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Was America's Nuclear Energy Program Sabotaged?

By James Donahue

There is a theory that the 1979 incident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear electric generating plant was an act of sabotage designed to destroy America's confidence in nuclear powered electric generating plants.

This “accident” exactly one year after the release of the Hollywood film, The China Syndrome that portrayed the horror of a total meltdown of a nuclear power plant, helped manipulate the public to fear the use of nuclear power as a way of solving America’s energy problem.

That the meltdown at Three Mile Island's second reactor on March 28, 1979, was an almost exact replica of the disaster portrayed in the film may not have been an accident. Suppose an over-zealous plant worker saw that movie and was cons subconsciously persuaded, or purposefully decided to sabotage one of the plants at Three Mile Island.

Whatever the reason, someone closed a key valve on an important coolant water line, thus setting off a chain of events that came close to triggering an uncontrolled nuclear meltdown..

This incident occurred exactly one year and 12 days following the release of the movie. The Three Mile Island problem was perfectly timed to tweak the minds of the masses and cause most people to distrust nuclear power as an alternative energy source.

That the Chernobyl disaster involving a complete meltdown occurred only seven years after Three Mile Island, only helped support the propaganda machine. Was Chernobyl also a sabotaged plant, or was it a result of operator blundering?

The public reaction to nuclear power remains a hotly contested issue in the United States to this day, even though legislators and scientists are frantically looking for alternatives to coal and oil for generating a growing demand for electricity under skies thick with the carbon monoxide generated in the last century.

Strangely overlooked is the fact that military ships, and especially submarines, have been operating successfully and safely on nuclear energy now for decades. Also nuclear powered electric generating plants are running successfully in nations around the world.

Both presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, have talked about alternative energy sources, including the construction of nuclear power plants. In spite of the two mishaps, nuclear power can be produced safely. Its biggest drawback is the toxic by-product, plutonium, which can be used in building deadly nuclear weapons.

A major issue the Bush Administration has with the Iranian government is its unwillingness to halt the development of its own nuclear powered electric generating facility. The United States, Israel and some European leaders have expressed concern that Iran will use the plutonium created at that plant to build nuclear bombs. Yet Iran, like other nations throughout Europe and Asia, is demanding the right to seek alternative energy sources.

It appears that the impact of the Three Mile Island incident continues to have its effect on the minds of Americans, even to this day.

Hearings that followed the accident, and mountains of news stories, technical reports and other research, failed to point to sabotage at Three Mile Island. A careful study of the report, however, notes that certain check valves and gauges designed to prevent such a disaster malfunctioned for unknown reasons.

There were at least 12 different workers in the plant at the time of the "accident," and all were thoroughly questioned about their part in what occurred.

The official conclusion was that Three Mile Island's accident was caused by "a combination of design flaws, mismanagement and operator errors."

The mishap destroyed one of the two nuclear reactors on about the second day that it went on line. While there were no lives lost at the time of the incident, there was so much radiation released that health officials believe there will be a high rate of cancer and other health problems that show up among people living for miles downwind of the plant.

The worst damage of all was exactly what the film and the "accident" were designed to create. There was "a profound change in American public attitude toward nuclear power."

So who would benefit from such a scheme, and why would anyone want to sabotage a nuclear power plant in America? In the late 1970s we had just gone through our first energy crisis and experienced the first major increase in the cost of gasoline, heating oil and natural gas. Also environmentalists were making us aware of the damage carbon-based emissions were doing to our atmosphere. Nuclear power appeared then, as it does today, to be a good alternative source of power to meet the growing demand for electric power.

But the world had not yet reached the threat of peak oil and there was still billions of dollars to be made in the areas of continued sale and burning of the carbon fuels, and especially coal.

Most electric power plants in the United States use coal to run their generators. The construction of nuclear power plants all over the country would have put a lot of coal miners out of work.