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Farnsworth Holds Shelter-Craze Promotes Defeatism


Current emphasis on shelter-building is "making defeatists out of us," Dana L. Farnsworth, Director of the University Health Services, declared Sunday on a WHRB panel debate. Psychological reliance on shelters also diverts our attention from efforts toward peace and maintenance of deterrent forces, he said.

"I feel that if we must go down to defeat," Farnsworth stated, "let's go down with a certain show of bravery and courage and even gaiety rather than crawling into the ground and assuming that somehow or other this is going to save us. It will not."

Co-panelist George B. Kistiakowsky, professor of Chemistry, agreed that it is "complete and utter nonsense" to believe "that if you build a falout shelter you will be saved in case of nuclear attack." He stressed, however, that a shelter will "increase somewhat" the chance of survival.

"I wouldn't comment on the idea of going bravely to death," Kistiakowsky said, "but I think that if the fallout shelters can reduce casualties we should have them."

Farnsworth raised other criticisms, claiming that fallout shelters in large cities are "impractical." Experience with emergencies, such as hurricanes, he said, shows that "when we are excited we are not going to be able to move large numbers of people from one place to another."

Enthusiasm about community shelters, Farnsworth cautioned, "rests on very flimsy foundations. Anyone who has tried to keep ten people in a room for an hour knows some of the problems that would arise if you had groups of 1000 people and expected them to stay in one spot while things would be occurring that are too horrible to contemplate."

British Example Cited

Kistiakowsky objected. "The British populace in London has spent many, many hours in subways jammed in like sardines. There were some bad things going on, but on the whole the behavior under attack was extraordinary," he said. He admitted, however, that the time element involved--a possible two-week stretch in a shelter--"would create certain additional problems."

Defending the value of urban fallout shelters, Kistiakowsky pointed out that not all cities would necessarily be destroyed in an attack. "People living in or near prime target areas have higher probability of being killed, but provision of shelters reduces somewhat this probability," he maintained.

Both Farnsworth and Kistiakowsky expressed concern over "contradictory" and "confusing" public statements on fallout shelters. "I think we are victims of a lot of propaganda which is motivated by very high purposes but the result is confusion," Farnsworth stated.

Questioning the validity of estimates which envision a two-week period in a shelter, Leon D. Bramson, moderator of the WHRB panel, raised the problem of the cobalt bomb.

"Cobalt, as I understand it, will remain radioactive in the atmosphere up to five years, so that the two-week period becomes a chimers," Bramson said. He also suggested that an attack might be made in a sequence of assaults that would force shelter inhabitants to remain under ground for extended periods of time.

"In principle at least," replied Kistiakowsky, "one can create weapons which will make shelters less effective. If it is possible--and I'm not for a moment saying that it is--to shower radioactive cobalt in quantities large enough to make the radiation lethal all over the country-side, then a two-week shelter is not enough."

Net Leave After Two Weeks

Two weeks, he explained, is a suggested statistical average. In areas of heavy fallout it may not be safe to leave the shelter completely even after two weeks, he said, though in other places it might be possible to leave earlier.

"Fallout radiation intensity decreases exponentially, Kistiakowsky asserted, "the factor being a ten-fold decrease for every seven-fold increase in time."

In the first seven hours, the intensity decreases by a faster of ten; in the next seven times seven, or 49 hours, it again decreases by a factor of ten, he claimed.

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