Wed Aug 5th, 2009 at 06:11:24 AM EST
Lazy days in the San Fernando Valley. The towns of the east and center, Glendale, Burbank and Van Nuys, were populated with hundreds of thousands of people. But out here in the western end, we scanned the 1958 phone book data and were proud to have less than a hundred thousand in our patches of homes, built in grids among the ranches and fields of fruit trees and vegetables. We could run to the corner to get a large families worth of corn picked and shucked fresh to our order, have change left over from a dollar, and have it in a pot of boiling water 5 minutes later.
The burgeoning upward-trending, lower-middle-class, single-working-parent families of the fifties. Kids everywhere, baseball on the streets much of the year. Days so hot that we would literally fry eggs on the sidewalk for amusement, yet going barefoot was just the thing to do. Each summer afternoon my mother would turn on the back sprinklers and open the large sliding glass windows which opened the living room to our backyard. And those hot nights when school was starting back up, trying to fall asleep with the early September sky still bright and the house still radiating enough heat to make sheets too hot to use, getting to bed early so we could start back to school the next day.
Just up the other corner we could ride to open fields to pick on butterflies (for some unknown reason.) We would also race up there when we heard the sound of the train whistle as it entered the tunnel of the Santa Susanna Pass. When we were still tricycle riders we'd see the long train exiting, and as early teenagers we'd time when it came so we could run through the dark tunnel...innocent danger of the times. We'd climb those hills for days, trying to find the mysterious movie lot, or the rumored crazies who we were warned against, hills which would later produce the Manson Family.
But when the afternoon breeze picked up from the Santa Susanna Pass, it would bring a temporary coolness to the house...and as it turns out, it would bring other things.
Diary rescue by Migeru
We grew up proud of the dads who worked at the Rocketdyne plants, either down the street on the way to school, or up in the hills of the Pass. They would bring us pictures to tape on the wall, colored pictures of the huge rocket engines which we could hear being tested miles away on Friday nights.
But we knew nothing about nuclear venting. I only vaguely remember the company name Atomics International. Marking the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. nuclear meltdown
On the morning of July 14, 1959, Sodium Reactor Experiment trainee John Pace received the bad news from a group of supervisors who had, he recalled, "terribly worried expressions on their faces."
A reactor at the Atomics International field laboratory in the Santa Susana Mountains had experienced a power surge the night before and spewed radioactive gases into the atmosphere.
"They were terrified that some of the gas had blown over their own San Fernando Valley homes," recalled Pace, who was 20 at the time. "My job was to keep radiation out of the control room."
Pace set to work sealing doors and windows with clear packing tape and scrubbing the walls with sanitary napkins soaked with special chemicals because, he said, "soap and water wouldn't do the trick."
In August 1959, about five weeks after the accident, the Atomic Energy Commission published a press release indicating that "a parted fuel element had been observed," a reference to damage. But it added that there was no evidence of radioactive releases or unsafe operating conditions.
"They wanted to keep it secret," Pace said.
Lab officials kept switching the reactor off and on until July 26, when it was shut down and dismantled. There was evidence of melting in a third of the reactor's fuel elements.
For about two weeks, the facility, which employed several thousand people, had been venting colorless and odorless radioactive gas into the environment.
"Radioactivity levels during the accident went off-scale," said Dan Hirsch, a spokesman for the antinuclear group Committee to Bridge the Gap. "We thus do not know to this day how much radioactivity was released."
Details of the incident were not disclosed until 1979, when a group of UCLA students discovered documents and photographs that referred to a problem at the site involving a "melted blob."
The article goes on to reference official-speak by the current owners of the technology and facilities, Boeing. Ironic that they feel the need to use low-quality crap in their attempts at ass-covering, but they are probably juggling too many thickets of lies to even care much about a liability which they probably unknowingly bought into. They did put out a smiley face comment about a study they produced which said that our happy valley actually has less cancers and health problems than their control area...no doubt the circle of hell that their actual headquarters are in.
There is also a reference to a Dept of Energy Clean Up site, with a lot more happy talk, but no data that directly correlates to the Boeing-speak.
But I can summarize: Rest assured that everything is completely cleaned up now, and further, will be cleaned up by 2017, and that this "social cost after corporate profit" exercise is being done only so that we can have a web-site of purity, not that it needs to be done.
I continue to wonder filter data about what caused the Parkinson's disease that my mother got hit with 10 years later and suffered with until 10 years ago. I used to key on the diesel fuel from my grandfather's big-rig impregnating the dirt and dust at the old old house, or just the exhaust itself as the trigger for her problem. I also used to key on the TCEs and PCEs that the aerospace industry dumped into our water supply for many years. Now I have to do research into causations from vented nuclear gasses.
[editor's note, by siegestate]Edited to fix links and a typo or two.