HARRISBURG, Pa., April 5, 1979 (UPI) - Central Pennsylvanians are returning home after a week-long nuclear crisis that scared tens of thousands away to safer territory. But many of them are convinced that life will never be the same near Three Mile Island.
"People are still afraid, as far as the nuclear power plant is concerned," said John Brabits, assistant director of the civil defense in Dauphin County, the center of the endangered area.
"I won't feel safe until the people at Three Mile Island say the reactor is in a cold shutdown state," he said. "I'm still concerned about the health and safety of the people."
About 78,900 of the estimated 200,000 residents who fled Dauphin and nearby counties after the nuclear accident eight days ago apparently feel the area is safe enough and have returned to their homes, civil defense authorities said.
The optimistic return was coupled with Gov. Dick Thornburgh's announcement that chances of a catastrophe had been greatly diminished with the elimination of a potentially explosive hydrogen bubble in the power plant's nuclear reactor.
Thornburgh never ordered a mandatory evacuation, but six counties have kept their evacuation plans on alert status.
An eerie air raid siren blared in downtown Harrisburg yesterday morning just as thousands of residents poured back in, and callers jammed the lines at Dauphin County civil defense headquarters.
"Don't worry, nobody hit the panic button," Brabits reassured them. He said the siren was tripped by a mistake.