Bechtel's Nuclear Nightmare

| May 14, 2003

If Bechtel Corporation's past behavior is any indication of its future performance, the company's $68 million contract to rebuild Iraq will be one more opportunity to spread nuclear waste.

The San Francisco based company has long held a dominant role in the world of nuclear power, reports Pratap Chatterjee for the Guerrilla News Network. Some 50 years ago, Bechtel built the world?s first nuclear reactor to generate electrical power in the desert of southeastern Idaho. Since then, the company has built roughly 40 percent of the United States' nuclear capacity and 50 percent of nuclear power plants in the developing world.

But Chatterjee says the company has a 'blemished record' on environmental safety. He reports several incidents in which Bechtel turned in shoddy work, including labeling nuclear plant modifications 'not important to safety' to avoid safety controls in the 1970s clean-up of Three Mile Island, and speedily cleaning up trichloroethylene in the soil in Paducah, Kentucky, only to admit to 'quality assurance troubles' and the need to 're-check the results' after earning an award for the work.

Bechtel has met with criticism from the government and citizens alike for alleged environmental hazards at many of their plants, complaints ranging from an increase in cancer rates to the destruction of kelp off the shoreline near a California power station. Bechtel officials claim that they are taking precautions, but not everyone is buying it. 'They've got an answer for just about any question you ask about how safe everything is,' says Ronald Lamb, who lives near the Bechtel-managed Paducah facility, 'but they won't tell us how they are spending our tax money.' Heather Dewar

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