Some lessons were learned from TMI. Others were not.

Three Mile Island from the air

Three Mile Island

On March 28, 1979, a little more than thirty-five years ago, a nuclear reactor located on an island in the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, suffered a partial core melt.

On some levels, the accident that became known as TMI (Three Mile Island) was a wake-up call and an expensive learning opportunity for both the nuclear industry and the society it was attempting to serve. Some people woke up, some considered the event a nightmare that they would do anything to avoid repeating, and some hard lessons were properly identified and absorbed. Unfortunately, some people learned the wrong lessons and some of the available lessons were never properly interpreted or assimilated.

The melted fuel remained inside the TMI unit 2 pressure vessel, nearly all the volatile and water-soluble fission products remained inside the reactor containment, and there were no public health impacts. The plant was a total loss after just three months of commercial operation, the plant buildings required a clean-up effort that took 14 years, the plant owner went bankrupt, and the utility customers paid dearly for the accident.

The other unit on the same site, TMI-1, continues to operate well today under a different owner.

Although the orders for new nuclear power plants had already stopped several years before the accident, and there were already people writing off the nuclear industry’s chances for a recovery, the TMI accident’s emotional and financial impacts added another obstacle to new plant project development.

In the United States, it took more than 30 years to finally begin building new nuclear power plants. These plants incorporate some of the most important lessons in their design and operational concepts from the beginning of the project development process. During the new plant construction hiatus, the U.S. electricity industry remained as dependent as ever on burning coal and burning natural gas.
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Vogtle Construction Update Video

This video provides an encouraging view of the positive impact that the Vogtle expansion project is having on the local community. It’s 4,000 – 5,000 construction jobs is just one part of the economic impact; that $23 million dollar property tax check shown during the video is another part that apparently brings smiles to the […]

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Event at WIPP is newsworthy but not dangerous

It has been almost two weeks since a continuous air monitor alarmed at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Though no one was hurt and no one is likely to be harmed in the future, an irregular drip of information interrupted by periods of silence has gradually painted a picture of a serious event worthy […]

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WIPP and Carlsbad residents will talk

On Monday, February 24, representatives of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center (CEMRC), and local officials will meet with the public. The planned purpose of the meeting is to provide a status report and answer questions about the airborne contamination detected in the facility and the trace contaminants […]

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Response to contamination: WIPP and New Mexico should practice communication skills

Recent events at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) provide an opportunity to reinforce the need to practice good communication skills in order to improve the future response to a contamination event. Though there is no public hazard associated with airborne contamination levels of 0.64 Bq of Am-241 and 0.046 Bq of Pu-239/240, the New […]

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Taking the bloom off of the nuclear rose

Yesterday I came across a New York Times front page article from July 7, 1971 titled Nation’s Energy Crisis: Nuclear Future Looms. It is the second article in a three part article on the energy crisis that was capturing America’s attention in 1971 – two years before the Arab Oil Embargo. The discovery knocked me […]

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No Agenda Show recommends Hiroshima Syndrome for Fukushima info

One of my favorite pastimes is listening to Adam Curry and John C. Dvorak, who bill themselves as “media assassins”, on the No Agenda Show. On yesterday’s episode, number 580, John and Adam spent about 15 minutes (starting at about 1:44:00) discussing the absurd tales that are propagating around the web regarding USS Ronald Reagan […]

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Why is the Green Schools Alliance censoring discussion about nuclear energy

I have learned through my grapevine that the leaders of an organization called the Green Schools Alliance (GSA) have decided to reject the suggestions of parents who wanted to include a showing and discussion of Pandora’s Promise in the program of a planned conference on Green Business. According to my sources those leaders told the […]

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Fukushima Accident Updates – Go To Hiroshima Syndrome

Hiroshima Syndrome hosts the best source of compiled information about the status of activities and investigations related to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station’s accident recovery and clean-up effort. The author, Les Corrice, is a semi-retired nuclear energy professional who works diligently to post the Fukushima Accident Update page twice a week. He has been pursuing that self-assigned […]

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Atomic Show #211 – Happy Nuke Year 2014

On January 1, 2014, I asked several nuclear communicators to join me for a discussion about highlights of 2013 and predictions for 2013. We had a lively discussion about the change in the conversation about nuclear energy stimulated by the release of Pandora’s Promise, the impact of the court decision telling the NRC to restart […]

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Map of Atomic Insights visitors: Jan 1, 2013 through Dec 20, 2013

Every once in a while, I like to get a feel for who is reading Atomic Insights – or, to be more technically correct, whose browser lands on one of the pages. So far this year, the geographic plot looks pretty good. However, there are a couple of white areas and just a few days […]

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60 Years Ago, Ike, the Most Visionary President of the 20th Century, Gave Atoms for Peace Speech

On December 8, 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his forward-leaning Atoms for Peace speech at a gathering of the United Nations General Assembly in Bermuda. His vision for the world has not yet been realized, but remembering some of his thoughts might inspire some thinkers to take action. There are many reasons why many decision […]

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