Experimental Results Reach the U.S. Congress
The results of our investigations were definitive. We found that the radioactive zircon crystals extracted from the granite cores had lost essentially none of their radiogenic lead, even at the bottom of the hole where the temperatures were highest. This is exceptionally strong evidence that the presumed 1.5-billion-year age of these granites is drastically in error. Specifically, the data are consistent with a several-thousand-year age of the earth. I realized, however, that these startling implications for a young earth would never pass peer review if they were clearly stated in any report submitted for publication. They would have to be de-emphasized and take second place to the implications for nuclear waste in order for them to ever be published.
Thus, when the results were written up, I emphasized that new evidence had been found, showing that nuclear wastes encapsulated in synthetic zircons would constitute a very safe mode of containment. Our report was submitted for publication to Science a month or so before the Arkansas trial and, coincidentally, was being reviewed for publication around the time I was testifying in Little Rock. The report did pass peer review and was subsequently published in Science under the title, "Differential Lead Retention in Zircons: Implications for Nuclear Waste Containment" (Gentry et al. 1982a; Appendix). Later some geologists criticized certain aspects of this report. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to respond (Gentry 1984b).
Janet Raloff, the writer who had published an interview about my testimony at the Arkansas creation trial (Raloff 1982a), now publicized the implications of this report for nuclear waste storage in the May 1, 1982, issue of Science News (Raloff 1982b). Just before this date I learned that the U. S. Senate was considering an amendment to a nuclear waste bill. It would require the Department of Energy to investigate nuclear waste storage sites other than the tentatively selected salt-dome repositories in Louisiana and Mississippi. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi was informed of our recently published report and expressed immediate interest, the extent of which can be judged by his actions when the nuclear waste amendment came before the Senate on April 30, 1982.
On that date he introduced an amendment to the National Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. In doing this Senator Cochran brought our results to the attention of the Senate and had our entire report reproduced along with his comments in the Congressional Record. (I was later informed that his office had also written to the Secretary of the Department of Energy about our report and its implications for alternative storage sites.) Some of Senator Cochran's remarks before the Senate are quoted below:
Senator Cochran was not the only senator to show interest in this report. On the day prior to the Senate vote on the amendment, I was contacted by Mr. Peter Rossbach, legislative aide to Senator Jim Sasser of Tennessee, about the implications contained therein. Some Tennesseans had expressed concern about the possibility of hauling nuclear wastes across the state down to the salt repositories in Louisiana and Mississippi. According to Mr. Rossbach, Senator Sasser wanted a better understanding of our results so [p. 167] that he could vote more intelligently on the amendment. Even though Senator Cochran's amendment did not pass, Mr. Rossbach wrote me a letter of appreciation and ended by saying, "If there is anything we can do for you from here, please let me know."
Earth Science Associates