Nuclear Power's Public Opinion Rollercoaster from Three Mile Island to Fukushima
- Kit R. Roane
In March of 1979, the news of an accident at the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania sent reporters rushing to the scene, while some 140,000 residents eventually fled from surrounding towns in fear and confusion.
The worst-case scenario was already familiar to Americans, thanks to Hollywood. It had recently released “The China Syndrome,” a thriller about an accident at a nuclear plant, and the film was playing in theaters across the country. Many viewers found it easy to conflate the disaster unfolding on the big screen with the real one taking place in Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Fortunately, the thing most feared – a complete meltdown of the reactor core and a massive release of radiation – never happened in the movie or at Three Mile Island.
But there were consequences. The accident was the worst at a commercial nuclear plant in U.S. history. It showed how quickly America’s nuclear dream could turn into nightmare. That lesson stuck. Scores of reactors were cancelled, and the nuclear industry in America fell into something like cold storage.
The dream, however, never really died. You might be surprised who’s taken up that cause today. The question is whether America is ready to embrace a nuclear future?
More Like This
Future of Food
A small South Dakota farm holds lessons for feeding a crowded and less predictable world.
What Is a Healthy Diet? The Answers Are Unsatisfying
Thirty-five years after the first dietary guidelines, how much do we really know about the science behind a healthy diet?
Selling the Code: Can Genetic Testing Services Really Predict Your Future?
Today, companies market genetic tests for everything from cancer to diet and exercise. But how much can tests like 23andme really predict?
Blackout: Understanding the US Power Grid's Vulnerability from the 2004 Failure
In 2003, a blackout crippled areas of the U.S. and Canada, leaving some 50 million people in the dark. Years later, we are still grappling with concerns over the vulnerability of our power grid.