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tv   Three Mile Island Accident Reconsidered  CSPAN  April 25, 2019 10:09pm-10:48pm EDT

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coverage of our nation's history. enjoy american history tv, now in every weekend on cspan-3. >> sunday and q&a. the new york times columnist david brooks on his book the second mountain that quest for moral life . >> i've met some of the most amazing people not motivated by money or status or celebrity, they're motivated by a desire to live in a relationship with each other and do good. life is hard for them and they've taken heavy burdens and they don't have a lot of money but they lead very inspiring lives . >> david brooks sunday night at eight eastern on c-span's q&a. next, nuclear power engineer chronicles how the 3 mile island nuclear power plant meltdown unfolded on march 28. he argues the harrisburg area
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should've been evacuated and more radiation was released and officials acknowledged that the nuclear industry in the u.s. new leader tory commission downplayed the seriousness of the event. this is just over a half an hour. thank you everyone for being here. i am honored to help coordinate the 40th anniversary of the 3 mile island conference with dr. holly angeli. i helped coordinate the 35th anniversary my first year teaching at penn state harrisburg. i was doing my phd at the university of british columbia in canada and i was readying cosmopolitanism that has a lot of syllables in it, i was reading a book by ulrich beck, a will that risk and he was talking about events that transcend national boundaries, they become be on the nation
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and cosmopolitan. one of the things he referenced in examples of this were nuclear power plant explosions. i was reading his book and i was writing on cosmopolitanism in at this time, the fukushima nuclear disaster happened and that really altered the focus of how i was going to talk about cosmopolitanism in my research and i did work on publications dealing with fukushima and it later helping with the 35th anniversary conference here with 3 mile island. it was just an uncanny coincidence that i find myself working on a campus location close to 3 mile island having studied fukushima. thank you for being here, i want to, at this point introduce our keynote speaker, arnie gunderson . >> arnie gunderson is the chief engineer and member of the board of director there's for the nonprofit fairwinds energy education, founded by his wife
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maggie. and energy advisor with more than 47 years of nuclear engineering experience, mr. gunderson earned his bachelor of science degree in nuclear engineering from a polytech institute and a masters degree in new engineering from rit as well. by anatomic energy commission fellowship. he began his career as a reactor operator and instruct her in 1971 and progressed to the position of senior vice president for nuclear licensee prior to becoming a nuclear engineering expert witness. he was an expert witness for the plaintiffs during the tmi a trial. he has co-authored a book on the fukushima nuclear disaster and has written a peer review paper about hot particles released during the disaster. he has lectured at universities on three continents, please
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welcome our keynote speaker, arnie gunderson. [ applause ] >> thank you i am trying to blow this up to full screen. >> full-screen? >> you can tell i'm an apple guy.
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>> okay. thank you. thanks . >> thank you very much. i'm arnie gunderson and for those of you that are taking note. i'm on the board of a nonprofit that my wife founded called fairwinds and that has an e in the middle of it as well. so, fairwinds is the name of my wife's grandparents blueberry farm and has nothing to do with wind power. but i have to give her a shout out because she started this nonprofit and is the creative and strategic foes against. when i was on cnn as an expert of fukushima, the nonprofits web profits it is really hers. so thank you for having us and thank you for the introduction. the topic today is tmi, a legacy of lies. i really struggled with the
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title. i will explain that in just a minute. a little bit about me, this is me when i was young and handsome. in 1972, i had the degree and it was the most demanding major in the country at the time and those of us in the nuclear department at rpi, had the highest starting salary cost $12,000 per year. that was back in 1972. and, by 1979, i was working just up 81 over the border in new york state for new york state electric and gas. i was part of the speakers club this is their brochure and i was on television as the disaster transpired in i actually said that the titanic hit the iceberg and the iceberg sunk. i was absolutely convinced of
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the safety of nuclear power and remained an advocate during chernobyl which was in 86 and until 1990. i became a nuclear whistleblower and that fundamentally changed my world outlook. there's not enough time to get into the details but 1993 i was asked to be one of the plaintiffs expert witnesses in the trial and even then i told them i said nobody died what you worried about? so i came in about 10 hours looking at the data and it fundamentally changed my worldview of the seriousness of what happened here at tmi.
