FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Nuclear Gang Rides Again

by SAUL LANDAU

A group of scientists, military officials and government bureaucrats signed an informal pact with the devil. The contract became public in August 1945, when U.S. bombers nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Since then, no other nation has used a nuclear weapon, but thousands of radiation-emitting tests have occurred and nuclear energy plants mushroomed, with promises of cheap, safe and clean power. Over the decades, however, “the nuclear industry” has faced repeated cost over-runs, and serious “accidents.” Thousands died at the Chernobyl power plant (Ukraine) and a near catastrophe occurred at the Three Mile Island (Pennsylvania) facility. Air Force planes dropped H bombs in the ocean off the Spanish coast and innumerable leaks, fires and “mishaps” occurred routinely at military and civilian nuclear installations.

In 1980, Jack Willis and I produced “Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang” for public television. Our documentary showed government officials and nuclear mavens colluding to obfuscate their failure to keep their “cheap, safe and clean” promise. In 1977, Jacobs, a reporter (and non-smoker) covered the nuclear issue since the 1950s. He developed lung cancer, his doctors speculated, after he had inhaled a plutonium particle while covering U.S. government atomic tests. He also looked skeptically at U.S. claims of benign radiation levels near the Nevada test site.

In a 1957 story, Jacobs reported his Geiger counter jumping scale in a “safe” area. In his story (The Reporter), he revealed the lies told by Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) spokesmen about actual levels of radiation. Jacobs had surreptitiously acquired from a Public Health office in Las Vegas a classified document revealing AEC knowledge that so-called low level radiation constituted serious health hazards. Indeed, from later de-classified internal memos, Jacobs discovered the AEC had classified the health report not to keep it from Soviet officials, who knew about radiation’s perils, but to keep the U.S. public sedated so people wouldn’t think about choosing between nuclear tests and getting cancer.

In 1977, Willis and I returned with Jacobs to the “down wind” area he had investigated 20 years earlier. In southern Utah, Jacobs found those he had previously interviewed were dead or had cancer. In St. George, Utah, directly in line of the fall-out path from Nevada nuclear tests, he found a near epidemic of cancer and a public that had endured years of nuclear nervousness.

Before he died, he added up costs and liabilities: damage done by bombs dropped on Japan, and too many thousands of civilians and U.S. service men who served as guinea pigs during the 1950s. The Pentagon, seeking to test soldiers’ responses to nuclear battlefield conditions, positioned men near the blast, had them cover their eyes and then measured their ability to fight. We interviewed Sergeant Bates, one of the GIs ordered to “dig a trench and crawl in.” The blast, he said, “threw me fifteen feet into the air. It made all of us sick.” In 1977, he had terminal cancer.

Hot hailstones pelted the “downwinder” civilians, accompanied by bare-faced lies from the Atomic Energy Commission and agencies that later replaced it, assuring them of the benign nature of the blasts’ radiation levels.

Death and disease, however, did not deter the gang — which included major companies that made nuclear generating plants. Over the decades, various facilities accumulated “hot waste” with a half life of thousands of years, but without secure burial places. Nevadans don’t want it in their backyard (Yucca Mountain). Nor do Indians or poor African nations. In 1995, Russian sailors poured a thousand tons of radioactive liquid into the Sea of Japan.

The current energy crisis atmosphere seems to have induced amnesia about past nuclear “mishaps.” Nuclear lobbyists have even induced some Greens to convince Obama officials to subsidize its energy plans. But, reported Jim Snyder in The Hill, even the $18.5 billion the nuclear industry will receive in government financing won’t suffice to cover unexpected costs of “the next generation of plants.” The Nuclear Energy Institute — euphemism for industry trade group — demands $20 billion more in loan-guarantees “to kick-start the long-awaited industry revival.” (June 21, 2009)

Before funding the nuclear gang, Members of Congress should read from the long list of accident reports. Here are two of many:

1. For two decades, from the 1950s on, “thousands of workers were unwittingly exposed to plutonium and other highly radioactive metals at the Department of Energy’s Paducah Kentucky Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Workers …inhaled radioactive dust while processing the materials as part of a government experiment to recycle used nuclear reactor fuel.” (Washington Post, August 22, 1999)

2. In July 2000, wildfires near the Hanford facility hit highly radioactive waste disposal trenches, raising airborne plutonium radiation levels in nearby cities to 1,000 times above normal. (http://www.lutins.org/nukes.html)

In 64 years, those who promised to perfect nuclear power still plead (over many dead bodies): “Give us time!”

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail