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Nuclear Energy Institute
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Twenty Years After Three Mile Island Nuclear Energy Industry Reaches New Levels of Safety, Reliability

WASHINGTON—New data demonstrate that the operational and institutional changes made by the nuclear industry after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident continue to foster record levels of safety and performance at America's commercial nuclear power plants.

Data released today from the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations-formed after Three Mile Island to promote excellence in plant operations-show that the nuclear industry is achieving ambitious and quantifiable goals for plant and worker safety and performance.

"The data prove it-nuclear plants are safer and more reliable than ever," said Joe Colvin, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's Washington-based policy organization. "The industry has come a long way in the two decades since Three Mile Island sparked sweeping changes in way we operate our plants. The lessons we learned and our continued investments in our people and training are paying off many times over."

Details on the 1998 performance indicators will be available from industry executives during an audio news conference March 19 at 12:45 p.m. EST. To participate, call 1-888-469-0874, ask for the "Nuclear Energy Performance Indicators" press conference; use the password PRESS and ask for call leader Steve Unglesbee. To ensure an ample number of phone lines, please pre-register by calling NEI's Denise Roberts at (202) 739-8067 at least one hour prior to the event.

Highlights of the U.S. nuclear industry's performance in 1998 included:

Safety System Performance —For the fourth straight year, U.S. nuclear plants achieved record high levels of safety system performance. In 1998, 98 percent of three key plant safety systems-two main cooling systems, and back-up power supplies used to respond to unusual situations-met their availability goals.

Unplanned Automatic Plant Shutdowns —For the second year, unplanned automatic plant shutdowns stood at a median value of zero per plant in 1998. Nearly two-thirds of all operating nuclear power plants had no automatic scrams last year.

Worker Safety —Already one of the safest industrial work environments, U.S. nuclear plants in 1998 reached their highest worker safety level since INPO began collecting these data: only 0.29 accidents per 200,000 work-hours.

Unit Capability Factor —This performance indicator is the percentage of maximum electricity a plant can supply to the power supply system, limited only by factors within the control of plant managers. The industry's 1998 median capability factor of 87 percent is the highest since INPO began collecting data and meets the year 2000 goal for the first time.

Solid Low-Level Radioactive Waste —Nuclear power plants produced a minimal volume of tools, rags, protective clothing and other materials containing low levels of radioactivity in 1998 and again exceeded the industry's year 2000 goals for minimizing this waste. Pressurized-water reactors produced a median volume of only 21 cubic meters of waste per plant—less than half of the 45-cubic-meter goal for the year 2000. Waste from boiling-water reactors in 1998 stood at a median volume of 79 cubic meters—well ahead of the year 2000 goal of 125 cubic meters.

Improved plant performance in four other areas—unplanned capability loss factor, thermal performance, chemistry performance, and collective radiation exposure in pressurized-water plants—also led to the industry's 1998 gains in plant safety and reliability compared with 1997.

"These 1998 achievements portray an industry that continues to improve—one that is growing in strength and one that has bright prospects for the future," said Jim Rhodes, chairman, president and chief executive officer of INPO. "Nuclear professionals throughout the United States continue their commitment to high standards by pursuing excellence in every aspect of plant operation."

Since 1983 INPO has collected, monitored and reported data on America's nuclear plants to measure their performance against quantifiable industry goals. The Atlanta-based organization reports on data gathered by the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO)—the international safety organization founded by the nuclear power industry in 1989. WANO adopted U.S. performance indicators for use by nuclear utilities worldwide.

Plant operators in 32 countries use WANO performance indicator data to help monitor progress at their plants, set performance goals, and establish the priorities and resources needed to achieve further performance improvements. Nuclear plants with the best safety performance, as measured by these indicators, also have outstanding efficiency and reliability levels.

"The nuclear industry will continue its long-standing commitment to improving the safety and reliability of nuclear power plants," Colvin said. "The outstanding performance of our nuclear power plants, and their ability to generate clean electricity, positions them for a major role in the competitive electricity marketplace."

Nuclear power is America's second largest source of electricity, with 103 plants meeting about 20 percent of total U.S. electricity needs-enough for 65 million homes-without emitting greenhouse gases or other pollutants.


The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry's Washington-based policy organization.

INPO is based in Atlanta and was established by the nuclear industry in 1979 to promote the highest levels of safety and reliability-to promote excellence-in commercial nuclear plant operations.

WANO was established in 1989 as an international organization intended to maximize the safety and reliability of nuclear plants worldwide, by exchanging information and encouraging communication, comparison and emulation among plant operators.


The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at