Three Mile Island Falsified Reactor Coolant Leak Rates

FELONY CHARGES

Three Mile Island owners Metropolitan Edison faced 11 charges of falsifying leak rate data to the NRC. Falsifying the reactor leaks allowed TMI Unit 2 to continue operating when it should have been shut down for repairs. Just before the accident, the leak rate increased dramatically. The federal grand jury found TMI had falsified leak data from October 1978 to March 28, 1979 - the day the accident began. The NRC said it could find no evidence of criminal conduct. But, federal prosecutors filed 11 felony charges against TMI in 1983 at the completion of their investigation.

Metropolitan Edison plead guilty to one count and no contest to six other charges. The federal prosecuting attorney said, "the facts are going to follow the company wherever it goes."

The timing of the plea was important because the NRC was about to rule on the restart of Unit 1. United States Senator John Heinz (PA) said, "The NRC should feel no hesitation in fully investigating each and every allegation that employees at TMI engaged in conduct which endangered the health and safety of residents."

 


 

The attorney for the Union of Concerned Scientists, Ellyn Weiss said the plea for falsifying leak rates was an "orchestrated and very cleverly conceived strategy. The company marched into court to plead guilty without worrying that it would stop the restart."

 


 

Worse than the Movie

"GPU came out of this trial looking as bad as, or worse than the power company in 'The China Syndrome.' In the movie the utility company hadn't falsified data about leak rates in order to keep the plant from being shut down on the very day of the accident - - GPU had. In the movie, the supervisor of those who trained the plant's operators wasn't studying to get his own operator's license under the people he was also supervising; at TMI he was. In the movie, the man in charge of overall operations hadn't had someone else take his licensing exam for him. At TMI, the operations chief not only cheated that way, but his bosses sibmitted his phony exam results to the NRC after they found out about the cheating. And in the movie, the control room operators didn't make every conceivable miscalculation as the accident progressed, pushing so many wrong buttons and levers on their amazingly resilient machinery as to give new meaning to the term human error. At TMI, they did."

From "The American Lawyer" regarding the lawsuit against reactor builder and designer Babcock & Wilcox filed by GPU -owners of TMI.
April, 1983, p.6-8