Sometimes, I plow my way through material that almost turns my stomach or makes me laugh outright in order to keep tabs on just how far some people will go in their efforts to deny the use of atomic fission energy.
It is now very close to the 30th anniversary of the accident at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It is not much of a surprise to find that some of the retrospectives are bringing back all of the misinformation they can find. Just in case you have never been exposed to some of the stories, I recommend reading Harvey Wasserman’s tall tale on Counterpunch.org titled People Died at Three Mile Island. I have never had much respect for the man, in fact, I think he is an idiot who exposes that with nearly every word he writes and speaks. Here is an example:
The federal government did nothing to track the health histories of the region’s residents.
In fact, the most reliable studies were conducted by local residents like Jane Lee and Mary Osborne, who went door-to-door in neighborhoods where the fallout was thought to be worst. Their surveys showed very substantial plagues of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, respiratory problems, hair loss, rashes, lesions and much more.
A study by Columbia University claimed there were no significant health impacts, but its data by some interpretations points in the opposite direction. Investigations by epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Wing of the University of North Carolina, and others, led Wing to warn that the official studies on the health impacts of the accident suffered from “logical and methodological problems.” Studies by Wing and by Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear industry official, being announced this week at Harrisburg, significantly challenge official pronouncements on both radiation releases and health impacts.
Gundersen, a leading technical expert on nuclear engineering, says: “When I correctly interpreted the containment pressure spike and the doses measured in the environment after the TMI accident, I proved that TMI’s releases were about one hundred times higher than the industry and the NRC claim, in part because the containment leaked.
I will leave it to you point out the logical errors and to provide some background on the “sources” of Wasserman’s assertions.
Here is a quote from a 1997 Washington Post article about the release of Wing’s “study” that provides a starting point for discussion:
After re-running the data, he (Wing) concluded that exposed neighbors suffered two to 10 times as many lung cancer and leukemia cases as those who lived upwind.
In Pennsylvania, activists who have been fighting the nuclear plant for nearly two decades viewed the new study as a vindication. “No one knows how much radiation escaped,” said Eric Epstein, chairman of Three Mile Island Alert. “The study confirms what people have been reporting for 18 years.”
But Theodore Rockwell, a Bethesda-based nuclear engineer and nuclear power proponent, accused the researchers of twisting the data to support their theory. “The same crowd of people keeps coming up with this stuff,” Rockwell said, “but in all these years of trying to find a problem, they haven’t been able to come up with one.”
For some very odd reason, I tend to have more faith in the engineering and scientific abilities of Ted Rockwell, a man who literally wrote the book on radiation shielding and played an active role in the invention of the light water reactor for submarine use, over that of the neighbors who went door to door or an epidemiologist who bent data to match a foregone conclusion. (Aside: Just in case you do not follow the link, Ted’s book on radiation shielding was titled The Reactor Shielding Design Manual published by the Government Printing Office (GPO) and McGraw-Hill, and VanNostrand 1956.)
Update posted March 25, 2009 1954 Wasserman’s piece also appears on Daily Kos. There are some terrific and well documented responses and some that are not so well documented or thoughtful. I guess we take the good with the bad. Overall, the nukes outlasted the anti’s and certainly scored more debate points.
Update posted February 7, 2010 at 0700 There is an interesting note in an article on the site Disaster News Network titled Nuclear accident report faulted about the funding source of the Wing study on TMI health effects.
Hatch’s studies, like Talbott’s, were funded by the Three Mile Island Public Health Fund. Wing’s study was paid for by the nonprofit John Snow Institute, which in turn received its funding from the plaintiff’s attorneys in the class action suit against the GPU Nuclear Corp.