A History of the Events from "Three Mile Island" P

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A History of the Events from "Three Mile Island" Power Plant

On March 28, 1979, there was a nuclear accident at the Three Mile Island power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Below is a summary of what happened:

The reactor's fuel core became uncovered and more than one-third of the fuel melted.

Inadequate instrumentation and training programs at the time hampered operator's ability to respond to the accident.

The accident was accompanied by communications problems that led to conflicting information available to the public, contributing to the public's fears.

Radiation was released from the plant. The releases were not serious and were not health hazards. This was confirmed by thousands of environmental and other samples and measurements taken during the accident.

The containment building worked as designed. Despite melting of about one-third of the fuel core, the reactor vessel itself maintained its integrity and contained the damaged fuel.


The impacts of the Three Mile Island accident lean more towards the negative side, but there are a few positive ones. Scientists and doctors have claimed there have been no major radiological health effects in the short or long term. The only real effect was psychological stress during and shortly after the accident. Since the accident, there has been increased safety and reliability at plants. Training has gone well beyond button-pushing. Communications and teamwork, emphasizing effective interaction among crew members, are now part of Three Mile Island's training curriculum. Applying the accident's lessons produced important, continuing improvement in the performance of all nuclear power plants.

The accident fostered better understanding of fuel melting, including improbability of a "China Syndrome" meltdown breaching the reactor vessel or the containment building. Public confidence in nuclear energy, particularly in USA, declined sharply following the Three Mile Island accident. It was a major cause of the decline in nuclear construction through the 1980s and 1990s. Nuclear power is a better source of energy and this accident along with others have scared people away from using it even though it is much more efficient and inexpensive in the long run.

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