Shocking story that took everyone by surprise: Warren Olney on uncovering Santa Susana meltdown

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Launch stands are seen at Rocketdyne's Propulsion Field Laboratory in Santa Susana Mountains for static testing of high-thrust missile engines, March 1, 1960. Photo by Valley Times Photo Collection/LA Public Library.

In the late 1970s, Warren Olney was an investigative reporter at KNBC-4. His team broke the story about Santa Susana and the meltdown that happened there that few knew about. Today, Olney hosts KCRW’s “To the Point.” 

Olney says he was tipped off by a group led by UCLA professor Dan Hirsch. They provided Olney’s team with footage of the meltdown. 

“We had extraordinary footage, showing the bottom of the reactor core,” he says. “And they went down inside, and you could see the broken fuel rods at the bottom of the reactor’s containment vessel. … It was a pretty shocking story. And took everybody by surprise.”


Dan Hirsch is president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap. In 1979, his students at UCLA first discovered evidence of the nuclear meltdown that had taken place at Santa Susana 20 years earlier. Photo by MSNBC Films.

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