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33 Years after the Three Mile Island Nuclear disaster, we still haven’t learned our lesson

March 29, 2012

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear disaster that took place in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

I write about this today for two reasons. First, I am from that part of Pennsylvania and I move to Michigan the day that nuclear reactor 2 had a systems failure and caused a major disaster in Central Pennsylvania.

Some sources put the nuclear meltdown on March 28, but most sources place the actual systems failure at Three Mile Island in the early morning of March 29, 1979. I left Middletown airport that morning and remember that we flew right over the 2 nuclear reactors that sit right in the middle of the Susquehanna River, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

When I got to Michigan later that day I found out that the nuclear reactor had leaked radiation and that the governor of Pennsylvania had called for a voluntary evacuation, even though earlier in the day the state government had announced that there was no cause for alarm. My parents were panicking about what to do and whether or not to even let the dogs out for fear of contamination.

The voluntary evacuation saw thousands of people leave the area, although for just a brief time. Residents and schools were told to keep people inside until the “situation” was more under control.

Activists and angry citizens responded by organizing protests across the country in response to the Three Mile Island incident. In 1981, there was a class action lawsuit by citizen’s groups, which resulted in a $25 million settlement. Most of that money was used to found the TMI Public Health Fund.

The nuclear industry has continued to downplay the health consequences of the Three Mile Island meltdown, but there are plenty of independent studies that have been done, which have determined that there had been an increase in cancer, stillbirths, deformities and other negative health outcomes, especially for women and children living in the area.

It was also discovered later that not only those who lived closed by were affected, the Three Mile Island operators ordered the dumping of radioactive water was dumped into the Susquehanna River, thus impacting those down stream.

In 1993, Karl Grossman produced a documentary entitled Three Mile Island Revisited, which exposed many of the lies and cover-up from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Grossman has been one of the leading critics of the nuclear industry and has written numerous books on the topic.

Fast forward to 2012, and there is still a great deal of confusion and misinformation about the safety and viability of the nuclear industry. In some ways this seems rather amazing considering what the world saw and what the ongoing effects are of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan that began last year or the nuclear meltdown that occurred at the power plant in Chernobyl in Russia in 1986.

Three Mile Island did have the effect of putting a stop to any new construction of nuclear power plants in the US, but the industry has not given up and continues to influence energy policies in this country.

The nuclear power industry has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to political candidates and spends an equal amount on lobbying. The Center for Public Integrity last year published a report on the activities of the US nuclear industry to calm the fears of elected officials in the US right after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. The Nuclear Energy Institute, the political action committee of the nuclear industry, has drastically increased its lobbying efforts since the 2004 election and doesn’t tend to favor one political party over the other.

One of the most influential nuclear corporations is Exelon, which ironically happens to be the company that now runs Three Mile Island. Exelon was a major contributor to the 2008 campaign of Barack Obama and has given more money to his re-elections campaign than to any other candidate in 2012.

Part of the lobbying strategy used by the nuclear industry has been to paint itself as a clear energy alternative to coal and other fossil fuels. The image here is an ad that the Nuclear Energy Institute has used in recent years.

Probably one of the more insidious manifestations of the PR campaign by the nuclear industry was to hire former Greenpeace activist Patrick Moore, who now shills for the nuclear industry, particularly the front group for the Nuclear Energy Institute known as the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition.

The fact that the industry spends millions to influence policy and has created front groups to mislead the public should be a clear indicator about the intent of the industry and why we should not support the nuclear industry. On the 33rd anniversary of Three Mile Island and in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, we can’t afford to be fooled.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. ~Sil in Corea permalink
    April 4, 2012 7:17 am

    The Japanese are scrambling to develop alternatives to nuclear power. The Koreans are creeped out by the nukes in their power supply grid. When are Americans going to wake up to the danger, both now and down the road for the next several thousand years? What are we doing to our grandchildren and future generations?

  2. Mary Lou permalink
    February 15, 2013 9:22 am

    My husband and I lived in Quarreyville, Pa. back when this incident happened. He did of cancer in 1996 at 47 years old. Another one of his friends died before that in his late 30’s from cancer. and, a 3rd friend lost several fingers to cancer at that time. Coincidence? Definitely not. At least the next place we go will be the best.

  3. Theresa Walter-Deberry permalink
    May 16, 2016 5:08 pm

    I lived near there in Wilkes Barre Pa.I was in high school and remember being told to leave go home and pray the doors opened and we all ran home we knew the consequences of a meltdown but was not informed of how.severe this was.My mother passed from cancer I’ve had health issues as well as my entire family.Especially related to thyroid eithernon functioning or pituitary tumors.Is there a place that I can get any info on to make sure if these problems could be related since they have never been in the family?Thank YouTheresa Walter-DeBerry

  4. Koti permalink
    July 29, 2016 10:59 pm

    Theresa did you receive a reply? We’ve experienced the same

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