(ANTIMEDIA)Los Angeles, CA — The United States government deliberately hid “the worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history,” according to experts and an in-depth investigation by NBC4 Southern California. Whistleblowers have also come forward to expose the little-known catastrophe, which occurred north of Los Angeles in 1959 and leaked over 300 times the allowable amount of radiation into surrounding neighborhoods. That contamination is now linked to up to a 60% increase in cancer in the area, but the government still refuses to acknowledge its colossal mistake.
The ongoing tragedy was driven by America’s darkest demons, from dogmatic militarism to aggressive corporatism, and ongoing government and corporate efforts to cover-up the disaster are nothing short of staggering.
Whistleblower John Pace, now in his seventies, started working at the facility in January of 1959 and was present on the day of the partial meltdown. He says he has spoken out in recent years because of his guilty conscience. “The radiation in that building got so high, it went clear off the scale,” Pace recalled to NBC4. “They were not able to contain the radiation that was leaking from the reactor.” Blaming equipment failure, Pace said the men working at the facility had two choices: let the reactor explode, a nuclear detonation Pace says “would have been just like the Chernobyl reactor blowing up,” or open the reactor and let the radiation flow out into the atmosphere.
“Do we blow up with it or do we let [the radiation] go?” Pace recalled debating. He was 20 years old. Some workers expressed concerns the wind would blow the radiation directly into the nearby neighborhoods — where their families lived — but with heavy hearts (and upon orders), they opted to release the radiation to avoid a devastating explosion.
As NBC4 documents, “Pace says that dangerous radiation was released for weeks and went whichever direction the wind was blowing. Pace says the large door in the reactor was opened so they could vent the radiation from inside the building. He also remembers that the exhaust stack of the reactor was opened so that radiation could be released from inside the damaged reactor straight into the atmosphere.”
“Each time they started and stopped the reactor . . . radiation from the reactor was released,” he said in 2009 when he began to speak out about the disaster. Supervisors at the facility reportedly barred employees from wearing radiation-detecting film badges, knowing that if they were worn, they would detect radiation “higher than the allowable limit.”
Pace said he and all of the other workers were “sworn to secrecy” and his boss “[got] right in his face” to make it clear. He says he and his coworkers were “just following orders.” “Nobody knows the truth of what actually happened,” he added.
A 2007 University of Michigan study — commissioned two years earlier by the very same ATSDR that found there was no risk in 2009 — found rates of cancer increased as much as 60% in areas surrounding the SSFL. NBC4 identified countless residents stricken with cancer who are convinced their proximity to SSFL has led to serious health problems throughout their lives:
- The Selzer family, which has no history of cancer, has been devastated by the disease:
- Three of three sisters have struggled with various cancers for years and recently lost their mother to cancer. The daughters played in, swam in, and drank the water running down the hills from SSFL.
- Bonnie Klea, who worked at the facility as a lab secretary from 1963 to 1971, developed bladder cancer and says people in 14 of 15 homes on her street also developed cancer.
- Krista Slack suffers from “triple-negative” breast cancer, a rare condition linked to people of African-American and Jewish descent. Slack is neither and her doctor suspects her illness is due to the fact that she grew up in Simi Valley. Her mother died of cancer last year.
- Arline Mathews lost her son to a rare brain cancer linked to exposure to radiation. When he was in high school, he ran through the Santa Susana hills while training for cross country. Arline Mathews’ grandson now has leukemia, a condition linked to parents with damaged genetic material.
- Ralph Powell worked as a security guard at SFFL and remembers being covered in flames at the Burn Pits. “I saw clouds of smoke that was[sic] engulfing my friends, that[sic] are dying now,” Powell said. He also worries he carried radioactive material into his home that caused his son to develop leukemia. He died at the age of eleven.
There are more cases like these, but officials continue to downplay the health dangers.
The Adjacent Children’s Summer Camp
SSFL is located directly next to the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, a Jewish cultural and community center that has been in Simi Valley since 1947 — the same year SSFL was built. The establishment also runs a children’s summer camp that hosts 30,000 children every year. In 1993, an EPA-supervised study found “radioactive elements” in a limited number of soil samples from the Brandeis property, leading Brandeis-Bardin to file a legal complaint against several entities in December of 1995.
Read more at The Worst Nuclear Disaster in US History That You’ve Never Heard About