We were barely catching our breath late Wednesday after last week’s launch of the redesigned EnviroReporter.com that was coordinated with breaking the LA Weekly news story “Wrinkles in Runkle Canyon – As developers eye the land, is Boeing downplaying the old nuclear accident nearby?” The new website allowed us to back up and supplement the Weekly article in a post called “Meltdown Dustup” with photos, documents, interviews, and films having to do with the country’s worst meltdown in 1959 just 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The reaction to the new website and article was strong and encouraging.
We were proud of our you-are-there account of the meltdown in the paper and the reactor worker interview online, which revealed finally which way the partially melted reactor fallout blew – west into the San Fernando Valley. We thought there might be reaction to our revelations that Boeing might have perjured itself in a report denying that Runkle Canyon borders the old Rocketdyne lab, or that there were tests done in the canyon for contamination. Indeed, Boeing contacted us today and said, basically, ‘you’re right, we’ll fix the report’ and that pretty much ties off that part of the story. Nice.
But less than an hour later, we came across a jaw-dropping article on ex-Los Angeles Daily News Editor Ron Kaye’s “OurLA.org” that was, to say the least, unexpected.
A meltdown denier. And not just any run of the mill meltdown denier; this one claims to have interviewed 20 scientist-types who worked on the Sodium Reactor Experiment who aren’t named and ask at the end of the article to not be contacted because they are so old. But wait, they didn’t say that at all. Chris Rowe’s editor says, setting up the piece, Rowe “wrote this story from their perspective as an open letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Didn’t Kaye notice this novel way to “debunk” the “meltdown myth”? Did he bother to see what this person has been quoted saying on other websites, like EnviroReporter.com, where she decried the cleanup of the lab as authorized by the Governor because “not only will we lose endangered species, but artifacts from the Chumash people and other prehistoric groups will be lost in the cleanup process.”
Huh? Don’t statements like these give good editors pause? Besides breaking every journalism rule in the book, the piece cobbles together a series of amateurish gibberish trying to dispel the notion that there was a meltdown on The Hill. The “Special Report” not only doesn’t sell the meltdown denier hogwash, it ends up being laughable even as it mischaracterizes this tragic event in 1959.
But the laughs wear off when considering a 2006 study we reported on that said between 260 to 1,800 people within a 62-mile radius of the east Ventura County lab got cancer from the meltdown. The comprehensive state-funded study reported that the SRE disaster released hundreds of times more radiation than Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island meltdown did in 1979.
Last week’s Weekly article continues the paper’s coverage of this massively contaminated lab that we began in 1998. But we didn’t get there first. Warren Olney broke this story for KNBC back in 1979 and even the Daily News broke big stories around this disaster.
The government has already dropped a quarter billion on cleaning up just 90 acres out of 2,850 in total — just the nuclear area where the meltdown occurred — an area that sits above Runkle Canyon where KB Home wants to build 461 homes despite evidence of radiological and chemical pollution, very possibly from the lab.
This is no joking matter. Contamination from this lab has affected thousands over decades and still does to this day. This kind of so-called “journalism” is described on Kaye’s website as: “OurLA.org is the news and information website for Los Angeles where everyone can be a reporter and exercise the right to free speech, learn from each other and get the benefit of the work of professional journalists as we work together to reinvigorate the civic and political culture of LA.”
“Where everyone can be a reporter”? What about being an editor? Did Kaye or anyone editing this website bother with even an iota of fact and source checking? And OurLA.org gets funding through Community Partners, a group that acts as a fiscal sponsor to organizations that don’t officially have non-profit status, to post this piffle?
“DEBUNKING THE MELTDOWN MYTH- Santa Susana 50 Years Later” is billed as a “Special Report by Chris Rowe” splashed across the website’s homepage. The name of the article is an equally addled “What Really Happened When Santa Susana’s Nuclear Reactor Overheated.”
A nuclear meltdown is “overheated”? Dang, that ain’t so bad.
Filed Under: Rocketdyne