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Meltdown at Three Mile Island- USA’s closest nuclear close shave

Shortly after 4am on 28 March 1979, a pressure valve failed to close in
the Unit 2 reactor at Three Mile Island, a nuclear power plant on a strip
of land in central Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River. The technical
malfunction, compounded by human error – control room workers misread
confusing signals and halted the emergency water cooling system – heated
the nuclear core to dangerously high levels.

The film The China Syndrome
was still in theaters, starring Jane Fonda as a television reporter
investigating cover-ups at a nuclear power plant whose meltdown could
release radioactive material deep into the earth, “all the way to
China”. Three Mile Island – still the worst commercial nuclear accident
in US history – was no China Syndrome, but it got terrifyingly close to
catastrophic, Chernobyl-level damage.

As the Netflix docuseries Meltdown:
Three Mile Island recounts, Unit 2 came less than half an hour from fully
melting down – a disaster scenario that would have sickened hundreds of
thousands in the surrounding area. Two days after the accident, an
explosive bubble of hydrogen gas was found in the reactor. The plant’s
operator, Metropolitan Edison, tried to downplay the risk of radioactive
releases, but panic ensued; more than 100,000 people fled the surrounding
area. Plant technicians were eventually able to slowly bleed the gas from
the cooling reactor, avoiding a deadly explosion.

Though workers inside theplant were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, it remains unknown how
much contamination escaped the facility into the surrounding community. In
its second half, Meltdown, directed by Kief Davidson, homes in on the story
of Rick Parks, a cleanup supervisor turned whistleblower on the Bechtel
Corp, the company hired to conduct the billion-dollar cleanup by
Metropolitan Edison and supervised by the government’s Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC).

“While a lot of people know about the disaster, they
don’t know about what happened in the cleanup phase and how close we were
to another disaster,” Davidson told the Guardian. “We dodged a bullet a
second time, and it was entirely due to the fact that Rick Parks and
[fellow whistleblower] Larry King stood up. “We should know about these
stories,” he added. “We should be able to look at the people who risk
everything in order to save communities from a potential disaster.”

 Guardian 5th May 2022


May 7, 2022 - Posted by | incidents, media, USA

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