#OnThisDay: Three Mile Island, 1979

I’ve had two relatively close encounters with Three Mile Island. Both were unexpected.

While on vacation in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country in the early 1980s, my sister and I sought out a unique restaurant, Alfred’s Victorian Restaurant, for dinner one night in Middletown. It was only upon arriving that we realized that Middletown was actually the location of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant. We joked about glowing in the dark later that evening, but I know it’s really not a laughing matter.

On a later trip to work on our family’s genealogy, my sister and I flew into the airport in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. On our approach, the plane banked so close to the cooling towers of the power plant, I swear I could have reached out and touched them if the windows had been open!

In retrospect, it’s astounding that a commercial jet was allowed to fly so close to a nuclear power plant, but that was well before 9/11. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to do that.


What happened at Three Mile Island?

Can it be 43 years since this happened? I’m feeling older by the day!

A pressure valve in the Unit-2 nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island near Middletown, Pennsylvania failed to close at 4:00 a.m., March 28, 1979. The result was the worst nuclear power generating facility disaster up until that time.

This cooling malfunction caused part of the core of Unit-2 to melt. The reactor was destroyed, but there were no injuries. A small amount of radioactive gas was released two days after the accident, but it wasn’t enough to cause any adverse health problems.

Personnel operating the facility were unable to tell where the malfunction was in the beginning, which contributed to the emergency. As a result of what happened at Three Mile Island, a raft of changes were made in operating procedures, training, emergency response planning, and other aspects of nuclear power production required by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

According to the NRC, “A combination of equipment malfunctions, design-related problems and worker errors led to the TMI-2’s partial meltdown and very small off-site releases of radioactivity.”

If you’re too young to remember this accident or desire to know more about it, here’s the link to an NRC report: https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML0402/ML040280573.pdf?msclkid=551c40f7a7cd11ec8bde7e38f7758305.


What’s the status of Three Mile Island?

The other nuclear reactor, Unit 1, was shut down on September 20, 2019. The dismantling of the facility and clean-up is estimated to take 60 years and cost more than $1 billion.


The good news?

Many problems were identified due to the accident at Three Mile Island. The resulting regulatory changes have made nuclear power production in the United States and other countries much safer.


Since my last blog post

I continued to work on that old cemetery project I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent blog posts. It’s troubling how much damage the elements have done to some of the grave stones since I took photographs of them in 2006. I continue to try to decipher some of the inscriptions.

I’ve started working my way through Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash as I continue to work out the plot for The Heirloom.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading parts of several.

Watch and listen to the news and read news articles from reputable sources. Stay informed about current events.

Thank you for spending some time reading my blog.

Janet

8 thoughts on “#OnThisDay: Three Mile Island, 1979

  1. March 1979 my wife at the time was pregnant with our son. We needed to travel to western Pennsylvania from Long Island for a job interview, we came together as a family to expedite a housing search, in case of success. Three Mile Island was happening, and we decided to go way out of the way to avoid the disaster and a possibility of radiation exposure to us and the fetus. There is no way we believe the official line about the health effects of any disaster.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. What an interesting first-hand story of the event! I read one article which said 2 million people were exposed to the radiation two days after the meltdown. I wasn’t certain of the efficacy of that article, so I chose not to reference it in my post. The incident must have been quite frightening for you and your wife at the time. I hope you’ve shared the story with your son. It’s the kind of oral history that needs to be passed down through the generations of your family. Thanks so much for sharing that.

    Liked by 1 person

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