National Research Council Report slams NIH findings on Boston U containment lab

The National Research Council (NRC) just released a report that finds that “a National Institutes of Health draft assessment of the risks associated with a proposed biocontainment laboratory at Boston University is “not sound and credible.””

The NRC report came in response to a request by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for technical input into the scientific adequacy of the NIH study. The NIH study, known as the Draft Supplemental Environmental Report (DSER), was to perform additional risk assessments and site analyses in response to environmental safety concerns raised in an earlier Federal court ruling.

From the NRC report cover letter:

The NRC committee was asked to address three specific questions:

1. Are the scientific analyses in the DSER sound and credible?

Overall, the Committee believes that the DSER as drafted is not sound and credible.

2. Has the NIH identified representative worst case scenarios?

The DSER as drafted has not adequately identified and thoroughly developed worst case scenarios.

3. Based on the comparison of risk associated with alternative locations, is there a greater risk to public health and safety from the location of the facility in one or another proposed location?

The DSER does not contain the appropriate level of information to compare the risks associated with alternative locations.

This latest report is unfortunate, but not unexpected in this case. The handling of the new BU lab has been mishandled on just about every conceivable level and has led to community distrust and has unfairly marked other biocontainment facilities with a scarlet letter. That the report was simply a draft is a poor excuse in this case because everyone involved was aware of the controversy surrounding the BU facility. This case is certainly cause for a serious re-evaluation of practices associated with the expansion of US biodefense capabilities and, at the very least, a system of checks and balances that prevent this brand of folly from ever happening again.

For the full NRC report click here.

To see the draft NIH study in question click here.

For a copy of the news release from the NRC, visit here.

Written with Nate Hafer.

Oh, No! Not another “Uranium Dirty Bomb” Story!

According to a recent report from AP, Slovak police arrested people trying to sell highly enriched uranium to undercover agents. According to the police, the material, said to be about a kilogram of uranium, could be used for a dirty bomb. This is a replay of the Padilla case, the so-called “Dirty Bomber,” who was allegedly going to use uranium to make a radiological, or “dirty,” bomb. (The government later dropped reference to the dirty bomb but convicted Padilla on other charges.) I don’t think what the Slovaks have is actually uranium (see below) but, even if it is, dirty bombs are not the problem.
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A Rebuttal to Brown and Deutch Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal

Arguments justifying the continuing existence of the world’s nuclear arsenals are like the tired joke about the joke convention. Many of these arguments have been with us for decades. Some made sense decades ago but do no longer, now that the Cold War is history. Others never made sense even during the Cold War but have, through sheer longevity, taken on a wholly undeserved intellectual authority. And some statements are not really logical arguments at all but merely catch-phrases that have been with us so long we no longer question their truth; indeed, we don’t even reflect on what, if anything, they actually mean. So one can, like at the joke convention, just shout out “Number 37!” and, instead of laughing, the wise ones of the nuclear establishment nod in sage agreement.
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