALLER: Yes it is!
SINGER: No! It is not!
CALLER: How would you know? You've never been there!
SINGER: Bunch of hooey! Bunch of hooey!
CALLER: What a phoney you are! You've never been there!
SINGER; What a phoney you are! You know what? You don't have to shoot uphill when you know it's bad for you mister!
CALLER: Give me a break! You're a politician, not a scientist.
BAUGHMAN: Thank you for calling sir.
[KDWN Radio, "Yucca Mountain: Fact Not Fiction", sponsored by NWPO, Nov. 24, 1992]
Obviously, Singer's display shows him quite capable of playing the poltical hired gun. Ignorance of physical science did not seem to stop spokespeople for the state from giving technical evaluations to the media and on broadcasts such as KDWN.
Another example of NWPO's public relations war was a mysterious advertisement which appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal in October of 1992. Fashioned to mimic the newspaper ads produced for ANEC, this ad was a rather ham-fisted attempt by NWPO to run a political counter-insurgency campaign against ANEC and OIZ Advertising.
William Bennett, chief executive officer of the Circus Circus gaming conglomerate, had been persuaded to oppose Yucca Mountain and in 1992 donated $100,000 to the state's efforts. Since these funds were a contribution to NWPO and not subject to the guidelines of the grants provided by the Department of Energy, they constituted a political slush fund for Bob Loux's agency. In order to use this money, NWPO contracted with Harry Mortensen, a former Test Site employee who then ran Cygnus Satellite, a company selling satellite dishes to bars and sports pubs.
The nuclear industry first heard of Cygnus Scientific when the mysterious advertisement appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal. The text of the advertisement follows:
SHOULD YUCCA MOUNTAIN BE IMMEDIATELY DISQUALIFIED BECAUSE OF
RADIOACTIVE CARBON DIOXIDE?
Experts on the Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board after many months of study, have concluded that the geologic media of Yucca Mountain will not contain radioactive carbon dioxide, sufficiently, to meet the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency, for a High Level Radioactive Waste Repository. The Science Advisory Board has analyzed studies indicating that other types of geologic media, particularly bedded salt deposits, would have a very high probability of containing radioactive carbon-14 dioxide.
Do the EPA Science Advisory Board's findings disqualify Yucca Mountain as a repository?
ANSWER: No, because the Department of Energy says it can spend over 3 billion extra dollars for very long life canisters to contain the radioactive carbon dioxide.
Question: Then Yucca Mountain will qualify for a High Level Waste Repository?
Answer: No, because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has advised the Department of Energy that " . . . engineered barriers cannot constitute a compensating measure for deficiencies in the geologic media . . . " or " . . .engineered barriers shall not be used to compensate for an inadequate site . . ."
Question: Then Yucca Mountain will be disqualified for a High Level Waste Repository?
Answer: Probably not, because the U.S. Congress is currently considering a bill (the new  Energy Bill) that will, in effect, force the EPA to allow greater quantities of radioactive carbon dioxide to be emitted from the Repository.
Question: What will the consequences be if Congress passes the law allowing more radioactive release?
Answer: The bottom line is that Congress will allow more people to die than the Environmental Protection Agency felt justifiable.Under the Environmental Protection Agency's current regulations for the repository, estimates place the most probable number of Fatal Cancer Deaths at 1000 over the life of the repository if the maximum allowable releases occur. If the Congress forces the EPA to allow greater releases . . . then a greater number of people will be allowed to die.
If you have any questions about the content of this ad, you may write Cygnus Scientific, 6130 W. Flamingo, #123, Las Vegas, NV 89103
The nuclear industry wasn't quite sure whether this was a joke or a serious attempt to engage the public through the print media. The address turned out to be a mail box in a Postal Annex. Actually, the question raised by this parody, regarding permissible levels of radioactive carbon dioxide emissions, was a valid issue. Emission standards were changed in favor of higher levels in the 1992 Energy Bill, though the new standards are not by any means permissive. It is interesting to note that the Bill passed 86 to 6, despite Senator Bryan's filibuster.
More interesting is the implication that NWPO was able to direct a political "dirty tricks" campaign through Cygnus Scientific using an anonymous mail drop at a Postal Annex outlet. The Cygnus advertisement's macabre comments about deaths should be put in perspective: if radioactive waste only causes one-tenth death per year, this is neligible compared to the thousands of deaths caused by wastes from hydrocarbon fuel cycles.
As part of its efforts to derail the repository, the Nuclear Waste Project Office runs a radio show called "Yucca Mountain: Fact Not Fiction", airing for a half hour alternate Tuesdays on KDWN radio. While the listening audience for a show on an AM station is not huge, the content of this show has been important as a gauge of where the Yucca Mountain debate was headed. Unfortunately, the show has been more propagandistic than an attempt to shed light on the repository; out of 30 shows this author reviewed, only a rare neutral guest appeared and no pro-repository interviews seem to have been allowed. The host for the state, Dennis Baughman, was game enough to take unlimited call-ins, but attempted to deflect all criticism of the state's oversight. Some selected quotes should show the flavor of "Fact Not Fiction":
April 28, 1992
HOST: . . What is your position on earthquakes and Yucca Mountain?
