When They Tell You They’ve Known It All Along

For years I have been collecting news stories about military and commercial applications of nuclear power.  There’s hardly a day that goes by that doesn’t reveal some new facet of its evolving legacy.  It’s like the unwanted gift that keeps giving and it reminds me of a line from a  song sung by Pete Seeger: “Waste deep in the big muddy, and the big fool said push on.”

While there has not been any new commercial reactor orders since the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, the nuclear boosters are still hard at work.  Now they’re trying to sell nuclear power as the answer to global warming, opening yet another chapter in that long book of nuclear promises.  Remember when they told us nuclear power was too cheap to meter:

“It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter...”
Lewis Strauss, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, 1954

“Heat will be so plentiful that it will even be used to melt snow as it falls...[T]he central atomic plant will provide all the heat, light, and power required by the community and these utilities will be so cheap to meter that their cost can hardly be reckoned.
Robert M. Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago, 1946

Such a glorious picture of our nuclear future, but, don’t hold your breath if you are waiting for someone to remove the meter from your home.  All the meters are still counting kilowatts, enriching the utilities regardless of whether their nuclear plants are working or not.  Like death and taxes, one thing is for certain, the costs of nuclear power keep pouring in, and if they tell you there’s nothing to worry about, run for cover!

Take the fire accidently set at Los Alamos, New Mexico. This is the home of the Los Alamos National Laboratory where we were assured by all the proper officials that  none of the radioactive material being stored in the concrete bunkers was burned in the fire.  Unfortunately we have only recently learned about the millions of cubic feet of waste, bearing small amounts of uranium plutonium and tritium, estimated to be disposed of somewhere in the grounds of this sprawling nuclear weapons complex.  Not only have radioactive isotopes been absorbed into surrounding vegetation which has gone up in smoke, but the denuded landscape represents a potential health threat when summer rains erode layers of soil contaminated with radioactive and toxic materials into the state’s rivers and streams.  Having a major nuclear accident  is only the beginning of a tragedy that never seems to end.

Take Chernobyl.  In a report published in the journal “Nature”, levels of radioactivity from the 1986 accident at Chernobyl are likely to remain high in parts of Northern Europe for much longer periods of time than originally estimated.   Restrictions on eating livestock in the United Kingdom may need to be retained for  another 10-15 years, more than 100 times longer than originally estimated.  It is even worse in Belarus and western Russia, where livestock restrictions are likely to remain in place for another 50 years.  Researchers have discovered that the environment is not cleansing itself as fast as originally estimated, particularly in the case of radioactive caesium which is not being immobilized in the soil but re-released into the ecosystem causing further restrictions on all kinds of food, including mushrooms, wild berries, sheep and fish.  Yet, one doesn’t have to travel to the farmlands of Northern Europe or the deserts of New Mexico to discover what we are doing to ourselves.

Recently Standing for Truth About Radiation (STAR) issued the results of a new study, performed by Joseph J. Mangano a research associate at the Radiation and Public Health Project , showing infant deaths dropping dramatically after nuclear plants are closed.  This study examined infant death rates in counties within 50 miles and in the prevailing wind direction of five commercial nuclear reactors that had been shut down, including the Trojan Nuclear Plant near Portland, Oregon.  The results of this study were graphic:

In the first two years after the reactors closed, infant death rates in the downwind counties under 40 miles from the plants fell 15 to 20 percent from the previous two years, compared to an average U.S. decline of just six percent between 1985 and 1996.

This is the first evidence that has been gathered showing improvements in health after nuclear plants have been closed and  it supports many other studies that show elevated childhood cancer near operating nuclear reactors.

One of those earlier studies was performed on Trojan in 1990 by Dr. Earnest Sternglass and Dr. Jay Gould.  Dr. Gould had just authored a book entitled “Deadly Deceit, Low-Level Radiation, High-Level Cover-Up,”and at the request of Don’t Waste Oregon, joined with Dr. Sternglass in examining the infant mortality rates in communities surrounding Trojan.  They were able to determine that infant mortality rates had significantly increased along with leukemia and other childhood diseases.  Based on this evidence we brought them to Oregon, and with the help of Soloflex Corporation, flew them to Bend to testify before the State’s Energy Facility Siting Council.  Their testimony was ignored and business went on as usual until Trojan was shut down in 1993.   Now this new epidemiological evidence not only supports our earlier efforts to save the lives of Oregonians but it is also being used in opposition to relicensing old nuclear plants still being allowed by the federal government to release radiation into the environment.

There are plenty of nuclear tragedies to describe, but a long time ago I saw something written on a men’s room wall that best sums it up:

First they tell you you’re wrong and they can prove it!
Then they tell you you’re right but it doesn’t matter!
Then they tell you that it matters, but they’ve known it all along!
When they tell you that they’ve known it all along, its too late!

Lloyd Marbet, 5-18-00