Richard, Pat Nixon Exposed to Radiation on 1959 Russia Visit

Documents regarding incident published online for first time
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2022 2:00 AM CDT
Updated Sep 25, 2022 4:15 PM CDT
Richard Nixon, Wife Exposed to Radiation on 1959 Russia Visit
Britain's Prince Charles walks with first lady Pat Nixon, President Richard Nixon and his daughter Tricia Nixon on the White House lawn in Washington, July 16, 1970.   (AP Photo, File)

Declassified documents just released online for the first time reveal that Richard and Pat Nixon were exposed to a significant dose of ionizing radiation during a trip to Russia in 1959. The then-VP and his wife were staying at the US ambassador's residence in Moscow when it occurred, but they were not told about it. In fact, a member of Nixon's Secret Service detail, James Golden, didn't inform the State Department until 1976 that detection equipment had measured significant levels of radiation, the Guardian reports.

Golden made the revelation after the so-called "Moscow Signal" controversy, involving microwave radiation reportedly directed at the US embassy in Moscow, started making headlines earlier that year, the Guardian reported earlier this month after documents related to that controversy were also declassified and posted online for the first time. Golden believed the information about radiation exposure during Nixon's trip (particularly around his sleeping quarters in Spaso House) was relevant to the State Department's investigation into the "Moscow Signal," so he went to the department with the information after the Moscow Signal made the news, according to the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which published all the documents online.

The story was reported at the time, but the underlying documentation had not been published online until now. Golden said he was told he'd been exposed to a "massive" dose. Ionizing radiation can be harmful, and the dose the Nixons were exposed to was 15 roentgen per hour; the permissible standard for occupational exposure in the US at the time was 5 roentgen per year. (See the documents here.)

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