Three Mile Island at 20



Because we have archived a large databank of problems at TMI, this abbreviated summary was created especially for the casual reader. It includes additional radioactive releases, another emergency at the plant, and some of the fines and violations since 1979.


1979

March 28, 1979, 4:00 a.m.
Beginning of Three Mile Island (TMI) Unit-2 partial core melt.

March 28, 1979, 4:30 p.m.
Press conference of Lt. Governor William Scranton:

This is an update on the incident at Three-Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant today. This situation is more complex than the company first led us to believe. We are taking more tests. And at this point, we believe there is still no danger to public health. Metropolitan Edison has given you and us conflicting information. We just concluded a meeting with company officials and hope this briefing will clear up most of your questions. There has been a release of radioactivity into the environment. The magnitude of this release is still being determined, but there is no evidence yet that it has resulted in the presence of dangerous levels. The company has informed us that from about 11 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m., Three-Mile Island discharged into the air, steam that contained detectable amounts of radiation.

March 30, 1979 - Governor Richard Thornburgh recommended an evacuation for preschool children and pregnant women living within five miles of the plant. Out of a target population of 5,000, over 140,000 Central Pennsylvanians fled the area.
Schools in the area closed...

The U.S. House of Representatives committee examining
reporting information during the accident concluded:

The record indicates that in reporting to State and federal officials on March 28, 1979, TMI managers did not communicate information in their possession that they understood to be related to the severity of the situation. The lack of such information prevented State and federal officials from accurately assessing the condition of the pant. In addition, the record indicates that TMI managers presented State and federal officials misleading statements (i.e. statements that were inaccurate and incomplete) that conveyed the impression the accident was substantially less severe and the situation more under control than what the managers themselves believed and what was in fact the case.


May 22, 1979 - Former control room operator Harold W. Hartman, Jr. tells Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) investigators that Metropolitan Edison- General Public Utilities (GPU) had been falsifying primary-coolant, leak rate data for months prior to the accident. At least two members of management were aware of the practice. NRC investigators do not follow-up or report the allegations to the Commission. (See February 29,1984, for first-ever criminal conviction of a nuclear utility for violating the Atomic Energy Act.)

June 22, 1979 - Governor Richard Thornburgh wrote to the NRC, expressing his deeply felt responsibility for both the physical and psychological well being of the citizens of Pennsylvania. Thornburgh stated his strong opposition to any plans to reactivate Unit -1 until a number of very serious issues are resolved.

July 2, 1979 - The NRC ordered the indefinite shutdown of TMI-1 until assurances are in place that the plant can be operated safely.

August 9, 1979 - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission set up Atomic Safety & licensing Board (ASLB) to hold hearings to determine whether there is reasonable assurance Three Mile Island Unit-1 can be operated without endangering the health and safety of the public. Most of the issues pertained to General Public Utilities (GPU) managerial, financial and technical resources. The NRC Commissioners committed themselves to directly review any appeal of the ASLB's restart decision, thus, bypassing the normal, time-consuming route through the Appeal Board. However, the Commission later reversed itself on August 20, 1983.

October 25, 1979 - The NRC issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) for the accident to Met Ed and recommended the maximum fine permitted under law.

October 30, 1979 - The Kemeny Commission, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, found human error, institutional weaknesses and mechanical failures caused the TMI accident.

December 15, 1979 - Met Ed denied all NRC charges but agreed to pay the NRC fine.






1980

The Susquehanna Valley Alliance, based in Lancaster, successfully prevented GPU/Met Ed from dumping 700,000 gallons of radioactive water into the Susquehanna River.

March 25, 1980 - Met-GPU, blaming Babcock & Wilcox (the plant's designer) for the TMI accident, sue B&W for $500 million. (See January 24, February, 1983 and May 19, 1983, for for more information.)

GPU also filed an unsuccessful $4 billion law suit against the NRC. GPU alleged that the NRC's negligence contributed to the TMI accident.

June-July, 1980 - For 11 days, Met Ed illegally vented 43,000 curies of radioactive Krypton-85 (10-year half-life; beta and gamma) and other radioactive gasses into the environment without having scrubbers in place. (See November 1980, for court ruling.)

July 23, 1980 - First human entry into TMI-2 containment building since March 28, 1979. (See July 21, 1982 and July 24, 1984, for related developments.)

- September, 1980 - Met Ed renames itself GPU Nuclear.

