Activist William Sloane Coffin Dies
DAVID FUNKHOUSER Courant Staff Writer April 13 2006
The Rev. William Sloane Coffin, whose activism in the causes of peace
and social justice led some to call him the conscience of a nation,
died quietly Wednesday at his home in rural Strafford, Vt. He was 81.
As the chaplain at Yale University in the 1960s and '70s, Coffin earned
a national reputation marching for civil rights in the South and encouraging
young men to turn in their draft cards to protest the Vietnam War.
His moral authority and skill as a preacher influenced a generation
of scholars and activists. He continued to fight for social justice
throughout his life and was an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq.
"You know the axis of evil is not Iraq, Iran and North Korea,"
he told an audience at Yale in 2002. "It is environmental degradation,
pandemic poverty and a world awash in arms."
"This man was a giant," said William "Scotty" McLennan,
the dean of religious life at Stanford University and a 1970 graduate
of Yale. "He is the university chaplain of record. His influence
was very wide, very deep and very long-lasting. And he's certainly the
best white preacher I've ever heard."
"Coffin was the most important voice of liberal Protestantism in
the latter 20th century, except for Martin Luther King Jr.," said
Warren Goldstein, chairman of the University of Hartford's history department
and author of a 2004 biography of Coffin. "The secret of his success
was that he preached a Christianity that was open, non-doctrinal, witty,
quotable and full of joy."
Coffin had congestive heart failure. He died in the company of his third
wife, Randy, and daughter, Amy Coffin. "Bill was sitting out in
the sun talking to them perfectly fine, and he literally just stopped,"
said his niece, Sarah Coffin O'Connor of New York City. "It was
all very peaceful and straightforward."
"It's all still a big shock to us all," said O'Connor, who
was a student at Yale when Coffin was chaplain. Coffin has one other
surviving child, David. Another son, Alex, died in an automobile accident
Coffin was born into a wealthy and prominent family in New York City.
He attended Phillips Andover Academy and was a classmate of George H.W.
Bush both there and later at Yale. He served as a paratrooper during
World War II, and as Gen. George Patton's Russian translator and a liaison
officer to the Red Army after the war.
He graduated from Yale and entered the Union Theological Seminary, once
headed by his uncle, Henry Sloane Coffin, one of the nation's most prominent
ministers. When the Korean War began he signed on with the CIA. In Germany,
he trained anti-Soviet Russians to infiltrate Eastern Europe to try
to foment democratic opposition, a project he described as "a great
He grew disillusioned with the CIA - and his country - for its participation
in overturning governments in Iran and Guatemala, and for its role in
He earned a degree from the Yale Divinity School and was ordained a
Presbyterian minister in 1956, and two years later was named Yale's
chaplain, a post he held until 1975.
Coffin led groups of students to the South on summer "Freedom Rides"
to work for racial equality and civil rights. He was a regular speaker
at the massive anti-war demonstrations of the day.
Along with other prominent radicals, he was convicted in 1968 of conspiring
to help young men dodge the draft, though that judgment was overturned
Coffin and McLennan both served as models for the Rev. Scot Slone, the
social-activist minister of Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury comic strip.
McLennan met Coffin when he was a freshman at Yale in 1966.
"He had had a huge influence on myself and others in trying to
think about the social justice concerns of our day in connection with
religion," McLennan said. Coffin inspired him to attend divinity
school while he was studying at Harvard Law School, and then set up
a legal ministry in a low-income neighborhood in Boston.
Coffin was known as a formidable speaker, in particular for what McLennan
called "Coffinisms - ways of turning phrases."
He offered a couple of examples: "He who stands for nothing falls
for anything" and, "It's not because you have value that you
are loved, but because you are loved that you have value."
Coffin became senior minister at the prominent Riverside Church in New
York City in 1977 and took on the causes of gay rights and nuclear disarmament.
In 1987, he left Riverside to lead SANE/FREEZE, an organization working
toward disarmament (and now known as Peace Action).
Coffin continued to speak out long after his retirement in the early
1990s. In an August 2004 interview on the PBS program Religion and Ethics
Newsweekly, he told journalist Bob Abernethy:
"It's clear to me, two things: that almost every square inch of
the Earth's surface is soaked with the tears and blood of the innocent,
and it's not God's doing. It's our doing. That's human malpractice.
Don't chalk it up to God. Every time people say, when they see the innocent
suffering, every time they lift their eyes to heaven and say, `God,
how could you let this happen?' it's well to remember that exactly at
that moment God is asking exactly the same question of us: `How could
you let this happen?' So you have to take responsibility."
Copyright 2006, Hartford Courant
MP uneasy about Ukraine's energy plans
by Yulianna Vilkos, Kyiv Post Staff Writer
Apr 13 2006, 01:19
who represents Germany’s Greens Party in the European Parliament,
urges Ukraine to reconsider plans to build more nuclear reactors.
Rebecca Harms, a 49-year-old lawmaker in the European Parliament who
represents Germany’s Greens/European Free Alliance Group, says
she was shocked when she heard Ukraine was planning to build 11 more
nuclear reactors by 2030. Harms, who is in Ukraine for an international
conference scheduled for April 25-27 and called ‘Chornobyl+20:
Remembrance for the Future,’ thinks Europe should help Ukraine
develop a stronger position toward Russia with regard to fossil-fuel
imports. The conference is being held to commemorate the 20th anniversary
of the April 26 Chornobyl nuclear disaster.
Q: What will be the main message you deliver at the conference on Chornobyl
A: I will present a new report on the health and environmental effects
of Chornobyl, which was compiled by British specialists on my request.
The figures in this report challenge the ones provided last year by
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which said the number
of possible deaths directly caused by the  accident was only 4,000
people. Our report acknowledges up to 60,000 casualties caused by Chornobyl
worldwide, revealing ongoing extensive social and economic damage to
We would like to use the Chornobyl anniversary to make IAEA withdraw
their figures, as they have no scientific basis.
But the broader message of the conference will be that a new thinking
about Chornobyl and Ukraine’s energy policy should be adopted
by Ukraine itself and the international community.
I really hope that now, after the Orange Revolution, is the best time
to have a real debate on the consequences of Chornobyl and a better
energy future for Ukraine.
Q: What exactly do you mean when you say a “better energy future”?
A: We still pretend in Ukraine, as well as in Germany or in France,
or in Great Britain, the USA or Russia, that we have enough resources
forever, but this is wrong. We know that coal, oil, gas and uranium
will run out very fast, and that we have to use those resources much
Better energy, for me, starts with efficiency as the priority of priorities.
Estimations show we could save up to 50 percent of our consumed energy.
As far as I am aware of the situation in Ukraine, I know that quite
often you just waste your energy.
In addition, I am very much in favor of an ambitious program for development
of renewable energy, such as solar, wind and biomass. It’s a pity
that Ukraine has not started such a program yet. In the EU, we just
agreed that, 20 percent of our energy resources will be renewable by
2020, and Germany will certainly reach this target.
[In many European countries] we have developed ambitious scenarios on
how to phase out nuclear energy and coal, and how to develop renewable
energy. It’s a very long process, but the earlier you start, the
better the future for your country will be.
For example, in Germany, years ago, we saw that in northern parts of
the country we had enormous capacities for wind power. We developed
a political plan on how we want those capacities to be used for energy
production. We developed a certain law, which entitled anyone who produced
electricity with a windmill to receive subsidies from the state to feed
this electricity into the system. This was the basis for quite a successful
development of wind-generated energy production, and now we’ve
replaced several nuclear plants with it. We’ve also developed
a whole industry alongside this, which produces wind turbines both for
Germany and for export, creating thousands of jobs.
A lot of farmers in Germany who are now getting into biomass proudly
tell us: “In former times, we only produced meat, but now we also
produce energy and biogas.”
Q: What do you think of Ukrainian state nuclear energy company Energoatom’s
May 2005 announcement that it would build eleven new nuclear plants
by 2030 to reduce its energy dependency on Russia and become a major
electricity exporter to Europe?
A: It was a shock for me to learn that there are plans in Ukraine to
build another eleven or twelve nuclear power plants.
By 2016, Ukraine will have incurred $200 billion worth of damage caused
by the Chornobyl disaster alone. This is an on-going catastrophe on
the social, environmental and economical levels. And I cannot really
imagine that a country facing this will opt for a nuclear future.
