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Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster raise doubts over nuclear plant safety

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A special Facing South investigation by Sue Sturgis

It was April Fool's Day, 1979 -- 30 years ago this week -- when Randall Thompson first set foot inside the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pa. Just four days earlier, in the early morning hours of March 28, a relatively minor problem in the plant's Unit 2 reactor sparked a series of mishaps that led to the meltdown of almost half the uranium fuel and uncontrolled releases of radiation into the air and surrounding Susquehanna River.

It was the single worst disaster ever to befall the U.S. nuclear power industry, and Thompson was hired as a health physics technician to go inside the plant and find out how dangerous the situation was. He spent 28 days monitoring radiation releases.

Today, his story about what he witnessed at Three Mile Island is being brought to the public in detail for the first time -- and his version of what happened during that time, supported by a growing body of other scientific evidence, contradicts the official U.S. government story that the Three Mile Island accident posed no threat to the public.

"What happened at TMI was a whole lot worse than what has been reported," Randall Thompson told Facing South. "Hundreds of times worse."

Thompson and his wife, Joy, a nuclear health physicist who also worked at TMI in the disaster's aftermath, claim that what they witnessed there was a public health tragedy. The Thompsons also warn that the government's failure to acknowledge the full scope of the disaster is leading officials to underestimate the risks posed by a new generation of nuclear power plants.

While new reactor construction ground to a halt after the 1979 incident, state leaders and energy executives today are pushing for a nuclear energy revival that's centered in the South, where 12 of the 17 facilities seeking new reactors are located.

Fundamental to the industry's case for expansion is the claim that history proves nuclear power is clean and safe -- a claim on which the Thompsons and others, bolstered by startling new evidence, are casting doubt.

An unlikely critic

randall_thompson_fire.jpgRandall Thompson could never be accused of being a knee-jerk anti-nuclear alarmist. A veteran of the U.S. Navy's nuclear submarine program, he is a self-described "nuclear geek" who after finishing military service jumped at the chance to work for commercial nuclear power companies.

He worked for a time at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant south of Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania's York County, but quit the industry six months before the TMI disaster over concerns that nuclear companies were cutting corners for higher profits, with potentially dangerous results. Instead, he began publishing a skateboarding magazine with his wife Joy.

But the moment the Thompsons heard about the TMI incident, they wanted to get inside the plant and see what was happening first-hand. That didn't prove difficult: Plant operator Metropolitan Edison's in-house health physics staff fled after the incident began, so responsibility for monitoring radioactive emissions went to a private contractor called Rad Services.

The company immediately hired Randall Thompson to serve as the health physics technician in charge of monitoring radioactive emissions, while Joy Thompson got a job monitoring radiation doses to TMI workers.

"I had other health physicists from around the country calling me saying, 'Don't let it melt without me!" Randall Thompson recalls. "It was exciting. Our attitude was, 'Sure I may get some cancer, but I can find out some cool stuff.'"

What the Thompsons say they found out during their time inside TMI suggests radiation releases from the plant were hundreds if not thousands of times higher than the government and industry have acknowledged -- high enough to cause the acute health effects documented in people living near the plant but that have been dismissed by the industry and the government as impossible given official radiation dose estimates.

The Thompsons tried to draw attention to their findings and provide health information for people living near the plant, but what they say happened next reads like a John Grisham thriller.

They tell of how a stranger approached Randall Thompson in a grocery store parking lot in late April 1979 and warned him his life was at risk, leading the family to flee Pennsylvania. How they ended up in New Mexico working on a book about their experiences with the help of Joy's brother Charles Busey, another nuclear Navy vet and a former worker at the Hatch nuclear power plant in Georgia. How one evening while driving home from the store Busey and Randall Thompson were run off the road, injuring Thompson and killing Busey. How a copy of the book manuscript they were working on was missing from the car's trunk after the accident. These allegations were detailed in several newspaper accounts back in 1981.

Eventually, after a decade of having their lives ruled by TMI, the Thompsons decided to move on. Randall Thompson went to college to study computer science. Joy Thompson returned to publishing and writing.

Today they live quietly in the mountains of North Carolina where, inspired by time spent seeking refuge with a traveling circus, they have forged a new career for themselves as clowns -- or what they like to call "professional fools." As Joy Thompson wrote in the fall 2001 issue of Parabola, a journal of myth, the role of the fool is to help people "perceive the foolishness in even ... the most powerful institutions," noting the medieval court jester's role of telling the King what others dare not.

That conviction has led the Thompsons to tell their story today.

"They haven't told the truth yet about what happened at Three Mile Island," says Randall Thompson. "A lot of people have died because of this accident. A lot."

Anomalies abound

That a lot of people died because of what happened at Three Mile Island, as the Thompsons claim, is definitely not part of the official story. In fact, the commercial nuclear power industry and the government insist that despite the meltdown of almost half of the uranium fuel at TMI, there were only minimal releases of radiation to the environment that harmed no one.

For example, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying group for the U.S. nuclear industry, declares on its website that there have been "no public health or safety consequences from the TMI-2 accident." The government's position is the same, reflected in a fact sheet distributed today by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency charged with overseeing the U.S. nuclear power industry: TMI, it says, "led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of the nearby community." [The watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert offers their take on the NRC factsheet here.]

Those upbeat claims are based on the findings of the Kemeny Commission, a panel assembled by President Jimmy Carter in April 1979 to investigate the TMI disaster. Using release figures presented by Metropolitan Edison and the NRC, the commission calculated that in the month following the disaster there were releases of up to 13 million curies of so-called "noble gases" -- considered relatively harmless -- but only 13 to 17 curies of iodine-131, a radioactive form of the element that at even moderate exposures causes thyroid cancer. (A curie is a measure of radioactivity, with 1 curie equal to the activity of one gram of radium. For help understanding these and other terms, see the glossary at the end of this piece.)

But the official story that there were no health impacts from the disaster doesn't jibe with the experiences of people living near TMI. On the contrary, their stories suggest that area residents actually suffered exposure to levels of radiation high enough to cause acute effects -- far more than the industry and the government has acknowledged.

Some of their disturbing experiences were collected in the book Three Mile Island: The People's Testament, which is based on interviews with 250 area residents done between 1979 and 1988 by Katagiri Mitsuru and Aileen M. Smith.

It includes the story of Jean Trimmer, a farmer who lived in Lisburn, Pa. about 10 miles west of TMI. On the evening of March 30, 1979, Trimmer stepped outside on her front porch to fetch her cat when she was hit with a blast of heat and rain. Soon after, her skin became red and itchy as if badly sunburned, a condition known as erythema. About three weeks later, her hair turned white and began falling out. Not long after, she reported, her left kidney "just dried up and disappeared" -- an occurrence so strange that her case was presented to a symposium of doctors at the nearby Hershey Medical Center. All of those symptoms are consistent with high-dose radiation exposure.

There was also Bill Peters, an auto-body shop owner and a former justice of the peace who lived just a few miles west of the plant in Etters, Pa. The day after the disaster, he and his son -- who like most area residents were unaware of what was unfolding nearby -- were working in their garage with the doors open when they developed what they first thought was a bad sunburn. They also experienced burning in their throats and tasted what seemed to be metal in the air. That same metallic taste was reported by many local residents and is another symptom of radiation exposure, commonly reported in cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.

Peters soon developed diarrhea and nausea, blisters on his lips and inside his nose, and a burning feeling in his chest. Not long after, he had surgery for a damaged heart valve. When his family evacuated the area a few days later, they left their four-year-old German shepherd in their garage with 200 pounds of dog chow, 50 gallons of water and a mattress. When they returned a week later, they found the dog dead on the mattress, his eyes burnt completely white. His food was untouched, and he had vomited water all over the garage. They also found four of their five cats dead -- their eyes also burnt white -- and one alive but blinded. Peters later found scores of wild bird carcasses scattered over their property.

Similar stories surfaced in The People of Three Mile Island, a book by documentary photographer Robert Del Tredici. He found local farmers whose cattle and goats died, suffered miscarriages and gave birth to deformed young after the incident; whose chickens developed respiratory problems and died; and whose fruit trees abruptly lost all their leaves. Local residents also collected evidence of deformed plants, some of which were examined by James Gunckel, a botanist and radiation expert with Brookhaven National Laboratory and Rutgers University.

"There were a number of anomalies entirely comparable to those induced by ionizing radiation -- stem fasciations, growth stimulation, induction of extra vegetative buds and stem tumors," he swore in a 1984 affidavit.

Scientists say these kinds of anomalies simply aren't explained by official radiation release estimates.

Evidence of harm

wing_tmi_cancer_map.gifThe evidence that people, animals and plants near TMI were exposed to high levels of radiation in the 1979 disaster is not merely anecdotal. While government studies of the disaster as well as a number of independent researchers assert the incident caused no harm, other surveys and studies have also documented health effects that point to a high likelihood of significant radiation exposures.

In 1984, for example, psychologist Marjorie Aamodt and her engineer husband, Norman -- owners of an organic dairy beef farm east of Three Mile Island who got involved in a lawsuit seeking to stop TMI from restarting its Unit 1 reactor -- surveyed residents in three hilltop neighborhoods near the plant. Dozens of neighbors reported a metallic taste, nausea, vomiting and hair loss as well as illnesses including cancers, skin and reproductive problems, and collapsed organs -- all associated with radiation exposure. Among the 450 people surveyed, there were 19 cancer deaths reported between 1980 and 1984 -- more than seven times what would be expected statistically.

That survey came to the attention of the industry-financed TMI Public Health Fund, created in 1981 as part of a settlement for economic losses from the disaster. The fund's scientific advisors verified the Aamodts' calculations and launched a more comprehensive study of TMI-related cancer deaths led by a team of scientists from Columbia University. The researchers found an association between estimated radiation doses received by area residents and instances of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, lung cancer, leukemia and all cancers combined. Crucially, however, the researchers decided there wasn't "convincing evidence" that TMI radiation releases were linked to the increase in cancers in the area because of the "low estimates of radiation exposure." The paper did not consider what conclusions could be drawn if those "low estimates" turned out to be wrong.

