The radiation released from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant during the recent crisis is slowly dispersing into the atmosphere, but the scary accident is having fallout of another sort--anti-nuclear protests exploded in the Boston area and around the country this week.
Twenty-five hundred demonstrators massed on Boston Common Sunday afternoon at a Clamshell Alliance-sponsored rally. The turnout for the protest--planned only two days before--showed the power of the Harrisburg incident, Diane Keefe, a Clamshell organizer, told the crowd.
"We all live in Pennsylvania, we all live in Pennsylvania," chanted a crowd of between 2000 and 3000 student demonstrators Wednesday afternoon at the Common.
The protesters said the Pennsylvania accident frightened them enough to take to the street, but Massachusetts Gov. Edward J. King and state energy officials continued to voice their support for nuclear power, calling it a necessary energy source.
The governor, pleading a busy schedule, refused to meet with student demonstrators, who chanted "King is a mega-wimp" Wednesday. "We just wanted to jar him up a bit. Nothing ever gets through," Christopher R. Agee '79, one of four protesters police allowed to reach the governor's office before being turned away, said later.
Outside, students who were kept away by police and chained gates vowed to "keep on fighting." "When we go home this summer, we have to spread the word in our hometowns about what is going on, what is happening here," one organizer said.
Scholars lined up on both sides of the nuclear debate. George Wald, Higgins Professor of Biology Emeritus, told crowds at Sunday's rally that the Harrisburg plant had released harmful radiation. "There is no threshold; any radiation is dangerous," Wald said.
George B. Kistiakowsky, Lawrence Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, called nuclear energy "about the safest operation in the United States," and stressed that there have been no fatalities from peaceful use of nuclear technology. He added, though, that accidents like the one at Three Mile Island were inevitable because of the complexity of nuclear technology and the profit-seeking motives of the utilities that control it.
State Rep. Richard Roche, who heralded the Harrisburg accident as the beginning of a "credibility meltdown" for the nuclear industry, calling for a moratorium on new nuclear construction.
The Legislative Energy Caucus announced its support for a plan for state monitoring of nuclear facilities, and other legislators pushed plans for a state investigation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission inquiry into the Pennsylvania incident.
"Harrisburg has imposed a de facto moratorium on new nuclear construction," Roche told students Wednesday. He added, though, that "Boston Edison hasn't heard that yet--we have to keep fighting."