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before i get into that though there are two things i want to talk about about framing the discussion. i've heard a couple people, i've been here for five days, the tmi accident, i don't use that word. this was a disaster catastrophe, meltdown but it was not an accident. there was a near miss at another plantlike this one in toledo about nine months earlier , this was foreseeable. but when i work i bought the last nuke ever bought in the first new the renaissance and we looked at the four manufacturers and we determined that this design was too fragile . we threw them out of the
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consideration because it was basically a thoroughbred and we were looking for clydesdale and a year later it turned out that we were right. this is a design that is subject to being upset much more easily than any other nuke in the united states. there's only six remaining in the world of the babcock and wilcox design. the other framing issue is meltdown for since i've been here i've heard partial meltdown, partially pregnant, but the nuclear field is about the size of my pinky and it's placed in a rod in those rods shattered inside the tmi reactor . this is a picture of the shattered rod. they fell to the bottom and were unable to be cooled so they laid in formed a molten mass but not every pellet fell into the bottom of the reactor so i guess that's why people call it a partial meltdown but
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the molten mass was unable to be cooled by the water put in because there were no spaces like in the picture. so as far as i'm concerned it's a meltdown and a catastrophe but not an accident. so five years ago, governor thornburg and i were the keynotes and this is governor thornburg when he was younger and he and i had a private conversation afterward and i went up to him and i said, you know governor. you were lied to on march 28 1979. he paused for 10 seconds and smiled and said, yes i was lied to, so then i asked the next question, knowing what you know now, would you have had an evacuation and quick his whip he said no, that's the kind of guy i am. so, i went and i talked to
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peter bradford and peter is a friend and this is him when he was young and handsome and i guess at one point in our lives we all were. peter i talked to him about the concept and peter said two things. he said that thornburg would have ordered an evacuation if the nuclear regulatory commission had told him to. but, the nuclear regulatory commission wasn't given the right information either. so then i asked him, do you think that medicaid covered it up and met ed was actually it was before met ed, it was gpu. do you think the owner of tmi covered it up? and his comment was that he didn't think they were smart enough to have a separate conspiracy in real time. but, the next thing is a critical point for the rest of my
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discussion. i'm less certain as to whether individuals deliberately underestimated at least the uncertainties if not the specifics,. he made a pretty convincing case against a couple of individuals so, who the heck is henry myers. dr. henry myers was the science advisor to mou doll in 1980. and he wrote an incredible hundred page report about the cover-up at 3 mile island. the report is on the fairwinds website, so i have great difficulty finding it, it seems to have disappeared but the cover letter doesn't just blame 3 mile island but it also blames the nrc. and henry makes an incredible case for repeated opportunities
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to tell the truth that did not happen. >> my expert report representing the plaintiffs is also on the fairwinds site. to give you an idea how old this is, this is printed on a dot matrix printer and you can see the letters are not as crisp as they are today. well, three things i would like to discuss, should an evacuation have been ordered? that's number one and i'll get into that first, how much radiation was released and the third point is, was there an explosion? so, the first thing is that i believe, and i believe i said so and i've said so ever since, there was ample evidence at 7 am on the first day for tmi to have ordered an evacuation. there was an emergency procedure
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.. they form the state at 7:30 pm and the gate log said the helicopter landed on site at 8:30 am. by 10 am there was additional hard evidence that had come in, 2100 degrees, nor klee nuclear reactors run at 500 degrees so that really meant that whenever meltdown was in progress and that hydrogen was being generated which later exploded and i will get to that in a little bit. they knew the temperature instead of being 500 was 2100 crystal clear. they knew that the temperature was 700 degrees water can't get
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to 700 degrees, it had to be radioactive gases. you know when you're making a cake and you pull a mixed message out in his beads up because the amperage required to turn it when the blades were loaded was much less when you pull it out? the same thing happened to the reactor coolant pumps. the amps to the pumps change dramatic repair were pumping air not water. the detectors were reading high levels, another indication that there was no water getting to the core. inside the reactor building the dome was at lethal radioactive levels. water sample levels of the water indicated fuel failures and how physics had to evacuate , the auxiliary building was so exhilarating and we knew all of that by 10 p.m.