By the time the Columbia research was published in the early 1990s, a class-action lawsuit was underway involving about 2,000 plaintiffs claiming that the radiation emissions were much larger than admitted by the government and industry. (The federal courts eventually rejected that suit, though hundreds of out-of-court settlements totaling millions of dollars have been reached with victims, including the parents of children born with birth defects.)

Consulting for the plaintiffs' attorneys, the Aamodts contacted Dr. Steven Wing, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in Chapel Hill to provide support for the plaintiffs. Dr. Wing was reluctant to get involved because -- as he wrote in a 2003 paper about his experience -- "allegations of high radiation doses at TMI were considered by mainstream radiation scientists to be a product of radiation phobia or efforts to extort money from a blameless industry." But impressed with the Aamodts' compelling if imperfect evidence, Wing agreed to look at whether there were connections between radiation exposure from TMI and cancer rates.

Wing reanalyzed the Columbia scientists' data, looking at cancer rates before the TMI disaster to control for other possible risk factors in the 10-mile area. His peer-reviewed results, published in 1997, found positive relationships between accident dose estimates and rates of leukemia, lung cancer and all cancers. Where the Columbia study found a 30 percent average increase in lung cancer risk among one group of residents, for example, Wing found an 85 percent increase. And while the Columbia researchers found little or no increase in adult leukemias and a statistically unreliable increase in childhood cases, Wing found that people downwind during the most intense releases were eight to 10 times more likely on average than their neighbors to develop leukemia.

Dr. Wing reflected on his findings at a symposium in Harrisburg marking the 30-year anniversary of the Three Mile Island disaster last week.

"I believe this is very good evidence that releases were thousands of times greater than the story we've been told," he said. "As we think about the current plans to open more nuclear reactors, when we hear -- which we hear often -- that no one was harmed at Three Mile Island, we really should question that."

Documenting discrepancies

Randall and Joy Thompson couldn't agree more. If anything, they think Dr. Wing's findings understate the impact of Three Mile Island because they're based on low-ball estimates of radiation releases.

"Given what he was allowed to know or could figure out, he did a slam-bang job of it," Joy Thompson says.

In 1995, the Thompsons -- with the help of another health physics expert who was also hired to monitor radiation after the TMI disaster, David Bear (formerly Bloombaum) - prepared a report analyzing the Kemeny Commission findings. Their research, which hasn't been covered by any major media, documents a series of inconsistencies and omissions in the government's account.

For example, the official story is that the TMI incident released only 13 to 17 curies of dangerous iodine into the outside environment, a tiny fraction of the 13 million curies of less dangerous radioactive gases officials say were released, primarily xenon. Such a number would seem small compared with, for example, the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl, which released anywhere from 13 million to 40 million curies of iodine and is linked to 50,000 cases of thyroid cancer, according to World Health Organization estimates.

But the Thompsons and Bear point out that the commission's own Technical Assessment Task Force, in a separate volume, had concluded that iodine accounted for 8 to 12 percent of the total radioactive gases leaked from Three Mile Island. Conservatively assuming the 13 million curie figure was the total amount of radioactive gases released rather than just the xenon portion, and then using the Task Force's own 8 to 12 percent estimate of the proportion that was iodine, they point out that "the actual figure for Iodine release would be over 1 million curies" -- a much more substantial public health threat.

In another instance, the Kemeny Commission claimed that there were 7.5 million curies of iodine present in TMI's primary loop, the contained system that delivers cooling water to the reactor. But a laboratory analysis done on March 30 found a higher concentration of iodine in the reactor water, which would put the total amount of iodine present -- and which could potentially leak into the environment -- at 7.65 million curies.

"Thus, while the apparent difference between 7.5 and 7.65 seems inconsiderable at first glance," the Thompson/Bear report states, "this convenient rounding off served to 'lose' a hundred and fifty thousand curies of radioactive Iodine."

They also offer evidence of atmospheric releases of dangerously long-lived radioactive particles such as cesium and strontium -- releases denied by the Kemeny Commission but indicated in the Thompsons' own post-disaster monitoring and detailed in the report -- and show that there were pathways for the radiation to escape into the environment. They demonstrate that the plant's radiation filtration system was totally inadequate to handle the large amounts of radiation released from the melted fuel and suggest that the commission may have arbitrarily set release estimates at levels low enough to make the filtration appear adequate.

Shockingly, they also report that when readings from the dosimeters used to monitor radiation doses to workers and the public were logged, doses of beta radiation -- one of three basic types along with alpha and gamma -- were simply not recorded, which Joy Thompson knew since she did the recording. But Thompson's monitoring equipment also indicated that beta radiation represented about 90 percent of the radiation to which TMI's neighbors were exposed in April 1979, which means an enormous part of the disaster's public health risk may have been wiped from the record.

Finally, in a separate analysis the Thompsons point to discrepancies in government and industry accounts of the disaster that suggest the TMI Unit 2 suffered a scram failure -- that is, a breakdown of the emergency shutoff system. That would mean the nuclear reaction spiraled out of control and therefore posed a much greater danger than the official story allows.

The Thompsons aren't the only ones who have produced evidence that the radiation releases from TMI were much higher than the official estimates. Arnie Gundersen -- a nuclear engineer and former nuclear industry executive turned whistle-blower -- has done his own analysis, which he shared for the first time at a symposium in Harrisburg last week.

"I think the numbers on the NRC's website are off by a factor of 100 to 1,000," he said.

Exactly how much radiation was released is impossible to say, since onsite monitors immediately went off the scale after the explosion. But Gundersen points to an inside report by an NRC manager who himself estimated the release of about 36 million curies -- almost three times as much as the NRC's official estimate. Gundersen also notes that industry itself has acknowledged there was a total of 10 billion curies of radiation inside the reactor containment. Using the common estimate that a tenth of it escaped, that means as much as a billion curies could have been released to the environment.

gundersen_pressure_spike_slide.jpgGundersen also offered compelling evidence based on pressure monitoring data from the plant that shortly before 2 p.m. on March 28, 1979 there was a hydrogen explosion inside the TMI containment building that could have released significant amounts of radiation to the environment. The NRC and industry to this day deny there was an explosion, instead referring to what happened as a "hydrogen burn." But Gundersen noted that affidavits from four reactor operators confirm that the plant manager was aware of a dramatic pressure spike after which the internal pressure dropped to outside pressure; he also noted that the control room shook and doors were blown off hinges. In addition, Gundersen reported that while Metropolitan Edison would have known about the pressure spike immediately from monitoring equipment, it didn't notify the NRC about what had happened until two days later.

Gundersen maintains under the NRC's own rules an evacuation should have been ordered on the disaster's first day, when calculated radiation exposures in the town of Goldsboro, Pa. were as high as 10 rems an hour compared to an average cumulative annual background dose of about 0.125 rems. No evacuation order was ever issued, though Gov. Dick Thornburgh did issue an evacuation advisory on March 30 for pregnant women and preschool children within 5 miles of the plant. The government also did not distribute potassium iodide to the public, which would have protected people from the health-damaging effects of radioactive iodine.

Lessons for the future?

When asked by Facing South to respond to these allegations, a spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not address them directly, instead stating that it continues to stand by the Kemeny Commission report. The NRC further insists that the radiation releases from Three Mile Island had only "negligible effects" on the physical health of humans and the environment, citing other reports from federal agencies [For a PDF of the NRC's response to Facing South, see here.]

But Gundersen and the Thompsons argue such claims don't address new findings at odds with the government's account.

"I believe [the] data shows releases from TMI were significantly greater than reported by the federal government," Gundersen says.

They also say their findings that releases were potentially much larger have important ramifications for current plans to expand the nuclear power industry.

With more than $18 billion in federal subsidies at stake, 17 companies are seeking federal licenses to build a total of 26 nuclear reactors across the country, the first applications since the 1979 disaster. The Atlanta-based Southern Co. plans to begin site work this summer for two new reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia, where state lawmakers recently approved legislation forcing ratepayers to foot the bill for those facilities up front. Florida and South Carolina residents have also begun paying new utility charges to finance planned reactors, USA Today reports. Plans are in the works as well for new reactors in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Harold Denton, a retired NRC official who worked in Three Mile Island during the crisis, recently told Greenwire that changes made after the 1979 disaster "significantly reduced the overall risks of a future serious accident." But the Thompsons and Gundersen point out that the standards the NRC is applying to the new generation of nuclear plants are influenced by assumptions about what happened at Three Mile Island. They say the NRC's low estimates of radiation exposure have resulted in inadequate requirements for safety and containment protocols as well as the size of the evacuation zones around nuclear plants.

Other nuclear watchdogs have also raised concerns that the NRC's standards for protection against severe accidents like TMI remain inadequate. In a December 2007 report titled "Nuclear Power in a Warming World," the Union of Concerned Scientists notes that the worst accident the current generation of reactors was designed to withstand involves only partial melting of the reactor core but no breach of containment. And the NRC requires operators of plants found to be vulnerable to severe accidents to fix the problem "only if a cost-benefit analysis shows that the financial benefit of a safety backfit - determined by assigning a dollar value to the number of projected cancer deaths that would result from a severe accident - outweighs the cost of fixing the problem," the report states.

Given their personal experiences, the Thompsons warn that we may be fooling ourselves into believing nuclear power is safer than evidence and history suggest.

"Once you realize how deep and broad the realignment of facts about TMI has been, it becomes really pretty amazing," Randall Thompson says. "I guess that's what it takes to protect this industry."

(Images from top: Photo of President Jimmy Carter leaving Three Mile Island for Middletown, Pa. on April 1, 1979 from the National Archives and Records Administration; photo of Randall Thompson swallowing fire by William Mosher; map showing increases in cancer rates in the TMI area after the disaster courtesy of Dr. Steve Wing; graph showing dramatic spike in pressure inside the TMI containment on March 28, 1979 courtesy of Arnie Gundersen.)


