I was in my second semester as a freshman at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. We had returned from Spring Break on Sunday. We started hearing about environmental issues on the radio starting around Wednesday. Then we found out there was a problem with a nuclear reactor about 30 miles to the West.
By Friday, we were told that we were being sent home for a couple days. We were told that it was not a safety concern, but precautionary. But the rumors flew. One was that F&M was going to be used as an evacuation area.
I remembered that there was a girl down the hall whose family lived in Middletown, where Three Mile Island was located. She couldn’t get through on the phones (three years before cell phones). I tried to call home. My first call clicked about 6 times then died. The second time I ended up talking to an operator with a Southern accent.
I packed up and went home, five days after I had returned. Some students thought they’d hang out and, dare I say it, abuse their bodies with alcohol and other substances (They’re lawyers and doctors now). But the campus was going to be closed.
We were told to call on Monday to find out when to return. The school remained closed the entire week for “Radiation Vacation” or the shorter “Nuke Break.” I actually went to see The China Syndrome with a girl I dated off and on. There’s a point in the movie where one of the characters says something to the effect of “If the reactor melts down, it could go all the way to China” which is how the move got its name.
This incident prompted a lot of discussion about nuclear power and energy policies in general. Guess what? I don’t think much has changed. But when I was driving to Orlando this week, I got to thinking about Radiation Vacation. I wonder how much longer we’ll be able to drive around in our personal transportation vehicles before we run out of fermenting dinosaurs and plants that power our cars. Could Elon Musk be onto something? Maybe I need to buy a Tesla after all.