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Three Mile Island nuclear reactor catastrophe
March 28, 1979

The Cosmology of Evidence: Suffering, Science, and Biological Witness After Three Mile Island A study of public health effects of the meltdown. A survey found an elevated rate of cancer and deaths compared to baseline data. Human and plant data substantiated absorbed radiation doses far higher than government dose assessments. By M.X. Mitchell, Journal of the History of Biology, February 24, 2021

Radioactive waste from Three Mile Island sits in unlined trenches at Hanford Hanford facilities with massive amounts of radiation could cause large scale catastrophic releases in an earthquake. By Gerald Pollet, Heart of America Northwest, April 23, 2020

Residents around TNI exposed to far more radiation than officials claimed Researchers under a court's gag order couldn't investigate the true health impacts. If the researchers wanted to use money from the TMI Public Health Fund, they had to obey two main parameters set forth by the federal judge in charge of the fund:

  • Those studying the health impact of Three Mile Island radiation emissions were prohibited from assessing “worst case estimates” of radiation releases unless such estimates would lead to a conclusion of insignificant amount of harm — that being “less than 0.01 health effects.”
  • If a researcher wanted to claim more harm or investigate a worst-case scenario, an expert selected by nuclear industry insurers would have to “concur on the nature and scope of the [dosimetry] projects.
    Beyond Nuclear International, March 24, 2019

    "A Meltdown Didn't Kill Three Mile Island, But Shale Probably Will Cheap gas threatens to drive the money-losing plant out of business; shutdown planned for September 2019. Bloomberg Businessweek, June 5, 2018

    Three Mile Island: The Truth

    The nuclear industry line — that “no one died at Three Mile Island” — does not stand the test of fundamental medical scrutiny. Yet it is often repeated, including by the media, and has been taken up by today’s nuclear deniers in asserting that the Fukushima nuclear disaster, too, will yield no fatalities.

    Not only deaths but illnesses resulting from the disaster are downplayed. The NRC website alleges that there were “negligible effects on the physical health of individuals or the environment.” Again, this is contradicted both by independent analysis and by medical science.

    Given that exposure to ionizing radiation is medically understood to cause diseases like cancer which can be fatal, there is no way definitively to state that “no one died at TMI” or later developed cancers. The opposite is far more likely to be true.

    Estimates are complicated by the long latency period for illnesses caused by exposure to radiation and by the fact that many victims move away after an accident and are not then tracked in any scientific database.

    Long after a catastrophic radiation release, disease can still manifest, both from the initial radiation exposure and from slow environmental poisoning, as the radionuclides released by the disaster are ingested or inhaled for many generations.

    The two studies — from Columbia and Pittsburgh Universities — that have perpetuated the “no harm” myth, were conducted under the constraints of a court order that established the “TMI Public Health Fund” and significantly compromised the study findings. Columbia and Pittsburgh each concluded that they could not attribute increased cancers to the TMI disaster.

    The only independent study, by Dr. Stephen Wing et al. at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, looked at radiation-specific markers in residents’ blood, called biomarkers, to assess dose, rather than relying solely on industry-measured (or mis-measured as the case was) radiation emissions. The Wing et al. study’s very different conclusions found that lung cancer and leukemia rates were two to 10 times higher downwind of the Three Mile Island reactor than upwind. ... By Beyond Nuclear, Spring 2014

    Hershey researcher believes new study makes first connection between TMI and cancer A type of thyroid cancer caused by radiation was more common among patients who were near TMI during the 1979 partial meltdown. Pennsylvania Real-Time News, May 31, 2017

    Three Mile Island at 39: What Actually Happened to US? Hour-long audio of panel discussion among journalists who covered the accident as it happened and researchers reporting on the long-hidden medical impact. Nuclear Hotseat, April 11, 2018

    Union of Concerned Scientists summary

    Three Mile Island, Thirty Minutes to Meltdown Book by Daniel Ford, 1982 Reviewed hereRead it on line here.


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