* * *

NUKE-SPEAK: Glossary of terms used in this story

an element occurring naturally in rocks, soil and dust. The breakdown of uranium fuel in nuclear reactors produces radioactive forms including cesium-134 and cesium-137, exposure to which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding and death.
a measure of radioactivity, with 1 curie equal to the activity of one gram of radium.
redness of the skin due to capillary congestion, it can be caused by radiation exposure.
a radioactive element produced in nuclear reactors. Absorbed into the body, it accumulates in the thyroid gland, which controls metabolism, and can cause cancer and other diseases.
Kemeny Commission
a panel created in April 1979 by President Jimmy Carter to investigate the Three Mile Island disaster. It was chaired by John G. Kemeny, president of Dartmouth College, and released its final report on Oct. 31, 1979.
Noble gases
a group of chemical elements that occur in nature in a number of isotopes, some of which are unstable and emit radiation.
Nuclear fission
the splitting of an atom accompanied by the release of energy. In a nuclear reactor, the fission energy is converted to heat used to generate electricity via steam turbines.
Nuclear meltdown
a severe nuclear reactor problem that occurs when there is a loss of control over the reactor core, causing the radioactive fuel to melt and release highly radioactive and other toxic elements.
Nuclear reactor core
the part of a nuclear reactor containing the nuclear fuel; it is where nuclear reactions take place.
Radiation, ionizing
subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves energetic enough to detach electrons from atoms or molecules. It includes alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays.
Radiation poisoning or sickness
damage to organ tissue due to excessive exposure to ionizing radiation. Acute symptoms include erythema, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss and internal bleeding.
an extremely radioactive chemical element that was at one time used in self-luminous paints for watch dials, leading to radiation-related illnesses in dial painters.
an acronym that stands for "roentgen equivalent in man," this is a unit for measuring absorbed doses of radiation equivalent to one roentgen of X-rays or gamma rays.
a unit of measurement for ionizing radiation.
an emergency shutdown of a nuclear reactor, also referred to as a "trip," achieved by inserting neutron-absorbing control rods into the reactor core.
a highly reactive chemical element whose radioactive isotope, strontium-90, is produced by nuclear fission. It takes the place of calcium in bones and can lead to bone disorders including cancer.
Three Mile Island Units 1 and 2
the two reactors at the commercial nuclear power plant located south of Harrisburg, Pa. on an island in the Susquehanna River. TMI-2 suffered a partial meltdown on March 28, 1979 and is no longer in operation. Originally built by General Public Utilities Corp. and operated by Metropolitan Edison, TMI-1 is now operated by Chicago-based Exelon while Unit 2 is owned by Met-Ed.
a radioactive element used by fuel in nuclear reactors.


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re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

As with the economic dangers now at our throats, the corporate media, plus much of what we think of as public broadcasting, were promoting reckless policy, deceiving the public into complacency. It is lucky we have people like the Thompsons, Professor Wing, NCWARN and others seeking a responsible path and resisting the worst options in a time of energy transition. Now that the NC $aves bill has been introduced in the NC Legislature, those of us who care about the future have something positive to advocate for. We can avoid the crazier choices our policymakers are being tempted to go along with. Many thanks to ISS and Sue Sturgis for this important story.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

First rate! Time for more of the truth to get out on TMI.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

The whole story is based upon speculation. I have not read entire sentence based upon study, reason, scientific backup, so the term used in the story is correct "CLOWNS". If you are going to try to get credibility for a story it needs backup. These morons probably were not even close to the the TMI site. If this is another scare tactic to use to scare people, get a grip. People I knew worked there, they also worked in the radioactive survey group, they counter what these Thompson twits say. Some have retired since but, feel the government and at the time GPU were pretty close to truthful. I dont think someone would risk cancer to see "pretty cool" stuff as stated by these morons, that dont make a whole lot of sense either.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Wow, Sue! Very well done!

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

I have long believed that there IS a proper role for anecdotal reporting in even traditional public health and epidemiology. At the very least it provides a canary in the coal mine -- alerting "someone" to start paying attention and investigating something; at best, it catches errors, cover-up, and bad methodology. The tragic-comedy joke of some health officials' penchant for passing the buck is demonstrated (once again, unfortunately) in a Feb. 17th article about reported cancer incidence around the Fermi reactors in MI:
This was a NEWS article; and this is not a peer-reviewed journal. You should not expect the level of detail you are looking for here. You are given numerous citations for follow-up, should you wish that detail. That said, I would love to see a properly funded and equipped study with full FOIA powers done by the LOCALS, and not outside interests.
It is no more logical to assume that people like the Thompsons (or say any of the 250 interviewees in the book cited, "Three Mile Island: The People's Testament") have any more of an ax to grind or a vested interest (that "something seriously wrong went on here"), do than the nuclear industry and government, in whose interest it is to perpetuate nuclear power ("nothing was wrong; nobody got hurt").
Personally, I don't like it when Wizards tell me to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain over there.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Amazing story!

One usually has to purchase The Weekly World News to find this caliber of reporting.

This one will be difficult to top. I wonder what Sue has planned for upcoming articles?

"Startling revelations about the Kennedy Assassination!"

"Startling revelations about UFO's!" (complete with eyewitness accounts and gruesome details of the alien "probes")

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Funny enough, one of the quotes that got stricken from my story during the editing process was a remark Arnie Gundersen made at the symposium in Harrisburg with Dr. Steve Wing:

"I don't believe there was a UFO in Area 51. I believe one man shot JFK. And I believe two planes hit the Twin Towers and brought them down," he said. "However, I believe the data shows releases from TMI were significantly greater than reported by the federal government."

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

John - My late father was a reactor inspector for the NRC during TMI's construction. This story doesn't hold water on so many levels.I Googled Thompson. He's been a professional clown for 28 years. How did he maintain the necessary skills to co-author a highly technical report in 1995 analyzing the Kemeny Commission findings.

I'm surprised Facing South published this stuff without checking the Thompson's background and their claims.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Hey John,

The only moron I see here is you. Sue referenced multiple scientific studies from multiple sources along with eye witnesses besides the Thompsons. Of course, you probably didn't bother to actually read the entire article because it doesn't fit into your narrow, imagined world view.

"That dont make a whole lot of sense"...

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

I want to thank you especially, Sue. I lived in NJ all my life until recently & my husband & I were young parents at the time of TMI & living nearby. We agonized about the wisdom of evacuating, given the chaos on roadways & large population already trying to flee. We stayed put & everyone in my family has had thyroid disorders in years since. I will research this more now because of your story. Thanks again.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

(1) The government and industry make estimates about radiation releases.
(2) The people who experience sickness and worse are told, by among others Federal Courts, it couldn't have been caused by TMI because - according to gov./ind. estimates - there wasn't enough radiation to do those hideous things.
(3) Morons assume that therefore no one was hurt, or if they were, it was coincidence.
(4) Morons call for more nuclear power.

How nice to live with such fools.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

If there was a large release of radiation from TMI, shouldn't there still be detectable traces in the surrounding area? Has anybody done any independentant testing recently?

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Future Cars Can Become Power Plants when Parked - Replacing any need for New Nuclear or Coal plants.

Revolutionary energy conversion breakthroughs are becoming realistic prospects for electric and hybrid cars. Self-powered magnetic generators, tapping ambient energy, are expected to replace the need to plug-in a plug-in hybrid. 2,000 watts can be taken from a typical wall socket. A 2,000 watt self-powered generator is on the horizon. When completed, it will demonstrate a capability to end the need to plug-in.
If the development of self-powered engines and generators is put on a 24/7 footing, it may be possible to provide 100 kW systems on a prototype basis far more rapidly than might otherwise be expected. If that occurs, since no fossil fuel or battery recharge is required, automobile manufacturers may conclude that engines requiring such fuel are en-route to becoming obsolete. Consumer purchasing patterns could begin to reflect a new reality, with the market deciding most future cars will never use gasoline or diesel fuel.

The economics are likely to prove compelling. Until now, car ownership has been an expense. Vehicle to Grid Power (V2G) has been explored in a modest way for hybrids. When equipped for V2G, plug-in hybrids, equipped with a two way plug, can feed power to the local utility while parked. This is 95% of the time for the average vehicle. Professor Willet Kempton, at the University of Delaware, has stated the car’s owner could earn up to $4,000 every year.

Future cars reflecting this new technology are expected to be capable of generating at least 75 kW and perhaps 100 kW. In the case of luxury cars, trucks and buses, it seems 150 kW will prove practical. This has been called Super V2G. Technology already exists that can wirelessly couple up to 150 kW to the grid from parked vehicles. No plug connection will be required.
Today a large plug installed in a hybrid car can allow 240 volts to be accommodated. A 240 volt connection cord can provide a maximum of 20 kW to the utility. If that 20 kW can annually pay the vehicle owner $4,000, imagine what the income might be with a wirelessly coupled 75 kW or larger self-powered generator. If the price per kW is the same as that used in the University of Delaware analysis, we could be anticipating more substantial payments.

When a substantial number of vehicles powered by such generators fill a parking garage, it will become a multi-megawatt power plant.

Doubtless, when millions of cars and trucks are selling power to the grid, the price per kilowatt paid will gradually decline. However, it still seems likely that the cost of many vehicles might be paid for by utilities, as they purchase power whenever needed. The parked cars, trucks and buses, each become decentralized power plants - a rapid, cost-effective alternative to the many tough and costly challenges and dangers involved in constructing new coal burning and nuclear power generation facilities.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Thank you for this fine article.

I was told some of the truth in confidence and do not wish to betray my source by name , but perhaps a few readers will recognize the initals M.K. and the short, pretty blond who makes gorgeous silver jewelry and is married to a former TMI worker in the water control department.

His good buddy on the TMI night shift called them in the pre dawn and said to get out- don't get dressed, don't take your pocketbook or anything, run to the car and drive as far as you can. They left instantly. She was early in her pregnancy and thank God had a healthy baby.

The accident started around 4 AM and officially they didn't realize how bad it was a for a while, and didn't evacuate the surrounding areas. Ha!!! The guys there knew how bad it was right away and called their close friends immediately. All those deformed babies and cancer patients never had to have happened.

May God grant all the liars the gift of repentance.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

It occurs to me that many people here might want to be prepared for similar future events- or worse.

