A Member of the Club

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch trots out a nuke industry shill to defend the latest missteps  by of the EPA at West Lake Landfill


On April 2, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the EPA had finally admitted that radioactive waste is migrating beyond the boundaries of the West Lake Landfill Superfund site. That would normally be a cause for praise. The remainder of the story, however, staunchly defended the agency’s less-than-sterling record mainly by downplaying the significance of its latest self-professed lapses.

The latest findings by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources show contamination above federal permissible levels. The findings contradict repeated denials by former Region 7 Director Karl Brooks and others even though publicly available EPA documents have confirmed the movement of the contamination off site in the past. The lack of candor by the EPA raises questions about the agency’s overall characterization of West Lake.

But have no fear.

To assure the public that all is well at the radioactively-contaminated site in North St. Louis County, reporter Jacob Barker quotes Bill Miller of the University of Missouri Research Reactor.

Referring to the newly discovered radioactive soil, Barker reported that Miller’s calculations indicate “a person would need to eat 20 pounds of dirt to be exposed to as much radiation as the average American gets annually from naturally occurring radon.”

Miller’s calculation is presented without rebuttal. The obvious inference is that Miller is a scientific voice of reason and that his viewpoint is objective.

A closer look at Miller’s background hints otherwise.

Miller’s employer, the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR), is inextricably tied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy. The DOE is one of the responsible parties for the cleanup of West Lake. Moreover, before it became a responsible party the DOE was in charge of the site prior to inexplicably handing it over to the EPA in 1990.

So the expert cited by the Post-Dispatch is not objective. Instead, he is an advocate of the mammoth nuclear industry, which is subsidized by the federal government. Miller’s job depends on maintaining the status quo in regard to all things relating to federal nuclear policy.

Signs of Miller’s bias don’t stop there, however.

MURR depends on the nuclear industry to stay in business. For example, its first customer in 1967 was the Mallinckrodt Nuclear Corp. Mallinckrodt is the company that created the nuclear waste that is scattered around the St. Louis area, including the West Lake Landfill. The company began processing uranium for the Manhattan Project in 1942. Mallinckrodt continued its uranium work during the Cold War for the Atomic Energy Commission until 1967.

More recently, Mallinckrodt has employed the services of health physicists that formerly worked for MURR. MURR in essence acts a de facto training ground for Mallinckrodt. In short, there is a revolving door between private industry and the university research reactor.

By presenting Miller’s opinion without providing its readers with details of his employer, the Post-Dispatch misled the public. The question is did the newspaper do this intentionally.


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