A parent's second thoughts on Three Mile Island

One year ago I, along with millions of other concerned parents, watched televised pictures of families fleeing from their homes near the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, protectively clutching infants and children.

Had I been there, I know my instincts to escape with my own children's safety intact would have overcome me.

I nodded my head in agreement with an increasing number of other Americans that nuclear power was a hazard we as a human race could ill afford. The risks were phenomenal. The potential of releasing radioactive material clearly eliminated nuclear power as an acceptable answer to the energy crisis. Finding the answers to our energy problems would have to come from a less expensive commodity than human life.

The issue was closed. I was an antinuclear advocate.

Two months later, on a sultry early June day, I drove to the visitors' entrance of Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois. Lush green meadows, rarely seen white deer and that peaceful feeling of being in the country surrounded me.

My reason for visiting this famed laboratory, whose history is as long as organized atomic energy in the United States, was to interview a project manager for a magazine article I was preparing.

Eberhart Hamer, a nuclear reactor engineer, gave me enough propaganda in six and a half hours to overwhelm my disdainful opinion on nuclear power.


Brainstormed! I was aghast at the excess of incorrect knowledge I had accumulated on this subject.

"They [the public] are not getting all of the information they should be getting to make rational interpretations," said Mr. Hamer. "You can only as a public form your opinions based upon the information you get."

How much incorrect information on this subject had I been harboring along with how many others?

What were the facts of nuclear energy I hadn't botheredm to investigate?

Was I condemning an enemy I barely knew?

That day I watched hundreds of fathers, mothers, and grandparents devotedly pursuing their projects at this 1,700-acre Department of Energy proving ground. Could they be so zealous in their work and at the same time flirt with manufacturing the means that could destroy their own families? Weren't they just as concerned as I was with the quality of life for themselves and their children?

A great concentration of scientific minds had planted firm roots at this remote suburban site, 25 miles southwest of Chicago. Could I discount their facts and form opinions based on anything less?

For me the issue was reopened.

Before we pull the final curtain on an answer we have yet to question properly, let's consider all the facts from the best authorities and only then commit ourselves to a cause. Even then, commitment should still contain one or two question marks.

As the anniversary of Three Mile Island approaches this spring, let's reconsider the way we consider things. Let's open up some channels for wisdom we never knew existed.

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