The Management of Nuclear Safety: Lessons Learned from the Accident at Three Mile Island

  • Thomas H. Pigford


The accident at Three Mile Island (TMI) revealed that to have nuclear safety there must not only be reliable equipment, but there must also be competent and qualified people. At TMI there were equipment malfunctions, but the vital safety equipment performed well. An accident with serious core damage and radioactive release occurred only because operators mistakenly stopped the flow of emergency cooling water. Health effects from radiation exposure were negligible. Continued loss of flow of emergency cooling water would have led to core melting, but the containment would have survived and protected the public. Serious fright and trauma resulted from technical errors and public announcements of these errors a few days after the accident. Earlier experience from other reactors and analyses dating back to 1972 should have alerted the industry, the regulatory agency, and the operators and avoided the accident. This experience from the Three Mile Island accident provides many valuable lessons in the management of nuclear safety. Several such lessons revealed from the investigation by the President’s Commission are discussed here.


Diagnostic Ability Nuclear Safety Relief Valve Nuclear Regulatory Commission Reactor Coolant 
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Copyright information

© University of Tokyo Press 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas H. Pigford
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Nuclear EngineeringUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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