21 Years Later, Government Denies Three Mile Island Accident Was Extraordinary

Oct. 18, 2000

21 Years Later, Government Denies Three Mile Island Accident Was Extraordinary

NRC Rejects Public Citizen Petition 21 Years After It Is Filed

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Twenty-one years after Public Citizen petitioned the federal government to declare the accident at the Three Mile Island an extraordinary nuclear occurrence, the atomic agency has finally responded. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the meltdown at Three Mile Island was not extraordinary.

“Public Citizen filed this petition 21 years ago in an effort to help those harmed by the meltdown at Three Mile Island,” said James Riccio, senior analyst with Public Citizen. “I’m sure that those individuals who lived around Three Mile Island and who are now battling cancers are comforted by NRC’s finding that the meltdown wasn’t extraordinary.”

Public Citizen received written notification of the denial this week more than 21 years after the group filed the July 24, 1979, petition.

The Atomic Energy Act defines an extraordinary nuclear occurrence as an event: (1) causing an off-site discharge of certain radioactive material or off-site radiation levels that are deemed to be substantial; and (2) that has resulted in, or probably will result in, substantial damages to persons or property off-site. Declaring the meltdown at Three Mile Island an extraordinary nuclear occurrence would have prevented the reactor owner from using certain legal defenses against citizens seeking to recover damages as a result of the accident.

“The NRC has been in denial about Three Mile Island since the nuclear industry melted down the reactor,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizens Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Denying our petition is just another cynical attempt by the nuclear industry apologists at the NRC to deny the consequences of the meltdown at Three Mile Island.”

Other U.S. nuclear reactors that have suffered meltdowns include the Experimental Breeder Reactor in Idaho Falls, Idaho; Westinghouse Testing Reactor, in Waltz Mill, Penn.; Stationary Low Power Reactor, in Idaho Falls, Idaho; Fermi 1, in Lagoona Beach, Mich.

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