Pat Carter: From Three Mile Island to Fukushima: Nuclear Accidents will Always Occur
Nuclear Accidents will Always Occur - They are designed and operated by Humans
I was in Middletown, Pennsylvania, where the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant is located, on March 27, 1979, sitting outside a car repair shop with my 5-month-old child. Because it was unseasonably warm, I wanted to take advantage of the lovely weather. I found out the next day, huge amounts of radiation were released and continued to be released by the plant operators because of a “stuck switch.”
As I watched the aftermath of Fukushima on TV, I knew, in a small way, how the victims in Japan were feeling. You quickly leave with the clothes on your back and go as far as you can; never knowing if you left in time or if you went far enough. The days and months afterwards are horrible.
I did go home, but you never feel the same. You’ve lost the feeling of comfort and safety. You mistrust large corporations, the government, and even my “organic” garden seemed nonsense. The plant continued to vent for a couple years, and I was in a constant state of anxiety for two years before I could leave the area.
Knowing my family and friends remained in the TMI area has always caused me concern. There is a certain amount of denial in that community. I believe it’s the “I would rather not know” syndrome. They need to exist there, and like me, if they thought about it, the anxiety would be too much.
Following the accident, a class action lawsuit alleging detrimental health effects was rejected by Harrisburg U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo, and there was a collective sigh of relief from the industry. It seemed the end of the “problem” of people knowing. Then, in 1983 a grand jury indicted Metropolitan Edison for these safety violations and they received only a slap on the wrist. Then, the industry had a lay low period until they slowly devised plans to make a resurge. Once again, with the partnership (or collusion) of the supposed local, state, and federal “watchdog agencies” the nuclear resurgence goes on.
“Several epidemiological studies in the years since the accident have supported the conclusion that radiation released from the accident had no perceptible effect on cancer incidence in residents near the plant, though these findings are contested by one team of researchers” according to Wikipedia.
The industry (and when I say “industry” I refer to the USA Government agencies as well as the for profit nuclear industry) often use the” nobody got hurt” thread for TMI, and the press mimics this. Still, it amazes me, because this frequently used statement is totally untrue. There are not “several studies” and certainly not a large scale government effort to suggest that nobody got hurt or to determine the real health and safety implications of TMI. Do you think a private entity has the funds for a study? Let me share with you that of all my relatives and friends in the area, none have ever been contacted by anyone in relation to their health, physically or mentally.
I have thyroid issues, as do many of my friends, but none of us have been asked about our health by anyone. I made it a point to ask everyone I know in the Harrisburg area if their physicians routinely screen them for thyroid problems. The answer is no.
So far, the nearest thing to a real study on the cause and effect of radiation is Chernobyl. There were many areas in other countries, outside of Russia, that had high radiation levels after that accident, but only the area around the plant was studied and records of high levels of thyroid cancer are recorded there.
I do wonder why people are not more concerned about the new nuclear advancement and I ask myself, “If I were not a victim of the TMI accident would I have educated myself to the horror of boiling water with radiation?”
Nuclear is too expensive and too dangerous. As a result, the industry would not exist if it were not guaranteed to be paid for by us, the general public, and protected by the Price-Anderson Act. The men who started nuclear energy were very intelligent and they knew it was not viable otherwise.
This isn’t an opionion, it’s a fact: As long as nuclear power is generated there will be accidents. We will all sit and wait for the big, bigger, and biggest. We all wonder what the category is of the known ones. We do know that anything designed and operated by humans will have faults.
Many seem to accept this fact, and agree that the price of nuclear, both financial and the human toll, is OK, as long as they are not involved. They THINK they are not involved. Look at the map of the plants in our country, and you will see, we are ALL involved. And ask me, and ask the people of Fukushima, if it is OK.
Pat Carter was born and raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with 9 siblings. She moved to Atlanta in 1981 to "escape" the aftermath of Three Mile Island. She has 2 birth children and 2 step children. She works as an administrative assistant and loves spend time with her family, garden and explore the world.