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September 28, 1979 - Image 14

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-09-28

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Page 14-Friday, September 28, 1979-The Michigan Daily

Three Mile unsettled after 6 months

CALL 1-261-LSAT OR WRITE: WASHINGTON (AP) - The irony
University LSAT Preparation Service was unanticipated, and cruel. General
33900 Schoolcraft Road, Public Utilities' annual report was the
Sui te G-2 very picture of progress. Its cover
photo proudly contrasted an old 19-
megawatt York Haven hydroelectric

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plant with the new 1,700-megawatt
Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant
just upriver.
But by the time the report reached
stockholders, Three Mile Island lay
critically wounded by the nation's wor-
st commercial nuclear accident, an ac-
cident that threatens the survival of
General Public and the future of the en-
tire nuclear power industry.
SIX MONTHS AFTER, the accident,
Three Mile Island Unit No. 2, started-up
only last December, is out of operation
for at least four years by company
estimates and conceivable forever,
severely damaged, and flooded with a
small lake of radioactively con-
taminated water.
Its sister-plant, Unit 1, is shut down to
provide support and could stay out of
service a year or more for federal
safety reviews.
Critics of nuclear power say the ac-
cident has provided them with what
they need to stop development of
atomic power by reminding a wary
public of March 28: the day radiation
started leaking from the plant, and
there was talk of a "melt-down," and of
a general evacuation of the populated
area around Harrisburg, Pa.
THE INDUSTRY'S advocates say
quite the opposite, that Three Mile

Island may actually strengthen nuclear
power in the United States.
They note that nobody was killed or
seriously injured, and while some
radioactivity was released, it should do
little or no harm to -ublic health. /
They say that despite a multitude of
equipment failures and human errors,
TMI's safety systems prevented the
widely feared fuel melt down - the
worst type of nuclear accident - or
large releases of radioactivity.
THUS, THEY SAY, the accident did
not prove nuclear power unsafe as
Ralph Nader and other critics claim,
but demonstrated that nuclear systems
are safe even when things go
drastically wrong.
They say, too, that the nation has no
real choice but to build more nuclear
power plants anyway.
That interpretation was expressed
within days of the accident by James
Schlesinger, then secretary of energy
and former head of the old Atomic
Energy Commission (AEC).
SCHLESINGER'S DEPUTY
Secretary John O'Leary once directed
nuclear licensing in the AEC and sup-
ports atomic power, yet he is gloomy
about its future, fearing that Three Mile
Island may have given it a final death
blow.

Long before the accident, O'Leary
was saying nuclear power was almost
dead because of rising costs, regulatory
and construction delays, and slowing
electricity demand has dried up new
plant orders and started a wave of can-
cellations.
"The industry has' been in the
doldrums, no doubt about it," says
Paul Turner, vice president of the
Atomic Industrial Forum, an industry
trade organization.
"THREE MILE ISLAND made that
situation worse," Turner said in a
recent nterview.
Turner said he thinks nuclear power
plant orders will resume, but not for at
least three or four years.
The industry, said Turner, will wait
to see what new regulations emerge
from investigations of the accident by
the Nuclear Power Regulatory Com-
mission and the President's Com-
mission on Three Mile Island.
IN ADDITION, it may well wait to
see whether the stricken TMI-2 plant
can in fact be cleaned up, repaired, and
put back into operation.
The plant's operator, Metropolitan
Edison Co., estimated recovery would
take four years and cost some 400
million - more than half the plant's
original cost.
That is only part of the still untold
costs of the Three Mile Island accident.
GENERAL PUBLIC Utilities, parent
of Met Ed and two other utilities, said it

cost some $25 million a month to pur-
chase electricity from other companies
to replace TMI's lost capacity.
With its $1.1 billion investment in
Three Mile Island standing idle,
General Public reported a 26.9 per cent
drop in second-quarter earnings this
year. To avoid bankryptcy, it has been
forced to accept $409 million in short
term 'credit from a consortium of 43
banks, pledging its own securities as
collateral .
The banks can suspend this credit
and speed up collections of loans if they
get worried about General Public's
financial outlook.
IN THE WAKE of Three Mile Island,
the nuclear industry has started
developing its own safety improvement
organizations and a self-insurance plan
for protection'against the massive costs
of an accident.
But until these new shields are in
place, until new federalregulations are
clarified, until state governments and
the public regain their shaken trust in
nuclear safety, until the final fate of
Three Mile Island is determined, it
seems certain that the once vigorous
growth of nuclear power will be stun-
ted.
As O'Leary recently told a group of
reporters, "Buildinig a nuclear power
plant today is playing You Bet Your
Company.

/I

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