March 29, 1979: A-Plant Still Leaking Radiation
The story dominating the front page this day was the aftermath of the near-meltdown at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Harrisburg, Pa. The day after the accident, radioactive steam was still leaking into the air from the plant, though officials insisted that radiation levels were low enough to cause no danger to nearby residents.
Another story on the page captures the skepticism and mistrust of nuclear power, which escalated at the news of the accident. Proponents of nuclear energy were already struggling to prove that it was a safe and effective power source, so for them, the accident proved to be more of a PR disaster than an environmental one. Still, in another story featured on this front page, experts asserted that the accident actually proved that the safeguards in place at Three Mile Island and other plants like it were effective. The malfunctioning reactor was successfully shut down before enough pressure built up to cause an explosion and full-on meltdown like the one that happened at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine seven years later.
Ultimately, the failed reactor – one of two at the plant – was shut down permanently, and it took some 14 years to dispose of the rest of the radioactive water that had leaked into the containment building. The plant’s other reactor went back into operation in 1985 and remains in operation to this day.