Report Of The President's Commission On
The Accident At Three Mile Island           > TMI-2 > Kemeny

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The Accident


Commission Findings:


1. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has primary responsibility and regulatory authority for health and safety measures as they relate to the operation of commercial nuclear plants. While the NEC has certain requirements in connection with radiation exposure and medical monitoring of workers at nuclear plants, it has no requirements for medical examination of workers other than licensed reactor operators, and even those examinations are only performed to assure that the operators do not have physical or mental conditions that might impair their ability to perform their jobs safely. Metropolitan Edison's (Met Ed) administrative procedures go beyond this NRC requirement and provide that all radiation workers receive routine medical examinations to assess any possible radiation-related illnesses. The NRC only requires monitoring and reporting of radiation exposure for workers who, in the utility's view, are likely to receive doses beyond NEC-specified levels. Met Ed does not keep, and the NRC does not require it to report, a record of the total radiation exposure of workers from both occupational and nonoccupational (for example, medical and dental) sources.

2. The Public Health Service agencies of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW - Now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), whose sole mission is protection and promotion of the public health, have very limited responsibilities with respect to radiological health matters relating to the location, construction, and routine operation of commercial nuclear power plants.

3. Although there were designated channels of communication and specific responsibilities assigned for federal agencies responding to the radiological emergency at TMI (for example, Interagency Radiological Assistance Plan), the existence of these channels and responsibilities was generally unknown to many high-level federal officials. In several instances during the course of the accident, some federal agencies were unaware of what other federal agencies were doing in providing support personnel and resources.

4. Research on the biological effects of ionizing radiation is conducted and/or sponsored by a number of federal agencies. In fiscal year 1978, the federal government spent approximately $76.5 million on such research. More than 60 percent of this funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. With the the exception of potassium iodide, there are no drugs presently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the prevention or mitigation of adverse effects of ionizing radiation.

5. States have primary responsibility for protecting the health and safety of their citizens. Pennsylvania public health officials and health-care providers in the TMI area did not have sufficient resources to respond to the potentially serious health consequences of the accident at TMI. Responsibility for radiological protection in Pennsylvania rests with the Department of Environmental Resources (DER). At the time of the accident/the Pennsylvania Department of Health was not organized to respond to radiological emergencies, and maintained no formal liaison with DER on radiological health matters.

6. During the accident, TMI-area hospital administrators found no one at the state level with authority to recommend when to evacuate patients and when to resume normal admitting procedures The Pennsylvania Secretary of Health viewed his department's role with respect to area hospitals as informational, not advisory.

7. During the first days of the accident. Met Ed did not notify its physicians under contract who would have been responsible for the on-site treatment of injured, contaminated workers during the accident. The emergency radiological medical care training provided to these physicians to provide on-site emergency care to such workers was inadequate.

8. Met Ed experienced several radiation protection problems during the accident: a) the emergency control center for health physics operations and the analytical laboratory to be used in emergencies was located in an area that became uninhabitable in the early hours of the accident; b) there was a shortage of respirators; and c) there was an inadequate supply of uncontaminated air.

9. NRC regulations on health physics education of nuclear power plant workers leaves the details of such things as course content, frequency, and attendance to the discretion of the licensee, subject to NRC inspection. Similarly, NRC regulations for environmental radiological monitoring leaves the details and methods of how these requirements are to be implemented (for example, types of dosimeters, kind of sample analysis) to the discretion of the licensee, subject to NRC inspection and approval.