March 15th, 2011
The Policy Effect of Three Mile Island
Though we have had worries and issues on how to handle our power situation in the future, nuclear power has always been a sparkling prospect. It has been gleaming there just waiting to be tapped. After the bombs and destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the world started to explore other avenues to use the science and power of atoms and came to discover nuclear power. Although this technology seemed like a god sent, there are inherent problems with the use and deployment of nuclear power. These problems have the potential to cause significant loss of life. In fact they have caused the loss of life before. Due to these issues, nuclear policy has always been a hotbed of debate. In actuality only several of the hundreds of reactors in existence have had problems. The first noteworthy accident and the one that will be discussed today was the accident at the Three Mile Island complex, here in the USA. Another accident occurred several years after at the Chernobyl compound. This accident which took place in the former USSR is the worse reactor accident to date and massive casualties were incurred. In addition to these; the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which occurred earlier this month has put several reactors there in potentially an even worse place than Chernobyl. Focusing on Three Mile Island, this almost horrific accident occurred in the late seventies and was very close to going super critical (i.e. that is melting down). This accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear complex has greatly affected the United States of America and international nuclear policy. In the USA no reactors have been built since this accident. The accident reignited people’s fears of nuclear power. Stepping back for a minute, nuclear power first started evolving in the 1950’s. While research in this area had been done well before the fifties it was all for the purpose of academic and military use. This changes in 1954 when Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act; this law allowed the release of previously secret knowledge and data on nuclear power and physics. (Walker 3) The significance of this dissemination of knowledge is so that civilian companies and individuals may start creating an industry and field to advance nuclear power to everyone. The passing of this act effectively privatizes and commercializes nuclear power. Although this was a big step for achieving widespread adoption, nuclear power still didn’t really kick off right away. The main reason for this was probably do to the fact that at the time coal and oil (which were the primary generator type) was so cheap and readily available. (Walker 4) The industry started out small in 1962 when six small private reactors began generating power for the residential power grid. What really kicked it off was the production of turnkey reactors by General Electric ™ and Westinghouse ™. A Turnkey reactor literally means a reactor that one needs to just turn a key to start but generally the term is applied to low maintenance reactors where all one really has to do is watch over the reactor for it to work. While General Electric and Westinghouse lost vast amounts of profits building and managing these reactors; they achieved their ultimate goal which was to stimulate the nuclear industry. (Walker 4) With these turnkey reactors, nuclear power became widespread to many civilian markets. Many of the nuclear reactors still operational were built in this turnkey reactor era. As for policy and regulation there have always been two distinct opinions on nuclear power. In politics and the media they always debate either for it with the unlimited miracle of power or against it with the death and human casualties that can come of it. Opposition has always been strong; and with strong grounds after multiple incidents some of which resulted with the loss of life. “Critics of the proposed plants cited dangers of radiological...