I have NO association with this company, other than as a very happy customer. You can buy potassium iodide and nukalerts (small gamma radiation detectors). There is also a wealth of information to read, and helpful hints on how to build a modified fallout shelter in your basement, crawl space, or first floor. Even reducing fallout by half could be the difference between life and death, sickness and health. And it is EASY to reduce it by much more than that.


re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

To the idiot who said "I Googled Thompson. He's been a professional clown for 28 years. How did he maintain the necessary skills to co-author a highly technical report in 1995 analyzing the Kemeny Commission findings."

The author of this article knew they were clowns, the Thompsons volunteered this information of their own accord, so by researching them over Google you found out nothing that wasn't already mentioned in this article. Also, it's insulting that you assume that just because someone chooses to be a clown that means that he or she is of inferior intelligence to yourself or anyone else. The US Navy allowed this "clown" to serve our country on a nuclear submarine, what have you done?

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Sue Sturgis and the Institute for Southern Studies deserve accolades for bringing the Thompson's story to light.

It is so disturbing, it almost moves me to reconsider my economic arguments against nuclear power. ...Almost.

But the relative costs of energy technologies persuade me otherwise. With new wind turbines and new biopower plants already competitive with new coal plants, and nuclear much more expensive than new coal, I think I'll continue to appeal to rationality rather than fear.

Click here for a fascinating comparison of the costs of various energy technologies, published January 2009 by the global financial advisory firm, Lazard Ltd.:

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

John, there are many arguments against nuclear power, and I have written about the economic arguments put forth by Amory Lovins and others. I reject your notion that the economic argument against nuclear power is "rational," while pointing out that nuclear energy has hurt real people is just fear-mongering. In fact, I would make the case that denying people were hurt by nuclear power and that this matters in making the choices we now face is a particularly destructive form of irrationality.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

The evidence is clear that people were injured and had their lives shortened by the TMI accident. Anecdotal injury reports, strange "metallic" smells, and Dr. Wing's peer reviewed epidemiological study all point to radiation induced injuries. Listen to the TMIA video and follow the links to the expert reports.

Within two weeks of the accident, the NRC began to distort the radiation release amounts (TMI began their distortion at 7 AM on the first day of the accident). There was a lot of money on the line if 100 nuclear units (operating or in construction) had to be shut down. The AEC had previously made decisions in favor of letting unsafe nukes operate as early as September 1972. In a memo from AEC's Hendrie to AEC' Hanauer, key AEC senior managers state, "I recommend that the AEC develop a policy of discouraging further use of pressure suppression containments…. "Steve's idea to ban pressure suppression containment schemes is an attractive one in some ways. Dry containments have the notable advantage of brute simplicity .... However the acceptance of pressure suppression containment by all elements of the nuclear field, including Regulatory and the ACRS, is firmly embedded in the conventional wisdom. Reversal of this hallowed policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power. It would throw into question the operation of licensed plants.... and would generally create more turmoil than I can stand."

It happened it 1972, and was repeated in 1979.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

A very interesting article. I do want to offer one clarification: your remark “new reactor construction ground to a halt after the 1979 incident” may give readers the impression that Three Mile Island had something to do with the cessation of nuclear growth in the US. The notion that the TMI and Chernobyl accidents threw cold water on nuclear growth is widespread, but incorrect: new orders for US power plants had ceased completely before TMI. (See, for example, http://www.allbusiness.com/public-administration/administration-economic-programs/114347-1.html: “Since 1972, over 120 nuclear units have been canceled by electric utilities . . . and no new nuclear units have been ordered since 1977.” See also http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/eh/nuclear.html.) Economics, not reactor accidents, stopped nuclear plant growth in the US.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

I agree that the TMI accident did not stop new nuclear units from being ordered, nor did it stop already ordered nuclear units from being completed. Wall Street stopped nuclear power because costs were escalating and the time to construct these complex units was long, adding carrying charges to an already high cost. The cancelled units frequently were projecting completion costs five times higher than initially contemplated. Millstone 3 in Connecticut was finished for $4 billion. Today, new nuclear units might cost as much as $15 BILLION each to construct and Wall Street is also refusing to finance new nuclear. The industry is instead going to Congress to seek subsidies.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Affirmative on that, Arnie. I'll just add that anyone wanting to see a fully footnoted treatment of present-day nuclear costs will find it in Amory Lovins's excellent 2008 review, "The Nuclear Illusion," at http://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/Energy/E08-01_AmbioNuclIlusion.pdf . Bottom line: even with the government proferring subsidies on golden shovels and expedited licensing, nobody's yet dared break ground for a new nuclear plant in this country. I discuss the matter in abbreviated form at http://nolongerbythinking.blogspot.com/2008/10/puncturing-pro-nuke-puff.html .

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

On conspiracies:

TMI owners conspired to criminally falsify reactor leak rates. They plead guilty to that a few years after the partial meltdown. (read the court case or see http://www.tmia.com/leaks)

The NRC conspired to not tell the public that a release had occurred. They spent more than 2 hours arguing over how to avoid using the word “release” in their Press Release on the first day of the emergency. (read the transcripts of their public meeting)

The NRC knew about the Brown’s Ferry fire problem (concerning main and backup cables laid in the same cable tray) six years before the fire. The Utility and the NRC tried to cover up these facts. (read the historical accounts)

The NRC conspired to use the Rasmussen Report WASH 1400 to mislead Congress so that the Price Anderson insurance indemnity would be passed. Later one of the NRC Commissioners said WASH 1400 was used as propaganda by the NRC and industry. Two months before TMI. The NRC dropped the report as “not credible.” (Read the historical accounts)

GE and the NRC was aware (conspired to secret) of falsified safety reports for 15 years before State Utilities finally filed suits to recover billions of dollars for the needed safety upgrades at nuclear plants.

Need more?

David Lochbaum discovered spent fuel pool cooling problems at the Susquehanna plant. The NRC conspired to dismiss the report as invalid. How did we find out? The copier service used by Lochbaum to deliver his report had mistakenly printed ever other page so that the NRC couldn’t possible have read his proof without noticing 50% of the pages were missing!

The FBI stated publicly that sabotage has not occurred at TMI 3 days into the emergency and that the “case was closed.” In fact, the next day the FBI conducted the first of 3 sabotage investigation interviews. (read the Rogovin report).

The NRC staff on numerous occasions has withheld critical documents and information from the voting Commissioners. (read the congressional investigation)

The DOE conspired to hide how much uranium was leaking from the Apollo plant in Pennsylvania. (read the historical records including Glenn Seaborg’s diary)

The NRC conspired to ignore the Thrermolag fireproofing problem for more than a decade. Thermolag burned at the same rate as plywood. (read what NRC Chairman Dr. Ivan Selin said about that)

The point is – if you want to talk about conspiracies as if they don’t ever occur, then you are blind to nuclear power history in this nation (and others.) Stating that Sturgis’s reporting involved “conspiracy theory” is not a meaningful argument. If you want to discredit someone with that term, then the NRC and the nuclear power industry has lost their credibility many times over.

It was the whistle blowers and the safety critics who were accurate about TMI Unit 2 BEFORE the emergency happened. Those reporters who wrote about the safety problems had truth, comprehension of the real and actual dangers or risks, and especially the courage to report something that was quite unpopular.

It was the industry and the courts which falsely limited the TMI releases to the levels and isotopes content they wanted by using dubious estimation methods. That is what this article addresses - a conspiracy to cover up the severity of the partial meltdown.

Two reasons come to mind that a conspiracy would be perpetrated….energy is a national security matter, and the financial fallout of lawsuits not only from victims, but utilities filing against reactor designers, defaulting on bank loans to the tune of 100’s of billions of dollars, etc etc,.

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It would be very difficult for me to tackle a point by point rebuttal of the claims made in this story, but it is important to understand that there is excellent technical information available that contradicts the anecdotes. While I am sure that whistleblowers like Arnie Gunderson and the Thompsons are sincere in their beliefs, I hope that at least some of the readers here will accept the fact that the nuclear industry is not composed of ogres but includes thousands of well educated, caring professionals who take their jobs and responsibilities very seriously.

As a nuclear trained submarine officer who has hundreds of associates in the nuclear technology field, I can testify that many of us recognize that profit seeking managers exist, but we also have one of the strongest "safety cultures" of any major enterprise. From day one, even Navy nukes are trained to operate with a questioning attitude that does not allow us to blindly follow orders or to engage in cover ups. When I served as a submarine Engineer Officer I made it very clear to my people that we were all human and subject to making errors so it was important for all of us to admit those errors so that real learning could take place and we could back each other up. This attitude came directly from Admiral Rickover who emphasized personal responsibility and accountability. The quickest path out the door in the nuclear power program is getting caught lying or falsifying records.

That is a long way of explanation as to why I do not believe and do not agree with the claims made here. It is beyond belief that such a coverup could be imposed on the thousands of people who were involved in the accident event, response and decades long investigation.

There are plenty of financial reasons why some people - including the several times cited Amory Lovins - want to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about atomic energy. Like all commodities, the value of energy products depends on the balance between supply and demand. When the supply exceeds the demand, the price drops - often quite precipitously. Take a hard look at the behavior of energy fuel prices in the past year - not just oil, but coal and natural gas as well. See what happens to the profits of fossil fuel companies when demand falls. Then think about how those companies would behave if they saw a major new source of energy entering the market and stealing their market share like nuclear power was during the 1970s when we were building 10-12 new plants every year.

For example, take Amory Lovins, a man who has been publishing articles recommending an "anything but nuclear" energy philosophy since the mid 1970s. Here is a quote from his July 18, 2008 appearance on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now program:

"You know, I’ve worked for major oil companies for about thirty-five years, and they understand how expensive it is to drill for oil."

He also wrote the following about coal in his 1976 seminal work in Foreign Affairs called Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken. (Note: the quote comes after a Lovins style long and wordy commentary about "new" coal technology.)

"Coal can fill the real gaps in our fuel economy with only a temporary and modest (less than twofold at peak) (Emphasis added) expansion of mining, not requiring the enormous infrastructure and social impacts implied by the scale of coal use in Figure 1.

