This week’s full-length
Three Mile Island Anniversary SPECIAL
features interviews with:
- Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer for Fairewinds Energy Education.
Watch a video of Arnie Gundersen speaking about the accident at the 40th Anniversary of the founding of TMI Alert.
- Peter Bradford, who was a Commissioner at the Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner during the TMI accident.
- Eric Epstein, Chair of Three Mile Island Alert.
TMI Alert’s Radiation monitoring page.
- Mary Stamos, long time Middletown resident and TMIA member
- Walter Cronkite, anchor for the CBS Evening News at the time of TMI and known as “the most trusted newsman in America. To view his CBS network reports on TMI, CLICK HERE.
Our thanks to filmmaker Robert (Robbie) Leppzer, producer of the two-hour audio documentary Voices from Three Mile Island, for permission to use excerpts from that work in this program. These include:
- Portions of the news montage
- Middletown Mayor Bob Reid
- Dairy farmer Jane Lee
- Local resident Pat Street
- Dr. Michael Gluck, general practitioner, who works out of three Harrisburg hospitals and lives within two miles of the TMI reactors.
The complete VOICES FROM THREE MILE ISLAND audio documentary is available as a free download at: https://www.powerstrugglemovie.com/voices-from-three-mile-island
Power Struggle, Robbie Leppzer’s current film, is the story of the successful citizen-activist led shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station. For a limited time, if you purchase a ticket for the film through Nuclear Hotseat, half the purchase price will be donated to support the show. You can get more information and buy your tickets HERE.
Libbe HaLevy’s nuclear memoir, YES, I GLOW IN THE DARK! One Mile from Three Mile Island to Fukushima and Nuclear Hotseat, contains full information on her experience having been one mile from the nuclear accident at TMI when it happened. You can purchase your copy of the book HERE.
The nuclear industry, the nuclear regulatory commission and pro newcomers in government, all tried to convince us that nukes are safe. We have nothing to worry about, and we need nuclear reactors for the energy that powers our modern lifestyle. But when you hear a newsman with the stature and international respect of Walter Cronkite announced on national TV,
The world has never known a day. Quite like the day it faced the considerable uncertainties and dangers of the worst to nuclear power plant accident of the atomic age and the heart tonight is that it could get much worse. The potential is there for the ultimate risk of a meltdown at the three mile island, atomic power plant, outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,
You hear something like that. You know that you are in the seat that we all share.
Ooh, Claire, hot seat. What are those people thinking? Nuclear hot seat. What have those boys been breaking their hot seat? Ms. Sinking, our time to act is shrinking, but nuclear hot. See it’s the bomb.
Welcome to nuclear hot seat. The weekly international news magazine, keeping you up to date on all things, nuclear from a different perspective. My name is Leebee Halevi. I am the producer and host as well as a survivor of the nuclear accident at three mile island from just one mile away. So I know what can happen when those nuclear so-called experts get it wrong. This week, our entire program is dedicated to the anniversary of the nuclear accident at three mile island, just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 42 years ago began a series of events that culminated in a partial core meltdown, radiation releases and our first public glimpse of the nuclear industry, trying to weasel out of its responsibilities, alt facts, or just altered lives. You’ll hear from local residents, engineers, a former NRC commissioner from that time doctors, media reports and me because I was there when it happened.
And without it, I wouldn’t be here with you right now. Today is Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021. And here is the nuclear hot seat, three mile island anniversary. Special. What we forget is the fear in the wake of Fukushima activists and members of the media may mention three mile island in passing, but we don’t really consider it in any detail. There are undoubtedly listeners to nuclear hot seat who weren’t even born then. And you don’t know much about this accident other than the usual litany of, okay, it happened. Nobody died big deal, but the truth is much larger scarier and more nuanced than that. I can’t forget because I was there literally one mile away visiting an old friend who had recently moved to the area with her husband. The accident began at 4:00 AM on Wednesday, March 28th, 1979 with failures in the non-nuclear secondary system followed by a stuck open valve, which allowed large amounts of nuclear reactor, coolant to escape. The mechanical failures were compounded by initial failure of plant operators to recognize the situation as a loss of coolant accident due to inadequate training and what was labeled human factor by 6:56 AM a site emergency had been called, which is level three on the nuclear regulatory commissions four level emergency classification system. First notification came through Pennsylvania’s emergency alert system shortly before 7:00 AM.
Following is a civil emergency message. The following message is being broadcast at the request of metropolitan Edison in the Pennsylvania department of emergency management at 6:56 AM, metropolitan Edison declared a site area emergency of the three mile island nuclear generating station, following a partial meltdown of reactor. Number two, at this time, the radiological danger to the population surrounding the facility is low. However, the voluntary evacuation of the following locations within a 10 mile radius of the plant has been recommended
After listing communities and possible evacuation routes. The announcement went on to say,
Schools in the area are being evacuated at this time. Should you choose to evacuate do so in a comment daughterly manner, due to the possibility of the incident being upgraded Harrisburg gets her national airport into Cumberland. Army Depot have been closed and all flights into and out of the airport have been canceled. This has been a civil emergency message,
Less than 30 minutes later. Station manager, Gary Miller announced a general emergency defined by the NRC is having quote the potential for serious radiological consequences end quote to the general public announcements in the media, followed swiftly and sounded like this
And the water cooling system at the three mile island nuclear power plant and how it’s Burg Pennsylvania forced the company to call a general emergency and shuts down part of the plant for an unspecified period.
