Extraordinary Stories

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

The "New Studies Suggest TMI May Be To Blame!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading a few stories in the local newspaper as well as online about nearby Three Mile Island (TMI) closing in a couple of years.  Seems they haven't been able to sell the power they make due to the lower cost of natural gas in Pennsylvania.  Exelon Corporation has threatened to close TMI and idle 675 workers if the state of Pennsylvania doesn't come up with some support for the losses.  $800 million has been lost over the last five years and Exelon says it has to stop the bleeding or close the 43-year-old facility at the ed of September 2019.  Out of those 675 workers, slightly over 200 live in Lancaster County while the rest live in neighboring Dauphin County.  You may remember a few years ago I wrote a story telling about our oldest son, Derek, having a birthday party scheduled for his 8th birthday in 1979 when all of a sudden a few days before the party was to be held, TMI's #2 reactor suffered a nuclear meltdown.  
Three Mile Island in the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, PA.
It was the worst accident in USA commercial nuclear power plant history and resulted in the release of small amounts of radioactive gases and radioactive iodine into the environment.  Being that we live within a 20-mile radius of the power plant and there being an alert for that 20-mile radius area telling residents to stay inside and to keep animals under cover, we weren't sure if we should have the birthday party a few days after the meltdown took place.  One of Derek's friends who we had invited to the party had a father that was a doctor who was a radiologist at the local Lancaster General Hospital.  We called the hospital and asked him if we should cancel the party since it would be tough to keep all those rumbustious kids indoors during the party.  He said they have a meter on the roof of the hospital that reads the amount of radioactive gases that were released into the air and it was reading normal amounts.  He saw no reason at all why the children couldn't be outside for a short time. So, based on his judgement and the readings of the equipment at the hospital, we held the party and after a time in the basement with more than half a dozen boys we had them go outside to play in the back yard for the remaining half hour of the party.  We wondered for years if we had made the right move, but we were told it was safe to do so.  
Pennsylvania road marker telling of the nuclear accident
at Three Mile Island in Dauphin County.
That was 38 years ago and for years reports and studies have reported no increase in thyroid cancer which would be the most likely cancer one would get from the radioactive gases and iodine that was released in 1979.  Now we find that researchers tell us there may be a possible link between TMI and a rise in cancer in the area.  They say all those other studies didn't wait long enough for the latency period of cancers to kick in.  They tell us now that data supports the possibility that radiation released by TMI altered the molecular profile of thyroid cancers in the population surrounding the plant.  Researchers tell us they don't want to alarm anyone, but that the accident may have caused biological changes in nearby residents due to the exposure they received.  They had recently examined 44 patients, mostly women, who were treated at nearby Milton S.  Hershey Medical Center for thyroid cancer.  These patients lived in at-risk regions, including Lancaster County, in 1979 and had developed thyroid cancer.  Similar studies done after the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986 found similar results to what was found in the TMI study.  I wonder how long it will be before they finally decide that TMI was responsible for the many thyroid cancers that have developed in the recent past.  I guess time will tell.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

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