I think you should rethink this strategy when you are importing all
the risks connected with nuclear plants to your own country and then
exporting the energy to other countries.
You should organize a clean-up of Chornobyl and solve all the problems
with the nuclear waste there first. If you look just at the problem
of nuclear waste, you will find that it isn’t easy to solve anywhere
in the world.
My view is that it’s better to invest in sustainable development
of your energy sector, which would help protect the climate and overcome
nuclear risks instead of building new plants.
For this conference, we will bring in some of the best experts from
Germany and the United States to explain how this process works, for
example, in Germany or Denmark. Our main job at the conference will
be to show that another energy strategy is possible, but you’ve
got to start working on it now.
Q: But some European governments are currently considering building
new nuclear plants as part of their attempt to fulfill their commitments
to the Kyoto agreement (a 1994 international convention designed to
reduce greenhouse gases globally).
A: Well, we’ve got one new plant in Finland, we have specific
plans for building one plant in France, and we have a debate over construction
of one plant in the UK. But even if Europe really wanted to reach Kyoto
targets with the help of nuclear energy, it would not be able to replace
all the plants that need to be phased out with new ones to meet the
Kyoto requirements in time.
What I fear, frankly, is that the nuclear industry may be prepared to
go east, because they hope they can build plants in Ukraine or Russia
at cheaper costs and with lower safety standards. This cannot be supported.
Have you ever asked your government who will finance the construction
of those eleven or so plants that your country said it would build by
And who will build them? And what kind of reactors will they have? Will
they be the latest models, which are very, very expensive – well
over $2 billion each?
In Finland, they managed to build a new plant only thanks to cheap loans
from the Bavarian state bank, and they got a lot of state money from
Sweden and France, because these countries are interested in someone
else building a new reactor.
Q: How do you view close ties between Germany and Russia in the gas
industry, in the light of recent gas deals that could possibly affect
all of Europe?
A: The Russians have delivered gas to Germany since the 1970s, and they
were always well trusted partners. But now I think we should start thinking
not only about ourselves, but also about developments in Ukraine or
Belarus, or Moldova, as well.
The peace and security of Europeans are dependent on developments in
countries around us, and so Europeans have to make sure that (Russian
gas monopoly) Gazprom offers fair conditions to all countries.
Q: Will Europe assist Ukraine financially in developing the new energy
policy you are talking about?
In the next year, there will be a new arrangement on the EU’s
Neighborhood Policy, and I think that the energy situation in Ukraine
should be the focus of this policy. My stand is that Europe should help
Ukraine develop a stronger position towards Russia.
The EU has a major interest in Ukraine being a stable and democratic
country. Therefore, the EU should not only keep saying: We see you as
Europeans. It should also develop an economic policy to actually bring
Ukraine closer to the EU. And from this point of view, energy policy
is a basic one.
I was ashamed when last winter I saw that a lot of my colleagues in
the [European] parliament saw Ukraine only as a country of interest
to EU as a safe gas transit area. I think there is much more to it,
and I am one of Ukraine’s advocates in the European parliament.
firm to build nuclear fuel facility in Ukraine
by Rimma Men,
Kyiv Post Staff Writer
Dec 28 2005, 23:27
U.S.Ambassador John Herbst, Holtec Int’l President Kris Singh,
EnergoAtom President Yury Nedashkovsky, Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov
toast after the signing of a landmark contract that will help Ukraine’s
nuclear power industry reduce dependency on Russia
Holtec International, an American company specializing in energy technology
solutions, has inked a $150 million contract to build a new nuclear
fuel waste storage facility in Ukraine. Experts say the facility should
help Ukraine reduce dependency on its northern neighbor Russia, to which
it currently pays more than $100 million annually for accepting, processing
and storing spent nuclear fuel.
The contract, signed with Ukraine’s nuclear power holding EnergoAtom
on Dec. 26 in the presence of United States Ambassador John Herbst,
represents the largest investment in Ukraine’s nuclear sector
by a U.S. company. It also marks a growing cooperation between the power
industries of the U.S. and Ukraine, whose energy sector remains tightly
integrated with Russia.
At the signing ceremony, Holtec officials expressed their eagerness
to establish a state-of-the-art central storage facility, adding that
their company would help raise the funds needed to bankroll the project.
The contract will also yield Holtec major contract work in Ukraine,
one of the largest nuclear power-producing countries in the world.
“Achieving self-sufficiency in managing its spent nuclear fuel
is only fitting and proper for a country that boasts Europe’s
third largest commercial nuclear power program and relies on its nuclear
plants for roughly half of its energy needs,” said Holtec President
and CEO Kris Singh.
Holtec, headquartered in Marlton, New Jersey, is a diversified energy
technology company specializing in storage and transport of used nuclear
fuel. Spent nuclear fuel storage equipment designed and installed by
Holtec is used in over 80 nuclear power plants in the U.S., Mexico,
Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The company claims that its facilities, which can store nuclear waste
for 50-100 years, adhere to high safety standards, preventing the release
of radiation even in extreme cases such as potential aircraft crashes.
Holtec won the contract in 2004, after winning an EnergoAtom tender
launched in 2003. The contract envisions Holtec building a so-called
launch complex site with a smaller capacity valued at about $150 million.
The site will serve as a model for expansion that could cost in excess
of 400 million euros. The contract grants the Ukrainian side license
rights to expand capacity of the sample site built by Holtec.
EnergoAtom President Yury Nedashkovsky emphasized the significance of
the project, saying “Russia has consistently been raising the
price for removal of spent nuclear fuel.”
EnergoAtom officials hope that the new facility will be built in the
next several years.
Officials envision that further project approval processes and construction
could take several years.
They also point to the future prospects of selling spent nuclear fuel
on the international market, and acquiring technology that permits the
waste to be reused for power production and other purposes.
Yuriy Kubrushko, business development director at IMEPOWER Investment
Group, a Kyiv energy consultancy, described the project as an “important
step” in Ukraine’s aspiration to become self-sufficient
in the business of storing, processing and reusing spent nuclear fuel.
“Implementation of this project is important to reduce EnergoAtom's
dependence on Russia's services on treatment of the spent nuclear fuel,”
“For Holtec, this contract represents the company’s expansion
to a new market and establishment of working relations with EnergoAtom,
which is a big energy company on an international scale,” Kubrushko
EnergoAtom currently operates 14 nuclear power blocks at four Nuclear
Power Plants. Six of the blocks are located at the Zaporizhya Nuclear
Power Plant, home to the only spent nuclear fuel facility in Ukraine.
The rest of the power plants in the country are dependent on Russian
services for storage and processing of their nuclear waste.
An official at the Zaporizhya plant told the Post that the technology
for their recently launched facility was acquired from a U.S. company
in the late 1990s.
Officials have yet to choose and receive complete approval for a site
for the Holtec facility. Sources say the defunct Chornobyl Nuclear Power
Plant is being considered as a site.
Holtec is currently involved in a project providing processing technology
to place used fuel at the Chornobyl plant’s three idle reactors
in storage systems. The project is being bankrolled by the European
Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Government Cheated Nuclear Workers With Cancer Claims By James
PADUCAH, Ky. -- A federal study used to deny hundreds of former Paducah
nuclear workers payment for cancer claims will be reviewed for possible
flaws, following criticism from advocates.
After the review of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant study, some
of the rejected cases could be reopened and paid, federal officials
The study might be used to review about 1,150 claims, according to the
Department of Labor. Payments of $9.45 million have been made in 63
cases and 383 have been formally denied. The rest are pending.
The 2004 study conducted for the National Institute of Occupational
Safety and Health uses historical records to estimate how much radiation
a worker would have received in different jobs around the complex, about
10 miles west of Paducah.
Critics, including nuclear safety advocates, say the study excluded
some of the most dangerous jobs. They also alleged contractors who worked
on the federal report had a conflict because years earlier they had
produced management reports downplaying radiation risks at Paducah.
Congress enacted the compensation program after disclosures that thousands
of workers in the nation's Cold War weapons complex had been unknowingly
harmed by radiation and hazardous chemicals. Eligible workers get a
$150,000 payment under one part and can qualify for up to $250,000 more
in a related program.
The news of a review brought hope to some former nuclear workers.
Greg Lahndorff, 58, of Paducah, worked at the plant for 28 years until
retiring in 2003. He hopes a review of his denied claim for skin cancer
means the government will acknowledge its mistakes.
