THREE MILE ISLAND Unit 2: 1979-2008

      THREE MILE ISLAND Unit 2: 1979-2008





March 28, 1979, 4:00 a.m. 

Beginning of Three Mile Island (TMI) Unit-2 core melt.


March 28, 1979, 4:30 p.m. 

Press conference of Lt. Gov. William Scranton:


This is an update on the incident at Three-Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant today. This situation is more complex than the company first led us to believe. We are taking more tests. And at this point, we believe there is still no danger to public health. Metropolitan Edison has given you and us conflicting information. We just concluded a meeting with company officials and hope this briefing will clear up most of your questions. There has been a release of radioactivity into the environment. The magnitude of this release is still being determined, but there is no evidence yet that it has resulted in the presence of  dangerous levels. The company has informed us that from about 11 a.m. until about  1:30 p.m., Three-Mile Island discharged into the air, steam that contained detectable amounts of radiation.


March 30, 1979 - Gov. Richard Thornburgh recommended  an evacuation for preschool children and pregnant women living within five miles of the plant. Out of a target population of 5,000, over 140,000 Central Pennsylvanians fled the area.  Schools in the area closed.

The U.S. House of Representatives committee examining reporting information during the accident concluded:

The record indicates that in reporting to State and federal officials on March 28, 1979, TMI managers did not communicate information in their possession that they understood to be related to the severity of the situation. The lack of such information prevented State and federal officials from accurately assessing the condition of the plant. In addition, the record indicates that TMI managers presented State and federal officials misleading statements (i.e. statements that were inaccurate and incomplete) that conveyed the impression the accident was substantially less severe and the situation more under control than what the managers themselves believed and what was in fact the case.


May 22, 1979 - Former control room operator Harold W. Hartman, Jr. tells Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) investigators that Metropolitan Edison- General Public Utilities (GPU) had been falsifying primary-coolant, leak rate data for months prior to the accident. At least two members of management were aware of the practice. NRC investigators do not follow-up or report the allegations to the Commission. (See February 29,1984, for first-ever criminal conviction of a nuclear utility for violating the Atomic Energy Act.)


June 22, 1979 - Governor Richard Thornburgh wrote to the NRC, expressing his “deeply felt responsibility for both the physical and psychological well being of the citizens of Pennsylvania.” Thornburgh stated his “strong opposition to any plans toreactivate Unit -1 until a number of very serious issues are resolved.”


July 2, 1979 - The NRC ordered the indefinite shutdown of TMI-1 until assurances are in place that the plant can be operated safely.


Aug. 9, 1979 - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission set up an Atomic Safety & Licensing Board (ASLB) to hold hearings to determine whether there is reasonable assurance Three Mile Island Unit-1 can be operated without endangering the health and safety of the public.  Most of the issues pertained to General Public Utilities (GPU) managerial, financial and technical resources. The NRC Commissioners committed themselves to directly review any appeal of the ASLB’s restart decision, thus, bypassing the normal, time-consuming route through the Appeal Board. However, the Commission later reversed itself on August 20, 1983.


Oct. 25, 1979 - The NRC issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) for the accident to Met Ed and recommended the maximum fine, $155,000,  permitted under law.


Oct. 30, 1979 - The Kemeny Commission, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, found human error, institutional weaknesses and mechanical failures caused the TMI accident.


Dec. 15, 1979 - Met Ed denied all NRC charges but agreed to pay the NRC fine.





The Susquehanna Valley Alliance, based in Lancaster, successfully prevented GPU/Met Ed from dumping 700,000 gallons of radioactive water into the Susquehanna River.


March 25, 1980 - Met-GPU, blaming Babcock & Wilcox (the plant’s designer)  for the TMI accident, sue B&W for $500 million. (See January 24,  February, 1983 and May 19, 1983, for for more information.)


GPU also filed an unsuccessful $4 billion law suit against the NRC. GPU alleged that the NRC’s negligence contributed to the TMI accident.


June-July, 1980 - For 11 days, Met Ed illegally vented 43,000 curies of radioactive Krypton-85 (10-year half-life; beta and gamma) and other radioactive gasses into the environment without having scrubbers in place. (See November 1980, for court ruling.)


July 23, 1980 - First human entry into TMI-2 containment building since March 28, 1979. (See July 21, 1982 and July 24, 1984, for related developments.)


September 1980 - Met Ed renames itself GPU Nuclear.


Oct. 15, 1980 - The NRC restart hearings begin. Design and hardware issues were litigated by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS); emergency planning was litigated by ANGRY, Newberry Township Steering Committee and Norman and Marjorie Aamodt; financial capability was litigated by TMI-Alert; and, management issues were litigated by TMI Alert and the Aamodts. 


PANE appealed the NRC’s decision not to adjudicate “psychological stress.”  This issue eventually worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also appeared in the hearings. (See January 7, 1982 and April 19, 1983, for follow-up decisions.)


November 1980 - The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the krypton venting (June-July ,1980) was illegal.





In February, a $20 million fund is set up to pay over 15,000 claims for affected area residents and business within the 25-mile radius of TMI. (See 1989 for more information.) Another $5 million was set up to establish the TMI Public Health Fund. However, several years after the establishment of the TMI Public Health Fund (1986), TMI-Alert and area political representatives unsuccessfully petitioned the federal court to remove the Fund’s administrators due to nepotism and poor communication with the community.


March, 1981 - The NRC Commissioners dismissed the  financial qualification issue without the case ever being litigated. The D.C. Circuit Court decides TMIA’s appeal is premature.  


July, 1981 - One billion dollar defueling plan proposed by Governor Thornburgh.


July 9, 1981 - Main restart hearings end.


Aug. 20, 1981 - The NRC reversed its promise to area residents not to allow restart until all internal NRC appeals are complete. 


Oct. 2, 1981 - The ASLB reopened the restart hearings based on allegations of operators cheated on operator license exams.


November 1981 to January 1982 - GPU discovers it has damaged over 29,000 steam generator tubes at TMI-1. (See December 7, 1983; July 16 and October 31, 1984; and, January 11, 1999, for  background information and additional developments.)





Jan. 7,  1982 - The D.C. Circuit Court  decided psychological (psych) stress does not need to be covered during the restart hearings.  However, the Court ruled, that under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), psych stress must be addressed. The Court ordered an injunction on restart until a study on psych stress was conducted. (October 15, 1980 and April 19, 1983, for background developments.)


March, 1982 - The American Journal of Public Health reported: “During the first two quarters of 1978, the neonatal mortality rate within a ten-mile radius of Three Mile Island was 8.6 and 7.6 per 1,000 live births, respectively.  During the first quarter of 1979, following the startup of accident prone Unit 2, the rate jumped to 17.2; it increased to 19.3 in the quarter following the accident at TMI and returned to 7.8 and 9.3, respectively, in the last two quarters of 1979.” Dr. Gordon MacLeod, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Health.


May 18, 1982 - Voters in Cumberland, Dauphin and Lebanon counties vote by a 2-1 margin in a non-binding referendum to oppose the restart of Unit-1. (See May 18, 1983, for related development.)


