Newspaper: The Sentinel

Date: April.9, 1979

Article: Thornburgh questions nuclear power

Author: Scott Macleod


HARRISBURG - Gov. Dick Thornburgh, a supporter of nuclear energy during his campaign for the governorship last year, says in the aftermath of Three Mile Island he is skeptical of nuclear power because of safety risks.

During his 1978 gubernatorial campaign, Thornburgh said he supported development of the nuclear industry providing safeguards could be assured.

Thornburgh said he had doubts about a reopening of the Three Mile Island facility, owned mostly by Metropolitan Edison Co. "I want to know if its safe," he said.

The governor, who was in office only 72 days when the accident occurred March 28, indicated he believed he does not - and never has had - intractable views bout the safety of nuclear power.

"I can't carry out my responsibilities to govern this state if there is an uneasiness in my mind or the public's mind about the safety of any kind of facility," said Thornburgh, who appeared weary from the strain of events.
Here are some answers Thornburgh gave during the interview:

Why Thornburgh advised pregnant women and little children to leave the five-mile radius of Three Mile Island:

"The facts as presented by Harold Denton (the U.S. Nuclear Regulator Commission's No.1 man on the scene) and by relevant environmental and health people indicated that they have not completed the processes which would reduce to zero the probability for occasional puffs, small amounts of radiation.
"We don't want people who are susceptible to be there."

When Thornburgh will give the signal for pregnant women and little children to return to their homes:
"The kind of advice I'm looking for from Denton and the technological side is that they've licked these problems (of radiation leakage) and the assessment from our health and environmental people that it is therefore safe for these susceptible people to return.

"The hope that was expressed was that it would be in a short period of time."

Why Thornburgh did not order evacuation of almost half million persons although the state civil defense was ready to do it if necessary:

"When we had a briefing by Mr. Denton (on March 30), it was apparent that there was no cause for an evacuation at that time."