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Everyday life with an infamous symbol, as Obama sends nuclear carrier Reagan to Japan.
Three Mile Island and the USS Ronald Reagan.
Both in the news because of Japan. What is not in the news is that President Obama has sent a floating nuclear power plant into an abundantly active earthquake/tsunami zone of the Pacific to aid victims in an area where a nuclear power plant had a tsunami-induced explosion. And no one — no one — has so much as murmured at the irony. Much less demanded the Reagan be withdrawn — or scrapped.
But first — let’s get close to home. As a matter of fact, let’s get literally home to my own home. And to the then-Governor of Pennsylvania whose wisdom and common sense helped Central Pennsylvanians get through the world’s first quite dramatic nuclear power plant crisis.
You can see it, of course. Right today.
Cross the bridge… .there it is downriver a handful of miles. Ten maybe, if that.
Go to the drug store? See the tell-tale cooling tower plumes out there from the top of the hill. Go to the grocery store? Ditto. Go pay the heat bill? Ditto. Go to this or that local destination for task A, B, or C and ditto, ditto and ditto again. Any view south down the river and its impossible to miss.
Flying in or out of town? The Harrisburg International Airport is adjacent to the Susquehanna River. Alongside the runways, just out several hundred feet from shore, sits the island “three miles” from nearby Middletown. From above as one arrives or departs it’s like looking at a collection of very big vertical cannons. Close up.
“It” of course is what was, until the last couple of weeks, the most infamous — and still very much working — nuclear power plant in the world.
Three Mile Island. The nuclear power plant that scared the world to death. The concrete embodiment of what drives every environmentalist absolutely stir crazy. The incident that helped propel the movie The China Syndrome — playing in Harrisburg area theaters that very week in March of 1979 — to a smashing box office success for stars Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and Jack Lemmon.
Yet international symbol that it may be, if you live here — as I do — it’s nothing more sinister today than a part of the region’s architectural furniture. More famous than the Irish green state capitol dome, perhaps, but decidedly more benign in terms of everyday life. Considering the frequent antics that have taken place under the green dome by this or that state legislator or the legislature as a whole over the decades since that March of 1979 and there are moments when Three Mile Island seems downright cuddly. After all, other than that one…ahhhh…hiccup that got some attention…OK…lots and lots of attention….this quite visible, still-operating nuclear power plant has never been indicted, raised its own pay in the middle of the night or used state funds to pay for political campaigns.
One jests, but of course, there’s nothing funny about what’s happening in Japan with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radiation has escaped, and the danger of a meltdown is bannered with every news bulletin.
But the mere fact that life goes on in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and environs 32 years later — no one has died from TMI, babies have been born and grown up and had their own healthy babies, the region has grown and prospered — is something to reflect on amid all the panic over Japan both in Japan and elsewhere around the globe.
And some of this reaction inside and outside Japan is panic, too. Understandable yet… extremely unnecessary. No less than the estimable Charles Krauthammer has proclaimed “nuclear energy is dead. “ Krauthammer is a considerably thoughtful man, but his response here shows a startling lack of imagination in the future of nuclear technology (see this piece yesterday by William Tucker right here at The American Spectator; also, check out Bill’s appearance on Charlie Rose last week, on the subject of nuclear safety). As someone who lives every moment of the day with Three Mile Island as a responsible and good neighbor, one hopes Krauthammer is wrong. The idea of the “death” of nuclear power is utterly foolish, presuming nuclear technology never changes, never moves forward — and ignoring a hard fact of the current crisis.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but what has President Obama done to assist the Japanese in their hour of peril? Why, he sent an aircraft carrier — the USS Ronald Reagan — to lend a hand. That would be the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Reagan. So in other words, racing to the aid of a country stricken by an earthquake-generated tsunami that has literally roiled the Pacific Ocean and upended all manner of sturdy ships — we have fearlessly sent into this seagoing turmoil a floating nuclear power plant. And nobody — nobody — has blinked.
AS WELL THEY SHOULDN’T. The Reagan and its nuclear sister ships are common and eminently safe. There is actually someone who has a considerable bit of wisdom on the subject of handling a problem like that of Fukushima Daiichi, and he should be swamped with media requests right about now.
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