July 21, 1982 - The first look at the TMI-2 core is recorded by a mini-TV camera. (See July 23, 1980 and July 24, 1984, for related developments.) 


August 12, 1982 - William Pennsyl, a cleanup worker, was fired for insisting he be allowed to wear a respirator while undressing men who entered highly radioactive areas. Pennsyl filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor. (See, April 11, 1984, for follow-up imformation).


November 1, 1982 - The Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) trial begins. (See March 25, 1980; January 24, February 1983,  and May 19, 1983, for additional information.) 


November 9, 1982 -  NRC Commissioners hold a public meeting in Harrisburg. Over 1,200 area residents attend. The commission announced a restart decision would be made by December 1982, even though appeals on the NRC’s Partial Initial Decisions (PID) had not been heard.


December 10, 1982 - No decision from the NRC on restart of TMI-1...






Jan. 24, 1983 - B&W and GPU settle out-of-court. (March 25, 1980; November 1, 1982; and, February 1983 and May 19, 1983, for background material.)


February 1983 - A majority of the Commissioners opposed Commissioner Victor Gilinsky’s request to have the NRC Office of General Counsel review the GPU-B&W trial record. (See March 25, 1980; January 24, February and May 19, 1983, for more information on this case.)


March 22, March 27, and April 2, 1983 - Three senior level plant employees, Richard Parks, Larry King, and Edwin Gischel, charge GPU and Bechtel with harassment, intimidation and circumvention cleanup safety procedure.


April 18, 1983 - The NRC staff begins to back away from its support of GPU.


April 19, 1983 - The United States Supreme Court reversed the D.C. Circuit Court’s opinion on psych stress and ruled an environmental study is not necessary.


April 26, 1983 - The NRC staff explains that the basis for the need to “revalidate” GPU’s management was the “open issue of the Hartman allegations concerning the falsification of leak rate data,” which could “possibly affect the staff’s position on management integrity.”


May 5, 1983 - GPU reveals for the first time to the NRC that  management audits concluded by BETA and RHR, completed in February and March, 1983, were critical of plant operations and management.


May 18, 1983 - Twelve area residents were arrested at TMI for blocking the plant entrance on the anniversary of the TMI referendum. (See May 18, 1982, for background material.)


May 19, 1983 - William J. Dircks, NRC Executive Director for Operations announces the staff’s withdrawal of support for GPU’s management based on five “open” issues: 1) Hartman allegations; 2) B&W trial transcript (See March 25, 1980); 3) Cleanup worker allegations; 4) BETA and RHR reports; and, 5) GPU’s failure to promptly report BETA and RHR’s conclusions to the NRC.


June 2, 1983 - Governor Thornburgh urged the NRC not to make a final decision on restart until the State’s appeal of all issues are concluded. Eight days later GPU writes to the Governor and proposes to reorganize some personnel, and promises not to let those individuals who cheated on exams operate Unit 1. Thornburgh drops the Commonwealth’s appeal on the “cheating” issue, and  suggested GPU’s proposal is a “good start” towards satisfying his concerns.



July 22, 1983 - GPU is fined $140,000 for submitting material false statements to the NRC in connection with the license certification of then TMI-2 Supervisor of operations who cheated on his license requalification exam IN 1979. (See June 15. 1985.)


Oct. 17, 1983 - Prehearing conference on steam generator tubes. (See December 7, 1983.)


Sept.  22, 1983 - Dauphin County Commissioners pass a resolution to establish air emissions standards for TMI. The county also established a task force to write the ordinance. This is the first time a county takes legally binding action to control the hazards caused by nuclear power operations.


Nov. 7, 1983 - The Department of Justice indicts Met Ed for falsifying leak rate data and destroying documents before the accident, in violation of their license, NRC regulations, and the federal criminal code.


Dec. 5, 1983 - The NRC staff recommends TMI-1 restart at 25% power, although they can not endorse GPU’s management. (See April 26, 1983 and July 26, 1984, for more information.)


Dec. 7, 1983 - The Commission’s Office of General Counsel reports that the steam generator tube repairs are a “significant hazard consideration” and a vote to the  contrary would violate the Atomic Energy Act. (For related developments see November 1981 - January 1982; July 22, 1983; July 16, 1984; and, January 11, 1999).




Jan. 11, 1984 -  By a 3-2 vote, and with only a day of public notice, the NRC decided to separate integrity issues from restart.


Feb. 29, 1984 - A plea bargain between the Department of Justice and Met Ed settled the Unit 2 leak rate falsification case. Met Ed plead guilty to one count, and no contest to six counts of an 11 count indictment. 


The Company also agreed to pay a $45,000 fine, and establish a $1 million dollar interest-bearing account to be used by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. The Settlement stipulated that the fines, emergency preparedness fund, and legal cost of the prosecution, would not be paid by GPU/Met Ed rate share holders. (See May 22, 1979, for initial complaint.)


April 11, 1984 -  William Pennsyl settled out-of-court two days before an administrative law judge was scheduled to hear his case. (See August 12, 1982, for background information).


May 24, 1984 - The NRC’s Atomic and Safety Licensing Board orders new hearings on management competence and integrity.


June 4, 1984 - In response to a freedom of Information request by the Philadelphia Inquirer,  the NRC released transcripts of closed door Commission meetings from 1981- 1983. The Commission’s strong commitment to restart is only tempered by legal and political considerations. Additionally, the Commission clearly lacked an in depth understanding of the legal and technical issues, and holds the public views in disdain.


June 15, 1984 - James Floyd, former TMI-2 Supervisor of operations, is indicted by a federal grand jury for cheating on 1979 licensing exams, and for causing two material false statements to be submitted to the NRC in connection with his license certification. (See November 6, 1984 and January 2, 1985, for related developments.)


July 16, 1984 - TMIA is the only group to intervene in the steam tube case. The Board refuses to allow evidence relating to the recently discovered steam generator tube problem. (See November 1981 through January 1982; December 7, 1983; July 16  and November 6, 1984; and, January 11, 1999, for related developments.)


July 24-27, 1984 - During the 159-ton reactor head lift, which was delayed due to polar crane failure, GPU vented radioactive gases into the environment despite pledges by the Company and NRC that no radioactive releases would occur. This is the time there has been direct access to Unit-2’s damaged fuel. GPU was fined $40,000 by the NRC for this violation. 

July 26, 1984 - The NRC endorsed GPU’s management, but concludes that as of 1981 “the licensee had not yet met the standard of reasonable assurance of no undue risk to public health and safety.” (See December 15 and April 26, 1983, for background information.)



Aug. 13, 1984 - TMIA, joined by  political officials and New Jersey safe-energy organizations, petitioned the NRC to revoke GPU’s license based on the fact that the Company lacks the ability to safely operate TMI. (See NRC ruling on January 15, 1985).



Aug. 15, 1984 - Governor Thornburgh addresses the NRC and urged them not to vote on restart  until ASLB hearings are held on certain “management integrity” issues, and until funding is in place for the cleanup.


Sept. 25, 1984 - The NRC staff denies UCS petition to require repairs to the emergency feedwater system before Unit 1 is allowed to operate. (See December 20, 1984, for Commission decision.)


