Three Mile Island: Thirty Minutes to Meltdown

Last updated

Three Mile Island: Thirty Minutes to Meltdown is a 1982 book by Daniel Ford. Ford presents a "meticulous post-mortem of the events that nearly led to a meltdown" at the Metropolitan Edison station near Harrisburg in March 1979. He analyses the complex of people, technology, customs and regulations involved. [1] Ford identifies regulatory failure and industry cost-cutting as the underlying causes of the Three Mile Island accident. [2]

Daniel Ford is an economist and former director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

Three Mile Island accident nuclear accident

The Three Mile Island accident was a partial meltdown of reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg, and subsequent radiation leak that occurred on March 28, 1979. It was the most significant accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history. On the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale, the incident was rated a five as an "accident with wider consequences".

Nuclear meltdown severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating

A nuclear meltdown is a severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating. The term nuclear meltdown is not officially defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency or by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It has been defined to mean the accidental melting of the core of a nuclear reactor, however, and is in common usage a reference to the core's either complete or partial collapse.

Nuclear and radiation accidents and incidents event that has led to significant consequences to people, the environment or the facility

A nuclear and radiation accident is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as "an event that has led to significant consequences to people, the environment or the facility". Examples include lethal effects to individuals, radioactive isotope to the environment, or reactor core melt." The prime example of a "major nuclear accident" is one in which a reactor core is damaged and significant amounts of radioactive isotopes are released, such as in the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station nuclear power plant

Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI) is, as of 2019, a closed nuclear power plant located on Three Mile Island in Londonderry Township, Pennsylvania, on the Susquehanna River just south of Harrisburg. It had two separate units, TMI-1 and TMI-2. The plant is widely known for having been the site of the most significant accident in United States commercial nuclear energy, on March 28, 1979, when TMI-2 suffered a partial meltdown. As per the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) report, the accident resulted in no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of nearby communities. Follow-up epidemiology studies have linked no incidents of cancer to the accident.

Nuclear history of the United States describes the history of nuclear affairs in the United States whether civilian or military.

Nuclear safety in the United States US safety regulations for nuclear power and weapons

Nuclear safety in the joe States is governed by federal regulations issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC regulates all nuclear plants and materials in the United States except for nuclear plants and materials controlled by the U.S. government, as well those powering naval vessels.

Harold Denton American Nuclear regulator

Harold Ray Denton was the Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) and is best known for his role as President Jimmy Carter's personal adviser for the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident.

<i>Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective</i> book by J. Samuel Walker

Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective is a scholarly history of the Three Mile Island accident, written by J. Samuel Walker and published in 2004. Walker is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's historian and his book is the first detailed historical analysis since the accident.

<i>Normal Accidents</i> book by Charles Perrow

Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies is a 1984 book by Yale sociologist Charles Perrow, which provides a detailed analysis of complex systems from a sociological perspective. It was the first to "propose a framework for characterizing complex technological systems such as air traffic, marine traffic, chemical plants, dams, and especially nuclear power plants according to their riskiness". Perrow argues that multiple and unexpected failures are built into society's complex and tightly coupled systems. Such accidents are unavoidable and cannot be designed around.

Robert Del Tredici is a Canadian photographer, artist and teacher, who documented the impact of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident on the community. His first book of photographs and interviews, The People of Three Mile Island, was a social critique of nuclear power. His second book, At Work in the Fields of the Bomb, discussed the US nuclear weapons industry and won the 1987 Olive Branch Book Award for its contribution to world peace.

Sodium Reactor Experiment

The Sodium Reactor Experiment was a pioneering nuclear power plant built by Atomics International at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory near Simi Valley, California. The reactor operated from 1957 to 1964. On July 12, 1957 the Sodium Reactor Experiment became the first nuclear reactor in the United States to produce electrical power for a commercial power grid by powering the nearby city of Moorpark. In July 1959, the reactor experienced a partial meltdown where 13 of the reactor's 43 fuel elements partially melted, and a controlled release of radioactive gas into the atmosphere occurred. The reactor was repaired and restarted in September 1960. In February 1964, the Sodium Reactor Experiment was in operation for the last time. Removal of the deactivated reactor was completed in 1981. Technical analyses of the 1959 incident have produced contrasting conclusions regarding the types and quantities of radioactive materials released. Members of the neighboring communities have expressed concerns about the possible impacts on their health and environment from the incident. In August 2009, 50 years after the occurrence, the Department of Energy hosted a community workshop to discuss the 1959 incident.

The health effects of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident are widely, but not universally, agreed to be very low. The American Nuclear Society concluded here that average local radiation exposure was equivalent to a chest X-ray, and maximum local exposure equivalent to less than a year's background radiation. The U.S. BEIR report on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation states that "[t]he collective dose equivalent resulting from the radioactivity released in the Three Mile Island accident was so low that the estimated number of excess cancer cases to be expected, if any were to occur, would be negligible and undetectable." A variety of epidemiology studies have concluded that the accident has had no observable long term health effects. One dissenting study is "A reevaluation of cancer incidence near the Three Mile Island nuclear plant" by Dr. Steven Wing of the University of North Carolina. In this study, Dr. Wing and his colleagues argue that earlier findings had "logical and methodological problems" and conclude that "cancer incidence, specifically lung cancer and leukemia, increased following the TMI accident in areas estimated to have been in the pathway of radioactive plumes than in other areas." Other dissenting opinions can be found in the Radiation and Public Health Project, whose leader, Joseph Mangano, has questioned the safety of nuclear power since 1985.

The Cult of the Atom: The Secret Papers of the Atomic Energy Commission is a 1982 book by Daniel Ford. Ford is an economist and former director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who used the Freedom of Information Act to access thousands of Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) documents. The AEC was the predecessor of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Three Mile Island isthe Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in eastern Pennsylvania.

Albert Bahlinger Wohlsen, Jr. was an American businessman and politician, who served as the interim Mayor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, from 1979 to 1980. He was the mayor during the partial meltdown at the nearby Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, which occurred only a few weeks into his term.

Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents Wikimedia list article

These are lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents.

Nuclear reactor accidents in the United States

The United States Government Accountability Office reported more than 150 incidents from 2001 to 2006 of nuclear plants not performing within acceptable safety guidelines. According to a 2010 survey of energy accidents, there have been at least 56 accidents at nuclear reactors in the United States. The most serious of these was the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant has been the source of two of the top five most dangerous nuclear incidents in the United States since 1979. Relatively few accidents have involved fatalities.

This is a list of notable events relating to the environment in 1979. They relate to environmental law, conservation, environmentalism and environmental issues.


  1. Non-fiction in brief
  2. 1 2 Gerald H. Clarfield and William M. Wiecek (1984). Nuclear America: Military and Civilian Nuclear Power in the United States 1940-1980, Harper & Row, New York, p. 469.