Arnie Gunderson of Fairwinds energy education is now well-known for his critical analysis of nuclear accidents, including three mile island and Fukushima. But at the time of three mile island, he was an in the nuclear industry. He has come to be one of the world’s experts in exactly what took place from an engineering perspective. And in what order the events rolled out. One big question he addresses is should an evacuation have been ordered? The following is taken from a video on fairwinds.com entitled three myths of three mile island. Unfortunately, as Arnie was speaking, there was a marching band playing in the lobby of the hotel, just outside of the conference room. So instead of playing the audio, I will read a partial transcript of what he had to say as to the question, should an evacuation have been ordered. He said, I break that into three segments before seven.
O’clock what information was known to the people of three mile island before 7, 7 38 in the morning, and then around 10 and then around two on the first day around seven in the morning and engineer and his supervisor using an approved procedure, calculated that the exposure in Goldsboro, the area immediately adjacent to the three mile island facility might be as high as 10 REMS and hour side note. This is an extremely high and dangerous level of radiation exposure back to what irony said. It might be as high as 10 hour an hour. Now it was an approved procedure and people worked on it for years and it was actually a TMI unit, one procedure. So this was not a new procedure by the procedure and evacuation was required. There is no doubt that by the written process that people not in a crisis situation had available to them by seven to seven 30 in the morning and evacuation was required.
So basically they went outside the realm in a crisis situation, as opposed to letting the procedure govern how you should be working your way through what they did not tell the state in that 7:30 AM phone call is that employees working outside had already begun to receive exposures. There is at least one case of an exposure of 20 millirem to an employee who was out on the grounds before seven 30 in the morning side note, 20 millirem is supposed to be the highest yearly exposure that a worker in the atomic industry is allowed to receive. So that was the first missed opportunity to call an evacuation. Ernie continued around 10 o’clock. The radiation monitors in the dome of the containment were at lethal levels. Thousands of REM an hour. Again, an indication that fuel is breaking down. Someone took a reactor cooling sample. They opened a little spigot, filled a vial, and normally those vials are very non-radioactive.
This was reading 200 are an hour that is lethal in two hours. That is an incredible amount. Another indication of fuel failure around 10 o’clock in the morning, health physics asked the plant management to evacuate the auxiliary building. So all these things were happening. And yet the state was not told that things were really out of control. The third time and evacuation was called for according to Arnie Gunderson is that, and here I quote at 1220, the NRC, the nuclear regulatory commission asked three mile island. What is the temperature in liqour TMI got back to them shortly thereafter. And they said, we don’t know the computer is printing question marks. And then they said, that means that the computer is messed up. In fact, question marks meant that the temperature in the Corps was over 700 degrees. They did not know how high, but they knew that it was high. And it was another indication of a meltdown in progress. Well, a couple of minutes before two, there was an hydrogen explosion. Now the industry we’ll call it a hydrogen burn, but it was a hydrogen explosion. This from a newscast later that day
With a tremendous releasing state. And I looked out the window and I saw this huge column going up here. And Ronnie
Again from Arnie Gunderson plant manager Miller was in the control room at the time based on affidavits from four reactor operators, they all said Miller knew about it. And the control room shook. Now when your building starts shaking, I think that is about the last indication you need, that you really should let the civilians know to head for the Hills. After that it was unconscionable that an evacuation was not ordered on the first day, the words of Arnie Gunderson of Fairwinds energy education upon the 30th anniversary of the accident at three mile island, the NRC was not informed of this explosion until two days later. So again, no evacuation was called instead. Everyone was receiving confused reports from the media, which sounded like this
Can escape the atmosphere, following an accident at a nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. However, state officials say there is no danger to residents in the area. The plant is operated by metropolitan Edison company. Official. Fabian said there was no dangerous area resident at the nuclear regulatory commission here in Washington says radiation has been detected as far away from the site. As a mile send control rods have been inserted into the nuclear core to stopped a nuclear reaction, but added that it wasn’t known if some part of a fuel might’ve evaporated, melted or blown out of its core before emergency actions.
Based with this often confusing information, local residents tried to find out on their own what was happening with very mixed results. Middletown mayor, Bob Reed, excerpted from the audio documentary voices from three mile island by Robbie.
We had no concrete information that we could go on. So we had the television set in our communication center in each channel and gave us different information. We had a radio in each station, gave us different information. You didn’t know what to do. And then when I call, I said, what about radiation? I knew that he said, oh, no, radiation was released. You don’t have to worry about that. No radiation wasn’t released and no one was injured. I said, great. Turn my radio onto the car. The first day that announcer said that radiation was released. That’s what I just talked to an official from the plane. That was 11 o’clock in the morning, four o’clock in the afternoon. The same man called me and said, Bobby said, I’d like to update our conversation that we had 11 o’clock. I said, are you going to tell me now that radiation was released? He said, yes. And I said, well, I guess we’re in for a lot of malarkey from you, people
Next dairy farmer, Jane Lee.
