Newspaper: The Patriot
Date: March 30, 1979
Title: Nuclear Dangers Doubted
Author: Carmen Brutto, Staff Writer
Officials of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday on-site radiation conditions continue on Three Mile Island with “no danger” to persons residing in the off-site area.
They were joined by Gov. Dick Thornburgh who told a press conference that area residents should not disrupt their daily routine in the aftermath of the failure of a turbine at Unit 2 in the nuclear generating plant on Wednesday.
Thomas Gerusky, director of the Department of Environmental Resource’s Bureau of Radiological Protection, said radiation levels in Goldsboro decreased at selected spots from 20 millirems per hour at 6:30 a.m. Thursday to one millirem per hour at 2 p.m.
Gerusky also said that milk samples taken from seven cows on area farms found one having an iodine concentrate of 20 picocuries per liter. In the fallout from a Chinese nuclear bomb explosion several years ago, Gerusky said, the picocuries per liter “measured in the hundreds.”
“I believe, at this point, that there is no cause for alarm, nor any reason to disrupt…daily routine, nor any reason to feel that the public health has been effected by events on Three Mile Island,” Thornburgh said. “This applies to pregnant women; this applies to little children; and this applies to our food supply.”
THORNBURGH commented on what he called a “conflicting” array of information being fed the public and added that “I feel that I have succeeded” in separating fact from fiction on the more important questions.
“While the danger is under control at this time, it is very important that all of us remain alert and informed,” the governor said. “We will continue to do everything we can to see that this is done.”
Dr. Charles Gallina, NRC investigator, and James Higgins, NRC reactor inspector, said conditions on the island and in the area were steadily improving.
While the reactor heat was stabilizing, Higgins said, there was no estimate on how long the Metropolitan Edison Co. must wait before it reached a cold shutdown area.
Gallina said test flights in the vicinity, as much as 10 miles to the north, found contamination of about two-tenths of one percent of a millirem per hour. Ground checks found contamination “below detectable activity,” he said.
Gallina said release rates of radiation at the building housing the contaminated water “have dropped drastically.” He added that radiation emissions from the area were only a problem on the site.
“There are no off-site dangers at present,” Gallina said. “There is a logistical problem for people working on site. Based on what we have been able to determine, there is no danger off-site.
“There is a danger for workers from radiation. We respect it; we do not fear it. We do the job as it has to be done.”
The off-site areas have a normal background radiation reading of 100 millirems a year, according to Gerusky. He said a typical chest or dental X-ray exposes the patient to 30 millirems of radiation. Some areas in northeastern Pennsylvania, he said, maybe have normal background radiation of 200 millirems per year because of uranium deposits.
ASKED WHY the off-site readings on radiation fluctuated, Gallina described the contaminants as moving in a cloud which disperses under atmospheric conditions. He also said that the radiation from the nuclear plant emissions differs from an atomic bomb explosion in that the former has a shorter life, and the latter’s staying power contaminates areas.
Thornburgh was asked for his assessment of the impact the failure at the Three Mile Island facility might have on the development of nuclear power in the country.
“Anytime you have an accident that indicates the systems are not infallible, it causes a review process,” he said. “I and others are going to want to be assured by a thorough investigation that what occurred here is not some basic fault in the mechanism (for) making nuclear power. I don’t think it ‘tolls’ the use of nuclear power, but shows we can’t run pell-mell into a form of energy we don’t have a handle on.”