By Michael Steinberg / Black Rain Press
Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline of the nuclear power industry in the US and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those who are working to create a nuclear free future.
Millstone and Me: 2015
This October I returned to the place I come from, southeast Connecticut on Long Island Sound, off the Atlantic Ocean. The region promotes and prides itself as “The Submarine Capital of the World.”
The General Dynamics Electric Boat Company in Groton, CT, has built almost all the nation’s nuclear powered submarines. These include each and every of the Trident subs, which along with nuclear missiles and bombs constitute the US “strategic forces.”
Each Trident carries nuclear missiles, each one consisting of multiple warheads that can be independently targeted.
Thus Tridents are submersible Armageddons.
Not far up the Thames River from the General Dynamics plant is the East Coast sub base homeport for the US Navy Atlantic fleet, whose Pacific Fleet counterpart is in San Diego.
The “Virginia class” subs homeported at these bases, mostly built at Electric Boat, (Michelle Obama was at EB recently to christen the latest completed sub to slide into the river), and carry Cruise Missiles (thankfully not nuclear at the point) that the US regularly deploys to fire off at “trouble spots” around the globe.
Given these anti-social dynamics, when the US began encouraging the construction of nuclear power plants in the 1960s, it was no at one site was chosen for this purpose was Millstone Point, a few miles west of Groton.
Millstone Point had been the homeland of the Nehantic tribe, whose name, Niantic, is derived from.
After the White Man took the Nehantic’s land, and declared the tribe extinct (even as some were still alive), Millstone Point became a large granite quarry, where my Scottish great-grandfather came to work. Millstone granite became part of the Empire State Building and Mexico City’s Zocalo.
The Millstone Nuclear Power Plant began operating in 1970. It wasn’t long before its notoriety began too, as its design was similar to Fukushima’s.
During the mid 1970s, the plant’s owner and operator, CT’s Northeast Utilities was running Millstone reactor 1, with defective fuel rods, which resulted in massive releases of radiation into the air and water. The US Nuclear Regulator Commission (NRC) knew of these releases, but said they were “within acceptable limits.”
Knowledge of these massive releases eventually made their way to Dr. Ernest Sternglass – who had been a nuclear energy proponent who worked for Westinghouse, which was building some of the first US nuclear power plants. One of these was Shippingport in Pennsylvania.
At first Sternglass believed that radioactive emissions from this nuke plant would be too low to harm people. Soon, however, he began to question this. First of all, reported releases from the plant were significantly higher than authorities had predicted.
This led Sternglass to examine vital statistics in populations living near the plant. There he found spikes in cancer rates emerging, as well in other health problems such a infant mortality and birth defects.
When Sternglass reported these findings to his employer, he quickly became persona non grata in the nuclear power industry.
Dr. Sternglass went on to become professor of radiological studies at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
When Sternglass received the information about the Millstone ’70s radioactive releases, and examined them, he became alarmed. These turned out to be the highest annual releases from a US nuclear power plant with the exception of Three Mile Island during its partial meltdown in 1979.
As with Shippingport, Sternglass analyzed vital statistics in communities surrounding Millstone. Again he found disturbing rises in death rates and infant mortality, as well all cancers and specific ones like leukemia and thyroid cancer.
Dr, Sternglass went public with his findings, and initially they caused quite a stir around Connecticut and New England. There were calls for further investigations and cries for the permanent shutdown of Millstone.
Dr. Ernest Sternglass continued his pioneering work into the effects of radiation on human health, which he reported in his brilliant book Secret Fallout: From Hiroshima To Three Mile Island. Dr. Sternglass died in 2014.
Instead of shutting down Millstone reactor 1, Northeast Utilities started up 2 more reactors. In the 1990s chronic mismanagement and harassment of whistle-blowers landed Millstone on the cover of Time Magazine and forced the permanent closure of reactor one.
All its high level nuclear waste, as well as that of the other 2 units, remains on site, making it a massive nuclear dumpsite as well.
Unit 2 turned 40 this year, meaning it has exceeded the years it was designed to operate. Unit 3 will turn 30 next year.
Cancer rates remain high in the region, Dr, Sternglass helped start the Radiation and Public Health Project, which continues his work and has produced studies showing that people living within 50 miles of nuclear plnt are more likely to develop cancer and that after nuclear plants permanently shut down, cancer rates in populations around them begin to fall.
Sources: Millstone and Me: Sex, Lies, and Radiation in Southeast Connecticut; 1998, Black Rain Press.
Radiation and Public Health Project: www.radiation.org