Oct. 31, 1984 - The AS&LB approves the Unit 1 stream generator tube repairs.


Nov. 6, 1984 - Research conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE) on reactor damage during the accident, indicates temperatures may have reached in excess of 4,800 degrees. (See February 9, 1990, for follow-up research.)


Nov. 8, 1984 - The NRC notifies Congress that the Justice Department has begun a federal grand jury investigation of the NRC staff.


Nov. 14, 1984 - ASLB hearings recommence on the first of four remanded issues: the Diekamp Mailgram.


Nov. 16, 1984 - Former TMI Supervisor James Floyd is convicted in federal court of cheating on NRC operator exams in 1979. (See June 15, 1984.)


Dec. 10, 1984 - TMIA filed a motion to reopen the steam tube case based on new data, including the revelation of recently discovered cracks in unrepaired areas.


December 1984 - Former NRC Investigator David Gamble testified at NRC hearings that the NRC’s investigation as to whether Met Ed-GPU officials withheld information during the accident was deliberately incomplete and inaccurate. Gamble added the NRC’s conclusion exonerating the Company was not supported by facts.


Dec. 13, 1984 - The Commission denies a motion by the Aamodts regrading radioactive releases during the accident.


Dec. 19, 1984 - Hearings begin on second remanded issues: training since 1981 cheating scandal.


Dec. 20, 1984 - The Commission denied UCS’s petition to delay restart until modifications are made on the accuracy of emergency feedwater flow indications. (See September 25, 1984, for background information.)





TMI’s owners and builders paid more than $14 million for out-of-court settlements of personal injury lawsuits. The largest settlement was for a child born with Down’s Syndrome.


Jan. 2, 1985 - Ivan Smith, ASLB  Chairman, sends a letter to district court asking leniency for James Floyd. The letter prompts protests from elected officials and local citizens. (See June 15 and November 6, 1984, for background data.)


Jan. 11, 1985 - The Commonwealth calls for the removal of Ivan Smith, Chair of the ASLB, for showing pervasive bias in favor of GPU. Similar motions were filed by TMI Alert and UCS. Later the NRC staff supported  motions for Smith’s removal. (See January 2, 1985.)


Jan.15, 1985 - The NRC staff denied TMIA’s 2.206 petition asking for GPU’s license to be revoked based on deficient character. (See August 13, 1984, for background information.)


March 24, 1985 -  Claims of $110 million for reduced property values and lost business revenues have yet to be paid by GPU’s insurers.


May 29, 1985 - The NRC Commissioners vote by 4-1 to restart TMI-1. TMIA, UCS and the Aamodts appeal the NRC’s decision. 


At TMI, 79 local residents were arrested at the North Gate.


July 12, 1985 - Two workers who participated in the initial phase of the cleanup and contracted cancer, joined 2,500 area residents suing GPU.


August 1985 - Marc Sheaffer, a psychologist at the Uniformed Services University of the health Sciences in Bethesda, released a study linking TMI-related stress with immunity impairments. (See August, 1987 and April, 1988, for related studies.)


Aug. 9, 1985 - GPU’s permit to ship low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) to Hanford, Washington was temporarily suspended due to mislabeling of three barrels of radioactive waste. (See August 14, 1985; December 1987; May 6, 1992; and, April 9, 1993, for related rad waste problems.)


Aug. 12, 1985 - GPU and Bechtel were fined $64,000 for cleanup worker allegations first reported on March 22, 1983.


Aug. 14, 1985 - Three-thousand gallons of LLRW water leaked into the containment building. (See August 9, 1985; December 1987; May 6, 1992; and April 9, 1993, for related rad waste problems.)


Oct. 3-4, 1985 - TMI-1 restarts...17 area residents are arrested at the North Gate.


Oct.1985 - Removal of damaged fuel from TMI-2 begins.







TMI-2 defueling work force peaks at 2,000.


February 1986 - One celled organisms believed to be fungus, bacteria and algae like creatures were discovered.  These creatures obscured the view of the reactor core, and impeded the cleanup.


March, 1986 - See June 15, 1987, for positive drug testing results that began during this month. (Also, please refer to August 18, 1987, for a related incident.)


July, 1986 - First shipment of damaged fuel debris was shipped to Idaho.


Dec. 16, 1986 - A cleanup worker was contaminated and injured when lead shielding fell on him. The worker was treated in an emergency room at  a local hospital.






 Spring 1987 - Three Mile Island Alert (TMIA) was recognized by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for ten years of community service. (See Spring 1997, for related public service acknowledgements.)


March 29, 1987 - A contractor employee was arrested and charged with criminal mischief for releasing halogen gas on the ground floor of the Unit-2 control building. The employee wanted to leave work early. Total damage from the incident was approximately $50,000.


May, 1987 - A non-licensed plant employee was found sleeping in the Unit-2  radioactive waste control room. (See December 1, 1987; July 19 and August 3, 1988;  October 11, 1989; and July 31, 1990, for related sleeping events.)


June, 1987 - The NRC endorsed GPU’s plan to evaporate 2.3 million gallons of accident-generated, radioactive water, including tritium, cesium and strontium, directly into the atmosphere.  


June 15, 1987 - Ten employees working at TMI-1 & TMI-2 tested positive for drugs; eight individuals were suspended for 30 days without pay and one resigned.


 Since March 1986, sixteen employees have tested positive for drugs. (See August 31, 1996, for a related incident.)


August 1987 - James Rooney and Sandy Prince of Embury of Penn State University reported that chronically elevated levels of psychological stress have existed among Middletown residents since the accident. (See August, 1985 and April, 1988, for related studies.)


December 1987 - Shipment of certain LLRW to Barnwell, South Carolina was barred. The failure of a 12,000 pound liner containing “solidified sludge” to properly harden was cited as the reason for the prohibition. (See August 9 and 141985;  May 6, 1992; and April 9, 1993, for related problems.)


Dec. 1, 1987 - GPU announced the firing of a TMI-2 shift supervisor for sleeping on the job. Although the employee had a record of sleeping on the job dating back to the early 1980s, GPU did not issue a warning until October 1986.

Edwin Stier, former Director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, reported that 21 witnesses saw the shift supervisor asleep on the job. (See May 1987; July 19 and August 3, 1988; October 11, 1989; and, July 31, 1990,  for other sleeping incidents.)




Feb. 9, 1988 - Due to a partially “split hose” in the sludge processing system, “ a spill of liquid radioactive waste” resulted “...with accompanying high dose rates.”


April, 1988 - Andrew Baum, professor of medical psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the health Sciences in Bethesda discussed the results of his research on TMI residents in Psychology Today. “When we compared groups of people living near Three Mile Island with a similar group elsewhere, we found that the Three Mile Island group reported more physical complaints, such as headaches and back pain, as well as more anxiety and depression. We also uncovered long-term changes in levels of hormones...These hormones affect various bodily functions, including muscle tension, cardiovascular activity, overall metabolic rate and immune-system function...” (See August, 1985 and August, 1985, for related studies.)


May 23, 1988  - A clean up worker “fell part-way into an opening above the Unit 2 reactor vessel” and “received low radiation exposure to the skin below the knees.” During the incident the “worker’s legs were immersed in shielding water above the reactor vessel up to his knees.”


