Facts, Safety, and Three Mile Island

Conn Carroll /

Despite 104 nuclear reactors safely providing 20 percent of America’s electricity, many Americans continue to fear nuclear power. Much of this anxiety results from myths surrounding the 1979 incident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station. To help educate policy makers about the realities of nuclear power, The Heritage Foundation and Third Way joined forces to tackle the Three Mile Island myth head-on by sponsoring a tour by a bipartisan group of Senate staffers of Three Mile Island.

The visit consisted of a comprehensive briefing and a plant tour. The briefing covered issues ranging from how reactors work to the advantages of nuclear energy. But the highlight was a firsthand account by an operator who was at the controls the day of the Three Mile Island accident.

There are a few things to remember about Three Mile Island. First, is that no one was killed or injured as a result of the incident.

Second is that it was not a nuclear incident, per se. In other words, the core did not melt down and there was no uncontrolled nuclear reaction. The system worked as designed and completely stopped the nuclear reaction within 8 seconds of the initial event that led to the incident.

It all started with a coolant pump failure. (more…)