Newspaper: The Sentinel
Date: April 9, 1979
Article: Infighting blocked NRC from acting on plant flaws, paper says
Author: United Press International
DETROIT (UPI) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission knew of serious safety flaws
at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant before last month's crippling accident
but failed to take corrective action because of staff infighting, according to
a newspaper report.
The Detroit News, in a copyright article from its Washington bureau, said an ideological
split between opponents and advocates of nuclear power on the NTC staff has "semiparalyzed"
the agency and may be at least partly to blame for the accident that crippled
the Pennsylvania plant.
THE NEWSPAPER said it conducted separate interviews last week with six NRC officials
who complained the staff has become so "politicized" in the past year
and a half that it is incapable of responding with speed to the type of problems
that turned up at the Three Mile Island plant.
According to the report, NRC members met several times in the past three months
to discuss reports of cooling equipment failures and inadequate staff training
at the plant, but could not agree on what action to take.
All six of the NRC staff members interviewed by the News said the ideological
division has considerably slowed inspection and licensing processes, sometimes
leaving the agency unable to respond quickly to safety deficiencies.
One source told the newspaper the disputes have "left the agency semiparalyzed
in dealing with reports of safety flaws at the Three Mile Island plant, as well
as several other new plants that were having some start-up problems that normally
should have been corrected quickly."
THE NEWS SAID the six NRC officials, ranging from middle to high level management,
asked to remain unidentified to prevent further escalation of hostilities within
The six officials told the newspaper that NRC inspectors and utility executives
reported 12 separate cooling equipment failures at Three Mile Island in the past
year, including two malfunctions as recently as Feb. 6.
In addition, the News said, the NRC received several reports of discrepancies
in the coding of computerized equipment used to monitor conditions inside the
nuclear core at Three Mile Island reactor No.2. None of those conditions has been
corrected or even thoroughly investigated, the officials said.
The News quoted one senior NRC official as saying the agency had several reports
of "glaring gaps" in training for technicians who operate the Three
Mile Island plant, but that agency staff members had dismissed the reports as