Nuclear Tragedy

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Nuclear Tragedy

by Selina Bendix

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 5, No. 1, January 1973, p. 33

If you think that the AEC’s concern for reactor safety can be counted upon to protect you from the potential hazards of a nuclear power plant, then consider the following case history in which two men have already died because of criminal negligence.

June 6, 1968: Virginia Electric and Power Company (Vepco) begins construction of a 788,000 kilowatt nuclear power plant on Hog Island, 15 miles NE of Surry, Virginia. Welding work is undertaken by Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation of Boston.

February 1970: Stone and Webster hire welding engineer Carl Huston, who finds ‘thousands’ of unsatisfactory welds. Huston’s immediate boss tells him to ignore the problem. Huston writes to his Boston office — no reply. Huston writes to Virginia Dept. of Labor — no reply. Huston is fired and blacklisted from work for utilities. Huston writes the Governor of Virginia, receives a reply one year later acknowledging that the AEC found deficiencies and thanking him.

July 6, 1970: Huston writes AEC — no reply. Huston writes his Senators (Gore and Baker) who prod AEC.

July 21-22, 1970: AEC lawyer and metallurgist, neither with knowledge of welding, confer with Huston and accept 8 ‘allegations’ of improper welds (Huston found 568 serious deficiencies in the welding). They threaten Huston with jail if his information is false.

November 1970: Huston goes to Washington to work on AEC, gets ·nowhere, gives story to press.

April 1971: Senator Mike Gravel reads Huston article into the Congressional Record.

May 1971: Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio verifies Huston charges: Vepco cuts out 224 bad welds, others simply ‘covered up.’

August 1971: AEC writes Vepco that original 8 flaws have not been corrected and lists another 40 deficiencies to be corrected.

January 17, 1972: AEC Divisions of Regulation and Compliance sign waivers on all deficiencies, effectively certifying Unit 1 of Surry Power safe.

March 20-21, 1972: Public hearing before AEC Safety and Licensing Board — Huston is the only professional speaking against licensing.

May 1, 1972: Surry plant started up.

July 27, 1972: Steam line ‘malfunctions.’

July 31, 1972: Employee Roger Woods dies as a result of the incident.

August 1, 1972: Employee William Van Duyn dies as a result of the incident.

How many people will die when the primary containment welds give out?

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