[ RadSafe ] Claims About Three Mile Island

Roger Helbig rwhelbig at gmail.com
Wed Mar 25 05:31:03 CDT 2009

How much of this article is true and how much is fiction?   Does The
Free Press at www.freepress.org have a reputation for factual
reporting or for making up stories?  Does Harvey Wasserman have a
reputation for telling the truth or spinning tall tales.  A link to
this article was posted to the Yahoo Group NoMoreDU today.

Harvey Wasserman

People died at Three Mile Island (did any person die at Three Mile
Island? - if so, as a result of what?)
March 24, 2009

People died---and are still dying---at Three Mile Island.

As the thirtieth anniversary of America's most infamous industrial
accident approaches, we mourn the deaths that accompanied the biggest
string of lies ever told in US industrial history.

As news of the accident poured into the global media, the public was
assured there were no radiation releases.

That quickly proved to be false.

The public was then told the releases were controlled and done
purposely to alleviate pressure on the core.

Both those assertions were false.

The public was told the releases were "insignificant."

But stack monitors were saturated and unusable, and the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission later told Congress it did not know---and STILL
does not know---how much radiation was released at Three Mile Island,
or where it went.

Using unsubstantiated estimates of how much radiation was released,
the government issued average doses allegedly received by people in
the region, which it assured the public were safe. But the estimates
were utterly meaningless, among other things ignoring the likelihood
that high doses of concentrated fallout could come down heavily on
specific areas.

Official estimates said a uniform dose to all persons in the region
was equivalent to a single chest x-ray. But pregnant women are no
longer x-rayed because it has long been known a single dose can do
catastrophic damage to an embryo or fetus in utero.

The public was told there was no melting of fuel inside the core.

But robotic cameras later showed a very substantial portion of the
fuel did melt.

The public was told there was no danger of an explosion.

But there was, as there had been at Michigan's Fermi reactor in 1966.
In 1986, Chernobyl Unit Four did explode.

The public was told there was no need to evacuate anyone from the area.

But Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh then evacuated pregnant
women and small children. Unfortunately, many were sent to nearby
Hershey, which was showered with fallout.

In fact, the entire region should have been immediately evacuated. It
is standard wisdom in the health physics community that---due in part
to the extreme vulnerability of human embryos, fetuses and small
children, as well as the weaknesses of old age---there is no safe dose
of radiation, and none will ever be found.

The public was assured the government would follow up with meticulous
studies of the health impacts of the accident.

In fact, the state of Pennsylvania hid the health impacts, including
deletion of cancers from the public record, abolition of the state's
tumor registry, misrepresentation of the impacts it could not hide
(including an apparent tripling of the infant death rate in nearby
Harrisburg) and much more.

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.
This new data supports the epidemiology of Dr. Steve Wing and proves
that there really were injuries from the accident. New reactor designs
are also effected, as the NRC is using its low assumed release rates
to justify decreases in emergency planning and containment design."

Data unearthed by radiologist Dr. Ernest Sternglass of the University
of Pittsburgh, and statisticians Jay Gould (now deceased) and Joe
Mangano of New York have led to strong assertions of major public
health impacts. On-going work by Sternglass and Mangano clearly
indicates that "normal" reactor radiation releases of far less
magnitude that those at TMI continue to have catastrophic impacts on
local populations.

Anecdotal evidence among the local human population has been
devastating. Large numbers of central Pennsylvanians suffered skin
sores and lesions that erupted while they were out of doors as the
fallout rained down on them. Many quickly developed large, visible
tumors, breathing problems, and a metallic taste in their mouths that
matched that experienced by some of the men who dropped the bomb on
Hiroshima, and who were exposed to nuclear tests in the south Pacific
and Nevada.

A series of interviews conducted by Robbie Leppzer and compiled in a
“a two-hour public radio documentary VOICES FROM THREE MILE ISLAND (
www.turningtide.com ) give some indication of the horrors experienced
by the people of central Pennsylvania.