October 15, 1980 - The NRC restart hearings begin. Design and hardware issues were litigated by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS); emergency planning was litigated by ANGRY, Newberry Township Steering Committee and Norman and Marjorie Aamodt; financial capability was litigated by TMI-Alert; and, management issues were litigated by TMI Alert and the Aamodts.
PANE appealed the NRC's decision not to adjudicate "psychological stress. This issue eventually worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also appeared in the hearings. (See January 7, 1982 and April 19, 1983, for follow-up decisions.)

November, 1980 - The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the krypton venting (June-July ,1980) was illegal.






1981

In February, a $20 million fund is set up to pay over 15,000 claims for affected area residents and business within the 25-mile radius of TMI. (See 1989 for more information.) Another $5 million is set up to establish the TMI Public Health Fund. However, several years after the establishment of the TMI Public Health Fund (1986), TMI-Alert and area political representatives unsuccessfully petitioned the federal court to remove the Fund's administrators due to nepotism and poor communication and with the community.

March, 1981 - The NRC Commissioners dismissed the financial qualification issue without the case ever being litigated. The D.C. Circuit Court decides TMIA's appeal is premature.

July, 1981 - One billion defueling plan proposed by Governor Thornburgh.

July 9, 1981 - Main restart hearings end.

August 20, 1981 - The NRC reversed its promise to area residents not to allow restart until all internal NRC appeals are complete.

October 2, 1981 - The ASLB reopened the restart hearings based on allegations of operators cheating on operator license exams.

November 1981 to January 1982 - GPU discovers it has damaged over 29,000 steam generator tubes at TMI-1. (See December 7, 1983; July 16 and October 31, 1984; and, January 11, 1999, for background information and additional developments.)








1982

January 7, 1982 - The D.C. Circuit Court decided psychological (psych) stress does not need to be covered during the restart hearings. However, the Court ruled, that under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), psych stress must be addressed. The Court ordered an injunction on restart until a study on psych stress was conducted. (October 15, 1980 and April 19, 1983, for background developments.)

March, 1982 - The American Journal of Public Health reported: "During the first two quarters of 1978, the neonatal mortality rate within a ten-mile radius of Three Mile Island was 8.6 and 7.6 per 1,000 live births, respectively. During the first quarter of 1979, following the startup of accident prone Unit 2, the rate jumped to 17.2; it increased to 19.3 in the quarter following the accident at TMI and returned to 7.8 and 9.3, respectively, in the last two quarters of 1979. Dr. Gordon MacLeod, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Health.

May 18, 1982 - Voters in Cumberland, Dauphin and Lebanon counties vote by a 2-1 margin in a non-binding referendum to oppose the restart of Unit-1. (See May 18, 1983, for related development.)

July 21, 1982 - The first look at the TMI-2 core is recorded by a mini-TV camera.
(See July 23, 1980 and July 24, 1984, for related developments.)

August 12, 1982 - William Pennsyl, a cleanup worker, was fired for insisting he be allowed to wear a respirator while undressing men who entered highly radioactive areas. Pennsyl filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor.

November 1, 1982 - The Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) trial begins. (See March 25, 1980; January 24, February 1983, and May 19, 1983, for additional information.)

November 9, 1982 - NRC Commissioners hold a public meeting in Harrisburg. Over 1,200 area residents attend. The commission announced a restart decision would be made by December 1982, even though appeals on the NRC's Partial Initial Decisions (PID) had not been heard.

December 10, 1982 - No decision from the NRC on restart of TMI-1...



1983

January 24, 1983 - B&W and GPU settle out-of-court. (March 25, 1980; November 1, 1982; and, February 1983 and May 19, 1983, for background material.)

February, 1983 - A majority of the Commissioners opposed Commissioner Victor Gilinsky's request to have the NRC Office of General Counsel review the GPU-B&W trial record. (See March 25, 1980; January 24, February and May 19, 1983, for more information on this case.)

March 22, March 27, and April 2, 1983 - Three senior level plant employees, Richard Parks, Larry King, and Edwin Gischel, charge GPU and Bechtel with harassment, intimadation and circumvention cleanup safety procedure.

April 18, 1983 - The NRC staff begins to back away from its support of GPU.

April 19, 1983 - The United States Supreme Court reversed the D.C. Circuit Court's opinion on psych stress and ruled an environmental study is not necessary.

April 26, 1983 - The NRC staff explains that the basis for the need to "revalidate" GPU's management was the "open issue of the Hartman allegations concerning the falsification of leak rate data," which could "possibly affect the staff's position on management integrity."

