Independent Panel Says Yes–Santa Susana Site Caused Cancer

A report released yesterday indicates that a nuclear reactor meltdown at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in 1959 may indeed have caused hundreds of cancers to appear in the surrounding community. Santa Susana is located in eastern Ventura County, California.

An independent advisory panel reported that radiation released during the meltdown caused about 260 cancers within a 60-square-mile radius. The panel also said there was an outside chance that 1,800 cancers could have been caused by the meltdown.

Rocketdyne, the company which owned Santa Susana at the time of the meltdown, has joined the federal government in refusing to release many key details of the incident, so the panel relied on technical modeling to gather its results. The result of the meltdown has been a controversy for many years, with Rocketdyne repeatedly declaring that the amount of radioactive released was insignificant.

The panel concluded that local groundwater and soil has also been contaminated because of the Santa Susuana site. Perchlorate, a factor in the development of thyroid problems, was found in a nearby well, but Boeing says that the substance did not come from its lab. Boeing did, however, pay $30 million in damages last year when residents declared that pollutants had given them cancer.