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Cancer and Infant Mortality at Three Mile Island

By JOHN LAFORGE | CounterPunch | March 27, 2015

The partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, March 28, 1979, involved the loss-of-coolant, the melting of half its fuel, a hydrogen explosion in the “containment” building,(i) the uncontrolled, frightening buildup of explosive hydrogen in the reactor vessel, the venting of radioactive gases, and the dumping of contaminated water into a major source public drinking water. The accident caused such a scare that it ended the expansion of nuclear power in the US. Today, reactor builds can’t keep up with closures.

Yet the human health consequences of TMI aren’t well known, and official cover-ups, propaganda and ignorance of radiation-induced illnesses have led to trivialization of the disaster. As Gar Smith notes in his 2012 book Nuclear Roulette, public officials issued one false statement after another for days, like: there were no radiation releases; radiation releases were “controlled”; radiation releases were “insignificant”; there was no melting of the reactor fuel; there was never any danger of an explosion; there was no need to evacuate close communities. In fact, TMI’s failed containment released a plume of radiation “about 100 times more significant than the initial estimates offered” by the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — which still doesn’t know how much radiation was released or where it went.

David Lochbaum of the Union of Concern Scientists estimates between 40 million curies and 100 million curies escaped during the accident. President Carter’s Kemeny Commission estimated about 15 million curies of radioactive gas was vented from the containment building, including 43,000 curies of krypton-85(ii) — which stays in the environment for 100 years — and 15-to-24 curies of radioactive iodine-131.(iii) (A curie is a huge amount of radiation — 37 billion disintegrations per second.) The NRC later admitted to several “deliberate but uncontrolled releases” of the cancer-causing gases. Estimates of these airborne releases are mere guesses, because half of the outside radiation monitors were not working, and of those that worked, a large number of them went off-scale.(iv)

Approximately 400,000 gallons of highly radioactive cooling water leaked from the reactor into “containment” areas. This water was secretly dumped into the Susquehanna River, a source of drinking water for nearby communities.(v) Later, about 2.3 million gallons of radioactively contaminated cooling water were allowed to be “evaporated” into the atmosphere.(vi)

On the third day of the venting and dumping, half the population within 15 miles — 144,000 people — fled the area. By this time the bulk of the airborne radiation gusher had already been spewed and was drifting on the wind. Yet the Kemeny Commission ignored all data on the effects of wind-borne radiation, even though the wind blew 6-to-9 mph toward upstate New York and western Pennsylvania.(vii)

“Nobody died at Three Mile Island” — unless you count babies

In 1980, Pennsylvania State Health Department authorities reported a sharp rise in hypothyroidism in newborn infants in the three counties downwind from the reactor. Late in 1979, four times as many infants as normal were born with the disease. The NRC said the increase was unrelated to radiation released by TMI.(viii) Upwind incidence of the disease had dropped to below the national average.

Eric Epstein, Chair of Three Mile Island Alert had noted that in March 1982, the American Journal of Public Health reported, “During the first two quarters of 1978, the [newborn] mortality rate within a 10 mile radius of Three Mile Island was 8.6 and 7.6 per 1,000 live births, respectively. During the first quarter of 1979, following the startup of accident-prone Unit 2, the rate jumped to 17.2; it increased to 19.3 in the quarter following the accident at TMI, and returned to 7.8 and 9.3, respectively, in the last two quarters of 1979.” (Dr. Gordon MacLeod, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Health.)

A June 1991, Columbia University Health Study’s findings (Susser-Hatch) were published in the American Journal of Public Health. The data actually shows more than a doubling of observed cancers in areas near the partial meltdown, including lymphoma, leukemia, colon and the hormonal category of breast, endometrium, ovary, prostate, and testis. For leukemia and lung cancers in the six-to-12 kilometer distance from TMI, the number of observed cases was almost four times greater. In the zero-to-six kilometer range, colon cancer was 4 times greater. The study found “a statistically significant relationship between incidence rates after the accident and residential proximity to the plant.”

In the county where TMI is located, infant mortality (deaths of kids under one) soared 53.7% in the first month after the accident; the rate rose 27% in the first year after the accident. As originally published, the federal government’s own Monthly Vital Statistics Report shows a statistically significant rise in infant and over-all mortality rates shortly after the accident.

