Forty years ago, a broken pump led to a partial meltdown at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Radioactive gas seeped through four feet of concrete and into the air. A McDonald woman was nearby when that happened.
DeLee Kidd remembers driving across Pennsylvania in 1979 to see her mother.
“It was a fluke thing. Last minute, we decided to take a trip. Lucky us,” she said.
Kidd was in a car with her grandmother and son. They needed to take a break and picked a place for a picnic across the Susquehanna River near Three Mile Island.
“My son being 2, he had to get out and run around a while,” Kidd said.
They finished their picnic and drove to the Philadelphia area. It was a couple of days later when the news broke of a partial meltdown releasing a small amount of radiation into the atmosphere.
“Upon watching the news a little closer, it happened when we were there. The same time, the same day. Thank God it wasn’t like Chernobyl!” Kidd said.
A series of problems had created an emergency at one of the two reactors at Three Mile Island.
The radiation leak was called inconsequential, but Kidd has always had it in the back of her mind. She has never been tested for radiation.
“Our excuse whenever we did something wrong, ‘Oh, forgive us, we were nuked.’ It was a family joke,” she said.
The damaged reactor was shut down. Forty years later, the other reactor will stop being used by the end of the year.
Kidd was nowhere near Three Mile Island when the governor ordered the site to be evacuated. She just happened to be close by for the worst nuclear power plant accident in U.S. history.
“I just manage to have impeccable tastes to be in wrong places at the wrong times, is how I look at it,” she said.
A study done for 20 years after the accident among people living within five miles of Three Mile Island show no significant increase in cancer deaths.