In sum, Figure 2 outlines a prompt redirection of effort at the margin that lets us use fossil fuels intelligently to buy the time we need to change over to living on our energy income."

If you want to see the figures mentioned, you can find them at Blast from the past from a "clean coal" advocate - Amory Lovins. It is interesting to note that US coal consumption has done almost exactly what Lovins wanted in 1976 - it has essentially doubled. If we had continued building nuclear plants at the rate achieved then, we would not be burning any coal today.

Lovins and his Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) have consulted for many major energy companies and establishment organizations like the Department of Defense and freely discuss the fact on their web site that the consulting fees represent more than half of the institute's income. There may be NO relation at all between his decades of anti-nuclear activism and the income that he gets by helping the fossil fuel industry to prosper. Then again, there might be a reason why atomic fission competitors continue to hire him for a fee that some people tell me exceeds ten thousand dollars per day.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights
Host and producer, The Atomic Show
Founder, Adams Atomic Engines, Inc.
Disclosure: I have hopes for financial prosperity in a revived nuclear power industry, but my current income has nothing to do with that industry.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

What an interesting display of smoke and mirrors from nuclear industry defender Rod Adams. On the one hand, it "would be very difficult" for him to offer any concrete details about what is incorrect in the TMI whistleblowers' claims as reported in my story. Yet it is not at all difficult for him to go on for more than 800 words spouting:

1) Distractions, such as pointing out that there are thousands of well-educated, caring professionals in the nuclear industry. I'm also sure there are thousands of well-educated, caring professionals in the food safety industry, too, but tell that to the people dead from salmonella in their peanuts.

2) Propagandistic nonsense about a "safety culture" in the nuclear industry, when there is abundant evidence to the contrary.

3) Unfair attacks on Amory Lovins, who he portrays as a stooge of the oil and coal industries, which anyone who has even a glancing familiarity with the work of Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute knows is ridiculous. (For more on the absurdity of Adams' accusations, see here and here.)

Perhaps what I find most interesting is that a champion of complex technology like nuclear power should resort to faith when rationality fails to support his case. "It is beyond belief that such a coverup could be imposed on the thousands of people who were involved in the accident event, response and decades long investigation," Adams writes.

But of course, the question of whether there has been a "coverup" of information at TMI is not a matter of belief. It is a relatively simple matter of fact.

The fact is, there were numerous documented cases of people and animals who lived near TMI displaying symptoms of acute radiation poisoning. If we believe them (and I would note that neither Adams nor any other industry defenders who posted here have suggested all those people are lying), then there has been, by definition, a "coverup" of their experiences.

1. any action, stratagem, or other means of concealing or preventing investigation or exposure.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

@Sue - thank you for stopping by and visiting the Atomic Insights Blog as well as responding here.

I might not have been as clear as I could have been. My comment about the thousands of well educated, caring people referred directly to the people who have been involved in the investigations conducted by the industry, the courts and the regulators over the past 30 years. I have had the opportunity to talk with many of them including Ted Rockwell and Frank Manganaro both of whom had long established reputations as tough investigators. Frank, for example, was a retired vice admiral who had been in charge of an investigation of cost overruns on submarine construction and found and reported serious evidence of fraud. (Documented on pages 251-256 of Francis Duncan's Rickover: The Struggle for Excellence, Naval Institute Press, 2001)

He was no industry stooge. He was appointed in the aftermath of the accident to be in charge of the effort to determine what had happened and to perform detailed analysis of the melted fuel and the plant physical condition.

I had the opportunity for some lengthy discussions with him about what those investigations found - there was no evidence to support the claims of a massive radiation leak as shown by the material that was chipped out of the reactor pressure vessel. There was no evidence that the vessel had been penetrated - if the pressure vessel was intact, how could the hydrogen explosion have occurred? If the pressure vessel was intact and the used fuel material did not escape, where did the reported, but not measured radiation come from?

My "unfair" attacks on Lovins as a long time consultant to the fossil fuel industry were based on quotes directly from Lovins himself. I even provided the references.

Quite frankly, the "documentation" that you provided in your story is on about the same level as that provided in cover stories in those "news" magazines that are found at the supermarket checkout. They are hearsay, unsubstantiated and illogical. There is a good reason that Judge Rambo threw out all of the cases after giving all possible benefit of the doubt to the plaintiffs.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Okay, I am willing to consider a cover-up. I am willing to consider that the industry is corrupt. However, I am puzzled that only a few researchers claim to find the high cancer rates. The cigarette companies and the asbestos companies were found to be lying by many independent researchers and the government confirmed it. For such high exposures, I would expect that illness rates would be easily seen as they were at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Rod, when you say there was "no evidence" to support a significant leak of radioactivity from TMI, you are ignoring the eyewitness accounts of people who lived near the plant and suffered radiation poisoning, and/or whose animals suffered symptoms of radiation poisoning. If you accept what they say as true -- and I have been given no reason not to -- then that contradicts the official story that you defend.

You ask where the radioactivity that escaped to the environment came from. Leaving aside for a moment the serious questions over the integrity of the pressure vessel, there were numerous documented escape routes: the leakage of radioactivity to the plant's auxiliary building, the dumping of radioactive water to the Susquehanna, the venting of radioactive gases to the environment carried out intentionally by the operators. Even the official account acknowledges radioactive releases; surely you're not questioning that.

Your attack on Lovins did indeed use his own words, but it used them unfairly, as the links I provide in my previous comment clearly show. I personally have issues with some of Lovins' arguments (for instance, I find problematic his refusal to discuss the environmental health effects of nuclear power), but to call the author of papers titled "Profitably Getting Off Coal: Negawatts" and "Getting off oil" a patsy of fossil-fuel interests is simply absurd.

You ridicule the information I provide in my story but have not pointed out what in it is incorrect. If it were as off-base as you want people to believe, you undoubtedly would point out the errors. But instead you resort to name-calling. Your arguments are weak.

As for Judge Rambo's decision to throw out the TMI lawsuit, an objective examination of the record shows a shocking bias against the plaintiffs. Consider for example her order directing radiation doses for the Columbia University cancer study, which prohibited "upper limit or worst case estimates of releases of radioactivity or population doses ... [unless] such estimates would lead to a mathematical projection of less than 0.01 health effects." Also consider that she specified that "a technical analyst ... designated by counsel for the Pools [that is, the nuclear industry's insurers] concur on the nature and the scope of the [dosimetry] projects."

Imagine the industry's howls of outrage had a judge showed similar bias to the plaintiffs by ordering their attorneys must approve the "nature and scope" of radiation exposure measurements.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

@Sue - I have reread my comments very carefully and cannot find any instance of name calling - unless the word "consultant" qualifies as name calling. Your initial reference to me was quite similar - you called me a "nuclear industry defender". I prefer to think of myself as a fission technology defender, but I guess in this particular case I was taking the side of the industry.

Some of the eye witness accounts that you included in your story are simply not credible. While there were radioactive gases released, the quantity of those gases release could not possibly have resulted in the claimed effects after being diluted in the air while traveling from the plant to the people who claim to be victims. It is not as if the people were breathing directly from any of the vent paths. Gases being vented do not remain in a concentrated form any more than smoke does when more than a a few tens of feet away from a fire.

There is no way for the concentrations to be high enough for humans to have any sensation that indicated radiation exposure. When radiation doses are high enough for immediate sensations like those described by Ms. Trimmer, they are high enough to result in near term death. They would also have been high enough to have been detected around the world. Remember how we all found out about Chernobyl from radiation detectors in other countries? Do you really believe that the people monitoring radiation detectors around the world were involved in some kind of organized effort to suppress that information?

In order to get doses high enough to blister a person located outside of the plant containment, a major portion of the solid core material would have had to have found its way out of the pressure vessel. Outside of certain fission product gases like Iodine and Xenon, there are few that will dissolve in water and find their way out through piping systems.

Here is an excerpt from an email that I received as a result of my blog post:

"I am now retired, but worked at TMI during the accident. I was the instrumentation engineer and was one of the engineers responsible for determining the cause of the accident. I have some of the reports if you need them.

Do a Google earth search and look just south of TMI. You will find a LARGE fossil (coal) plant just south of TMI (York Haven) the smoke can be seen in the graphic on the MS Virtual Earth image. As I recall it is about 1000-2000 MW plant (about the same capacity that TMI-I and TMI-II combined would have been. The amount of radon dumped in the air is staggering. It would set off alarms at TMI when the air and wind conditions were right. To my knowledge NO-ONE has ever factored the fact that this coal station is there into any meaningful health surveys. Compare the logic of this inaction to the known deleterious health effects of living downwind of a 2000 MW coal plant. Studies can be found on the web for population areas affected by large coal plants. The only conclusion a scientific person could conclude for ignoring Brunner Island (the name of the coal station) is that they want to blame all of the effects on TMI."

I received another one that is germane to the question about what could have caused the health experiences in the local population:

"I looked up TMI on a map and found that it is next to Harrisburg PA. To confirm a hunch I looked up Harrisburg on Wikipedia. I confirmed that Harrisburg was a long time and major steel centre in the US. I remember that the early steel industry is associated with toxic slug ponds. It would not surprise me if high cancer rates are found everywhere along the Susquehanna river near Harrisburg. Also burning coal releases natural uranium into the air. Although coal is much cleaner today, it was not in the past. I expect much more radiation to be released into the air from the steel plants than from TMI.

I have to wonder what other old dirty heavy industries are located on that river near Harrisburg. Makes you think that nuclear should be located away from people and all their dirty industry."

As I stated in my first comment - it is difficult to address the claims in your story on a point by point basis. They simply do not match up with the physical reality found in the investigation. The health effects that were found using surveys and interviews are not outside of normal experience, especially in an area with a long history of industrial activity dating back before strong environmental regulations.