Studying 10 counties closest to TMI, Jay Gould and Benjamin Goldman, in their 1990 book Deadly Deceit, found that childhood cancers, other infant diseases, and deaths from birth defects were 15% to 35% higher than before the accident, and those from breast cancer 7% higher. These increases far exceeded those elsewhere in Pennsylvania.(ix) Gould suggests that between 50,000 and 100,000 excess deaths occurred after the TMI accident.

Joseph Mangano studied the three counties closest to TMI — Daupin, Lancaster, and York. He found that between 1980 and 1984, “death rates in these three counties were considerably higher than 1970-74 (before the reactor opened) for leukemia, female breast cancer, thyroid and bone and joint cancers.” Cancer deaths among kids fewer than 10 years of age (between 1980 and 1984) nearly doubled compared to the national rate.

The death and disease associated with TMI’s radiation releases were foretold by Roger Mattson, a Director of the Systems Safety Division at the NRC at the time. Mattson told the NRC’s members during the accident: “I’m not sure why you are not moving people. I don’t know what we are protecting at this point.”(x)

John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog group in Wisconsin, and edits its Quarterly.

NOTES

1. Daniel Ford, Three Mile Island, Viking Press, 1982, p. 237-238

2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: <http://www.nrc.gov/POA/gmo/tip/tip10.htm&gt;

3. John May, The Greenpeace Book of the Nuclear Age, Pantheon, 1989, p. 82

4. Dr. John Beyea, study for the National Audubon Society, 1984, in John May, above, pp. 220-221

5. Allen Hedge, Cornell University, “Systems Thinking,” August 2007, <ergo.human.cornell.edu/studentdownloads/DEA325/pdfs/systems.pdf> Stephen Pople, Oxford, Explaining Physics, GCSE Edition, Sec. 8, Electrons and Atoms, 1990, p. 323; and Report of the President’s Commission on the Accident at TMI, October 30, 1979

6. The Washington Post, March 28, 1989

7. Jay Gould and Benjamin Goldman, Deadly Deceit: Low Level Radiation, High Level Cover-Up, New York, Four Walls Eight Windows, 1990, p. 59

8. Boston Globe, February 23, 1980

9. Joseph Mangano, Low-Level Radiation and Immune System Damage: An Atomic Era Legacy, Lewis Publishers, New York, 1999, p. 65

10. Ford, Three Mile Island, p. 234

March 27, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | , , | Leave a comment

Three Mile Island, Global Warming and the CIA

By Aletho News | January 9, 2012

This article examines some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island.

In the mid 1970s “climate cooling” was the topic of articles in popular magazines such as Newsweek with reports of meteorologists being “almost unanimous” that the trend could lead to catastrophic famines, another little ice age or worse. In 1974 Time magazine published an article titled “Another Ice Age?.” In 1975 the New York Times ran an article titled “Scientists Ponder Why World’s Climate Is Changing; a Major Cooling Widely Considered to Be Inevitable,” while in 1978 they reported that “an international team of specialists has concluded from eight indexes of climate that there is no end in sight to the cooling trend of the last 30 years, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.”

Of course, it may be true that the “newspaper of record” is not the best source for topics that go beyond the pronouncements of official or “off the record” statements from government agents. However, it is instructive that the message changed by the end of the decade, after the March 28, 1979 accident at Three Mile Island which had sounded the death knell for the nuclear power industry that is.

Daniel Yergin writes that by the early 1980s “a notable shift in the climate of climate change research was clear-from cooling to warming.”1 Yergin reports that the Department of Defense’s JASON committee had found “incontrovertible evidence that the atmosphere is indeed changing and that we ourselves contribute to that change,” adding “a wait-and-see policy may mean waiting until it is too late.” Political action was now being called for. That action would entail reducing carbon emissions, something which could be achieved through increased reliance on the now unpopular nuclear power industry.

Nuclear weapons programs rely on the existence of large nuclear processing facilities including mining, milling and enrichment of uranium as well as a highly specialized and experienced labor pool. While it is possible to produce nuclear weapons without a nuclear power industry it is far preferable to have a dynamic nuclear industry in place. The nuclear facilities that existed in 1979 would not last forever and the industry was seen as an essential component of the military industrial complex. These factors may well have been over-riding considerations in the DoD JASON committee report.

One of the principle scientists engaged in formulating the AGW theory was Roger Revelle, a US Navy oceanographer who was employed at the Office of Naval Research. The US Navy was actually central to the development of the civilian nuclear power industry in the US due to its reactor designs for nuclear powered submarines and ships.

