Thursday, September 03, 2009

Health Physicist Talks of Three Mile Island Coverup


As reported in a detailed investigative piece by Sue Sturgis in Facing South, Randall Thompson, the health physicist hired to monitor radiation emissions in the aftermath of the near meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in March of 1979, spoke of radiation releases hundreds to thousands of times higher than official reports.

The number of discrepancies between the government and Kemeny Commission findings are numerous and extremely disturbing, based on the first-person experiences of Randall Thompson and his wife, Joy, who was hired to monitor the radiation doses received by TMI workers.

They [the Thompsons] also offer evidence of atmospheric releases of dangerously long-lived radioactive particles such as cesium and strontium -- releases denied by the Kemeny Commission but indicated in the Thompsons' own post-disaster monitoring and detailed in the report -- and show that there were pathways for the radiation to escape into the environment. They demonstrate that the plant's radiation filtration system was totally inadequate to handle the large amounts of radiation released from the melted fuel and suggest that the commission may have arbitrarily set release estimates at levels low enough to make the filtration appear adequate.

Shockingly, they also report that when readings from the dosimeters used to monitor radiation doses to workers and the public were logged, doses of beta radiation -- one of three basic types along with alpha and gamma -- were simply not recorded, which Joy Thompson knew since she did the recording. But Thompson's monitoring equipment also indicated that beta radiation represented about 90 percent of the radiation to which TMI's neighbors were exposed in April 1979, which means an enormous part of the disaster's public health risk may have been wiped from the record.

Finally, in a separate analysis the Thompsons point to discrepancies in government and industry accounts of the disaster that suggest the TMI Unit 2 suffered a scram failure -- that is, a breakdown of the emergency shutoff system. That would mean the nuclear reaction spiraled out of control and therefore posed a much greater danger than the official story allows.

The Thompsons aren't the only ones who have produced evidence that the radiation releases from TMI were much higher than the official estimates. Arnie Gundersen -- a nuclear engineer and former nuclear industry executive turned whistle-blower -- has done his own analysis, which he shared for the first time at a symposium in Harrisburg last week.

"I think the numbers on the NRC's website are off by a factor of 100 to 1,000," he said.

The story also describes the threats received by the Thompsons as they attempted to make this information public, which eventually caused them to move to New Mexico in fear for their lives. The truth of the Three Mile Island incident threatens a multi-billion dollar industry trying to revive itself and those indifferent to public safety seem willing to go to any lengths to hide the truth.