Its a date, an anniversary, seared by rote for anyone living near Three Mile Island on March 28, 1979. 32 years ago today, the unthinkable became reality, a partial core meltdown at TMI, located just south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
For many, it punched a hole, forever, in the credibility of nuclear power.
“The world has witnessed a core melt at a new born reactor at Three Mile Island, a catastrophe at Soviet nuclear plant, and a multi-headed radioactive challenge on land, air and sea in Japan. The issue is not if there will be another nuclear accident, but when, where and how,” said Eric Epstein.
Epstein, one of the founders of Rock The Capital, operates TMI Alert, a watchdog, informational website.
Human mistakes, mechanical imperfections, and confusion led to the worst nuclear accident in the United States. The crisis unfolded when a valve malfunctioned, releasing radioactive gases, which was later followed by, with the blessing of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the dumping of some 40,000 gallons of radioactive waste into the Susquehanna River.
Ralph DeSantis, a spokesperson for TMI, told NPR, “We’re very open in saying that at the time of the accident, the utility here[Metropolitan Edison] at TMI did a bad job of communicating to the public about what was going on, and that led to some of the fear that existed.”
Fear and the unknown still permeates Central Pennsylvania, as the debate over how many people were killed still rages on. Most government nuclear authorities stand by the number zero, as in deaths, but with spikes in cancer related fatalities, and other not so easily explained health problems, in the years that followed, plenty don’t put much stock in that number.
Up until the recent crisis in Japan, the nuclear industry appeared on trek for a renaissance in the United States. With so many tax and financial incentives to build new reactors, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission anticipates receiving more than 30 applications. TMI apparently has no plans to build a new reactor, and Epstein would like nothing more than to pull the plug on the entire industry.
“These plants are tied together by the failure of the industry to properly plan for accident scenarios. The sad legacy that afflicts the communities that live in the shaddow of these plants is that the accidents have a fixed start time but no end date. These are accidents without a happy ending that will haunt and scar these reactor commutes for generations.”
More than 100 reactors are operating in the U.S. produce about 19 percent of the electricity American use every year.
(To learn more about TMI Alert and the nuclear industry click on Rock The Capital.)
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