Report Of The President's Commission On
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Supplemental Views

Supplemental View by Russell W. Peterson

Although I believe that our report fulfills well the President's charge and believe that our recommendations, if they were carried out, would reduce the likelihood of accidents, I wish to comment on the work of the Commission in three areas:

I. The Commission failed to summon the 7 votes necessary to adopt the following two resolutions:

A.  "No new construction permits should be issued until the reports of this Commission, the NRC self-evaluation, and the Congressional investigations are completed and until the President and Congress have had an adequate opportunity to consider such recommendations, including restructuring the NRC."

 Six of the ten Commissioners who voted supported this resolution.

B.  "No new limited work authorization permits or construction permits should be issued by the present NRC or the restructured NRC that are inconsistent with the siting recommendations in A.6."

(This reference is to approved recommendations that call for requiring, to the maximum extent feasible, the siting of new power plants in areas remote from concentrations of population.)

Six of the nine Commissioners who voted supported this.

In view of the strong support in our Commission for these two measures, I recommend that the Congress and the President enact them.

A minority within the Commission strongly resisted recommendations that might delay further nuclear power plant construction. Neither the Commission nor its staff was free from the mindset that nuclear energy is adequately safe -- the mindset for which the Commission criticized the NRC and the nuclear industry.

II. The study was not subjected to the penetrating critique which could have been provided by one or more of the highly technically qualified critics of nuclear energy safety available in our country. I recommend that the President and the Congress involve such experts in the continuing appraisal of the safety of nuclear energy. This is especially important when considering the possible accident conditions that can lead to a major release of radioactive material from the plant.

III. The Commission ruled that an investigation of the disposal of the TMI-2 nuclear wastes lay outside its assignment. Yet, in my view, this constitutes, over the long run, the most hazardous aspect of the nuclear power industry. While the industry waits for the government to finish its decades-long effort to determine how to safely dispose of these long-lived wastes such as plutonium, cesium and strontium, each nuclear power plant continues to store its growing amount of spent fuel containing these wastes in a pool of water immediately adjacent to the containment building.

I recommend that a serious study be undertaken of how such storage may exacerbate the threat from accidents or sabotage and of whether or not such wastes should be moved away from the power plants, especially when the plant is located in a heavily populated area.

Although there is no commercial plant today for reprocessing spent fuel and our government refuses to approve one, the accident at TMI-2 in effect has converted that plant to a reprocessing plant. A large-scale chemical processing plant is being built at TMI-2 for handling the huge quantities of highly radioactive waste that have escaped from the disintegrated fuel rods. The safe processing and disposal of these wastes merit prompt and close surveillance by some independent group.

As a final comment, I wish to emphasize my conviction, strongly reinforced by this investigation, that the complexity of a nuclear power plant -- coupled with the normal shortcomings of human beings so well illustrated in the TMI accident -- will lead to a much more serious accident somewhere, sometime. The unprecedented worldwide fear and concern caused by the TMI-2 "near-miss" foretell the probable reaction to an accident where a major release of radioactivity occurs over a wide area. It appears essential to provide humanity with alternate choices of energy supply. Accordingly, I recommend the development by our federal government, before we become more fully committed to the vulnerable nuclear energy path, of a strategy that does not require nuclear fission energy.


Russell W. Peterson

October 25, 1979