May 5, 1983 - GPU reveals for the first time to the NRC that management audits concluded by BETA and RHR, completed in February and March, 1983, were critical of plant operations and management.

May 18, 1983 - Twelve area residents were arrested at TMI for blocking the plant entrance on the anniversary of the TMI referendum. (See May 18, 1982, for background material.)

May 19, 1983 - William J. Dircks, NRC Executive Director for Operations announces the staff's withdrawal of support for GPU's management based on five "open" issues: 1) Hartman allegations; 2) B&W trial transcript (See March 25, 1980); 3) Cleanup worker allegations; 4) BETA and RHR reports; and, 5) GPU's failure to promptly report BETA and RHR's conclusions to the NRC.

June 2, 1983 - Governor Thornburgh urged the NRC not to make a final decision on restart until the State's appeal of all issues are concluded. Eight days later GPU writes to the Governor and proposes to reorganize some personnel, and promises not to let those individuals who cheated on exams operate Unit 1. Thornburgh drops the Commonwealth's appeal on the "cheating" issue, and suggested GPU's proposal is a "good start" towards satisfying his concerns.

July 22, 1983 - GPU is fined $140,000 for submitting material false statements to the NRC in connection with the license certification of then TMI-2 Supervisor of operations who cheated on his license requalification exam IN 1979. (See

October 17, 1983 - Prehearing conference on steam generator tubes. (See December 7, 1983.)

September 22, 1983 - Dauphin County Commissioners pass a resolution to establish air emissions standards for TMI. The county also established a task force to write the ordinance. This is the first time a county takes legally binding action to control the hazards caused by nuclear power operations.

November 7, 1983 - The Department of Justice indicts Met Ed for falsifying leak rate data and destroying documents before the accident, in violation of their license, NRC regulations, and the federal criminal code.

December 5, 1983 - The NRC staff recommends TMI-1 restart at 25% power, although they can not endorse GPU's management. (See April 26, 1983 and July 26, 1984, for more information.)

December 7, 1983 - The Commission's Office of General Counsel reports that the steam generator tube repairs are a "significant hazard consideration" and a vote to the contrary would violate the Atomic Energy Act. (For related developments see November 1981 - January 1982; July 22, 1983; July 16, 1984; and, January 11, 1999)




1984

January 11, 1984 - By a 3-2 vote, and with only a day of public notice, the NRC decided to separate integrity issues from restart.

February 29, 1984 - A plea bargain between the Department of Justice and Met Ed settled the Unit 2 leak rate falsification case. Met Ed plead guilty to one count, and no contest to six counts of an 11 count indictment.

The Company also agreed to pay a $45,000 fine, and establish a $1 million dollar interest-bearing account to be used by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. The Settlement stipulated that the fines, emergency preparedness fund, and legal cost of the prosecution, would not be paid by GPU/Met Ed rate share holders. (See May 22, 1979, for initial complaint.)

April 11, 1984 - William Pennsyl settled out-of-court two days before an administrative law judge was scheduled to hear his case.

May 24, 1984 - The NRC's Atomic and Safety Licensing Board orders new hearings on management competence and integrity.

June 4, 1984 - In response to a freedom of Information request by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the NRC released transcripts of closed door Commission meetings from 1981- 1983. The Commission's strong commitment to restart is only tempered by legal and political considerations. Additionally, the Commission clearly lacked an in depth understanding of the legal and technical issues, and holds the public views in disdain.

June 15, 1984 - James Floyd, former TMI-2 Supervisor of operations, is indicted by a federal grand jury for cheating on 1979 licensing exams, and for causing two material false statements to be submitted to the NRC in connection with his license certification. (See November 6, 1984 and January 2, 1985, for related developments.)

July 16, 1984 - TMIA is the only group to intervene in the steam tube case. The Board refuses to allow evidence relating to the recently discovered steam generator tube problem. (See November 1981 through January 1982; December 7, 1983; July 16 and November 6, 1984; and, January 11, 1999, for related developments.)

July 24-27, 1984 - During the 159-ton reactor head lift, which was delayed due to polar crane failure, GPU vented radioactive gases into the environment despite pledges by the Company and NRC that no radioactive releases would occur. This is the time there has been direct access to Unit-2's damaged fuel. GPU was fined $40,000 by the NRC for this violation.


