Category: Content Type (Page 2 of 31)

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): Physics department aids Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Newspaper: The Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: Physics department aids Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Author: Lisa A. Pawelski

Special to The Dickinsonian

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has requested the Physics department’s assistance in monitoring radiation levels near the Three Mile Island reactor. A group of physics professors and majors, assisted by more than 40 student volunteers, has been working since Thursday, March 29 to obtain accurate scientific information about the radioactivity which has been released from the TMI reactor during the past two weeks.

Small amounts of radioactive substances are released from the plant during normal operations. It is possible to predict what additional radioactive species might be present as the result of a mishap by consulting the reactor’s environmental impact statement and other literature.

Qualitative identification of the radioactive substances present near the reactor has been done at the College. Physics department chairman John Luetzelschwab, who lived less than two miles from the reactor, and volunteer students collected soil samples from several sites within a few miles of TMI. The soil samples are then placed over a detection crystal for six hours or more. Via a complex series of amplifiers and sorters, it is possible to detect photons (which are the result of one type of radioactive decay) and determine with what energy they are being emitted from the soil, one can ascertain which radioactive elements are present in the sample.

This type of analysis has been done not only on soil samples, but on rainwater and well water taken from the vicinity of the reactor, and air samples from Carlisle. So far, a small amount of xenon has been found in the samples taken near the reactor. Xenon has a short half-life; consequently, its biological effects are minimal.

In addition, the soil samples are scrutinized for the presence of iodine. So far, amounts of iodine detected near the plant have been so small that they may be attributed to statistical fluctuation of the data. Overall, even the highest radiation levels detected at the plant boundary have been far below those detected during the Chinese atmospheric testing of 1976.

During the height of the TMI incident, the physics department used a Geiger counter to obtain crude readings of atmospheric radiation levels in Carlisle and reported their findings hourly to local radio stations. This was done as a public service, at the suggestion of the College’s senior officers. All readings were normal, with the exception of a brief period of slightly elevated levels on the morning of April 2. At the same time of the elevated reading, Carlisle was directly downwind from the plant, and rain was falling. One should note that background radiation normally increases three- to five-fold during rain-showers, as naturally-present radioactive radon gas dissolves in rainwater and is carried to earth.

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): praise for students

Newspaper: The Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: praise for students
Author: Unknown

April Fools this year passed unnoticed as customary playful pranks gave way to fear that transformed Dickinson into a ghost college. While the exodus of the overwhelming majority of the student population was completed by Sunday evening, in Tome a group of students continued to test air, water and soil samples for possible contamination because of the crippled Three Mile Island nuclear power plant.

These students, working under the direction of the Physics department, with senior Lisa Pawelski as the foreperson, monitored levels of radiation in the environment since Wednesday, March 28 when the accident at Unit 2 occurred. Their readings were used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Environmental Resources and the Carlisle authorities. In a time of regional emergency these Dickinsonians worked diligently to provide vital information to College and local officials so that they may intelligently assess the seriousness of the situation on a daily basis.

Certainly, because of the valuable contributions these students made to the College and the county, they must, rightfully so, feel a sense of personal satisfaction. Nevertheless, these students, too numerous to name in this space, should be formally recognized by the College and receive a commendation from the Student Senate for their outstanding performance during a time of crisis.

For now, The Dickinsonian takes pride in honoring those students who preformed a service that hopefully will never have to be repeated or equaled in the future.

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): say no to nukes

Newspaper: The Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: say no to nukes
Author: Unknown

As a result of the Three Mile Island accident, a plethora of investigations into nuclear energy will be instituted and a national debate will ensue. While this debate is in progress, prudent action dictates a national moratorium on the licensing and building of nuclear power plants and, ultimately, the elimination of nuclear power from the energy mix of the nation.

Whether or not the odds of a nuclear accident are minute should not be the deciding factor in determining the future development of nuclear power as an alternative energy source. The all too familiar argument of pro-nuke forces of the limited possibility of disaster as based on safety systems and industry’s track record has only served to distract the public’s eye from the enormous consequences of a long-shot nuclear accident.

