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William Scranton on: The Hydrogen Bubble
William Scranton Q: What's the reaction to the hydrogen bubble phenomenon?

WS: I was quite unnerved. When I heard of the hydrogen bubble that people whom we trusted and thought knew what they were talking about were speculating at the possibility of a hydrogen bubble. I, for the first time, got frightened. I will readily admit it. I'd been up for three days and this was the first time there seemed to be real respectable opinion that there could be a condition within that containment building that could eventually result in a mass release of radioactivity. It was frightening to me as a husband of a pregnant woman. It was frightening to me as a public official because this was the first time anybody with a really good head on their shoulders was saying this could happen.

The hydrogen bubble situation was not a working theory long enough that we had to go to the people and say this can happen. But it was very unnerving internally. We were making plans for the evacuation of not only people, but of government, of how we were going to govern in the case of the massive melt-down and escape of radioactivity and we were going through some very tough scenarios. Not only were we going through tough scenarios, but these were tired, overworked, very stressed people going through a tough scenario. So it was, in my opinion, the most critical time in the course of the crisis even though this was not generally known publicly at the time. It was the toughest time, dealing with the possibility of the hydrogen bubble.

Q: So when do you feel secure in your own mind that the hydrogen bubble theory is not relevant?

WS: It became clear later on in the day, on Saturday, by their tests and by their speculations that the chance of this was diminishing. It wasn't like they called up and said, "There's no hydrogen bubble." It was like the sun setting. It became less and less and less possible or probable until they finally said, you know, "There's not a hydrogen bubble in here. This is not the situation that we have." We clearly felt confident when the President decided he was going to come, because they surely weren't gonna send him into a situation like that. Saturday was a very, very unnerving day, but as the sun was setting, the possibility -- if I remember my chronology correctly, the possibility had eventually drifted away. But it was one of those speculations that we had to listen to. It was one of the real tough speculations we had to listen to, clearly.

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