Fukushima Nuclear Power Disaster Should Mean the End of Nuclear Power:                    American Ground Zero by Carole Gallagher

            In the 1950’s and 1960’s the United States government conducted nuclear tests in the atmosphere in the deserts of Nevada.  Soldiers, without protective gear, were marched into the radiation to see how people perform in the wake of nuclear attack. 

            The fallout from the tests drifted 135 miles east to St. George, Utah; a rural community of trusting Mormons who were not warned of the dangers of radioactive fallout.  The fallout spread death, cancer, birth  defects (babies born with internal organs on the outside of their bodies), sterility and retardation in its wake.  The government denied any link for twenty years, until the survivors (or rather their widows) sued under the Freedom of Information Act and learned that the government has known, since the 1940’s, that radioactive fallout is dangerous.  That is why the atmospheric nuclear test ban treaty was signed in 1963. Basically, these people were sacrificed as a scientific experiment.  It is all documented in a horrifying book: American Ground Zero: The Secret Nuclear War by Carole Gallagher.  The book was published in 1993, eight years before the 9/11 attack.

            So, what does this have to do with Fukushima?  The cover-up continues.  The damage to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station is a disaster on the scale of war.  The radiation leak is threatening the entire Korean fishing industry, not to mention the Japanese.  What is the response of the news media?  That dependable moron Ann Coulter is running around saying: “radiation is good for you.”  Oh yeah?  I don’t see Ann rushing to Japan to line up for the $5,000 a day that the power company is offering to pay jumpers to go into the plant.  And Lionel, the radio personality who appears on WPIX-11 in New York, is asking rhetorical questions like: “Think about how many people died of excess radiation from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs?”  And then declines to give an answer.  Even the Council on Foreign Relations is publishing books like: How Wars End  by Gideon Rose which claims the physicists who built the atomic bomb favored its use on the Japanese (when they were the biggest opposition.) The atmospheric tests were much bigger than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, anyway.

            Just calling the World Trade Center site “Ground Zero” is part of the cover-up of the dangers of nuclear power.  By appropriating the name of the site of the first atomic explosion for the World Trade Center collapse, the most extreme standard of destruction is attached to a relatively minor event, implying that an event like Fukushima is even less horrific than the 9/11 attacks. 

            The meltdown of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station twenty-five years ago was one of the major contributing factors to the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Japan is about to undergo a similar metamorphosis. Fukushima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the experimental AEC reactor explosion in Blackfoot, Idaho shows that nuclear power can never be 100% safe. However, without nuclear power the world economy will be even more dependent on oil (hence, the Middle East wars). We can as easily destroy the human race through lies and ineptitude as deliberate acts of war.   One way or the other, nuclear power has to go, the question is whether the human race will be around to see it.  We are entering a new era of nuclear brinksmanship, but driven by engineering and politics rather than bombs.

            Winonah Shah, June 1986, Las Vegas, Nevada:

            “We lived in Caliente, Nevada, in 1950.  My husband went to work for a mining company, Lincoln Mines in Tempiute.  That’s why we moved out there, in 1951.  I remember when they first started the tests.  We used to go on the county summit and drive up there, everybody did, to see this big mushroom cloud. We went out there two or three times to see this before we moved to Tempiute.  Everybody in the whole town would go down in the valley and line up on this bench.  We’d sit and watch this big old thing go off into a big old mushroom cloud.  Sit there and watch it, big show.  It lighted the sky lighter than the noonday sun, so bright. We were cautioned never to look towards it, never look towards the flash.  We never missed a time when they set a blast off, and after a while, it got commonplace.  We lived there from 1951 to 1957.

            “My husband was 42.  He was out a lot, right out on top of the mountain there. He worked on the compressor right at the mine where they pump the air down in.  Later he went to work as a government trapper, right out in the dirt, right next to the Test Site.  He saw a lot of ulcerated cattle. There was quite a uranium surge going on. Everybody was prospecting and had their Geiger counters. We went to test some mining claims with the Geiger counter and everywhere we went it was busy. We thought we had some uranium. Later we got some rocks we had at the house and the counter went wild. We turned it on in the house and everywhere we went it was hot.  The counter would go just wild.