I hope that you will take my meager effort at face value. I respect the search for truth, have been proud to have developed a questioning attitude towards authority and believe strongly that we all have a responsibility to try to make the world a better place. That effort works best through civil discourse with a minimum of name calling, but it also helps to really understand the subject matter or to listen carefully to those who do.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

We have a large scale nuclear accident to measure TMI against where the scientific community is in agreement. UNSCEAR (UN organization that studies radiation) concluded that Chernobyl caused cancers in children due to iodine absorbed in the thyroid. And few if any of these children reported "metallic tastes" or the like.

For specifics of the measurements taken at TMI, I would recommend Sam Walker's book on the history of the accident. Numerous air, water, and soil samples were collected as well as a detailed assessment of the fragmented TMI core. We have a much better picture of the release than claimed by the antis.

If TMI had a similar scale of release, we should have clear measureable evidence of such disease. The article implies that only a minority of special researchers are able to detect what universities, state departments of health, and numerous other investigators could not. If it were just a matter of everyone being "bought off" then why have the majority of researchers been able to document the affects of lead, mercury, arsenic, asbestos, dioxin, nicotene, even gasolene (a known carcinogen) despite the wealth and power of their related industries?

I am NOT saying that nuclear is cotton-candy safe or perfect. However, the majority of the international scientific community has concluded that TMI was not a serious release accident and that nuclear is safer than fossil fuels. Whether it is the air pollution of coal or effluents from chemical plants that make solar cells, or steel smelter wastes to make wind turbine blades, there is no absolutely safe way to make power.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Dr Henry Meyers worked for Senator Mo Udall after the accident and documented the misstatements that TMI made to the NRC and to the State of PA back in the early 1980's. Henry's 100 page report to the Senate is MUST reading to anyone who does not believe that the public was mislead during and after the TMI accident. I used Henry's work in my analysis for my expert reports and found it to be frighteningly accurate.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Rod, anyone who has ever watched smoke exit a chimney knows that your account of how emission plumes travel does not fit reality. One needn't be standing directly in a vent path to get a snoot-full of smoke; who gets hit with smoke and to what degree depends on the weather conditions. At the time the meltdown occurred at TMI, the Middletown area was experiencing unusually warm weather and low winds as an upper-level mass of cold air kept lower-level warm air from rising. Those are ideal conditions for trapping radioactive emissions and intensifying exposures.

We know that radioactive releases from TMI were great enough that radiation monitors around the plant went off-scale because the levels exceeded the instruments' measurement capacity. Thermoluminescent dosimeters were placed off-site two days after the meltdown, but there were sizable angular gaps between them, which resulted in an inability to detect narrow plumes such as those that likely caused the acute symptoms reported by many, many eyewitnesses and not just the two I mention in my story.

And in fact, the levels of radiation released from TMI were high enough to be noticed outside of the immediate area. For example, xenon-133 from the plant was detected in Albany, N.Y.

You are correct that Harrisburg is a dirty industrial city with numerous pollution sources. But you are incorrect when you suggest that this pollution wasn't factored into the studies that found increased cancer rates following TMI. The Hatch study out of Columbia, which was reanalyzed by Wing et al. from UNC, carefully evaluated the relationship between estimated radiation doses and cancer incidence by adjusting for pre-meltdown variation in cancers. This study design avoided attributing higher cancer rates in more exposed areas to meltdown emissions if rates there were already higher before the disaster due to other environmental exposures.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Sue - can you tell me what the design limits of the radiation detectors that went off scale were? One challenge with measuring radiation is that there are many orders of magnitude that can be readily measured. (On my sub, we had at least three separate ranges of detectors and each detector could measure about 3-4 orders of magnitude with perhaps one order of magnitude overlap between low, medium and high scale.) Without knowledge of what the scale was, commenting that the devices "went off scale" is not terribly informative.

Your comment about chimney's is only partially correct. Sure, it is possible to see visible smoke for a few blocks if the weather conditions are right, but have you really gotten a snoot full of smoke - enough to even make you cough - from a chimney located more than a block or two away? How far away from the plant were the victims that you interviewed? As I recall, the nearest housing to the plant is many hundreds of yards away. The assumption that the vented gases moved together in narrow plumes that managed to skillfully avoid radiation detectors is one of the plaintiff claims that Judge Rambo simply could not accept as logical or defensible.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Neighboring states to PA also have nuclear plants. If a large scale release similar to Chernobyl occurred, their radiation monitors would have alarmed as well. Many universities have similar monitors that would have alarmed. I am willing to accept a government agency or the local utility doing a cover-up, but numerous companies, state and local governments, and universities as well as all of the knowledgeable employees at said institutions? The Russians were not even able to hide the 1957 Kyshtym accident (it was reported in the western press based on the emissions reaching western monitoring instruments), so I find it hard to believe one could hide such a large scale release. Finally, a release large enough to cause the claimed effects would have deposited a large amount of radioactuve material in the water and soil and numerous samples and studies did not find such amounts. The evidence for a large release from TMI is not there.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Rod: I never got a snootful of smoke from a residential chimney a few blocks away, no. But this is a matter of scale. I have gotten a whiff of emissions from industrial facilities considerable distances away from me. As for the design of the radiation detectors that went offscale, they were what the government required of nuclear power plants; however, I find interesting your suggestion that they may have been inadequate to the task.

R. Margolis: My story does not make the claim that the releases from TMI were comparable to those from Chernobyl. However, they were significant -- even the NRC acknowledges that. The official estimate of 10 million curies released is nothing to take lightly, and then we have independent estimates suggesting that more than 10 times that much radiation may have escaped to the environment. The government's own reports acknowledge that the radiation monitors near the plant got knocked off-scale before 8 a.m. on 3/28/79, taking out the most reliable means of assessing the quantity and rate of releases. However, a helicopter dispatched by the Department of Energy to measure releases detected a radioactive plume 16 miles from the plant. Also as I noted, radioactivity from the disaster was detected as far away as Albany, N.Y.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

If the TMI releases were not comparable (i.e., significantly smaller) then the claims of illness at TMI do not make sense. Even Chernobyl did not have a leukemia spike after 5-10 years per the international studies by UNSCEAR. We should not expect to see significant changes from the TMI release which matches the various federal, state, and university studies of TMI. It still sounds like the Wing study requires more justification.

Finally, assuming that LNT is correct and that radiation is a weak carcinogen all the way down to zero, we use mercury in compact fluorescents, gasolene in automobiles, arsenic in photovoltaic cells, etc. Nobody has called for banning all the technologies that may present a cancer risk. I am not saying I love carcinogens, but it still sounds like there is more fear of nuclear energy than is warranted by the actual risks.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

I was wondering if the author Sue Sturgis has read the book, Power to Save the World, by Gwenyth Cravens?

That book claims that there has not been one death attributable to Nuclear Power Generation in the history of America. Any comments on what was written in that book's account of TMI versus the article here? After I read that book I was convinced that TMI was more fear than actual harm.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Sue - when it comes to health effects, it really is important to talk about actual dose to the claimed victims, not the general idea that radiation was detected, or that a large number of curies were released.

What Margolis and I have been trying to do is to make it clear that there is overwhelming evidence that the doses to the general population were many orders of magnitude (powers of ten) below any that could cause the claimed effects.

Think of it this way - cigarettes are known to be cancer causing. However, it is not plausible to claim that walking by someone who is smoking carries anything close to the risk of sucking on 45 cigarettes per day, 365 days per year for 30 years. Sure, the person walking by can sense the smoke, but the amount received is trivial.

When I described the scales of radiation detectors, I was attempting to illustrate that continued descriptions of "going off scale" is not useful until you can tell me what the scale was. The monitoring devices installed at TMI were designed to be helpful in indicating tiny fuel element flaws that we take very seriously, so they were quite sensitive. As many nuclear plant operators can tell you, installed detectors can alarm simply because of a temperature inversion that keeps radon natural seeping out from the ground from dispersing. Pegging meters with that sensitivity is a bit like putting a 5 pound weight on a kitchen food scale. Five pounds is not much weight, but it sure would peg those little scale designed for calorie counters!

Here is an interesting view from a technician who was involved in trying to design higher range detectors after the accident. I know it sounds short sighted to you, but before TMI the industry never really thought much about how to routinely measure radiation levels outside of a certain band that was considered to be normal and somewhat above normal. Please remember that the industry was pretty young at that time - our very first self sustained fission only occurred in 1942 and the first commercial station started up in 1957, just 22 years before TMI.

I did want to go back to a point that I tried to make in my very first comment on this thread. I guess I obscured it with my references to Lovins, but let me try again. As you think about all you have read about nuclear power and the dangers of radiation, please consider the fact that there are people who sell coal, oil and natural gas that compete with uranium for energy market share. In total, the annual sales of those products amount to several trillion dollars. However, much of that revenue is drive by a perception of scarcity. When nuclear fission entered the market, it showed that energy supplies were far less limited than most people thought. It not only took market share and sales from the fossil fuel business, but it eventually reduced the prices at which all energy fuels were selling. The combination of lower sales volume and lower prices fell directly to the bottom line of major fossil fuel producers - both companies and entire states and countries.

There is lots of motivation for the savvy business people and government leaders involved in fossil fuel sales to spread negative information about their competition. A portion of the fear, uncertainty and doubt that people have about nuclear matters and radiation has been carefully taught through many traditional techniques of propaganda, advertising, and misinformation.

You initially implied that I was some kind of "industry" stooge, but I am actually quite opposed to the way that fission technologies have been developed with government assistance as the property of large, traditional energy companies. They have done a poor job of taking advantage of the unique and amazing qualities of fission - 2 million times as much energy per unit mass as a hydrocarbon and NO need to release the waste products to the environment because they are concentrated enough to keep in well engineered containers.

Heavy metal fission fascinates me and excites me with its demonstrated potential for safety, reliability and cleanliness - especially when compared to all other energy choices. In my opinion, fission is the new fire. We should not let imposed fear keep us from better understanding of its characteristics.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Did any of you know that Harrisburg PA has the highest incidence of autism than any other state in US

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

I am a Senior Nuclear Facilities Inspector for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, currently based at NRC's Region II Atlanta office. I've worked for the NRC since 1991, except for a 2.5 year stint at the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1998 to 2000. For 4.5 years I was a resident inspector, at both a uranium enrichment plant and a nuclear power plant.