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by seven things were confusing and by 10 am there was ample evidence to order an evacuation. well, a little after 12 pm the nuclear regulatory commission called and asked what is the core temperature. they knew it was 2100 but they said, or they didn't respond immediately when they contact the nrc back, they said the computer is printing?'s and that means the computer is messed up. well, when the computer prints?'s, it meant the reactor temperature was over 700 degrees. it did not mean that the computer was messed up. they had ample evidence to properly tell the nrc that we are at 2000 degrees and we should evacuate. none of this was known for the nrc or to the nrc until harold benton showed up three days later. so, between one and 2 pm in the
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afternoon there was a hydrogen explosion and it was so powerful that the control room shook. the pressure indicator in the control room showed not just high pressure but temperatures spiked and the plant manager, guy name miller was in the room when it happened. and they discussed that he was aware of the explosion. immediately after he drove off to tell the governor everything was under control. a couple of quotes from miller, both in phone calls and in congressional testimonies and things like that. referring to the temperature, they were hot enough to be scared. pretty early, we were scared but we didn't know where the the plan was going and we were not in our minds convinced that the war was totally covered.
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none of that made it to governor thornburg. if the nrc had known that they would've told governor thornburg to evacuate. that did not happen for two days. >> during the trial, this is a little bit of inside baseball, i was a little bit of an expert and i made the same argument that i'm making to you and he said to me. do you mean that in the midst of all of this confusion you expected us to tell the governor? i think he had the right question, yes, his client was confused. you don't tell the governor that everything is under control and know in your heart of hearts that you're confused, if you're confused it's time to evacuate the area but that didn't happen until the nrc finally became aware of the seriousness of it two days later. so, how much radiation escaped
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the second point. no one knows. every single radiation detector inside the plant was designed to measure low levels of radiation and the radiation levels were so high that every single radiation detector burned out. so, at the source, at the plant no one was measuring got out of the plant. all of the analysis by all the experts is based on what was measured in the environment after and then they tried to back calculated. , the nuclear regulatory commission's website will say that there were 10 million released and a curious 37 billion disintegration's every second. so, it's 10 million 37 billions of radiation that was released and i submit that is too low. but, first off, remember these
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are back calculations and by measuring what was out there with people driving out in cars and people and helicopters. they had a senior guy name john collins and he was talking about the difficulty of the helicopter and he said i doubt the helicopter measurements. the helicopters are something cleaner from above and down on the radiation detector below. there's no way the helicopter could accurately measure the radiation in the air. and collins also talked about them driving around the countryside in a car. he talks about going out in an automobile and chasing a plume with the meter, a very difficult job at best, it gives you a rough idea. so, the nrc says there are two ways of measuring it, helicopters and cars the nrc knows are simply not accurate. >> there's another estimate out
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there, lake barrett came up with a whole bunch of assumptions and they were designed to lower the amount of radiation after the release. for instance, if the radioactive plume is right on the detector, in other words, if the peak of the radiation is running on the detector, if you miss that peak by 600 feet, you could be off by a thousandfold in the amount of radiation released and these calculations. but anyway, lake came up with the table and this is his day by day calculations of what he believes was released and he came up with 36 million so remember, the nrc's website today will tell you 10 million but the young guy is saying 36
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million. >> back to a little bit of inside baseball. during the trial, the nuclear industry hired a guy named jon daniels and john calculated that he tried to prove 10 million in this calculation but when i saw his calculations, there were numerous errors and i brought that up in my deposition and actually using his calculation, he comes out at 150 million ed daniels is at 150 million and he is the industry's own guy. will magically, daniels resubmit the second expert report and he comes in at 17 million. so, how much was released? daniel was at 17 and the nrc is at 36 and daniels, before he
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revises his 150 million and i'm actually more like 100 million is the estimate i came up with. so it seems to me that dr. steve wayne, steve passed recently but did an epidemiological study of tmi and i first met him in harrisburg in the rotunda 10 years ago. i couldn't figure out whether wasn't any cancers and steve it come up with a cancer map up and down the river valley and it doubled what they were on the hills and he couldn't understand how you could get those kinds of cancers so the first time sivan i met was 10 years ago. my estimate of radiation matches steve's estimate of the fatality. steve, i guess you
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could sort of see this, the river is blue and it runs from the northwest down to the southeast and on either side of the river valley he shows dramatically higher cancer incidence, why is that? on the day of the disaster there was inversion with very still there for the first couple days of the disaster. so the radiation was trap in the river valley but where did the nrc look. on the first day of these little circles on the map are locations where the nrc looked and they are nowhere near where we determine the cancer clusters are. second day, nowhere near where the cancer clusters were. third day, again, nowhere near the cancer clusters and on the fourth day the same.
