A Cruel Legacy

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Thursday, May 30, 2019



We now present a very intimate look inside the early nuclear fuel business through a very provocative letter written to Dr. Lee Davenport, President of Sylvania-Corning Nuclear by Jim V.  There is much sordid account in this letter, and at this present date (2012) I have absolutely no idea how much of this letter is true, false, founded or unfounded.  What is important here to us in our look at Sylcor is NOT the business-politics controversy at M&C (a direct Sylcor competitor) we're about to uncover, but rather what Jim tells Davenport about the implications it carries for Sylcor.  Also important are Jim's assessments of Sylcor's safety controls.  I hope no one alive today, or related to the principals mentioned in this letter, is offended - no harm is meant or wished by publication of this letter.

This letter is dated August 21, 1958 and is reproduced in entirety.

Dear Lee:

In the course of the past few weeks, the sordid story of what transpired at Metals and Controls has gradually been unfolded to me.  The manner in which the situation apparently developed is such that I felt you should be informed.

The following information is hearsay!

The major items of information were given me by an official of the Atomic Energy Commission.  The inside facts are purported to have come from an executive in a competing company.  We both know this man, and his integrity is unimpeachable.  Further, he is a close personal associate of the principals.

Rathbun Willard, Chairman of the Board of Metals and Controls, is in his late 70's; as a philanthropic gesture, he disposed of certain blocks of stock as outright gifts to various educational institutions.  His legal advisers apparently did not take adequate steps to insure retention of the proxy vote on these shares.  One of the colleges to whom such shares were given is purported to be Northeastern University.

The story has it that Jerry Ottmar, President of Metals and Controls Nuclear Company, was not on the best of terms with Carroll Wilson, President of the parent corporation, ex-Admiral, and close associate of Rickover.  Working through friendly interests at Northeastern, Wilson obtained the proxy votes held by that college, which together with other proxy and personally held stock, gave him a sizable vote for control of the Corporation.  Wilson also called a special meeting of the Board of Directors at a time when Mr. Willard was in Europe.  Mr. Willard's attorneys attempted to forestall the meeting to defer action on the proposed agenda until Willard could return.

The meeting was deliberately called at such a time because Mr. Willard has a known phobia against air travel.  Mr. Willard's attorneys were unsuccessful in their attempt to delay the meeting.  Despite his phobia, Mr. Willard made immediate arrangements to return by air.  The meeting was held on a Saturday; Mr. Willard was unable to return until Sunday.

The following action is reported to have taken place at the meeting:  Mr. Wilson presented to the assembled Board of Directors, minus Mr. Willard, documentary evidence charging Ottmar with mal-administration.  By a unanimous vote of the assembled Directors, Ottmar was removed from office, and Carroll Wilson assumed the Presidency of both companies.

Ottmar has not given up, and upon Willard's return, the entire mess resolved into a free-for-all in which both Wilson and Willard resigned.  Wilson has been named Chairman of an advisory committee, and George L. Williams, Treasurer, has become acting President of both firms until such time as the issues can be resolved. 

Up to this point, the situation would appear to be typical of the machinations frequently found in the internal politics of American Corporations.  The following facts, and I use the word advisedly, since they came to me from the person who is purported to have taken the action, seemed to be worthy of your careful consideration.  The documentary evidence presented to the Board by Wilson is claimed to have emanated from the Idaho Operations Office of the Atomic Energy Commission.  They were reported to be letters expressing dissatisfaction with criticality control, production control, and health physics administration at M&C.  The Commission deplored the lack of concern and attention by Jerry Ottmar on such matters which they maintained to be a major responsibility of his position.  It is claimed that these letters were intended to correct a situation rather than to cause personal discomfiture to Mr. Ottmar.  Wilson probably played the part of an opportunist in using them as he did.  The Commission's attitude is that they do not feel sorry for Mr. Ottmar since they held him responsible for what they considered to be extremely lax and ultimately dangerous handling of the uranium administrative problems, including as the officer expressed to me, one instance of subcriticality, in which criticality was averted only by alert action on the part of the AEC.

Another source has been quoted to me as saying that, "The Admiral (Rickover) is not displeased."

I am fairly familiar with the production setup at M&C, having administered the production phase in the Core Contract Group at Bettis.  The M&C system was not exemplary; but, I believe, and please forgive me for the remark, was superior to Sylcor's.  The AEC has the prerogative to issue a cease operation order on any organization which it feels is not operating in the best interests of safety.  Several such orders have already been issued.  I am concerned that, with the influx of more and more orders, we may find Sylcor operations have extended beyond the system of controls that have worked so well in the past.  The AEC's attitude, should Sylcor become involved in any unfortunate incident, would undoubtedly be conditioned by a reflection of the fact that the worst commercial accident to date happened at Bayside {a Sylcor facility}.  Certain of our contacts in the west have not let me forget this fact.  Perhaps my concern is groundless.  Certainly you have every right to tell me to stick to marketing and refrain from comments on operations many miles removed from my sphere of action.

However, the potential load of ETR {Engineering Test Reactor, which Sylcor was making elements for} combined with the Fermi elements presents a new production situation at Sylcor.  ETR is under Commission Administration by the same organization which spearheaded the internal situation at M&C, and I felt that it would be unwise if I did not immediately bring this story to your attention.

