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This Day In History: 03/28/1979 - Three Mile Island

This Day In History: 03/28/1979 - Three Mile Island

At 4 a.m. nuclear power industry begins when a pressure valve in the Unit-2 reactor at Three Mile Island fails to close. Cooling water, contaminated with radiation, drained from the open valve into adjoining buildings, and the core began to dangerously overheat. After the cooling water began to drain out of the broken pressure valve on the morning of March 28, 1979, emergency cooling pumps automatically went into operation. Left alone, these safety devices would have prevented the development of a larger crisis. However, human operators in the control room misread confusing and contradictory readings and shut off the emergency water system. By early morning, the core had heated to over 4,000 degrees, just 1,000 degrees short of meltdown. The radiation levels, though not immediately life-threatening, were dangerous, and the core cooked further as the contaminated water was contained and precautions were taken to protect the operators. Finally, at about 8 p.m., plant operators realized they needed to get water moving through the core again and restarted the pumps. The temperature began to drop, and pressure in the reactor was reduced. Two days later, however, on March 30, a bubble of highly flammable hydrogen gas was discovered within the reactor building. The bubble of gas was created two days before when exposed core materials reacted with super-heated steam. On March 28, some of this gas had exploded, releasing a small amount of radiation into the atmosphere. After the radiation leak was discovered on March 30, residents were advised to stay indoors. Slowly, the hydrogen was bled from the system as the reactor cooled.


The official claim is that no one died as a result of the Three Mile Island incident, and that there was no significant link between the accident and cancers that have developed in the years since.

That being said, in the 40 years that have passed since the incident, many&mdashespecially those in the local community&mdashhave expressed doubts regarding that conclusion. &ldquoEvery family in this area has a cancer story,&rdquo a local woman named Patty Longnecker told PennLive in an in-depth feature. At the time of the incident, Longnecker lived within a few miles of the plant with her kids, who were 8 and 10 years old at the time.

&ldquoYou hear just enough stories that you know were real and it makes you concerned for what was happening,&rdquo she said. &ldquoThese latencies with these many cancers. Every parent either for themselves or their children being diagnosed with cancer immediately wondered was it Three Mile Island? We are 40 years out and you still hear that comment.&rdquo

In 2017, Dr. David Goldenberg, the lead researcher for a study that was held at the Penn State College of Medicine, did find that a certain type of thyroid cancer was common to people who had been near the nuclear plant in the aftermath of the 1979 partial meltdown, but he also believes that his findings alone aren't enough to definitively attribute a type of cancer to the radiation (correlation, rather than causation).

&ldquoI face these patients every day of the week, and they seem to think that this is what&rsquos causing it. I tell them in no uncertain terms no it&rsquos not,&rdquo Goldenberg told PennLive. &ldquoYou weren't alive then. The lag time . it&rsquos not like it was an ongoing nuclear disaster for 40 years. This was an event that happened and then stopped. But it&rsquos human nature to try and attribute illness to something. There has to be a reason this happened to me is the thought process.&rdquo


This Day in History: March 28, 1979

Nuclear accident at Three Mile Island

At 4 a.m. on March 28, 1979, the worst accident in the history of the U.S. nuclear power industry began when a pressure valve in the Unit-2 reactor at Three Mile Island failed to close. Cooling water, contaminated with radiation, drained from the open valve into adjoining buildings, and the core began to dangerously overheat.
The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was built in 1974 on a sandbar on Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River, just 10 miles downstream from the state capitol in Harrisburg. In 1978, a second state-of-the-art reactor began operating on Three Mile Island, which was lauded for generating affordable and reliable energy in a time of energy crises.

After the cooling water began to drain out of the broken pressure valve on the morning of March 28, 1979, emergency-cooling pumps automatically went into operation. Left alone, these safety devices would have prevented the development of a larger crisis. However, human operators in the control room misread confusing and contradictory readings and shut off the emergency water system. The reactor was also shut down, but residual heat from the fission process was still being released. By early morning, the core had heated to over 4,000 degrees, just 1,000 degrees short of meltdown. In the meltdown scenario, the core melts, and deadly radiation drifts across the countryside, fatally sickening a potentially great number of people.

