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The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): Shirt design contest held

Newspaper: Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: Shirt design contest held
Author: Sarah L. Snyder

What started out as a venture “purely for fun” quickly turned into fashion when an all-College contest to design a nuclear t-shirt took place last week.

The winning slogans were: “I’m Radiant – Carlisle April 1979;” “Hell No, We Won’t Glow;” “I Survived Three Mile Island . . . I Think;” and “Visit Harrisburg, Pennsylvania And Have 2.6 Children.”

Cavenaugh reported that the idea of making t-shirts resulted from casual conversations with people. He said that Professor Dennis Klinge and Dean of Special Programs Mary Frances Carson helped organized the gala event and after designs were selected, the silk-screening began Wednesday, April 4.

Students were charged a dollar to have a shirt screened and before expenses, over $300 were collected. Cavenuagh said that the money will be given to a suitable charity.

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): College responds to Three Mile Island Nuke accident: Coping student exodus

Newspaper: The Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: College responds to Three Mile Island Nuke accident: Coping student exodus
Author: Jeffrey W. Blinn and Sarah L. Snyder

Imagine a student calling home the evening of April 1 – a week after spring vacation – to tell his mom and dad to “Come and get me, classes have been cancelled for the week.” “Ah come on, did you really think I’d fall for that April Fool’s joke,” would laugh the parents.

But this year April Fools was no laughing matter as on April 1 President of the College Sam A. Banks, addressing an uneasy audience, announced the suspension of classes for the week of April 2. This reluctant decision to cancel classes came about because by that Sunday approximately 75 percent of the student population had evacuated campus, fearing the worst from the crippled Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant.

Typically, to those who stayed, though, the only fools were those who left and to those who left, the only fools were those who stayed. Banks, however, throughout the week, warned against these kinds of attitudes that could promote “needless” fragmentation of the community.

No danger

Based on the advice from the Cumberland County Office of Emergency Preparedness, Governor Dick Thornburgh and the nuclear physicists on the College faculty, Banks indicated in communiqué after communiqué that Carlisle was not in imminent danger and that there was no need for people to evacuate the College.

Throughout the administration attributed undue concern to “misleading, conflicting and sensationalized information disseminated by national media.”

Nonetheless Banks, in conferring with his senior staff officers and faculty representatives on Sunday afternoon, realized that “the College couldn’t hold regular classes of the standards Dickinson has under those circumstances.” Despite administrative assurance, though, by Monday afternoon Dickinson was little more than a ghost college.

Perhaps some faculty captured students concerns at the by then traditional gathering (the first informational meeting was held Friday, March 30), when it was emphasized “If you have no ties to Carlisle, leave.”

“Better safe than sorry,” expressed one student evacuee, also reflected the sentiment of those students and faculty who left the area. Some students took advantage of the unscheduled break by heading south, while others returned home for lack of anything to do at the College.

Many uncertainties

Contributing to the decision to cancel classes was the College’s uncertainty regarding faculty status. The College did not know if classes could be manned on Monday and, thus, could not promise inquiring parents that their children’s classes would be held that week. Parental inquiries flooded the College switchboard, necessitating that it remain open round the clock throughout the weekend.

A United Telephone Company shift supervisor reported that “it’s a mess.” The supervisor explained that the Harrisburg trunk lines were in constant use since the accident at TMI Wednesday, March 28. “To handle all the calls we’ve had to extend shifts and call in extra personnel,” she said.

To complicate matters further, the Office of Emergency Preparedness requested that the College be available as an evacuation site in the event such action be deemed necessary. “To hold classes at the same time the College would be used as an evacuation site would be impossible,” said Banks. If used as a mass care center, the College would have housed in its public area 500 nursing home residents and 400 fire-fighting personnel.

Decision defended

According to Banks, there was unanimity among the group who made the decision to cancel classes for the week. He revealed that the group considered last Wednesday as a possible day to resume classes. This plan was dismissed because of the anticipated communication difficulties with students, plus five to seven day evacuation period as projected by Civil Defense experts.

Once the decision was made to cancel classes for the week, it became the objective of the administration to keep operations as “realistically normal” as possible. For example, sporting events and the Black Arts Festival went on as scheduled. Towards that end all support staff operations continued unfettered and alternative classroom instruction was adopted. (See related articles.)