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nowhere near the cancer clusters so in the area where people had high incidence of cancer, we don't have good data. how much was released? >> there's one other data point and helen wrote a book and she is a chapter net that shows that hershey's chocolate was aware of radioactive iodine in cows milk hundred 50 miles away. hershey bought all the milk and continue to buy the milk and free strident iodine has an eight day half-life so if you sit on the freeze-dried milk for 90 days, all the iodine decays away and then they reconstituted the milk to make chocolate. it's a good idea for the corporation but they never told the authorities. so, how much radiation was released? the low guy on the totem pole is the agency we cannot to protect us, the regulatory commission, 10, 17, 36 or 150. and i believe about 150 were
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released. did the containment leak? this is a picture of the pressure inside the containment. there is one obvious feature of the big bump in the middle, the spike. but, if you look before the spike , before the spike the pressure in the container was about 3 pounds and after the spike the pressure in the container was zero. it's like a bike tire. the bike tire was holding pressure and all at once there was a spike, it blew the tire and after that it didn't hold pressure anymore. the graph is pretty clear. during the trial, a doctor at the university of bridgeport determine that about 10% of the radioactive activity inside the containment was released. there was 2 billion ci at the time or 10%, there's about 200 million ci, another data point that's out there.
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one other thing from daniel, and daniel is the industry expert. in the report he identified three radioactive sensors in the plant that was still operating at 2 pm. 10 minutes after the explosion and the containment, all fully upscale and that again tells me the container did leak. and of course, that is not identified by the new nuclear regulatory commission either. so, my belief is that the nrc number is off by 10, but the industry guy would say it's off by a factor of 15 and the doctor would say it's off by a factor of 20. but the reason that the methods used are totally inappropriate. well, this is a graphical
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representation of what i just said. i could make the same discussion and change the particulars if it were at fukushima chernobyl. what happens here, deliberately underestimating the exposure by both the industry and the regulator, it's not unique to tmi. it started at tmi but it's not unique to tmi. i've come up with the word to honor it. if you mash tmi and minimize you come up with to minimize so the concept of when i regulator deliberately underestimates the exposure to people, on any occasion it's called to mineralization and i think it's appropriate and it's not just appropriate here, it's appropriate at chernobyl and at fukushima as well. and there's a book out called
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manual survivor by kate brown and this is a review of it in the new york times and i won't read the whole thing but according to the new york times, rather than attributing chernobyl to the soviets and to authoritarians, she points out the similarities and the willingness of the soviets and the capitalist to sacrifice the health of workers, the public and the environment to production goals and geopolitical rivalries. i just saw you taking a photograph. this stuff will be up on the website tomorrow so if you want to pull down the powerpoint, it will be there. lastly, remember i started the conversation by telling you that governor thornburg said we were lied to. i toured with the prime minister several times in california and new england and i had a chance to ask about the experience with both the regulator and tokyo
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electric. his regulator is called mehdi m he told me, the information i receive was neither timely nor accurate. this guy is the prime minister of japan in his own government agency and they were not telling him the truth. so, the experience here is not unique. the minimization started here but it didn't end here but the same playbook was put in place at fukushima and separately at chernobyl. >> thank you very much. i appreciate it. [ applause ] >> you have five minutes for any questions you might have. >> we need a microphone i believe .