As the plant operators struggled to understand what had happened, the contaminated water was releasing radioactive gases throughout the plant. The radiation levels, though not immediately life-threatening, were dangerous, and the core cooked further as the contaminated water was contained and precautions were taken to protect the operators. Shortly after 8 a.m., word of the accident leaked to the outside world. The plant's parent company, Metropolitan Edison, downplayed the crisis and claimed that no radiation had been detected off plant grounds, but the same day inspectors detected slightly increased levels of radiation nearby as a result of the contaminated water leak. Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh considered calling an evacuation.

Finally, at about 8 p.m., plant operators realized they needed to get water moving through the core again and restarted the pumps. The temperature began to drop, and pressure in the reactor was reduced. The reactor had come within less than an hour of a complete meltdown. More than half the core was destroyed or molten, but it had not broken its protective shell, and no radiation was escaping. The crisis was apparently over.

Two days later, however, on March 30, a bubble of highly flammable hydrogen gas was discovered within the reactor building. The bubble of gas was created two days before when exposed core materials reacted with super-heated steam.

On March 28, some of this gas had exploded, releasing a small amount of radiation into the atmosphere. At that time, plant operators had not registered the explosion, which sounded like a ventilation door closing. After the radiation leak was discovered on March 30, residents were advised to stay indoors. Experts were uncertain if the hydrogen bubble would create further meltdown or possibly a giant explosion, and as a precaution Governor Thornburgh advised "pregnant women and pre-school age children to leave the area within a five-mile radius of the Three Mile Island facility until further notice." This led to the panic the governor had hoped to avoid within days, more than 100,000 people had fled surrounding towns.

On April 1, President Jimmy Carter arrived at Three Mile Island to inspect the plant. Carter, a trained nuclear engineer, had helped dismantle a damaged Canadian nuclear reactor while serving in the U.S. Navy. His visit achieved its aim of calming local residents and the nation. That afternoon, experts agreed that the hydrogen bubble was not in danger of exploding. Slowly, the hydrogen was bled from the system as the reactor cooled.

At the height of the crisis, plant workers were exposed to unhealthy levels of radiation, but no one outside Three Mile Island had their health adversely affected by the accident. Nonetheless, the incident greatly eroded the public's faith in nuclear power. The unharmed Unit-1 reactor at Three Mile Island, which was shut down during the crisis, did not resume operation until 1985. Cleanup continued on Unit-2 until 1990, but it was too damaged to be rendered usable again. In the more than two decades since the accident at Three Mile Island, not a single new nuclear power plant has been ordered in the United States.
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I had no idea about how this happened. I guess it was covered up pretty well. I thought it was important to know though.

I hope you have a wonderful day, and I have to give a shout-out to my co-worker because it is her birthday today! Happy Birthday Truda!
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This day in history, March 28: America’s worst commercial nuclear accident occurs with a partial meltdown at a Pennsylvania plant

Today is Sunday, March 28, the 87th day of 2021. There are 278 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On March 28, 1979, America’s worst commercial nuclear accident occurred with a partial meltdown inside the Unit 2 reactor at the Three Mile Island plant near Middletown, Pennsylvania.

In 1797, Nathaniel Briggs of New Hampshire received a patent for a washing machine.

In 1898, the U.S. Supreme Court, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, ruled 6-2 that Wong, who was born in the United States to Chinese immigrants, was an American citizen.

In 1935, the notorious Nazi propaganda film “Triumph des Willens” (Triumph of the Will), directed by Leni Riefenstahl, premiered in Berlin with Adolf Hitler present.

In 1941, novelist and critic Virginia Woolf, 59, drowned herself near her home in Lewes, East Sussex, England.

In 1942, during World War II, British naval forces staged a successful raid on the Nazi-occupied French port of St. Nazaire in Operation Chariot, destroying the only dry dock on the Atlantic coast capable of repairing the German battleship Tirpitz.