"They said their dose reconstruction showed they could not have
caused my skin cancer," said Lahndorff, now a wastewater treatment
operator in Illinois. "I know I was hot (exposed) when I worked
in the feed plant, and I was moved out of my job because of it."
The institute examined the criticisms in October and said that the conflict-of-interest
policy for radiation contractors was "unclear" but that it
had not been violated. The institute also concluded that additional
records may need to be included if the report is revised.
Fred Blosser, a spokesman for the national safety institute, said: "We
had done an initial assessment and said the report was fully accurate."
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and others raised concerns over the study
and encouraged the fresh look.
McConnell, R-Ky., sent a letter this week noting that the institute's
own oversight team in October had found "inaccuracies" in
"I want to take this opportunity to reiterate the importance of
the government using unbiased professionals in developing these technical
reports," McConnell wrote to John Howard, the director of the National
Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
Blosser said Thursday that the agency has not yet answered McConnell's
letter, but added that "we are taking his concerns seriously."
James Melius, a physician and administrator of the New York State Laborers'
Health and Safety Fund and a member of the radiation safety advisory
panel that will look at the report, said he has concerns.
"Clearly, there is an appearance of a conflict of interest here,"
Melius said the government has an obligation to produce a scientifically
"The skepticism of people who worked at the site is great. They
have been lied to and misled. There is a need for great care in assuring
who is doing the assessment because it could affect compensation."
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, whose agency oversees the worker compensation
program, could not be reached for comment. She is also McConnell's wife.
Labor Department spokesman David James said that any rejected claims
would be reopened if they are affected by changes to the federal report.
The Labor Department and the safety institute could not say how long
the review could take.
Under federal law, cancer in former plant workers falls into one of
Workers who have any of 22 defined cancers, including leukemia, are
presumed to be victims of radiation exposure.
But the law also will pay for other types of cancer, including eye,
skin, prostate or larynx, if the cancer can be medically linked to a
job at the Paducah plant.
The review of those claims uses the safety institute's radiation exposure
Critics of the study, including Washington policy analyst Richard Miller,
say the federal contractors excluded records of work areas where there
was a potent dose of radiation.
"The impact of the error is still unknown," said Miller, formerly
a consultant to the plant's union.
A review by the safety institute of the criticisms says data for some
high-radiation jobs should be looked at again and included in a revision
Wisconsin Nuke’s Potentially Fatal Flaw ‘Discovered’
After 28 Years: The NRC Kept the Public Uninformed and At High Risk
It took them 28 years, but the NRC finally discovered last week that
the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant - owned and operated by Dominion (Millstone’s
owners) and located 27 miles east of Green Bay, Wisconsin - has operated
since 1973 with a hazardous condition that could jeopardize the emergency
core cooling system in the event of a serious accident.
In a press release issued on December 23, 2005, the NRC said the company
should have discovered and corrected the hazard when flooding in the
turbine building had potential to “challenge” the function
of the emergency core cooling system.
The NRC was forced to acknowledge that the nuclear reactor was designed
with a sump system under the reactor that had no escape path in the
event of flooding - a condition that could lead to a core meltdown.
In NRC-speak: “The finding appears to have substantial to high
safety significance because the likelihood of core damage increased
significantly due to a potential loss of decay heat removal and electrical
power needed to ensure the plant could be safely shut down and maintained
shut down for design and license basis events.”
Yet the NRC is permitting Dominion to keep operating the nuclear reactor
at 100 per cent power before being certain the hazardous condition has
Time to retire the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant - and the NRC!
Time to quit this nuclear madness and convert to clean renewable energy
For more information, go to: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams/web-based.html.
Use ADAMS accession number ML052800430 to locate the report.
Zachary Completes 14-Hour Miracle Surgery -
Begins Intensive Care Recovery
Zachary M. Hartley, age 8, underwent 14-hour miracle surgery at Boston
Children’s Hospital yesterday. His team of devoted doctors replaced
his cancerous jaw with an implant they fashioned from a tibia bone,
which they removed from his left leg, and they reconstructed his face
so that Zachary can breathe, eat and speak like other boys his age.
Zachary is resting in intensive care under close watch and is expected
to regain consciousness on Christmas Eve.
We send our love and prayers for a speedy recovery to Zachary! You did
Our hearts are with the Hartley family throughout Zachary’s recovery.
The Hartleys are facing major medical bills for this life-enhancing
surgery. Please help! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reports on High Strontium-90 in Cow Milk in East Lyme
Katie here- reporting from 183 North Bride Brook Road in East Lyme on
December 20, 2005.
This is the former Bride Brook dairy farm where 30 milking cows used
to live. This beautiful, historic farm is located five miles northwest
The Bride Brook cows’ milk was tested by Millstone’s environmental
lab from 1973 to 1982.
Twice during that period, the milk had levels of 27 picocuries per liter
of strontium-90 - registering the highest recorded levels of strontium-90
in milk in the entire United States of America!
In 87 samples taken over that 9-year period, the Bride Brook cows’
milk averaged 7 to 12 times higher than the average level of strontium-90
in cows’ milk sampled by the EPA in 2003.
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s spokesman,
Dennis Schain, told the news media yesterday that my milk samples -
including one in 2001 recording 55 picocuries of strontium-90 per liter
where I used to live at 120 Dayton Road in Waterford - “are not
a health risk.”
Mr. Schain: For shame! Stop lying! Do your job! The people of this state
pay you to protect the environment - and that includes goat habitat.
Educate yourself! Strontium-90 exposure causes bone cancer, leukemia
and immune system failure. Strontium-90's daughter byproduct, yttrium,
invades breast, lung, pancreatic and other soft tissues. There is a
cancer epidemic in my town!
If strontium-90-contaminated milk is so harmless, may I invite you to
take a drink of my milk in public!
Send an email to: email@example.com
and we’ll set up an appointment for a public milk-tasting.”
Zachary is at Boston Children's Hospital today undergoing major facial
Since Zachary was born eight years ago on December 16, 1997, his life
has been one of pain and suffering. Zachary’s mother swam unwittingly
at Hole-in-the-Wall Beach in Niantic across from Millstone during her
pregnancy. That was the year Millstone admitted the fish it sampled
in Niantic Bay were poisoned with cesium-137, a deadly carcinogen, from
the plant. Nobody warned Zachary’s mother about the deadly radioisotopes
or toxic chemicals washing ashore from the Millstone discharge pipes.
Zachary was born with a rare cancer in his jawbone. Emergency surgery
by miracle doctors saved his life. Zachary has outgrown the artificial
jaw implanted when he was one year old. He is in the care of miracle
Zachary’s spirit shines bright.
The surgery is high risk. Zachary's doctors are not removing Zachary's
cancer spots still in his face because he would lose his hearing and
perhaps other faculties.
We send our love and prayers every minute to Zachary, our young champ,
and his parents and brother Ryan.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will assist you
in making needed financial contributions to the Hartley family to pay
for Zachary's surgery and care.
December 21, 2005
more about Zachary
Nuke Plant Blast Kills One
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, Dec. 16, 2005
(AP) Hundreds of pounds of molten metal splashed from a smelter at a
Russian nuclear power plant, killing one worker and severely injuring
two others, a scientist and the federal nuclear agency said Friday.
The accident did not affect reactors, the agency said.
The Rosenergoatom agency said radiation levels remained normal as the
reactor inside the Leningrad nuclear plant was being repaired. Rosenergoatom
initially called Thursday's incident an explosion in a press statement,
then hours later changed course and called it a "splash."
A plant spokesman said the accident was caused by violations of technical
and production rules.
The mishap occurred at the plant in the closed nuclear town of Sosnovy
Bor, 50 miles west of the northern city of St. Petersburg. The smelter
is operated by Ekomet-S, a company reprocessing scrap metal.
Thursday's accident shone a spotlight on what environmentalists called
uncontrolled operations at Russian nuclear sites.
"The enterprise ... functions illegally because there was no mandatory
(state) environmental impact assessment on its construction," Dmitry
Artamonov, head of the St. Petersburg branch of Greenpeace, told The
He said Greenpeace had complained against Ekomet-S to the Sosnovy Bor
prosecutors' office, but the office took no action.
