Newspaper: The Sentinel

Date: April 9, 1979

Article: Harold Denton: Hero of Three Mile Island?

Author: Jim Kershner


If anyone comes close to being a hero in the Three Mile Island crisis it is Harold R. Denton.

Denton, who President Carter said "has the confidence of the American people," is the calm, sandy-haired nuclear engineer who was dispatched Thursday from the Department of Energy's Rockville, Md., headquarters to take control of the situation.

Besides being the man on the scene with the president's endorsement, Denton has also been the primary source of information for the hundreds of news correspondents who have gathered in Middleton to cover the incident.

Throughout the entire episode, including the first news conference when angry reporters bombarded him with often hostile questions, Denton kept his composure.

IN SPITE OF the fact that the anxious reporters shout out "Dr. Denton," he does not hold a doctorate.
He is a 1958 graduate of North Caroline State College with a bachelor of science in nuclear engineering. He also did graduate work at the University of Maryland and was a participant in a reactor safety course sponsored by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority in 1967.

After graduation from college, Denton went to work for the DuPont company and participated in the design and operation of nuclear reactors at the Savannah River Plant of the Atomic Energy Commission operated by DuPont at Aiken, S.C.

In 1963 he went to work for the AEC himself, first as a reactor physicist, then a reactor inspector chief of the technical support branch of the compliance division, and assistant director of site and radiation safety.
In 1975 he was appointed director of the division of site safety and environmental analysis as the AEC changed its name to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

HIS CURRENT position is director of the NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. He and his wife, Lucinda, and their three children live in Rockville.

When he returns home he will have been transformed from an obscure member of the government's vast bureaucracy into an internationally-known figure.

He will also have become famous as a man who reassured a nation with his calm demeanor while he headed a team that solved a problem fraught with incredible danger and complexity.

"There are no Red Adairs to come flying in from Texas and fix this like he puts out oil rig fires," an NRC press officer said Sunday.

But there is Harold Denton.