Another outspoken early proponent of AGW theory was Britain’s Margaret Thatcher who also sought the construction of new nuclear power plants as well as Trident nuclear submarines along with new nuclear weapons. Her Conservative party also sought to crush the coal miner’s unions with which they had intractable disputes. Britain went on to build new nuclear power plants during the 1980s while firing tens of thousands of coal miners.

In the US, the Carter administration sponsored the establishment of the solar energy industry, another carbon free energy source. George Tenet (later named as director of the CIA) became the promotion manager of the Solar Energy Industries Association which included companies such as Grumman, Boeing, General Motors and Exxon. The proposed ‘renewable’ and ‘green’ energy legislation over the decades consistently facilitated the viability of the development of new nuclear power plants. Other ‘alternative’ energy technologies were never seriously expected to become significant sources of electric power generation.

In 2008 another CIA director, James Woolsey, would also become involved in promoting “a Fortress America of tanks and solar panels, plug-in hybrids and nuclear reactors,”2 only in his case the service to the carbon free industry would come after the CIA stint rather than before. Woolsey has recently appeared in an anti-oil print ad for the American Clean Skies Foundation.

The Institute for Policy Studies reports on Woolsey’s focus as an energy security advisor to the John McCain presidential campaign:

A founding member of the Set America Free coalition, a pressure group aimed at highlighting the “security and economic implications of America’s growing dependence on foreign oil,” Woolsey sees himself as helping pioneer a new political coalition that combines his militarist security ideology with green politics. He says, “The combination of 9/11, concern about climate change, and $4 a gallon gasoline has brought a lot of people together. I call it the coalition of the tree-huggers, the do-gooders, the cheap hawks, the evangelicals, and the mom and pop drivers. All of those groups have good reasons to be interested in moving away from oil dependence.”3

The Set America Free coalition includes liberal groups such as the Apollo Alliance, the American Council on Renewable Energy and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

There is another significant bloc of support for the low carbon paradigm which has a foreign policy orientation. In promoting the reduction in reliance on Middle Eastern oil imports Woolsey is joined by prominent hawks such as Senator Joseph Lieberman, former Senator Sam Brownback, Representative Eliot Engel, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former national security adviser Robert McFarlane, Thomas Neumann of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum, Frank Gaffney head of the neoconservative Center for Security Policy (CSP), Cliff May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), Gary Bauer of American Values and Meyrav Wurmser of the Hudson Institute.

An outcome of energy independence would be greater freedom to initiate wars of aggression across the Middle East region that would destroy any potential resistance to the greater Israel project. Woolsey’s positions as an advisor to the neoconservative-led Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; and advisory board member of the Likudnik Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs might shed some light on his aims. The low carbon paradigm serves both the nuclear goals as well as the geo-political goals of the neoconservatives.

Update, May 22, 2013:

The WSJ has distilled the message into just five words: Going Green? Then Go Nuclear

Update, July 11, 2013:

Obama’s Climate Action Plan: Nuclear Energy?

…  nuclear energy forms a crucial component of President Obama’s climate action plan.

Notes

1Daniel Yergin, The Quest, Penguin Press

2 Jackson West, “R. James Woolsey and the Rise of the Greenocons

3 Tim Shipman, “John McCain Hires Former CIA Director Jim Woolsey As Green Advisor,” Daily Telegraph, June 21, 2008.

~

Also by Aletho News:

November 13, 2011

US forces to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria

September 19, 2011

Bush regime retread, Philip Zelikow, appointed to Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board

March 8, 2011

Investment bankers salivate over North Africa

January 2, 2011

Top Israel Lobby Senator Proposes Permanent US Air Bases For Afghanistan

October 10, 2010

‘A huge setback for, if not the end of, the American nuclear renaissance’

July 5, 2010

Progressive ‘Green’ Counterinsurgency

February 25, 2010

Look out for the nuclear bomb coming with your electric bill

February 7, 2010

The saturated fat scam: What’s the real story?

January 5, 2010

Biodiesel flickers out leaving investors burned

December 26, 2009

Mining the soil: Biomass, the unsustainable energy source

December 19, 2009

Carbonphobia, the real environmental threat

December 4, 2009

There’s more to climate fraud than just tax hikes

May 9, 2009

Obama, Starving Africans and the Israel Lobby

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Author: Atheo, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments