Sunday, March 27, 2011

More Japan Vigils Planned for Three Mile Island Anniversary on March 28

In the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history, a cooling system on the Unit Two reactor failed on March 28, 1979 at Three Mile Island (TMI) in Middletown, Pennsylvania. More than half of the reactor’s 36,000 nuclear fuel rods ruptured. This resulted in a partial meltdown that uncovered the reactor's core. Radioactive steam leaked into the atmosphere, prompting fears for the safety of the plant's 500 workers and the surrounding community.

Middletown residents were told there was no need to evacuate but instead advised that if they lived within ten miles of the plant, to stay indoors, with their windows closed. Later, Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh evacuated pregnant women and small children living within five miles of the plant. Some estimate over 100,000 people fled Harrisburg and the surrounding areas.

Until the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, the TMI partial meltdown was the second worst nuclear accident in the world, after Chernobyl. Its legacy was a re-examination of U.S. nuclear policy; the major reason no new nuclear reactors have been built in the U.S. since the accident.

Greenpeace, is organizing "Have Courage Japan" vigils across the U.S. in a show of solidarity, as people in Japan and around the world watch radioactive fallout made visible in smoke and steam while workers continue their struggle to cool the damaged reactors and spent fuel rods (nuclear waste) pools.

Several hundred people attended a Greenpeace vigil in Hong Kong last weekend where residents expressed their concerns over a proposed nuclear expansion in the region. (Beijing suspended approvals for proposed plants and is reconsidering long-term plans for 28 new reactors, 40 percent of all those being built worldwide.)

Greenpeace USA opposes nuclear industry funding the Obama administration placed in next year's federal budget. The White House has proposed that $36 billion tax dollars go towards financing the building of new nuclear reactors, even though most Americans don't approve of this corporate welfare.

In 2009, Democracy Now! interviewed Harvey Wasserman, editor of, on the 30th anniversary of the TMI partial meltdown: covering the pattern of misinformation and lack of transparency, inadequate radiation readings and lack of subsequent research, still-ongoing class-action lawsuit, the long-term aftermath for people near TMI, and the anti-nuclear movement's successes.

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