The nuclear plant has four units, or reactors, in all. Rosenergoatom
said the smelter was on the grounds of the plant's second unit, and
plant spokesman Sergei Averyanov said it was about a half-mile from
Oleg Bodrov, a physicist who heads the Green World ecological group
in Sosnovy Bor, said the reactor was only 700 yards from the smelter,
which is about 50 yards from a covered liquid radioactive waste pond.
A 33-year-old worker died of his injuries Friday morning, and two others
were injured, Yuri Lameko, chief doctor of the Sosnovy Bor hospital,
told the AP.
"There were no violations of safety levels and operating conditions
of the energy units of the Leningrad nuclear plant," Rosenergoatom
said in a statement.
The second unit had been shut down for planned major repairs in July,
Averyanov said molten metal spurt out of the smelter. Besides scrap
metal from the plant, Ekomet-S reprocesses metal from Russian nuclear
submarines and disassembled oil and gas pipelines from the Russian Far
North, Bodrov said.
Averyanov said the metal reprocessed Thursday was clear of radiation,
and he blamed the accident on violations of technical and production
Bodrov said Ekomet-S workers told him more than 2 tons of molten metal
were in the smelter at the time of the accident, and several hundred
pounds splashed out for unknown reasons.
He said Ekomet-S began operating two years ago and was in violation
of the law because it had not undergone a state environmental impact
assessment. When the firm was founded, the only environmental monitoring
laboratory in the town of 65,000 was shut down for lack of funding,
"There is no independent environmental monitoring in the nuclear
city of Sosnovy Bor," Bodrov said.
Sosnovy Bor prosecutor Stanislav Rumyantsev said he opened a criminal
investigation into charges of violations of safety regulations.
Bodrov visited Ekomet-S on Friday afternoon, taking along his own radiation
monitor. He said radiation levels were normal.
He said this was the second accident at Ekomet-S, with the first happening
in summer 2003 and injuring two workers.
In March 1992, an accident at the Sosnovy Bor plant caused radioactive
gases and iodine to be leaked into the air, according to nuclear watchdog
One of the reactors at the 30-year-old plant is of the same type as
the one at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that exploded in Soviet
Ukraine in 1986 in the world's worst nuclear accident.
The station is the main supplier of electricity to St. Petersburg, and
there are plans to transport some of its power to Finland.
Sosnovy Bor, a center of nuclear technology, was founded 25 years ago
and has 60,000 people. The town also is home to a regional radioactive
waste reservoir and an experimental laboratory and training center for
nuclear submarine reactors.
Almost everyone in Sosnovy Bor, which means Pine Forest, is connected
with nuclear technology, and most are not native to the region.
In an unrelated development, Chechen prosecutors said they have opened
a criminal investigation into the improper storage of radioactive waste
by a state-owned company.
Prosecutors said a "catastrophic radioactivity situation"
had developed at the Grozny Chemical Factory in the breakaway province
in southern Russia. Grozny is Chechnya's capital.
Radiation levels at one storage center at the plant are 58,000 times
higher than normal, the Russian Prosecutor General's office said Friday.
"It's a threat to the population because the leadership of the
plant is taking no steps whatsoever to remove the radioactive material
or isolate access to the plant," Chechen Prosecutor Valery Kuznetsov
said. ©MMV The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Nuclear Power is the Problem, Not a
by Helen Caldicott Published on Friday, April
15, 2005 by the Australian
There is a huge propaganda push by the nuclear industry to justify nuclear
power as a panacea for the reduction of global-warming gases.
In fact Leslie Kemeny on these pages two weeks ago (HES, March 30) suggested
that courses on nuclear science and engineering be included in tertiary
level institutions in Australia.
I agree. But I would suggest that all the relevant facts be taught to
students. Mandatory courses in medical schools should embrace the short
and long-term biological, genetic and medical dangers associated with
the nuclear fuel cycle. Business students should examine the true costs
associated with the production of nuclear power. Engineering students
should become familiar with the profound problems associated with the
storage of long-lived radioactive waste, the human fallibilities that
have created the most serious nuclear accidents in history and the ongoing
history of near-misses and near-meltdowns in the industry.
At present there are 442 nuclear reactors in operation around the world.
If, as the nuclear industry suggests, nuclear power were to replace
fossil fuels on a large scale, it would be necessary to build 2000 large,
1000-megawatt reactors. Considering that no new nuclear plant has been
ordered in the US since 1978, this proposal is less than practical.
Furthermore, even if we decided today to replace all fossil-fuel-generated
electricity with nuclear power, there would only be enough economically
viable uranium to fuel the reactors for three to four years.
The true economies of the nuclear industry are never fully accounted
for. The cost of uranium enrichment is subsidised by the US government.
The true cost of the industry's liability in the case of an accident
in the US is estimated to be $US560billion ($726billion), but the industry
pays only $US9.1billion - 98per cent of the insurance liability is covered
by the US federal government. The cost of decommissioning all the existing
US nuclear reactors is estimated to be $US33billion. These costs - plus
the enormous expense involved in the storage of radioactive waste for
a quarter of a million years - are not now included in the economic
assessments of nuclear electricity.
It is said that nuclear power is emission-free. The truth is very different.
In the US, where much of the world's uranium is enriched, including
Australia's, the enrichment facility at Paducah, Kentucky, requires
the electrical output of two 1000-megawatt coal-fired plants, which
emit large quantities of carbon dioxide, the gas responsible for 50per
cent of global warming.
Also, this enrichment facility and another at Portsmouth, Ohio, release
from leaky pipes 93per cent of the chlorofluorocarbon gas emitted yearly
in the US. The production and release of CFC gas is now banned internationally
by the Montreal Protocol because it is the main culprit responsible
for stratospheric ozone depletion. But CFC is also a global warmer,
10,000 to 20,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
In fact, the nuclear fuel cycle utilises large quantities of fossil
fuel at all of its stages - the mining and milling of uranium, the construction
of the nuclear reactor and cooling towers, robotic decommissioning of
the intensely radioactive reactor at the end of its 20 to 40-year operating
lifetime, and transportation and long-term storage of massive quantities
of radioactive waste.
In summary, nuclear power produces, according to a 2004 study by Jan
Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith, only three times fewer greenhouse
gases than modern natural-gas power stations.
Contrary to the nuclear industry's propaganda, nuclear power is therefore
not green and it is certainly not clean. Nuclear reactors consistently
release millions of curies of radioactive isotopes into the air and
water each year. These releases are unregulated because the nuclear
industry considers these particular radioactive elements to be biologically
inconsequential. This is not so.
These unregulated isotopes include the noble gases krypton, xenon and
argon, which are fat-soluble and if inhaled by persons living near a
nuclear reactor, are absorbed through the lungs, migrating to the fatty
tissues of the body, including the abdominal fat pad and upper thighs,
near the reproductive organs. These radioactive elements, which emit
high-energy gamma radiation, can mutate the genes in the eggs and sperm
and cause genetic disease.
Tritium, another biologically significant gas, is also routinely emitted
from nuclear reactors. Tritium is composed of three atoms of hydrogen,
which combine with oxygen, forming radioactive water, which is absorbed
through the skin, lungs and digestive system. It is incorporated into
the DNA molecule, where it is mutagenic.
The dire subject of massive quantities of radioactive waste accruing
at the 442 nuclear reactors across the world is also rarely, if ever,
addressed by the nuclear industry. Each typical 1000-megawatt nuclear
reactor manufactures 33tonnes of thermally hot, intensely radioactive
waste per year.
Already more than 80,000 tonnes of highly radioactive waste sits in
cooling pools next to the 103 US nuclear power plants, awaiting transportation
to a storage facility yet to be found. This dangerous material will
be an attractive target for terrorist sabotage as it travels through
39 states on roads and railway lines for the next 25 years.
But the long-term storage of radioactive waste continues to pose a problem.
The US Congress in 1987 chose Yucca Mountain in Nevada, 150km northwest
of Las Vegas, as a repository for America's high-level waste. But Yucca
Mountain has subsequently been found to be unsuitable for the long-term
storage of high-level waste because it is a volcanic mountain made of
permeable pumice stone and it is transected by 32 earthquake faults.
Last week a congressional committee discovered fabricated data about
water infiltration and cask corrosion in Yucca Mountain that had been
produced by personnel in the US Geological Survey. These startling revelations,
according to most experts, have almost disqualified Yucca Mountain as
a waste repository, meaning that the US now has nowhere to deposit its
expanding nuclear waste inventory.
