The only place east of the Rocky Mountains where government officials ever tested atomic weapons in the United States was at a site called the Tatum Salt Dome in Lamar County, Mississippi. On October 22, 1964, the blast from a 5.3 kiloton nuclear bomb named Salmon, detonated 2,700 feet below the Earth's surface, ripped through the landscape in ocean-like waves, running wells dry, and turning area creeks black with silt. The editor of the Hattiesburg American said his office building, located almost 30 miles from the test site, shook for three minutes in the quake. The next day his newspaper ran stories about homes "ramsacked" [sic] by the explosion and citizens concerned about medically harmful fallout. One of them was a Baxterville woman who built a makeshift seismograph by arranging some pecans in a pyramid on her porch steps while wielding an ash-laden cigarette.
The irony of her cancer stick is heartrending. She was more concerned with a fabricated fear of radiation than with the real threat she was holding in her hand! In the 1960s the public knew little about long-term health effects of smoking. Today it's common knowledge that smoking causes a plethora of problems such as cancer, heart disease, chronic respiratory illness, and stroke. Yet since the 1960s, public understanding of radiation safety, far from improving, has deteriorated. The average layman looking at this picture today may wince at the cigarette but recoils in horror from the idea of underground nuclear testing.
Fast-forward 50 years since Salmon exploded, and the public is still running scared from outlandish stories of nuclear holocaust. Case in point: Fukushima Daiichi, the Japanese nuclear power plant damaged in 2011 by a record-breaking earthquake and tsunami (shown in photo). A story published as a hoax at the self-styled "news site" TopInfoPost.com, is circulating the Internet as a legitimate news story about Fukushima, claiming reactor contents are melting into the Earth and causing underground nuclear explosions. The article includes a map that plots a "Fukushima melt-through point" in the Atlantic Ocean off the southeastern coast of Brazil. It implies that fuel and fallout from the supposed explosions is melting all the way through the Earth. In response to this absurdity, The New American contributor Ed Hiserodt asks:
Can you imagine the contents of a reactor "melting through" the Earth's crust, then the 1,800 miles of mantle, the 1,400 miles of outer core that is on the order of 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, then 750 miles of inner core that is approximately the same temperature as the surface of the sun? Then you've got to melt your way (against gravity) back up to the Atlantic Ocean. Come now.
But this "China Syndrome" scenario is only one ludicrous point of the story. Equally irrational is the belief that nuclear explosions could take place at the crippled Japanese facility, no matter how bad conditions there may be. It is physically impossible for a nuclear power plant to produce an atomic bomb-like explosion.
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