Is Three Mile Island still radioactive and working today?

Collapse: Three Mile Island is the new documentary series on Netflix about the worst commercial nuclear accident on US soil. Known as the Three Mile Island Incident, a partial collapse of the Unit 2 reactor (TMI-2) occurred on March 28, 1979 at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Station in Pennsylvania.

The accident was caused by a series of mechanical failures, aggravated by the failure of plant operators to recognize the gravity of the situation, a refrigerant leakage accident (LOCA), resulting in the release of radioactivity.

Collapse: Three Mile Island takes an in-depth look at the events, controversies and long-lasting effects of the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania. Is Three Mile Island still radioactive and working today?

News week has everything you need to know.

“Meltdown: Three Mile Island” is now streaming on Netflix. Three Mile Island’s plan and people protesting its reopening are shown above.

Is Three Mile Island still radioactive?

Yes, technically Three Mile Island is still radioactive today, but its radiation levels are not believed to be dangerous to humans or nature, according to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Although, as seen in Collapse: Three Mile Islandthis has been disputed by local civilians and former employees who worked at the plant who speak of the adverse health effects caused by the accident to date.

Fortunately, there were no deaths or injuries at the time of the accident.

Aaron Datesman, a former Energy Department scientist and NASA engineer, said News week to the question of whether Three Mile Island is still radioactive from the 1979 incident today, “mostly no, but also a little yes”.

That it is radioactive in general today, Datesman said, “Very so. TMI-1 ran until 2019 (it was Unit 2 that melted), so there is a huge inventory of radioactive material contained in a pool of fuel. out of stock on that site. “

He explained: “As for the spent fuel supply, the fuel in a nuclear reactor is not like gasoline in a car, it is not used until the tank is empty. Fuel rods are used to generate electricity. for a period of months and then replaced.

“Spent fuel rods, however, are intensely radioactive – a human standing near an unshielded hot fuel rod would receive a lethal dose of radiation within minutes,” continued Datesman. “Spent fuel rods need to be stored in a pool of water for a long time as the radioactivity decays slowly over a period of years to decades.”

Datesman confirmed that spent fuel from TMI-1 is “stored in a spent fuel pool” on Three Mile Island today.

Mitchell Rogovin of the NRC’s Special Inquiry Group in his January 1980 report “Three Mile Island: A Report to Commissioners and the Public. Volume I” explained during the incident that 2.5 million curies of radioactive noble gases were released and 15 radioiodine curias.

netflix of the three mile island
Shown above is a reenactment of the Three Mile Island control room at the time of the incident in Netflix’s “Meltdown: Three Mile Island”. The plant will be officially decommissioned in 2079, according to the NRC.

Rogovin said that the release of noble gases and radioiodine resulted in an average dose of 1.4 million rem in two people living in the site area, which is less than 1% of the annual “background radiation” dose. natural and medical practice “.

As seen in Collapse: Three Mile Island on Netflix, the parent company of the Metropolitan Edison facility, like the USSR in Chernobyl nine years later, initially attempted to downplay the severity of the accident. Metropolitan Edison also said that no radiation had been detected and released from the site, but that was not the whole truth.

Despite its radioactive nature, the NRC said in 2018 after numerous investigations alongside the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services), the Department of Energy , the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and several other independent studies that “in the months following the accident, although questions have been raised about the possible adverse effects of radiation on human, animal and plant life in the IMT area, none could be directly related to the accident”.

The report continues: “Thousands of environmental samples of air, water, milk, vegetation, soil and food have been collected by various government agencies monitoring the area. Very low levels of radionuclides could be attributed to the releases of the accident. and in-depth evaluations by several respected organizations, such as Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh, concluded that despite severe damage to the reactor, the actual release had negligible effects on people’s physical health or the environment. “

In 2009, TMI-1 on Three Mile Island suffered a small radioactive leak as workers were cutting pipes. At the time, 20 employees were treated for mild radiation exposure, but no radiation was believed to have escaped and therefore did not put the public at risk, CNN reported.

At the time, TMI-1 owner Exelon Corporation said in a statement: “A monitor at the temporary opening cut into the containment building wall to allow for the movement of the new steam generators inside showed a slight increase in a reading and then returned to normal ».

Is Three Mile Island still operational today?

No, Three Mile Island is not yet operational today.

The TMI-2 reactor was shut down permanently after the accident, with the reactor’s cooling system drained, the radioactive water decontaminated and evaporated, and the radioactive waste removed to an “appropriate disposal area,” according to the NRC. All remaining fuel and debris from the reactor was shipped to the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory. Today, 99 percent of TMI-2’s fuel has been removed.

The official cleanup of Three Mile Island ended in December 1993, 14 years after the accident, at a cost of $ 1 billion.

TMI-1, which was not involved in the 1979 incident, remained operational until 20 September 2019. Although TMI-1’s license was temporarily suspended following the incident, it resumed operations in 1985.

The reopening of TMI-1 has been controversial as citizens of the three surrounding counties voted overwhelmingly to cease operation of TMI-1 in 1982. However, they were canceled in 1985 following a 4-1 vote by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, The Washington Post reported at the time.

Although the NRC granted a license extension in 2009 to allow TMI-1 to continue operating until 2034, Exelon announced that Three Mile Island would close in 2019 due to the growth of low-cost natural gas and renewable energies.

Today, the Three Mile Island decommissioning process is still ongoing and, according to the NRC, will be finished in 2079. Currently, the spent fuel is being moved to a dry storage, which is expected to be completed by summer 2022.

Collapse: Three Mile Island is now streaming on Netflix now.

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