Dec 8, 2008


When my parents were first married, my father worked at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, which was a nuclear reactor located in Southern California. Over it's history, it is said to have has at least 9 "nuclear accidents". In 1959, when my father was there, it had a partial meltdown.

You've heard of 3 Mile Island right? This meltdown created an estimated 250 times the radiation. So why haven't you heard of this before? Well, that is the question.

This has been a story that I have known since I was small. My father helped with the cleanup there, wearing nothing more than his street clothes, a cotton jumper, and his boots. The Secret to absorbing all the spilled waste? Kotex pads...seriously! They actually removed the melted core by hand, looking down directly into the reactor! This whole incident became classified and there was no public notification. Here is where my Dad comes in. Being the smart and insane young man he was, took a camera into the site and took pictures! He has carried around proof of this reactor and it's secrets for the past 50 years. Here is part of the story in his own words:

"If you want to fine information on the Web on the reactor that I worked at in 1959.... look under SSFL, SRE Sodium filled Reactor, Santa Susana Field Lab.,  1959 SRE Reator Melt down,  Santa Susana Field Lab. area 4.  Just remember I worked at the SRE Reactor, in Area 4, in the Santa Susana Mountains for Atomics International / Rocketdyne.

All this was happening when mom I were engaged to get married and a short time after we were married in 1959. It was top secret what I was doing at the time and could not talk about it to the public or even mom. She had no idea really what I was doing at the time she knew I worked for Atomics International and had a good paying job, and worked at Atomic reactor as an assistant Operator. She knew I was doing some clean- up with Kotex for a sponge and had a lot of safety pins from them in my glove box in my car. She did not know how bad the danger that I was in at the time I worked there.

We were young at the time and did not think to much about it....the main thing I was making good money at the time... we had a new house and we were married and on our own.

She did notice when I came home with holes in my cloths from cutting out hot spots of radiation in my cloths and soles of my shoes. she knew the reactor had problems and we were trying to repair it.

Then we never thought about the fact that mom having 5 miscarriages in 7 years could be the cause of working at the Reactor. Just young and did not think about it....and I could not talk about it to the Doctors anyway at that was top secret during the Korean War time. the Government was over seeing the project we were working on. the Government was using the uranium from the Fuel Rods for Atomic Weapons. There was a hot lab also in the building that messed with that sort of thing. It was quite an operation.

I worked there 9 Mo. before I was layed off. It was a month after were were married... "

Here is a film about the reactor. My Dad says "I am in a lot of these clips. It would be hard for you to recognize me, I was 20 years old at that time. There is two scenes that you maybe able to find me.....they show in a scene helping to turn a large round spoke wheel (looks like a wagon wheel) I am in the upper left corner leaning over pushing. The other is where I am down in a hole bent over painting with a paint brush. The hole I was in was highly contaminated it was right next to the reactor core. In the hole was the new pump that was replaced. This pump is what caused the reactor to heat up and caused the melt down when the old one had leaky seals."

This is a shot of him looking down into the rector to remove the melted core pieces. Note his hat. It says "Your safety is our business, Atomics International."

Aerospace Cancer Museum of Education

Tomorrow, my Father is being flown out to LA to become a part of a museum that has been created to bring awareness to this and other reactor plants and their misconduct. He will be meeting with a member of the EPA and the DTSC (the Dept. of Toxic Substance Control. Can I just tell you how proud I am of him! He has worked a long time trying to get someone to listen to his story, and he has finally been heard. I wish you all the luck in the world Dad!!


SusieH said...

Holy COW! I'm glad your dad will get to tell his story, for history's sake...

Missy said...

I am glad your dad is around to tell the story. Wow, let me tell you, safety has come along way, at least I hope so. Curtis is hopefully alot safer then back then. But thanks for reminding me how dangerous his job can be. Well, not his job per say, just working out at the site!

J.W.Pace said...

Thank you daughter for what you wrote.
I was able to tell my story what happened in 1959 at the SRE Reactor in S. CA.,at the time of the melt down. I was able to get it recorded and everyone attention.
I am now back home. Thank you Christina.
Love Dad