Prophetic it might have been, but a fictional article about a nuclear disaster at the Three Mile Island generating plant last year nearly cost Harrisburg magazine a $25,000 federal grant.
Federal support for several staff members was ordered cut off by the the Department of Labor after the president of Metropolitan Edison Co., operator of the plant, complained to his congressman.
Walter Creitz, upset by the article, told Rep. Gus Yatron (D-Pa.) that he was concerned that the magazine was receiving money under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA).
A spokesman for the Reading congressman confirmed today that Creitz' letter had been forwarded to the Labor Department, which in turn ordered its contracting agency here to cut off the "alternative" news magazine's CETA money.
The magazine's grant money was delayed by the Susquehanna Employment and Training Corp., but then restored while an appeal by publisher Bob Becker was considered. The appeal is pending.
Three Mile Island, of course, is the site of the Metropolitan Edison plant where an accident a week ago threatened a major disaster and the evacuation of parts of five counties in this area.
The article was an account of public health problems from radiation and mass confusion in an evacuation after an imaginary accident at Three Mile Island. Managing editor Bill Kiesling said it was intended to illustrate the dangers of nuclear power plants.
Creitz told the magazine he considered the article "sensational reading, not true, a horrible article." He complained to Yatron on Aug. 18 that it was "blatantly distorted," and said "Lord, help us all" if federal money supports such writing.
Of course, the events propounded by author Larry Arnold, including a meltdown of the nuclear reactor core, did not occur. But in a strange coincidence, his account said the first radiation problems occurred at the plant on a March 28.
The real accident and the first radiation problems at Three Mile Island last week occurred on . . . March 28.