September 29, 2000

Government Releases Nuclear Testing Sites

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a report last week documenting declassified information from more than 500 nuclear testing sites.

The many testing locations may have housed the secret processing of radioactive and toxic materials, USA Today reported.

The long list spans the nation from coast to coast and strikes close to home for Cornell, which was mentioned in the document along with every other Ivy League university except Dartmouth College.

The report, with more information forthcoming by the approval of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, named the Weill Medical College of Cornell University as the precise Cornell site — but the findings mistakenly place the Medical College in Ithaca. In fact, the College is located in Manhattan.

Without details of DOE’s findings, the Medical College could offer no comment, said Kathleen Robinson, spokesperson for the College.

While the University awaits further proceeding to emerge from Washington, U.S. Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY) already approaches the federal agency for information pertaining to another site on the list, the former Ithaca Gun factory.

“It is vitally important that we be sure that there is not a hazardous situation at the Ithaca Gun site,” Hinchey said. “If a problem exists, then it was instigated by the federal government.”

Weathered by experience in environmental legislation, Hinchey views the government report with a wary eye.

“While we would like to accept the Energy Department’s clean bill of health for this site, experience has shown that closer scrutiny is often necessary,” Hinchey said.

The gun factory’s precarious past further raises the Congressman’s concern. Lead and other toxic substances have been uncovered in abnormally high levels recently, Hinchey noted, and the Environmental Protection Agency will be visiting the site next month.

Though the potentially hazardous practices transpired at the factory over 35 years ago, DOE returned for a study of the factory site in 1995.

And if any danger lingers at the nearby plant, then “the federal government needs to be held accountable,” Hinchey said.

Hinchey is a former chairman of the New York State Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation. He also served on an Assembly task force on toxic waste and co-authored the study, the Federal Connection: A History of the U.S. Military Involvement in the Toxic Contamination of Love Canal and the Niagara Frontier Region.

Archived article by Matthew Hirsch