They are further underscored by harrowing broadcasts from then-CBS
News anchor Walter Cronkite
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-c1PrCLaRw) warning that “the world
has never known a day quite like today. It faced the considerable
uncertainties and dangers of the worst nuclear power plant accident of
the atomic age. And the horror tonight is that it could get much

In March of 1980, I went into the region and compiled a range of
interviews clearly indicating widespread health damage done by
radiation from the accident. The survey led to the book KILLING OUR
OWN, co-authored with Norman Solomon, Robert Alvarez and Eleanor
Walters ( www.ratical.org/radiation/KillingOurOwn/KOO.pdf ) which
correlated the damage done at TMI with that suffered during nuclear
bomb tests, atomic weapons production, mis-use of medical x-rays, the
painting of radium watch dials, uranium mining and milling,
radioactive fuel production, failed attempts at waste disposal, and

My research at TMI also uncovered a plague of death and disease among
the area's wild animals and farm livestock. Entire bee hives expired
immediately after the accident, along with a disappearance of birds,
many of whom were found scattered dead on the ground. A rash of
malformed pets were born and stillborn, including kittens that could
not walk and a dog with no eyes. Reproductive rates among the region's
cows and horses plummeted.

Much of this was documented by a three-person investigative team from
the Baltimore News-American, which made it clear that the problems
could only have been caused by radiation. Statistics from
Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture confirmed the plague, but the
state denied its existence, and said that if it did exist, it could
not have been caused by TMI.

In the mid-1980s the citizens of the three counties surrounding Three
Mile Island voted by a margin of 3:1 to permanently retired TMI Unit
One, which had been shut when Unit Two melted. The Reagan
Administration trashed the vote and re-opened the reactor, which still
operates. Its owners now seek a license renewal.

Some 2400 area residents have long-since filed a class action lawsuit
demanding compensation for the plague of death and disease visited
upon their families. In the past quarter-century they have been denied
access to the federal court system, which claims there was not enough
radiation released to do such harm. TMI’s owners did quietly pay out
millions in damages to area residents whose children were born with
genetic damage, among other things. The payments came in exchange for
silence among those receiving them.

But for all the global attention focused on the accident and its
health effects, there has never been a binding public trial to test
the assertion by thousands of conservative central Pennsylvanians that
radiation from TMI destroyed their lives.

So while the nuclear power industry continues to assert that "no one
died at Three Mile Island," it refuses to allow an open judicial
hearing on the hundreds of cases still pending.

As the pushers of the "nuclear renaissance" demand massive tax- and
rate-payer subsidies to build yet another generation of reactors, they
cynically stonewall the obvious death toll that continues to mount at
the site of an accident that happened thirty years ago. The "see no
evil" mantra continues to define all official approaches to the
victims of this horrific disaster.

Ironically, like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island Unit Two was a
state-of-the-art reactor. Its official opening came on December 28,
1978, and it melted exactly three months later. Had it operated
longer, the accumulated radiation spewing from its core almost
certainly would have been far greater.

Every reactor now operating in the US is much older---nearly all fully
three decades older---than TMI-2 when it melted. Their potential
fallout that could dwarf what came down in 1979.

But the Big Lie remains officially in tact. Expect to hear all week
that TMI was "a success story" because "no one was killed."

But in mere moments that brand new reactor morphed from a $900 million
asset to a multi-billion-dollar liability. It could happen to any
atomic power plant, now, tomorrow and into the future.

Meanwhile, the death toll from America's worst industrial catastrophe
continues to rise. More than ever, it is shrouded in official lies and
desecrated by a reactor-pushing “renaissance” hell-bent on repeating
the nightmare on an even larger scale.

Harvey Wasserman has been writing about atomic energy and the green
alternatives since 1973. His 1982 assertion to Bryant Gumbel on NBC's
TODAY Show that people were killed at TMI sparked a national mailing
from the reactor industry demanding a retraction. NBC was later bought
by General Electric, still a major force pushing atomic power. This
article originally appeared at http://freepress.org.

More information about the RadSafe mailing list