This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Jay Nelson Tuck moderates.
Interview with Oscar M. Riebhausen, Director of Governor Rockefeller's task force to study radiation and fallout problems in New York State.
Panelists include Kevin McGrath, Stan Siegel.
Questions. Riebhausen discusses the task force's findings and focuses on the impact of fallout on the people of an affected area. Specifically, he notes that people need to be able to be self reliant following an attack. He believes there should be legislation that calls for the construction of fallout shelters and survival kits that contain food, water, and other necessities. Riebhausen estimates that each individual home's fallout shelter will cost approximately $150, though he allows for some exceptions where shelters are impossible to construct or don't make sense (such as a hot dog stand on the beach).
Suggests that perhaps a subsidy could be made to ensure that all members of the community be able to afford emergency kits.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 72095
Municipal archives id: LT8431
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Civil defense enough protection against the H. bomb what is meant by radioactive fallout for the answer to these and other questions listen now to campus press conference every Sunday at this time and this of college newspapers question is where the personality. Moderator on campus press conference is the noted newspaper man and editor Jane Olson talk now to introduce the panel and today's guest here is Mr Tuck Good afternoon. One question that is very much on the minds of all of us is this what are our chances of surviving an atomic war during this past week a special task force appointed by the governor made public a program which its members believe offers us the greatest chance we can have of living through such a disaster our guest today on campus press conference is the man who headed that group he is our. Housing distinguished lawyer who is also chairman of the Atomic Energy Committee of the City Bar Association mystery powers and is often called the top legal mind in the field of atomic energy and during World War two He served as general counsel to the United States Office of Research and development here today to question mystery powers and are Kevin McGrath of the Fordham student bar association and stands to go of the N.Y.U. square Journal Kevin has the first question. What is before all our problem today Kevin there I'd like first to distinguish between the fallout problem and the blast problem to make the point clear in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States the target would be obliterated by a blast of the nuclear weapon. The report that Mr Tuck mentioned concerned with the effects of the blast. Is something quite different when. The fireball if it comes in contact with the earth will suck up into the atmosphere minute particles of debris those particles are intensely radioactive those particles will be buffeted by the winds and the weather and may fall back on the earth as far away seventy five to a couple of hundred miles away from the site of the blast when the particles. Is Full What is the danger of this fallout what is a do to the human beings. The danger Stan is that each particle is radioactive and you might compare it to a little X. ray machine it shoots out radiation the radiation is the thing that kills it destroys the cells of the body and if enough of the body are destroyed the body cannot function and or disability of a serious kind results come in this report that you handed the governor last week was prepared by yourself and scientists How long did you work on this problem we were in a probe by Governor Rockefeller to look into the problem particularly what might be done to protect people against fallout we worked intensively from that time until the submission of the report the first of this week almost all of the people for us however were people who have some familiarity with aspects of the atomic problems prior to their assignment on this task force. The repulsive It might surprise certain people that a special committee was set up to study fallout since we do have what is commonly called civil defense not a civil defense provide in any way for the protection against fallout. Stan follow problem is with the larger civil defense problem but the fallout problem is a relatively new problem. It is only really sense the thermonuclear weapons came into being that the full dimensions of we're appreciative. Of the normal civil defense procedures have emphasized the fall out protection problem as much as they will in the future. A mystery beginning. With last fall out why didn't any tension the blast was something to feel you can't do anything about people going to be killed regardless of anything well it's an excellent question with attack I think the real reason is that there are so many complicated problems involved in defense against nuclear war that the only way to make progress is to pick one of the problems and find a solution the problem. Is the most important because they danger the number of casualties from exceeds by a great number they potentially number of casualties from. You said before just before we went on the air I believe that a bomb dropped over the city would destroy by the blast would destroy everything within a mile radius of the spot where it. Would presumably kill hundreds of thousands of people who say fallout is worse than. There were. People in one nine hundred fifty eight in one thousand nine hundred fifty nine. A drop of sixteen relatively mild West the state of New York and only seven of these weapons were of the character. That I mean there are only seven. And you have to have a ground burst to create a. Bomb breaks high in the real problem only blast and heat during. Taking. Sixteen bomb attack on the state of. The casualties from black and heat casualties there I mean the deaths from blast and heat were estimated to be million three hundred. Were almost. Four million people were to say. I said radiation sickness as a result of fallout this I think gives you the measure of the importance of the fallout problem and may I say right there that that is the problem is the problem has a hopeful side because something can be done about fallout and that is the message that this report tries to make both stand kavanah here to stand on the three parts we have an idea of what blast shelters for fringe areas are like they're inside buildings in Windows and rather thick heavy walls What is the nature of a fallout shelter for protection it is merely a matter of shielding shielding is provided by thickness and then City between the individual and the particles of dust that are radioactive the extent of the shielding determines the extent of the protection. Your buildings here in New York the concrete ones the ones of reinforced concrete cinder block and mortar would provide quite a good deal of protection particularly in the central areas the frame house in the country would not provide as much protection although it would provide some if it had a basement However a corner of the basement would provide excellent protection so that the vision and the picture that I have stand of a far less protected place is not a hole in the ground or at tome like shelter but it's your own home which has been designed by acknowledgeable architects and by knowledgeable builders so that there will be a sufficient degree of shielding naturally built into the house. How long must the shelter be used this is a matter of speculation but all of the best estimates from the A C. in the military is that an individual must be provided prepared to survive on his own without any outside assistance for at least two weeks following a nuclear attack on the continental United States and so I think every individual must be prepared with for our protection namely shielding and the food and water and other essential survival items to