So I got home about noon, Tom and I called state college. I knew some people at the state college had been in this thing for a year. And I said, all right, tell me what’s going on a treat TMI. She said, Jane, you’re not still there. I said, what do you mean? I’m not still here. I’m calling you to find out what’s going on. All I found out is there’s something going on at TMI, but we don’t know what. And she said, you better get out of there. She said that plant is on its way down or meltdown. I said, you’re kidding me. She said, no, I’m not getting better. Get the hell out of there. Well, here on Lowe’s I had to tell gentleman, David and Jerry, he was milking here. We had 85 head of cattle after we had to go to the dogs and cats. One from the name of God you do,
What do you do inside the control room at three mile island, a decision was being made that would have momentous impact upon the health and safety of all who found themselves in proximity to the nuclear reactor. What follows is a recording from a Dictaphone that was accidentally or perhaps intentionally left on and it recorded what the people we count on in a nuclear accident sound like as they try to figure out what to do, the sound quality is not great. And we will post a transcript of this up on our website, nuclear hot seat.com under this episode, number 5 0 9. But even with the poor sound quality listen closely, because the picture it creates is shocking and important.
So when you were probably, but I must say it’s operating totally in the blind. I don’t have any confidence at all, but a little place where they, but what they were going to get. One point that I do immediately do it immediately. We’re operating almost totally on the fly.
They admitted they were operating almost totally in the blind when they decided not to tell people to evacuate on that first day. That was the sound of my life. Being an alter oblique changed. Mary Stamos is a longtime resident of Middletown, Pennsylvania. She lived and it’s still lives only six and a half air miles from the facility and was directly in the trajectory of the plume though. She did not know it at the time
I went into the driveway and it was really strange because the air was filled with metal. And I didn’t know if I was breathing it or tasting it, but I just looked around and I couldn’t figure out what, what was going on. And thing that was really strange. It was a beautiful sunny morning and there were no birds when the birds were chirping all over the place the day before. And I just wondered, you know, what was going on, but I had no clue
While Mary Stamos and her neighbors had no clue as to what was going on at three mile island. Neither did the nuclear regulatory commission. Peter Bradford was a commissioner at the NRC at that time and had previously worked closely with Ralph Nader. Here are his recollections of that morning from inside the NRC.
On the morning of the 28th of March, the commissioner has received some level of notification. Then I don’t remember now just what level it was, but it was not a dramatic notification. Simply that something unusual had happened at the plant. If I’m remembering correctly, it was a form of notification that we probably got five or six times a year with regard to events at nuclear plants. It was an indication it’s something out of the ordinary. It happened, but it gave no hand of the severity of the events at three mile and
Quoting Arnie Gunderson regarding the 10 to 10:30 AM timeframe. The plant manager at the time was a guy named Denny Miller. And here’s what he had to say over the next couple of years about what was going on in that timeframe. Miller said they were hot enough that they scared you. And he was talking about the incor temperature. Well, if you are scared, one would think that an evacuation might be an order. Miller continued pretty early. We were scared. Radiation was all over the place. Everything was off scale. Arnie said another indication if you are scared, it’s about time to at least tell the civilians that this is the time to move out. But that first day, no warning was given. While I remained blissfully unaware of this, staying in my friend’s medialis home and working on a musical that did not mean that people in the local community were unaware that there was something very wrong happening down at the end plant, perhaps more than they were being told Arnie Gunderson shared from an email that he only recently received.
Since I’ve been talking about Fukushima, I got a email that brought me to tears. It was a woman who was in 10th grade at the time of the accident and she was in chemistry and they were studying radiation and they had a Geiger counter hanging out the window for the entire semester. They walk into the class at 10 o’clock on the morning of the accident and the Geiger counter is pegged. So the teacher goes to the phone as a responsible citizen. He calls governor Thornburg and tells him, look, I’ll in Middleburg. I’ve got a peg Dyker Keller here. What should I do? And governor Thornberg’s office told this high school teacher don’t do anything. We know all about it. So they kept the kids in school and, and who got evacuated, where the kids, some people who worked at the power plant, they all came by and grabbed their kids and got out of there. But the kids that didn’t have the inside scoop wound up staying in Middletown and got high exposure
As pat street, one of the local mothers reports,
I’m standing in the hall while they call my kids over the Intercom. My son comes running down the hall, mommy, what’s the matter. There are only 10 kids left in the room. They keep calling him over the Intercom and they don’t come back. So I said there was an accident and I tried to make it as mild as I could. I’d say I was very hysterical on the inside and trying to be very calm and collected on the outside.
Mary Stamos talks about how she first found out that there was a real problem down at the end plant
Around 10 30, the morning of the accident. I got a phone call from my sister-in-law and she worked for an environmental group. And there were attorneys there that were members of three mile island alert. And she said, they told her that something had happened at three mile island. The plant was shut down. They had some type of an accident. So I heard about it. Hours later after the metallic taste, I thought I was far enough away that it wouldn’t a problem.
I only learned of the accident at about five 30 that night on overhearing a comment by people working at a local seven 11 type store. When my friends got home from work, we of course discussed the matter and discuss the possibility of evacuation, but decided against it, labeling everything that was happening, a media hype that was being blown totally out of proportion. But because the friends I was staying with did not have a television set. We didn’t watch the news that night. And so we missed it as Walter Cronkite, anchor of the CBS evening news known and respected as the most trustworthy newsman in America, put the three mile island accident into perspective for the world.