July 26, 1984 - The NRC endorsed GPU's management, but concludes that as of 1981 "the licensee had not yet met the standard of reasonable assurance of no undue risk to public health and safety." (See December 15 and April 26, 1983, for background information.)

August 13, 1984 - TMIA, joined by political officials and New Jersey safe-energy organizations, petitioned the NRC to revoke GPU's license based on the fact that the Company lacks the ability to safely operate TMI. (See NRC ruling on January 15, 1985).

August 15, 1984 - Governor Thornburgh addresses the NRC and urged them not to vote on restart until ASLB hearings are held on certain "management integrity" issues, and until funding is in place for the cleanup.

September 25, 1984 - The NRC staff denies UCS petition to require repairs to the emergency feedwater system before Unit 1 is allowed to operate. (See December 20, 1984, for Commission decision.)

October 31, 1984 - The AS&LB approves the Unit 1 stream generator tube repairs.

November 6, 1984 - Research conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE) on reactor damage during the accident, indicates temperatures may have reached in excess of 4,800 degrees. (See February 9, 1990, for follow-up research.)

November 8, 1984 - The NRC notifies Congress that the Justice Department has begun a federal grand jury investigation of the NRC staff.

November 14, 1984 - ASLB hearings recommence on the first of four remanded issues: the Diekamp Mailgram.

November 16, 1984 - Former TMI Supervisor James Floyd is convicted in federal court of cheating on NRC operator exams in 1979. (See June 15, 1984.)

December 10, 1984 - TMIA filed a motion to reopen the steam tube case based on new data, including the revelation of recently discovered cracks in unrepaired areas.


December, 1984 - Former NRC Investigator David Gamble testified at NRC hearings that the NRC's investigation as to whether Met Ed-GPU officials withheld information during the accident was deliberately incomplete and inaccurate. Gamble added the NRC's conclusion exonerating the Company was not supported by facts.

December 13, 1984 - The Commission denies a motion by the Aamodts regrading radioactive releases during the accident.

December 19, 1984 - Hearings begin on second remanded issues: training since 1981 cheating scandal.

December 20, 1984 - The Commission denied UCS's petition to delay restart modifications are made on the accuracy of emergency feedwater flow indications. (See September 25, 1984, for background information.)




1985

TMI's owners and builders paid more than $14 million for out-of-court settlements of personal injury lawsuits. The largest settlement was for a child born with Down's Syndrome.
After ten years of defueling activities, 5,000 TMI workers have received "measurable doses" of radiation exposure.

January 2, 1985 - Ivan Smith, ASLB Chairman, sends a letter to district court asking leniency for James Floyd. The letter prompts protests from elected officials and local citizens. (See June 15 and November 6, 1984, for background data.)

January 11, 1985 - The Commonwealth calls for the removal of Ivan Smith, Chair of the ASLB, for showing pervasive bias in favor of GPU. Similar motions were filed by TMI Alert and UCS. Later the NRC staff supported motions for Smith's removal. (See January 2, 1985.)

January 15, 1985 - The NRC staff denied TMIA's 2.206 petition asking for GPU's license to be revoked based on deficient character. (See August 13, 1984, for background information.)

March 24, 1985 - Claims of $110 million for reduced property values and lost business revenues have yet to be paid by GPU's insurers.

May 29, 1985 - The NRC Commissioners vote by 4-1 to restart TMI-1. TMIA, UCS and the Aamodts appeal the NRC's decision.
At TMI, 79 local residents were arrested at the North Gate.

July 12, 1985 - Two workers who participated in the initial phase of the cleanup and contracted cancer, joined 2,500 area residents suing GPU.

August 1985 - Marc Sheaffer, a psychologist at the Uniformed Services University of the health Sciences in Bethesda, released a study linking TMI-related stress with immunity impairments. (See August, 1987 and April, 1988, for related studies.)

August 9, 1985 - GPU's permit to ship low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) to Hanford, Washington was temporarily suspended due to mislabeling of three barrels of radioactive waste. (See August 14, 1985; December 1987; May 6, 1992; and, April 9, 1993, for related rad waste problems.)

August 12, 1985 - GPU and Bechtel were fined $64,000 for cleanup worker allegations first reported on March 22, 1983.


August 14, 1985 - Three-thousand gallons of LLRW water leaked into the containment building. (See August 9, 1985; December 1987; May 6, 1992; and April 9, 1993, for related rad waste problems.)

October 3-4, 1985 - TMI-1 restarts...17 area residents are arrested at the North Gate.

