EXPLOSIVE DEVELOPMENTS IN SANTA SUSANA FIELD LAB CLEANUP FIGHT (12/2021)
More than forty years ago we brought to light a partial nuclear meltdown that occurred in the LA area and had long been kept secret
Numerous other reactor accidents and tens of thousands of rocket tests created widespread radioactive and toxic chemical contamination, which has been migrating offsite. We have worked ever since to try to get the site cleaned up, in order to help protect the 700,000 people who live within ten miles.
It has been a tough fight, because the parties responsible for the contamination—the Boeing Company, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and NASA— and the state regulator, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), have repeatedly breached the legally binding cleanup agreements they signed. Those agreements required soil cleanup be completed by 2017. As we approach the end of 2021, the promised soil cleanup hasn’t even begun. Instead, the Responsible Parties and DTSC seem to be actively working to make matters worse.
On October 1, DOE— with DTSC approval—blew up, with explosives, their last remaining buildings in the nuclear area of SSFL. It is hard to describe how idiotic this is. The buildings had been identified by the US EPA as “Class 1,” i.e., having the highest probability of containing radioactive contamination. DOE and DTSC had agreed that the debris from the demolition had to be disposed of in a licensed radioactive waste disposal facility. Yet they blew the buildings up, tossing huge amounts of dust into the air.
DOE was required to use “water cannons to create a curtain of water” to contain the dust, but didn’t even do that. It was as though they were intentionally trying to make matters worse. NBC-LA did a major story about the blowing up of the buildings, in which we appear.
Additionally, there was substantial news coverage of a study recently published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal showing that radioactive contamination from SSFL migrated at least 9 miles offsite from the Woolsey Fire in 2018. DTSC had denied that there were any releases from the fire. Of course, if DTSC had met the obligations for cleanup to be completed by 2017, there wouldn’t have been the risk of contamination migrating thereafter.
DTSC & Boeing have been in secret negotiations all year to let Boeing out of its cleanup obligations. DOE & NASA similarly have worked hard to breach their cleanup agreements. We made a promise years ago to the community to try to help; the irony is not lost on us that we are working hard to keep our promises while those responsible for the contamination are working energetically to break theirs.