NRC officials Harold Denton (left) and Victor Stello brief President Jimmy Carter and Pennsylvania Governor Thornburgh on the Three Mile Island accident back on April 1, 1979. According to the Presidential diary for that day, available here, the President first attended Sunday services before flying from the White House to the Air National Guard Facility in Middletown, Pa., by Marine helicopter.
After a tour of TMI, then-President Carter gave some remarks to reporters and local residents, and returned to the White House by 3:54 p.m., in time to get to St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church to watch his daughter, Amy’s, violin recital.
The Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor, near Middletown, Pa., partially melted down on March 28, 1979. It was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history. Its aftermath brought about sweeping changes involving emergency response planning, reactor operator training, human factors engineering, radiation protection, and many other areas of nuclear power plant operations.
All of these changes significantly enhanced U.S. reactor safety. The full story is available here.
Here, President Carter visits the TMI-2 Control Room in April 1979, joined by Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh, and the NRC’s Harold Denton. Since this visit, what other sitting president visited a nuclear power plant and at which site?
Today marks 35 years since the accident at the Three Mile Island 2 nuclear power plant. As is the case every year, it represents another opportunity to reflect on the most significant nuclear power plant accident to ever occur in the U.S.
Perhaps less well known to the average citizen is where things stand in terms of the Middletown, Pa., site all these years later.
GPU Nuclear, which owned the plant at the time of the accident, removed the damaged fuel from the reactor and decontaminated the plant in ensuing years. Once the plant was placed in a safe, stable condition, it transitioned to what is known as “post-defueled monitored storage” — a change that was formally approved by the NRC in 1993.
Last year, the current owner, FirstEnergy, submitted a roadmap to the agency on its plans for eventual dismantling the plant. Those details were contained in a document called a Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report, or PSDAR.
In short, the plant will remain in storage until its neighboring reactor, Three Mile Island 1, permanently ceases operations, something currently expected to happen in 2034. Once that happens, decommissioning work on both units will be undertaken, but those efforts are projected to take many years.
NRC regulations allow up to 60 years for the completion of decommissioning activities for U.S. nuclear power plants.
Meanwhile, the NRC will continue to inspect TMI-2 at regular intervals. The focus of those reviews includes maintenance of the structures, management oversight, fire protection and plant support activities. The results of those inspections can be found in the NRC’s electronic documents system.
While another anniversary has arrived for TMI, the work on keeping close watch on the plant goes on, and will continue for many years to come.