The Atomic Show #128 – Celebrating 30 Years
As most people who keep up with nuclear trivia know, March 28, 1979 was a bad day for the industry. As a result of a series of mechanical and operational issues, the reactor at Three Mile Island experienced a loss of coolant accident through a stuck open relief valve. When all was said and done, there were a lot of frightened and stressed people, a lot of confused government decision makers and a news media that had a shared experience that they would endlessly repeat to themselves.
However, it was a learning experience where every single person involved walked away – no one died or was even injured as a result of the event. There was a bankruptcy and a lot of financial distress in the industry as a number of plants under construction had to undergo numerous design changes and as a number of operating plants had to prove themselves all over again.
In this episode, I discuss some of my thoughts about what TMI meant to the industry and I get into another virtual debate with a man who insists that there were deaths, though he cannot point to any bodies or name any names. In the fantasy world of Harvey Wasserman, repetition, denial and insistence on ignoring countless studies and considered legal opinions is enough to overcome reality.
You get to decide for yourself, but I hope that this show will point out some of the important items to think about.
Here are the promised links:
NRC Fact Sheet on Three Mile Island
PBS: Frontline The Judge’s Decision
American Council on Science and Health Report – Nuclear Energy and Health, And the Benefits of Low-Dose Radiation Hormesis
A Review of the Source Term and Dose Estimation for the Three Mile Island Accident
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TMI II: Success story rarely told. Thanks for this. I recommend “DrBuzzo’s” tribute full of sarcasm (and an English Major’s nightmare of misspellings) at Depleted Cranium.
I missed your show during its hiatus. There, I said it. Let that sink in as it is the truth, sir.
To tell you so would have been, for me, a form of complaining. Complaining about the equivalent of a lack of free ice cream. You’re “progressive” but you must acknowledge that valuable “free stuff” isn’t free.
I subscribe to a couple of podcasts for about $4 per month each. If they took an hiatus yet continued to charge me, I’d be up and bitching and/or cancelling. On the other hand, I’ve “contributed” to TPN and Shire Network News, but they’ve never “promised” anything. No complaints during lulls (or even if they quit forever).
Remember Nuke school? Did they have you watch the NOVA “mock trial” about the TMI-II accident? You and I were in Orlando about the same time, so I wonder if you remember that. Did the officers watch it, too?
Reese – thank you for the kind words. I have to admit that I do not do the Atomic Show for “free”, I have a long term commercial motive. My goal is to have people who understand the technology I advocate who will be active and interested enough to come to bat for me when I run into the inevitable opposition. That kind of support requires a long term commitment.
I think I do remember the NOVA program that you refer to. One thing that I discovered in my research for this particular episode is that even the NRC fact sheet brushes over something that I remember being taught as a key lesson learned.
From the NRC fact sheet
“As coolant flowed from the core through the pressurizer, the instruments available to reactor operators provided confusing information. There was no instrument that showed the level of coolant in the core. Instead, the operators judged the level of water in the core by the level in the pressurizer, and since it was high, they assumed that the core was properly covered with coolant. In addition, there was no clear signal that the pilot-operated relief valve was open. As a result, as alarms rang and warning lights flashed, the operators did not realize that the plant was experiencing a loss-of-coolant accident. They took a series of actions that made conditions worse by simply reducing the flow of coolant through the core.”
What I learned as a operator was that all of the indications needed to enable understanding were right there, but the operators failed to recognize a saturation condition and to understand its implications. When coolant temperature is about 500 F and coolant pressure is about 665 psig, you have become a BWR. That situation can only exist if there is a path that is allowing water to leave the system. The indicated pressurizer level will rise – for a while – even if the amount of H2O in the core is falling. That is never the time to stop feeding water into the core.
I’m a few weeks behind. Just realized this show was out late last week, and listened to it immediately on my drive home. Yes, you are missed during your breaks! I love the show, it keeps me up-to-date on my previously-chosen (future?) industry. Thanks!
Geez, Harvey is a bore! Is it common for hosts to allow their guests to make so many accusations without asking for evidence to support them? Do these hosts not do their homework before the show, so they have some idea where to place a well-reasoned question or three?
Thanks, Rod, for another excellent show. I suspect this one made you grind your teeth while wishing you could respond to the blatant lies being spouted.
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