Nobody knows for sure what the longterm effects of the accident at the nuclear power plant on Three Mile Island will be. Apart from concern about radiation emitted into the skies above eastern Pennsylvania, there is apprehension over contamination of the Susquehanna River, which flows past the plant.
The Susquehanna is the principal freshwater feeder into Chesapeake Bay. Dr. Joseph Mihursky, a University of Maryland ecologist who specializes in the environmental impact of power plants, says that within three months after a major radiation release into the Susquehanna, the contaminants would start appearing in the bay, depositing bioconcentrates that would adversely affect plankton, oysters and clams. Radiation then would spread through the food chain: the plankton and shellfish would be consumed by small fish, which would be eaten by bigger fish, and so on, to the muskrat and otter that feed in the area's rich marshlands. Waterfowl would also be affected and would transport radioactivity as far as the Arctic Circle.
Assuming that the release of radiation was "minimal," as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asserted last week, this is no more than a scenario. But it is a scenario that is all too plausible. Because of the need for water for cooling purposes, nuclear plants are usually built next to rivers or lakes, whose ecological systems could be gravely damaged by nuclear accidents.
MARATHON IN PARADISE
It was probably only a matter of time, but the running boom has finally reached the South Pacific. To celebrate Flag Day, a big holiday in American Samoa, 75 runners are expected to compete on April 17 in the first Pago Pago Coconut Marathon. The race will start at 4 a.m. in the village of Laulii and pass through Pago Pago westward to the village of Futiga before cutting back to Utulei Beach, the territory's most popular swimming spot. The reason for the early start is that the weather in Samoa can get pretty stifling, with humidity above 90% by midmorning. A three-mile stretch of hills, 14 miles into the race, is expected to take its toll, but survivors can look forward to a postmarathon swim. The finish line is just 10 paces from the inviting waters of the Pacific.
DOING THE HONORS
Owner Charlie Finley didn't have anybody throw out a ceremonial first ball when the Oakland A's opened their home season Friday night. When a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle called to ask about it, Finley said, "Sure, you can throw out the first ball." But the 25 other big league teams followed—or will follow—tradition. By the time the last of the home openers is played on April 17, first balls will have been thrown out by:
Mayors: Dennis Kucinich ( Cleveland), Ed Koch ( New York Mets), Jim McConn ( Houston) and Richard Caliguiri ( Pittsburgh).
Governor: Al Quie ( Minnesota).
Ex-Ballplayers: Stan Hack ( Chicago Cubs) and Charlie Gehringer ( Detroit).