Letter to Editor, In today's Atlantic City Press Aug 10, 2002
TMI accident emitted radiation
In the July 14 article on potassium iodide (KI) distribution, Dave Vann, a nuclear engineer with the state Department of Environmental Protection, stated: "At Three Mile Island, only a small amount of noble gases were released, and they were barely detectable at the facility's fence line.''
Actually, the precise amount of radiation released during late March and early April 1979 is, at best, a guess. I'm disappointed that an employee of the DEP would mislead your readership and play down the severity of the worst commercial nuclear accident in American history.
As chairman of TMI Alert, I want to give the readers of The Press the factual reality of Three Mile Island. A great deal of radiation was indeed released by the partial core meltdown at TMI. The president's commission estimated about 15 million curies of radiation were released into the atmosphere. More recently, David Lochbaum of the Union for Concerned Scientists, estimated that between 40 million curies and 100 million curies escaped during the incident. In August 1996, a study by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, authored by Dr. Steven Wing, reported that "there were reports of erythema, hair loss, vomiting and pet death near TMI at the time of the accident. ... Accident doses were positively associated with cancer incidence. Associations were largest for leukemia, intermediate for lung cancer, and smallest for all cancers combined. ... Inhaled radionuclide contamination could differentially impact lung cancers, which show a clear dose-related increase.'' Finally, we at TMI Alert have received numerous accounts of folks who lived near TMI now contracting thyroid cancer, which can be caused by radioactive iodine 131 emitted from TMI.
ERIC J. EPSTEIN Harrisburg, Pa. (Editor's note: Eric J. Epstein is the chairman of Three Mile Island Alert Inc., a safe-energy organization based in Harrisburg.)