Having said that, I have to dispute the assertion by Rod Adams that the Nuclear Navy employees are imbued with a questioning attitude. Instead, the Navy nuke types are trained to unquestioningly follow orders. At least that's how the former Navy nukes at the NRC operate. That's how the NRC senior management wants it - when the Executive Director of Operations says, "Right full rudder," he wants the entire 3000 plus cadre of NRC employees working to go right full rudder. No dissent. Despite the lip service NRC pays to its "Differing Professional Opinion" program.

NRC's Senior Executive Service numbers roughly 300. About 60-70 percent of these are former Navy nuke officers. (And despite NRC's 'diversity' programs, all except a handful of these former Navy nuke officers in the SES are white males.) The way that 'discipline' is maintained in the SES is the underlying threat of lower year-end bonuses, or worse, a transfer to another NRC regional office, uprooting the executive's family, etc. And it probably goes without mentioning the incestuous relationship between the NRC's Navy nukes and those in the utilities and the nuke industry's lobbyists: NEI and INPO.

Lest anyone think that NRC learned its lessons from Three Mile Island, I cite the fairly recent example of the Davis-Besse nuke plant, in Ohio. In March 2002, after the NRC had allowed the plant to continue operations and thereby delay safety inspections past a December 31, 2001 deadline, it was discovered that boric acid had eaten almost all the way through the 6½-inch thick reactor pressure vessel head. A breach might have partially flooded the reactor's containment building with reactor coolant, and resulted in emergency safety procedures to protect from core damage. This occurrence was ranked as the tenth most likely incident to have led to a nuclear disaster in the event of a subsequent failure.

As an insider, I noted that no NRC employee's were reprimanded and EVERY NRC employee, from the Resident Inspector on up was subsequently promoted. Two minor exception was that the Senior Resident Inspector quit NRC to go work for the Davis-Besse owner and the Executive Director of Operations was sent to be a Regional Administrator. Among other problems, the top NRC executives for reactor regulation overruled more technically competent non-executive staff, as these execs responded to pleas from Davis-Besse's utility to allow the reactor to run for 3 more months due to financial concerns.
See the NRC Office of Inspector General report for details at this link --> http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/insp-gen/2004/03-02s.pdf AND another OIG report criticizing NRC's poor communications on Davis-Besse --> http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/insp-gen/2004/davis-besse-response.pdf

But, unfortunately, Davis-Besse isn't the only skeleton in NRC's closet. Back in 2000, a contractor doing computer/telecom work in NRC's Region IV office noted several ethical lapses by NRC staff, and this contractor alerted the NRC Office of Inspector General. As reported in the industry journal 'Inside NRC, Volume 26 / Number 2 / January 26, 2004', an NRC contractor from the firm U.S. Robotech reported several issues over the nearly 3.5 years he worked as a contractor, including deficiencies with the NRC’s satellite telephone and communications systems,
security access breaches, and the filing of a false time sheet. In 2000 he wrote a letter to NRC’s Inspector General raising concerns about several NRC employees who were illegally roducing and distributing satellite television access cards, along with other NRC violations. The allegations on the satellite card scam led to a criminal investigation by the IG and U.S. Secret Service. As a result, two employees quit. Another NRC employee was indicted in June 2001 on charges of illegally selling counterfeit DirecTV satellite access cards. Another employee, Joe Tapia, a branch chief in Region IV's division of reactor
projects, worked out a deal with prosecutors and was later rehired by NRC.
HOWEVER, the contractor who raised the allegations, which he had tried to do confidentially, was reported to his management at U.S. Robotech by an NRC senior official, and this contractor was fired. As an NRC employee who has tolerated poor management for the past 18 years, I do not consider the firing of the contractor and subsequent re-hiring of the disciplined manager surprising, I consider it 'business as usual' instead at the NRC.

Another topic worth looking into are the NRC's oversight of security at commercial power plants and fuel fabricators, including nuclear material in-transit, and NRC's security regulations which rely on off-site local cops for backup. Anyone who reads the daily news should know that local cops are notorious for alcohol, drug, and psychological problems, yet NRC requires no screening or monitoring for these responders. The NRC security regulations in contrast grant local law enforcement responders automatic access to nuclear plants. (Which I add is under the mistaken assumption that these cops are automatically 'trustworthy' per NRC regs.)

In summary, this article on Three Mile Island, is in my opinion, just the tip of the iceberg with respect to NRC's ability to oversee a new generation of reactors.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Three Mile Island was a sabotage. There are too much discrepancies and incredible technical failures that occured this day to be a simple accident. And governements of the world wanted obviously too much to stop the development of nuclear energy.

So, the conclusion is obvious. The US government sabotaged the power plant of Three Mile Island in order to stop the development of this cheap and safe energy.

And 7 years later, the government of Russia did the same thing at Chernobyl.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Rod Adams:
"What Margolis and I have been trying to do is to make it clear that there is overwhelming evidence that the doses to the general population were many orders of magnitude (powers of ten) below any that could cause the claimed effects."

Hello, Rod. I'm Joy. I would dispute your claim of "overwhelming evidence" based solely on the fact that all follow-up studies that weren't those done by the residents themselves, were held to what the "official" release figures were. The charge is that those figures were cooked rather seriously. If that is so, other scenarios become much more credible.

"Pegging meters with that sensitivity is a bit like putting a 5 pound weight on a kitchen food scale. Five pounds is not much weight, but it sure would peg those little scale designed for calorie counters!"

Okay, how about 1000 Rem/hour contact on a 10 milliliter RCS sample, the taking of which put the chemist out of work due to serious overexposure. Or, if you prefer, a 100 Rem/hr contact on a quarter-inch terminal gauge line in the aux building (demineralizer/makeup side) more than two weeks later? There is plenty of evidence of unprecedented conditions and releases. Where a few orders of ten (or decimal points, if you prefer) can easily get lost. And did.

"Heavy metal fission fascinates me and excites me with its demonstrated potential for safety, reliability and cleanliness - especially when compared to all other energy choices. In my opinion, fission is the new fire. We should not let imposed fear keep us from better understanding of its characteristics."

Your interest shouldn't trump anyone else's right to live unmolested by deliberate malfeasance and gnarly death just because you can't see or smell the deadly pollutant. That's just not right, I presume you were raised to know that too. Go to school, volunteer at any of dozens of nifty atom-smashers across the country, find out what you want to know. Exposing the innocent civilian public to that kind of risk just to satisfy your curiosity and interest simply doesn't fly.

And if you ever do figure out how to make it "clean, safe, too cheap to meter" do let us know. That might make us invest in the technology on purpose.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

1 curie equal to the activity of one gram of radium equal to
37 milliards becquerel.With my best wishes as to your health.
winky from Europe

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Thank you, thank you for this article.

Finally, I know why so many of my college roommates and classmates have been suffering or died from cancer. We lived in Enola from Sept. 1979 to May 1981. We did not even live in Harrisburg at the time of the meltdown. And yet so many of us are suffering or died from various cancers and diseases. My roommate lost her battle to colon cancer at age 42. Three other classmates died at an earlier age. I had a rare slow growing kidney cancer removed 2 years ago. And thyroid disease before that. I remember the doctor asking me if I had been exposed to radiation, and I said no, not even thinking about TMI. Coincidence? Could there have been radiation lingering months after the incident? How many more students were exposed and moved back to their hometowns to later suffer with rare diseases/cancers.

That summer of 1979 we didn't question moving so close to TMI to go to college because we were told it was safe. Was it really safe to move so close after six months?

Thank you for the truth. On behalf of all of my college friends that I have lost, please let the truth be known so informed decisions can be made by the public.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

I chanced on this article while researching thyroid cancer.

I was recently diagnosed with large nodule on thyroid.

I was about 12 years old and lived in New Jersey at the time of TMI.

I am certain the studies done think this is too far from the disaster point.

Are there any studies for fallout effects found further out than 10 miles of the event?

I'm just wondering if I'm now suffering 30 years later from something that happened from this event.

I could be grasping at straws just trying to make sense of things as we humans do.

If anyone knows how to find statistics or further research, email me: deborahjo2 [at] gmail.com

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

During this event, I was working successfully to defeat the proposed nuclear power plant in Charlestown, Rhode Island. The location of this plant would have severly threatened the lobster industry in Southern New England from thermal pollution from hot water dumping. The industry did not care about us.

We watched the TMI partial meltdown with great interest. I remember the terror I felt being the mother of a two week old baby and being downwind from a melting nuke. Was I being an alarmist?

Consider the impact of Chernobyl. Kids in Poland were given iodine to prevent cancer, Irish powdered milk was so radioactive that Brazil returned it, sheep died in Scotland, the reindeer in the Lapland region were too radioactive to eat thus crashing the economy of that legion. The radiation carried on the wind around the globe. Russian workers went on suicide missions to cool the core. It was a long time into the incident before the people knew.

The nuclear industry has a history of lies all over the world. TMI is just one of the many. Everyone should read "We Almost Lost Detroit"which tells about how the Fermi plutonium reactor nearly wiped out half the Midwest. Brown's Fery nearly got Decater Alabama. All these incidents are convieniently swept under the rug.

I remember the civil defense people in Rhode Island prior to the accident telling us the odds of a major nuclear accident were 1 in 750,000. We asked them what the odds were now during the incident. There was no answer that time.

I remember the spokesmen coming on TV saying TMI could not blow up; all of a sudden hydrogen bubble develops and they are purposely venting massive amounts of radiation to relieve the pressure.

The fact that it took them so long to report the accident raises a very disturbing question. If there was an accident at a plant near you and you were radiated when would you know? When your dog is dead, your skin peels off, and there is an increase in cancer and miscarriages, they will always have their well paid, industry scientists to doctor reality. This is the real reason nuclear power is totally unacceptable.

This is why we need to push for real green energy. The technology is already here. Let's grab it!

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

hi Renee, Not only wasn't it safe to move there months later, but years later. Please also search Linda Kadel - she has similar story and is looking for others.

