The Role of the World Health Organization in the International Framework of Radiation Emergency Preparedness and Response

Harold Denton
Former Director, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation


The accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in 1979 revealed serious shortcomings in communicating information about the condition of the reactor to the decision makers who needed it to make technical decisions for managing the accident and for making decisions about public protection measures. The procedures for the public dissemination of that information were also deficient. This paper summarizes the causes of difficulties experienced during the accident and the corrective actions which followed. Among the actions were requirements for a hardened Technical Support Center on or near the plant site, a public information center in the vicinity of the plant, and a computer data link between the plant control room and NRC offices. This paper focuses on the measures taken to ensure the delivery of understandable, timely, and accurate information to the public, the media, and other stakeholders during a radiological emergency. The features of the Joint Public Information Centers for each plant are summarized. As the President's Commission observed, the quality of information available to the public in a life threatening emergency can be of critical importance. The paper also addresses actions that are by taken by FEMA and NRC to assure that detailed emergency plans are developed by utilities and Federal, State and Local governments.