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

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The Commission

Senior Staff







The Accident


Commission Recommendations


1.  Federal and state agencies, as well as the utility, should make adequate preparation for a systematic public information program so that in time of a radiation-related emergency, they can provide timely and accurate information to the news media and the public in a form that is understandable. There should be sufficient division of briefing responsibilities as well as availability of informed sources to reduce confused and inaccurate information. The Commission therefore recommends:

a.  Since the utility must be responsible for the management of the accident, it should also be primarily responsible for providing information on the status of the plant to the news media and to the public; but the restructured NRC should also play a supporting role and be available to provide background information and technical briefings.

b.  Since the state government is responsible for decisions concerning protective actions, including evacuations, a designated state agency should be charged with issuing all information on this subject. This agency is also charged with the development of and dissemination of accurate and timely information on off-site radiation doses resulting from releases of radioactivity. This information should be derived from appropriate sources. (See recommendation F.I.) This agency should also set up the machinery to keep local officials fully informed of developments and to coordinate briefings to discuss any federal involvement in evacuation matters.

2.  The provision of accurate and timely information places special responsibilities on the official sources of this information. The effort must meet the needs of the news media for information but without compromising the ability of operational personnel to manage the accident. The Commission therefore recommends that:

a.  Those who brief the news media must have direct access to informed sources of information.

b.  Technical liaison people should be designated to inform the briefers and to serve as a resource for the news media.

c.  The primary official news sources should have plans for the prompt establishment of press centers reasonably close to the site. These must be properly equipped, have appropriate visual aids and reference materials, and be staffed with individuals who are knowledgeable in dealing with the news media. These press centers must be operational promptly upon the declaration of a general emergency or its equivalent.

3.  The coverage of nuclear emergencies places special responsibilities on the news media to provide accurate and timely information. The Commission therefore recommends that:

a.  All major media outlets (wire services, broadcast networks, news magazines, and metropolitan daily newspapers) hire and train specialists who have more than a passing familiarity with reactors and the language of radiation. All other news media, regardless of their size, located near nuclear power plants should attempt to acquire similar knowledge or make plans to secure it during an emergency.

b.  Reporters discipline themselves to place complex information in a context that is understandable to the public and that allows members of the public to make decisions regarding their health and safety.

c.  Reporters educate themselves to understand the pitfalls in interpreting answers to "what if" questions. Those covering an accident should have the ability to understand uncertainties expressed by sources of information and probabilities assigned to various possible dangers.

4.  State emergency plans should include provision for creation of local broadcast media networks for emergencies that will supply timely and accurate information. Arrangements should be made to make available knowledgeable briefers to go on the air to clear up rumors and explain conditions at the plant. Communications between state officials, the utility, and the network should be prearranged to handle the possibility of an evacuation announcement.

5.  The Commission recommends that the public in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant be routinely informed of local radiation measurements that depart appreciably from normal background radiation, whether from normal or abnormal operation of the nuclear power plant, from a radioactivity cleanup operation such as that at TMI-2, or from other sources.