By Michael Mariotte

The unfinished MOX fuel facility at the DOE’s massive Savannah River Site, part of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex whose operation has resulted in the deaths of more than 33,000 Americans, according to a new report from McClatchy News Service.

Radiation kills.

That is a fact, established by scientific bodies like the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and incorporated into government-established laws and regulations across the world intended to reduce one’s possibility of receiving unintended radiation exposure. It is a fact recognized, for the most part, even by the world’s nuclear power industry, which generates by far the largest amounts of man-made radioactivity.

That radiation kills is the fundamental reason to oppose nuclear power. Nuclear power might fail as an electricity-producing technology for other reasons in any case–economics, etc; but there would not be what is now a decades-long, powerful movement to prevent new nuclear reactors and close existing ones if radiation were benign. Because if nuclear power were not dangerous, why would we bother? And nuclear power is dangerous because of the radioactivity it produces, and which is always not only under the threat of catastrophic release but poisons us and our planet even when it functions “normally.”

There is public controversy over what level of radiation exposure kills–controversy typically generated by a self-serving nuclear industry which requires the weakest possible radiation protection standards in order to exist, much less expand, and by the radiation deniers who back that industry–but there is no controversy that at some exposure level, radiation kills. And, of course, the prevailing view (though not incorporated by government regulation) of the NAS and other global scientific bodies is that there is no safe level of radiation exposure, that every exposure, no matter how small, carries some risk of death from cancer or other disease.

We all know these truths, but receiving real-life reminders of them is always jarring. Receiving two real-life reminders on a Monday morning is particularly grim, evoking both empathy for the victims but, even more, anger at those who allowed–and continue to allow and even encourage–the atomic age’s legacy of death and destruction.

Kudos to those who uncovered what should be scandals on par with the worst abuses of government and corporate wrongdoing in our planet’s modern history, starting with McClatchy News Service, which spent the past year investigating the U.S. victims of the Cold War–those people who worked for our nation’s nuclear weapons program.

Titled simply Irradiated, McClatchy’s journalists report that the human death toll from this program was 33,340 Americans. Patriotic Americans who believed they were engaged in the right side (and they were) of a historic battle between two great powers and who also believed their government–our government–would protect them. It didn’t. Neither did the other side’s, but we don’t have many reports on that.

But rather than have me summarize their report, I’ll quote directly:

*McClatchy can report for the first time that the great push to win the Cold War has left a legacy of death on American soil: At least …read more

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