In 1969, the 34th president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, died in Washington, D.C., at age 78.

In 1977, “Rocky” won best picture at the 49th Academy Awards Peter Finch was honored posthumously as best actor for “Network” while his co-star, Faye Dunaway, was recognized as best actress.

In 1978, in Stump v. Sparkman, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld, 5-3, the judicial immunity of an Indiana judge against a lawsuit brought by a young woman who’d been ordered sterilized by the judge when she was a teenager.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush presented the Congressional Gold Medal to the widow of U.S. Olympic legend Jesse Owens.

In 1999, NATO broadened its attacks on Yugoslavia to target Serb military forces in Kosovo in the fifth straight night of airstrikes thousands of refugees flooded into Albania and Macedonia from Kosovo.

In 2000, in a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court, in Florida v. J.L., sharply curtailed police power in relying on anonymous tips to stop and search people.

In 2003, American-led forces in Iraq dropped thousand-pound bombs on Republican Guard units guarding the gates to Baghdad and battled for control of the strategic city of Nasiriyah (nah-sih-REE’-uh). President George W. Bush warned of “further sacrifice” ahead in the face of unexpectedly fierce fighting.

Ten years ago: Vigorously defending American attacks in Libya, President Barack Obama declared in a nationally broadcast address that the United States intervened to prevent a slaughter of civilians he ruled out targeting Moammar Gadhafi, warning that trying to oust him militarily would be a mistake as costly as the war in Iraq.

Five years ago: The FBI said it had successfully used a mysterious technique without Apple Inc.’s help to hack into the iPhone used by a gunman in a mass shooting in California, effectively ending a pitched court battle. Officers shot and wounded a man who had pulled a weapon at a security checkpoint as he entered the underground U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Actor James Noble, 94, died in Norwalk, Connecticut.

One year ago: The number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in the U.S. topped 2,000, twice the number from just three days earlier five countries had higher death tolls, including Italy with more than 10,000. New York’s presidential primary was delayed from April 28 to June 23. President Donald Trump considered and then rejected ordering a quarantine for residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Russia announced a full border closure. The U.N. donated 250,000 face masks to New York City. Lonnie Franklin, the convicted serial killer known as the “Grim Sleeper” who preyed on the women of South Los Angeles for decades, died in a California prison at the age of 67. Former Sen. Tom Coburn died at 72 the Oklahoma Republican was a conservative political maverick known for railing against federal earmarks.

Today’s birthdays: Author Mario Vargas Llosa is 85. Country musician Charlie McCoy is 80. Movie director Mike Newell is 79. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is 76. Actor Dianne Wiest (weest) is 75. Country singer Reba McEntire is 66. Olympic gold medal gymnast Bart Conner is 63. Actor Alexandra Billings (TV: “Transparent”) is 59. Rapper Salt (Salt-N-Pepa) is 55. Actor Tracey Needham is 54. Actor Max Perlich is 53. Movie director Brett Ratner is 52. Country singer Rodney Atkins is 52. Actor Vince Vaughn is 51. Rapper Mr. Cheeks (Lost Boyz) is 50. Singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson is 48. Rock musician Dave Keuning is 45. Actor Annie Wersching is 44. Actor Julia Stiles is 40. Singer Lady Gaga is 35. Electronic musician Clayton Knight (Odesza) is 33.

Journalism, it’s often said, is the first-draft of history. Check back each day for what’s new … and old.


ON THIS DAY: March 28, 1979, Three Mile Island nuclear plant leaks radiation

DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. &mdash Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, just south of Harrisburg, is infamous for the partial meltdown that became the worst commercial nuclear accident in U.S. history.

Construction on the plant began in 1968, with both of its nuclear reactors coming online in late 1978. Just a few months later, on March 28, 1979, Unit 2 suffered a cooling system malfunction, which resulted in overheating of the reactor core.

