Government Has Been Covering up Meltdowns of Nuclear Power Plants for 55 Years
The entire idea of safe nuclear energy has arguably been a cover for nuclear weapons production … at the expense of our health and the environment.
Moreover, governments have been covering up meltdowns for more than 50 years.
As a History Chanel special notes, a nuclear meltdown occurred at the world’s first commercial reactor only 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles, and only 7 miles from the community of Canoga Park and the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.
Specifically, in 1959, there was a meltdown of one-third of the nuclear reactors at the Santa Susana field laboratory operated by Rocketdyne, releasing – according to some scientists’ estimates – 240 times as much radiation as Three Mile Island.
But the Atomic Energy Commission lied and said only there was only 1 partially damaged rod, and no real problems. In fact, the AEC kept the meltdown a state secret for 20 years.
There were other major accidents at that reactor facility, which the AEC and Nuclear Regulatory Commission covered up as well. See this.
Two years earlier, a Russian government reactor at Kyshtm melted down in an accident which some claim was even worse than Chernobyl.
The Soviet government hid the accident, pretending that it was creating a new “nature reserve” to keep people out of the huge swath of contaminated land.
Journalist Anna Gyorgy alleges that the results of a freedom of information act request show that the CIA knew about the accident at the time, but kept it secret to prevent adverse consequences for the fledgling American nuclear industry.
1980s Studies and Hearings
In 1982, the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs received a secret report received from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission called “Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences 2”.
In that report and other reports by the NRC in the 1980s, it was estimated that there was a 50% chance of a nuclear meltdown within the next 20 years which would be so large that it would contaminate an area the size of the State of Pennsylvania, which would result in huge numbers of a fatalities, and which would cause damage in the hundreds of billions of dollars (in 1980s dollars).
Those reports were kept secret for decades.
Well-known writer Alvin Toffler pointed out in Powershift (page 156):
At least thirty times between 1957 and 1985—more than once a year—the Savannah River nuclear weapons plant near Aiken, South Carolina, experienced what a scientist subsequently termed “reactor incidents of greatest significance.” These included widespread leakage of radioactivity and a meltdown of nuclear fuel. But not one of these was reported to local residents or to the public generally. Nor was action taken when the scientist submitted an internal memorandum about these “incidents.” The story did not come to light until exposed in a Congressional hearing in 1988. The plant was operated by E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company for the U.S. government, and Du Pont was accused of covering up the facts. The company immediately issued a denial, pointing out that it had routinely reported the accidents to the Department of Energy.
At this point, the DoE, as it is known, accepted the blame for keeping the news secret.
And former soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said on camera for a Discovery Network special (the must-watch “The Battle of Chernobyl“) that the Soviets and Americans have each hidden a number of nuclear accidents from the public:
Government Has Been Covering up Radiation Danger for 69 Years
The U.S. tried to cover up the destructive nature of radiation produced by nuclear weapons 71 years ago. As Democracy Now reports:
The army was well aware in 1943 of the enormous potential for radiation dangers to civilians and military personnel as a result of the use of radioactive weapons ….
[The New York Times] was essentially putting out the official government narrative [regarding the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki], which is that atomic radiation is not harmful, is not a major byproduct of the nuclear weapons program. You know, it’s only the blast that has essentially a very short impact. The reason that this has importance is that for really a half century, this narrative became the government’s response to all protests against nuclear power, the nuclear weapons programs of the 1950s and 1960s and the Cold War. So, [The New York Times] essentially set the table that the government was to occupy for the next half century as they disputed any attempt to rein in, you know, the rapid acceleration of nuclear weapons and power programs.
Beverly Deepe Keever notes:
Sixty years ago on March 1, 1954, in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, the United States detonated the most powerful nuclear weapon in its history…. The 15-megaton hydrogen bomb was 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima …. Unlike Hiroshima’s A-bomb, Bravo was laced with plutonium …. And, unlike the atomic airburst above Hiroshima, Bravo was a shallow-water ground burst. It vaporized three of the 23 islands of tiny Bikini Atoll, 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, and created a crater that is visible from space.
Wafting eastward, the cloud powdered 236 islanders on Rongelap and Utrik atolls and 28 U.S. servicemen. The islanders played with, drank and ate the snowflake-like particles for days and began suffering nausea, hair loss, diarrhea and skin lesions when they were finally evacuated to a U.S. military clinic.
Within days after the Bravo explosion, the U.S. cover-up had secretly taken a more menacing turn. In an injustice exposing disregard for human health, the Bravo-exposed islanders were swept into a top-secret project in which they were used as human subjects to research the effects of radioactive fallout.
A week after Bravo, on March 8, at the Navy clinic on Kwajalein, E.P. Cronkite, one of the U.S. medical personnel dispatched there shortly after the islanders’ arrival, was handed a “letter of instruction” establishing “Project 4.1.” It was titled the “Study of Response of Human Beings Exposed to Significant Beta and Gamma Radiation Due to Fallout from High Yield Weapons.”
To avoid negative publicity, the document had been classified as “Secret Restricted Data” until 1994, four years after the end of U.S. responsibilities for its trusteeship at the U.N. and when the Clinton Administration began an open-government initiative.
It would be 40 years before islanders learned the true nature of Project 4.1. Documents declassified since 1994 show that four months before the Bravo shot, on Nov. 10, 1953, U.S. officials had listed Project 4.1 to research the effects of fallout radiation on human beings as among 48 experiments to be conducted during the test, thus seeming to indicate that using islanders as guinea pigs was premeditated.
However, an advisory commission appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 indicated “there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate intentional human testing on Marshallese.”
For this human-subject research, the islanders had neither been asked nor gave their informed consent — which was established as an essential international standard when the Nuremberg code was written following the war crimes convictions of German medical officers.
Under Project 4.1, the exposed Rongelapese were studied yearly and so were the Utrik Islanders after thyroid nodules began appearing on them in 1963. The islanders began complaining they were being treated like guinea pigs in a laboratory experiment rather than sick humans deserving treatment.
A doctor who evaluated them annually came close to agreeing when he wrote 38 years after Bravo, “In retrospect, it was unfortunate that the AEC [Atomic Energy Commission], because it was a research organization, did not include support of basic health care of populations under study.”
During this time, Bravo-dusted islanders developed one of the world’s highest rates of thyroid abnormalities; one third of the Rongelapese developed abnormalities in the thyroid, which controls physical and mental growth, and thus resulted in some cases of mental retardation, lack of vigor and stunted development. Islanders complained of stillborn births, cancers and genetic damage.
Seven weeks after Bravo, on April 21, Cronkite recommended to military officials that exposed Marshallese generally “should be exposed to no further radiation” for at least 12 years and probably for the rest of their natural lives.
Yet, three years later, U.S. officials returned the Rongelapese to their radioactive homeland after they had spent three months at the Kwajalein military facility and at Ejit Island. Besides being Bravo-dusted, their homeland by 1957 had accumulated radioactivity from some of the 34 prior nuclear explosions in the Marshall Islands. Utrik Islanders were returned home by the U.S. shortly after their medical stay on Kwajalein.
For 28 years the Rongelapese lived in their radioactive homeland until 1985. Unable to get answers to their questions, they discounted U.S. assurances that their island was safe.
Failing to provide the Rongelapese “information on their total radiation condition, information that is available, amounts to a coverup,” according to a memo dated July 22, 1985, written by Tommy McCraw of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Safety.
Cover Up Continues to This Day
Nothing has changed. Governments worldwide continue to this day to cover up the risk of a nuclear accident, and the amount – and health effects – of radiation released by military and energy facilities. And see this, this, and this.