June 2, 1988 - A minor was exposed to radiation “ excess of the limits...” due to the falsification of his date of birth.” Different radiation standards are applied to juveniles and adults. The minor was “removed” from TMI.


July, 1988 - GPU settles a class action suit challenging high utility rates for $1.25 million.


July 19, 1988 - The operator of the Reactor Building polar crane was found sleeping at his station.

The same day a worker was found asleep in the Unit-2 Contamination Control Crucible. (See May 1987 and December 1, 1987;  July 19 and August 3, 1988;  October 11, 1989; and, July 31, 1990,  for more on workers asleep on the job.)


July 26, 1988 - “A rail car carrying a loaded shipping cask and its unmanned yard engine drifted for approximately 60 yards on the site tracks. The engine and the rail car came to a final rest as a result of an increase in the natural grade of the rails.” (See November 20, 1988, for a related development.)



Aug. 3, 1988 - A workers was found sleeping in the Unit-2 auxiliary building. (See May 1987 and December 1, 1987; July 19, 1988; October 11, 1989; and July 31, 1990,  for other sleeping events.) 


 Aug. 31, 1988 - A Unit-2 operator was fired after an 11 day investigation, including a medical probe, “showed the licensed operator, who was not identified, had been drinking and taking drugs either before or after he reported to work or while he was at work.” (See June 15, 1987, for related drug problems.)


Nov. 30, 1988 - Three railway casks containing core debris destined for the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory were prevented from being shipped for a month. The delay was due to faulty change out O-rings in the shipping casks. (See July 26, 1988, for a related incident.)







After 10 years of defueling activities, 5,000 TMI workers have received “measurable doses” of radiation exposure.


GPU collected $560 million in insurance as a result of the TMI accident. The Company’s insurers have paid over $55 million in health, economic and evacuation claims since March 1979.


Sept. 21, 1989 - At the TMI Advisory Panel Meeting, Dr. Michael Masnik of the NRC informed the Panel that “the NRC Office of Investigations report on the subject of management involvement in the inattentiveness issue at TMI-2 has been referred to the Justice Department and is under evaluation at this time.” Dr. Masnik also acknowledged that the NRC believes there is “...wrongdoing on the part of the licensee.” ....Two days later...


Sept. 23, 1989 - A TMI-2 operator was found reading “unauthorized material”, i.e. a “girly” magazine. (See September 21, 1989, for the precursor event,  and September 1991 and April 21, 2001, for related incidents.)


Sept. 25, 1989 - Two cleanup workers received radiation exposures while handling a “small piece of reactor core debris...” in the decontamination area. “Officials said preliminary calculations show one worker may have a radiation exposure on the hands above 75 rem. The second worker may have an exposure greater than 18.75 rem. The federal occupational limit for exposure to extremities is 18.75 per calendar quarter.” 


On Jan. 13, 1990 - GPU was fined $50,000 for a violation of “requirements protecting workers.”


Oct. 11, 1989 - A polar crane operator was found “reclining on the walkway with his feet draped over the handrail, eyes closed and head nodding.” (See  May 1987 and December 1, 1987; July 19 and August 3, 1988; and, July 31, 1990,  for other sleeping problems at TMI-2.)


Nov. 1, 1989 - One of two workers involved in a radiation exposure “incident” may have received 220 rems to the hands, i.e., “extremities.” The other worker in the incident is projected to have received 35 rems of exposure. The incident began when the workers picked up an object they thought was a “nut” or “bolt”,  but was in fact a piece of highly radioactive fuel. The workers were then advised to throw the “object into the reactor vessel.” Since the fuel was “discarded”, GPU had to use models to predict dose calculations and exposure rates. 


GPU was also in violation for failing to report this incident in a timely fashion. Additionally, the workers have reported contradictory statements about the event. (See September 25 and November 28, 1989, for recent worker exposures.)


Nov. 28, 1989 - Another exposure incident occurred at TMI-2 when a worker, who was wearing protective clothing, took the object [a 40-foot poll] and began wiping it with a towel...the worker was holding a radiation monitor and noticed after a few seconds that the object was highly radioactive...” GPU termed this incident an “unplanned exposure” [below one rem] and not an overexposure. (See September 25 and November 1, 1989, for recent worker exposures.)

 GPU ordered a temporary shutdown of the cleanup, and the NRC “suggested” defueling may be halted. 




Jan. 13, 1990 - GPU was fined $50,000 for excessive radiation exposure to a worker. (See September 25 and November 1 and 28, 1989, for background information.)


Feb. 9, 1990 - “An apparent crack has been discovered in a sample of metal that has been taken from the bottom of the reactor vessel at Three Mile Island Unit 2. The crack appears to extend deeper into the bottom head of the vessel than was believed last summer when apparent cracks were detected on the surface of the five-inch-thick bottom head.” (See November 6, 1984, for initial research findings.)


July 31, 1990 - The NRC announced “that an allegation that a shift supervisor on duty at Three Mile Unit 2 control room, during defueling operations in 1987, had sometimes slept on shift or had been otherwise inattentive to his duties, was true.

“Although some key members of the site management staff were aware of the sleeping problems and some actions were taken to correct it, it  [sic] was not effectively corrected until utility corporate management became involved. The NRC staff proposes to fine GPU Nuclear, Inc. (GPUN) the company that operates the TMI site, $50,000. The staff also proposes a Notice of Violation to the former shift supervisor.”  (For related sleeping problems refer to May 1987 and December 1, 1987; July 19 and August 3, 1988; and, October 11, 1989.)


Dec. 10, 1990 - GPU began evaporating 2.3 million gallons of accident-generated radioactive water directly into the atmosphere. Two days later the evaporator was shut down for mechanical problems.





Jan. 24, 1991 - The evaporator was “shut down four times due to various mechanical and electrical difficulties.” 


April 7 to May 11, 1991 - The evaporator was shut down for most of this period so GPU could  “rewrite the main operating procedure.” A Notice of Violation was issued by the NRC.


June 1991 - Columbia University’s Health Study (Susser-Hatch) published results of their findings in the American Journal of Public Health. The study actually shows a more than doubling of all observed cancers after the accident at TMI-2, including:  lymphoma, leukemia, colon and the hormonal category of breast, endometrium, ovary, prostate and testis. For leukemia and lung cancers in the six to 12 km distance, the number observed was almost four times greater. In the 0-six km range, colon cancer was four times greater. The study found “a statistically significant relationship between incidence rates after the accident and residential proximity to the plant.” (See August, 1996 for Wing Study.)


September 1991 - Standley H. Hoch, Chairman and CEO of GPU, was forced to resign after it was disclosed he had an affair with Susan Schepman, vice president of communications.  (See September 21 & 23, 1989 and  April 21, 2001, for related incidents.)






May 6, 1992 - The NRC issued a Notice of Deviation related to GPU’s “commitment” to conduct annual radioactive, waste transport audits. GPU was actually conducting the audits every 24 months. (See August 9, 1985; December 1987; and April 9, 1993,  for related rad waste problems.)


