International Aspects of the Three Mile Island Incident II: International Reaction

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

The overseas reaction to the Three Mile Island accident was varied.  In most countries the response was muted but there were exceptions.  Examples of the different reactions include (All referenced telegrams can be viewed online from the “Diplomatic Records” page of Access to Archival Databases using the message reference number (e.g. – 1979BOMBAY00835) as the search term.):

  • Countries designated to receive Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reports on the situation expressed appreciation for the information passed along by the Department of State.[1]
  • Irish and Venezuelan authorities, considering nuclear power plants, asked to be included in the dissemination of information.[2]
  • Interest in France was high and the incident attracted a great deal of press coverage.  French authorities wanted to send representatives to the U.S. to monitor the situation directly.  In addition, the French Minister of Industry scheduled a debate on energy policy and wanted “up to the minute factual information.”[3]
  • The embassy in Japan reported that the Three Mile Island incident took the lead spot in the Japanese press on the U.S. even though key intergovernmental talks were taking place at the same time.  The embassy characterized Japanese reaction as “intense” and noted that the press coverage was “sensationalist” and “devoid of factual information/analysis” but that reaction of Japanese officials was “more calm and  . . . committed to proceeding with a reasoned, analytical approach” to nuclear safety.[4]
  • In the Netherlands interest was high and the Dutch also sent observers.[5]
  • German officials planned a ministers meeting on nuclear safety, offered technical assistance, and sent two reactor safety experts to observe.  There were also public demonstrations against nuclear power.[6]
  • Authorities in Bermuda asked about the threat of fallout to that island if the worst happened.[7]
  • The embassy in Manila reported on Philippine concerns given the expanding nuclear power industry in that country.[8]
  • A high-level Cuban official expressed his concern about the incident.[9]
  • In Sweden, the issue of nuclear power had been a key political issue for many years.  The embassy in Stockholm reported that the incident “had an immediate and profound impact on the Swedish internal political debate” calling it “political dynamite in nuclear sensitive Sweden” with its upcoming elections.[10]
  • Belgium sent a team of six to report on the situation.  Belgian officials expressed concern about the negative affect the incident would have on public opinion, already uneasy about the strong commitment to nuclear power.[11]The foreign responses to the Three Mile Island event were summed up in the following memorandum to the Deputy Secretary of State.
    P790061-1076.1
    Asst Sec for Oceans and Environmental and Scientific Affairs to the Deputy Sec of State, Memo, Apr 12, 1979, P790061-1076, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/P-Reel Printouts, RG 59 p1
    P790061-1076.2
    Asst Sec for Oceans and Environmental and Scientific Affairs to the Deputy Sec of State, Memo, Apr 12, 1979, P790061-1076, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/P-Reel Printouts, RG 59 p1

    Next: Follow up.


    [1] See for example U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Telegram 05901, March 30, 1979, 1979BONN05901, U.S. Consulate Bombay to Department of State, Telegram 00835, April 2, 1979, 1979BOMBAY00835, and U.S. Embassy Paris to Department of State, Telegram 10594, April 2, 1979, 1979PARIS10594, all Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [2] U.S. Embassy Dublin to Department of State, Telegram 01438, March 30, 1979, 1979DUBLIN01438 and U.S. Embassy Caracas to Department of State, Telegram 03224, April 5, 1979, 1979CARACA03224, both Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [3] U.S. Embassy Paris to Department of State, Telegram 10429, March 30, 1979, 1979PARIS10429, and U.S. Embassy Paris to Department of State, Telegram 10595, April 2, 1979, 1979PARIS10595, both Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [4] U.S. Embassy Tokyo to Department of State, Telegram 05584, April 2, 1979, 1979TOKYO05584, and U.S. Embassy Tokyo to Department of State, Telegram 05853, April 5, 1979, 1979TOKYO05853, both Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [5] U.S. Embassy The Hague to Department of State, Telegram 02968, April 2, 1979, 1979THE HA01968, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [6] U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Telegram 06041, April 2, 1979, 1979BONN06041, U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Telegram 06053, April 2, 1979, 1979BONN06053, and U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Telegram 06083, April 2, 1979, 1979BONN06083, all Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [7] U.S. Consulate Hamilton to Department of State, Telegram 00197, April 3, 1979, 1979HAMILT00197, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [8] U.S. Embassy Manila to Department of State, Telegram 06858, April 5, 1979, 1979MANILA06858, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [9] U.S. Interest Section Havana to Department of State, Telegram 02756, April 5, 1979, 1979HAVANA02756, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [10] U.S. Embassy Stockholm to Department of State, Telegram 01437, April 3, 1979, 1979STOCKH01437, and U.S. Embassy Stockholm to Department of State, Telegram 01480, April 4, 1979, 1979STOCKH01480, both Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [11]  U.S. Embassy Brussels to Department of State, Telegram 06318, April 3, 1979, 1979BRUSSE06318, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

     

     

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