Newspaper: The Patriot
Title: Scientists Seek Closing
Date: March 30, 1979
Author: Mark Klaus
A Nobel Prize winner and a radiology professor, agreeing Thursday that radiation levels near the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station were 15 times above normal after Wednesday’s radiation leak, called for a permanent shutdown of the plant.
Dr. George Wald, winner of the 1967 Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine and professor emeritus of biology at Harvard University, and Dr. Ernest J. Sternglass, director of radiological physics of the University of Pittsburgh, spoke to more than 100 reporters at a press conference at the Friends Religious Society facility, Sixth and Herr Streets.
“My feeling is that the plant should be permanently shut down and the money scheduled to be spent on other nuclear plants should be used to convert them to clean gas and oil facilities,” Sternglass said.
Sternglass said he brought a portable radiation monitor with him from Pittsburgh and measured radiation in Pittsburgh during the flight and near TMI.
“The reading I got in Pittsburgh was .01 millirem per hour,” Sternglass said. That reading is considered normal for the Middletown area, he said.
“During the flight, I measured .02 to .03 millirems per hour,” Sternglass said. “Three miles away from TMI, the reading was nine times higher than normal and one mile away, it was 14 to 15 times higher than normal.”
Sternglass said that as the plane “passed TMI, the reading was .08 to .09 per hour. Inside the terminal and in the taxi, the reading was 10 to 12 times above normal. Here in Harrisburg, the readings are twice normal,” he said.
“And this is not counting the radiation levels that will get into water and milk. This is what I call a major nuclear fallout,” Sternglass said.
The nuclear power industry had told lies about the dangers of radiation, Sternglass said he believes.
“In the deserts of Utah, children are dying three to five times faster than usual because of radiation there,” he said.
Sternglass said he believes the radiation here will slightly increase an area person’s chance of getting cancer.
‘It’s not an enormous increase,” Sternglass said. “The TMI accident is not a disaster where people fall dead on the floor-it’s a disaster that creeps up on people.”
Wald said that cancer may appear up to 30 years after exposure to radiation, especially when one stays near the grounds. He said he disagreed with company officials who said nobody at the plant had a radiation overdose.
“Every dose of radiation is an overdose,” Wald said. “A little radiation does a little harm and more radiation does more harm.”
Sternglass said more women exposed to radiation stand a higher chance of giving birth to retarded children. He also said that “we’ve seen people age faster” after exposure to radiation.
While Wald and Sternglass did not specifically comment on the lack of evacuation of TMI neighbors, they agreed that pregnant women should leave.
“Two to three miles from the area was hardest hit and the pregnant women living there should be evacuated,” Sternglass said. “If I had a pregnant wife, I’d have her move. The fetus has a risk 100 times greater than an adult.”
Wald said pregnant women who leave should not return until the levels fall “to 50 percent or 100 percent above normal. For myself, I’d rather not be close to that plant today.”
And the effects of the TMI incident could be far-reaching, the two agreed. “It might affect Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia if contaminated milk, cheese, eggs and butter are sent there.
Do Wald and Sternglass believe nuclear plants will never be safe?
Wald said nuclear power plants can be run safely-but at the risk of lessening profits.
“The business of the power industry is not to make power but to make money,” Wald said. “The industry has regularly cut corners to save money. And from the very beginning, the American insurance companies have refused to insure nuclear plants, making the bulk of liability rest on the government. The money comes from the taxpayers.”
Sternglass, calling for the closing of nuclear power plants, said less than 10 percent of the cost of the plants is needed to convert them to gas and oil plants.
“I believe the chances of nuclear plants shutting down and being converted are good,” Sternglass told a Patriot reporter. “Some have been shut down in Sweden. We need energy without endangering our people.”
Dr. Irving Stillman of Columbia, Md., head of the Mobilization of Survival scientific task force, termed the idea of making safe nuclear power plants “nonsense. This TMI example demonstrates that there’s not enough safety built into the nuclear power plants.”
Stillman said that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had previously identified 22 potential safety problems at TMI.
“TMI has closed several times in the past due to valve problems,” Stillman said. “The people in charge of the plant have been warned several times and didn’t take heed.”