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Letter from Linus Pauling to Senator James Devitt. November 30, 1973.
Pauling writes to express his views on the dangers of nuclear power production.


November 30, 1973

Senator James Devitt

Chairman, Committee on Health, Education, and Welfare

State Capitol

Madison, Wisconsin 53700

Dear Senator Devitt:

I have learned from Senator LaFollette that your committee is considering the question of the proposed construction of several nuclear fission power plants in Wisconsin.

One characteristic of these power plants is that they lead to some increase in the amount of exposure of human beings to high-energy radiation, and the possibility of a catastrophe in which a large number of people would be exposed to great amounts of high-energy radiation.

I made a study of the effects of high-energy radiation on human beings in connection with the question of continuation of the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. The results of my study are presented in my book No More War! (1958), my Nobel Peace Prize address (1963), and a number of papers published in scientific journals. It is my opinion that the amount of damage done by the high-energy radiation produced by the fission products and carbon-14, and the danger of a catastrophe, are both so great that additional nuclear fission power plants should not be built. I believe instead that emphasis should be placed on the direct use of solar radiation as the source of power, on the research and development in the field of nuclear fusion, and on other alternatives to the nuclear fission power plants.

Operation of nuclear fission power plants produces tremendous amounts of highly radioactive materials. There is no way of storing these materials, which will constitute a problem for centuries, such as to assure that a catastrophe will not at some time occur, through the dissemination of these dangerous materials. There is the possibility also that an explosion in a nuclear fission power plant would spread radioactive material over a great area, causing death or injury to hundreds of thousands or millions of people. The possibility of such a catastrophic incident is indicated by the very large insurance that is provided by the Government for the nuclear power plants, also with a limitation on their liability.

I urge that you and your committee investigate carefully the question of the real dangers associated with nuclear fission power plants. I believe that a moratorium on the construction of these power plants for at least a decade should be instituted.



CC to Senator Lafollette

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