Secret Nuclear Facility in California Now a Ghost Town of Tunnels

California is home to many famous landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood, and Disneyland. But it also harbors some dark secrets from its past, such as the existence of a secret nuclear facility that once tested nuclear bombs and reactors, and now lies abandoned and contaminated.

The Santa Susana Field Lab

The secret nuclear facility is known as the Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL), located in the hills above the San Fernando and Simi valleys, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The SSFL was established in 1947 by the U.S. government and private companies to test experimental nuclear reactors and rocket systems.

The site covered 2,800 acres and was divided into four areas, each with its own purpose and security level. Area Four was the most secretive and dangerous, as it housed 10 nuclear reactors and several “hot labs” where radioactive materials were processed and stored.

The Nuclear Accidents and Cover-Ups

Over the years, the SSFL witnessed several nuclear accidents and incidents that released radiation into the air, soil, and water, posing a threat to the health and safety of the workers and the nearby residents. The most serious accident occurred on July 13, 1959, when a reactor in Area Four suffered a partial meltdown, resulting in a core damage and a release of radioactive gases.

The accident was kept secret from the public for decades, and the workers were ordered to vent the gases into the atmosphere, often at night, to avoid detection. The extent of the radiation exposure and contamination is still unknown, as the records were either incomplete, inaccurate, or destroyed.

Other accidents and incidents at the SSFL included fires, spills, leaks, and explosions that involved radioactive and toxic materials, such as plutonium, uranium, tritium, cesium, strontium, perchlorate, and PCBs. Many of these events were also concealed from the public and the regulators, and the cleanup efforts were either inadequate or delayed.

For instance, in 1964, a fire broke out in a hot lab in Area Four, burning radioactive waste and releasing smoke and ash into the air. The fire was not reported to the authorities, and the debris was dumped into an unlined pit on the site.

The Closure and Cleanup

The SSFL ceased its nuclear operations in 1988, and its rocket testing in 2006. Since then, the site has been largely abandoned and neglected, leaving behind a legacy of environmental contamination and health risks. The site is still owned by the U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, and Boeing, who are responsible for its cleanup and remediation. However, the cleanup process has been slow and controversial, as the parties involved have disagreed on the standards, methods, and deadlines for the cleanup.

The SSFL is also surrounded by several communities, such as West Hills, Chatsworth, Simi Valley, and Thousand Oaks, where thousands of people live, work, and go to school. Many of these people have reported high rates of cancer, leukemia, thyroid disorders, birth defects, and other illnesses that they believe are linked to the SSFL’s contamination. Some of them have filed lawsuits against the site’s owners and operators, seeking compensation and justice for their suffering.

The Future of the SSFL

The SSFL is now a ghost town of tunnels, buildings, and equipment that once housed a secret nuclear facility. The site is still contaminated with radioactive and toxic materials that pose a threat to the environment and human health.

The site’s owners and regulators have promised to clean up the site and restore it to its natural state, but the progress has been slow and disputed. The site’s neighbors and activists have demanded a full and timely cleanup, and have raised awareness and pressure on the issue.

The SSFL’s fate is still uncertain, as it faces many challenges and uncertainties, such as the lack of funding, the complexity of the contamination, the legal disputes, and the natural disasters. The site has also been affected by several wildfires, such as the Woolsey Fire in 2018, that have burned parts of the site and raised concerns about the possible spread of the contamination. The site’s future also depends on the public’s interest and involvement, as the SSFL’s history and impact have been largely forgotten or ignored by many people.

The SSFL is a reminder of the dark side of the nuclear age, and the consequences of secrecy, negligence, and irresponsibility. It is also a lesson for the present and the future, as the world still faces the challenges and risks of nuclear technology and waste. The SSFL’s story is not over yet, and it deserves to be told and heard.

Leave a Comment