Staff at the plant made additional errors, shutting off the emergency cooling system, which led to a partial meltdown. The core melted through its container and caused a geyser of steam to leave the plant, exposing approximately 2 million people to radiation.

Many Dauphin County residents evacuated and concerns for a full meltdown persisted for several days. The plant suffered no further damage, but Unit 2 was never repaired or reactivated.

TRENDING NOW:

Adding to the tension, a movie called “The China Syndrome” was released just 12 days before the accident. Initially dismissed as far-fetched, the film starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas, depicted a fictional nuclear meltdown outside Los Angeles that contaminates an area “the size of Pennsylvania.”

The accident turned the movie into a blockbuster and started a public debate over the safety of nuclear power. Public fears eroded support and federal regulations and emergency response planning became significantly more complicated, effectively halting the construction of any new nuclear plants for over 30 years afterward.

40 years later, Three Mile Island nuclear accident still haunts some who lived near it

It’s been four decades since the country’s worst nuclear accident in Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania. NBC's Andrea Mitchell, who covered the emergency in 1979, returns to speak with residents and others about the accident and its impact.

Posted by NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt on Thursday, March 28, 2019

The cleanup from the accident took 14 years and is estimated to have cost $1 billion. Unit 2 was entombed in concrete and the waste shipped to a storage facility in Idaho.

Unit 1 was brought back online in 1985 and continued to operate until Sept. 20, 2019.

In March I went back to Three Mile Island for the 40th Anniversary of the nuclear accident I'd covered for NBC in ྋ. Today the surviving TMI Reactor shut down 15 years ahead of schedule, costing 638 jobs, as carbon free nuclear power gets too costly @NBCNightlyNews

&mdash Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) September 20, 2019

Exelon Generation, which owns the plant, estimates that it could take 60 years and $1.2 billion to completely decommission the site.

Despite widespread health concerns for the community around the plant, medical studies have found no direct connection linking cancer to the residents.


Three Mile Island: 30th Anniversary of the Worst Nuclear Accident in US History

Thirty years ago this Saturday, the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania malfunctioned, sparking a meltdown that resulted in the release of radioactivity. It was the worst nuclear accident in US history. The accident at Three Mile Island fueled the nuclear debate in this country that continues to rage to this day. We speak with anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman. [includes rush transcript]

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Transcript

JUAN GONZALEZ : Thirty years ago this Saturday, the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania malfunctioned, sparking a meltdown that resulted in the release of radioactivity. It was the worst nuclear accident in US history.

In the pre-dawn hours of March 28, 1979, the cooling system of Three Mile Island’s Unit Two reactor malfunctioned, causing temperatures inside to skyrocket. Without water to cool them, more than half of the reactor’s 36,000 nuclear fuel rods ruptured.

Lieutenant Governor William Scranton first appeared on local TV and told residents there was no need to evacuate but advised all citizens within ten miles of the plant to stay indoors with their windows closed. Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh then evacuated pregnant women and small children living within five miles of the plant. Some estimate that well over 100,000 people fled Harrisburg and the surrounding areas.

The evening of March 28th, 1979, famed news anchor Walter Cronkite opened his nightly newscast on CBS by calling the disaster, quote, “the first step in a nuclear nightmare.” For the next four days, the nation and the world feared a full-scale meltdown would follow. This is an excerpt of Cronkite’s broadcast on March 30th.

AMY GOODMAN : The accident at Three Mile Island fueled the nuclear debate in this country that continues to rage to this day.

We’re joined now by Democracy Now! video stream by anti-nuclear activist and editor of nukefree.org, Harvey Wasserman.

Harvey, welcome to Democracy Now! On this eve of the thirtieth anniversary of Three Mile Island, what do you think it’s most important for people to understand? There are some people listening right now who weren’t even born in 1979.

HARVEY WASSERMAN : What’s important to understand is that people were killed in this accident. The nuclear industry continues to spread the lie that no one was harmed. In fact, nobody knows how much radiation escaped from Three Mile Island. Nobody knows where it went. And nobody knows what the impact was.