Good evening. The world has never known a day, quite like the day it faced the considerable uncertainties and dangers of the worst to nuclear power plant accident of the atomic age and the heart tonight is that it could get much worse. It is not an atomic explosion that is feared. The experts say that is impossible, but the spectrum was raised to perhaps the next most serious kind of nuclear catastrophe, a massive release of radioactivity, the nuclear regulator regulatory commission cited that possibility with an announcement that while it is not likely the potential is there for the ultimate risk of a meltdown at the three mile island, atomic power plant outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,
The following morning, my friends received multiple phone calls from people around the country, urging them to get out, but we chose to ignore them and carry on with our lives. That Thursday day two of the accident, March 29th, more information along with official attempts to downplay, it were making themselves known in the media.
We have absolutely no question about nuclear plants and the reason he could not refer to it as a nuclear accident because it was not that. And as I say, always went to the operation as they should have.
So when is a nuclear accident, not a nuclear accident, apparently when the nuclear industry says, so none of the tumult going on within three mile island and the management and the NRC, none of the damage, none of the information that Arnie Gunderson presented on the 30th anniversary of the accident was known to the outside world at bath time, Mary Stamos,
The evening news had Walter Cronkite on and I missed all of what he said, but I had heard shortly after that, that they were talking about this nuclear accident at three mile island. And then the next morning my neighbor worked at the hotel near me and she would come by for coffee and we’d sit and talk. And she told me on Thursday morning, the second day of the accident, I mean, this was like 6:00 AM in the morning that reporters were calling from all over the world to make reservations, to stay at the hotel because of the accident. And, you know, we weren’t told it was anything serious. The evening newspaper on March 28th, that low levels of radiation escape after and plant reactor pump failed, leak poses, no danger to the populace. Later in the afternoon, Thursday afternoon, Lieutenant governor goes on television and says that the accident at three mile island told us that there’d be no problem.
They would be able to restart in a couple of days. And then later he comes back on television, like within an hour or so. And he says, we’ve been misled. We’ve been lied to the nuclear accident is more severe than we have been led to believe. We were told to close our doors and windows. When I heard that, that’s when I got really scared, because I had heard from bomb fallout victims, you know, the history and the story of Utah and Nevada and other nuclear places where they’ve told to close their doors and windows, if nothing is happening, you can breathe the air. But they told us to close our doors and windows, and that was Thursday afternoon. And I started to really get worried.
On the other hand, I wasn’t worried at all. That’s because I continued to ignore the media dismissing the little bit. I’d heard with an overblown response to that little problem down at the end plant. Of course it did not stop me from declaring myself as a member of that self-same media as a freelancer who happened to be close to a big story and wanted to capitalize upon it. So the second day of the accident, as the reactor invisibly leaked radioactivity into the environment, I walked outside over a mile into Middletown while breathing deeply of the Pennsylvania springtime air. I stood around outside interviewing people, waited half an hour on a corner for a bus, then met my friend in Harrisburg for dinner, making our way back by bus. And then walking back to the home, there still was no clear call to evacuate. Here’s why before we knew the concept of alternative facts, the nuclear industry specialized in putting them out
Communication problem, getting information back to Watson chaotic situation. Part of that, I think is a lack of credibility of what we’re being told. Part of it’s the confusion that’s coming forth. I think it’s inexcusable that we leave a private utility in full command of the situation being,
And pulled and tugged and fragmented by the structure. There
The accident did not occur in the reactor in the spider one day, a feed pump connected to a turbine outside of the reactor area. That was a failure of a piece of machine right here in metaphor. It was an accident with regard to it wasn’t an accident or a piece of machinery.
Also a bumbling reaction Bethel that meantime to change and the hydraulics in the core have to be carefully monitored. So we’re looking very carefully at the way in the afternoon, tends to get the corn from a cold shot down condition,
The door relationship between that. And what is thought of in the nuclear.
One of the more bald faced examples of nuclear double-talk and obfuscation on the third day, Friday, March 30th, amid all the confused information and garbled reports, the nuclear regulatory commission considered what actions to take former NRC commissioner, Peter Bradford.
The commission did not become aware of the seriousness of the event until Friday morning. When we learned that there had been radiation measured by a helicopter flying over the plant site. And no one seemed to have a good explanation of the source of that radiation was whether it was likely to get worse, whether they were likely to be other releases. So for the first time a commission had to focus on both notifying the rest of the federal government and formulating a recommendation for the governor of Pennsylvania as to what, if any level of evacuation you should order. You know, I don’t remember much about the debate among the commissioners. I know the consensus that we reached was to recommend the evacuation of pregnant women and children under the age of five, from within a five mile radius,
No town resident,
The next morning, around eight 30 or nine 30. All of a sudden I heard sirens ringing and the church bells were ringing, which I never heard like this. Then all of the sirens were ringing in this area and I turned the TV on. I didn’t see anything. Then I turned my radio on and I hear the news cast or Ron Drake talking about having uncontrolled radiation releases from three mile island. And that’s when I really started to panic. And a little bit later, the one person, I don’t know who it was that we consider him a hero. He turned the sirens on in Harrisburg and the people started to panic and they were hearing all the news about what was happening. And then the governor Thornburg was kind of forced into talking about radiation, you know, and the exposure that people might be getting
Based on advice of the chairman of the NRC and in the interest of taking every precaution. I am advising those who may be particularly susceptible to the effects of any radiation that is pregnant women and preschool age children to leave the area within a five mile radius of the three mile island facility until further.
