3. THE CONTINUING CENSORSHIP Of THE NUCLEAR ISSUE
Three Mile Island, the worst accident in the history of the atomic
energy program in the United States, has proven to be a blessing for
Using the phrase "no one died at TMI," the nuclear power
industry has embarked on a nationwide campaign to resell nuclear power
to the American public. Slick television commercials and full page ads
in magazines and newspapers solicit public and press support for nuclear
America's Electric Energy Companies directed its campaign right at
the media with an advertisement in Columbia Journalism Review (March/April
1981) headlined "Three Mile Island has made nuclear power even
The campaign appears to be working. More than a half dozen nuclear-oriented
stories were nominated for "best censored" of 1980. Following
are the highlights of some of these stories.
The continuing media cover-up of critical commercial/military nuclear
issues qualifies this story for nomination as one of the "best
censored" stories of 1980.
"NO ONE DIED AT TMI" -- A recent report by the Pennsylvania
Health Department was widely publicized under headlines like "No
Infant Deaths Caused by TMI." But a devastating study by Dr. Ernest
J. Sternglass which refutes that optimistic finding was unpublicized
in the U.S. Dr. Sternglass, a protégé of Albert
Einstein, holder of several patents in X-ray technology, and a tenured
professor of radiation physics at the University of Pittsburgh, has
been unsuccessfully trying to warn the American public about the dangers
of low-level radiation. Using the government's own data, and in direct
refutation of the "no harm to anyone" claims, Dr. Sternglass
laid the blame for a minimum of 430 infant deaths in the United States
on Three Mile Island. Dr. Sternglass said his story "received
no coverage in the major newspapers or TV network in the U.S., although
copies were sent to all major media in June 1980." However, Harrowsmith,
a Canadian magazine, devoted 18 well-documented pages to alert its readers
to the true TMI story. Harrowsmith editor, James Lawrence, was surprised
to find nothing in his clip files from American media about the story.
"Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times had said nothing about
such health ramifications among the Harrisburg population," Lawrence
SOURCES: Harrowsmith, June 1980, "The Silent Toll," by Thomas
Pawlick; San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 1981, "No Infant Deaths
Caused by TMI," United Press.
URANIUM MINING IN "REMOTE NEW JERSEY" -- The health and environmental
risks associated with uranium mining are so well established that even
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) -- not known for its alarmist
position on radiation exposure -- has recommended that facilities for
mining and milling uranium be confined to "remote areas."
There are no remote areas in New Jersey, the state with the highest
population density and the highest cancer rate in the U.S., which already
has several pollution and water-supply problems. There is, however,
a rich vein of high-grade uranium in a formation called the Reading
Prong that runs through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. Exxon
and Standard Oil of New Jersey have begun exploratory drilling for uranium
in an area of northern New Jersey from which four cities and six towns
-- with a combined population of close to one million -- now derive
their water supplies.
SOURCE: In These Times, Nov. 19-25, 1980, "Uranium rush threatens
New Jersey," by Ann Spanel.
THE HIDDEN U.S. NUCLEAR WAR -- Some 235 nuclear bombs have been detonated
in the hidden 17-year nuclear war the U.S. has fought against itself.
Although few Americans realize it, an atomic weapon is detonated underground
nearly every three and one-half weeks at the U.S. nuclear test site
in Nevada. Now evidence supplied by a former high-ranking Air Force
official and other sources indicates that radiation from these tests
may be seeping into the atmosphere as well as poisoning the scarce water
supply of the arid region. Colonel Raymond F. Brim, the Air Force official
in charge of monitoring fall out from the tests from 1966 to 1975, said
that clouds of radiation in the atmosphere have been traced as far as
Canada. The failure of the media to cover ongoing nuclear testing was
highlighted in December, 1980 when some Americans learned of Operation
Wigwam, a deepwater nuclear test conducted in the ocean southwest of
San Diego. That test, which involved 6,500 Americans and a nuclear force
of more than twice that of the Hiroshima bomb, was held on May 15, 1955,
but it wasn't until late 1980 when the Center for Investigative Reporting
in Oakland, California, revealed the story to New West readers.
SOURCES: Pacific News Service, July 2, 1980, "Underground Tests
Every Three Weeks," by Norman Solomon; New West, Dec. 1, 1980,
"Operation Wigwam," by Dan Noyes, Maureen O'Neill, and David
Weir of the Center for Investigative Reporting.
A DANGER-LADEN PIT ON THREE MILE ISLAND -- Cooling water contaminated
with cesium-137 is being continually pumped out of the damaged nuclear
plant at Three Mile Island and stored in a pit on the ground on the
island. "An island in the middle of a large river hardly seems
an ideal storage depot for tens of thousands of curies of biologically
active material for a decade or more," stated Peter Montague, Director,
National Campaign for Radioactive Waste Safety. Nureg-0591, a Nuclear
Regulatory Commission report, refers to the cesium waste as "low-level"
waste suitable for disposal in shallow trenches at an existing "low-level"
burying ground. However, upon inspection of this document, Montague
discovered that the cesium content of these wastes is "hundreds
of times higher than the NRC's own proposed upper limit for cesium content
of wastes defined as "low-level." Montague, who saw no coverage
on this alarming aspect of TMI, tried to alert some people through a
letter to the New York Times.
