California's Top 10 Environmental Disasters: #1 - Rocketdyne - EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists

California’s Top 10 Environmental Disasters: #1 – Rocketdyne

Simi Valley
Simi Valley


While CNN calls Three Mile Island the worst nuclear disaster on American soil, the news agency completely overlooks the Santa Susana Field Laboratory meltdown in 1959 — a meltdown that occurred without a containment structure in place.

No one knows how much radiation was released, because the levels “went off-scale.” The facility vented radioactive material for at least two weeks from July 12 through July 26. Some sources say that the nuclear accident vomited up to 459 times the amount of radiation that Three Mile Island released.

The Santa Susana Field Laboratory is located about 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles and just two miles from the Simi Valley.

Beyond the meltdown of 1959, contamination of this area occurred between 1956 and 1988. Because of the State of California’s objections, this site has not been listed as a superfund site.

Rocketdyne and the U.S. Department of Energy used Area IV and the Energy Technology and Engineering Center at Santa Susana for NASA rocket-propulsion and nuclear energy research. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the usage contaminated the land with at least 500,000 gallons of trichloroethylene (TCE) and a cocktail of radionuclides, including plutonium and strontium.

Current owner Boeing has denied the meltdown and contamination have had anything to do with the area’s high cancer levels, but Senate Bill 990 has required that Boeing, NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy clean up the area so that it can meet agricultural and residential standards. For those who want to live on land that has been contaminated over a 30-year time span, this is great news.

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