30th anniversary of TMI's accident: Resources for Reporters



March 28 will mark the 30th anniversary of the accident at the Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pa. The TMI-2 accident had the greatest impact on nuclear regulation of any single event in history. Although there were no deaths or injuries, the accident is a reminder for the NRC and those who operate plants to remain vigilant in watching over the 104 operating reactors in the United States to ensure their safe operation. 


Since the accident, there have been substantial regulatory changes and other improvements that have contributed to making nuclear plants operate safer and better today. Some of the major changes that have strengthened NRC’s regulation of public health and safety include placement of at least two NRC resident inspectors at each plant site, immediate NRC notification by plants of serious events, expanded emergency preparedness including an NRC Operations Center staffed 24/7, increased identification, analysis and publication of plant performance information, and recognizing human performance as a critical component of plant safety.


Key indicators of plant safety performance have improved dramatically, as indicated in the attached charts. They show:


The average number of significant reactor events over the past 20 years has dropped to nearly zero.

Today there are far fewer, much less frequent and lower risk events that could lead to a reactor core damage.

The average number of times safety systems have had to be activated is about one-tenth of what it was 22 years ago. 

Radiation exposure levels to plant workers has steadily decreased to about one-sixth of the 1985 exposure levels and are well below federal limits.

The average number of unplanned reactor shutdowns has decreased by nearly ten-fold.  In 2007 there were about 52 shutdowns compared to about 530 shutdowns in 1985. 

The NRC is offering a limited number of interviews with the following NRC officials that need to be coordinated through the Office of Public Affairs by calling 301-415-8200 or sending an e-mail to  HYPERLINK "mailto:OPA@nrc.gov" OPA@nrc.gov.


For historical perspective of the TMI-2 accident:  J. Samuel Walker, NRC Historian,       author of Three Mile Island – A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective.

For plant performance improvements:  Eric J. Leeds, Director of Nuclear Reactor  Regulation.

For views of an actual TMI-2 participant:  John White, Region I Branch Chief in the Reactor Safety Division.


Other TMI-related resources for reporters are provided below.

TMI Fact Sheet:  HYPERLINK "http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mile-isle.html" http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mile-isle.html.

Harold Denton Talk, Dec. 2008:   HYPERLINK "http://r2.nrc.gov/videoarchive/ViewVideo.cfm?vlink=49" http://r2.nrc.gov/videoarchive/ViewVideo.cfm?vlink=49.

TMI 25th Anniversary Presentation 3/2004 at NRC:  DVD available from OPA.