Some facts and common sense about Three Mile Island
Recently, I was confronted (by someone whose views and intellect I respect) with the premise that there were no lingering health issues from the Three Mile Island accident. I was told that reports to the contrary were simply urban myths of the “Paul is dead” or “Elvis is alive” variety. The following are undisputed facts about the incident. Decide for yourself.The two main reports on the matter, published by Columbia University and the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Studies use the same data to reach far different conclusions. Both reports cite an increase in birth defects and cancer in residents living near the nuclear plant during the accident. In the five years following the accident, cancer rates in the same area jumped 64%. This is not disputed. The controversy arises from divergent explanations of the cause. The Columbia U. report attributes the spike in cancers and deformities to increased smoking, stress and depressed income levels. The USNIE study states that the only explanation for such spikes is the radiation released during the mishandling of the partial meltdown. They also claim that the initial low levels of radioactivity reported by MetEd (the operator of the facility) were not consistent with the symptoms observed in the local population and that actual figures could be 2-10 times higher than the ones assumed by the Columbia U. report.
It’s not a big reach to say that any information released by MetEd is suspect. They were indicted and prosecuted for falsification of safety records at the same Three Mile Island facility where the accident occurred.
A class action suit by nearby residents suffering from various forms of cancer was denied by Judge Sylvia Rambo. Her summary judgment effectively ended any other cancer-related tort actions against the company. The judge did not rule on the case of birth defects and to date MetEd has paid out over $15 million in out-of-court settlements related to birth defects since the accident. That’s a lot of voluntarily forfeited assets for a company that denies any wrongdoing.
In the handling of TMI, MetEd seems to have followed the same path as other corporations when dealing with a catastrophic industrial accident of their own making. Deny. Deceive. Delay. Deny responsibility. Deceive investigators and the public. Delay legal outcomes until victims exhaust legal funds or die. This model was used by Dupont after Bhopal, Exxon after Valdez and BP after the Gulf.
The following list is no myth: Paula Obercash, Gary Villella, Leo Beam, Joseph Gaugan, Lori Dolan, Jolene Peterson, Ronald Ward, Pearl Hickernell, Ethelda Hilt, Kenneth Putt. All lived near Three Mile Island, all developed cancer. All have value as human souls. Remember them in your prayers.
[In case you are curious, sources for this information include the Washington Post, National Geographic, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Judge Sylvia Rambo’s own statement for summary judgement. Hardly the fifth column.]