October 1985 - Removal of damaged fuel from TMI-2 begins.



1986


TMI-2 defueling workforce peaks at 2,000.

February 1986 - One celled organisms believed to be fungus, bacteria and algae like creatures were discovered. These creatures obscured the view of the reactor core, and impeded the cleanup.

March, 1986 - See June 15, 1987, for positive drug testing results that began during this month. (Also, please refer to August 18, 1987, for a related incident.)

July, 1986 - First shipment of damaged fuel debris was shipped to Idaho.

December 16, 1986 - A cleanup worker was contaminated and injured when lead shielding fell on him. The worker was treated in an emergency room at alocal hospital.




1987

Spring 1987 - Three Mile Island Alert (TMIA) was recognized by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for ten years of community service. (See Spring 1997, for related public service acknowledgements.)

March 29, 1987 - A contractor employee was arrested and charged with criminal mischief for releasing halogen gas on the ground floor of the Unit-2 control building. The employee wanted to leave work early. Total damage from the incident was approximately $50,000.

May, 1987 - A non-licensed plant employee was found sleeping in the Unit-2 radioactive waste control room. (See December 1, 1987; July 19 and August 3, 1988; October 11, 1989; and July 31, 1990, for related sleeping events.)

June, 1987 - The NRC endorsed GPU's plan to evaporate 2.3 million gallons of accident-generated, radioactive water, including tritium, cesium and strontium, directly into the atmosphere.

June 15, 1987 - Ten employees working at TMI-1 & TMI-2 tested positive for drugs; eight individuals were suspended for 30 days without pay and one resigned.
Since March 1986, 16 employees have tested positive for drugs. (See August 31, 1997, for a related incident.)

August, 1987 - James Rooney and Sandy Prince of Embury of Penn State University reported that chronically elevated levels of "psychological stress" have existed among Middletown residents since the accident. (See August, 1985 and April, 1988, for related studies.)

December, 1987 - Shipment of certain LLRW to Barnwell, South Carolina was barred. The failure of a 12,000 pound liner containing "solidified sludge" to properly harden was cited as the reason for the prohibition. (See August 9 and 141985; May 6, 1992; and April 9, 1993, for related problems.)

December 1, 1987 - GPU announced the firing of a TMI-2 shift supervisor for sleeping on the job. Although the employee had a record of sleeping on the job dating back to the early 1980s, GPU did not issue a warning until October 1986.
Edwin Stier, former Director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, reported that 21 witnesses saw the shift supervisor asleep on the job. (See May 1987 1987; July 19 and August 3, 1988; October 11, 1989; and, July 31, 1990, for other sleeping incidents.)


1988

February 9, 1988 - Due to a partially "split hose" in the sludge processing system, " a spill of liquid radioactive waste" resulted "...with accompanying high dose rates.

April, 1988 - Andrew Baum, professor of medical psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the health Sciences in Bethesda discussed the results of his research on TMI residents in Psychology Today. "When we compared groups of people living near Three Mile Island with a similar group elsewhere, we found that the Three Mile Island group reported more physical complaints, such as headaches and back pain, as well as more anxiety and depression. We also uncovered long-term changes in levels of hormones...These hormones affect various bodily functions, including muscle tension, cardiovascular activity, overall metabolic rate and immune-system function..." (See August, 1985 and August, 1985, for related studies.)

May 23, 1988 - A clean up worker "fell part-way into an opening above the Unit 2 reactor vessel" and "received low radiation exposure to the skin below the knees." During the incident the "worker's legs were immersed in shielding water above the reactor vessel up to his knees."

June 2, 1988 - A minor was exposed to radiation "...in excess of the limits..." due to the falsification of his date of birth." Different radiation standards are applied to juveniles and adults. The minor was "removed" from TMI.

July, 1988 - GPU settles a class action suit challenging high utility rates for $1.25 million.

July 19, 1988 - The operator of the Reactor Building polar crane was found sleeping at his station.
The same day a worker was found asleep in the Unit-2 Contamination Control Crucible.
(See May 1987 and December 1, 1987; July 19 and August 3, 1988; October 11, 1989; and, July 31, 1990, for more on workers asleep on the job.)

July 26, 1988 - "A rail car carrying a loaded shipping cask and its unmanned yard engine drifted for approximately 60 yards on the site tracks. The engine and the rail car came to a final rest as a result of an increase in the natural grade of the rails." (See November 20, 1988, for a related development.)

