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Three Mile Island nuclear reactor catastrophe
March 28, 1979

Three Mile Island: The Truth Beyond Nuclear, Spring 2004

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. ...

The Disaster: What happened? "No one died": The Biggest Lie 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


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