And like I said, I’m six and a half miles away, but I was still worried.
The whole idea of being able to evacuate communities of that size is a third. It’s going to hurt all along. And it’s just governmental utility to talk about being able to cope with a situation by evacuation, because you’re never going to get April out,
Alone in a house without a TV and with no radio on. I knew nothing of the panic and the chaos around me. And instead sat and continued writing on my musical. Coincidentally entitled Armageddon. That is until I heard an announcement come down the street. And in order to try to understand it ran downstairs and opened the front door to hear The full announcement included the information, stay in doors, keep your doors and windows closed, do not go outside unless you absolutely have to. Here’s why as it finally came across in the media,
And that began at six 40 this morning, it lasted until nine. O’clock another unexpected and substantial release of radiation into the atmosphere from reactor. Number two, it produced a huge cloud of radioactive Xenon gas and radiation levels. To 10 times the amount considered safe for the general public to be exposed to in a full year.
The new information is this radiation cleaning to the plants, take the walls. Consequently, you need metal shield that protects the nuclear fuel and they have been damaged.
Certainly everything I had been made afraid of during the cold war as coming from the Russians was threatening my life from just one mile away, courtesy my own government. And at the local utility, I had no means of transportation knew nobody in the area, except my friends who were at work and even the house I was staying in had no basement in which to hide from the radiation. For all I knew the radiation level was so high. That in essence, I was already dead outside three mile island, all was Bedlam, dairy farmer, Janet Lee,
Like your house is on fire. And you only have so many minutes to think, and you don’t know which to grab first and you don’t know what to do, and you don’t know where to go. And you, if you do go, you have to go with the idea that you’re never coming back. Now it’s a one, a hell of a horrible experience.
Again, Middletown mayor, Bob Reed,
People were concerned. You could tell that they were afraid because a lot of people left town left the doors wide, open, unlocked, just put anything in a car and take off. They had a run on the bank. People needed money to go where they were going. And it was just, it was just a mess.
The children left in school. We’re not immune to the trauma.
The schools were were in a panic. The kids, a lot of them thought about the dying and they had written their last wills and testaments, you know, fifth grade, sixth grade kids,
The reporters who had swarmed to three mile island to capture the story. And we’re not immune to its longterm consequences. Often betrayed their own nervousness.
Yeah. A lot of people are leaving the Harrisburg area right now. My own family’s on the way to New York city right now to stay relevant. A lot of people, the gas stations are flooded. The banks were busy. People were throwing some of their money.
You’re out of here. I didn’t have a car that morning. So I talked to my neighbor and she said that we could go to her mother’s house. So I got my son ready. I went to school to get my daughter out of school. And her teacher was really upset because she had children that she couldn’t go get until all her children from the school were leaving. So when we got to the school, got my daughter, and then we went to my friend’s mother’s home. That was about 10 miles. And then my husband was still out of town. He worked at a telephone company and when he tried to call, he couldn’t even get through the phone lines were so jammed. I had the,
The same problem trying to call out. There was this weird siren sound on the line that wouldn’t let
Me get through. Oh wow.
My friends finally did get through to me on the phone, which had been jammed with no lines available. They picked me up and we evacuated two friends of theirs who lived 150 miles away, which we hoped was far enough. I stayed there for the next 10 days and then flew out away from Harrisburg, away from Middletown and three mile island. So I missed having a community of people who together were able to process commiserate and get angry much of it in a legal way at the powers that be at three mile island. But I also missed the worst of the follow-up information. Mary Stamos.
When I got my daughter ready to go back to school the one morning I was brushing her hair and she had sick, lovely hair blondish, and a whole lot of hair came out and the hair brush and it kind of freaked me out. I gave my son a little bath and I saw a whole lot of hair in the tub, which I never had experienced before. And when I looked at his scalp, I could see his scalp and it wasn’t solid hair. And I didn’t think a whole lot of it because I thought when radiation caused hair fall out, I thought you would be bald. I didn’t know until a couple years later that you could just have a certain degree of hair loss. I didn’t know what was going to happen to us in the future. If we’d all get cancer or whatever
Other problems noticed and documented by Mary Stamos in the immediate aftermath of three mile island include a sudden growth spurt in some of her plants, as much as four inches in less than a week, mutated flowers, branching out into multiples that did not previously exist in nature arose that grew out of the middle of another rose, but with no reproductive components visible on either of them and dandelion leaves that were three feet long. These are all evidence of a process known as saturation, which are mutations in plant life. Following exposure to radiation fasciation has also been observed at Fukushima and Chernobyl changes in animal birth and development were also noted in the first year after three mile island Jane,
The cats and the ducks seem to be the most vulnerable. And it’s possible that this is occurring because you have a higher reproductive rate. It’s faster. The turnover is faster. You know, they live in environment. How does an environment feed off the environment they pay themselves? So they’re, there’s anything they’re there. It’s going to show, okay. What we encounter is we have at least three males Toms right now that aren’t, that will not breed. They’re old enough to breed. Evidently they’re sterile. They won’t breed at all. And we encounter a lot of miscarriages in the cats. You know, they’re swell up, look like they’re pregnant. And then there’s nothing. No litters are very small. Now, anywhere from one to four is the most, you’ll see in a litter anymore. And it usually literally run at least six. But remember what we’re getting is four and the kittens are very small and the development stages is so slow. It’s unbelievable.
