Newspaper: The Sentinel
Date: April 11, 1979
Article: … into a future that’s uncertain
Author: Deb Cline
The Three Mile Island crisis hasn’t ended before plans were made to investigate what went wrong and what the effects of the accident would be.
Hearings and investigations will be held in Harrisburg and in Washington D.C – before state agencies and legislative committees and before committees of the U.S Congress.
President Carter, who visited the Three Mile Island site last Sunday, has also announced creation of a special presidential commission to investigate the causes of the nuclear accident and recommend ways to improve plant safety.
While legislative efforts to probe the accident could be consolidated to save time, money and avoid confusion, they will probably not be.
On the federal congressional level, every committee or subcommittee in the U.S. House and Senate that has any jurisdiction at all over nuclear energy will likely conduct hearings of some kind.
THE INVESTIGATIONS on the state level will be more consolidated, but still, the Senate and House may hold separate hearings on the matter instead of joining forces.
The state Public Utility Commission, which has responsibility for approving or denying utility rate hikes, will conduct an informal investigation into the accident. That investigation could determine whether Metropolitan Edison, part owner of the power plant, will be able to implement a rate hike granted it March 29 and whether it will receive additional funds to help pay for the accident costs.
THE NUCLEAR Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that has licensing power over nuclear power plants, will likely hold hearings and issue a report on Three Mile Island. But the schedule of those hearings is not yet available.
NRC officials did brief the five agency commissioners last Wednesday in preparation for future hearings.
One congressional spokesman said the NRC is expected to confine its hearings to the specific accident and persons involved at Three Mile Island and is not likely to deal with differing philosophies about the safety of nuclear energy.
THE SITUATION at Three Mile Island had barely eased when Sen. Edward Kennedy’s Health and Scientific Research Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Human Resources began to hold hearing on the potential long range effects of radiation emissions from the plant.
The House Interior subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, chaired by Rep. Morris Udall, also held hearings last Thursday and may schedule others.
The only other hearings actually scheduled thus far will be held by the U.S. House subcommittee on Energy Research and Production.
The hearings, which are set to begin May 15 and end June 7, will cover nuclear power plant safety, nuclear high level waste management and low level radiation.
Other congressional committees that may hold hearings or investigations include Sen. Henry Jackson’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee or one of its subcommittees; Sen. Gary Hart’s subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation, part of the Senate Committee of the Environment and Public Works; the House subcommittee on Health and the Environment.
Other potential hearing panels are the Government Operations Committees in the House and Senate; the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Advanced Energy Technology, Conservation, Development and Demonstration.
There are six House subcommittees alone that deal with energy, and all may want to get in on the Three Mile Island action.
THERE IS NOT expected to be as much duplication of investigative efforts on the state as on the federal level.
State House leaders have basically agreed to form a 24-member panel composed of members of six standing committees to conduct a Three Mile Island investigation.
The committee, proposed by a group of Central Pennsylvania legislatures, would include members of the House committee on agriculture, business and commerce, consumer affairs, health and welfare, military and veterans affairs and mines and energy management committees.
Rep. Stephen Reed, D-Harrisburg, one of the legislators to propose the committee, said the probe will not begin until a cold shutdown is achieved at the power plant. He said many of the witnesses the committee would call are working at the plant.
And he said the committee wants to avoid reaching premature conclusions about the situation.
Among the subjects the legislators suggest the committee examine are the effectiveness of existing emergency preparedness and evacuation procedures, additional safety and regulatory procedures, methods of improving federal, state and local coordination, review of health and safety hazards and an examination of the role of nuclear power in meeting the state’s energy needs.