To make matters worse, a study released last week by the National Academy
of Sciences shows that the cooling pools at nuclear reactors, which
store 10 to 30 times more radioactive material than that contained in
the reactor core, are subject to catastrophic attacks by terrorists,
which could unleash an inferno and release massive quantities of deadly
radiation -- significantly worse than the radiation released by Chernobyl,
according to some scientists.
This vulnerable high-level nuclear waste contained in the cooling pools
at 103 nuclear power plants in the US includes hundreds of radioactive
elements that have different biological impacts in the human body, the
most important being cancer and genetic diseases.
The incubation time for cancer is five to 50 years following exposure
to radiation. It is important to note that children, old people and
immuno-compromised individuals are many times more sensitive to the
malignant effects of radiation than other people.
I will describe four of the most dangerous elements made in nuclear
Iodine 131, which was released at the nuclear accidents at Sellafield
in Britain, Chernobyl in Ukraine and Three Mile Island in the US, is
radioactive for only six weeks and it bio-concentrates in leafy vegetables
and milk. When it enters the human body via the gut and the lung, it
migrates to the thyroid gland in the neck, where it can later induce
thyroid cancer. In Belarus more than 2000 children have had their thyroids
removed for thyroid cancer, a situation never before recorded in pediatric
Strontium 90 lasts for 600 years. As a calcium analogue, it concentrates
in cow and goat milk. It accumulates in the human breast during lactation,
and in bone, where it can later induce breast cancer, bone cancer and
Cesium 137, which also lasts for 600 years, concentrates in the food
chain, particularly meat. On entering the human body, it locates in
muscle, where it can induce a malignant muscle cancer called a sarcoma.
Plutonium 239, one of the most dangerous elements known to humans, is
so toxic that one-millionth of a gram is carcinogenic. More than 200kg
is made annually in each 1000-megawatt nuclear power plant. Plutonium
is handled like iron in the body, and is therefore stored in the liver,
where it causes liver cancer, and in the bone, where it can induce bone
cancer and blood malignancies. On inhalation it causes lung cancer.
It also crosses the placenta, where, like the drug thalidomide, it can
cause severe congenital deformities. Plutonium has a predisposition
for the testicle, where it can cause testicular cancer and induce genetic
diseases in future generations. Plutonium lasts for 500,000 years, living
on to induce cancer and genetic diseases in future generations of plants,
animals and humans.
Plutonium is also the fuel for nuclear weapons -- only 5kg is necessary
to make a bomb and each reactor makes more than 200kg per year. Therefore
any country with a nuclear power plant can theoretically manufacture
40 bombs a year.
Because nuclear power leaves a toxic legacy to all future generations,
because it produces global warming gases, because it is far more expensive
than any other form of electricity generation, and because it can trigger
proliferation of nuclear weapons, these topics need urgently to be introduced
into the tertiary educational system of Australia, which is host to
30 per cent to 40 per cent of the world's richest uranium.
Helen Caldicott is an anti-nuclear campaigner and founder and president
of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, which warns of the danger
of nuclear energy.
© 2005 The Australian
French Government: Deliberately Lied to Public After Chernobyl
French Finally Confront Chernobyl Risks
December 16, 2005
PARIS, Apr 1 (IPS) - The French government concealed the enormous risks
from radioactive clouds in the weeks following the explosion at the
Chernobyl nuclear plant in April 1986, new evidence claims.
Official documents presented at a judicial inquiry in Paris this week
supported claims made earlier by several independent scientists and
by people suffering from cancer, especially of the thyroid glands.
The documents presented at the inquiry include a report by two nuclear
scientists, Paul Genty and Gilbert Mouthon based on documents classified
earlier as confidential. Their report says French authorities had "full
knowledge" that radioactivity detected in France had surpassed
The Central Service for Protection against Ionic Radiation (SCPRI, after
its French name) "obviously concealed information at its disposal,
and denied that high risks of contamination existed," they say.
"As consequence, basic measures such as the administration of iodine
(to the population at risjk) were never put in practice."
The explosion at the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl in Ukraine, then
a part of the Soviet Union, released numerous radioactive elements including
iodine 131, an isotope that attacks the thyroids and provokes glandular
cancer. Regular iodine pills are a known antidote.
Other documents that surfaced at the judicial hearings in Paris this
week include minutes of government meetings at which officials warned
of considerable health risks associated with the consumption of fresh
vegetables and milk.
"We have figures (of radioactive contamination) that cannot be
made public," an official had said at the meeting then. He gave
an example: "goat milk: more than 10,000 becquerel per litre"
(becquerel is a unit for measuring decay brought on by radioactivity).
European legislation at the time required that all food products containing
more than 500 becquerel per litre of iodine 131 be taken off the shelves.
After the explosion at Chernobyl Apr. 26, all European governments ordered
urgent measures to protect their people from radioactivity. In Germany
the government banned consumption of fresh vegetables for a month, starting
May 1986. It also banned fresh milk for children.. All swimming pools
were closed, and sports activities in open air were declared dangerous.
The Italian government banned the sale of fresh vegetables starting
May 12, and recommended that pregnant women and children under 10 avoid
fresh milk. It set up strict border controls on all food products from
Similar measures were taken across Europe. Austria, Sweden, Denmark
and Finland stopped children from playing in open air, and ordered substitution
of fresh dairy products by powder milk.
Only France refused to take such measures. On May 6 that year the ministry
of agriculture reassured people that "French territory, due to
its distance (from Chernobyl), has totally avoided being affected by
In another statement early in May, then environment minister Alain Carignon
said the government had found "levels of radioactivity far below
danger, five, ten, hundred times below dangerous levels."
But the documents presented at the inquiry this week show that French
agencies commonly found radioactivity levels of between 2000 and 4000
becquerels per litre in milk and other food products.
The present judicial inquiry was initiated in 2001 by 51 people suffering
from thyroid cancer, who associate their illness with the Chernobyl
radioactive cloud, and by the Research Commission on Radioactivity,
an independent group of scientists who have been studying nuclear contamination
in France since the early 1990s.
"Even if we do not have all the conclusions yet, experts shows
the dimensions of the cover-up launched by the government of the time,"
Emmanuel Ludot, legal representative of some of the victims of thyroids
cancer, told IPS.
Ludot said his clients were not expecting any "confession"
from the politicians who mismanaged the case, "but because the
political responsibility is clearly established, the government should
create an indemnification fund to aid the victims of the Chernobyl radioactivity
to deal with their disease."
Stephane Lhomme, spokesperson of the group 'Get rid of nuclear power'
said the French government had its own reasons for downplaying the risk.
"In France, which has 58 nuclear power stations, and depends up
to 80 percent on nuclear power for the generation of electricity, governments
do not want to associate nuclear power with health risks," he told
IPS. "Therefore, Chernobyl was for the government at that time
a most unwelcome catastrophe, whose risks had to be concealed, in order
to avoid the emergence of people's opposition to nuclear power."
The Goat Reminds Us:
Animals Died at Three Mile Island
Dr. Robert Weber fits the
Norman Rockwell image of a country veterinarian. Of gentle countenance
but powerfully built, Weber wore his western-style hat and handlebar
mustache into the lavishly paneled hearing room of the Pennsylvania
Public Utilities Commission, where, in March of 1980, public testimony
was being heard on the accident at TMI.
Though the intricacies of debate over curies, millirems, and isotopes
meant little to Weber, he had a pretty clear idea of what was happening
to the animals of his clients. And when the PUC finally held hearings,
just shy of a year after the accident, Weber came straight to the point.
Ever since the accident, he said, he was getting calls to treat stillbirths
among pigs near TMI at the rate of two per week. Normally he treated
two such cases per year. He had been practicing out of Mechanicsburg
since the 1940s and had never seen an epidemic like it. Hormones that
usually aided the pigs in dilation had failed to work.
And that spring of 1980 he was having to do two caesarean sections per
week on local goats and sheep, also an extraordinary rate.
Weber was immediately challenged by a lawyer from Metropolitan Edison,
who demanded to know if Weber was saying that radiation from TMI had
caused the problem.
"I am not prepared to say it is radiation," the veterinarian
replied. "I do not know what the cause is."
But outside in the hall Weber told us that if ever animals had served
as radiation monitors in a nuclear accident, this was the time. "A
lot of these problems are happening right in the path of TMI,"
he said. "I won't say for sure it's the power plant that's causing
it. But I can't imagine what else is going on down there." In fact
the "heavy run" of birthing problems among pigs came "right
after the plant went bad. I don't know if we were in some kind of streak.