Animal mutations and animal deaths followed Mary Stamos.
There was a lady at one of the first meetings I ever attended a public NRC meeting. She stood up and asked a question of the NRC or med ed metropolitan Edison, the TMI owners. And she wanted to know when they were going to pay her for her losses of animals. And she had a dog, Kent aura, poodle Kendall, and her poodles was born with no eyes. It had eye sockets, but no eyes. And she lived right down across the street from three mile island. They paid her every penny that she asked for, but she was not allowed to talk about it.
Less, easy to track or to prove was the psychological damage done to those who lived through the three mile island accident. Most specifically the children, Dr. Michael Gluck was a general practitioner who worked out of three hospitals in the Harrisburg area and lived about two miles from the three mile island plant.
Mr. Michael Gluck
I live essentially in the a five mile radius, three mile island. I have a family, a wife and two children. My wife was pregnant during the accident. I worked out of the three hospitals in the Harrisburg area. The most devastating effect that I’ve seen on this area has been that of really severe, profound, psychological depression. In my own practice, I’ve seen a number of patients who come to me with a total devastation psychologically after the accident, crying every night, inability to sleep fear for their children’s lives, fear for their children’s future. And the lack of a secure home. A lot of people have had vague complaints of not feeling well, being tired all the time, just basically being sick to their stomach. And these basically they back when you questioned them, many of these people to the accident.
Again, Middletown mayor, Bob Reed.
I talked to a one particular doctor in town and he says that he can see regression as far as some of the kids who come to his office, kids who used to come, who were very, we’ll say outgoing those same kids after the accident now have a tendency to hold on to mom a lot. And the kid that used to climb all over the chairs and things and read the books, some of the kids now just don’t do that. He wonders if it’s the same way at home, but I talked to the NRC people and some people in town to ask them to get a child psychologist in town, just to sit down and talk to the kids, not one on one leg, get on a sofa and talk joint, but talk to a whole group of them and explain exactly what’s going on down there. How it’s going to affect them. They say, well, no, it’s guys like you. If you keep your mouth shut, then the kids are forget it. And I said like, oh, they will.
Mary Stamos became and remains involved with three mile island alert in the wake of the accident, learning that there had been no epidemiological follow-up to determine the impact of the accident on the health of local residents. She and others from the group went door to door in the evacuation area, asking questions about people’s health. She was shocked to learn that more than 50% of the people who lived within a five mile radius of the nuclear reactors at three mile island had moved away within the past five years. The one can hardly blame them. One final story from Mary,
The nuclear regulatory commission, and three mile island would come and have all these meetings and people would talk about their problems and they kept insisting that radiation wasn’t the cause, but they never once said what it would have been. They blamed the health department here and the government blamed a lot of it on stress. I mean, I never had metallic tastes before, but I had stress before. I’ve never heard of an animal mutating because of stress.
We’ll have more about the medical follow-up in a moment as for the legal follow-up to the accident. Citizens succeeded in a class action suit against three mile island winning $25 million in an out of court settlement. Part of this money was used to create the TMI public health fund in 1983, a federal grand jury indicted the public utility metropolitan Edison on criminal charges for the falsification of safety tests prior to the accident. But under a plea bargaining agreement met ed pleaded guilty to one count of falsifying records and no contest to six other charges, four of which were subsequently dropped. They agreed to pay eight $45,000 fine and set up a $1 million account to help with emergency planning in the areas surrounding the nuclear reactors note, that $1 million is approximately the profit on one nuclear reactor operating for one day. So it seems that met ed got off very cheaply to bring us up to date on the aftermath of the three mile island nuclear partial meltdown. I spoke with Eric Epstein, the head of three mile island alert. First of
All, tell us,
And what is three mile island alert? And when was it formed?
Three mile island alert is a safe energy organization that was founded in 1977 in response to the construction of three mile island unit two, which was a plant involved with the core meltdown in 1979. So we’ve been around for a significant period of time. The beginning was Rocky. Most people had supported nuclear power vigorously in this country in response to Arab oil embargo, stagflation, and a number of reasons. I think people felt nuclear was the answer, but nobody was asking any questions. And that’s what we did since that time we have now grown. We cover eight counties, we cover three nuclear power plants, obviously three mile island unit one, three mile island unit two, which is not cleaned up peach bottom one, two and three. And Susko Hannah one and two. So we’ve morphed into a safe energy group, a nuclear watchdog, and a voice for the community. What
Was your involvement at the time that the accident happened?
That’s a good question. At the time the accident happened, ironically, I was in Los Angeles in college, working with a group known as the Alliance for survival opposing Santa, no fray. I was involved beginning in 1982 with the subsequent Hanna valley Alliance, which was primarily concerned with preventing the dumping of radioactive water, about 700,000 gallons into the subsequent Hanna river. And from 1984, until the current time I’ve either been the chairperson or the spokesperson for TMI alert consistently. So I didn’t, I didn’t know at the time that I was signing up for a lifetime commitment, but I’m proud to do it. And I think it’s important that our community has continuity and monitors the nuclear power plants in our backyard. We’re here 24, 7, 365. And as you know, we created a radiation monitoring network. We’ve also partnered with Dickinson college to create an archives.
