March 30, 1979 – news from Pennsylvania around the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was drawing concern. First reported as a minor incident-quickly taken-care-of, to complications to worry. In retrospect, things were quickly spiraling out of hand. But at the time, there was reportedly little concern. Only a few tell-tale aspects of this report raised eyebrows. First, what to do with the waste water, of which there was a considerably and growing amount from the cooling down process of the reactor. As of this morning there were new reports of an uncontrolled release of radiation, but details were unclear.
A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said the level of radiation was substantial enough to cause concern, but not substantial enough to order an immediate evacuation of the area. A four-county region had been placed under alert. The spokesman went on to say it wasn’t known if the radiation release was transient or if it was going on continuously. He would not say what the exact level of radiation was, but did say it was not at the level of a full roentgen – it was somewhere on the order of a significant fraction of a roentgen. Second tell-tale aspect – it wasn’t known if the release of radiation came from the damaged reactor or an auxiliary building. A promise of more updated information to be released soon.
Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh was considering evacuating the four county area around the nuclear plant because of this new release of radiation anyway. The tone was quickly changing from “nothing to see here” to “it’s worse than we thought”. And the day was only getting started.
And Police in Boston were confident they “had their man” in connection with a string of hotel fires in the Boston area. A detective came across information indicating an 18-year old disgruntled hotel worker, who had been working at the hotels in question, was recently fired from kitchen jobs in those hotels.
And that’s only a small part of what happened in the world – as the day went on, the bulletins came faster – but this was what we being reported on March 30, 1979 by The CBS World News Roundup.