Aug.  5, 1992 - GPU “declared an event of potential public interest when the Unit-2 west cooling tower caught fire.” The fire lasted for ten minutes.


September 1992 - GPU and the NRC agree to a negotiated settlement on the Post-Defueling Monitored Storage (PDMS) of TMI-2 with TMI-Alert, Chairman Eric Epstein. The Agreement stipulates GPUN will provide equipment and resources to independently monitor radioactive levels at TMI-2; $700,000 for remote robotics research to assist in the cleanup and minimize worker exposure; and, guarantees that TMI-2 will never operate or serve as a radioactive waste repository for any radioactive waste generated off the Island. (See December 1993 and April 23, 1998, for more information.)


Nov. 12, 1992 - “Due to slightly higher activity levels, approximately 600,000 gallons of accident generated water (AGW) must be processed through the evaporator twice before being vaporized into the atmosphere.”




January 1993 - GPU “discovered” they failed to take periodic samples of approximately 221,000 gallons of accident generated water in the borated water storage tank. 


Feb. 7, 1993 -  An intruder drove past TMI’s guarded entrance gate, crashed through a protected area fence, crashed through the turbine building roll-up door, and hid in a darkened basement of the plant for almost four hours before being apprehended by guards.


On February 11, 1993, the NRC’s top safety official Thomas Murley wasn’t sure if any regulations had been violated during the incident at TMI. Nineteen days later, Samuel Collins head of the NRC’s investigation team announced: “An individual can challenge the security events that currently exist. 

(See March 1, 1996 for follow-up information.)







April 9, 1993 - A Notice of Violation was issued for a “shipment of containers to the burial facility in Washington in standing liquid inside the containers [was] in excess of ...NRC regulations.” (See August 9 and 14, 1985; December 1987, and, May 6, 1992, for related rad waste problems.)


August 1993 - Evaporation was completed six months behind schedule.


August 1993 - Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of Theoretical Nuclear Physics at City University of New York, evaluated studies conducted or commissioned by the NRC on the amount of fuel left in TMI-2. Kaku concluded: “It appears that every few months, since 1990, a new estimate is made of core debris, often with little relationship to the previous estimate...estimates range from 608.8 kg to 1,322  kg...This is rather unsettling...The still unanswered questions are therefore precisely how much uranium is left in the core, and how much uranium can collect in the bottom of the reactor to initiate re-criticality.”


December 1993 - GPU placed TMI-2 in Post-Defueling Monitored Storage. (See September 1992, for background information.)






 March 17, 1994 - TMI-1 shutdown for unscheduled repairs.





Sept. 20, 1995 - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court  reversed a lower court’s decision, and sided with GPU in allowing the Company to charge rate payers for the TMI-2 accident.

The decision ignored the financial facts of the case: TMI-2 was built at a cost to rate payers of $700 million and had been on line for 90 days, or 1/120 of its planned operating lifetime, when the March 1979 accident began. One billion has been spent to defuel the plant, which now lays in idle shutdown, i.e., Post-Defueling Monitored Storage. 




March 1, 1996 - The NRC issued a violation against GPU for a breach in the protected area barrier on February 6, 1996. “Due to this event being similar to other security events that occurred in September 1995 and for which you were cited with a violation, the NRC is concerned about the implementation and effectiveness of the corrective actions to prevent recurrence of that type of violation...”  NRC, James T. Wiggins, Director, Division of Reactor Safety.

(See Feb. 7, 1993, for datat on Unauthorized Forced Entry.)


June 4, 1996 - U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo granted summary judgment to GPU and its co-defendants in consolidated proceedings of more than 2,000 personal injury claims arising from the  March 1979 accident at TMI. (See August 1996, November 2, 1999 and June 12, 2000 for related health suit activities.)

August 1996 - A study by the University of North Carolina-Chapel-Hill, authored by Dr. Steven Wing, reviewed the Susser-Hatch (Columbia University) study released in June 1991. Dr. Wing reported “...there were reports of erythema, hair loss, vomiting, and pet death near TMI at the time of the accident...Accident doses were positively associated with cancer incidence. Associations were largest for leukemia, intermediate for lung cancer, and smallest for all cancers combined...Inhaled radionuclide contamination could differentially impact lung cancers, which show a clear dose-related increase.” (See June 4, 1996, November 2, 1999 and June 12, 2000, for related developments on TMI health claims.)



Aug. 18, 1996 - A contract supervisor tested positive for a controlled substance and was escorted from the site.  Also refer to June, 1987.)




February, 1997 - In their 1997 Annual Report,  GPU reported that the cost to decommission TMI-2 doubled in four years. The original $200 million projection has been increased to $399 million for radioactive decommissioning. An additional $34 million will be needed for non-radiological decommissioning. The new funding “target” is $433 million; or a 110% increase in just 48 months.


March 4, 1997 - GPU improperly downgraded safety equipment and prepared inadequate design and safety evaluations at TMI. (See October 14, 1997, for NRC fine.)


March 5, 1997 - GPU failed an emergency preparedness drill. (See October 14, 1997, for follow-up fine.)


Spring 1997  - The Pennsylvania House of Representatives, along with the City of Harrisburg, recognized TMI-Alert for 20 years of community service. (See Spring 1997, for related public service award.)


Oct. 14, 1997   - GPU agreed to pay a $210,000 fine for violations identified by the NRC between November 1996 and May 1997 including: inadequate engineering design controls; improperly downgrading safety equipment; and, inadequate implementation of the plant’s emergency preparedness program.  (See March 4 and 5, 1997, for background information.)




Jan. 1, 1998 - “Despite four incidents at Three Mile Island-1 involving personnel errors, including one involving contamination and another the type of valve that stuck open and led to the Three Mile Island-2 accident in 1979, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has issued a Notice of Violation -- but not a civil penalty -- against GPU Nuclear Corporation. (See October 14, 1997, for recent NRC violations.)


April 23, 1998 - RedZone Robotics, who has built robots at TMI-2 as part of the TMI-2 Settlement Agreement, will design a robot to map the damaged Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine. (See September 1992, for background information.)





Jan. 11, 1999 - TMI-1 is operating with thousands of damaged steam tubes. “...OTSG “A” has plugged 1,300 tubes and OTSG [Once Through Steam Generator] has 395 plugged tubes, totaling 1,695 plugged tubes at TMI-1. Each OTSG has 15,531 tubes. The NRC approved limit is a maximum of 2,000 total tubes plugged. GPUN has analyzed and submitted for NRC review a request to revise the tube plugging limit to 20% per OTSG, or 3,106 tubes per OTSG.


OTSG “A” has 248 tubes sleeved (one previously sleeved tube has been plugged) and OTSG “B” has 253 tubes sleeved.” (AmerGen’s Response to Questions and Concerns Regarding TMI-1 License Transfer Application. (See November 1981 through January 1982; December 7, 1983; and, July 16, 1984, for background information.)



Jan. 14, 1999 - TMI’s new owners, AmerGen, entered into a Negotiated Settlement Agreement with TMIA’s Chairman, Eric Epstein. The Agreement stipulates that AmerGen will maintain equipment to allow citizens to independently monitor radiation releases at TMI; ensure the TMI work force exceeds minimal NRC requirements; additional decommissioning costs will be absorbed by AmerGen; guarantees no radioactive waste generated off-site can be stored at TMI; and, AmerGen also agreed not to conduct business with any company boycotted by the U.S. for military or economic reasons. 