Because of the personalities involved, many of whom have been associates in the past, I would appreciate your confidence with respect to the disclosure of the contents of this letter.  I informed Stan Roboff  that I was writing you concerning the M&C situation, and he requested a copy promising not to reveal its contents and further agreeing to destroy the copy after reading.  I have a profound distaste for gossip and/or gossipers.  Since what I have said represents hearsay, I may have placed myself in a position of repeating gossip.  The potential significance of the hearsay appeared to me to be so important to you and to Sylcor that I can but trust you will receive its repetition as evidence of good judgment.  If not, I can but ask your indulgence in view of my good intentions."

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Nuclear Power Plant Lawsuits

Nuclear Power Plant Lawsuits

Environmental Litigation Lawyer

Did you know that approximately one-fifth of the energy produced in the U.S. is produced by nuclear reactors? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
In the United States, over 100 nuclear reactors supply about 20% of our electricity. Worldwide, over 400 reactors provide 17% of the world's electricity!
A nuclear power plant is a facility that produces electricity through a process called fission, which creates large amounts of energy by splitting uranium atoms. Though this process can create a considerable amount of energy, it also produces hazardous byproducts. People living near nuclear power plants or near waste facilities where these products are stored or disposed of may be at risk of suffering from a number of health problems. The same applies if there is an accident, such as an explosion, at one of these facilities.
Many communities and individuals have suffered from serious health problems or have had their property damaged due to negligence or environmental law violations by nuclear power plants. Representing plaintiffs (injured parties) in environmental lawsuits is an important part of our firm's practice, and we pursue these cases with the level of unrelenting dedication necessary to seek the best possible result. You can learn more about our services and your rights as a member of the community, property owner, business owner or individual by contacting an environmental litigation lawyer at our firm. Your initial consultation is free and confidential.

Recent Nuclear Fuel Plant Lawsuit

In Erwin, Tennessee, Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group and The Atlantic Richfield Company operate a nuclear fuel plant that enriches uranium. Uranium is highly radioactive substance. The operations of this plant may have caused damage to residents in the Erwin and the surrounding area. Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, working with Motely Rice, LLC and the Tennessee-based law firm Rogers, Laughlin, Nunnally, Hood & Crum, P.C., hosted a town hall meeting in March of 2011 to present educational information related to radiation contamination and the potential hazards present in the affected area. We wanted to inform residents of the dangers of contamination in that area and give them legal options to pursue.
The truth of the matter is that many people living near nuclear power plants are unaware of their rights and legal options if they are adversely affected by plant operations. Our goal is to educate people across the country, helping them exercise their rights as they seek financial compensation for the losses and injuries they have experienced.

Byproducts Produced by Nuclear Power Plants

There are three radioactive materials found at nuclear power plants: enriched uranium (as mentioned above), low-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. These must be properly stored and/or disposed of in order to protect the environment and protect the public from serious health problems. Let's take a closer look at these three substances.
Enriched uranium serves as the fuel for a nuclear power plant. A single pellet of enriched uranium, though only about one inch long, can generate as much electricity as an entire ton of coal. A single reactor at a nuclear power plant may contain as many as 100 tons of fuel pellets. This form of uranium is mildly radioactive and, according to the EPA, may be handled safely without shielding.
Low-level radioactive waste includes various items, from clothing to tools, which have been contaminated by radioactive material. There are two ways that a facility may dispose of low-level radioactive waste. The first is to allow the radioactivity in the waste to decay away and then dispose of the waste as normal trash. The second is to ship it to a low-level waste disposal site. Some examples of low-level waste include clothing, protective shoe coverings, filters, mops, rags, tools, and equipment.
Spent nuclear fuel is the most dangerous byproduct of a nuclear power plant, containing numerous highly radioactive byproducts of the fission process. It must be stored in a precise manner to avoid environmental contamination. It is stored at the plant in large pools or dry storage containers that are specially designed for this purpose to cool the fuel and act as radiation shields.

Radiation Contamination Side Effects

If there is an accident at a nuclear power plant or if one of these facilities does not properly store or dispose of radioactive byproducts, this can have disastrous results. The health effects that have been linked to radiation exposure vary, but almost all are severe and even life-threatening. Long-term exposure to radiation increases the likelihood of developing cancer and may also cause genetic mutations that may be passed onto a victim's children. Acute, short-term radiation exposure may cause burns, radiation sickness (nausea, hair loss, reduced organ function, weakness and burns), premature aging and even death.
Our environmental litigation attorneys are prepared to handle nuclear power plant lawsuits related to such health problems as:
  • Bladder cancer
  • Brain cancer / brain tumors
  • Bone cancer
  • Renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer)
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Skin cancer, including melanoma
  • Severe burns
  • Birth defects
  • Genetic mutations
  • Radiation sickness

Our Environmental Law Attorneys Can Help

Our experienced environmental law attorneys can discuss the details of your case and help you make an informed decision about whether you want to file suit. If you proceed with environmental litigation, we will be with you at every step of the process to guide you in making important choices about your case and will work with you from the time you contact us until your claim has been completely resolved. Contact an environmental litigation attorney at our firm today for more information.