The Fukushima disaster officially became a Level 5 crisis on Friday morning, matching the Three-Mile Island partial meltdown in 1979.
The incidents are similar, maybe moreso than people realise.
Matt Bai posted a clip from 40 years ago in which Senator Gary Hart – then the chairman of the Senate subcommittee on nuclear regulation – appeared on Meet The Press to talk about the crisis.
It’s an amazing listen, for the information provided as much as the calm, reasoned discussion from both the interviewers and the interviewee.
Unfortunately, the United States government’s response to the crisis was less than perfect.
In the very first question, moderator Gary Hart asked is there “the risk of a catastrophic accident.”
“Yes Mister Herman, I do believe that risk exists,” Hart said. “It’s very difficult to quantify because this is a unique occurrence. There are teams of experts, as you know on the scene both private and public officials. They are trying to determine the best course of dealing with this unique situation. But until this situation is dealt with, until the reactor is in what is called a “cold shutdown situation”, the risk you’ve described does exist.”
Later, another reporter wondered if people would have to be evacuated.
“Well, I think that goes back to Mr. Herman’s first question, and the answer is yes because we are in a unique area. We’re in a situation no one has dealt with before – and I think all the officials at all levels want to do everything with an abundance of caution. Without trying to panic people, you have to look after the wellfare of the people in the area.
I think one of the lessons, one of the many lessons we’ve learned out of this is that we have to improve the crisis management situation. I’ve already recommend for my own part that I intend to put legislation in as quickly as possible to drastically increase the federal government’s monitoring capability of these plants nationwide and drastically increase the federal government’s ability to move in and in effect take over operational decisions of a reactor that is in a critical situation.”
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