Let the public serve notice to energy policy makers that it will not subject itself to unnecessary psychological terror that is callously labeled by nuclear advocates as “an irrational fear that is unknown.” Let pregnant mothers, mothers and future mothers, fathers and future fathers came forth and serve notice to the nuclear power industry that they will not accept even the minutest odds of an accident if the disaster give birth to deformed or still-born children. Let concerned citizens inform promoters of nuclear energy that it will not tolerate unnecessary contamination of the air, water, land, milk and meat. Human life is infinitely more precious than nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy, in the final analysis, is not necessary. If the government spent as much tax revenue on financing alternative methods of energy production such as solar and coal gasification and liquification, nuclear power plants could be purged from the national landscape.

The lesson America can learn from Three Mile Island about nuclear energy is thankfully much less painful than it could have been. To continue to include nuclear energy in the energy mix of the nation would be a lesson unlearned, a lost opportunity to correct a mistake. With a unified, resolute voice say no to nuclear energy – for now, for the future, forever. To say yes would be a crime against ourselves, and our progeny.

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): Seriously: It wasn’t funny after a while

Newspaper: The Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: Seriously: It wasn’t funny after a while
Author: Blair Woodstock

It’s difficult for me to formulate my thoughts right now. It takes very little to cause my adrenaline to flow. As I write this, I and everyone around me are potentially in the path of a nuclear disaster. It’s an uncomfortable thought.

It is Saturday afternoon. I believe that I am not now in immediate danger from radiation. I also believe that I will be in danger within the next few days. Why did I decide to come to a school so near Three-Mile Island?

It just started to rain. I wonder how that affects radiation? I have heard rain doesn’t affect it. I have also heard that rain does affect it. I’m sitting here in my room, listening to my Kenny Loggins album and staring at the rain.

I turned off the TV. There are less bulletins on now because the situation is temporarily stabilized. I can’t stand watching the tennis match or the baseball game because of something on an island twenty miles away.

I have never been in a potentially catastrophic situation before. I had always thought I would be able to handle it. I thought I would remain clam. I can’t believe my hand is shaking as I write this.

Half the students at this college have gone home. I think I may do the same. I’m glad I live west of here since the wind is blowing north-east. I’m wearing my t-shirt that says “Pittsburgh . . .Some place special.” If I do go home I’ll have to borrow money from someone because I ran out of checks this week. What luck.

Why do I keep picturing archeologists in the year 2079? I can see them venturing on this campus and sifting thought my belongings when the radioactivity is gone. “I wonder if this stereo still works?” they will say.

“Wow, what strange music they listened to in those days. Look at all those old-fashioned clothes. I can’t believe so many people wore those blue denim trousers. . .”

I’m over-reacting. I know I must be over-reacting. The only problem is I can’t really put a period on that sentence without adding a “but.” This is an unprecedented situation. Who knows what could happen? How do we know that the media are telling us the truth? Or the local law enforcement agencies? There are so many rumors flying around on this campus that I don’t trust anybody. I wish I hadn’t seen “The China Syndrome.”

I called my parents and they said I could come home if I wanted to. I called my professor and he said he is excusing people if they miss the exam. Should I go home? I really shouldn’t miss any more classes this semester. Would I be able to study if I stayed? I wish they would cancel classes for a week. I guess if I were dead from radioactivity I wouldn’t care if I flunked my exam.

It’s funny. Yesterday I was making jokes about the situation. Today I think jokes about our future children are sick.

* * *

Now it is Sunday. April Fools Day. Present Carter is in Harrisburg. I have decided to stay here at least until the president of the College speaks again tonight. Last night he said his biggest fear was panic. I have tried to calm down since then. At four o’clock this morning I went out and ran two miles because I couldn’t sleep.

Right now we are all just waiting. We all feel restless and irritable but there is a kind of togetherness that is not usually present here. People are partying a lot or paying raquet {sic} call and tennis to occupy their minds.

When you are reading this, I hope and pray the situation will be resolved. I don’t think, however, that we’ll ever be able to say we were scared for nothing.

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): Film becomes terrifyingly real

Newspaper: The Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: Film becomes terrifyingly real
Author: Julie Levinson

The use of nuclear energy as a viable alternative to fossil fuel has long been a controversial subject. Dartmouth students have been protesting the construction of a nuclear plant in Seabrook, N.H. for at least four or five years, and No Nukes has become a household phrase. Research in the field of nuclear energy has advanced far, but some of the most vital information, such as adequate cooling systems for reactor rods, has yet to be understood by experts. There is no permanent, safe method of disposal of nuclear wastes which remain in the environment for a much longer period of time then man shall exist on the earth.

