Thirty-six years ago today the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania suffered one of the worst nuclear meltdowns in history. McKinley Olson, who had written a 1974 special issue of The Nation about nuclear plants in Pennsylvania, “The Hot River Valley,” returned with an article titled “The Unacceptable Risk” (April 14, 1979).

It should have been clear that one self-serving segment of our society was pushing the rest of us into the arms of a technology that could not tolerate, nor contain, a major accident. And major accidents in this world of human error, faulty products, war, revolution, terrorism, earthquake and flood, are bound to happen, especially when we continue to increase the probability that a major nuclear accident will occur by increasing the number of nuclear power plants in our society and, with them, the consequent increase in radioactive shipments, storage facilities and the like….

Instead of pursuing all the logical options that have been available to us for years, among them conservation, energy efficiency, solar power, wind power, geothermal power, oceanic heat, the use of coal, the tides, grain and wood alcohol, wood itself, garbage, lumber and agricultural wastes, algae and the process of photosynthesis, most of which we have largely ignored in spite of the fact that their development would have been a boon to the economy in terms of new jobs and industrial growth, we have allowed our Federal Government—including the Congress and the courts, and a consortium of powerful public utilities and giant private corporations—to squander precious years and billions of dollars in the pursuit of a technology that, at best, will lay a 100,000-year curse in the form of plutonium waste upon this earth.

March 28, 1979 by TheNationMagazine

To mark The Nation’s 150th anniversary, every morning this year The Almanac will highlight something that happened that day in history and how The Nation covered it. Get The Almanac every day (or every week) by signing up to the e-mail newsletter.