August 3, 1988 - A workers was found sleeping in the Unit-2 auxiliary building. (See May 1987 and December 1, 1987; July 19, 1988; October 11, 1989; and July 31, 1990, for other sleeping events.)



August 31, 1988 - A Unit-2 operator was fired after an 11 day investigation, including a medical probe, "showed the licensed operator, who was not identified, had been drinking and taking drugs either before or after he reported to work or while he was at work." (See June 15, 1987, for related drug problems.)

November 30, 1988 - Three railway casks containing core debris destined for the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory were prevented from being shipped for a month. The delay was due to faulty changeout O-rings in the shipping casks. (See July 26, 1988, for a related incident.)







1989

GPU collected $560 million in insurance as a result of the TMI accident. The Company's insurers have paid over $55 million in health, economic and evacuation claims since March 1979.

September 21, 1989 - At the TMI Advisory Panel Meeting, Dr. Michael Masnik of the NRC informed the Panel that "the NRC Office of Investigations report on the subject of management involvement in the inattentiveness issue at TMI-2 has been referred to the Justice Department and is under evaluation at this time." Dr. Masnik also acknowledged that the NRC believes there is "...wrongdoing on the part of the licensee." ....Two days later...

September 23, 1989 - A TMI-2 operator was found reading "unauthorized material", i.e. a "girly" magazine. (See September 21, 1989, for precursor events.)

September 25, 1989 - Two cleanup workers received radiation exposures while handling a "small piece of reactor core debris..." in the decontamination area. "Officials said preliminary calculations show one worker may have a radiation exposure on the hands above 75 rem. The second worker may have an exposure greater than 18.75 rem. The federal occupational limit for exposure to extremities is 18.75 per calendar quarter."

On January 13, 1990 - GPU was fined $50,000 for a violation of "requirements protecting workers."

October 11, 1989 - A polar crane operator was found "reclining on the walkway with his feet draped over the handrail, eyes closed and head nodding." (See
May 1987 and December 1, 1987; July 19 and August 3, 1988; and, July 31, 1990, for other sleeping problems at TMI-2.)

November 1, 1989 - One of two workers involved in a radiation exposure "incident" may have received 220 rems to the hands, i.e., "extremities." The other worker in the incident is projected to have received 35 rems of exposure. The incident began when the workers picked up an object they thought was a "nut" or "bolt", but was in fact a piece of highly radioactive fuel. The workers were then advised to throw the "object into the reactor vessel." Since the fuel was "discarded", GPU had to use models to predict dose calculations and exposure rates.
GPU was also in violation for failing to report this incident in a timely fashion. Additionally, the workers have reported contradictory statements about the event.
(See September 25 and November 28, 1989, for recent worker exposures.)


November 28, 1989 - Another exposure incident occurred at TMI-2 when a worker, who was wearing protective clothing, took the object [a 40-foot poll] and began wiping it with a towel...the worker was holding a radiation monitor and noticed after a few seconds that the object was highly radioactive..." GPU termed this incident an "unplanned exposure" [below one rem] and not an overexposure.
(See September 25 and November 1, 1989, for recent worker exposures.)

GPU ordered a temporary shutdown of the cleanup, and the NRC "suggested" defueling may be halted.



1990

January 13, 1990 - GPU was fined $50,000 for excessive radiation exposure to a worker. (See September 25 and November 1 and 28, 1989, for background information.)

February 9, 1990 - "An apparent crack has been discovered in a sample of metal that has been taken from the bottom of the reactor vessel at Three Mile Island Unit 2. The crack appears to extend deeper into the bottom head of the vessel than was believed last summer when apparent cracks were detected on the surface of the five-inch-thick bottom head." (See November 6, 1984, for initial research findings.)

July 31, 1990 - The NRC announced "that an allegation that a shift supervisor on duty at Three Mile Unit 2 control room, during defueling operations in 1987, had sometimes slept on shift or had been otherwise inattentive to his duties, was true.
"Although some key members of the site management staff were aware of the sleeping problems and some actions were taken to correct it, it [sic] was not effectively corrected until utility corporate management became involved. The NRC staff proposes to fine GPU Nuclear, Inc. (GPUN) the company that operates the TMI site, $50,000. The staff also proposes a Notice of Violation to the former shift supervisor."
(For related sleeping problems refer to May 1987 and December 1, 1987; July 19 and August 3, 1988; and, October 11, 1989.)