It is the duty of the film maker to depict pertinent subject matter in its most sincere form. Michael Douglas, producer of The China Syndrome, obviously felt strongly enough about the problems linked with extended use of nuclear energy to produce this phenomenally accurate film. Surely, Douglas was unaware of the full impact of his film considering the time of release, the content, and the subsequent Three Mile Island incident. Parallels certainly exist, but this film carries much more with it than the similarity to the actual incident.

Douglas portrays an excitable cameraman who stumbles into the world of nuclear energy while filming an energy special with Jane Fonda, a practitioner of “soft news” who aspires to be an investigative reporter over the objections of the station management. While touring the Ventana Nuclear plant in southern California an accident occurs which is termed a routine turbine trip. During the tour, nuclear energy is billed as “the magical transformation of matter into energy.” The diagrams and stage setting are rather authentic looking.

The tour comes to a halt in an observation room overlooking the control area when the accident occurs. Jack Lemmon, who is the man in charge of the plant’s control room first behaves in a blasé manner taking the turbine trip in stride. Soon though, the workers are evacuated to safety area and Lemmon begins to show obvious anxiety.

Douglas, meanwhile, films the whole incident, but cannot show the film on the air because it would be considered irresponsible journalism.

So the dilemma here lies with the fact that Jane Fonda has landed the top story, and she and Douglas along with the efforts of Lemmon must somehow alert the public to the potential danger which accompanies the faulty relay in the generator service and a stuck valve.

The men who represent the owners of the power plant constantly claim there was no accident and that the public was never in any danger. But their main concerns are monetary as they lose $492,000 a day when the plant is shut down.

The television management refuses to allow the film of the accident to be made public and Douglas, who shows vital concern, steals the film and hands it over to a nuclear expert who confirms that the defects in the power plant if left untreated, could “render an area the size of Pennsylvania uninhabitable.”

The technical features of the film itself lack perfection. A secretive exchange of x-rays of damaged welds which would serve as crucial evidence is extremely obvious. Yet on the other hand, the car crashes were delightfully realistic, and silence is the background sound which intensified the suspense towards the end of the film. Jack Lemmon unfortunately never looks like the hero he is, and Jane Fonda becomes extremely melodramatic after Lemmon’s death. The film’s authenticity is its major strength, and this critic feels no need to reinforce that fact. The reality of the possibility of The China Syndrome actually occurring is frighteningly relevant.

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): Three Mile Island crisis breeds new culture

Newspaper: The Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: Three Mile Island crisis breeds new culture
Author: Sarah L. Synder

It’s rather ironic that what has been termed one of the worst nuclear accidents in U.S. history should turn into such an educational bonanza. Not only has the Physics department been laboring over the compilation of data of soil samples, but other departments have gotten into the act as well.

Professors Julius and Melissa Kassovic, Lonna Malmsheimer and Daniel Bechtel have joined forces with some interested students and are trying to document and analyze individual and group reactions to the Three Mile Island crisis.

According to American Studies Professor Malmscheimer, the group is examining three aspects of culture that are evident when people are faced with a crisis situation. Malmscheimer added that the team is seeing what historical, experiential and cultural elements people draw upon in order to cope with a situation of duress.

Professor of Sociology Julius Kassovic explained that the group wasn’t sure how to start the field work, since the situation at Three Mile Island was not exactly planned. He and the others agreed, though, that they want to do a more comprehensive analysis of the impact of TMI. At present questionnaires are being distributed to students through the resident advisors to collect data.

Although a great deal of the research is being done within the Carlisle and College community, the group had been soliciting reaction, fantasies and folklore from anyone affected by the TMI crisis. Articles and requests for contributions to the study have been published in the local papers, noted Kassovic.

Malmsheimer pointed out that they are also exploring the possibility of obtaining a grant to continue research.

Bechtel emphasized that the thrust of the fieldwork is being conducted on campus, although all the professors’ phones are equipped with recording taps for any phone interviews. Respondents are told about the tap and are asked if their responses can be included in the survey, noted Malmsheimer.

Kassovic said that the written response has been surprisingly good and that people are taking the time to write poetry and limericks about TMI.

Bechtel said that the study was examining the manner in which people bring together riligion, folklore and cultural heritage and discovering what images are part of the collective consciousness of the population. He noted that, for example, the color green has reappeared over and over in reference to radiation poisoning. Information such as this contributes to the study of the undercurrents of the mind and how they are articulated in society, he added.

