One of the biggest lies ever told in American industrial history is that “no one died at Three Mile Island.”
In the frenzy to get public funding for still more nuclear reactors, some industry backers now say no one has ever been killed by the nuclear industry AT ALL.
These absurd statements reflect atomic energy’s desperate need for federal loan guarantees, which have been slipped into the Energy Bill now before Congress. After fifty years of proven failure, no private sources will invest in this lethal, expensive technology.
Meanwhile billions are pouring into the booming business of green power, including wind, solar power and increased efficiency. These technologies are not only profitable and clean, they don’t kill people.
And the reality is that people have, in fact, been killed by the fallout from atomic power, and not just at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
At the very birth of fission technology, Lewis Slotin, a top researcher on the Manhattan Project, was fatally irradiated in an early experiment. Patriotic workers were exposed to high radiation doses while building the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In the 1950s, a critical accident struck a reactor at Chalk River, Canada. Scores of American “jumpers” were run into the plant to do clean-up work and then run out. One was the future president Jimmy Carter, who joked about the incident in his autobiography “Why Not the Best.”
In 1961, three workers were killed at the SL-1 plant in Idaho. One was pinned to the ceiling of the containment dome by a fuel rod that shot out of the reactor core. The men’s bodies were classified as high level radioactive waste, and were buried in lead casks.
On October 5, 1966, a critical blockage brought Michigan’s Fermi I fast breeder reactor to the brink of disaster. Fermi’s owners said the $100 million accident released no radiation. But for a month state authorities prepared to evacuate Detroit.
The entire history of atomic energy is defined by radiation releases that the industry has covered up. Today, nothing reactor owners say can be believed. At both Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, elaborate official studies done before the accidents “proved” that it was “impossible” for what then did happen to occur. The term “inherently safe” had been applied to reactors that proved very much otherwise. Today that same term is being used to describe the “new generation” of plants to be underwitten by these proposed guarantees.
In the late 1960s, Dr. John Gofman was asked to evaluate the killing power of so-called “normal” releases from America’s fleet of atomic reactors.
Gofman was a towering figure. He was instrumental in developing the atomic bomb. As a medical doctor, his breakthrough discoveries in heart disease and LDL cholesterol are still in use.
Dr. Gofman was chief of health research at the Atomic Energy Commission. But he discovered that regular radiation emissions from America’s nukes would kill 32,000 citizens per year, even without an accident or terror attack.
The industry demanded Gofman change his findings. When he refused, he was fired. He spent the rest of his life warning that Americans were being killed every day by the ever-growing fleet of US reactors.
In 1979, human error caused the melt-down at Three Mile Island Unit Two. The reactor’s owners immediately denied there was any melting of fuel. This was a lie. Robotic cameras later showed that at least a third of the fuel had melted.
The owners said there was never a danger of a major catastrophe. That was a lie. The plant was very much at the brink of an apocalyptic radiation release.