New NRC inspector at Three Mile Island: ‘we are always on call’

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LONDONDERRY TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. -- The operators of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant recently talked about the future of the facility.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's newest inspector is part of a team keeping their eyes and ears on operations to keep the region safe.

Inside Three Mile Island, two resident inspectors serve as the eyes and ears of the public and the NRC.

NRC senior resident inspector at TMI Dave Werkheiser said "our role as a resident inspector, is to monitor the plant and the operators, and the station, assess their performance, on the day to day activity."

Brian Lin may be the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's newest member of the inspection team at TMI, but this isn't his first time at a power plant.

NRC resident inspector at TMI Brian Lin said "I bring the experience previously from Peach Bottom, Limerick and Oyster Creek."

The cooling towers of the unit two reactor are a haunting reminder of the country's worst nuclear accident.

"It's almost frozen in time, whereas you can see unit one, there's been a lot of upgrades," Werkheiser said.

Although it happened nearly 40 years ago, Lin and Werkheiser still act as it's first responders in an emergency.

"They do still have technical specifications they have to adhere to. We're here to deal with radiation monitoring, and just to maintain the safe condition of the plant in storage," Werkheiser said.

Whether Three Mile Island keeps running for years to come, or decommissions out of service and powers off in the near future, is to be determined.

"The NRC allows for consistent renewal of the operating license as long as it meets those safety criteria," Werkheiser said.

Meanwhile,there's still work to be done.

Keeping watch on everything that goes on at the plant is more than a full-time job.

"We are always on call, Dave and I. We are always available to be contacted from Three Mile Island, and we have an open line of communication with the site," Lin said.

There are a lot of flashing lights and detailed monitors in the control room, but when the annunciator boards are dark, it's actually a good sign that there's no problem to announce.

Should something go wrong, the plant has 15 minutes to notify the state. Lin describes his plan of action for any nuclear incident, from an unusual event or alert, to a more severe site area or general emergency.

"Operators are operating the plant safely, in accordance with the procedures, and when the plant is stable, gather that information so I can make an assessment," Lin said."