The samples haven't come up with any particular diseases that might
be causing it.
Weber also told us he had seen plenty of cases to support the affidavits
Jane Lee had accumulated. "Since 1976 I've been noticing cows that
have gone down after they had their calves and couldn't walk. They didn't
have typical milk fever, but we don't know what they did have. They
were just down and we had to get rid of at least two of them. Everything
I used just wouldn't work." He added that things had gotten significantly
worse after the accident, including an increase in Hodgkin's disease
among dogs, and widespread complaints that deer, pheasant, and other
game had all but disappeared from the area.
Charles Conley confirmed that pattern. "My daddy bought this farm
in 1912," he told The (Baltimore) News-American. "I've had
more trouble in two years than he had in all the years he farmed."
Conley noted that soon after the accident the bark peeled off a maple
tree in his front yard. "My wheat crop was not good that year,"
he complained. "The fruit's been small and some of the vegetables
just plain curled up. Birds disappeared too. After the accident, there
wouldn't be any of them swarming around behind the plows like they always
do. We used to have all kinds here. Used to be you'd have twenty-five
robins out there in the backyard. This year  I've only seen one.
I found a bunch of starlings that just flew into the hay mow and died.
And my brother, he found a robin that just keeled over in a peach basket.
That thing killed the snakes, too. We don't have any copperheads around
here, but the garter and black snakes, you used to see a lot of them.
Now you don't."
At Jane Lee's house the number of complaints from farmers reporting
animal problems increased dramatically after the accident. Down the
road at Emma Whitehall's--which in 1978 had reported 290 duck eggs that
would not hatch--a nanny goat inexplicably aborted twins eight days
after the accident. Located less than three miles from TMI, the farm
soon thereafter saw two other pregnant nannies die mysteriously, along
with twenty-six newborn rabbits and nineteen guinea pigs.
At the nearby James Fitzgerald farm, a colt was born deformed. At the
Mary Ann Fisher place, across the river in Middletown, a litter of kittens
inexplicably died. At Fran Cain's dog kennel, a quarter mile from the
reactor, a poodle was born with no eyes.
One after another the complaints of sterility; stillbirths; malformations;
disease; unexplained deaths; disappearance of game, snakes, and wild
insects; and wilting of vegetation arrived in increasing numbers in
the wake of the accident.
1. Robert Weber, interview, March 1980.
2. Hammel, "Second Accident."
3. Charles Conley, interview, March 1980.
4. Jane Lee, interview, March 1980.
Pennsylvania's Official Findings
In mid-May the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (DOA) decided
to conduct a study of its own. The department's information director,
John Nikoloff, told us that the survey was done in two days--May 23
and 24--and that it involved ten department staff, two of whom were
veterinarians. Nikoloff said that one hundred person-hours were devoted
to interviewing one hundred farmers. According to the survey only five
of them complained of abnormal problems.
Nikoloff emphasized that the study, which was untitled, was informal
and "for internal use only." It was not sophisticated or thorough,
but rather a "spot check" that was done by compiling a rough
list of the dairy farms within five miles of the plant and arranging
for interviewers to stop off--unannounced--at other farms along the
way "if they had time."
Nikoloff added that the department had done a few autopsies, but not
as many as they would have liked. "In a way we're stuck,"
he said, "because most of the animals that get reported with problems
are dead and gone before we can autopsy them." The dozen-odd animals
the state had tested had shown no evidence of radiation damage. Thus
on the basis of that and the small number of complaints Nikoloff and
the DOA had concluded that there was "no evidence that would indicate
any animal problems in the area that had anything to do with radiation
In April of 1980, more than a year after the accident, The New York
Times editorial board relied on the DOA survey in a strongly worded
opinion piece called "Nuclear Fabulists," which dealt largely
with the growing controversy over human infant-mortality rates near
TMI. The "reports of bizarre deformities among farm animals and
wildlife" had been discredited, they wrote. The problems "were
attributed to viral infections or to feed and poor nutrition; there
was no evidence of radiation damage."
But three months after the editorial appeared, an investigative team
from The (Baltimore) News-American reported that the DOA study was "worthless."
The concerns of local farmers had been "vastly underreported."
The state's "data erred. Their conclusions were wrong."
In a four-page feature written primarily by investigative reporter Laura
T. Hammel, The News-American charged that not 5 percent, but at least
40 percent of the farmers listed in the DOA survey complained of problems
with plants and animals that dated not just after the accident, but
to the opening of TMI-1.
Dairy farmer Joseph Conley (a cousin to Charles, whom we interviewed
earlier) told The News-American that beginning in 1974, the leaves on
his grape arbor turned white, limbs on his walnut trees shriveled and
died, and, in late 1978, just before the opening of TMI-2, his cattle
Shortly after the 1979 accident two of his cows aborted, ten of his
calves died soon after birth, his cats wouldn't breed, and his own family
began acting so sickly and sluggish that he packed up all his belongings
and moved to another county. But the DOA listed him as having "no
Richard Bailey, who raised cattle at York Haven, thirteen miles from
TMI, was also listed as having no problems. But he told The News-American
that within two months after the accident he lost six new calves in
a row. A seventh was born a midget. Prior to the accident he had lost
only ten calves to stillbirths in more than thirty years of farming.
Russell Whisler of Manchester, who was also listed in the DOA survey
as having no problems, said he had lost two ewes and four lambs from
abnormal pregnancies following the accident--and that the state knew
it. "They asked us what we had, and we told them," he said.
Jane Ressler of Elizabethtown, who complained of four horses suffering
stiff, swollen joints just after the accident, was also listed as having
no problems. She told The News-American, "We've had lots of problems.
I never talked to anyone from the government, and neither did my husband.
But I would have liked to."
According to reporter Hammel, at least thirty-five farmers listed in
the survey said their views had been misrepresented. At least three
said they told state inspectors they were having problems and were listed
as having none. And a number of animal inventories in the survey were
Several nearby farmers who had severe problems were never contacted
at all. One was Robert Ziegler of Newberry Township, directly across
the river from TMI. Two days after the accident Ziegler's hogs refused
to leave their pen and his chickens began flying wildly around their
coop. By mid-May twenty-seven chickens and eleven hogs were dead of
inexplicable causes. At harvesttime his corn was mushy and half-formed,
his oat crop was half its normal yield, and the bark had peeled off
a twenty-three-year-old walnut tree. Yet Ziegler was not in the survey,
while some farms eighty miles away were.
The reason for that, explained secretary of agriculture, Penrose Hallowell,
was to provide a "spot check" to see if "there was a
difference between the farms farther away and those close in."
Hallowell also said some of the faraway spreads were included because
the department "wanted to hit the biggest dairy farms in the area,
and they were generally outside the five-mile limit."
Yet the survey did include eleven families who were not farmers at all,
and it listed as having "no problems" the fifty-eight-acre
Manchester spread of Barbara and Homer Meyers, who said they had "no
contact" with state surveyors.
Nikoloff explained that the survey did include some animal owners who
were not farmers. And that some farmers who were being surveyed may
not have known it, because the work was being done by inspectors who
also routinely test milk, feed, and fertilizer in the area.
As for the large numbers of farmers who complained about additional
problems, Nikoloff told us he suspected that many of them might have
come to mind in the year between the state's survey and The News-American
So we asked him why the DOA had not done a follow-up. "We requested
no funding for further study," he replied. "The radiation
experts advised us there was no need to do it based on the amount of
radiation in the air. They told us we'd be wasting the taxpayers' time
Among the farmers themselves there was disbelief and anger. "We
aren't going to get any answers," concluded Vance Fisher, a sixty-year-old
Etters cattle farmer whose livestock had been dying. "Anyone who
works for the state is afraid to say anything against TMI."
"I have trouble believing anything they say," added Pat Baum,
a dairy farmer from Elizabethtown. "They didn't know what they
were doing when it all began, and I don't think they know what they're
"By the time we came around," News-American reporter Hammel
told us, "the hostility was so bad that I had to prove I was not
from the state before the farmers would talk to us."
Once they did, Hammel said she encountered "a lot of people who
didn't know each other who were telling us startlingly similar stories."
5. John Nikoloff, interview, March 1981; and Hammel, "Second Accident."
6. New York Times, "Nuclear Fabulists," April 18, 1980. The
editorial read in full: "Those scare stories about radiation damage
from the accident at Three Mile Island look increasingly far-fetched.
