Raise your hand if you remember Three Mile Island. Residents of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania excluded. Extra points if you can name the movie that was release just two weeks prior to that little snafu. Special bonus if you can name any of the artists that performed at the anti-nuke concert just a few months later. Back in 1979, it was the next big threat. We weren't worried about terrorists as much as the nuclear power plant up the road melting down.
So imagine my surprise when I open up the news and find that radioactive dust emanated from reactor cooling system pipes. This accident is still waiting to happen? Didn't they have to shut the whole thing down thirty years ago when things went so terribly wrong? In a word, no. In a few more: The central Pennsylvania plant has two reactors. One suffered a partial meltdown in 1979 and is mothballed. The other is still in use, but has been shut down since last month so steam generators could be replaced.
The radioactive dust was stirred up from a steam pipe that was cut by workers at the plant. Plant spokesman Ralph DeSantis said Monday that the public was not endangered Saturday. Unless you count those dozen workers were exposed to radiation as "the public." And while we're at it, just what does it mean to "mothball" a nuclear reactor? We turned it off and nobody every goes over there, except to get snacks out of the vending machine. It's the one that still has Clark bars in it.
But really, I would be so very happy if there was such a thing as safe nuclear energy, but history doesn't necessarily point in that direction. I liken it to the line that I tend to draw when it comes to home improvement projects. I am willing to do most plumbing tasks, and if I mess it up, I might end up getting wet. I shy away from electrical challenges, since making a mistake there I could end up getting dead. And that's the way I feel about nuclear "accidents." Accidents are generally in the "whoops" category. Chain reactions and Strontium-90 exceed the casual whoops. These incidents tend to fall into the "disaster" file. Unless you happen to work for Mister Burns in Springfield.