Ahearne, John F.
September 1990
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists;Sep1990, Vol. 46 Issue 7, p37
This article discusses the importance of communication in dealing with nuclear hazards, risks, and accidents. Officials need to know what they're talking about--and how to listen. During the accident at the Three Mile Island reactor, communications broke down completely. At one point, Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh tried to confirm that a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) official had advised an immediate evacuation--but the official had acted on his own, and the advisory was canceled. Neither the NRC commissioners nor their staff could get reliable information from the plant about how bad the accident was or what was happening. And the press, converging on Harrisburg, found no spokesman for the state or the NRC until Harold Denton, the NRC's director of nuclear reactor regulation, arrived the next day. Later, TMI and government officials claimed the press had failed to communicate accurately to the public.


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