Newspaper: The Sentinel
Date: April 10, 1979
Article: We learned from it
Author: Frank Masland
To the Editor:
The fact I regard the Three Mile Island incident as a happy accident calls for an explanation.
Ever since we started fooling with methods of generating nuclear energy we have wondered what would happen in the event something went wrong. At Three Mile Island just about everything went wrong. We were advised some six factors contributed to the incident. The prophets of doom have contended the result of an accident would be a major tragedy wiping out multitudes of lives.
I think we can be glad for what happened at Three Mile. Everything went wrong and nobody got hurt – which speaks volumes for the safety factor. What is more we learned a lot and the only price we pay is in dollars and cents. When an airplane crashes and 150 people stay down, we pay a price, not only in dollars and cents, but in human lives and a repetition of such accidents would indicate that we don’t learn very much.
It is good this accident happened for from this experience all the nations of the world involved in the process of generating nuclear energy will benefit. It is good it happened in the United States rather than in Russia. Had it happened there, the rest of the world probably would not have heard about it, certainly would not have been given the opportunity to learn anything from it.
Let us keep in mind the deplorable fact that a technological society is an accident prone society and congratulate ourselves that, at this point in history when we so urgently need new sources of energy, it would appear we have developed a process that can go truly haywire and the only short range and long range injury is to our pocketbook.
To the Editor:
“Nuclear Energy is out to get me,” is a fear locked within the knowledge of a vast number of the populous.
Nuclear Energy, as a threat to our existence and creativity, has been demonstrated from its early experimentation and use. Surely dabblers in nuclear energy, past and present, have ruined it for us all. They have terrorized us with warring instruments and progressively terrorized with peaceful instruments. How can one find peace and safety with something that creates much negative effect?
We blundered our present chance for a safe and positive nuclear instrument, by the course we started and still maintain. We do however, have chances remaining to implement 100 percent safe and peaceful instruments. Instruments that will not infringe on anyone’s natural freedoms, instruments that will not breed discord, disorientation, distress or fear.
They will not cause harm to air, water, plant or animal. They will not be instruments of excessive profit for dishonest dabblers.
Until we discover that place within ourselves that demands total honesty first with oneself then with everyone we contact, threats of doom exist. Nuclear energy is not a front runner of these threats.
To the Editor:
For most of my life, I have lived under the comfortable threat of the “Nuclear Age.” The threat has been comfortable simply because it was no threat at all, but rather a mild topic for mild discussion on the relative instability of life itself.
Nuclear explosion, nuclear energy, nuclear family, etc., were simply titles for something unknown and realistically unrelated to my own reality. Nuclear anything was something for scientists to deal with, to play with, and take care of for the rest of us. It never before occurred to me that no one knew anything about it. I have always assumed that “someone” did, somewhere, thus taking the entire matter comfortably out of my hands, and off my mind.
What the recent incident at Three Mile Island nuclear plant has done, with embarrassing suddenness, is put nuclear everything onto my mind for the first time in 18 comfortable years of the “Nuclear Age.” Now, with no provocation on my innocent part, I want to know what it all means – nuclear holocaust, nuclear reactors, nuclear age. I want to know why I never wanted to know anything about it before. The infant gurglings of my general sensibilities say “Why didn’t anyone tell me to want to know anything about it?”
It occurs to me, and this is the thought I hoped to share with persons out there in your readership who may have similar thoughts, that most of us, including myself – average, depend with our very lives on people, figments really off in the distance, who we do not know, but trust because we assume that they – or it – someone or something knows what we do not (and therefore do not think we need to know). I will watch carefully the discussions which I am sure will be appearing in the papers and other media, about this issue, and any other issue where a lot of people who are supposed to know the same things, disagree about the same things. I will perk up when I hear probabilities of error where human beings are involved placed at 600,000,000,000 to 1. And I am not sure if I will ever be comfortable in quite the same way, again.
Perhaps others, like me, will try to keep a finger placed a little closer to the pulse of the world around us, to prevent, at the very least, a lot of little surprises.