I went into the central Pennsylvania area a year after the accident, and I conducted dozens of interviews with people who were clearly harmed by the radiation from the accident. There were cancers, leukemias, birth defects, stillbirths, hair loss, unexplained lesions, rashes. It was like being in the middle of a post-Hiroshima nightmare.

And the reality is that the nuclear industry continues to deny that anyone was harmed, and all the serious indicators show that, in fact, people were harmed. There’s a 2,400-person &mdash or &mdashfamily, rather -&mdash class-action lawsuit that was filed in the 1980s that’s still pending. The federal court system will not allow the people of central Pennsylvania to have an official hearing on the health impacts of this accident. And yet, the industry, which wants to build new reactors, continues to spread the lie that no one was killed at Three Mile Island. It’s utterly false.

JUAN GONZALEZ : Harvey, I was a young reporter, actually, at the Philadelphia Daily News in 1979 when the accident occurred, and I remember vividly the debates in the newsroom among the reporters as to whether they would want to go and cover it, because they had to travel to Three Mile Island, which was about a couple of hours’ drive away. And the thing that struck me most was the lesson I learned &mdash the greatest lesson I learned is that in major accidents and crises like this, you cannot depend on government officials to tell you the truth, because they kept changing the story, day after day, as to the nature of the release. And as you say, there’s still not a clear sense of what the extent of the release was. What has been the continuing health effects on the communities closest to the accident, as far as you can tell?

HARVEY WASSERMAN : Well, in fact, there’s just been two new studies released in Harrisburg this week. One indicates that as much as a hundred times more radiation escaped than the government and the industry have been willing to admit. And the other is that the statistics clearly show ongoing problems of cancer, leukemia, other radiation-related diseases. The fact of the matter is that the country &mdash this is the best-known, the most infamous industrial accident in US history, and yet the industry and the government refuse to get to the bottom of the situation.

You should count yourself lucky that you didn’t go there. Many journalists who did go to central Pennsylvania suffered significant harm. The radiation releases were very, very significant. And, in fact, Walter Cronkite was wrong. The experts said there was no possibility of an explosion there was a possibility of an explosion, because there was a hydrogen bubble inside the reactor.

So, the accident at Three Mile Island is ongoing. We will never have closure until the people who sued, the central Pennsylvanians, the 2,400 families, get a day in court. The federal courts still say that not enough radiation was released to cause any harm, but they don’t know how much radiation was released. In fact, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has admitted they don’t know how much radiation was released. And they certainly don’t know where it went. And every indication is that the health damage was significant and that people were killed at Three Mile Island.

AMY GOODMAN : Harvey Wasserman, we last had you on on &mdash I’m looking at our website &mdash February 5th, 2009. We had you on to talk about the coalition of environmental groups that were calling on senators to remove a controversial provision from the $900 billion stimulus bill that could lead to the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants. That actually was taken out. What happened?

HARVEY WASSERMAN : We won that three separate times. Three times the industry has come in demanding a $50 billion advance bailout, a blank check from the taxpayers to fund new nuclear plants, and we beat them with the help of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid three times.

But there are still $18.5 billion left over from the Bush administration, and the industry &mdash to do loan guarantees, and the industry is going to come in again and again. After all these years, the nuclear power industry cannot get private financing for to build new nuclear plants. They cannot get private insurance to guarantee against an accident like Three Mile Island. And now that the Yucca Mountain waste dump has essentially been canceled, there &mdash after a half-century, there is no place for the high-level nuclear radioactive waste to go from nuclear power plants. It’s a catastrophe. And yet this industry continues to push itself and to claim a nuclear renaissance.

What they’re now doing is they’ve gone into states like Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas demanding that rate payers pay for new reactors before they’re even built. And, you know, so this is an ongoing struggle. And at the heart of it is what happened at Three Mile Island and the continued denial of this industry of what really happened, which is massive radiation releases and death and other harm to people in the area and, of course, to the local animals.

