Antarctic reactor leaks may have caused cancer deaths

You may not be aware that from 1962 to 1972, the United States operated a small nuclear reactor at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Because of its small size (and tendency to leak) the reactor was known by McMurdo personnel as “Nukey Poo.”

Now, a Cleveland television station, ABC affiliate WEWS, has aired an investigative report on cancer deaths in people who had served at McMurdo during the reactor’s lifespan:

Charlie Swinney died one year ago from cancer that ravaged his body for more than a decade, but the Navy veteran may have left behind an important clue into what caused his death.

Our exclusive investigation uncovered multiple letters that Swinney sent to the U.S. Veterans Administration describing a nuclear plant that was built at a base he served at in Antarctica.

The McMurdo Nuclear plant was built in Antarctica in the early 1960s and provided power to the base until it was shut down in 1972. Swinney and an estimated 15,000 other veterans served at McMurdo Station as part of a support team throughout the plant’s operation.

WEWS interviewed Swinney’s wife:

“Charlie had over 200 tumors in his body,” said Swinney’s wife Elaine. “He kept saying, this isn’t right. Why is there so many of us in this close group getting sick like this.”

 The report found other victims:

 Though the Navy’s report found no evidence of excessive radiation exposure, veterans like Charlie Swinney have emerged across the country with similar concerns after being diagnosed with cancerous tumors.

The McMurdo reactor had a troubled history:

The Navy’s final operating report found the plant had 438 malfunctions over its history, including leaking water surrounding the reactor and hairline cracks in the reactor liner as early as 1964.

The plant was finally shut down in 1972 and later dismantled when “possible stress corrosion cracking” in the piping system was discovered.

Other reports have indicated that the reactor vessel head may have developed cracks, which led to the plant’s decommissioning.

Updates to the WEWS report indicate that the Veterans Administration and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown are looking into the situation.



About Robert Singleton

By day, I work for a call center. In my spare time, I try to save my hometown (and planet) from a nearly constant onslaught of greedheads, lunatics and land developers. I live in a fictional town called Austin, Texas, where I go to way too many meetings.
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