Teri E. Jarvie, CMP, Vice President of Member Programs, Association Forum of Chicagoland
I was working for the American Nuclear Society, which is a professional association of people primarily involving nuclear power. It’s not a trade association - it’s actual scientists, researchers, and etc.
After [the] Three Mile Island [core meltdown in 1979], there was a lot of new technology created in order to get into that reactor, to analyze what happened - there were robotics, all kinds of things that were created on the fly to react to what happened. All of that outcome was really positive; it gave us tools and things that the industry never had before. So probably 10 years after Three Mile Island, when we had our annual meeting in Washington, D.C., we devoted a portion of the meeting to that technology. As a part of that, we thought it would be really cool to organize a tour to Three Mile Island.
Of course it sold out; everybody wanted to go. It was just so funny, because when we called the bus company and said, “Oh yes, and then we need you to drive to Harrisburg, Pa., for Three Mile Island,” the reaction was just so bizarre. There wasn’t really any resistance; I think it was more just, “You’re kidding, right?” And especially, people outside the industry, when you say those words, immediately they think of apocalypse and disaster and scary - and it was none of those.
The external site looked exactly like it did the day before it happened. It all happened internally, and afterward the system worked, it was contained; there was no China Syndrome or any of the other worst-case scenarios. It was such a success story that that was part of what we wanted to tell: the fact that the containment held and then we learned so much as a result of it.
So on the day of the tour, we’re leaving from the Sheraton Washington - and there were probably 25 to 30 people standing outside hoping someone wouldn’t show up, so that they could get on that bus, too. Everybody wanted to go. The demand was huge.
Tours of nuclear power plants were commonplace for us. That was not a big deal. But when attendees returned from this, it was kind of like a tour of the Grand Canyon at sunset or something. They were like, “once-in-a-lifetime experience” - they were so excited.