JUDY TREICHEL: We have little technical expertise. We just tell the truth and give the public information. There is proof that water did slosh at Yucca Mt. As the paper said, there was a rise and fall in the water table.
June 9, 1992
CALLER: What are the risks of shipping nuclear waste compared to other dangerous substances like chlorine gas? In other words, what standards are applied to nuclear casks compared to other dangerous materials?
RESNIKOFF: That is like apples and oranges. Toxic materials are shipped in tankers.
CALLER: I didn't ask that! I said what are the risks of the containers?
RESNIKOFF: Generally the risks are different. Chlorine gas versus nuclear fuel. Nuclear gives cancer. There are many more shipments of chlorine gas compared to nuclear.
CALLER: I feel more at risk with chlorine. It is very dangerous.
RESNIKOFF: It is an additional risk. You get risk with both.
June 22, 1992
CALLER: Why don't we just cut off the rhetoric and get on with our lives? This is 1992!
HALSTEAD (NWPO transportation consultant): I am not taking a position on the Yucca Mt. Repository. I just study transportation issues. The Department of Energy is not willing to adopt maximum safety methods.
September 29, 1992
BAUGHMAN: The nuclear waste ads seem to be failing miserably. They are galvanizing the people against it, and we believe if we keep up our fight that the nuclear industry will persuade Congress to pull out of Nevada and end this charade!"
December 22, 1992
CALLER: . . . I think the state needs to work with DOE, actively studying the site and tell us what is really there. They should quit telling the public the site will be built regardless of safety. That simply is not true.
LOUX: The state has been involved for ten years. Our scientists tell us the site cannot be found safe. The state cannot get the level of funding to do more. I think the Dept. of Energy's track record has shown, they have not been truthful, and I can provide that evidence to anybody who would like to take a look at it, with the state of Nevada, and the people of Nevada, or the country at large, about issues associated with nuclear materials.
Jan. 19, 1993
CALLER: There is already a lot of radiation at the test site. How would you compare the Yucca Mountain thing to the Chernobyl thing in Russia?
BAUGHMAN: It's not the technology I distrust, it's the scientists. Scientists are not known to be accurate in what they have told us over the years. The amount of fissionable material between the test site and Yucca Mountain is like apples and oranges. If you look at a worst case scenario, comparing Yucca Mountain to Chernobyl, Yucca Mountain would be much terribly worse. Even if it didn't explode at the site, when you factor in the shipments going to Yucca Mountain, accidents will occur. It's just a matter of when and where. . . .
CALLER: What are you expecting from the new administration.
BAUGHMAN: It couldn't be any worse. Clinton said that he doesn't want any new nuclear power plants. We hope that he and O'Leary give it a new look. We don't expect miracles, but it should be better.
Feb,. 3, 1993
CALLER: You think the storage of nuclear waste is fine, as long as it isn't in Nevada. Could you tell us where you do think it should be stored specifically, rather than giving generalities?
BAUGHMAN: Yea. We believe that most other countries are looking to salt formations or granite formations. There are salt formations in the southern parts of this country. There are granite formations in the New England states.
CALLER: Do you have reports that say these places are better?
BAUGHMAN: I don't know the answer to that. I'm sure there are reports out there that say find a site not so seismically active.
CALLER: I'd have to look at a DOE report. Where would that be?
BAUGHMAN: I don't know.
June 8, 1993
CALLER: I am not for or against the proposed Yucca Mt. dump, but I used to live in Colorado Springs, and a NORAD facility there was built to withstand a direct nuclear hit from a hydrogen bomb. Couldn't the same technology be built into Yucca Mountain to withstand an earthquake or whatever?
BAUGHMAN: Yucca Mountain is seismically active. There are 32 known faults there, the Ghost Dance fault goes through the middle. Scientists will debate the suitability for quite awhile. Can it crack? We don't know. My definition of safe means nobody gets hurt. The DOE says that there is an acceptable number that can get hurt and die. That is built into their definition of safe. It is such a dastardly thing. The potential for catastrophe is so high.
June 22, 1993
MODERATOR: If we didn't have nuclear power, how would other technologies pass modern tests and standards?
TREICHEL: They have cleaner coal through scrubbing and all that. The best answer to energy is conservation; save power. That's a lot of power. here's also thermal power, wind power, hydro power - all sorts of things. A Sheerson / Leaman report criticized nuclear power as an investment potential.
MODERATOR: But is that practical?
TREICHEL: It is practical in individual applications; your hot water, your pool, so on. Solar is practical in some areas.
MODERATOR: Aren't taxpayers between a rock and a hard place? You still have cleanup even if nuclear power was ended.
TREICHEL: Most intelligent people I talk to, talk of phasing out nuclear power by not renewing licenses and not building new ones. There are about five plants that shut down already. It makes more sense anyway to keep spent fuel on site at the reactors.