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« Cameco Management Discusses Q1 2014 Results - Earnings Call Transcript | Main | Taiwan to halt construction at fourth nuclear power plant »

Three Mile Island, and Nuclear Hopes and Fears

More than three decades after the accident at Three Mile Island cast a shadow on the atomic dream, is America again ready to give nuclear energy a chance?

There is a certain irony in the shorthand that experts commonly use when discussing this country’s closest brush with nuclear cataclysm: TMI. Today, those letters are widely understood to mean “too much information.” But well before the advent of social media, TMI referred principally to the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, a power plant on the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania. Disaster struck there in 1979, and when it did, too much information — solid, unassailable information — was not part of the mix. Months later, a presidential commission cited a “lack of communication at all levels” as cause for grave concern. Americans were frightened, and not just those in Pennsylvania. Fear was intensified because, as the commission said, their right to know what was going on had been sorely compromised.

Then again, so many things went wrong on the Susquehanna back in 1979. Disaster struck at 4 a.m. on March 28 when water-coolant pumps failed at the plant’s new second reactor, known as TMI-2. That led to the reactor’s overheating, with the temperature rising steadily after a stuck valve misled the operators into halting the flow of emergency cooling water. Half the core was later found to have melted.

Details of the accident are recounted in the latest offering from Retro Report, a weekly series of video documentaries examining major news stories from the past and their lessons for today. In a nutshell, TMI-2 lurched through a series of crises for nearly a week. The presidential panellater found plenty of blame to go around. The plant’s designer, Babcock & Wilcox; the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the local utility, Metropolitan Edison; TMI-2 managers and workers; and the news media collectively — none were spared in a report carrying the subtitle “Need to Change.”

To watch this video please click here.

The miners have started 2014 very well indeed on the back of rising gold prices, so the question is; is this the real deal or another head fake? Is the bottom really in? Could there be a final capitulation just ahead of us? Will the summer doldrums take the PMs lower?

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