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): Small crew keeps WDCV broadcasting

Newspaper: Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: Small crew keeps WDCV broadcasting
Author: Peggy Collins

Although classes were cancelled and hundreds of students evacuated the campus last week, WDCV FM remained on the air to provide students with up-to-date reports on the Three Mile Island situation.
According to Program Director Gail Gordens, the station functioned with a skeleton crew of licensed DJs with help from volunteers on a sign-up basis.

Gordens explained that experienced and licensed personnel who have not been working at the station this year volunteered to fill the empty show slots and do news shows. She added that it is possible that non-licensed personnel also provided man-hours for the station. She said that his was possible if a licensed DJ “signed on” the unlicensed member.

Federal Communication Commission regulations, noted Gordens, require that the station remain on the air while school is in session. Although the College remained open, since classes were suspended for the week WDCV was not required to operate.

Normally WDCV must broadcast a minimum of six hours a say, six days a week, said Gordens.
During the past week, WDCV provided special news shows every hour and released statements from the College. The station also provided the community with reports from the Physics department and broadcast live the informational meetings that were held evenings.

Gordens noted that News Director Don Bush coordinated the entire station during the crisis period and kept the station on the air continuously from Friday, March 30 until the end of the broadcast day on Monday, April 2.

WQVE FM 93 of Mechanicsburg asked WDCV for permission to broadcast from the WDCV studios should the Mechanicsburg area be evacuated, noted Gordens. She said that contingency plans were arranged whereby WQVE would use the College station in the event of an evacuation. Gordens said that WQVE installed two phone lines in the WDCV studios to handle its business and personal calls.

Station Manager Dave Dixon stated that he received phone calls from both Carlisle and the College community indicating that “people were glad that WDCV remained on the air,” Dixon also said that the listening audience increased during the week of the crisis.

Commenting on the impact of the station the Three Mile Island scare, Dixon concluded, “This even has proved to the College and the community that WDCV is a service of information. Without the station, Carlisle would not have known what the College was doing.”

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): Student participates in protest

Newspaper: Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: Student participates in protest
Author: Jenny Jordan
(Ed. Note: In the following article Jenny Jordan writes her impressions of an anti-nuke demonstration that she attended in Harrisburg, Sunday, April 8.)

Last Sunday, several of us went into Harrisburg for the anti-nuke demonstration, protesting the proposed reopening of the Three Mile Island Reactor plant. It was a strange event, both disappointing and refreshing.

When we got into Harrisburg, I said, “Let’s be sure to park far enough away so we don’t get caught in any traffic mess.” As it turned out, we could probably have parked right in front of the Capitol steps.
There were between one and two thousand people there, which I found a surprisingly small turn-out. After all, 3000 people showed up for a rally in Groton, Connecticut and 5000 showed up for one in San Fransico. In Germany demonstrators yelled, “We all live in Pennsylvania,” yet not too many Pennsylvanians seem upset about the events which captured the concern of the rest of the world. Even though they are the closest to the events, indeed, were caught in the middle of them, the people of central Pennsylvania do not seem too concerned about them.

The only answer I can come up with to explain this attitude, is “out of sight , out of mind.” Now that the worst is over and we are no longer headlines, people would just as soon forget Three Mile Island and get back to normal.

One other feature about the rally was strange – it was hard not to feel as though you were at a sixties revival. It was almost eerie the way the demonstration started out with “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and was interspersed with other protest songs. Other anti-Vietnam slogans were slightly changed and converted to use as anti-nuke slogans.

The speakers included a diverse group: organizers of the Three Mile Island Alert, elected officials, a high school English teacher, and a physician were among them. While many of the speakers were very good, making valid points and clarifying others, they did not seem to be making use of the crowd to its fullest potential. It was essentially a very quiet group, almost a passive group.

But in spite of all this, the Harrisburg demonstration had its own surprises. The most pleasant one was the wide variety of ages represented, from babies to people in their sixties. Little kids were mixing with students in blue jeans, blue collar workers and nuns alike were carrying protest signs. Even the eleven and twelve year olds were listening to what was being said and expressing opinions. Entire families came. The organizers and workers themselves included teenagers as well as middle aged housewives. If nothing else, the gathering proved that the issues at hand concerned not just one limited group of people, but everyone.

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): In crisis – doing what you do well

Newspaper: Dickinsonian
Date: April 12,1979
Article: In crisis – doing what you do well
Author: Jeffrey W. Blinn

Playing the guitar, running, writing articles, manning the radio station, conducting anthropological studies, taking radiation readings…..