July 21, 1999 - GPU Nuclear received permission form the NRC to reduce the insurance at TMI-2 from $1.06 billion to $50 million.


Nov.  2, 1999 -The Third Circuit Court of Appeals “revived the the rest of the lawsuits [1,990], citing those individuals constitutional right to have their cases heard by a jury.” The Circuit Court upheld U.S. District Chief Judge Sylvia H. Rambo’s “ruling on the expert testimony and the dismissal of the 10 [test cases.” (Pennsylvania Law Weekly, June 12, 200). (Also refer to June 14 and August 1996 and June 12, for United States Supreme Court rejection of GPU’s appeals.)





June 12, 2000 -  The United States Supreme Court , without comment, rejected an appeal by GPU to throw out 1,990 health suits. (Please refer to  June 4 and August 1996 and November 2 1999, and May 2, 2001, for related developments.)


Aug. 9,  2000 - FirstEnergy Corp. and GPU announced a planned  merger expected to be finalized by August 2001. FE would acquire GPU for approximately $4.5 billion Ownership of TMI-2 and liability for 1,990 health suits against GPU would be transferred to FirstEnergy. 


October 2000 -Twenty-one years after the TMI-2 accident ruled on a rule making request by Public Citizen to change the agency’s criteria for an “extraordinary nuclear occurrence.”





April 21, 2001 - GPU fired an engineer who worked at TMI for 20 years for possessing “computer images of children engaging in sex acts or simulated sex acts.”  The man faces 112 counts and was released on $50,000 bail. (See September 21 & 23, 1989 and September 1991 for related incidents.)


May 2, 2001 - The Third Circuit Court ruled that “new theories” to support medical claims against Three Mile Island will not be allowed. (Please refer to  June 4 and August 1996 and November 2 1999, and July 12, 2000, for related developments.)


Sept. 17, 2001- TMI-Alert filed a Petition for rule making with the NRC requiring the Agency to mandate armed security guards at the entrance to all nuclear rower plants. A final decision is expected in November l, 2002. The Nuclear Energy Institute, First Energy’s “voice in Washington, “recommended” that the Petition be “denied.”


  October 17, 2001 - Due to a “credible threat” against Three Misle Island, the Harrisburg and Lancaster airports were closed for four hours, air travel was restricted in a 20-mile radiius,   a fighter jets were scrambled around TMI. (See Oct. 6, 2001, for a related event.) (On January, 2001, a bomb threat was made at TMI.)


Nov. 2, 2001 - Governor Mark Schweiker reversed an earlier decision,  and ordered the National Guard to Pennsylvania’s nuclear power plants.The Commonwealth joins over a dozen states with National Guard and/or Coast Guard detatchments depolyed to protect nuclear facilities against terrorist attacks. (See October 6 & 17, 2001, for  related incidents).


Dec. 8, 2001 - TMI resumed operation after a 58 day refueling outage that cost the company over $100 in lost revenues, replacemnt  energy, and planned and unplanned repairs, and upgrades. Among the “big-ticjet” items: repalcement of the turbine genrapor and four main transformes; repairs of crakcs in six control-rod drive mechansims; trouble shooting on chronic emegemency feedwater problems; and, experimnetal steam tube genrator repairs which led to the “unplugging” ogf 870 tubes and taking 266 tubes out-of-service.  (See October 9, 2001, for data relating to start of refueling outage.) 






January 11, 2002 - Siren testing at TMI encountered numerous problems: all sirens failed in York County and one siren failed in Lancaster County. AmerGen attributed to computer malfunctions. 


January 30, 2002 - President Bush’s State of the Union Address including a warning that nuclear power plants may be targeted for a terrorist attack.    


March 3, 2002 - A siren malfunctioned  in York County again. During TMI’s annual test on on January 30, 2002, all 34 sirens in York County, located within ten-miles of  the plant,  failed to activate.  



March 21, 2002 - Three Mile Island Alert (TMIA) was recognized by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate and the City of Harrisburg for 25 years of community service.  


March 28, 2002  - The NRC admitted that and the Three Mile Island and the 102 nuclear power plants could not withstand an impact of airplane the size of those that crashed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  


 May 15, 2002 - “A foreign intelligence service recently warned that a nuclear power plant in the Northeast could be the target of a July 4 terrorist attack...Published reports suggested that the target could be Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island, but a second US official with knowledge of the information said no specific facility had been named.” (Knight Ridder, May 15, 2002.) (See January, 2001, October 6, 2001 & October 17, January, 9 and 30,  2002,  and March 21, for related incidents.)


Sept. 5, 2002   --  Three Mile Island Alert filed a formal Petition for Rulemaking with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to include day-care centers and nursery schools in emergency evacuation planning. The proposed rule would affect all 103 operating  nuclear plants in the United States.


November 2002 - “ Governor Schweiker “directed the National Guard to join State Police in a joint security mission at the state’s nuclear facilities.” In December, the Governor extended the joint mission of the National Guard and the State Police at the Commonwealth’s five nuclear generating stations until March 4, 2002. (DEP, Update, December 6, 2002.)





Dec. 3, 2002 - The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the Summary Judgment of the United Sates District Court for the Middle District. (1999) With the demise of the 1,990 health suits, the last remaining TMI case involves  17 Route 30 business from Lancaster County. The business have claimed loss o business revenues  and include Dutch Wonderland, restaurants and lodging establishments.




March 30, 2004: A Wackenhut security guard stationed at TMI's north gate failed to respond to a vehicle for 15 seconds. 


Sept. 12, 2004: 

State plan to handle nuke crisis challenged


State and federal authorities are investigating allegations that Pennsylvania is unprepared to evacuate preschool children and nursing home and hospital patients during a nuclear accident. 

The federal government requires that the state have a plan for moving people who cannot care for themselves and live within 10 miles of a nuclear plant. Two Harrisburg area residents allege that the state has been out of compliance with federal safety requirements for nearly two decades. 


Gov. Ed Rendell's office and the Federal Emergency Management Agency took on the review of the state's plan after receiving a letter last week from Larry Christian and Eric Epstein, chairman of the watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert, detailing these issues. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also received the letter. 

If the accusations are deemed true, it would call into question the validity of the operating licenses for the five nuclear power stations in Pennsylvania. Federal law requires the NRC to determine that the public will be protected in a radiological emergency before it grants a license to open a nuclear plant. 

-Report by Garry Lenton of the Patriot-News





Feb. 11, 2005

Nuclear plant guard rule could be year away

TMI watchdog group decries 'glacier' pace 


The Harrisburg-based nuclear watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert has been waiting since Sept. 12, 2001, for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to decide whether nuclear plant owners must post armed guards at their front gates. 

TMIA will have to wait another year for its answer, according to an NRC memo released to Wednesday. The memo outlines a schedule the NRC plans to follow as it considers rule changes for security at the nation's 63 nuclear power stations. 

