J. Samuel Walker's book Three Mile Island: a Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective, which was published in 2004, recounted the events that took place twenty-five years earlier in the nuclear facility in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The author is the official historian of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)1, which can only mean that he has the most number of accurate information that can lay the bases for objective analysis and conclusions of what took place in the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in March 28 to April 1, 1979…
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The potential severity of the accident's consequences became all the more obvious as agencies from the local to the federal levels went to an emergency mode. This was also the first ever incident of such kind in the country, making it even more complex for the government to solve quickly. As a result, this also exposed the latent weaknesses of the nuclear power program being pursued by the Carter administration and its predecessors.
The book started with a narration of the plot of the movie China Syndrome. Released barely two weeks before the Three Mile Island accident, the movie depicted the possible panic that can occur should an incident inside a nuclear power plant lead into a bigger disaster, one that would release hazardous nuclear radiation into the open. The movie did become a hit for its cinematic effects but it also exposed the possible flaws of the system. Critics of the nuclear power program praised it for bringing into public the issue while advocates commented negatively, pointing out that such even is almost impossible. While the movie's plot only reflected the raging controversy over nuclear power at that time, the drama that actually happened in Three Mile Island fueled the debates even further.
The entire Chapter 1 presented in an almost textbook manner the nuclear power program of the US government in the late 60's until the 70's. It also discussed the two sides in the intense debate between pro-nuclear power and those against it. While the technical information can be baffling for those who do not have enough background in nuclear science, the points raised regarding the social, political, and environmental implications of the nuclear program is easy to understand. If not for the entry of prominent physicists in the side of the opposition, the impression would have been that the views against nuclear power are fueled more by unfounded fears.
In Chapters 2 and 3, Walker explained the regulations implemented in nuclear power and protective measures set in place by the government agencies and private entities involved. It is obvious that this is an effort to discuss the US government's thrust for nuclear energy objectively. However, in Chapter 4, the author began to articulate the more concrete basis that can bolster the claims of those against the proliferation of nuclear power plants in the country. Inadvertently or not, Walker also began exposing his own stand on the issue. Despite being the NRC's historian, he even portrayed how the commission allowed inadequate training for power plant operators in event of an emergency when he said, "Operator training was not a high priority for the NRC or the nuclear industry, and the deficiencies in existing programs exacted a heavy price during the TMI-2 accident."3
Although the book consists of 10 chapters, it is the first six chapters that consist the main portion. It is here that the series of events are narrated with the focus on the human drama that took place along with it. It is also here that the roles played by the NRC, the Pennsylvania state government, the
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(“Samuel Walkers Three Mile Island Book Report/Review”, n.d.)
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(Samuel Walkers Three Mile Island Book Report/Review)
“Samuel Walkers Three Mile Island Book Report/Review”, n.d. https://studentshare.org/miscellaneous/1505130-samuel-walkers-three-mile-island.
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