Apr 18, 2011
On July 6, 1959, the core of a nuclear plant at Santa Susana Field Laboratory located in Simi Valley, California went through a partial meltdown. According to a panel of scientists who investigated this disaster, the nuclear plant released an amount of radiation 458 times that of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. This was the first commercial power plant in the world to experience a core meltdown. The Fermi I plant 20 miles south of Detroit went through a partial meltdown in 1966.
Although the Santa Susana disaster happened only 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, it is not widely known because of the government cover-up, just as with Fermi. Not until 20 years after the accident did the public learn of the extent and effects of this accident on their lives.
Rocketdyne operated this facility to test nuclear reactors from 1953 to 1980. Because these reactors were considered experimental, they did not have large concrete domes that could prevent them from contaminating the environment. Four of the ten nuclear reactors constructed during this period experienced accidents, releasing toxic and radioactive gases and liquids; poisoning the soil, air and ground water; and inflicting cancer to those around. Thousands of pounds of radioactive sodium coolant from the meltdown were lost to the area surrounding heavily populated metropolitan Los Angeles.
These nuclear plants severely damaged the environment and affected human life. They are no longer operational, but the radioactive and poisonous materials they released will remain in the environment for generations.