DAYTON, OHIO, NOV. 21 -- A tape recording proves that officials at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base tried to cover up a radioactive spill at the base, Ohio's senators said today.
Sens. John Glenn (D) and Howard M. Metzenbaum (D) revealed during a joint hearing of the Senate Governmental Affairs and Energy committees that they had reviewed transcripts of a recording made during a meeting shortly after the Sept. 18, 1986, spill.
"There is no question an attempted cover-up occurred," Glenn said.
The tape showed that people at the base "who understood the seriousness of the spill clearly advocated that persons outside this discussion group not be told of the spill," Glenn said.
Those who participated in the taped conversation advocated secretly decontaminating the building in which the spill occurred, removing the radioactive waste from it and erasing the tape, he said. The officials were laughing and joking on the tape, Glenn said.
"They knew they had committed a dastardly act, and they were determined to cover it up, not worrying about the danger that may be caused to others," Metzenbaum said.
Glenn refused to release the transcripts, citing a pending Justice Department investigation. However, Metzenbaum identified retired lieutenant colonel Maynard G. Moody, former director of the base environmental group, as one of the participants in the conversation.
"At this point, until the Justice Department does what it's going to do, we can't say anything," Moody said.
The senators and Reps. Tony P. Hall (D-Ohio) and Michael DeWine (R-Ohio) took reporters on a tour this morning of sites on the base affected by the spill.
According to news reports, the spill occurred when workers accidentally opened a drum of americium 241 that had been taken to the base by a jeweler who had planned to use the substance to treat diamonds.
The workers were taken to a nearby Boy Scout camp where the powder was washed off them at a water faucet before they returned to their homes in nearby Fairborn and showered.
No contamination was detected at the camp, the reports said.
Maj. Joseph Reuwer, chief of supply for the base, told the senators today that building 4060, in which the spill occurred, was dismantled about two weeks ago and is stored in a trailer that has been welded shut and will be buried at a nuclear-waste disposal site in Barnwell, S.C.