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:
The Commission failed to summon the 7 votes necessary to adopt the
following two resolutions:
"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."
of the ten Commissioners who voted supported this resolution.
"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.)
of the nine Commissioners who voted supported this.
view of the strong support in our Commission for these two measures, I
recommend that the Congress and the President enact them.
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.
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.
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
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.
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