Federal officials have said all along that little radiation escaped,
posing virtually no threat to public health. Their judgment has been
supported by all major investigations of the accident. But rumors of
frightening physical damage to human and animal infants persist. "None
of these allegations have held up under careful scrutiny by disinterested
authorities. The only real health damage detected so far has been psychological.
For example a report made public yesterday says that many of the community's
residents remained distressed for months and resorted to sedatives and
alcohol for relief. Their anxiety could only have been heightened by
the `experts' and critics who have issued alarming statements about
radiation hazards based on scant or distorted data. "The most worrisome
charge has been that radiation from the crippled reactor has already
caused an increase in infant mortality and thyroid defects in newborn
babies. Those fears were effectively laid to rest by state and Federal
health investigators, as reported in The Times by Jane Brody. The concern
about infant mortality was based largely on raw statistics showing an
increase in the number of infant deaths within a ten-mile radius of
the reactor after the accident. But those numbers in themselves are
meaningless; there was also an increase in the total number of births.
The rate of infant deaths remained normal. "Similarly, the concern
over thyroid disease was based on unevaluated statistics showing, in
three counties, a possibly abnormal number of children born with thyroid
defects. But on investigation, most of these cases were attributed to
hereditary defects or other circumstances predating the nuclear accident.
Four counties equally close to the reactor, or closer, had no such cases
at all. "Reports of bizarre deformities among farm animals and
wildlife have also circulated. Worried farmers and at least one veterinarian
have described animals born with legs or eyes missing, stillbirths,
spontaneous abortions, defective bone structures and sudden deaths.
Many blame the reactor. But the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
investigated 100 farms within five miles of the reactor last May and
found only five with any unusual problems among livestock. These were
attributed to viral infections or to feed and poor nutrition; there
was no evidence of radiation damage. "Several long-term studies
are still under way. But for now the public can draw considerable reassurance
from these negative findings. It is not only apologists for the nuclear
industry who say that radiation damage has been negligible; so do health
officials whose main concern is the public's safety, and agriculture
officials whose mission is protecting farmers and livestock. "What
is not at all reassuring is the behavior of `experts' who have inflamed
fears by dealing recklessly with statistics. Dr. Gordon MacLeod, who
was Pennsylvania's Secretary of Health at the time of the accident but
was later forced to resign by the governor, irresponsibly publicized
some of the raw data suggesting the existence of health problems. And
Dr. Ernest Sternglass, a perennial campaigner against nuclear power,
is accused by neutral health authorities of mishandling data to demonstrate
health damage. Even in nuclear fables there are people who cry wolf."
7. Hammel, "Second Accident."
11. Nikoloff interview.
12. Hammel, "Second Accident."
13. Laura T. Hammel, interview, January 1981.
The NRC Steps In
By the summer of 1980 stories about Dr. Weber, Jane Lee, Charles Conley,
and other area farmers had begun to seep into the media. It was
precisely the kind of publicity the industry could least stand. The
reactors were operating at roughly 65 percent of full capacity; originally
the industry had promised 80 percent. And with just seventy plants on
line, atomic power was producing a net of just 9 percent of the U.S.
electricity supply, and less than 2 percent of all U.S. energy. After
thirty-five years of research and development, $40 billion in taxpayer
subsidies, and more than $100 billion in utility investments, commercial
reactors were providing American consumers with less usable energy than
In the wake of TMI came a federal moratorium on licensing. With no new
orders coming in, construction costs soaring, electricity demand on
the downswing, and the waste question still unresolved, the economic
underpinnings of the peaceful atom seemed shakier than ever.
And now the political pillars were crumbling as well. On May 6, just
five weeks after the TMI accident, more than 100,000 nuclear opponents
gathered at the national capital in Washington to protest the radioactive
dangers highlighted by the mishap. On September 23 more than 200,000
gathered in lower Manhattan for an antinuclear rally and concert that
was the biggest American political gathering of the 1970s. Wherever
atomic reactors were operating or being built, local citizens were working
But nuclear power was not being abandoned. Those still in the industry
had billions of dollars invested. First and foremost, it seemed necessary
to dispel the idea that TMI had caused anyone any harm. And that meant
the animal question. Just as Nevada sheep had become the first visible
victims of the 1950s bomb tests, so the goats, pigs, cows, and cats
of central Pennsylvania seemed destined to play the role at the dawn
of the 1980s.
And like the AEC before it, the state of Pennsylvania stood firm. "There's
not a shred of evidence that there's been a radiation-connected problem,"
Governor Richard Thornburgh said of the farmers' complaints. "If
you could tell me of a single instance of a radiation-connected problem,
then we'd want to take a look."
But resistance at the state level to pursue the question further than
the limited DOA study remained firm. "There was not enough radiation
to give any evidence of any need to do such a study," said Robert
Furrer, a management analyst for the DOA. "To do more study would
have been chasing a ghost," added Nunzio Palladino, dean of Pennsylvania
State College of Engineering. "I wouldn't put a nickel toward more
study." In 1981 Palladino became chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory
Despite such opinions the NRC teamed up with the EPA to study the animals
around Three Mile Island in the spring of 1980. Headed by the NRC's
Germain LaRoche, the task force set about contacting those farmers who
had complained of problems with their animals. By the fall of 1980 their
investigation was complete and their conclusions firm--"no reasonable
connection" could be made between radiation from TMI and damage
to any nearby animals.
Among other things, the report said symptoms in cat and kitten deaths
and reproductive problems "suggest infectious diseases." Problems
in sheep, goats, and cows "suggest a nutritional deficiency."
The tendency of local cows to fall down also seemed to be a dietary
problem. Hatching problems with duck and goose eggs "could have
come about because of fluctuation in incubator temperatures where incubators
Overall the report concluded that "while many of the symptoms reported
are characteristic of radiation sickness," many were also "diagnosed
as common occurrences in domestic and wild animals." As a whole
"no relationship can be established between the operation of TMI
or the accidental releases of radioactivity and the reported health
Published in October of 1980, the study immediately became national
news. The New York Times accepted it as definitive proof that the farmers'
claims were without basis. In November the Times printed an editorial
entitled "Goat Stories from Three Mile Island," which stated
with confidence that the "findings are clear. None of the plant
or animal defects can be attributed either to the accident or to normal
nuclear operations at Three Mile Island. Many of the animal defects,
in fact, were traced to the carelessness of the protesting farmers."
Unequivocally revealing the paper's point of view, the editorial said
reproductive problems in one goat had been solved with "a new buck."
Horses that failed to breed had "a chronic infection." Calves
that "could not stand or walk without staggering" suffered
"nutritional deficiencies." Damage to plants and trees was
"traced to disease and insects, not radiation."
Thus, said the Times, "the horror stories evaporate." The
TMI accident was "highly dramatic and frightening," but it
"caused no defects in Pennsylvania's woods and barnyards."
The Times's editorial was reproduced and distributed by nuclear-committed
utilities around the country. It was taken by many as a final word that
the farmers near TMI were simply off base. But apparently neither the
Times's editorial board nor much of the major media had read the NRC/EPA
report carefully. Its authors had warned in their introduction that
the survey "should in no way be thought of as an epidemiological
study." There were, they said, numerous cases "that could
not be investigated in depth because not enough data were available."
There was also a "lack of background information" on many
diseases in the area.
According to Germain LaRoche, whom we contacted by telephone in early
1981, the authors of the report "did not survey animals. We surveyed
people and reports from the lab. We got a list of problems from the
state and contacted as many of the farmers as we could."
In other words the Pennsylvania DOA's sketchy 1979 survey, which had
been labeled "worthless" by The (Baltimore) News-American,
had served as the basis for the "definitive" federal study
of animal problems around the nation's biggest reactor accident. And
in fact the NRC had contacted even fewer farmers--a year later--than
had the state. "We did not go to all those people," LaRoche
told us. "But we did go to quite a few."
Nor was there any improvement in actual testing of livestock. "We
did not see any animals," LaRoche explained. "We did not do
any autopsies. This [study] was done over a year after the accident.