These were just some of the activities people engaged in at the College last week in a time of potential disaster. According to President Sam A. Banks, a psychologist by training, people in time of potential disaster prefer to do what they do well. Banks said this is because satisfaction needs become stronger as security, the other basic need, diminishes.

For those who remained at the College last week, relationships came to play a larger role, said Banks at the Friday, April 6, afternoon seminar. For example, faculty and administrators dined with students, something Leonard Goldberg, dean of Educational Services had been encouraging.

Goldberg articulated the general consensus if the students, faculty and administrators at the seminar, saying he sensed a “warmth between people.”

The College president noted that even those students who left the campus were going toward older relationships.

On t-shirts, those who remained on campus were silk-screening quips such as “I survived Three Mile Island.” This, said Banks, was an example of illusion of centrality which is a common occurrence during a time of crisis. For example, at Nagasaki, those people not directly under the A-Bomb still reported that they were directly under the bomb, explained Banks.

Another example of illusion of centrality was related by a student. Upon speaking to a parent, relative, or concerned friend, the people to relieve the concern would talk of the great distance of 24 miles that the College is from Three Mile Island. But, as soon as the concern was alleviated, the person would quickly retort, “But I’m only 20 miles away.”

Banks concluded that “panic doesn’t occur in disasters as much as people think; what really occurs is shock, and then euphoria when people hear that danger has passed.”

This seminar was just one of several that were held in place of cancelled classes the week of April 2.

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): Annoyance triggers deadly chain

Newspaper: Dickinsonian
Date: April 12 1979
Article: Annoyance triggers deadly chain
Authors: Jeffrey W. Blinn and Sarah L. Snyder
(Ed. Note: The following article was printed by the York Daily Records, the Shamokin News-Item, the West Shore Times, and the Hamilton Journal News.)

“Bypass the automatic safety system and keep the reactor going.” This, according to Unit 1 control room shift supervisor Dale Pilsitz, is normal operating procedure in the event of a turbine trip.

Pilsitz was working in the Unit 1 control room at the Three Mile Island installation the morning of the initial mishap in Unit 2 last Wednesday.

A turbine trip, usually perceived by control room personnel as a minor annoyance, started a chain of malfunctions in the early morning hours of March 28 that could have ended in the ultimate nuclear disaster, a core meltdown.

Pilsitz noted that “turbine trips are not earthshaking.” Generally when a turbine trip occurs, the control room operators try to keep the unit on line, he added.

At the TMI installation, there are two main safety systems. Pilsitz said that after a turbine trip, control room personnel have time to try and correct the problem. He explained, however, that if the turbine trip could not be repaired and the situation worsened, the secondary safety systems automatically engage, forcing a reactor shutdown.

According to Pilsitz, depending on the severity of the situation perceived by the operators, they try to manually bypass the automatic safety system and keep the reactor going. “It’s better to keep the reactor going at a lower level of power,” Pilsitz noted. “I guess they didn’t have that luxury in Unit 2.” He indicated that TMI personnel feel responsible to continue generating energy if it is possible.

Met Ed workers in the stock room of Unit 2 said “There it goes again” when the turbine tripped in Unit 2 last Wednesday morning.

According to Stockroom employee Mike Donelan, workers became aware of the malfunction when the safety system vented steam through the pipes. “When those things blow, you can really hear it,” he said.
Donelan was working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift when the initial malfunction at 4 a.m. and subsequent radiation leak at 6:55 a.m. occurred.

Donelan, who noted that both Unit 1 and Unit 2 have experienced several turbine trips, hypothesized that a lack of experience among Unit 2 control room personnel may have been a significant contributing factor to the mishap.

Pilsitz, who has been working for Met Ed at TMI for eight years, agreed that Unit 2 is staffed with new personnel. He added that nevertheless experienced supervisory personnel from Unit 1 had been transferred to work at Unit 2.

He continued, however, that Unit 1 and Unit 2 are of essentially different design. The firm Babcock and Wilcox of Lynchburg, VA constructed Unit 2.

Pilsitz declined to comment on Nuclear Regulatory Commission charges of human error in the mishap. “I’m not sure about the element of human error, but I’m sure the investigation will bear out any findings concerning that possibility,” he said.