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>> i will repeat it . >> we are asking people to use the microphone. >> using your numbers, what would be, based on the release, what would be the closest to the individuals in the area during the release? >> my number, i tried to start with the foundation, what was in the reactor, what leaked into the reactor from the containment and i came up with in excess of 200 million ci. in the industry guy, daniels was in between us before he lowered the numbers but now, my job was to talk about how much got out and other people determined the exposure to
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individuals. with the meandering plume, i didn't look into the meteorology to determine what the individual doses were but the example, anecdotal evidence is the issue of blood he know this, metallic taste, sunburns and all of that and i'm convinced that there is also a case of a dentist having all of his x-ray film fogged when it was stored appropriately and there were areas that received over 100 ram, i'm convinced . >> good questions expect the other one was, you mentioned about the pellets dropping to the bottom of the reactor vessel and the containment failing, did the reactor vessel lower head lose its -- did it fail, where the releases of fuel? >> the question is, the pallets, these things are as big as my
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pinky, they fell down to the bottom of the core and they were in a configuration that can be cooled. and, i was on site, i had a group of guys on site trying to get one to start back up in the 80s and they said, you've got a see this and they took me into a trailer where i saw the videos of this. and, the molten mass did not melt through the concrete that it didn't melt through the steel , rather. there was a meltdown where the fuel collapsed into a molten mass that laid in the bottom of the reactor, but there was not a melt through. i attribute that to luck. the tmi was only running for three months and there wasn't nearly as much decay he if there was had it been running for a year but all of that spent fuel was trapped in the bottom of the nuclear reactor. >> i have a question .
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>> i'm curious, what you think accounts for the fact that they use the same playbook in all three accidents, is it something about the way that nuclear engineers and operators are trained or the way the system is set up? what accounts for the repeat of tmi? >> they discuss that in depth and they became a senior vice president but i do think it is an orthodoxy that can imagine that a meltdown could be occurring. so, at the beginning of the process i think that was part of it. at both fukushima and at tmi. it's interesting because there was a conversation between mr. miller and the people in parsippany that on the plant and they thought they would
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start the reactor up pretty quickly but didn't want him to have an evacuation because of that and it's interesting because at fukushima there was a similar discussion between the plant manager and the people in tokyo that come i got if you introduce saltwater we won't be able to start the reactor up in a week. so, it's impossible for someone who is in this orthodoxy to think outside the box. now, as time goes by i think the influence of corporations and, japan, there is 50 nuclear reactors in a couple billion apiece, you're talking about in excess of $100 billion on the line if you shut them down, can you really withstand the hit. the same thing in here in the states, there are 50 reactors running and another 50 in the pipeline and that was close to $1 trillion at risk, there is a
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financial interest that downplays as well. >> am i on schedule here? >> yes you are . >> thank you . >> thank you. [ applause ] >> here's what's ahead on cspan- 3's american history tv, next, discussion on 3 mile island and the fukushima disasters. later, panel discussion on the impact of the disaster. taking a look at friday's american history primetime, historian edward ayres talks about the battle of gettysburg and its consequences, describing how people in the surrounding area experienced at the battle and the logistics of the confederate withdrawal back to virginia. this kicks off at night of programs on the civil war recorded at the annual lincoln form symposium in gettysburg pennsylvania. watch friday night beginning at eight eastern here on cspan-3.
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this is a special edition of american history tv, a sample of the compelling history programs that air every weekend on american history tv. like lectures in history, american artifacts, real america of the civil war the oral histories of the presidency and special event coverage about our nations history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on cspan-3. >> saturday night that trump is holding a campaign rally in green bay wisconsin, skipping the annual white house correspondents dinner. earlier this week he instructed his administration to boycott the dinner watch live coverage of the presidents rally saturday at 8 p.m. eastern on c-span and following the rally watch live coverage at 9:30 pm eastern of the white house correspondents dinner with featured speaker, author
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and historian ron schara now. >> wednesday at 10 am eastern the attorney general william barr will testify before the senate judiciary committee on the mueller report and on thursday at 9 am eastern he will testify before the house judiciary committee live on cspan-3 and listen on the free c-span radio app. now, to community activists from harrisburg pennsylvania, an independent journalist from fukushima and a japanese visual artist who lives in new york city reflect on how to nuclear power accidents affected the surrounding communities and economies. this event is one of several hosted by penn state harrisburg to mark the 40th anniversary of 3 mile island. this is one hour and 20 minutes. first, s


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