On a recent Freakonomics Radio podcast, host Stephen J. Dubner and his guests explored the topic of nuclear power. The episode, “Nuclear Power Isn’t Perfect. Is It Good Enough?” was teased on the podcast website with this thought: “Liberals endorse harm reduction when it comes to the opioid epidemic. Are they ready to take the same approach to climate change?”
October 10, 2022, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe
June 10, 2022, 7:00AMANS News
In an ANS-sponsored online event held on June 8, independent energy consultant Lake Barrett shared his perspective on the Netflix docudrama series Meltdown: Three Mile Island. Barrett, who was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s on-site director and senior federal official for the cleanup of the TMI Unit 2 accident in the early 1980s, countered inaccuracies in the series during an interview with ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy.
June 6, 2022, 9:30AMANS News
June 3, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear News
The Three Mile Island accident in 1979 was the most-studied nuclear reactor event in the U.S. There is a plethora of research about the accident available to the general public, including the president-appointed Kemeny Commission report and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Rogovin inquiry report (split into volume one, and volume two, parts one, two, and three), which are the two detailed government-sponsored investigations into the accident. There are also thousands of documents in the NRC’s ADAMS database available to the public, an excellent overview by NRC historian Samuel Walker Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective, as well as the Nuclear News special report from April 1979, and articles written by ANS members like William Burchill about the accident and the many changes it forced on the industry. If the producers of Meltdown: Three Mile Island—available on Netflix—had read any of those documents instead of relying mostly on input from antinuclear activists, their “documentary” might have been presented with at least some sense of balance and credibility.
Instead, similar to a recent Science Channel documentary on the Three Mile Island accident, Meltdown focuses on drama instead of science. This four-part miniseries does not attempt to provide a balanced set of facts from the technical community and instead relies heavily on nonexpert opinions and anecdotal statements to tell a story that easily falls apart under even the faintest scrutiny.
Nuclear News reached out to multiple ANS members who were involved with either the accident response or the clean up to help provide a critical look at some of the more egregious statements made in the documentary.
May 26, 2022, 3:15PMNuclear News
This week’s Throwback Thursday post is again about Three Mile Island—this time looking at the coverage from the pages of the December 1979 issue Nuclear News about the Kemeny Commission. The twelve-person commission, announced by President Carter immediately after the accident in April 1979, was headed by John Kemeny—then president of Dartmouth College—with orders to investigate the causes and any consequences of the accident.
The accident at Three Mile Island revealed many areas for improvement in the safety of nuclear power that have been addressed continuously in the past 40 years.
May 6, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear News
Part one of this article, published in the May 2019 issue of Nuclear News and last Friday on Nuclear Newswire, presented insights from the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island-2 and addressed several issues raised by a previous Nuclear News piece on the accident. Part two discusses safety improvements that have been made by both the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the past 40 years.
Sparked by an article on the TMI accident that appeared in the March 2019 issue of Nuclear News, ANS past president William E. Burchill (2008–2009) offered his own views on the subject. Part 1 of the article appeared in the May 2019 issue of NN and Part 2 was published in June 2019.
April 29, 2022, 3:59PMNuclear News
The accident at Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant on March 28, 1979, was an extremely complex event. It was produced by numerous preexisting plant conditions, many systemic issues in the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, unanticipated operator actions, previously unrecognized thermal-hydraulic phenomena in the reactor coolant system (RCS), and the unprecedented challenge of managing a severely degraded core.
April 28, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
This week’s #ThrowbackThursday post features the special report published by Nuclear News in April 1979—one month after the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. Titled “The ordeal at Three Mile Island,” the report provides readers with a quick review of the accident, how it happened (as much as was known at the time), its immediate effects on the general public, and the public discourse that followed. It should come as no surprise that the report covers some negative responses from the public and politicians of the time, but it concludes with the responses of some policy leaders who tried to put the accident into perspective.
April 7, 2022, 3:42PMANS Nuclear Cafe
March 31, 2022, 3:30PMANS Nuclear Cafe
This week for the #ThrowbackThursday post, we are again turning to the April 1984 issue of Nuclear News, which was highlighted in February when we looked at the start of the federal program to convert research reactors from the use of high-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium. This week, however, we are reviewing the coverage presented in that issue about the five-year anniversary of the Three Mile Island-2 accident.
February 2, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
Constellation, formerly Exelon Generation, owner and operator of the nation’s largest nuclear reactor fleet, announced this morning the completion of its separation from Exelon Corporation and its launch as a stand-alone, publicly traded company. Headquartered in Baltimore, Md., the new company began trading today on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “CEG.”
Exelon announced last February that it had begun the effort to separate its utility businesses from its competitive power generation and customer-facing energy businesses.
January 6, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
Throughout the history of commercial nuclear power plant operations, there have been events that changed the industry. The incidents at Three Mile Island and Fukushima brought about great advancements in how nuclear plants are operated, including additional safety measures and supplemental training on how to prevent such events. Looking forward, the commercial nuclear industry is poised for a similar transformative change: one motivated by financial viability.
November 30, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
In September, cable television’s Science Channel aired an episode on power plant catastrophes as part of its series Deadly Engineering, with one principal segment on the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. The episode contains several inaccuracies and distortions—perhaps the biggest mistake being that the TMI accident was featured in Deadly Engineering at all, since no deaths or long-term adverse health trends resulted from the accident.
Leaving that aside, the episode includes other errors that executives at Science Channel should have caught and corrected before airing. They also should have made sure to include knowledgeable scientific reviewers from both sides of the nuclear issue, which they did not.
The biggest falsehood in the episode comes very near the beginning, with the horribly erroneous claim that most of eastern Pennsylvania was made permanently uninhabitable by the accident. Incredibly wrong, and likely believable and very frightening to some viewers.
August 31, 2020, 3:00PMAround the Web
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) is currently featuring on its website a series of five articles by young American and Russian scholars on nuclear safety, with a focus on the industry’s three major accidents: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.
In one of those articles, “Don’t let nuclear accidents scare you away from nuclear power,” the authors conclude that “even after accounting for both the immediate and long-term toll of the three accidents, nuclear power has a remarkably safe track record compared to coal, natural gas, and even hydroelectric power.”
January 2, 2019, 2:37AMANS Nuclear Cafe
The accident that occurred at Three Mile Island on March 28, 1979, brought about many changes to the nuclear industry. Among the changes was the industry stopping to reflect on current procedures and the training of its employees. Exhorted by the findings of the Kemeny Commission and sponsored by the Department of Energy, industry leaders and training personnel began meeting on improvements to training at the Gatlinburg Conference in the early 1980's.
November 2, 2018, 5:24PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The year 1971 saw a continuation of the general trend of rising capital costs for all types of power plants, described by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in its publication for 1971 as having "risen rather rapidly." According to the AEC, the aggregate major causes for the increases in costs specific to nuclear electric power plants were as follows, with author's analysis accompanying each:
April 23, 2014, 4:40PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Note by Rod Adams: This post has a deep background story. The author, Mike Derivan, was the shift supervisor at the Davis Besse nuclear power plant (DBNPP) on September 24, 1977, when it experienced an event that started out almost exactly like the event at Three Mile Island on March 28, 1979.