My sister had thyroid cancer at 38 and did not even live in eastern PA until many years later. I found a scientific article from 1981 stating that the Susquehanna river was polluted from this and that Cesium 137 was one of the pollutants, well the half-life of that was not even until this year, and there were many other elements found. I also found and article by this group http://www.radiation.org/ (I am not affiliated, jsut found them in a search) about throid cancer being significantly higher in easter PA than many places. All plants have to release soemr adiation in their operations and who knows exactly where and how far it travels. Also many of them are getting old which means they will operate less efficiently with more problems, as usual, no one will tell you about leaks and accidents (such as what happened at Indian POint NY, and byt he way 2 people in my office in NYC who llive in the same town of that reactor have cancer, one very rare only at 42)

It is only a matter of time when the next big event happens especially with aging equipment, and I would rather be in Wyoming than in this sickening NE toxic waste nuclear corridor. The only thinkg we can do is protest the industry, take to Youtube, blgs..the results of a mistake in this particular industry is just too devastating to be worth it.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

wow im so confused

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

I worked for a huge engineering corporation building Nuclear Power Plants at the time TMI occurred. I've also worked in operating Nuclear Electrical Generating Stations for a large portion of my life. My father was a "bigwig" at the company I mentioned earlier and was called upon to assess the damage (among others) at TMI after the "incident" took place. He would not talk about what actually happened at TMI for years after the fact. I kept pressuring him for information for a long time and got nothing until one night out in front of his house on the porch we were engaged in a conversation in which we were being unusually candid with each other about different topics and I asked him again. What he said made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. There was a meltdown at TMI. It wasn't minor. It was the largest accident in the United States, ever. If it wasn't for the containment design of that particular plant things would have been quite a bit worse. The fuel and control rods got so hot that they could not be inserted or retracted. There was a meltdown at the bottom of the reactor vessel and it continued to spread as the reaction continued. To this day it is my understanding that they had to send in robots to find out what the situation was like. I don't know how much radiation leaked or whether they had to flood the containment building to bring it under control. I don't know much more about what happened that day and I don't know how much more my Dad knows. I will say this: I would not get within a few miles of that plant today. The half lives of whatever was inside or outside that plant continue to warrant an investigation of the area around the plant, the people who lived there at the time and have been near there since and the watersource should also be examined closely for a few miles upstream and even farther downstream if you want the truth about how bad it really got in there and the public should be allowed to see under the vessel to find out the truth of just what went on that day and the consequences of the incident that could be be a factor in the lives of the people living near TMI then and now...

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Three members of my family have developed cancer since the 1979 TMI accident. Although no family member has ever been within 2000 miles of TMI, I'm doing my best to think of a way to further fan and fuel the unfounded fears that are out there regarding our country's nuclear energy development and use. Isn't it reasonable to assume so many cancers in one family could not possibly occur without nuclear radiation? Obviously, it must be due to wayward radioactivity from a nuclear energy plant. Has anyone written a paper I could use to somehow "prove" our family a victim of wayward nuclear radiation from TMI?
If not, how about San Onofre in CA? Does anyone know of any accidental releases of steam containing unmeasurable amounts of radioactivity there? Seen any CA surfers that glow in the dark?

The fact obstructionists have been able to "invent" science, exaggerate facts, and exploit fears to effectively stop this country's continued development and increased usage of what is now a safe, clean and inexpensive energy source, is incredible! People, you're holding up progress.

Consider the number of people who, throughout the last 30 years, have died or been maimed in cars, planes, trains, and coal mines. Aren't those activities immeasurably more dangerous than operating nuclear energy plants?
Let's stop people from driving autos, close the airports, shut down coal mines.
Where are the obstructionists when we really need them?

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Frankly, if anything, I'd shut down coal mines, since coal has been proven just about as dangerous as nuclear power, in its own way(s).

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

ya indeed coal mines are dangerous

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

I lived 1 and a half miles from TMI 30 years after the fact. Before I knew TMI was there I started getting real sick. My Doctor couldn't find anything wtong but noticed a growth on my left leg that sudenlly had started to grow. He shedualed an appointment at Hershy Medical Dermitology. Trouble was not for 4 months. The growth grew maybe ten times bigger and became exstremely sore.

At the biopsy positive for Squasmous cancer, three weeks later surgury. There the Doctor cut a large circle around the cell, pulling it up to skin it off my leg half way threw it just pulled off with 3/4 inch roots dangleing off all over it. Everyone became real red faced and took a break while I sat there watching this thing seeming to be danceing around in the sample bottle.

When they came back she just started cutting a hole in my leg large enought to drop a large ege half way in it. Surpriseinglly leaveing three large roots off to one side. I guess because they went to an artery. TMI territory, stage 4 malignant melonoma, I was being left to die, Just another day there.

Not much over a week one root was growing threw my knee, that swelled up 30 percent in 12 hrs. In prayer I believe I was told to put compound W on it. After all it looked like a wart, sort of. I hobbled to the store bought it and put alot on, it hurt like hell but the swelling was gone in a day, I put more on and more and it went away roots and all.

at two weeks the doctor saying the biopsy came back great so your good to go. I asked what about all those dead roots in my leg, she said my body will take care of them. I asked what kind of cancer it was and she dodged the question.

Six weeks later a mouth ulser. When I'd gotten sick I lost my job and insurance, none would treat me, just a script for penicillian that did nothing, 2 Doctors and 2 Hospitals.

All while this a bad cancer cell along my ear into my head causeing my head to swell up literary over 3/8 of an inch at times more. Spitting head acke so I coulddn't see or concentrate, More scrips for penicillin. I killed it in great pain over a month with compound W. Just ask around York Haven about the juy with his face all burned to hell, thats me.

I was told you couldn't drink the well water, but after awhile I realized the reason I felt I was dieing was the water. I started haveing heart attacks so fast I couldn't do anything but lie down and pass out. Once talking to my neighbor my face suddenly developed a rash as my neighbor stood in his house watching in horror like what the heck, some blistered, I went home and had a heart attack and passed out.

The next day I drove 60 miles to a government surplus store and bought a civil defence geiger counter. It seemed fine untill standing out side that same neighbors door we both felt a bit tingley and it took off to 10 rems. I went home and put it in the window and watched as it went to 25. I took it in the house and passed out to wake to much higher reading. In the next week it , or I should note I thought it went over 400 rems but I couldnt write it down and passed out. I did record over 200 though.

I ordered a better counter and dolcimors, but to the day they came no more radation. That weekend they sapossable removed a generator from TMI 2,. I think they used that to cover removeing the reactor and all proofs of how bad it was for there new push to build new plants.

I was in such bad shape I was trying to get family to move me upstate. I went to a motel and felt alot beter. But here now over 8 months later I'm still fighting everyone from the government to the Doctors. I'm very sick but forced to take care of and defend myself. Broke, homeless for awhile, with saposed Squamous cancer, in reality Malignant melonoma stage 4 that was in my leg, my mouth, around my ear, in my head, still down my neck, into my chest, growths in my lung and kidney diesease, ow don't forget a bad tumer on the right side of my head.

Yea no one died from Three Mile Island. I'm the only one 30 years later. Those message links don't always work so if you have any comment send a copy to jondaltonemery@aol.com Well for a little while anyway.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

All energy is "pick your poison". At this time "we" cannot replace coal and oil with alternative energy. So which is worse for people and the environment; fossil fuels or nuclear? Fossil fuels are polluting everything, the air, the water, our soil, our flora and fauna.

There are vibrant cities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hospitals, doctor's offices and dentist offices are full of nuclear material. Yes, we are aware that too much radiation can kill, but fossil fuels are slowly killing everything.

People who have worked in nuclear plants for their lifetimes aren't dying faster than their peers.

The USA arsenal of nuclear warheads need to be burned up, it will take nuclear plants to burn that fuel.

The majority of nuclear plants around the world burn nuclear fuel until the waste is a fraction of the size of the USA (about 1/5 the size) spent fuel. Out nuclear plants have this capacity but current laws do not allow the condensing of the nuclear material (it has to do with "weapon's grade stage").

Until and unless there are viable alternative energy methods then nuclear is better than fossil fuels.

Picture the future with nuclear: Electric cars, no air pollution, no water pollution, no acid rain, dangerous heavy metals such as mercury and beryllium are not being pumped into the environment, no coal sludge waste pond sites, et al.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

Yes there is in the water but I havent had enough health or money to get it tested. Its in the well water

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

I was a geophysical wireline logging engineer on a job south of Corning,NY 3 days after the 3 mile Island incident and recorded very high background radiation during my routine gamma ray calibration on a wild cat well location! I then surveyed the well location and found various high readings on my radiation counter!I truly think it was fallout from 3 mile Island!!

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster


I don't care who spins what in what way with whatever degree they have, particularly when they are associated with the government. Radioactive material, is BAD in...ANY amount!!

Would you wipe down a counter top with bleach and as it's still moist, take your hamburger off the grill and place it on the counter? NO. So why would you think ANY amount of this shite is good for you? THINK!

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

aww, thanks

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

I had skin eruptions on the back of my hand until in 1984 move to conn. then they finally healed and all I have left is scars. I lived in the burro of dauphin, went to school at dauphin county east high.

re: Investigation: Revelations about Three Mile Island disaster

I lived in Cockeysville, Md., north of Baltimore, Md. on the day this happened. I was off work due to a bad burn and watching TV. During the daytime programming, before a commercial break, a "blurb" came on from a local Baltimore TV station saying " For the 1st time now, radiation has been detected in cow's milk in Maryland". Then a commercial. Then back to programming. When the next break came, like nothing had ever been said 5 or 10 minutes earlier, the announcer said, "Milk from cows in Maryland is still testing negative for radiation". There was NO correction by them. It was like the previous announcement had never been made. I was 25 years old, my mind and hearing were absolutely fine and I heard them come back on and contradict themselves, without offering any explanation or correction.
Since that day, I have never believed anything I have read about Three Mile Island not being as bad it most likely was (probably way more so). I don't believe them now about the Japan incident.
We all live on this planet. Why so many secrets that hurt us all? Why not figure out a way to do without nuclear power? We would if we didn't have it.