On March 11, 1987, NBC broadcast a documentary, “Nuclear Power”.
In France It Works.” It could have passed for a lengthy nuclear power commercial. Missing from anchorman Tom Brokaw’s introduction was the fact that NBC’s owner, General Electric, is America’s second largest nuclear power salesman and third largest producer of nuclear weapons systems.
One month after the NBC documentary, there were accidents at two French nuclear installations, injuring seven workers. THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR wrote of a “potentially explosive debate” in France, with new polls showing a third of the French public opposing nuclear power. That story was not reported on NBC News.
NBC’s policy which produced the “nuclear power works” commercial and censored the news about two nuclear accidents is typical of the international silence about reactor incidents which help explain the industry’s undeserved reputation for safety.
The lid to Pandora’s nuclear safety box was partially opened last year when the West German weekly DER SPIEGEL published 48 of over 250 secret nuclear reactor accident reports compiled by the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The report of previously secret IAEA documents was translated into English for the first time and published in David Brower’s EARTH ISLAND JOURNAL.
Some of the “incidents” you never heard about: February 1983 -Bulgaria’s Kozluduj nuclear power plant lost pressure in the primary cooling system; June 1983 — three of four pumps failed in Argentina’s Embalse nuclear plant; August 1984 — the primary cooling system in West Germany’s Bruno Leuschner plant in Greifswald burst; October 1984 – engineers at the Chooz A reactor on the French-Belgian border discovered numerous “breaks” and “broken welding seams” on the critical control rods of the 17-year-old reactor; 1984 -Czechoslovakia’s Jaslovska Bohunice reactor spilled radioactive coolant into two reactor containment units due to the failure of 72 defective bolts in the circulation system; January 1985 — at Pakistan’s Kanupp reactor, radioactive heavy water leaked while being transferred through a rubber hose; February 1985 — during a fuel rod experiment in East Germany’s Rheinsberg reactor, a measuring device stuck into the center of the reactor caused a leak of radioactive water; April 1985 — radioactive water and sludge swamped two rooms of an auxiliary building at Belgium’s Tihange reactor; December 1985 -emergency power in Canada’s Pickering reactor failed in three separate units for five days.
DER SPIEGEL said that in several of these previously unreported nuclear slip-ups “a meltdown was a real possibility.” Worse yet for Americans, DER SPIEGEL found that human error “is most advanced in North America … sometimes with hair-raising results.” A survey of official records since the Three Mile Island reactor meltdown in 1979 shows there have been more than 23,000 mishaps at U.S. reactors — and the number is increasing. In 1986, there were more than 3,000 reported incidents — up 24 percent over 1984. The chilling conclusion: “Humanity has been sitting on a powder-keg as a result of reliance on the ‘peaceful’ use of the atom.”
EARTH ISLAND JOURNAL, Summer, 1987, “Secret Documents Reveal Nuclear Accidents Worldwide,” by Gar Smith with Hans Hollitscher, pp 21-24; EXTRA, June 1987, “Nuclear Broadcasting Company,” p 5.