I find it highly ironic that you who lived in the area were in California and I’ve lived in California, was at three mile island when it happened. There’s some karmic interchange happening there.
You know, to be honest, it was quite an evolution for me growing up, you know, we welcome TMI. I swam there, you know, people fish there, the jobs were good, nobody really questioned it, which was a huge mistake. My dad reassured me that it was a safe source of energy. So, you know, the tables turned dramatically on March 28th, 1979, when the accident began and well, my family didn’t respond in a universal way. My dad evacuate left the area actually went to Delaware, which wasn’t really that far away. And my sister was in school and was one of the last kids to be picked up because we didn’t really have a plan in place. So a lot of those kids dealt with that terror of not knowing if, for when they’d be picked up. My family store stayed open. We had survived three floods and we thought, hell, we could survive a nuclear accident, but people need to remember that the accident began on March 28th with a core melt. And by March 30th, Friday kids were in school. It was warm and that’s when the precautionary evacuation took place. So it was indeed ironic that I was in Los Angeles, actually Anaheim at the time. And there’s nothing like a nuclear meltdown to enhance your credibility
During the media circus that surrounded the essence aftermath. What were some of the lies and distortions told by those in power, including Neta
Right out of the bat med ed tried to downplay the accident. And that’s been a problem at every marquee nuclear accident, whether it’s TMI, Chernobyl, or Fukushima, that the people that caused the accident are responsible for the chain of communication. So if you look at the records and the Udall report, you’ll find out real early on that the governor who was just brand new governor Thornburg had just been elected and didn’t know where TMI was. And TMI is 12 miles from the Capitol, quickly lost faith in the company. And there there’s a dramatic press conference given by the Lieutenant governor. I think on March 29th, basically saying that we cannot believe the information we’re getting from the company. The second myth that is probably more prevalent and troubling is that nobody died as a result of the accident conservatives and pro-nuclear people used to say that Ted Kennedy’s car killed more people than the accident or TMI.
And the problem is so much radiation escaped. And if you want to see estimates, I’d encourage people to check out Dr. Jan BA or David, Jan VA’s with the Autobahn society and David Locke bounds with a union of concerned scientists. And we don’t know how much radiation escaped, why? Because the monitors weren’t equipped to pick up the amount that was released. Monitors went off, stack filters, became clogged, monitors were missing. So we had to go back and do an inventory of radiation released and what we found. And I think that most definitive health study was done by Dr. Wing. If you look at the 17 whim plume pathways, and you look at the cancer incidents, you will find the TMI had a devastating impact in the community, both in terms of physical health and psychological health. And up until this day, the companies paid out over a hundred million dollars in claims for evacuation economics, health damages, including $1 million award to a family whose child was born with down syndrome. You know, it’s pretty clear that we live with chronic elevated psychological stress. The evidence is overwhelming that we were exposed to radiation. Look, there are hundreds, if not thousands of accounts,
What were some of the early indicators that the health of local residents was being negatively affected by the three mile island accident?
Well, unfortunately since the radiation monitors didn’t work or missing human beings became essentially the barometer for the amount of radiation that was exposed. So we became human disseminators. And what people experience was a universal, a metallic taste in your mouth, sunburn skin, eye irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, all effects of being exposed to radiation that had a dreadful effect on animals as most veterinarians in the area testified to. So it was pretty early on that the Canary and the coal mine was both animals and human beings, which is absolutely unacceptable. And as time has gone on, we see an exceptionally high rate of fibroid cancer. Penn state at Hershey is still investigating those effects. Unfortunately, the state has given up and the federal government has kicked in the towel. And as we have complained Libby for 37 years still, no nuclear power plant has a health registry or a cancer registry for workers or people who live in the community. And that is unconscionable.
You referenced a health study. How long after the accident did count studies begin. And what were some of the problems that researchers faced?
The problem was that you have a mobile population here to begin with. It’s the capital. So one segment, the population changes every four to eight years, depending on who’s governor. And the other segment of the population is extremely stable. You know, you have people whose heritage dates back to the revolutionary war. This is Bible belt, Christian, conservative America, and these people who were also bedrock community or the people who went from being pro-nuclear to being skeptical, to being thoroughly fed up with the industry. I’m telling you that because the surveys that happened and then definitive study that the industry relies on was done in 19 85, 19 85, just six years after the accident, no scientist in their right mind would tell you that you can capture radiogenic cancer in six years. That’s junk science, even that study, which was conducted by Dr. Takahata from the department of health, was dismissed by epidemiologists at Penn state and at Harvard.
And that wasn’t even a study. It was a survey. And that’s why I was complaining before about residents not being interviewed is that they didn’t even interview people. They basically did a survey of the area. The lines were fudged. The survey was thrown out and really the definitive health account occurred in the early 1990s by a doctor Steven wing from the university of North Carolina at chapel hill. And if you reference that, you can see exactly what we argued since the day of the accident. Follow the plumes, talk to the people. And what you will find is high incidents of radiogenic cancer. And we still have cancer to this day, not to mention the fear of the unknown. People don’t know what they were exposed to. Some people made decisions not to raise a family because they didn’t want to be queen mutations. And so it’s an accident without an end. Let me just what I told people before I can tell you the exact time the accident began March 28th, 1970 9, 3 58. I can’t tell you what time it ends because nuclear accidents never end. This is a story where the pallbearers are going to have to stand in place forever.
