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False start at TMI.

It wasa busy week of ups and downs for those engaged in the dabate over whether the Harrisburg, Pa.-based General Public Utilities (GPU) Nuclear Corp. should be allowed to restart the undamaged nuclear reactor (Unit 1) at Three Mile Island (Pa.). The unit has been closed since 1979, when its twin unit was the site of the worst commercial nuclear accident in history.

On Aug. 27, a federal appeals panel in Philadelphia issued a 2-1 decision rejecting claims that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had approved the restart without sufficiently investigating GPU for allegedly falsifying safety records in the months prior to the 1979 accidients. This decision was thought by NRC and GPU to effectively permit reopening of the plant, according to GPU spokesperson Gordan Tomb. But apparently just a few minutes before GPU flipped the switch on Aug. 29, the court issued an order saying the Aug. 27 decision hadn't reversed a June 7 order blocking the restart. That order will be in effect pending appeals on the Aug. 27 ruling, according to a spokesperson in the Third District Court.

"We were expecting a final go-ahead for 4:00 p.m. of a court order preventing the operation of the plant," says Tomb. Unit 1, he adds, has been "on hot, standby condition using non-nuclear heat since June 8 at the cost of $40,000 a day for fuel oil and electricity." He declined to estimate how much that was costing consumers.
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Title Annotation:Three Mile Island
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 7, 1985
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