A part of the second phase of the study, the groups who could not leave during the crisis, such as county prisoners. Kassovic said that the concepts and jokes of groups were valuable sources of information because what is accepted by the group is more likely to become a part of our cultural inventory.

Because the group is interested in obtaining information while it is still relatively fresh, students and others willing to share their dreams, daydreams, experiences, jokes, stories, insights and other reactions should write Reactions to Reactor Project, Box 167, Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): Nuclear Accident inspires faculty study group

Newspaper: The Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: Nuclear Accident inspires faculty study group.
Author: (Ed. Note: The following article is an excerpt of a study being conducted by the Reactions to the Reactor Project Study Group. The group consists of Professors Julius and Melissa Kassovic, Lonna Malmsheimer, and Dan Bechtel.)

The College is in Carlisle, 23 miles from Three Mile Island, and by the evening of April Fool’s Day it was clear that only a few hundred of us students, faculty, and administratore were left on campus. Regular classes were suspended, but the decision was made to continue as an institution of learning while awaiting the possibility of becoming an evacuation center. Accordingly, some of us organized mini-seminars, or what we used to call “teach-ins,” on various topics, many related to the situation (crisis? disaster?) on Three Mile Island.

While the physics department had teams of students analyzing soil samples, four of us in the social sciences decided to sample individual and group reactions to the drama in Harrisburg.

With more than twenty enthusiastic students from various disciplines who joined us to do fieldwork, we unashamedly began to investigate three areas of interest to the faculty members involved personal fantasies about the nuclear danger, items of folklore related to the crisis, and the nature of religious responses to the situation. Our first session was devoted to a crash course on fieldwork and interviewing techniques; then armed with an open-ended questionnaire, we went out to talk with students, faculty, staff and other members of the college community.

We apologized for the raggedness of such instant social science. We were in much the same position as salvage archeologists, who must frantically dig a site before it disappears under a parking lot, we fervently longed for the end of the crisis, even though out data ebbed along with the anxiety. So we collected feverishly and feel that our data, however flawed, represents a valuable record of what life was like in a small community at the 23-mile radius.

Any sort of in-depth analysis at this time would be premature, but interesting patterns are emerging.
Personal fantasies and mental images, the particular interests of Prof. Lonna Malmsheimer in American Studies, came primarily from two sources, the media and personal experience with other disasters. In addition to the inevitable “China Syndrome,” informants report such images as the black cloud from “The Swarm,” the panic during the burning of Atlanta in “Gone With The Wind,” and Japanese horror films. Others saw scenes from films transposed to Carlisle: “Hiroshima Mon Amour” on High Street, the evacuation of “War of the Worlds.” “Dr. Strangelove” and “Fail Safe” provided images which helped to structure responses. Some people said they saw themselves “in the middle of a bad movie.”

It is widely accepted that all humor is, in a sense, nervous laughter, an attempt to diminish anxiety by viewing the situation as absurd. Anthropologists Julius and Melissa Kassovic were therefore not surprised that a substantial body of jokes and witticisms had been generated by the Three Mile Island incident. There were many areas of anxiety (Should I go or stay? Will the whole thing explode? Whom can I trust? Will I be sterile? Have deformed children? Die of cancer?); an interesting preliminary finding is that the bulk of the jokes among students concerned possible sterility or impotence (the two were often confused) and the risk of deformed offspring.

The study of religious responses, theological, moral and liturgical, is being pursued by means of a supplementary questionnaire. Prof. Daniel R. Bechtel, a Biblical scholar, reports that thus far the majority of the people interviewed did not think that God had chosen to create a crisis to punish, discipline or instruct mankind. They seldom experienced mental images of comparable Biblical events. These results are evidence, perhaps, that we live in an increasingly secularized society which has lost access to Biblical images as a means for understanding current human crisis.

Those informants who did pray, asked not that God actively interfere at Three Mile Island, but that He give the engineers wisdom and the people surrounding area courage; God was clearly seen as involved in the lives of individuals but not in the workings of mechanical, technological things.