By the time we did our survey, all those animals had died or had been
In fact the final NRC/EPA report listed fewer than thirty-five cases
involving animal problems near TMI. In more than half of them the investigators
conceded that there were insufficient data to draw any conclusions about
radiation poisoning one way or the other. Under the category of farm
animal reproductive problems, for example, the report listed fourteen
different cases. In ten of them the researchers acknowledged having
either no data, insufficient data, or "cause unknown."
As for the reports of Dr. Robert Weber that stillbirths and malformations
among area pigs were epidemic, there was no survey or interview. The
authors simply noted that "episodes of farm animals requiring caesarean
delivery of young were reported after the accident." A repeat of
"this specific problem was not evident in 1980; however, an increase
of stillbirths in pigs was reported during the spring of 1980."
There was no systematic poll of local veterinarians, no tabulated survey
of area pig farmers.
"Similar problems in goats and sheep were also reported,"
said the authors. "But increases in the number of stillbirths in
these animals were not observed. Again, these problems do not appear
to be recurring events. Sterility and lower reproductive rates, especially
in ducks and goats, have been reported but not confirmed."
The study went on to note that an "oral report by a private citizen"
had indicated a poodle was born in an unspecified location "without
one eye socket." In fact the dog--as John Nikoloff of the state
DOA later confirmed--was born with two eye sockets but no eyeballs at
Fran Cain's kennel near the plant. Its case had been widely reported
in the media, but the NRC never visited the kennel. Instead it concluded
that the problem "was probably a developmental malformation, cause
unknown." In a cross section of nine other cases the findings
were similarly inconclusive. In half of the remaining cases shipping
fever, foot rot, nutritional deficiencies, virus, and several other
diseases were mentioned. "Insufficient data" and "no
diagnosis" accounted for the majority.
As for the widely reported disappearance of wildlife, the report blamed
pesticides and the weather. There was no mention of independent studies
showing high radiation levels in local rabbits, meadow voles, and milk.
To support one of the most crucial official health contentions in American
history, the NRC and EPA had cited less than two dozen year-old autopsies
and performed none on its own; presented no systematic survey of area
hunters, farmers, gardeners, veterinarians, doctors, breeders, or fishermen;
and made no substantial contributions to the very brief two-day survey
done a year before by the state. "I was disappointed in the NRC's
report," said Pennsylvania's John Nikoloff. "I felt with their
resources they could have done a better job."
Still the commission was prepared to promise that "concerned citizens
may be assured that in keeping with its mission to safeguard the public
health and safety, the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will
continue to investigate reports of unusual problems experienced with
plants and animals, and any pertinent findings will be made available."
Had the NRC investigated more thoroughly, it might have found some important
evidence. In early 1981, two years after the accident, Dr. Robert Weber,
the Mechanicsburg vet, told us the plague of birthing problems among
pigs, goats, and sheep had come to an end. "Since the plant's been
shut," he said, "there are no down cows or animals with hypertension
or mental conditions over there. There's been a decline in everything
that we had a lot of last year. I hardly get a call to go over there
"Since they shut the place down," added Charles Conley, "why,
things have been much better. Had a good crop, and some of the birds
are back." Conley was one of many local farmers to claim a
noticeable improvement in the health of his animals in the wake of the
TMI shutdown. He also told us the mysterious white powder that had been
plaguing his rainwater had not reappeared since the plant shutdown.
In fact the NRC/EPA investigators spent a good deal of time tracing
tales of the powder. But with TMI shut, none was to be found. "We
asked all over for farmers to bring us in a sample of that white powder,"
said Germain LaRoche. "The only thing we got was some stuff from
a woman that turned out to be mildew."
On a broader scale a survey of "fresh water cooling towers throughout
the country has not shown any evidence of white powder," said the
report. But somehow they missed a white residue reported by residents
as close as Shippingport, reports that were nationally syndicated by
Jack Anderson in 1977. Statements of strange residues coming from the
sky near Vermont Yankee also went uninvestigated.
Nor, apparently, did the government give much credence to a broad cross
section of experienced, deeply rooted, conservative Pennsylvania farmers
who were--like sheepherders downwind from the Nevada Test Site, like
Herschel Bennett in Arkansas, like Nancy Weber in upstate New York,
like Lloyd Mixon at Rocky Flats, like Mildred Zywna at Vermont Yankee,
like Emil Zimmerman at West Valley, like Clarence Ransome near Canon
City--simply unable to find any other possible explanation for the unprecedented
plague of diseases among their animals except nearby sources of human-made
14. The Progressive, June 1980; Village Voice, March 1980; Pacific News
Service, March 25, 1980; Valley Advocate, March 26, 1980; Pawlick, "Silent
Toll"; New York Times, March 27, 1980. There were also numerous
radio reports dealing with the animal problems around TMI.
15. For information on rising capital costs of atomic reactors versus
coal-fired plants, see Komonoff, Power Plant Cost Escalation. For a
table of falling reactor orders, see the Atomic Industrial Forum, The
Nuclear Industry in 1980: A Rocky Road to Recovery (Washington, D.C.:
Atomic Industrial Forum), January 19, 1981. The release, full of optimism
for "some good years," was characterized as "whistling
past the graveyard" by Anthony Parisi, in "Hard Times for
Nuclear Power," New York Times Magazine, April 12, 1981. According
to the AIF, in 1980 there were sixteen reactors canceled in the U.S.
against no new orders. There were sixty-nine postponements. The comparison
of nuclear energy output to firewood comes from Tim Glidden, project
manager of the Resource Policy Center, Dartmouth College. In a June
1981 interview Glidden said he calculated the 1980 usable energy output
of U.S. nuclear power plants at 0.868 quads; that of wood was 1.351
quads. The nuclear figure did not account for energy consumed in the
enrichment of uranium for reactor use, which could lower it by 25 percent,
or for energy used in attempting to deal with nuclear waste.
16. Hammel, "Second Accident."
18. G. E. Gears, et al., Investigations of Report Plant and Animal Health
Effects in the Three Mile Island Area NRC and EPA, NUREG-0738 and EPA
600/4-80-049 (Washington,D.C.: NRC and EPA, October l980), p.31 (hereafter
cited as NRC/EPA Animal Study).
19. New York Times, "Goat Stories from Three Mile Island,"
November 23, 1980. The editorial read in full: "Remember those
frightening stories about deformed animals and dead vegetation around
the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island? Not just the anti-nuclear crowd
spread the tales of unusual animal deaths, stillbirths, broken bones,
missing eyes--even a glowing fish. Reports came from farmers, housewives
and a veterinarian who had long practiced in the area. Here was the
evidence, some said, that the radiation from nuclear power plants, including
even normal releases, can cause devastating biological injury. "Well,
the results of a thorough investigation of plant and animal defects
are now in. The inquiry was run by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
with the help of two agencies that are highly sensitive to biological
harm--the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, looking out for farmers
and livestock, and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, which
safeguards the public. "The findings are clear. None of the plant
or animal defects can be attributed either to the accident or to normal
nuclear operations at Three Mile Island. Many of the animal defects,
in fact, were traced to the carelessness of the protesting farmers.
"Calves that could not stand, or walk without staggering, turned
out to be suffering nutritional deficiences; when fed mineral and vitamin
supplements, their problems disappeared. Goats that failed to produce
offspring were found to be victims of genetic infertility; when a new
buck was tried, reproduction soared. Horses that failed to breed were
found to have a chronic infection. A group of 500 parakeets, canaries
and other birds succumbed to toxic fumes or an overheated aviary; they
showed no signs of radiation injury. A decline in the sightings of toads
was hardly peculiar to Three Mile Island; it had been recorded all over
the East, and for two decades, and may be attributable to pesticides.
Suspicious damage to plants and trees was traced to disease and insects,
not radiation. A few cases of animal anemia were nowhere near the radioactive
plume. "So the horror stories evaporate. That is not unusual. People
often blame a highly dramatic and frightening event for unrelated difficulties.
The wise citizen withholds judgment until hysteria subsides and dispassionate
investigators assemble the facts. Three Mile Island taught a lot about
the defects of nuclear plants, but it caused no defects in Pennsylvania's
woods and barnyards."
20. Germain LaRoche, interview, February 1981.
21. NRC/EPA Animal Study, pp. 19-26.
22. Ibid., pp. 19-20.
23. Ibid., p. 8; and Nikoloff interview.
24. Nikoloff, interview, March 1981.
25. NRC/EPA Animal Study, p. 1.
26. Weber, interview, February 1981.
27. Conley, interview, October 1980.
28. LaRoche interview.