By Peter Waldman Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
Updated June 2, 2003 12:02 a.m. ET
The U.S. Air Force is investigating whether radioactive waste is buried at more than 80 former and current air bases across the country, including the site of a new federal prison in central California.
Air Force health experts believe the radioactive material, generated by nuclear-weapons maintenance in the 1950s and 1960s, poses “no immediate public health risk as long as these burial sites are not disturbed,” according to the Air Force’s written responses to questions posed by The Wall Street Journal. It is far from certain, however, that the sites are undisturbed: Many of the former bases were decommissioned and cleared for public use years ago.
For example, the $100 million, maximum-security penitentiary in Atwater, Calif., east of San Francisco, occupies the former Castle Air Force Base, once part of the Cold War-era Strategic Air Command. The recently built prison is on a part of the base near where munitions were kept — and where investigators from the Air Force Safety Center suspect nuclear weapons were maintained and stored. [Read More…]