The Government’s Quiet War on Scientists Who Know Too Much
The transformation of Dr. Thomas Mancuso began in the lonesome archives of research science where he has spent most of his life. He was a respected authority in his field but a man free of most pretensions, a recluse by nature, unassuming in appearance — small, almost frail, with a thin face bobbing above a sweater and tie of some faded fashion.
Then, suddenly, he was at war with the U.S. government. He became known as a dissident scientist and found himself the target of a campaign of suppression.
The new Mancuso was created by the government he once served. In 1964 the government commissioned him to measure how safe nuclear plants are for the people who work in them. It was the first study of its kind and was therefore invested with special significance. His initial findings were innocuous. But eighteen months ago he and two associates turned up alarming evidence that low levels of radiation, previously thought to be safe, can actually be quite deadly.
The implications extend far beyond the fate of nuclear workers. If Mancuso is right, it means that thousands of us will die from radiation we are receiving. It means that current government standards on radiation are meaningless, that having repeated chest X-rays or living next to a nuclear plant can be extremely dangerous, and that our government has sponsored a cruel illusion for the past three decades.
In another society the government might have exiled Mancuso to a work camp, seized his belongings, reduced him to a nonperson. Here the process was kinder. Our government simply cut off his funds, shoved him into premature retirement and tried to take possession of his study.
Mancuso’s findings come at a time when there is a proliferation of new and scary information about the poisonous nature of our changing environment. In that context it lacks the impact it might once have had. But what Mancuso has produced is the first study on the peaceful use of radiation that relies on what has already happened, rather than on what might occur in the future. The numbers on Mancuso’s charts and graphs are real people who died after being exposed to doses of radiation the government claims are perfectly safe.
Since World War II the government has sanctioned, subsidized and generally overindulged all forms of nuclear power. If radiation victims or their surviving relatives now start to file suits, the government might be obliged to pay millions, perhaps billions, in compensation.
The government’s response is that Mancuso lacks proof; it sees no need for panicky action. The government’s case, however, would be more persuasive if its record were more open-minded. Mancuso’s predicament, and his study, are particularly disturbing because he is only one of several scientists the government has tried to squelch for challenging its view of nuclear safety. And there is, in that press for unanimity, the dark hint of coverup.