Newspaper: The Sentinel

Date: April 7,1979

Article: N- plant faces license loss

Author: United Press International


WASHINGTON (UPI) - The crippled Three Mile Island nuclear power plant could lose its license for violations of federal regulations, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman said today.

"This is one course of action that is available to us, depending on the degree of non-compliance," the spokesman said.

He noted, however, the investigation of what went wrong in the Middletown, Pa., plant was still in "very initial stages."

"The most important thing right now is bringing the reactor to a cold shutdown," he said.

The Washington Post in its Saturday editions quoted a NRC source as saying "loss of license is a distinct possibility" for the Three Mile Island plant.

THE SOURCE told the newspaper that "it boggles the mind" that plant officials allowed the reactor to operate without the auxiliary cooling system, the second line of defense in preventing damage to or meltdown of the nuclear core.

"The rules allow two backup pumps to be down at any one time and then only for a short time," the source said. "If you have all three down, you're supposed to shut the plant down."

HE SAID switches controlling the valve were tagged in the operating room so technicians could see the auxiliary pumps were closed.

But logs of the accident show that 30 seconds after the main coolant pumps failed, the auxiliary pumps automatically switched on. Water began to flow through the auxiliary pipes but was stopped by the closed valves.