            “We talked about it all the time. Neighbors would get together and say, ‘They’re just using us as guinea pigs.’ We were all curious but knew nothing. They always said it’s not going to hurt you.  Then we heard all kinds of rumors that scientists said that people will never know for twenty or thirty years what the fallout would do to us. We never heard of fallout. We didn’t even know what it was.

            “It was the spring of 1953. I do remember the one day that it seemed like everything was so close, seemed like pressure. I knew they had warned us to stay inside. That was the same day my daughter walked over the mountain and got an eruption on her face. Therol was in the eighth grade, 15 years old. The AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) had this in their files, of her walking over the mountain. Men stationed there with the Health Commission, with the AEC, came by and said not to let the children go out to school because there was heavy fallout and it was headed for our area. She’d already gone when we got this message. I had gone outside to get the kids in. My little boy was playing under this old cedar tree right in front of our house. About 11 o’clock he came in the house just dragging his feet. He came in so tired and wanted to lay down on the couch. I fixed him some lunch and I couldn’t even wake him up, he couldn’t wake up. He slept all day long. Finally, about 1 o’clock, he woke up in the middle of the night.  It was strange.

            “I went down to the post office the next morning and the lady that worked there had a rash on her face and neck. I looked and there were little tiny lines, like veins. She had it on her arms. That night after school my daughter came home and I looked on her to see, and she had it on her, the same kind of little lines. As time went on she later got crusty-like splotches on her face, reddish. She would keep on getting these red spots on her face for a long time after that. There was one other lady out there that said she got the rash. I looked on myself and I had it too.

            “I had faith in my government. I couldn’t believe they would do anything that would hurt us. They wanted information. They had heard about Therol being subject to this fallout and they wanted me to write up an account of it and I wrote it for them. It’s in the files of the AEC. When the guys came to the house I said that my other little daughter was getting the rash too. They said, ‘It can’t be anything worse than chicken pox.’

            Therol was only 15 years old and she wanted to get married. She was madly in love with him. They moved to the mountains in California.  She got pregnant with her first baby and lost it. It seemed like she got more than one miscarriage. Then she had two little boys.  One night she woke up in the middle of the night and she was strangling. Jim took her to the doctor.  He said she probably had a goiter. Mike was seven and Donny was five. It was in the later part of the summer of 1962, she began to get kind of thin and broke out with big ulcers on her face and other parts of her body, too, mostly on her face and arms.

            “She would be sick a lot and they would take her to the hospital.  It was just before Christmas in 1964 that Jim called me from Flagstaff. The doctor had said she had acute leukemia.  Twenty-four years old. That was the biggest shock I ever had in my life. I almost folded up. I didn’t know too much about leukemia but I head it was incurable. I don’t like to talk about it and I do like to talk about it. Whenever I do, I burst into tears. Everybody in the hospital thought she was just fantastic. People asked what was wrong with her and she’d say, “I’ve got leukemia.” It bothered everybody when they heard that word. I couldn’t help but admire Jim. He was so good to her and those little kids. After she died we went way up in Idaho, and he was clear down in Arizona. And he kept those little boys with him. How he did it, I don’t know. They were so close, Therol and Jim. He was lost. He hung onto his little boys. He had no one else to hang onto.

            “All three of my girls had thyroid conditions.  My oldest daughter, they thought she had cancer. The doctor took her thyroid out and she was put on chemotherapy for some time. She never would file a claim, no way. She just figured she had to be a victim, just happened to be a victim of it. My husband died of lung cancer three years after Therol had died. Yes, it was real hard. I don’t know how I made it through. I wanted to die. I didn’t want to live.”  P. 129 - 131

            It can take twenty to thirty years for the effects of radiation to manifest themselves, long after the people who are responsible for lying about its dangers are out of office or dead.  So, why would any public official emphasize the dangers of nuclear power when the alternative is even more economic dislocation and higher energy prices?  And would anyone vote for the candidate who advocated getting rid of nuclear power and weapons?

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf