Saturday, March 28, 2009
Thirty years ago today: Meltdown at Three Mile Island
Posted by Bob Sommer
People died at Three Mile Island
By Harvey Wasserman
Published at The Free Press, March 24, 2009
People died---and are still dying---at Three Mile Island.
As the thirtieth anniversary of America's most infamous industrial accident approaches, we mourn the deaths that accompanied the biggest string of lies ever told in US industrial history.
As news of the accident poured into the global media, the public was assured there were no radiation releases.
That quickly proved to be false.
The public was then told the releases were controlled and done purposely to alleviate pressure on the core.
Both those assertions were false.
The public was told the releases were "insignificant."
But stack monitors were saturated and unusable, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission later told Congress it did not know---and STILL does not know---how much radiation was released at Three Mile Island, or where it went.
Using unsubstantiated estimates of how much radiation was released, the government issued average doses allegedly received by people in the region, which it assured the public were safe. But the estimates were utterly meaningless, among other things ignoring the likelihood that high doses of concentrated fallout could come down heavily on specific areas.
Official estimates said a uniform dose to all persons in the region was equivalent to a single chest x-ray. But pregnant women are no longer x-rayed because it has long been known a single dose can do catastrophic damage to an embryo or fetus in utero.
The public was told there was no melting of fuel inside the core.
But robotic cameras later showed a very substantial portion of the fuel did melt.
The public was told there was no danger of an explosion.
But there was, as there had been at Michigan's Fermi reactor in 1966. In 1986, Chernobyl Unit Four did explode.
The public was told there was no need to evacuate anyone from the area.
But Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh then evacuated pregnant women and small children. Unfortunately, many were sent to nearby Hershey, which was showered with fallout.
In fact, the entire region should have been immediately evacuated. It is standard wisdom in the health physics community that---due in part to the extreme vulnerability of human embryos, fetuses and small children, as well as the weaknesses of old age---there is no safe dose of radiation, and none will ever be found.