I took Drew up to Fox’s Market in Middletown earlier tonight, and we drove back along the river (it’s the back way from Middletown to my house, down Route 441). As we drove by the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant I pointed it out to Drew. He’d seen it before, but he’s so little he forgets. This time, thought, he asked a lot of questions about it. I tried to answer them as best I could. Do you know that the whole near-accident was compounded by human error? Back in 1979, the computers sensed a problem and began to cool things down immediately. A human operator misread the alert and shut off the cooling. That’s what caused the plant to move to near-meltdown phase. The phone lines in the area were so jammed that no one could get in touch with the control room to tell them to turn the cooling system back on. Finally, they broke through and the operators set everything back properly again. Within a day, the area was out of danger.

I didn’t tell Drew all this, but he seemed to be happy with the answers I gave him. I had to explain why two of the towers smoked and two didn’t (they never restarted the bad reactor–it will be fully dismantled eventually). The funny thing was looking at the houses on the left as we passed the towers on the right. People live literally across the street from TMI. And life goes on.

My house is about six miles from TMI. My school district (my workplace) borders TMI. We have comprehensive plans for an event at TMI that are continually refined. We’ve discussed them in the last few months, and while I don’t feel I can speak about our contingencies, I can say that the leadership of the school district has really planned for almost any eventuality, including instant and complete evacuation of the district. We live and work a stone’s throw from the infamous TMI, and we plan for the possible nightmare scenarios, and then we go back to our daily routine. It’s a bit strange, but most days we don’t even think about it. The possibility is remote, and a situation will probably never happen again, and we’ve made whatever precautions we can, and we all have lives to lead, and frankly life in Etown is pretty good.

And life goes on.