Getting Snookered At Three-Mile Island

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While chatting with a recent New Mexico Tech graduate last weekend, I discovered she had never heard of the nation’s worst nuclear accident – the partial melt-down of a commercial reactor in Pennsylvania 30 years ago this spring. Three Mile Island’s Unit 2 suffered a “scram” (Let’s get out of here!) failure – the breakdown of its emergency shut-off system – and the plant’s nuclear reaction spiraled out of control.

My young friend’s parents even work for a national lab. Still, you’d think during six years at Tech, our graduate would have learned about the TMI-2 catastrophe, seeing as how numerous Tech graduates go on to labor in the country’s nuclear laboratories. But lulled by the official fiction that our own little China-syndrome harmed no one, amnesia has beset us.

Journalist Sue Sturgis recently cleared away the cobwebs surrounding the 1979 debacle and published her findings in the online journal Facing South. We rejoin the tale as the power plant’s neighbors recount the horrors they experienced while soaking in a radioactive fog that authorities assured them was absolutely safe.


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