What, if any action has been taken against net ed or any other organization that was involved Babcock and Wilcox, any of the creators of three miles?
Well, everybody’s shoot each other. Nobody took responsibility. It’s the old story. The companies through the NRC that was thrown out, the Babcock and Wilcox suit was settled out of court. The company that owned the plant was actually a holding company. It was GPU med ed, who was the operator owned 50% of the plant. 25% was owned by Jersey central power and light. And 25% was owned by Penn aleck, just as a cruel irony of this is that we really didn’t get any electricity from that nuclear power plant Jersey central and power and light is in New Jersey. We live in central Pennsylvania. Penn aleck is an Allentown. We live in central Pennsylvania. Penn aleck is in Western Pennsylvania. We live in central Pennsylvania. So the people that had to deal with the accident really never received any of the benefits. Now, there was a fine, and there were criminal convictions.
The company no longer exists. And the has been sold multiple times since the accident. So essentially the company not only got away scot-free, but they were bailed out by taxpayers and by the federal government for the fueling, you asked me earlier, what was one of the biggest myths? The third biggest myth and probably biggest lie is that TMI two was cleaned up at the time of the accident. There was no decommissioning funds. They had no money. They operated from one, 120th of their lifespan cost a billion to build a billion, to do fuel and it’ll cost another billion to decommission. And they just don’t have enough money. I mean, the reality is that TMI two will never be cleaned up. And this is an accident without an ending.
What, if anything, can listeners to nuclear hot seat do to help support you in your
Well, you know, you can visit our websites, obviously, you know, donations help. But if you go to the TMI website, tmi.com, you’ll see that we track three nuclear power plants on a daily basis. We have a record of every incident or problem that’s occurred at all. Three plants, everything since the day they began until today. That’s for SESCO Hannah peach bottom in TMI, we established a radiation monitoring network and you can go to emr.org and you can find what we promise to give the community has come to fruition. And that’s real time radiation monitoring. What people can do is basically make sure it doesn’t happen to them. Stay active, ask questions, don’t be a victim. You don’t have to be a passive victim. You can be the aggressor. And I think what we found is something totally ironic alternatives and renewals have supplanted nuclear power.
So I think you and your listeners have probably know this for years that, you know, the only thing that matters in this country, that’s green is money. And nobody in their right mind would invest in a nuclear power plant. These days. I understand that some people may seem disaffected by nuclear power, but it affects everybody. If you just look at how nuclear power works from the moment it’s mined, milled, transported, bled, and then it turns into waste. Everybody, no matter where you are, you’re impacted. So be aware that at some point in time, you’re touched by nuclear power production,
Eric Epstein, thank you so much for all your years of dedicated work.
Well, I appreciate your diligence and your sticktuitiveness and your tenaciousness. And people need to understand that what you’re doing is hard and it’s difficult. So people tuning into hot seat could also, you know, send you some thank yous or some kudos. That’s what I’m doing from Harrisburg today. And I appreciate all your efforts on everybody’s behalf.
It was Eric Epstein of three mile island alert. We’ll link to the Steven wing study on our website, three mile island unit one was permanently shut down on September 20th, 2019, but the radioactive waste remains in place and radioactive debris from unit two, where the meltdown took place has never been cleaned up. This remains an ongoing issue, and that is why you need nuclear. Hotseat not only for weekly nuclear news and numnuts of the week, but for concentrated looks back at our legacy of nuclear problems, like three mile island, so that we never forget what has been done as well as what is still being done to all of us. As a result of the nuclear industry, there is never a week without multiple alarming stories of nuclear accidents, lies, malfeasance, coverups, image, manipulation, and the damage done by this one industry to people and the environment.
These are stories that mainstream media does not cover, or if they do it’s from a local perspective, only without larger context. And usually includes more than a few unvetted. Pro-nuclear talking points implanted in public consciousness by the industries, never ending multi-million dollar PR campaign and here’s nuclear hot seat on a bake sale budget, working to contradict all that pro nuclear blah-blah-blah and provide you with the research vetted truth. And every week we do a pretty good job of it. So help us keep going by providing a donation, just go to nuclear, hot seat.com and click on the big red donate button to send us a donation of any size, or you can set up a recurring monthly donation as little as $5 a month. The same as a cup of coffee here in the United States is enough to help us go whatever you can do to help know that I am deeply grateful that you’re listening and that you care.
This has been a nuclear hot seat special for Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021, three mile island. Never forget our thanks to Fairwinds energy education and Arnie Gunderson, Mary Stamos of TMI alert, former NRC commissioner, Peter Bradford, Eric Epstein of TMI alert and my gratitude to filmmaker Robbie lobster producer of the two hour audio documentary voices from three mile island who gave me permission to use interviews with mayor Bob Reed, Jane Lee, pat street, and Dr. Michael Gluck we’ll have a link to Robbie’s documentary on our website, nuclear hot seat.com under this episode, number 5 0 9. This is Leiby Halevi of heart history communications reminding you that as three mile island proves we are all in the nuclear hot seat.