The memo, from Luis A. Reyes, executive director for operations, anticipates that recommendations that could mandate guards at plant entrances will be presented to the commissioners next February. 

If the NRC adheres to the schedule, the recommendation would come nearly five years after TMIA petitioned the agency for the change.

A statement issued by the watchdog group yesterday called the NRC's failure to act on its request irresponsible and unreasonable. "For nearly four and a half years the NRC has misled [TMIA] about its deliberations on the petition," the statement said. "When requesting status updates, the NRC perpetually stated that a decision on the petition would be made within three to six months." 

TMIA asked the NRC to require plant operators to keep at least one armed guard at each plant entrance. The petition, which was drafted weeks before the terror attacks of 9/11, argued that the guards would serve as a physical and visual deterrent against attacks.  

Since 9/11, the NRC has issued security requirements aimed at making the plants less vulnerable to attack. Changes include the addition of guard towers, truck barriers, deeper background checks and high-tech fencing. Most, if not all, plant owners post guards at their front gates. 

 For months after the terror attacks, Pennsylvania was among several states to assigned National Guard troops to the plants. NRC officials have denied allegations of foot dragging. Petitions such as TMIA's, which require rule changes, take a long time to complete, officials said. 

The Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents plant owners and operators, opposes the petition.  It told the NRC that guards should be posted only when the level of security threat makes it prudent. 

On July 29, 2005, the NRC a issued White Violation relating to another staffing deficiency at Three Mile Island where “approximately 50% of the emergency responders,” including “key responders”  were “overdue” for their annual training for “an approximate five month period. (Please refer to Thursday, July 14, 2005, for background material).

-Report by Garry Lenton of the Patriot-News


Aug. 28, 2005 

A Wackenhut guard responsible for checking employee badges at TMI's north gate failed to acknowledge a vehicle for at least 15 seconds.


Dec. 19, 2005: A Wackenhut guard stationed at the north gate failed to acknowledge a vehicle for six seconds.






Jan. 11, 2006

Three Mile Island guards sue over wage dispute


Dozens of guards at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant claim in a federal lawsuit that a private security agency made them work unpaid overtime for more than two years.

The lawsuit alleges that Wackenhut Corp. wasn't paying the 79 guards for the time it took them to get armed and check through security from January 2002 until April 2004.

The guards' lawyer, Leslie Deak, said the time in question was typically 10 or 15 minutes before work and a few minutes at the end of their shifts, and that the workers are entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay.

-Report by Mark Scolforo of The Associated Press 



Feb. 28, 2006

NRC plans inquiry into TMI security

Agency will focus on reports of sleeping, fatigue, excessive hours 


The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to investigate the management of the security force at Three Mile Island, focusing on fitness-for-duty issues such as fatigue and sleeping on the job. 

The probe, announced in a certified letter delivered to a Patriot-News reporter, was prompted by a story published Jan. 29. 

The story reported on a memo in which John Young, head of the Wackenhut security, scolded security supervisors for failing to note that veteran officers were telling new hires safe places to sleep undetected while on duty. Wackenhut is a private security firm hired by plant owner Exelon Nuclear to guard the nuclear station. 

 The memo also said officers were telling new hires ways to short-cut patrol duties. 

Of additional concern to the NRC were reports that security officers were being allowed to work excessive hours. The newspaper documented one person who worked more than 150 hours during a 14-day period, and averaged more than 54 hours a week for more than 10 months. 

Since March 2004, AmerGen Energy, the operator of TMI, investigated and disciplined five workers for "inattentiveness to duty." The phrase is used by the industry and regulators to cover an array of conditions, including sleeping. Three of those workers were security officers. 

Guards, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said fatigue from long hours and boredom were to blame for the inattentiveness. 

-Report by Garry Lenton of the Patriot-News 



June 4, 2006

Thyroid Cancer and TMI


Dr. Roger Levin, chief division of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery, PinnacleHealth System in Harrisburg, and clinical associate professor of surgery, Penn State College of Medicine.

Levin did his research so he could join The Triological Society, a society for ear, nose and throat specialists and head and neck surgeons. His paper is scheduled to be published in the society's peer-reviewed journal, The Laryngoscope, in an upcoming month.

Findings: In reviewing state health data, Levin found more thyroid cancer cases than expected in York County for every year except one between 1995 and 2002.

One plausible reason could be people were exposed to radiation during the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, he said.

During the accident, the thyroid gland could have taken in radioactive iodine or people could have brought increased levels into their systems through food grown in the area or other environmental factors, he said.

Levin said two factors that could have made a link to the Three Mile Island accident more convincing did not occur: the winds were blowing northwest, not toward York County, and there was no increase in thyroid cancer in populations younger than 20 years old.

However, he said he found in his readings that a small amount of radiation was vented into the Susquehanna River in the form of wastewater from parts of the plant that were not part of the cooling systems, such as toilets, showers and laundry facilities.  

And children and expectant mothers were evacuated in the days following the accident, Levin said.

Thyroid cancer is increasing in the United States. Some say it's due to better diagnosis; others attribute exposure to radiation, Levin said. 

Dr. Roger Levin, a head and neck surgeon who has experience treating thyroid cancer, said one reason for the higher incidence of thyroid cancer could be that people were exposed to radiation during the TMI accident.

The thyroid - a gland in the neck - controls the body's overall metabolism. It manages weight, pulse rate and body temperature.

Because the thyroid needs iodine to make its hormone, it's possible the gland could have taken in more radioactive iodine during the accident, Levin said. The gland cannot distinguish between radioactive iodine and the type found in table salt, which is why the state passes out non-radioactive iodine pills. In theory, people could take the pills during a nuclear accident to fill up the gland to protect it.

Addressing the increased cases in York and Lancaster counties, Levin said, radioactive material could have traveled to those counties by water, since it seems the wind was not blowing in that direction during the accident and days after.

When Levin started his research, he expected to see no difference in the number of thyroid cancer cases expected and the number reported in area counties.

Counties farther away than York and Lancaster from the accident showed no increasing trend.

"I sort of don't know what to do with the data except throw it out there and let (people) smarter than me debate it," Levin said.

Addressing the increased cases in York and Lancaster counties, Levin said, radioactive material could have traveled to those counties by water, since it seems the wind was not blowing in that direction during the accident and days after.

When Levin started his research, he expected to see no difference in the number of thyroid cancer cases expected and the number reported in area counties.

Counties farther away than York and Lancaster from the accident showed no increasing trend.

"I sort of don't know what to do with the data except throw it out there and let (people) smarter than me debate it," Levin said.

- York Daily Record


June 21, 2006 

Group sues feds, state over daycare plans


Eric Epstein of Three Mile Island Alert formally notified Harvey Johnson, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Edward G. Rendell, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Samuel Collins, Regional Administrator of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, of their systematic, deliberate, and coordinated failure to enforce and implement federal laws, regulations and guidelines relating to emergency planning requirements for nursery schools and day care centers located within 10 miles of nuclear generating stations.


June, 2006 

Tritium concentration double the limit leaks into TMI parking lot


A water sample taken on June 1, 2006 from manway T-4 found water contained 45,000 picocuries of tritium per liter (pCi/L). The EPA limit for drinking water is 20,000 pCi/L. 

