The United States Biggest Nuclear Accident? – Simi Valley, California – 1959

WOW the things you find out……I was nine years old and living within 20 miles of this plant in 1959.

Sodium reactor experiment

The Sodium Reactor Experiment-SRE was an experimental nuclear reactor which operated from 1957 to 1964 and was the first commercial power plant in the world to experience a core meltdown[17]. There was a decades-long cover-up by the US Department of Energy[18]. The operation predated environmental regulation, so early disposal techniques are not recorded in detail.[18]. Thousands of pounds of sodium coolant from the time of the meltdown are not yet accounted for.[19]

The worst radiation release at a U.S. nuclear plant accident didn’t happen at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

It did happen in Simi Valley in 1959. The Rocketdyne plant, located on the Ventura County and Los Angeles County line on a sprawling 2,900-acre complex, experienced a partial meltdown of a small research reactor.

In February 2004, a class action lawsuit was filed against the current landowner, The Boeing Company, alleging (in part) the Sodium Reactor Experiment caused harm to nearby residents. The plaintiffs produced an analysis of the incident prepared by expert witness Arjun Makhijani, PhD. The analysis of the Sodium Reactor Experiment by Dr. Makhijani reportedly estimates the incident at the Sodium Reactor Experiment may have released up to 260 times more radioactive iodine-131 than the official estimates for the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station release.[22] The ‘260 times worse than Three Mile Island” has been widely quoted.[22][25][26] The ‘Three Mile Island’ conclusion presented in the legal filing did not agree with data and documents prepared at the time of the SRE incident.

In April 2009, The Department of Energy announced the transfer of $38.3 million to the EPA to provide for a complete radiological survey of a 290-acre (1.2 km2) area of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. The source of the funds was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The DOE had provided funds earlier to the EPA for a portion of the survey, so the total funding provided for the Area IV survey is $41.5 million. The survey is expected to be completed in September, 2011.[34]

In July 2009, local media recognized the fifty year anniversary of the July, 1959 SRE incident. Local media reported a former employee named John Pace “broke his 50 year vow of secrecy” to describe his role in the reactor incident and recovery. A local newspaper featured photographs purportedly of Mr. Pace performing various activities at the SRE including using an instrument to monitor the reactor, helping to physically rotate the top of the reactor core, placing sealer on asbestos piping and seated at a console operating the nuclear reactor.[35] The claims of secrecy contrast with the release of a press release, a motion picture and numerous reports to the general public following the 1959 incident. Jan Beya was interviewed by a local newspaper and reaffirmed his assertion that iodine-131 was released during the SRE incident but that it wouldn’t have produced a widespread effect on health.[26]



3 Responses to “The United States Biggest Nuclear Accident? – Simi Valley, California – 1959”

  1. Oh man, I moved to Thousand Oaks, just next door, in 1960. Well, it certainly explains a lot of things…….

  2. I’ve been through St. George several times, but they were more than 40 years ago. This time of year it’s damn near tropical, as I recall. Provo Canyon is one of the special places on Earth.

    I also lived near Simi Valley in 1959, I was nine. This story was a revelation for me a few months ago.

    have a peaceful day,

  3. Living in the northwest United States.I have been following the disaster in Japan. A little concerned with fall out here.
    Two days ago I find I have already been exposed far worse than anything I could have imagined.
    in July of 1959 I lived 36 miles from Simi Valley.. And I can assure you that at 10 I was outside playing as this poison was spewed into the air.And every warm nice day after untiil I was in my 20’s and left LA….
    It explains much.
    I have lost both parents to cancer. Many friends and other family members to cancers..In such numbers, that those of us still alive have questioned just what in the world could have caused so much pain and suffering, to so many that we know..
    I have also had cancer..
    If the problem is that there are no statistics on what radiation does.. Then making this more public might get some good answers..I am sure many have no clue either..
    All these years, should provide some answers.. Just by finding the people who lived in and around this .. Find what happened in their families and friends lives over the years.
    Its a missed opportunity to not study this and find out.
    It might help the Japanese who are now terrified of what is to come.And possibly once and for all clear up the debate on how it is corporations can be put in charge of such lethal poison for their own profit.

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