AMY GOODMAN : Harvey Wasserman, what does President Obama’s support for nuclear power actually mean? And also, you mentioned Georgia. The Georgia Public Service Commission approved earlier this month two additional nuclear reactors for Georgia power, which &mdash is this the first time nuclear power plants will be built in some thirty years?

HARVEY WASSERMAN : Yes. And, well, we think we’re going to stop them. As I said, we’ve stopped the $50 billion.

I want to mention that the reactor containment at Three Mile Island was actually thicker than most others, because citizen action, prior to the construction of the plant, demanded a thicker containment, because the Three Mile Island Unit 2 is right in the flight path of the Harrisburg Airport. Had that not happened, we might well have had an explosion at Three Mile Island. And today, we are continuing to fight these new reactors. I think, ultimately, we can stop them. But it requires full information to the general public. People have to know what really happened at Three Mile Island and have to understand that we have stopped the nuclear industry significantly over the past thirty or forty years of activism.

In 1974, Richard Nixon said there’d be a thousand nuclear plants in the year 2000, and we’ve kept it under 120 &mdash way too many still. There are 104 reactors now operating in the United States, but every one of them could be melting as we do this interview. And there’s absolutely no place in the future for nuclear power. The Obama administration has got to come to its senses and stop this discussion of building new reactors, because it makes no sense.


This Day in History: America’s Worst Nuclear Fears Realized at Three Mile Island Plant

Thirty-eight years ago today — March 28, 1979 — disaster struck at 4 a.m. at the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant in central Pennsylvania after its cooling system failed.

It remains the worst nuclear accident in American history.

A simple plumbing failure prevented the main feedwater pumps from sending water to generators that remove heat from the plant's core reactor.

During those pre-dawn hours, the temperature of the reactor rose steadily even as staffers were unaware that a valve in the emergency cooling system had become stuck in place, allowing cool water to flow through the valve — not reaching the reactor.

Instruments in the control room misled operators, who thought the cooling system was working normally.

As coolant flowed from the primary system through the valve, other instruments available to reactor operators provided inadequate information. There was no instrument that showed how much water covered the core. As a result, plant staff assumed that as long as the pressurizer water level was high, the core was properly covered with water.

As alarms rang and warning lights flashed, the operators did not realize that the plant was experiencing a loss-of-coolant accident — or, rather, the beginnings of a nuclear meltdown. And just after 6:00 am, data indicated the core reactor had overheated so much that radiation was detected inside the control room.

Half the core was later found to have melted.

By the evening of March 28, the core appeared to be adequately cooled and the reactor appeared to be stable.

But new concerns arose by the morning of March 30.

A significant release of radiation from the plant's auxiliary building, performed by operators to relieve pressure on the primary system and avoid curtailing the flow of coolant to the core, sparked public concerns and consternation among politicians.

?In an atmosphere of growing uncertainty and concern, then-Governor Dick Thornburgh, consulted with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about evacuating the population near the plant.

Eventually, he and NRC Chairman Joseph Hendrie agreed that it would be prudent for those members of society most vulnerable to radiation to evacuate the area.

Thornburgh announced that he was advising pregnant women and pre-school-age children within a five-mile (8 km) radius of the plant to leave the area.

The national and international media had given the accident at Three Mile Island front page attention for days. Then-President Jimmy Carter decided a frightened nation needed his presence. On April 1, Carter went to inspect the damaged plant.

In the months following the accident, questions were raised about possible adverse effects from radiation on human, animal and plant life around the nuclear power plant, although none could be directly correlated to the accident.

Thousands of environmental samples of air, water, milk, vegetation, soil and foodstuffs were collected by various government agencies monitoring the area.

In 1997, researchers from Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Science concluded increases in lung cancer and leukemia near the Pennsylvania plant suggested a much greater release of radiation during the 1979 accident than had been believed.

The accident sparked sweeping safety regulations. The damaged reactor, on the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, was never restarted. No new commercial nuclear power plant was licensed by the federal government until 2012.

But an article written by Michael Grunwald published in Time magazine in 2009 summed up Three Mile Island this way:

"The TMI fiasco was a scary cultural moment…But there was nothing particularly tragic about it. It didn't kill people. It didn't kill nuclear power.”


