San Fernando Valley

Radioactive chemical levels still high at Santa Susana *

Nuclear reactor under construction at the Santa Susana Field Lab above Chatsworth in 1956. The reactor suffered a partial meltdown in 1959.

Some levels of radioactive chemicals at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site were as much as 1,000 times higher than standards, according to federal data released on Monday. "This confirms what we were worried about," Assemblywoman Julia Brownley told the Daily News as she released the data. "This begins to answer critical questions about what's still up there, where, how much, and how bad." An experimental non-military nuclear reactor was built in the Simi Hills above Chatsworth in the 1950s. Contamination from a partial meltdown of the reactor's core in 1959, plus from rocket engine testing at the complex then owned by Rocketdyne, has been a recurring public issue in recent years. From the Daily News:

Acting as an independent monitor, officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted radiological surveys on a portion of the land known as Area IV, where a partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor occurred in 1959.

That portion is currently overseen by the Department of Energy.

The results of the radiological survey show that of the 437 samples collected, 75 exceeded standards agreed upon by the DOE and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control in a cleanup agreement signed in December 2010.

Seven radioactive isotopes, including one known as cesium-137, measured at levels between 100 to 1,000 times higher than the standards. Other radionuclides that suggest nuclear presence include strontium-90, tritium, plutonium, and carbon-14.

The recent data is significant to residents, activists and public officials who have fought for years for the removal of radiation and chemical contaminants at the former Rocketdyne site, which is nestled in the hills between Chatsworth and Simi Valley and was purchased by the Boeing Co. in 1996.

The numbers provides hard evidence that not only do the radioactive materials exist, but that the levels are higher than expected.

* Also: The numbers are much higher than the government admits, says Michael Collins at

Photo: Los Angeles Public Library, Valley Times Collection

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