Karl Grossman has been specializing in environmental journalism for many years. He runs a news service on Long Island and teaches journalism at the State University of New York. These are excerpts from some of this recent columns.


“The China Syndrome” could be the most important movie ever to come out of Hollywood.

The message of “The China Syndrome” concerns the survival of life on the planet. It is about nuclear power plants. And, it is about the media cover-up of the dangers of nuclear power — under pressure of the nuclear industrial complex.

It takes two million gallons of water a minute to keep the nuclear reaction in a nuclear power plant under control. If the coolant water stops for just a minute or two, and a pipe rupture could easily cause that, and the “emergency core cooling system” doesn’t go into play, an unstoppable “meltdown” is the result. The nuclear core melts through the bottom of the nuclear plant and into the earth — what nuclear scientists dubbed over a decade ago, “The China Syndrome.”

The super-hot core doesn’t go to China but to the underground water underlying a plant, in seconds destroying a region’s water supply, and then in a huge explosion as molten core and cold water combine, unleashes a thousand times more radioactivity than the Hiroshima A-bomb as it breaches “containment.” Government studies done in Suffolk at Brookhaven National Laboratory calculate 45,000 people being killed “promptly,” many times more left with cancer and genetic defects, property damage at over $17 billion, an area the size of the state of Pennsylvania left uninhabitable. There is no issue about this happening. The government and the nuclear industry, up until recently, maintained however that the odds of an accident were extremely high. Then, in February, the government report which said that was rescinded.

Last week we came across a most interesting “notice” from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, requesting drug companies to come up with “new drug applications for potassium iodide in oral dosage forms for use as a thyroid-blocking agent in a radiation emergency.”

Such “incidents” are feared “because of the possible increase in the number of nuclear power plants . . . one possibility is the sudden release of large quantities of radionuclides which might include a number of isotopes of radioiodine into the environment . . . It is considered in the public interest that state and local authorities be prepared to take effective measures to prevent or curtail markedly the accumulations of radioiodines by the thyroid gland, should such an incident occur. These measures may include the use of a thyroid-blocking agent.” The “stockpiling of thyroid-blocking agents at appropriate outlets for ease of distribution in a radiation emergency” is noted.

Your government is talking about distributing the radioactive equivalent of fall-out shelter crackers. Do you know about it? The government notice is marked “Docket 78D-0343.” Have you read or heard about it anywhere? Why?

Nuclear power has been subject to the most thorough news suppression of any major and continuing news event during peacetime. The mentality and the techniques for this were developed as scientists and military men during World War II worked to make a nuclear bomb, the “Manhatttan Project.” A new book, “City of Fire,” about Los Alamos National Laboratory, tells of how in the first atomic bomb test, in Almagordo in New Mexico, “safety was a concern. What if radioactive dust drifted over nearby towns?”

Soldiers, some “disguised as civilians,” were sent to towns “up to 100 miles away . . . instructed to evacuate ranches and towns at the last moment.” The blast came: “A stupendous burst of fierce light many times more brilliant than the sun . . . the fireball rose . . . the shock wave hit . . . There was a loud crack, followed by a mighty roar that thundered across the desert . . . There was also a sense of cataclysm and foreboding.” Laboratory director Robert Oppenheimer “recalled” the Hindu words, “I am become death. The shatterer of worlds.” The flash “was seen in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Silver City, Gallup and El Paso.” How did the government handle it?

An agent was stationed in the Associated Press office in Albuquerque and as the “queries and reports on a strange explosion” rushed in, the AP issued the government line of how “a remotely located ammunition magazine containing a considerable amount of high explosives and pyrotechnics exploded.”

This kind of we-know-what’s-best-for-you thinking by the government and later the nuclear industry is gone into in “The Nuclear Industry and the Media,” in NOT MAN A PART, the Friends of the Earth publication. Years of multi-million dollar nuclear industry PR manipulation and pressure is detailed, how the industry has “gone so far as to intimidate and stifle the civil liberties of several television and film producers.” The piece opens with a phone call from a government nuclear PR director to producer Don Widener in the middle of the night: “You gonna use anything on plutonium in your movie? Well, don’t even mention it. If you do, we’ll go to higher sources to stop it.”

There’s been a “blackout,” says the piece, as “so many people have staked their future, their faith in technology, their jobs, their profits, their power” on what’s turned out to be a lethally dangerous technology — and don’t want us to know.

The first time I heard that phrase “energy crisis” — a slogan which has rapidly become as well-known as “I’d Walk A Mile For A Camel” and “Coke Is The Natural” and has equivalent validity — came at the dawn of the 1973–1974 gasoline “shortage.”

A functionary from the Federal Energy Administration, which has since become the U.S. Department of Energy and is still largely a subsidiary of the American oil industry, journeyed to Long Island to declare that an “energy crisis” was upon us.

It was a slickly-tailored press release that this individual gave out. And he let loose with a speech about how we would soon be faced with an “energy Pearl Harbor.”

