Saturday, November 5, 2011

I read the nukes today, oh boy: Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island




The training center is across the street...

...where they've courteously provided picnic tables.

The homes in the area are quite lovely...

...as is the rest of the scenery.

I was reminded of someone while snapping this picture of myself...


On an unseasonably warm and clear March day in 1979, a bucolic section of central Pennsylvania just south of Harrisburg was the site of the nation's worst commercial nuclear accident. The Three Mile Island power plant accident was a core meltdown in Unit 2 that resulted in approximately 2.5 million curies (that's a lot) of radioactive gas being released into the Keystone State's atmosphere. A combination of a stuck valve and human errors led to an emergency being declared and an evacuation of thousands of residents. The incident caused an international sensation, and President Jimmy Carter, in an act of either bravery or foolishness, toured the plant shortly after the accident to prove everything was under control. The cleanup took over 14 years and cost $1 billion. In the end, experts concluded the accident did not cause a greater risk of cancer among the residents and plant workers. A meltdown was prevented and Unit 2 was permanently shut down, but Unit 1 is still in operation today. The power plant is on Highway 441, an otherwise lovely country road along the Susquehanna River. You round a bend and boom, there they are, those famous futuristic twin towers, belching out, what one hopes, is steam and not Armageddon. Across the street from the towers is the Three Mile Island training center, a nondescript industrial looking building surrounded by some nice landscaping and a neatly manicured lawn. There are even some picnic tables with a view of the towers, for your outdoor dining pleasure. The Three Mile accident is so significant to Pennsylvania's history, the state has put up an historic marker that doesn't sugar-coat the events. On the same "George Washington slept here" type of plaque are the words "nation's worst commercial nuclear accident". And up until several years back, there was actually a visitors center with a gift shop (!) . What gifts, pray tell, did they sell there -- "Three Mile Island narrowly avoided a nuclear meltdown and all I got was this lousy T-shirt"?

2 comments:

Amber Von Felts said...

When I was a kid, I grew up on the East Coast, near PA. My mom had found a lamp shaped like the cooling tower of 3 Mile Island,(I think it had a description on it similar to your plaque) maybe that is what they sold in the gift shop! I also lived near Maysville Kentucky, where they had a nuclear power plant with 2 big cooling towers. It was always a sight to come around the bend and seeing the towers on the horizon!

Gunnar and Sherry said...

Amber: I would love to have one of those lamps...I bet they gave off quite a glow!