Nuclear Anniversary

I was running around all day Thursday, and it wasn’t until late in the day that I noticed the date: March 28th. That’s a big day for me. The anniversary of the Three Mile Island fiasco…. er, accident. Thirty-four years this year.

I was there. I lived just a couple of miles away from the plant. As a reporter for Harrisburg Magazine, I covered the entire thing, so I got — literally — the inside scoop. I went on a tour of the damaged plant, I attended a press conference with President Jimmy Carter, I went to the NRC briefings every day, the works.

I saw the “refugee camp” they set up at HersheyPark Arena for the families with kids who wanted to evacuate but had no place to go. I talked to parents who didn’t know whether their kids were going to live or die. I talked to expectant parents who didn’t know whether their still-unborn kids were going to live or die… or live as some kind of freakish mutants.

If you weren’t there, you probably wouldn’t understand that kind of fear. Reporters who covered war zones said that this was scarier than war, because the bullets you knew where they were and where they were coming from. The radiation you couldn’t see, you couldn’t hear, you couldn’t feel…. You just knew it was there, somewhere. Maybe enough to kill you.

Three Mile Island proved to me that there is no way commercial nuclear power can be made safe. Yes, the Navy can do it (mostly) safely, but they throw unlimited billions of dollars at it to make it safe. And when a nuclear ship has a problem, they can take it out of commission until it’s fixed. But commercial nuclear plants have limited budgets, have to make a profit, and can’t come offline often or for long stretches. It just ain’t gonna work if you’ve got to make a profit.

Plus, even if you could generate the power safely, you still have all that waste… which, if you’ve forgotten, lasts for 25,000 years and could wipe out the entire planet hundreds of times over….

Yet, after all that, I still have to admit that one good thing actually came out of TMI, which is that I met the girl I was going to fall in love with and marry. If TMI had not happened, we would not have met. And we are still going strong.  🙂

The other positive thing that came from this is that I got my first “big break” as a writer — an article in The Progressive magazine, a respected national publication, co-written with my editor at the time. If you’re interested, you can find the article at the link below. (It was originally published in the summer of 1979. It was posted on this website on another anniversary of TMI, shortly after the Fukushima accident… people never freakin’ learn….)