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The Sentinel (Carlisle, PA): 3-Mile clean-up may take years

Newspaper: The Sentinel
Date: April 9, 1979
Article: 3-Mile clean-up may take years
Author: Bob Grotevant

MIDDLETOWN (UPI) – Even after America’s most serious nuclear power plant crisis is over it will take months to decontaminate Three Mile Island’s No.2 reactor and years before it is decided whether the unit will ever operate again.

Robert Bernero, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission technical expert, said Sunday “Cost, destiny, time – you just don’t know, you just can’t tell. It certainly is not unreasonable to think in terms of years. It’s certainly many months to get the decontamination work done.

“And it could be several years” before the plant’s operator, Metropolitan Edison Co., and the NRC can determine if the crippled nuclear reactor will be put back into service, he said in an interview.

Bernero said the reactor containment and sophisticated plant equipment may be further damaged by cleanup work after the reactor is fully shut down.

“The decontamination process may entail damage,” Benero said. “You may have contaminated light fixtures, ladders, controls and electrical cords which have to literally be cut off and disposed of as waste.
“You may have to strip the whole reactor building – strip the cement in the containment – just to get it clean.”

He said an NRC study last year estimated it would cost $42.1 million to dismantle and remove the Trojan reactor in Oregon.

Bernero said that hypothetic situation was based on an assumed operating life of 30 to 40 years with no nuclear accident. The No.2 reactor at Three Mile Island went into commercial operation just last Dec. 30.
“It’s clear to me there’s a brand new turbine generator out there – 1 year old. I find it hard to see that at the end of its useful life,” Bernero said. “At the very least, it would have a high salvage value.”

Bernero said workers could not enter the containment building to remove the top of the reactor core until radiation levels have dropped to normal. He said it would take many months before anyone can make an accurate estimate of the reactor’s future.

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