Anno Domini 1997, April

Nuclear Bloopers!

William Kittredge reports that a scientist conducting tests on Yucca Mountain as a site for nuclear waste storage asks the public to "trust" him and his colleagues. Yet a quick glance at some of the mistakes made by scientists and others in the course of developing the nuclear industry offer very little basis for trust.

* May 14, 1945 -- Plutonium is injected intravenously into a human subject in an experiment carried out by the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. Eighteen human subjects are injected with plutonium in 1945 and 1946.

* October 10, 1947 -- A fire at an English nuclear facility causes radiation leakage and contaminates milk in a 200-mile radius with iodine-131. The contaminated milk is dumped into the Irish Sea.

* March 1958 -- Kyshtym, USSR. Nuclear waste plants explodes, destroying hundreds of square miles of land and causing thousands of people to contract radiation sickness. * January 3, 1961 -- Sl-1 Idaho Falls experimental test reactor. Three technicians were killed as they moved fuel rods in a "routine" preparation for the reactor startup. One technician was blown to the ceiling of the containment dome and impaled on a control rod. His body remained there until it was taken down six days later. These men were so heavily exposed to radiation that their hands and heads had to be buried separately with other radioactive waste.

* March 1968 -- In an unidentified reactor, workers used a basketball to plug a pipe during modification to the plant's spent fuel pool cooling system. Further work was in process, and the basketball was blasted through the pipe and out the open end, followed by 14,000 gallons of water, filling up the room.

* 1971 -- The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) admitted an error in radiation exposure limits by proposing a hundred-fold reduction in routine emission standards. * March 1972 -- Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska submitted to the Congressional Record facts surrounding a routine check in a nuclear power plant which indicated abnormal radioactivity in the building's water system. Radioactivity was confirmed in the plant DRINKING FOUNTAIN. Apparently there was an inappropriate cross- connect between a 3,000 gallon radioactive tank and the water system.

* January 1980 -- 5.5 earthquake at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where large amounts of nuclear materials are kept, causes a tritium leak.

* September 21, 1980 -- En route from Pennsylvania to Toronto, two canisters containing radioactive materials fall off a truck on New Jersey's Route 17. The driver discovers the missing cargo in Albany, New York, when he sees only one of three canisters is still on the truck.

--Carol O'Neil & Sharon Seidenstein Berkeley Ecology Center Newsletter

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