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Carr, Hon. Bob, a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan.
Markey, Hon. Edward J., a Representative in Congress from the State of
Udall, Hon. Morris, a Representative in Congress from the State of
Three Mile Island, accompanied by: Hon. Bruce E. Babbitt, Commis-
Thomas Pigford --
REPORT OF THE PRESIDENT'S COMMISSION ON THE
THREE MILE ISLAND ACCIDENT
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 1979
MITTEE ON NUCLEAR REGULATION, AND U.S. HOUSE OF
Washington, D.C. The subcommittees met at 2:10 p.m., in room 318, Russell Senate Office Building, Hon. Gary Hart (chairman of the Subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation), presiding.
Present: Senators Randolph, Hart, Moynihan, Stafford, Domenici, and Simpson; Representatives Udall, Bingham, Weaver, Carr, Markey, Kostmayer, Vento, Huckaby, Symms, and Cheney. OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. GARY HART, U.S. SENATOR FROM
THE STATE OF COLORADO Senator Hart. This hearing will come to order. Today's hearing is unprecedented in several respects.
First: This is the first joint hearing of the principal nuclear safety oversight committees of the Senate and the House.
Second: The subject of the hearing is the report of the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island. The accident was the most serious in the history of the American nuclear power program-indeed the most serious such accident that we know of anywhere in the world. The report is the most candid and the most independent assessment to date of nuclear power. It substitutes close scrutiny and hard criticism for the gloss and the platitudes of past Government studies on the performance and the regulation of nuclear powerplants.
Third: This hearing continues a fair but intensive trial of the nuclear power program. The Presidential Commission report presents a striking indictment of the institutions most involved in that program-principally the nuclear industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But the Congress is also on trial, as is the executive branch of Government. Ultimately, it is our responsibility as the people's elected representatives to determine whether nuclear power is, or can be made, safe enough to embrace as a principal source of energy. On that overriding issue, the jury is still out.
To my mind, although the Commission report squarely addresses the principal problems that caused and aggravated the Three Mile Island accident, it does not address the one question that, in some form, is on every American's mind. I would state the question this way: "Have nuclear powerplants become too large and too complex to be operated and regulated safely?”
That is the nub of it. The Commission's report stresses the uncertainty of the human factor. According to the findings, the equipment in the plant basically responded, but there were serious problems in design-especially of the control room-and there were serious problems in the way plant operators, industry executives, and ÑRC officials responded to the accident. Small comfort there, in my view: the equipment is fine; it is just the people running it that are flawed.
Therefore, I am interested in learning the individual commissioner's views as to whether Three Mile Island teaches us that we have gone too far, too fast with our nuclear power program. Are the latest 1,000megawatt reactors, like the one at Three Mile Island, too big and too intricate to control in an emergency? Would smaller, simpler reactors perform better in terms of safety even if they are less desirable from the standpoint of cost effectiveness? Perhaps the American people are willing to pay more for nuclear-generated electricity if they can be assured it will be safe electricity as well.
Further, I am troubled by the Commission's decision not to recommend a delay in construction of new plants in light of its finding that, for safety's sake, the siting of new plants should be, and I quote the report, "to the maximum extent feasible ... in areas remote from concentrations of population.” Since some of the proposed plants now awaiting construction permits do not meet this standard, why didn't the Commission recommend that new construction permits be held up until safe sites can be found?
Finally, I am concerned by the Commission's recommendation that the independent, multimember NRC be transformed into a singleadministrator agency within the executive branch. There are some serious problems with the structure of the NRC, but I am not convinced we can best overcome these problems by putting the agency in the executive branch and eliminating the diversity of views provided by a multimember commission.
I hope the Commissioners will provide further insight on this issue today, and I welcome their presentation. It is particularly significant that, I think, as I indicated, this is the first hearing involving jointly the Senate and House oversight committees. We are particularly pleased that the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment of the House Interior Committee, Congressman Morris Udall, could be present with us and members of his subcommittee.
Congressman Udall? OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. MORRIS UDALL, A REPRESEN
TATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA
Mr. UDALL. Thank you, Senator Hart. It is a pleasure for me to cochair these hearings with you. I think our two subcommittees together probably bear the major responsibility over the next few months or years in coming up with some answers, because the nuclear