Like tossing a pebble at a Ford Pinto, or is it? Question is would you trust your new neighbor to be one of the Three Mile Island (TMI) generators? TMI-2 generator is moving to Progress Energy’s Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant in Wake County, North Carolina.
The Three Mile Island nuclear plant has two units, 1 & 2. TMI-2 was larger than TMI-1. TMI-2 began commercial operations on December 30, 1978. It only took 3 months for TMI-2 to malfunction releasing a massive amount of curies into the environment beginning on March 28, 1979. However, it got steamy as it reached the media the next day.
The pilot-operated relief valve (PORV), one form of a pressure release valve (PRV), was the focal point behind the release that caused much panic. Here’s a look into what unfolded.
The TMI-1 was shut down for refueling. The TMI-2 ran but as a result of a mechanical or electrical malfunction the pumps in the condensate polishing system ceased to run which followed by a domino effect of non-process, including the absence of water. Most know that decay heat continued as the PORV malfunctioned with an inability to close resulting in the release of radioactive gases into the environment.
You can view the TMI-2 here.
According to the TMI-2 there is a steam generator and a turbine side generator, but neither are said to have caused the TMI accident. However, it needed an upgrade and Progress Energy is trying to fix any issues before it’s move.
For three decades the TMI-2 electric generator has been tucked away in storage and soon it will be on it’s way to becoming a part of Wake County’s Progress Energy Harris Nuclear Plant, otherwise known simply as the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant.
The move is only in it’s preliminary stages and transported in two sections according to The Patriot as the 670 ton TMI-2 generator is having being restored. The upgrade process will be followed by an inspection process before the big move.
What worries Wake County citizens, a past skeleton or a future fear?
North Carolina has played a role in this particular TMI-2 reactor and what damage the Three Mile Island accident has once caused in Londonderry Township near Pennsylvania and surrounding areas.
North Carolina’s UNC-Chapel Hill School of Public Health professor Dr. Steve Steven Wing produced a study surrounding possible injuries of those living near and around the TMI reactor when it malfunctioned.
Dr. Wing concluded that there had been significant release of radioactivity that may or may not have caused various health conditions and issues. However, he did state that there had been no other true answer for these findings other than in connection with the TMI accident.
Co-authors of this outstanding report are credited to Dr. Douglas Brown, Dr. Donna Armstrong and David Richardson at UNC-Chapel Hill. It’s a highly recommended read. You can catch that in this UNC document released from UNC CH, 1997.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) claims that their investigation concluded no deaths or injuries resulted from the TMI meltdown and release of radioactivity in the late 1970’s.
The partial meltdown had been connected to TMI-2, but mainly to the valve not the generators. Wake County can only hope that the inspection detects any problematic issues and that the new and improved generator lives up to a better reputation. The TMI-2 generator moving south was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time in the late 1970’s.
However, one thing is clear. North Carolina is receiving the TMI-2 generator whether or not citizens agree with it’s past or decades of absence. And that’s causing some Wake County steam.