UPI Almanac for Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Today is Tuesday, March 28, the 87th day of 2017 with 278 to follow.

The moon is waxing. Morning stars are Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Venus. Evening stars are Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Mars.

Those born on this date are under the sign of Aries. They include Roman Catholic St. Teresa of Avila in 1515 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aristide Briand in 1862 Russian author Maxim Gorky in 1868 brewer Frederick Pabst in 1836 brewer August Anheuser Busch Jr. in 1899 naturalist Marlin Perkins in 1905 Hollywood agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar in 1907 Edmund Muskie, the 1968 Democratic Party vice presidential candidate, in 1914 actor Dirk Bogarde in 1921 child star Freddie Bartholomew in 1924 Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter administration national security adviser, in 1928 (age 89) actor Conchata Ferrell in 1943 (age 74) basketball Hall of Fame member Rick Barry in 1944 (age 73) actor Ken Howard in 1944 actor Dianne Wiest in 1948 (age 69) country singer/actor Reba McEntire in 1955 (age 62) actor Vince Vaughn in 1970 (age 47) television personality Kate Gosselin in 1975 (age 42) actor Julia Stiles in 1981 (age 36) singer Lady Gaga, born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, in 1986 (age 31).

In 1797, Nathaniel Briggs was awarded a patent for the washing machine.

In 1881, P.T. Barnum and James A. Bailey merged their circuses to form The Greatest Show on Earth.

In 1939, Madrid surrendered to the nationalist forces of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War.

In 1968, the counterculture musical Hair opened on Broadway.

In 1969, Dwight D. Eisenhower, World War II hero and 34th president of the United States, died in Washington at age 78.

In 1979, a failure in the cooling system at the nuclear power plant on Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania caused a near meltdown. It was the worst accident at a U.S. civilian nuclear facility.

In 1991, just days before the 10th anniversary of an attempt on his life, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan endorsed a seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases, reversing his earlier opposition.

In 1993, Russian President Boris Yeltsin survived an impeachment vote by the Congress of People's Deputies.

In 1996, the U.S. Congress approved the presidential line-item veto.

In 2005, an 8.6-magnitude earthquake jolted the western coast of Sumatra, killing at least 1,300 people and destroying hundreds of buildings.

In 2006, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, with ties to several members of Congress, was sentenced to six years in prison after a conviction on fraud charges. He was released from prison in 2010.

In 2009, the space shuttle Discovery landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a 13-day mission to the International Space Station during which the ISS was brought up to full power with the installation of its fourth set of solar wings.

In 2014, seven-term Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced he would not seek re-election at the end of the year.

A thought for the day: "Whatever starts in California unfortunately has an inclination to spread." -- Jimmy Carter


On This Day in History, 28 март

The African American athlete dominated the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, which were held during the reign of Adolf Hitler's racist nazi regime.

1979 Three Mile Island nuclear power plant experiences a partial meltdown and radioactive leak

The coolant leak was the worst commercial nuclear accident in the United States. A continuous string of nuclear disasters, such as Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986), and Fukushima (2011) continue to raise doubts about the security and environmental benefit of nuclear power.

1969 Greek poet Giorgos Seferis speaks out against the military junta

The Nobel Prize laureate issued his now famous statement against Greece's repressive right-wing Regime of the Colonels on the BBC World Service.

1963 Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds is released

The film about a swarm of birds wreaking havoc in Bodega Bay, California has become a classic of the horror movie genre.

1910 The first seaplane in history takes off

French inventor Henri Fabre's Canard (Fabre Hydravion) was the first floatplane to take off from water under its own power. The first flight measured 457 meters.


This Day In History: 03/28/1979 - Three Mile Island - HISTORY

Three Mile Island: The Inside Story

Collecting Ultrasonic Echoes at TMI-2

Figure 7.1. Radiation levels in the TMI-2 reactor building in 1980, when it was first entered after the accident, and in 1983, when the core topography survey was done.