Meanwhile, quickly, those long lines began appearing at gas stations and up went the placards, “NO GAS TODAY.” A kind of panic hit our auto culture of roadside shopping centers and Interstate Highways. So many people are linked economically to and dependent on the car.

It was all blamed on the “Arab oil embargo” but who really believed that? There were the tankers, filled to the brim with oil, being kept waiting off-shore. The figures that would authenticate a “shortage” just didn’t add up. Arab oil is just a fraction of U.S. supply and is mainly controlled and pooled internationally by the U.S.-dominated world oil industry.

What we were going through was, in fact, an industrial strike. The oil industry was flexing its muscles, restraining trade while accomplishing a number of goals: discouraging environmental regulation, hiking prices, restructuring distribution which included knocking independents out of business, making oil some kind of semi-precious commodity and encouraging development — in a crisis environment — of energy forms the oil industry has a major interest in, which importantly includes nuclear power. “Ninety-five per cent of uranium milling capacity is affiliated with companies in the oil industry,” notes “The Structure of the U.S. Petroleum Industry” prepared by the Special House Subcommittee on Oil Operations.

The well-orchestrated hoax triggered the 1974 recession. People were scared. And satisfied that they had achieved their goals, the oil industry and government pulled back. The gas station lines in days vanished, along with the “NO GAS TODAY” signs.

The energy monopolists had gone too far. Besides the economic downturn they created, people were getting outraged. Here in Suffolk, the conservative Republican county legislature unanimously passed a resolution calling for nationalization of the U.S. oil industry, hitting at the shortage as an oil industry maneuver focused with particular energy here because of the Long Island resistance to the oil industry’s plans to exploit the offshore Atlantic.

Suffolk Executive John V.N. Klein spoke of the “so-called energy crisis” as “a ploy to raise fuel prices and to bludgeon the public into submitting to petroleum industry plans.”

So the oil industry and government cooled it for a while. Mobil serenaded us with those pithy pieces of industrial propaganda, and TV commercials and print advertising — paid for by us when filling up with gas — became the new weapons.

That was until now. Anew, we are told, the “energy crisis” is upon us. Who’s to blame this time? The Iranians, of course, although less than five per cent of the U.S. oil supply is from Iran. It’s as good an excuse as an “Arab embargo” though, and gives Energy Secretary James Schlesinger and President Carter the handle to get everybody into an uproar again. The cry of rationing and weekend gas station closings sounds across the land. Are new gas lines far behind?

I first began learning about the oil industry in 1970, after breaking the initial stories on Big Oil’s plans for the Atlantic. A House of Representatives’ investigator, a veteran of probes into the industry, made it clear from the start: the notion of oil “companies” is largely a misnomer. The Standard Oil Trust of John D. Rockefeller which was supposedly “trust-busted” in 1911 is still alive and the “independent” entities that Standard was “busted” into — these days called Exxon, Mobil Standard of California, Standard of Indiana, among others — remain closely linked.

As the penetrating book, The American Oil Industry: A Failure of Anti-Trust Policy, puts it: “The myriad relationships which exist . . . especially among the seven integrated oil companies (are) based on concentration of control, interlocking directorates, financial services, joint ventures, professional conformity, reciprocal favors, commonality of interest . . . and at its worst, greed and arrogance . . . The history of the oil industry is one in which management has not been reluctant to use its vast economic power to influence men and whole nations.”

The Suffolk County-led lawsuit which blocked off-shore Atlantic drilling for two years was full of key data about the oil industry, of its “market-sharing pattern” and market manipulation in existence since the beginning of the century, having been “concealed . . . with the connivance of U.S. government officials,” of domestic wells “shut in” to create an “artificial shortage” and of the “energy crisis” being phony.

Perhaps the most glaring example today of the kind of hoax the “energy crisis” is concerns Mexico oil. There are oil deposits south of our border twice those of Saudi Arabia and the oil industry and the U.S. government are “deliberately downplaying” them, as described in a recent report by National Econometrics Research Associates. Why? Mexico in 1938 had the nerve to expropriate the American oil companies that had been “abusing” it for oil and faced a “total boycott — Mexico could neither sell its oil abroad nor buy supplies and technologies,” it’s noted. Further, the Carter Administration is trying to claim its nuclear power-oriented “Energy Program” is “justified by a prospective world oil shortage.”

There are all sorts of contradictions in energy industry literature. A report last year by the Electric Power Research Institute entitled “Outlook for World Oil Into the 21st Century” said: “An oil supply ‘crisis’ is unlikely through the end of this century.”

So, while the West Coast of this nation suffers a “glut” of oil, where the Alaskan slope pours out so much petroleum the U.S. government is trying to peddle it to Japan, while new reserves are being found constantly, we get this “energy crisis.” Ultimately, deep in the 21st Century, oil (over half of which is misused in America to propel the gas guzzlers) will run out. But for now, the only crisis we face is one of truth by our government and the energy monopolies.