Supervisor Pilsitz explained that all turbine trips have to be reported to the Department of Environmental Resources and the NRC according to Radiation Emergency Plan guidelines. However, Pilsitz said that notification need not occur immediately following a t

Notification, he said, is dependent upon the severity of the malfunction. Met Ed has 24 hours, 48 hours or even one week in which to notify the authorities of a less severe malfunction, Pilsitz explained.

In the case of a radiation leak which was initially detected at approximately 6:55 a.m. Wednesday Pilsitz said that radiation teams are sent off the island to take readings. The results are called in immediately to the plant, at which time the decision when and how to notify the authorities and the public is made, he said.

Pilsitz added that from what he knows, the authorities and the public were properly notified of the situation at the correct time.

Donelan admitted that he does not know if any of the control room operators erred during Wednesday morning’s accident. However, he contended that worker carelessness is at times evident among support personnel at the installation. He himself confessed to being less than conscientious on the job at times. “There are those days when I think, ‘the hell with it – I want to do it my way.'”

The China Syndrome a current film which addresses the possible problems associated with nuclear power plants, “really makes you think,” said Donelan. After seeing the film he said he thought more about human error and shortcuts that can be taken with serious consequences.

Both Pilsitz and Donelan are undaunted by the accident at TMI. Pilsitz pointed out that “the nuclear power industry is safe … Look at the records of Unit 1. It has been on line for five years without any major accidents.”

The Dickinsonian (Carlisle, PA): TMI defects spelled out

Newspaper: Dickinsonian
Date: April 12, 1979
Article: TMI defects spelled out
Author: Lisa A. Pawelski

Special to The Dickinsonian

For the past two weeks, the publics understanding of the Three Mile Island reactor malfunction has been clouded by an explosion of media misinformation. The sensationalist character of some media coverage has only aggravated the confusion surrounding events at the nuclear plant. Only a full-scale federal investigation will enable us to understand what has actually happened on the Island since March 28. Meanwhile, we can only state the few scientific details that are apparent.

In a fission-type reactor, the water which bathes the nuclear fuel elements is heated by the energy-producing reactions which occur in the fuel core. This so-called “primary water” normally transfers its heat to a separate secondary water loop. It is the secondary water which drives the steam turbines which produce electricity.

Early on the morning of March 28, the secondary water at Three Mile Island stopped flowing. The primary water could no longer transfer its heat effectively to the secondary system; as a result, the reactor core and its surrounding primary water began to heat up. At least one back up cooling system failed. “Emergency core cooling” was automatically brought into effect, but it is alleged that a worker at the reactor turned the emergency system off after it had been automatically activated. An overflow of hot water and steam was released from the cement-enclosed reactor vessel to the floor of the reactor building.

There are several possible radioactive species which might appear in the overflowed primary water. Fission reactions involve the splitting of a heavy atom into two or more light atoms. The process releases neutrons, which can bombard the primary water and transform it into “tritiated” water. This means that some of the hydrogen atoms in the water molecules collect extra neutrons. Tritiated water is a low-energy radioactive emitter.

Secondly, trace amounts of metal ions can slough off the insides of the water pipes. Neutron bombardment of these ions produces some “activated ions” which can be radioactive.

Thirdly, if any of the fuel elements are damaged, actual fission products might be released into the primary water system, and hence, into the atmosphere.

Radiation which could result from the about three species – tritiated water, activated ions, and fission products – is being monitored near the plant. Gases such as xenon and krypton have been found; however, both of these species are short-lived and have minimal biological impact. Iodine, which readily accumulates in man’s thyroid gland, has been observed in milk from several Harrisburg-area dairies, but the amount of radioactive iodine present does not present a health hazard.

The precaution of advising pregnant women and small children to leave the immediate vicinity of the reactor was offered because rapidly dividing cells – such as those present in fetuses and growing children – are more susceptible to radiation damage.

Cleanup procedures at TMI have been complicated by a bubble of gas which appeared in the reactor vessel on Saturday, March 31. If that bubble had expanded such that fuel elements were not covered with water, the temperature of the core would have risen appreciably. In addition, electrolysis of water – the splitting of water molecules into their elemental components – had produced concentrations of potentially explosive gases within the reactor building. However, neither of these problems now exists.
Decontamination will require temporary storage of the primary water which leaked to the floor of the reactor building. The fuel assembly of the reactor may have to be replaced, but it appears that the reactor vessel itself had not been damaged.

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.

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