The core topography team arrived at TMI in August 1983. After having choreographed their moves at the mockup in Idaho, they practiced them again on a mockup in the TMI-2 turbine building. August 31 was the first entry into the containment building to set up their equipment. Installation of the apparatus on the work platform took just 45 minutes, after which all personnel left the reactor building.

First a reconnaissance survey was done to establish quickly the shape and dimensions of the cavity and to select optimal operating parameters for the piezoelectric transducers. That first survey provided plenty of cause for worry about the success of the project: the six 10-MHz transducers produced no useful data because the sound waves they emitted proved to be very strongly absorbed by the water in the reactor vessel, loaded as it was with dissolved and suspended matter. And two of the other six transducers, operating at 2.25 MHz, also produced no useful data. Mysteriously, those two transducers were found to be working the next day at the start of the second survey, which provided the principal data for subsequent reductions and displays.

Figure 7.2. Typical on-the-spot sonar-like range-bearing plot of the data from the horizontal transducer.

Surveys were done from the bottom up. The 44-foot (13 m) probe-tipped boom was allowed to descend slowly under its own weight to within about six inches (15 cm) of the floor of the cavity—as determined by the downward-looking transducer. The boom was then stepping-motor-driven upward in 1-inch (2.5 cm) steps. This ensured a more controlled vertical motion in case there were any binding in the control-rod guide tube, whose inside diameter was only 1/8 inch (3 mm) greater than the diameter of the probe. After rising an inch, the probe was rotated through a bit more than 360° in 0.9° steps. At each vertical step a plot was printed of the range-bearing data acquired with the horizontal-pointing transducer, this being the one transducer for which range-bearing data were self-interpreting. A complete survey, with over 50 vertical steps, took somewhat less than four hours.

Figure 7.3. A similar plot of horizontal transducer data with the outline of the core former (sides), to the same scale, superimposed.

Only two surveys were conducted. On a third day the reactor building was reentered to remove the apparatus. “Management policy throughout the cleanup was that research work could not significantly interfere with cleanup work” (ref. 12, ch.5, p.1). And that, despite the fact that much of what the Department of Energy paid for as “research” was the acquiring of data that proved essential for the planning and execution of the cleanup work.

The sonar survey established that the cavity in the reactor’s core was substantially larger than had previously been supposed. This was ascertained immediately with the first preliminary survey. It was presented in dramatic visual form to TMI personnel in the following way: the range-bearing plots of the data from the horizontal transducer were photocopied onto mylar sheets (overhead projector transparencies). These were then stacked, successive plots separated by disks of Lucite, and the whole illuminated from below. (The disks had been prepared in advance for this purpose.) The effect achieved with this improvised 3-D representation of the core void was suggested in the Museum exhibit with a similar construction making use of the original Mylar transparencies.

Figure 7.4. The August 31, 1983, improvised 3-D representation of the core void as reproduced in the spring 2004 Museum of American History exhibit.


Standing out very clearly in the range-bearing plots are 3-foot (0.9 m) lengths of the axial power shaping rods (APSR) hanging down into the cavity. These are the portions of the APSR that were above the core at the time of the accident, and that in the tests of their operability in June, 1982, were driven down into the void. They are all that remained of the APSR after the accident: the 9 feet (2.7 m) that were within the core at the time were melted away.

Among the detailed features revealed by the core topography survey—and to whose revelation particular attention had been given in the design of the survey instruments—was what remained adhering to the upper grid structure, hanging down from it into the cavity.

Figure 7.5. The walls of the cavity are not smooth and continuous as they appear in maps and model, but are formed largely of broken, hanging fuel rods.

Such adhering core debris would encumber and complicate the removal of the upper grid, the first step in getting access to the mess in the core. With this in mind, the INEEL team had incorporated upward-looking transducers into the sonar probe. And in working up the data, they again gave particular attention to the presentation of the upward-looking data in visualizable form.


Watch the video: Acidente: Three Mile Island 1979 (January 2022).