SOURCE: New York Times, June 21, 1980, "A Danger-Laden Pit on
Three Mile Island," Letter to the Editor by Peter Montague, Director,
National Campaign for Radioactive Waste Safety, Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
THE PERILS OF INTERNATIONAL NUCLEAR SHIPPING -- An incredible nuclear
odyssey, spanning 30,000 miles by land an open sea, circled the globe
exposing millions of people to potential nuclear threat
who were ignorant of the danger. The uncovered nuclear saga began in
Canada where uranium ore was mined, ground, processed, and converted
to uranium hexaflouride. It was then shipped to Russia where it was
enriched in an old Soviet nuclear weapons plant. The materials subsequently
left Riga, Russia, in eleven steel cylinders weighing three tons each
aboard a French steamer. At Le Havre, France, the cylinders were transferred
to a German steamer and shipped to the Port of Seattle, Washington.
Seattle officials, unprepared for the international shipment, inadvertently
allowed the materials to sit on the waterfront for three weeks. Neither
the Seattle fire marshal nor the Seattle residents were aware of the
hazardous cargo which sat just four blocks from the main downtown district.
When the Russian and German shipping documents were finally translated,
the cylinders were released to Exxon's Richland, Washington, plant for
conversion into uranium dioxide fuel pellets. The pellets were subsequently
shipped back to Europe, where at another Exxon facility in Lingen, Germany,
they would be assembled into fuel rods. These rods would finally be
sent to the West German town of Biblis for insertion into the core of
one of the largest nuclear reactors in the world. The extraordinary
story of this international traffic of hazardous nuclear materials,
between Western and communist countries without regard for political
fences, but with risks every step of the way, was not reported by the
major U.S. news media.
SOURCE: New West, January 1981, "A Nuclear Odyssey," by Bruce
HISTORY'S GREATEST PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT -- The Physicians for Social
Responsibility (PSR), a national organization of 3,000 physicians, charges
that the consequences of nuclear war is an issue largely ignored by
the media. PSR states that nuclear war is the most serious potential
public health hazard in history. Dr. Helen Caldicott, president of PSR,
believes that within 30 days after a nuclear exchange, which would take
20 minutes, some 90% of all Americans and Russians would be dead. Dr.
Howard Hiatt, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and a PSR
member, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association:
"Talking about civil defense, I think raises hopes inappropriately.
It is counterproductive. The only answer is prevention, and so we should
not distract ourselves with Civil Defense ...". Dr. Hiatt
pointed out that a nuclear war could cause as many as 25 million burn
cases, and that two hundred burn cases would saturate all existing facilities
in the U.S. This would happen at a time when three-quarters of the doctors
would be dead or severely wounded and half the hospital facilities would
be destroyed. While PSR symposiums on the dangers of nuclear war have
been happening across the U.S., they have received little mass media
coverage. Cyrus Vance, shortly after he resigned, spoke at one in New
York at which some of the top doctors in the country also spoke. This
symposium occurred just before the election and after the New York Times
had published seven full-page articles on the arms race -- stressing
how far America was behind Russia. However, the New York Times failed
to mention the PSR symposium.
Journal of the American Medical Association, November 1980, by Dr.
Howard Hiatt; Washington Post, Nov. 21, 1980, "In Event of Nuclear
War, Health Prognosis is Hopeless, Doctors Say," by Philip, J.
Hilts; The Sierra Club Yodeler, January 1980, "An Interview With
Dr. Helen Caldicott."
2,300 NUCLEAR PLANT "INCIDENTS" IN 1979 -- On July 14, 1980,
Critical Mass, an antinuclear group affiliated with Ralph Nader, announced
that more than 2,300 incidents, including operational errors and mechanical
failures, were reported at the nation's nuclear power plants in 1979.
According to Critical Mass director, Richard Pollock, "This data
speaks volumes about mismanagement, poor operator training, lax inspection
and frequent mechanical breakdowns." "
a whole these reported events point to a technology pocked with serious
operational defects," he concluded. While the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission confirmed the number of incidents reported, Carl Michaelson,
head of the commission office that analyzes such reports, said "I
would attach no significance whatsoever to" the number of reports.
The ominous report generated a mere 18 column inches on Page A16 of
the New York Times. While the nuclear industry gears itself for expansion
in the 80's, including these problem-plagued reactors, the American
public is being fed the soothing "no one died at TMI" message
planted by the nuclear industry's skilled propagandists and distributed
by the media.
SOURCE: New York Times, July 14, 1980, "2,300 Incidents Reported
At Nuclear Plants in 1979," Associated Press.