Thursday, March 19, 2009

Remembering Three Mile Island: 30 Years Later
March 28, 1979 - March 28, 2009

It’s the 30-year anniversary of the nation’s worst nuclear disaster: the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear reactor unit 2 at Middletown, PA on Wednesday March 28, 1979.

I was 18 at the time, and attending college and working at a local grocery store part-time. I remember hearing about ‘problems’ at the reactor, but TMI was located way far away near Harrisburg, a good three hour-drive south from New York’s Southern Tier. So I didn’t feel particularly alarmed. The news announcements tended to reiterate a reassuring message from the plant operators (and by extension the nuclear power industry): the reactor is safely contained, no radiation had been released, no need to panic, etc., etc. Of course, playing in the theatres at that time was ‘The China Syndrome’ with Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas, in which a fictional California reactor undergoes a near-meltdown, an event which is covered up by the mendacious plant operators. So public awareness of potential nuclear disasters had been heightened.

Over the next few days it became clear that there had indeed been a major accident at the plant, and a significant amount of radiation had been discharged into the atmosphere. It was also clear that the plant operators had underestimated the severity of the damage to the reactor core, and things had come frighteningly close to a genuine disaster. Realization that a partial (i.e., 50 %) meltdown had taken place was not attained until 1982 when a remotely manipulated video camera was used to examine the reactor core.

With the advent of the thirty-year anniversary of the TMI accident, here at the PorPor Books Blog we'll take a look over the course of next month at several SF / thriller novels that deal with nuclear accidents, as well as some nonfiction accounts about rad exposure and its (gruesome) consequences.

Grab your Geiger-counters, your potassium iodide, your Neupogen, and your rad suit. It's time to step into the Zone of Contamination ......

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