God Can My Son Survive
Acute Myaloid Leukaemia?
By Andrew Kishner
Today, I learned that someone typed the phrase ‘please God can my son survive Acute Myaloid Leukaemia?’ to reach a webpage I set up that discusses the medical impacts of nuclear accidents and testing across the globe.
Little needs to be said about what this person is going through. It is immensely saddening to read this plea for help.
I am reminded about a story about a 16 year-old girl who died of acute myeloid leukaemia. Her name was Ann Capewell, and she lived just one mile from the former runway of Greenham Common, a former NATO and United States Air Force base located in the south of England near the town of Newbury. Greenham Common was the home to America’s nuclear B-47 bombers during the Cold War.
After Ann died in 1993, forty days after her diagnosis, her parents began noticing other cases of childhood leukaemia in their neighborhood. It wasn’t until the middle of 1996, when information about a 1958 nuclear-related military accident at Greenham Common was ‘leaked’ to Greenpeace and London’s The Observer newspaper, that the Capewells began putting the pieces together. The story, which the U.S. and British governments still deny, is that on February 28, 1958, a nuclear B-47 bomber was blown up when another bomber flying overhead dropped its full fuel tank just 65 feet away. The bomber on the ground burnt uncontrollably for days, as did its thermonuclear bomb, which sent deadly uranium and plutonium oxide powder over an area of several miles. As early as 1961, U.K. government scientists knew about the fallout – they had detected deposits of enriched uranium within a radius of 7.5 miles from the runway – but the public was never told. For decades, the radioactive dust was continually resuspended - and fell on downwind communities - whenever planes blasted off from the contaminated runway. About a decade ago, after the base was closed, the runway was demolished and some of the debris materials were sold and recycled for use in local communities.
Despite the scientist’s 1961 report and health studies such as the Berkshire Health Authority’s 1997 finding that confirmed clusters of childhood leukaemia cases in the Greenham area at about 4 times the national average, the British and American governments still deny that there was accident at Greenham Common that involved a nuclear bomb.
During the year preceding the 1958 accident, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission had been actually conducting ‘safety experiments’ in the States to study accidents involving nuclear weapons. A United Press International article published in 1970 mentioned that information from these tests was intended to enable the U.S. to ‘cope promptly’ with accidents involving nuclear weapons. These dispersal experiments were conducted at the Nevada Test Site and adjacent Nellis Air Force Range and designed to study how far unexploded plutonium would travel in the event of an accident involving a nuclear weapon. Pure plutonium was ejected into the air using chemical detonators and rode the winds further and wider than anticipated. In the late 1970s, Utah’s governor announced that uncovered government documents indicated that the plutonium dust from the 1950s tests fell-out on Utah’s most densely populated areas, contaminating parts of the state with levels several times the national average. Little else has been disclosed since. Worse, the sites where the ‘safety experiments’ were conducted in Nevada are still not fully cleaned up and plutonium gets daily blown off the desert floor to God-knows-where, USA.
In May 1979, Norman Cousins, a journalist and anti-nuclear and peace advocate, wrote in an editorial: ‘One fact emerges from the revelations of deceit by government officials about nuclear fallout: No law now protects the American people against lying by their government....no penalties now apply to lying on matters that can cause death or serious harm to human beings. The time has come to draw the line against coverups - especially where the health and safety of the American people are concerned.’
Mr. Cousins’ words are as true today as they were in 1979, in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island disaster, which prompted him to write his piece.
His words are also as true for Americans as they are for the British and every other group of peoples that have been plagued with nuclear fallout and government coverups.
The time has come to draw the line against coverups before many more people will have to ask ‘please God can my son survive Acute Myaloid Leukaemia?’
Andrew Kishner is a downwinder activist and founder of www.Idealist.ws, which is currently pushing for the U.S. Department of Energy to initiate a brand new Environmental Impact Statement for the Nevada Test Site.