The “Radiation Vacation” is over now; those who coped with the anxiety by going away have returned, and all together we face the minor crisis of making up last week’s classes before the May commencement. We are continuing to collect and analyze last week’s data, and intend to compare them with information from a larger sample with a wider range in age and occupation. We hope to make an eventual statement concerning the cultural inventory on which a population draws when facing an unprecedented situation. An old bit of folk wisdom. has it that a mistake can be of value if you recognize it, acknowledge it, learn from it, and forget it. With all due respect to the folk, we trust that the Three Mile Island will not be forgotten soon; we are trying to learn from it a much as we can about individual and group reaction to crisis. Anyone willing to share his or her dreams, daydreams, experience, jokes, stories, religious experiences or insight, or other reactions should write to Reactions to the Reactor Project, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA 17013

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): “Speaking Out”

Newspaper: The Dickinsonian
Date: April 19, 1979
Article: “Speaking Out”
Author: Complied by Hope Muchnick

In light of the recent situation at Three Mile Island, do you believe that the power plant should be reactivated? Why?

“The Three Mile Island reactor should be reactive providing problems in the back up systems are solved. I don’t believe we can do without nuclear power in this day and age.” Robert Rabuck – ’82

“I don’t think the power plant should be reopened basically because I don’t think they understand what went wrong with it. Furthermore, the question of the storage of radioactive waste has not yet been dealt with by anyone, and they don’t have any place to safely put the waste.” Cindy Waldorn -’79

“I think that nuclear power is an inevitable area of resource, that we have to be able to use at sometime. Perhaps thay should not reopen it until they know how to control it much better. But I think that eventually the power is going to have to be used.” John Leach – ’80

“Yes. Until we can further the development of solar energy or fusion which is not for years to come, we do need nuclear energy. The way solar power looks right now, it is even more expensive and more dangerous than nuclear power. It was very serious, the Incident at Three Mile Island, but the main problem there was the management, and the way that they pushed to finish the plant to that they could declare it on their income tax. I think that the NRC should look into the plant’s problems, make sure that they get the right parts in there and the right management. I think the officials of Metropolitan Edison should be tried and probably sent to prison for the way they managed it.” Tracy Lee – ’81

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): After Harrisburg nuclear incident anti-nuke campaign gains speed

Newspaper: The Dickinsonian
Date: April 26, 1979
Article: After Harrisburg nuclear incident anti-nuke campaign gains speed
Author: unknown

“Nobody needed this vote to know that Harrisburg had, in a weird way, muddled the mind of the anti-nuclear movement. This is just going to muddle it more,” said a spokeswoman for Austin (Texas) Citizens for Economical Energy. Her group had been trying to get the city out of the South Texas Nuclear Project. In February, a poll showed nearly 60 percent of the people favored the project. By the time of the April 6 vote – nine days after the March 28 Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg began to malfunction – the race narrowed dramatically. The anti-nuclear forces eventually gathered 49 percent of the vote.

It was, of course, only a relative success for the anti-nuclear movement, and that may discourage further attempts to use the ballot to protest nuclear power. The anti-nuclear forces had been showing signs of restiveness at recent gatherings. The accident at Three Mile Island has undoubtedly weakened public confidence in nuclear power, and anti-nuclear activists seem anxious to capitalize on the advantage. The question is how.

Subsequent demonstrations have ranged from a big, relatively calm gathering in San Francisco to civil disobedience in Connecticut to sabotage in Europe.

“The really weird thing,” said the Austin spokeswoman, who requested anonymity, “is that Harrisburg should have been the best worst thing that could happen for opponents of nuclear power. But we can see here that Harrisburg has made a lot of people angrier. They want to do dramatic things now.” She defined “dramatic” as “sit-ins, mass marches, loud things.”

She also feared that “there’s a tactical split in the movement now, at least here. We’ve made steady, orderly progress toward stopping nuclear power. That more violent demonstrations can disrupt that progress – turn people against us – is a worrisome thing.”

Commercial nuclear power has been on the retreat for several years. The reactor industry measures its health by the number of reactor orders received each year. There were no orders in either 1976 or 1977, and only two in 1978. But it costs reactor builders like Westinghouse and General Atomic millions just to maintain the capacity to build reactors, whether or not orders are received.

As a result, Fortune magazine observed two weeks before Harrisburg that unless the “stalemate” between nuclear power advocates and opponents was broken, the capital costs of keeping the reactor industry alive could not be mainainted. The magazine predicted the industry would thus collapse by 1981.

