Three Mile Island Retrospective

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project | September 16, 2014, 6:00 am EDT
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Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit #38

The March 1979 partial meltdown of the core in the Unit 2 reactor at the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was the worst—so far—nuclear plant accident in United States history.

 Source: Gabriela Epstein

Source: Gabriela Epstein

This year marks the 35th anniversary of that accident. Gabriela Epstein, a junior at the Rhode Island School of Design, undertook a project to revisit the accident. Gabriela interviewed individuals directly involved in that moment in time, including a worker who was on duty at the plant, a reporter covering the event, and local residents affected by it.

Gabriela posted her interviews and related materials online.

Bottom Line

I have read many books and reports about the TMI accident. I have watched hours of videotape taken during recovery efforts. I have written short commentaries about the accident and been on panels discussing lessons learnable from it. Despite that foundation, I found Gabriela’s project very interesting.

Two aspects of Gabriela’s project that I like best are her artistic talent and the way she presented interviews. She combined these aspects to create stories. For example, Gabriela interviewed RB Swift, a reporter who covered the accident. His story is his verbatim words accompanied by Gabriela’s art.

Rather than summarizing Swift’s interview and tossing in a direct quote or two, Gabriela allowed Swift to narrate his own story. By doing so, Gabriela prevented any bias on her part from affecting the stories. Her approach provided unfiltered channels for the voices of those directly involved and affected by the accident.

Gabriela’s artwork illustrates the stories. Her graphics do an extremely fine job of complementing the narration. The words and visuals fit together well, reinforcing each other in an effective manner.

Like the old potato chip commercial about no one being able to eat only one, check out one of the stories in Gabriela’s TMI project. Chances are pretty good that you’ll want to check them all out. Chances are also pretty good that you’ll consider it time well spent.


The UCS Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkit (NEAT) is a series of post intended to help citizens understand nuclear technology and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s processes for overseeing nuclear plant safety.

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  • Joyce Agresta

    The work is interesting on many levels. It could be more complete with an interview of Ted Kaczynski. Sheltor in place.

  • Atoms4Peace1

    Lochbaum is antinuclear as the Pope is Catholic. UCS is a biased and captured agency to the likes of Greenpeace, Fairewinds, and the Sierra Club.

  • MamaBears AgainstNukes

    Santa Susanna meltdown 1959 was worse; also Savannah River meltdowns 1970-71, little info on source term