There's always somebody who doesn't take disasters seriously.
No matter that state police threw up roadblocks on Rte. 4, and at 9:36 a.m. the sky-is-falling blare of 38 radio-controlled sirens signaled the activation of the Emergency Broadcast System.
No matter that there had been an "accident" at Unit No. 1 at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant; one man was injured; coolant was leaking out of the reactor core; radiation levels were rising, and the situation, in the words of a company spokesman, "continues to deteriorate."
No matter that the governor of Maryland issued a nearly illegible proclamation informing the citizens of a state of emergency and some other grave news--something about three counties being evacuated.
Despite it all, on a day when you would think that even the most enthusiastic fan of nuclear power would steer clear, Bob Miller drove down to the plant to apply for a job.
"Ohh!" he said, when a charitable reporter from the Calvert Recorder clued him in. METROPOLITANLIFE
Job applicants and other visitors were being turned away at the gates yesterday as mock-hell broke loose for seven hours at Maryland's only nuclear power plant, perched beside the Chesapeake Bay, 45 miles southeast of Washington.
As required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the wake of the accident at Three Mile Island, the make-believe disaster was part of an annual drill in which The Authorities demonstrated their ability to respond to a nuclear emergency.
While the piece of nuclear theater was being played out by representatives of 48 federal, state, local and private agencies--a network so extensive it readily explains the emphasis on coordination--the turbines at Calvert Cliffs throbbed without interruption.
The plant generates about $2 million of electricity a day, and the only sign of anything ominous was the sight of a couple of vultures circling over the intake basin where the whitecapped waves of the Chesapeake smashed against a sea wall.
Whatever serious concerns surround the operation of nuclear power plants in populated areas, residents of Calvert County for the most part shrugged off the reports of "grim" news from the plant and went about their business.
Officialdom was busy for sure, and Lynne Gensor's eighth grade students, playing victims of radioactive contamination, were bused to the "detoxification center," otherwise known as Calvert County High School.
But the crowds at McDonald's in Prince Frederick on the 10-mile perimeter looked more concerned about the contents of their Egg McMuffin's than the prospect of airborne radioactivity.
One roadblock set up on Rte. 4, where two state troopers passed out cards advising motorists that they would have been turned back in a real emergency, had more of the air of a receiving line, especially when attractive women drivers pulled up.
Motorists generally reacted like the elderly golfer who, with a set of clubs in the front seat, took his handout calmly and asked, "How far is the golf course?"
"Some of the glamour is gone," said George V. McGowan, president of Baltimore Gas and Electric, which operates the Calvert Cliffs power plant. McGowan was flown by helicopter to the "Media Center" at the Prince Frederick Fairgrounds, about 10 miles from the nuclear plant.
The NRC requires evacuation plans be prepared for areas up to 10 miles away from a nuclear power plant.
McGowan, along with other company officials, Sgt. Tom Moore of the Maryland State Police, and Calvert County Commissioner William Bowen conducted what the company called "a simulated press conference" with three reporters who asked simulated questions about the simulated event while refreshing themselves with unsimulated doughnuts and coffee.
The facilities at the press conference included dioramas that showed how a nuclear reactor works and a microwave oven furnished by the company to heat up a well-stocked larder of meatball sandwiches and macaroni snacks.