The largest and best-known anti-nuclear group, the Clamshell Alliance in New England, has been coping with internal tensions over tactics since last June. Contemplating a massive demonstration at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire, the Alliance accepted a last-minute offer from then-Governor Meldrim Thompson to legally meet in a nearby garbage dump. But regional coordinators were furious over the executive committee’s acceptance of the compromise, and serious differences over regional autonomy and civil disobedience surfaced.

“The question of civil disobedience tactics is very real.” Clamshell spokesman Bob Hurwitz said. “One of the central questions is . . . how to maintain a direct action, nonviolent movement that insures each region’s autonomy.”

Clam member Guy Chichester adds, “There is an anarchistic element who argues that sanctity if life is more important than sanctity of property.”

“They feel each Clam should have a high degree of autonomy. Others felt there ought to be rigid guidelines. Guidelines or no guidelines, that’s one of the biggest bits of unfinished business.”

The Alliance couldn’t resolve the issue at its January conference. As a result, the plans for the summer, when all involved expected to intensify the anti nuclear campaign, are relatively uncoordinated. “There are several actions of various sorts – legal and illegal – planned by some of the state Clams,” Hurwitz noted.

The immediate aftermath of the Harrisburg accident reflected a similar disparity of tactics.

On April 7 a crowd of around 7000 peacefully listened to anti-nuclear speeches by Ralph Nader and Daniel Ellsberg in San Francisco, at a rally organized by the Abalone Alliance. Specifically the five-hour gathering was a protest against Pacific Gas & Electric’s $1.4 billion Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is located with 2.5 miles of the San Gregorio Hosgri earthquake fault.

Barbara Bowman of the East Bay Anti-Nuclear Group, one of the Alliance’s component parts, said “our overall tactics have not changed significantly” since the Three Mile Island plant began to leak radioactive steam. Her group will continue “legal intervention” into Diablo Canyon’s procedures.

The Patriot (Harrisburg, PA): Event Rated Serious

Newspaper: The Patriot
Date: March 29, 1979
Title: Event Rated Serious
Author: Richard Roberts, Staff Writer

Radioactive material continued to be released into the atmosphere late Wednesday night from Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station in the aftermath of “one of the more serious reactor accidents in the history of commercial power operation,” according to state and federal officials.

Emergency officials in Dauphin, Cumberland, York and Lancaster counties complained that they either were not notified of the emergency or were notified too late.

Radioactive material was being vented from the plant at the rate of one millirem per hour on an indefinite basis as part of a process to cool the reactor, according to Col. Oran K. Henderson, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

Henderson said his agency has been placed on “an advanced state of readiness” because of the continued emission of radioactive materials from the plant. He said he has advised officials in Dauphin, Cumberland, York, and Lancaster counties that the plant began venting radioactive materials at 5:00 pm.

A discharge of radioactive material also occurred between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., officials said.
Readings of radioactivity had not indicated any immediate danger to the public, and there were no immediate plans to begin evacuating residents who lived near the plant, Henderson said. “It’s a standoff at the present time,” he said.

“This is one of the more serious reactor accidents to happen in the history of commercial power operation,” said Jan Strasma, a spokesman for the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A breakdown in the cooling system at the plant about 4 a.m. Wednesday of the plant’s Unit 2 reactor, according to an NRC spokesman.

In addition to radioactive materials released into the atmosphere, radiation was beamed through the four-foot-thick, steel-lined concrete walls of the reactor dome to a distance of more than a mile, according to Edson Case, NRC deputy director of reactor regulation.

Strasma late Wednesday night said the maximum amount of radiation measured was three millirems per hour at a site about a third of a mile from the plant. At a site one mile from the plant, a reading of one millirem was measured, he said.

“We believe this is principally direct radiation coming from radioactive material in the reactor containment building, rather than the release of radioactive materials from the building,” he said.

Strasma said: “It now appears that the cause of turbine shutdown at the plant earlier today was a reduction in flow of feedwater to the steam reactors. The sequence of events which led to the release of radioactivity to the reactor containment building is not determined yet.”

Charles Callina, an NRC investigator who spent all day at the nuclear plant, said radiation was being emitted from nuclear-charged water in an auxiliary building.

“We have a serious contamination problem on site,” he said. “You might say from the breadth of the problem it’s one of the more serious. The extent makes it serious, not the breadth.”

Radiation levels inside the reactor housing were 1,000 times above normal, Case said. Radioactivity inside the reactor dome was being measured at a rate of about 6,000 Roentgens per hour, he said.

