On an early morning in late March of 1979, an event was triggered that would change the United States and the world's view on nuclear power forever. It would bring about changes in regulations, changes in operation, and changes in the structure of nuclear power plants for the years to come. It made power plants safer, cleaner, and more efficient because of the knowledge gained from the event.
It was 3 A.M. in a small town set in the middle of Pennsylvania. In fact, the town was named Middletown. It was here on March 28, 1979, that an event that would scare the people of Pennsylvania and even the rest of the country would begin. It was very warm in the Unit 2 reactor building of Three Mile Island: close to 100 degrees. But this was normal for a nuclear reactor. They are almost always a hot, humid, and steamy place to be.
They are also loud. Pipes bang and shutter with the pressure of millions of gallons of water moving through every day. These all important pipes, three feet in diameter, carried the water to the reactor's turbines, so it could be cooled. Crashes were common at reactors due the huge pressure and force being produced from things, like water and pipes, rapidly cooling and reheating. All in all, the Unit 2 building of Three Mile Island was an unpleasant place to be.
There were also huge resin filters at Three Mile Island. These were used to filter the unclean water from the Susquehanna river, so it could be used to run the turbines to make electricity. The filters were flushed once a week to clean out the dirty residue left behind by the river water. However, this night, there was a plug of debris blocking the vent where...