Nuclear Reactors

They All Fall Down:  In this AP photo, taken May 5, 1999, four reactor cooling towers are demolished with explosives in Germany. Germany now plans to spend $260 billion on energy infrastructure to faze out nuclear reactors completely.

The world now has 435 nuclear reactors and of these, 104 are in the United States, in addition to an unknown number of military reactors. Some European countries like Sweden and Germany are shutting down their reactors, but even after the Fukushima disaster,  the U.S. industry still hopes to promote new reactor construction.

Fuel for commercial reactors in the U.S. is currently manufactured at nine different facilities in Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio. 

Jane Rickover, daughter-in-law of Admiral Rickover, "the Father of the Nuclear Navy", said in a sworn statement on July 18, 1986:

"In May, 1983, my father-in-law, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, told me that at the time of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor accident, a full report was commissioned by President Jimmy Carter. He [my father-in-law] said that the report, if published in its entirety, would have destroyed the civilian nuclear power industry because the accident at Three Mile Island was infinitely more dangerous than was ever made public. He told me that he had used his enormous personal influence with President Carter to persuade him to publish the report only in a highly ‘diluted’ form. The President had originally wished the full report to be made public.
 "In November, 1985, my father-in-law told me that he had come to deeply regret his action in persuading President Carter to suppress the most alarming aspects of that report."

Numerous contaminated sites remain from past production, including the Kerr-Magee facility in Oklahoma where Karen Silkwood worked and died, trying to blow the whistle on dangerous safety violations.

The Aftermath of the Chernobyl Disaster (Read more about it)

Most people are familiar with the terrible reactor disaster when Chernobyl’s number four reactor exploded on April 26, 1986, spreading a radioactive cloud over much of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, parts of Western Europe and beyond. Fallout arrived above the United States nine days after the disaster. Fallout entered the U.S. environment and food chain through rainfall. Levels of iodine-131 in milk, for example, were seven to 28 times above normal in May and June 1986. The highest U.S. radiation levels were recorded in the Pacific Northwest.

Americans also consumed contaminated food imported from nations affected by the disaster. Four years later, 25 percent of imported food was found to be still contaminated. Little research on Chernobyl health effects in the United States has been conducted, the authors found, but one study by the Radiation and Public Health Project found that in the early 1990s, a few years after the meltdown, thyroid cancer in Connecticut children had nearly doubled. This occurred at the same time that childhood thyroid cancer rates in the former Soviet Union were surging, as the thyroid gland is highly sensitive to radioactive iodine exposures.****

Reports in the year 2000 already showed tremendous devastation. "[After 14 years] the health of people affected by the Chernobyl accident is getting worse and worse every year," Ukraine Deputy Health Minister Olha Bobyleva told a news conference on April 21, 2000. "We are very disturbed by this data."*

  • The health of 3.5 million people, including 1.26 million children, was affected by diseases of the nervous, blood and respiratory systems; in children, 17% higher than the national average.* By mid-2001, 125,000 have died.***
  • Children of "Liquidators", the emergency workers sent in, are showing mutation effects 600 times higher than normal, due to genetic damage.***
  • Thyroid cancer remains 10 times higher than normal among Ukrainian children. The ministry reported 1,400 cases of thyroid cancer between 1986 and 2000; no cases were registered between 1981 and 1985.*
  • According to the World Health Organization, over 50,000 more are expected to develop thyroid cancer in the Ukraine alone.**

Additional reports spell out Chernobyl-related problems--from an estimated 1 million infant deaths in India, to current levels of Cesium-137 100 times greater than expected in fish and sheep in northern Great Britain. In the summer of 2002, berries were confiscated in Scandinavia, hundreds of times higher than acceptable levels.

Our Own Chernobyl:  Three Mile Island

We may never know the truth about what happened when at least half of the core of Unit 2 melted at the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania on March 28, 1979. See the photo of two headed calf born five miles away (bottom left), and read the statement about the official report coverup (above).

What About ‘Safe’ Reactors?

What about the 103 ‘normal’ commercial reactors still operating here in the U.S.? For decades we have been told that any emissions are well within ‘safe’ levels.

But a study of counties close to five nuclear reactors that were closed between 1987–89 shows a sharp decline in infant mortality rates in the first two years after reactor closure.

The Rancho Seco reactor is located in a highly populated part of northern California, 25 miles from Sacramento and 70 miles from San Francisco. It is also in a major produce growing area. Rancho Seco began operations in Sept. 1974, and closed in June, 1989.

1974-75, first year of operation, closest 4 counties, compared to the national average:

  • Fetal death rate 9.3% higher;
  • Infant death rate 11.3% higher;
  • Death from all birth defects 25.5% higher.

1990-91, first two years after closure (compared to 1988-89):

  • Fetal death rate dropped 5%.
  • Infant death rate (age 0-1) dropped 16%;
  • Infant death from birth defects (age 0-1) dropped 20%;
  • Death from birth defects, (age 1-4), dropped 31%.****


Photo of two headed stillborn calf taken by Mary S. Osborn at the farm of Herbert Myers, New Cumberland PA, about 5 miles from Three Mile Island.

*Horodetska O., "Chernobyl Kills And Cripples 14 Years After Blast", Reuters News story, 4/21/2000.

** Brown P., "50,000 More Chernobyl Cancer Cases Predicted", The Guardian, 4/26/2000.

**** Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko "Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment" The authors examined more than 5,000 published articles and studies, most written in Slavic languages and never before available in English.