NRC spokesman Sue Gagner said a diagnostic medical X-ray would emit the equivalent of about .072 Roentgen per hour. Case said radiation levels inside the reactor dome are normally about five or six Roentgens.

George Troffer, manager of generation quality assurance for Metropolitan Edison Co. of Reading, the plant’s operator, said he thought the NRC’s figures were far too high. He said the level was perhaps 10 times more than normal.

The Problem facing TMI employees Wednesday night was to reduce the temperature and pressure inside the reactor dome and to stop radioactive gases from leaking into the atmosphere.

Case said heat-caused pressure inside the dome had risen temporarily to four or five pounds per square inch above the outside atmospheric pressure, enough to cause small amounts of leakage.

He said the leakage might have included radioactive gases from the nuclear fuel- such as iodine and xenon. But Case said pressure was not high enough to cause such heavy fuels as uranium or plutonium to leak.

Joe Fouchard, an NRC spokesman, said the only likely source of high-level radiation being detected appears to be coming from some portion of the reactor’s nuclear fuel. Officials reported earlier that the plant released radioactive steam. Fouchard said steam alone would not be strong enough to penetrate the steel-lined reactor walls.

Fouchard said control rods have been inserted to stop the nuclear reaction in the reactor core. But he said it was not known whether some part of the fuel might have been melted, evaporated, or blown out of the core before insertion of the control rods and injections of emergency cooling water.

William P. Dornsife, a nuclear engineer in the state Department of Environmental Resources’ Bureau of Radiological Health, said the reactor core had become overheated during the accident.

Met Ed spokesman Blaine Fabian said: “There is absolutely no danger of a melt-down” (in which the nuclear fuel overheats until it melts its way out of the containment vessel.)

At one point, TMI employees inside a control room temporarily were forced to put on face masks because radioactive materials leaked into the room, Case said.

Troffer said persons inside the control room were protected from the high levels of radiation inside the reactor housing by both thick walls and equipment and by the fact that radiation loses it energy quickly with distance.

About 50 to 60 of the plant’s 525 employees were in the plant when the accident occurred, according to Bill Gross, TMI public information coordinator.

“We washed them down and scrubbed them,” Gross said. “Nobody has been injured yet.”

Officials declared a state of general emergency shortly after the incident. The plant was evacuated and closed and the reactor building was sealed.

G.E. Parks, manager of Metropolitan Edison Co. consumer services, said TMI officials notified DER, NRC, and the Dauphin County Office of Emergency Preparedness. “We told them as soon as we could reach someone,” he said.

Jack Herbein, Met Ed vice president-generation, operator of the plant, said in a press conference Wednesday morning that radiation levels at the plant’s boundaries were seven millirems, about 1/10th of those which normally would be considered dangerous. The company is continuing to monitor for airborn radiation, he said.

He said the first indication of trouble came at 4 a.m., when two main feed pumps shut down. The Unit 2 reactor “tripped (shut down) on high pressure,” Herbein said. A reactor coolant drain tank overpressurized, he said.

In Unit 2, there are four reactor collant pumps, each capable of generating 9,000 horsepower.

A site emergency was declared at 6:50 a.m.,, he said. Local officials, including Middletown civil defense personnel, were not called by Dauphin County Control until 7:47a.m., nearly four hours after the incident.

Asked why it took so long to notify area authorities, Herbein said: “I don’t think there was any delay. We’re still not to (the point where) a general emergency (is declared).” He said TMI employees acted “promptly and forthrightly” in the incident.

Gross said TMI did not “have to declare an emergency. We had more radiation a couple years ago when we had fallout from the Chinese nuclear explosion.”

Some of the workers who were on duty “may have been” contaminated, but none were hospitalized, Herbein said. “No one was overexposed,” he said.

Asked to characterize the incident, he said it is “one of the most serious” to occur at Three Mile Issland but stopped short of saying it was a “close call.”

No radiation was detected in the Susquehanna River, he said. Although he said it would be “premature to say that we’ll be able to see radiation in cows’ milk,” he added, “I don’t think” the public is in danger.

He said “a very minor amount of fuel failure” occurred in the reactor core. He said perhaps ½ percent of the fuel pins among the 36, 816 rods filled with radioactive material had melted as a result of a lack of coolant. Each reactor has 177 fuel assemblies, each of them having 208 rods filled with 200 pellets of uranium.