enable him to live up to this responsibility which is imposed upon him by the federal government and imposed upon him by the realities of nuclear warfare. I think that this radio audience would like to know exactly what program you introduced in your report to the governor. The program we suggested was a three part program cabin the first part and a very important part is to communicate knowledge to the people we do not think the people know the nature of fallout the problem it presents and we know they do not know that fallout is something that can be licked hence we believe that the people should be told this and told it clearly and we believe that if they do know they will then take the remedial steps which are well within their reach to accomplish the second part of the program we suggest is that every home school factory and office building in the state where the new construction are existing construction have designed and built into it fallout shielding And thirdly we recommend that a program be instituted by the state government to develop what we call a survival kit but what we mean by that is a simple. Case of supplies which will enable an individual and his family to survive for a two week period on his own. Each home should have shelter of its own and I see the figure of roughly one hundred fifty dollars mentioned as the cost of this what would you do with a homeowner who doesn't want to spend that money. We would make it well first let me say Mr Turner that there will have to be exceptions to this. Legislation if there is legislation there will be hardship cases there will be cases where you could not build a fallout shelter there would be cases let's say of a hot dog stand on on a beach where it would not be worthwhile to build a fallout shelter because the expense of it would be disproportionate to the the cost of hot dogs but. For one hundred fifty dollars a householder could build a fallout shelter in his home. Now on your question whether if the individual does not wish to build a shelter we believe that it is important to the community just as it is in is important to the community that there be adequate so each that health standard to be observed and housing construction and that certain electrical standards and other building and fire safety provisions be built into houses we believe the fall out protection is in the same category and we do not think actually that the individual citizen should be left to decide whether he will risk his life in fallout because for example in the event of an attack by an enemy on the United States every member of the community will be essential to enable our democratic system to survive and to defeat the enemy doctors for example will be needed nurses will be needed people to run the broadcasting stations will be needed and every member of the community will have a useful function and this is a community responsibility and the community has benefited me however I take it boils down to fine or possibly imprisonment. For somebody who was unwilling to do it our report did not go into the question of what the penalties would be but I would visualize that there would be some penalty provisions if as and when legislation is drafted to carry out our recommendation would this also apply to the purchase of the survival kits the survival kits. Raises an interesting question we believe we suggested in our report that consideration should be given to requiring factories office buildings and commercial installations to purchase the survival kit sufficient to take care of the people who normally occupy the facility factory or office building in the case of homes however we suggested it might be useful to provide those Survival Kit said something less than cost we. We did not recommended but we recommended it to the concert we recommended that the governor and the legislature consider whether there would not be merit in providing these kids at last and cost to the homes. Common. Do you think that this is a pressing problem I think it is absolutely pressing an urgent and immediate problem and the defense of the United States is meaningless unless the people are protected Well that is your organization going to press for legislation next session. Our task force cabin was created specially to produce this report we have submitted it to the governor the governor has indicated that he is deeply concerned by the problem and he is deeply aware of the significance of providing for our protection not only to protect the health and safety of the people for whom he's responsible but even more than that to put the United States in a position where it can defend itself you know just having military defense is not enough if all the people are going to die and when I negotiated his own negotiating in the Cold War If they know that their people at home are absolutely unprotected against this raging danger of fallout their negotiations are going to be conducted with less strain. So it is very important that the people of the state and the people of the nation have such protection to give strength to our national leaders in their foreign policy negotiations and give meaning to our defense. Governors a still a follow up to say hi I would like to ask one final question on this. You speak eloquently on the need for this but I don't think that you that said my last question and like to put it I'm just again to you since the lawyers clad. Since you since you have studied this problem since the Second World War and. Almost the entire subject matter would you press for legislation in the next session of the state I personally would press for it because I am deeply believe that it's essential. The task force which I had the honor to chair however was created only for the purpose of submitting the report our job is done but we are all deeply involved in concerned and I'm sure that we will do our bit to spread knowledge and information and to bring about the legislation which we believe is an absolute essential stance been itching to get out yesterday and on a light in spite of this what appears to be a very imminent danger the public will probably not take very much of a liking toward spending compulsively one hundred fifty dollars or two hundred dollars shall we say on a shoulder for each individual home do you think that this will provide a political football in the coming legislature. Stan I'm not a politician and I don't have a very good sense of such things I certainly can conceive that this might have a political aspect to it but I really don't think it will because health and safety I'm not matters which. Are political footballs matters of health and safety matters in which people of all parties of all sexes must agree and do agree and I think the only problem here is to view this fallout and nuclear war problem as a saga of the problem which it is and as a problem which is a health and safety problem which it is and meet it in those terms you would think then that political questions would not be a major bar to going to Rockefeller considering this and the legislature as well in the coming session. I don't know quite how to answer that when I stand but I am satisfied that. As far as the governor as far as the legislative leaders go that if the people of the state. Recognize that this is a matter of deep concern to them a deep personal insight into them to their survival the survival of their families to their health and the health of their families there will be no difficulty in the legislature to get through the necessary legislation. It's really going to be a problem I'm afraid judging from the papers this week sir the time said the day after your report was issued that the governor was wary of it because he felt many people might resent being forced to do something in their own homes even more than they would resent spending the money do you think that's likely or do you think you really can mount a strong enough educational campaign to overcome this resistance. I noticed th