A handful of anti-nuclear activists staged a pre-dawn demonstration Tuesday to mark the 10th anniversary of the near-meltdown at Three Mile Island, but other residents quietly expressed their faith in nuclear power.
Eight protesters gathered at the gate of TMI to light candles and hold a moment of silence at 4 a.m. - the exact time a decade ago when the the accident began. They warned that another serious atomic power accident will occur at one of the more than 100 licensed reactors around the nation."Who knows when but it will happen sometime," said Eugene Stilp, 38, of Harrisburg. "If you forget history, you're condemned to repeat it."
Judy Richard, 38, also of Harrisburg, said she was protesting the operation of TMI's undamaged reactor and the threat it poses. "It's been 10 years but it doesn't seem much has changed," she said.
Some TMI-area residents played down the anniversary. "It's just no big deal to us," said Donna Thomas, 41, of Middletown, whose boyfriend works at TMI. "It's the people from the outside who seem to make a big deal out of it."
Lori Seiders, 33, who works at the plant, said: "It's just another day to me. I trust the people I work with."
The nation's worst commercial nuclear accident started on March 28, 1979, when a series of equipment failures and operator mistakes led to a loss of vital cooling water in the super-heated core of TMI's Unit No. 2 reactor. About half of the reactor's 100 tons of uranium fuel melted before operators were able to cool the reactor.
There were a series of radioactive gas releases from the plant over several days, and an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people fled the area.
The $1 billion cleanup of the crippled reactor is projected to be completed in late 1990. The Unit No. 1 reactor at TMI was not damaged in the accident and was restarted in October 1985 after the NRC ruled it could be operated safely.
The pre-dawn demonstration at TMI was part of two days of 10th anniversary activities focusing on the accident at the plant on the Susquehanna River about 10 miles south of Harrisburg.
On Monday, more than 100 anti-nuclear activists walked to the plant and observed a moment of silence outside the gate. They carried a banner that read, "A Decade of Delay, Deceit and Danger."