Gary Miller, TMI station manager, released the following account of the incident: “We had a turbine trip (a shutoff) early this morning due to a feedwater problem in the secondary side of the plant.

“This caused the reactor to trip (shut off) on high pressure, which was followed by the pressurizer relief valves relieving, which resulted in a radioactive water release in the reactor building.

“Since this radioactive coolant water was released inside the reactor building, this led to the emergency plan implementation. We are presently bringing the plant down to an orderly shutdown condition.”

“To the best of our knowledge, the accident sent two or three milirems of radiation into the air,” Parks said. “One millirem is considered normal in the Middletown area.”

A special team of seven nuclear health physicists from Brookhaven National Laboratory at Upton, N.Y., armed with 10 cases of sophisticated monitoring and analysis equipment, was flown to Capital City Airport in Fairview Twp. by a Coast Guard helicopter.

The scientists landed in a Sikorsky H3 helicopter about 2:40 p.m. and immediately set up air sampling devices on a taxi way near the main terminal building.

Robert Friess, technical assistant to the area manager of the Brookhaven office of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Radiological Assistance Program, said the team received a call for assistance from state officials at 11:30 a.m.

Nathanial Greenhouse, a member of the team, said initial samples taken at the airport showed no evidence of radioactive contamination. He said samples were taken at the airport because it was downwind from Three Mild Island.

It was the first time that the team of scientists, which was formed to respond to nuclear emergencies in 11 Northeast states, had been called to a nuclear reactor mishap, he said.

Coast Guard Commander Al Baker, the helicopter pilot, said his crew took off from Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod in Massachusetts at 10:37 a.m. to pick up the scientists at Brookhaven.

Another Energy Department team flew to Capital City Airport from Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, in a specially instrumented Hughes H-500 helicopter. Herbert F. Hahn, site manager of the Energy Department’s Eastern Measurements Office, said his team’s mission is to monitor radioactivity from the air.

Hahn established a command post in the office of Airport Manger Charles H. Hostetter. The helicopter, piloted by Jac Watson, lifted off from the airport about 3:30 p.m. on its first flight to scan the air in the Harrisburg area for radioactive materials.

A scientist aboard the helicopter uses sophisticated monitoring equipment and an on-board computer to collect the data, Hahn said. Information from the aerial monitoring will be fed into another computer that is being transported to the airport in a van from Washington, D.C., Hahn said. The computer van was expected arrive about midnight.

Hahn said his team was put into action by the NRC. Aerial monitoring was halted about 6:15 p.m., and was scheduled to resume Thursday about 7 a.m. No results of the monitoring were released.

TMI employees, waiting to be told when and where they would work, milled around outside the Three Mile Island Observation Center. Most had radiation dosometers clipped on their shirts to measure radiation in the air.

“I’m just coming off the 3 to 11 p.m. shift,” Darrell S. Kinter of Dillsburg said. “We’ve had drills for evacuation, but I know of no other time when an abrupt shutdown and evacuation of the island has happened.”

Kinter, an instrumentation technician at Unit 1, said he has worked at TMI for five years.

“I’m not scared,” Kinter said. “I don’t know what happened but they evacuated the island to be on the safe side. They don’t want us there.”

Donald E. Barry of Middletown, a TMI technical analyst in maintenance, said he works in Unit 1 and Unit 2. “I’m not apprehensive about what happened today,” he said.

The National Weather Service at Harrisburg said winds from 4 a.m. until 10 a.m. Wednesday were light and variable. After 10 a.m., the winds were blowing to the northwest at from four to 14 miles an hour. Late Wednesday night, winds were reported blowing to the northwest at 12 mph.

Winds Thursday are expected to blow north to the northeast at 10-20 mph.

Unit 2, a 900-megawatt system, cost about $700 million and was placed into commercial service on Dec. 30. It had been operating at nearly full capacity- 98 percent- for about four or five weeks, according to William R. Gross, a Met Ed spokesman.

Unit 1, an 800-megawatt reactor system, had been shut down for routine refueling and is expected to be placed back into service next week, Herbein said.

The cost to Met-Ed of having to rely on other, coal-fired generating stations to produce electricity is about $500,000 a day, Herbein said. It will be “weeks” before Unit 2 can resume operation, he said.
The plant is owned by General Public Utilities Corp., a consortium of Med Ed, Jersey Central Power & Light Co. and Pennsylvania Electric Co.

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