Don’t Be Fooled: Nuclear Power Kills

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CommonDreams.org

Don’t Be Fooled: Nuclear Power Kills

Two of the nuclear industry's talking points these days are that "nuclear power hasn't killed anyone" and that "no one died at Three Mile Island."  

The 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe puts the lie to such bull, but the deliberate denial of thousands of other deaths is also part of the industry's effort. For younger people who have no experience or recall of reactor explosions and meltdowns, steam bursts or radioactive waste spills, pro-nuclear propaganda has convinced many of them that radiation is merely medicinal or dental and must be harmless. On the contrary, there is no safe dose of radiation, and any exposure no matter how little increases the risk of cancer and other diseases.

A quick look at the record of some of the deadliest radiation accidents counters efforts by the Nuclear Energy Institute, and some in Congress, to whitewash their poisoned nuclear power and win another $32 billion in taxpayer giveaways for building new reactors. What follows is a sampling -- a completely footnoted version of the list is available from Nukewatch.

January 3, 1961: Three killed in Idaho

The experimental boiling-water reactor called SL-1 (Stationary Low-Power Plant No.1) in Idaho blew apart killing three technicians. Two Army Specialists, John Byrnes, age 25 and Richard McKinley, age 22, and Richard Legg, a 25 year old Navy Electricians Mate died in the explosion. According to Arlington National Cemetery Records, "One technician was blown to the ceiling of the containment dome and impaled on a control rod. The men were so heavily exposed to radiation that their hands had to be buried separately with other radioactive waste, and their bodies were interred in lead coffins."

July 27, 1972: Two killed at Surry reactor

At the Surry Unit 2 pressurized water reactor in Virginia, pressurized steam burst through a corroded pipe and scalded two workers to death.

March 28, 1979: Three Mile Island and infant mortality

Exposure to radioactive fallout and contaminated water released by the meltdown at Three Mile Island may have caused thousands of deaths. Among many, two books, "Deadly Deceit: Low Level Radiation High Level Cover-up" by Jay Gould and Ben Goldman, 1990, and Joe Mangano's "Low-Level Radiation and Immune System Damage: An Atomic Era Legacy," 1999, document these fatalities.

Infant deaths in surrounding counties soared 53 percent in the first month after TMI; 27 percent in the first year. As originally published, the federal government's own Monthly Vital Statistics Report shows a statistically significant rise in infant mortality rates shortly after the accident.

 Studying 10 counties closest to TMI, deaths from birth defects were15-to-35 percent higher afterward than before the accident; breast cancer incidence rose seven percent higher; these increases far exceeded those elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Gould suggests that between 50,000 and 100,000 excess deaths occurred after the TMI accident.

In counties downwind of the accident, leukemia deaths among kids under 10 (1980-to-1984) jumped almost 50 percent compared to the national rate. From 1980-1984 death rates in the three nearest counties were considerably higher than 1970-74 (before the reactor opened) for leukemia, female breast, thyroid and bone and joint cancers.

March 26, 1986: From 4,000 to 125,000 Chernobyl deaths

 Estimates of deaths caused by Chernobyl vary widely. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported April 27, 1995 that Ukrainian Health Minister Andrei Serdyuk had announced the latest Ukrainian estimate of Chernobyl's death toll at 125,000 from illnesses traced to radiation.

The United Nations reported Sept. 6, 2005 that its scientists predicted about 4,000 eventual radiation-

related deaths among 600,000 people in the affected area. CNN reported April 26, 1997, "Ukrainian authorities say over 4,000 died of radiation-related illnesses.

The Wisconsin State Journal noted on April 15, 1991 that "The most senior scientist at the Chernobyl nuclear power station says the disaster claimed up to 10,000 lives, thousands more than Soviet authorities have admitted, a London newspaper reported on Sunday.

The Milwaukee Journal, on April 21, 1991 reported, "Many Soviet and Western researchers dispute the official death toll of only 32, saying that at least 500 people and possibly as many as 7,000 have died of cancer and other illnesses."

December 9, 1986: Four more killed at Surry

 Again at the Surry Reactor Unit 2, a similar pressurized steam burned four people to death after an unchecked and corroded 18-inch steel feed-water pipe broke and spewed 30,000 gallons of extremely hot pressurized water.

March 11, 1997: Cancer deaths unknown at Tokaimura

Japan's Tokaimura reprocessing facility suffered explosions and fire at this experimental waste treatment site. At least 37 people were seriously contaminated, 34 internally through inhalation. Experts said, "a massive amount of heat and energy was released" in the explosion at the state-run facility. A lack of medical follow-up for the contaminated workers has allowed the industry to deny that deaths resulted.

September 30, 1999: Two killed at Tokaimura

Workers at Japan's Tokaimura uranium processing complex caused a "uranium criticality burst" that killed two men, exposed at least 600 residents in the surrounding community to a burst of neutron radiation, and caused the evacuation of thousands. One worker died of radiation poisoning after 82 days of agonizing pain, the other took 210 days to die.

August 9, 2004: Five killed at Mihama

At the Mihama reactor in Japan, a burst of highly pressurized steam at 390° F, killed five workers and severely burned 11 others when a corroded pipe ruptured and burned them to death. The accident was Japan's deadliest at a nuclear reactor. About 800 tons of water escaped from the large pipe that had not been inspected in 28 years.

John LaForge

John LaForge is on the Nukewatch staff and edits its Quarterly.

 

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