According to an inspection report released in July 2006, tests of nearby groundwater wells did not show elevated levels of tritium. A probe to find the source of the tritium at manway T-4 traced the underground cableway back to the plant and identified that manway T-5, a telephone cable conduit 500 feet closer to the plant, also contained water. Another sample also showed leakage of tritium into manway access T-6, according to the report. 

The report stated TMI "subsequently controlled the water as a radioactive effluent and subsequently collected and analyzed the water for controlled discharge." 

The next day, June 2, workers identified that water had come from the condensate system and had reached the parking lot via a series of underground telephone cable conduit runs. On June 4, 2006, engineers determined the tritium water was "a leak from an underground, four-inch line from the condensate system to the condensate storage tank," the report stated. 

The pipe was dug up, and patched to stop the leak, according to the report. 

TMI workers continued "enhanced monitoring" of ground water wells and determined that none of the tritium water had left Three Mile Island. State and federal officials were informed of the leak, the report noted. 

AmerGen also found a flaw in its safe shutdown fire mitigation plan, "due to insufficient technical rigor," the NRC reported on July 26, 2006. The plant's "safe shut-down analysis" did not identify that, in a fire involving multiple high impendance faults, "a loss of all four vital inverters could occur in the time until the 'B' and 'D' buses were recovered. An engineering evaluation of a possible fire scenario found the existing procedure would fail, according to the report. 

Corrective action included creation of a "one-hour fire watch" and other procedural changes. 

-Report by Marlene Lang







 Nov. 9, 2007 

Watchdog takes a drive on TMI 


A nuclear safety hound and a photographer drove onto Three Mile Island on Thursday and spent more than 30 minutes photographing the plant without being challenged by security.

Eric Epstein, chairman of the watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert, said he and the photographer entered the island through the south gate and drove about a half mile to a parking lot. The location is about 200 yards from the high security area of the plant.

Epstein said he expected to be challenged by security guards at any moment, but wasn’t.

“It just became clear that we were not going to be challenged the farther we got onto the facility,” he said.

He called the experience disturbing and said it raised more questions about the adequacy of nuclear security.

But a spokesman for AmerGen Energy, the operator of the plant, said the only thing disturbing about the incident was that Epstein and the photographer trespassed on private property.

“From a nuclear security point of view, this poses no threat to the plant,” said Ralph DeSantis, spokesman for AmerGen.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which establishes security requirements for commercial nuclear reactors like TMI, said none of its procedures or requirements were violated, based on accounts provided by a reporter.

The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Radiation Protection also downplayed the event.

“These people were ... Outside the area where nuclear security can be compromised,” said Ron Ruman, a DEP spokesman. “Therefore, there was no reason for security personnel to act.”

Epstein said he crossed onto the island through the south gate, which is rarely used except when the plant is shut down for maintenance and refueling. TMI went off line for refueling two weeks ago.

During outages the south entrance is used by some 1,200 part-time employees hired to make repairs and upgrades at the plant.

Once across the bridge, Epstein drove to within 50 feet of a guard station, but made no attempt to go past it.

He said he saw no security officers during his visit.

Epstein said he was giving the photographer a drive-by tour of TMI when he noticed the gate to the south bridge was open and decided to go in.

“I was curious to see how far you could go without being stopped,” he said. “I was disturbed that I was able to penetrate that far onto the island without an impediment.”

The photographer declined comment.

Two years ago, AmerGen spent about $500,000 to build a fortified checkpoint that would stop vehicles using the south entrance from getting into the “protected” area of the plant. The checkpoint is about a half-mile from the south entrance and is only staffed during outages. The area, however, is under surveillance, officials said.

-Report by Garry Lenton of the Patritot-News





Jan. 10, 2008

Wackenhut chief leaves after guards caught sleeping 


Wackenhut Corp. Chief Executive Officer Gary Sanders left a month after the security company lost contracts from Exelon Corp. because guards fell asleep on the job at a nuclear power plant.

Sanders, 55, will be replaced by G4S Plc Chief Operating Officer Grahame Gibson, Wackenhut said in a statement today. Gibson will continue to serve as operating chief and a board member of UK-based G4S, parent company of Wackenhut.

Exelon, owner of the largest fleet of U.S. commercial reactors, said last month it was terminating all nuclear-plant security contracts with Wackenhut after guards at its Peach Bottom reactor in Pennsylvania were videotaped asleep while on duty. The videotapes were made public in September.

The sleeping guards incident drew criticism from members of Congress, including Michigan Democratic Representatives John Dingell and Bart Stupak of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The legislators said this week they will ``conduct a comprehensive review'' of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's operations because of the sleeping guards and other agency issues.

``This change in leadership had nothing to do with the Exelon situation at all,'' Wackenhut spokesman Marc Shapiro said in a telephone interview. Wackenhut provides security service at 31 of the 65 U.S. nuclear power-plant sites. About half of the plants have their own in-house security services, said Lochbaum.

``Mr. Sanders' resignation does not resolve the outstanding issues of how Wackenhut handled security concerns at Peach Bottom or Wackenhut's performance at other facilities,'' Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said in an e-mailed statement. 

-Report by Tina Seeley 



May 20, 2008 

Exelon and EFMR Sigh Community-Based Agreement


Exelon Generation and nuclear industry monitors EFMR Monitoring Group (EFMR), today announced that they have entered into a five-year agreement that provides benefits to the communities surrounding Three Mile Island. 

Eric Epstein, chairman of EFMR said, “We have chosen cooperation 

over confrontation, and the big winner is the community,” said. “This 

agreement will have a net impact to the region in excess of $1 million.”  As part of the agreement, Epstein agreed to drop all legal challenges to TMI Unit 1’s application for license renewal before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). 

William Noll, Three Mile Island site vice president, said, “We are 

pleased to have resolved important issues and to provide benefits to the local community.  At the same time we will continue to have an open channel of communication with EFMR.” 

Highlights of the agreement: 

• Resources will be provided to allow for the independent environmental 

monitoring and the professional training of local community organizations.

• Continue a long-standing Exelon policy that ensures that no storage of 

low-level or high-level radioactive waste from other nuclear power plants 

will take place at Three Mile Island for a period of ten years from the date 

that the NRC renews TMI Unit 1’s license. 

• Exelon will not oppose the decommissioning of TMI Unit 2 during the 

period of extended operation of TMI Unit 1, unless it adversely impacts the 

safe operation of TMI Unit 1. 

• Exelon will extend its regional profile, and increase community 

investment over the next four years. 

• Exelon and EFMR will meet annually to review the status of matters 

relating to this agreement, provide mutual updates, resolve open issues and 

discuss workforce staffing. 


Back story:  

  EFMR Monitoring is a nonprofit, community based organization that works 

on behalf of communities and citizens located in close proximity to the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station and the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station. The group was formed out of a settlement with GPU Nuclear from 1992-1999. AmerGen entered into Agreement with EFMR from 1999-2005. Additionally, EFMR expanded its monitoring and research activities as a result of the Universal Settlement relating to the merger of PECO Energy with Commonwealth Edison (2000).