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Mike Gray on: Qualifications of Control Room Operators
Mike Gray Q: What training did it take to be a control room operator in 1979?

MG: A lot of people were under the impression that the operators in the control room at Three Mile Island were incompetent or substandard or something. Nothing could be further from the truth. These were among some of the best operators in the industry. These guys were almost, without exception, Navy trained. They had their nuclear power experience under Admiral Rickover in the nuclear Navy. These guys all had responsible jobs. Gary Miller, the chief engineer for this plant, was a man who was personally put in charge of the construction of one of the first nuclear powered aircraft carriers when he was in his 30s. And this is a brilliant engineer. And he was the guy who was there at that plant, at Three Mile Island, almost at the time they dug the foundation. So he was no, you know, newcomer who walked in that didn't know where the door knobs were. This is a guy who had watched that thing come up, you know, from the ground -- very, very intelligent man. He was misinformed.

Q: Is also true that all you needed to work at the plant was a high school education level?

MG: Yeah. Well, you don't necessarily want the PhD. I mean I wouldn't want Dr. Teller, for example, operating a nuclear power plant. Dr. Teller may have a much better grasp of the fundamental physics than these high school graduates who were operating the plant, but, that is a technical operation that you train people for. And these people had been well trained. I mean they had been on the Babcock and Wilcox simulator down in Lynchburg, Virginia. The team that was on duty at Three Mile Island that night, the night of the accident, Ed Fredrick, and Craig Faust and Gary Miller, these people were among some of the highest rated performers in terms of their tests. And you don't need a college degree. You don't have to be a physicist, but you do have to pass a series of very rigorous tests and you have to be well-trained, particularly as a control room operator. You've got to really know how to run that plant. And they had been well taught and well-trained, but, as I say, they had been misinformed. One of the most essential pieces of information had been essentially kept from them because the designers of the plant itself did not realize that this could happen.

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