December 10, 1990 - GPU began evaporating 2.3 million gallons of accident-generated radioactive water directly into the atmosphere.
Two days later the evaporator was shut down for mechanical problems.




1991

January 24, 1991 - The evaporator was "shut down four times due to various mechanical and electrical difficulties."

April 7 to May 11, 1991 - The evaporator was shut down for most of this period so GPU could "rewrite the main operating procedure." A Notice of Violation was issued by the NRC.

June, 1991 - Columbia University's Health Study (Susser-Hutch) published results of their findings in the American Journal of Public Health. The study actually shows a more than doubling of all observed cancers after the accident at TMI-2, including: lymphoma, leukemia, colon and the hormonal category of breast, endometrium, ovary, prostate and testis. For leukemia and lung cancers in the six to 12 km distance, the number observed was almost four times greater. In the 0-six km range, colon cancer was four times greater. The study found "a statistically significant relationship between incidence rates after the accident and residential proximity to the plant." (See August, 1996 for Wing Study.)

September, 1991 - Standley H. Hoch, Chairman and CEO of GPU, was forced to resign after it was disclosed he had an affair with Susan Schepman, vice president of communications.

1992

May 6, 1992 - The NRC issued a Notice of Deviation related to GPU's "commitment" to conduct annual radioactive, waste transport audits. GPU was actually conducting the audits every 24 months. (See August 9, 1985; December 1987; and April 9, 1993, for related rad waste problems.)

August 5, 1992 - GPU "declared an event of potential public interest when the Unit-2 west cooling tower caught fire." The fire lasted for ten minutes.

September, 1992 - GPU and the NRC agree to a negotiated settlement on the Post-Defueling Monitored Storage (PDMS) of TMI-2 with TMI-Alert, Chairman Eric Epstein. The Agreement stipulates GPUN will provide equipment and resources to independently monitor radioactive levels at TMI-2; $700,000 for remote robotics research to assist in the cleanup and minimize worker exposure; and, guarantees that TMI-2 will never operate or serve as a radioactive waste repository for any radioactive waste generated off the Island. (See December 1993 and April 23, 1998, for more information.)

November 12, 1992 - "Due to slightly higher activity levels, approximately 600,000 gallons of accident generated water (AGW) must be processed through the evaporator twice before being vaporized into the atmosphere."


1993

January, 1993 - GPU "discovered" they failed to take periodic samples of approximately 221,000 gallons of accident generated water in the borated water storage tank.

February 7, 1993 - Another emergency was declared at TMI when an intruder drove past TMI's guarded entrance gate, crashed through a protected area fence, crashed through the turbine building roll-up door, and hid in a darkened basement of the plant for almost four hours before being apprehended by guards. An NRC Incident Investigation Team found more than 40 problems with security during the emergency. Despite these findings, the NRC announces that TMI responded adequately.

April 9, 1993 - A Notice of Violation was issued for a "shipment of containers to the burial facility in Washington in which...free standing liquid inside the containers [was] in excess of ...NRC regulations." (See August 9 and 14, 1985; December 1987, and, May 6, 1992, for related rad waste problems.)

August, 1993 - Evaporation was completed six months behind schedule.

August, 1993 - Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of Theoretical Nuclear Physics at City University of New York, evaluated studies conducted or commissioned by the NRC on the amount of fuel left in TMI-2. Kaku concluded: "It appears that every few months, since 1990, a new estimate is made of core debris, often with little relationship to the previous estimate...estimates range from 608.8 kg to 1,322 kg...This is rather unsettling...The still unanswered questions are therefore precisely how much uranium is left in the core, and how much uranium can collect in the bottom of the reactor to initiate re-criticality."


December, 1993 - GPU placed TMI-2 in Post-Defueling Monitored Storage. (See September 1992, for background information.)



1994

March 17, 1994 - TMI-1 shutdown for unscheduled repairs.









1995


September, 1995 - Security breach at TMI. (See March 1, 1996, for additional information.)

September 20, 1995 - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed a lower court's decision, and sided with GPU in allowing the Company to charge rate payers for the TMI-2 accident.
The decision ignored the financial facts of the case: TMI-2 was built at a cost to rate payers of $700 million and had been on line for 90 days, or 1/120 of its planned operating lifetime, when the March 1979 accident began. One billion has been spent to defuel the plant, which now lays in idle shutdown, i.e., Post-Defueling Monitored Storage.


