Internal documents and government records obtained in lawsuits show that the Florida Power and Light nuclear plant appears to have shipped radioactive waste to ordinary landfills, municipal sewage treatment plants and some unknown locations in the 1970s and early 1980s and then concealed or minimized the extent of the contamination. These revelations come in a report published in the New York Times.
Although the company claims it “mistakenly” made a shipment to a landfill in 1982, the documents appear to show numerous shipments to multiple locations. Moreover, the company conducted a survey and cleanup in the one known location and says it found only one kind of radioactive material while nuclear experts involved in the lawsuits say there must have been other isotopes for which no tests were conducted.
The overall level of contamination is difficult to determine because plant workers used a sink to wash mops, rags and other heavily contaminated materials, believing that the drain was connected to the plant’s radioactive waste system. Instead it drained into a sanitary sewage system and the contaminants were then hauled away with sludge.
Florida Power and Light admitted the company had made two shipments to landfills in the early 80’s, but claimed that the mistakes had been disclosed, the waste removed and that both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Florida Department of Health, determined that the incident did not pose a concern for public health.
Plaintiffs, however, cited documents which showed that, at one point, the plant in St. Lucie County was shipping to regular landfills materials that were 10 times as radioactive as what it was shipping to a low-level waste dump and concealed the shipments from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The contamination has been blamed for causing cancer in Zachary Finestone, an 11-year-old who grew up in the area and was diagnosed with the disease in March 2000, and Ashton Lowe, who had brain cancer when he died at age 13 in May 2001. Law suits brought by the boys’ parents are scheduled to go to trial early next year in federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
In addition, a week after the cleanup was supposedly completed at a dump site; the company found contamination at a level 20 times what was proposed by the State of Florida and thousands of times higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency allowed for agricultural land. The area surrounding the site is used for cattle and citrus trees.
The lawyer for the families of Zachary and Ashton plans to argue that tests of their baby teeth showed abnormally high levels of radioactive strontium, which is produced when atoms are split and that when ingested binds to human bones.
Older people have strontium in their bones that was created from atmospheric nuclear testing, however; "These kids were all born after Chernobyl, after Three Mile Island, and after atmospheric testing;" stated the attorney.