ACCIDENTS CAN HAPPEN: THE WOMEN OF THREE MILE ISLAND
This 90-minute documentary tells the silenced story of the women from the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. The feature stands alone, but the film is also part of a limited six-part-one-hour series on women’s nuclear disaster stories from Chernobyl, Fukushima, Chernobyl, Fukushima, Rocky Flats, Navajo Nation, and the Marshall Islands.
After her mother’s death, Professor Heidi Hutner discovered an unknown chapter in her mother’s life, something that seemed contrary to the woman she thought she knew. Hutner’s mother had been part of Women Strike for Peace. This group’s efforts actually led to the ratification of the Limited Test Ban Treaty – and the end of atmospheric bomb testing by the U.S., U.S.S.R, and U.K. in 1963.
As an eco-feminist professor of sustainability studies, Hutner wondered why had she never heard this story. What other significant women’s nuclear tales had been buried? And at what cost? Hutner felt driven to find out.
At Three Mile Island, almost forty years after the disaster of March 28th, 1979, Hutner stumbles upon Linda, Joyce, Beth, Paula-- ordinary housewives who lived five miles from the nuclear plant at the time of the meltdown. The women “knew nothing about nuclear power.” They “trusted” the power plant owners and their government “to protect” them.
Paula could see the towers from her kitchen window. She was setting her neighbor’s hair at her dining room table when she heard the news about the meltdown on TV. Joyce was tending to her young children and a group of toddlers in her home daycare. All the mothers called their husbands, grabbed their kids, jumped in their cars, and fled.
What the people of Three Mile Island didn’t know: the meltdown had begun two days earlier in the wee hours of the morning, while the community slept. It was too late.
Citizens experienced the symptoms of radiation poisoning: hair loss, burning skin, a metallic taste in their mouths, vomiting. Animals developed cancer and had stillbirths in higher-than-normal numbers. Plants grew deformities. Authorities said all this was in the peoples’ “imaginations.”
Paula, Beth, Linda, and Joyce formed Mothers and Concerned Citizens and gathered evidence to prove that the accident at Three Mile Island meltdown was far more harmful and dangerous than indicated by the government.
Now, forty years later, it turns out the mothers were right: studies show much higher levels of radiation were released from the accident than officially disclosed, and the community has very high rates of cancer. These politically-awakened mothers continue to ask hard questions about what really happened.
The story of the women of Three Mile Island also draws upon key aspects of women and nuclear history and present, through interwoven interviews with Dr. Helen Caldicott (physician and leading spokesperson on nuclear safety), Jane Fonda (actress and activist), Bonnie Raitt (musician and activist), Beatrice Fihn (Nobel Peace Prize Winner for the U.N. Treaty to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), Aileen Mioko Smith (Fukushima), Senator Maria Chappelle (St. Louis), and Kathy Jiltnil-Kejiner (Marshall Islands), and others.
Director, Writer, Producer Professor Heidi Hutner, Director and DP Martijn Hart, Associate Producer Freke Vuijst, Associate Producer Suzanne Kay, Editor Simeon Hutner. The documentary is based on a book-in-progress by Heidi Hutner, Radiophobia, A Nuclear Memoir