1996


March 1, 1996 - The NRC issued a violation against GPU for a breach in the protected area barrier on February 6, 1996. "Due to this event being similar to other security events that occurred in September 1995 and for which you were cited with a violation, the NRC is concerned about the implementation and effectiveness of the corrective actions to prevent recurrence of that type of violation..." NRC, James T. Wiggins, Director, Division of Reactor Safety.

June 14, 1996 - U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo granted summary judgment to GPU and its co-defendants in consolidated proceedings of more than 2,000 personal injury claims arising from the March 1979 accident at TMI. (See August 1996, for latest health study on TMI.)

August, 1996- A study by the University of North Carolina-Chapel-Hill, authored by Dr. Steven Wing, reviewed the Susser-Hatch (Columbia University) study released in June 1991. Dr. Wing reported "...there were reports of erythema, hair loss, vomiting, and pet death near TMI at the time of the accident...Accident doses were positively associated with cancer incidence. Associations were largest for leukemia, intermediate for lung cancer, and smallest for all cancers combined...Inhaled radionuclide contamination could differentially impact lung cancers, which show a clear dose-related increase." (See June 14, 1996, for federal judge's ruling on TMI health claims.)






1997

February, 1997 - In their 1997 Annual Report, GPU reported that the cost to decommission TMI-2 doubled in four years. The original $200 million projection has been increased to $399 million for radioactive decommissioning. An additional $34 million will be needed for non-radiological decommissioning. The new funding "target" is $433 million; or a 110% increase in just 48 months.

March 4, 1997 - GPU improperly downgraded safety equipment and prepared inadequate design and safety evaluations at TMI. (See October 14, 1997, for NRC fine.)

March 5, 1997 - GPU failed an emergency preparedness drill. (See October 14, 1997, for follow-up fine.)

Spring, 1997 - The Pennsylvania House of Representatives, along with the City of Harrisburg, recognized TMI-Alert for 20 years of community service. (See Spring 1997, for related public service award.)

August 18, 1997 - A contract supervisor tested positive for a controlled substance and was escorted from the site. (See July 1987, for a related incident.)

October 14, 1997 - GPU agreed to pay a $210,000 fine for violations identified by the NRC between November 1996 and May 1997 including: inadequate engineering design controls; improperly downgrading safety equipment; and, inadequate implementation of the plant's emergency preparedness program. (See March 4 and 5, 1997, for background information.)








1998

January 1, 1998 - Despite four incidents at Three Mile Island-1 involving personnel errors, including one involving contamination and another the type of valve that stuck open and led to the Three Mile Island-2 accident in 1979, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has issued a Notice of Violation -- but not a civil penalty -- against GPU Nuclear Corporation. (See October 14, 1997, for recent NRC violations.)

April 23, 1998 - RedZone Robotics, who has built robots at TMI-2 as part of the TMI-2 Settlement Agreement, will design a robot to map the damaged Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine. (See September 1992, for background information.)



1999

January 11, 1999 - TMI-1 is operating with thousands of damaged steam tubes. "...OTSG "A" has plugged 1,300 tubes and OTSG [Once Through Steam Generator] has 395 plugged tubes, totaling 1,695 plugged tubes at TMI-1. Each OTSG has 15,531 tubes. The NRC approved limit is a maximum of 2,000 total tubes plugged. GPUN has analyzed and submitted for NRC review a request to revise the tube plugging limit to 20% per OTSG, or 3,106 tubes per OTSG.
OTSG "A" has 248 tubes sleeved (one previously sleeved tube has been plugged) and OTSG "B" has 253 tubes sleeved." (AmerGen's Response to Questions and Concerns Regarding TMI-1 License Transfer Application. (See November 1981 through January 1982; December 7, 1983; and, July 16, 1984, for background information.)


January 14, 1999 - TMI's new owners, AmerGen, entered into a Negotiated Settlement Agreement with TMIA's Chairman, Eric Epstein. The Agreement stipulates that AmerGen will maintain equipment to allow citizens to independently monitor radiation releases at TMI; ensure the TMI workforce exceeds minimal NRC requirements; additional decommissioning costs will be absorbed by AmerGen; guarantees no radioactive waste generated off-site can be stored at TMI; and, AmerGen also agreed not to conduct business with any company boycotted by the U.S. for military or economic reasons.

July 21, 1999 - GPU Nuclear received permission form the NRC to reduce the insurance at TMI-2 from $1.06 billion to $50 million.

Three Mile Island Alert Control Room