Q: Describe the general mood and activity at the center when you arrive on
RM: I came into the emergency center at NRC headquarters Thursday afternoon,
probably in the early afternoon. They had a structure for the emergency
response team. The team members were seated about a table gathering or
receiving information from the site, asking for people to do studies and bring
them additional information. They would, from time to time, stop and talk to
one another as a team -- decide whether NRC should be doing something different
than it was doing. Outside the emergency center, there were a number of rooms
where groups of people had been gathered to study particular things -- to look
at the weather, to look at the radiation measurements off-site, to look at data
from the plant. I was assigned to go to one of those rooms and to take charge
of an analysis of the thermocouple data from the core to try to interpret what
was going on with the reactor at that time, Thursday afternoon, as evidenced by
these temperature data.
Q: Do you have the recollection that Hendrie and others thought things were
under control on Thursday?
RM: They did think Wednesday and Thursday that they had the accident under
control. I think basically, from the time they turned the reactor coolant
pumps back on late Wednesday afternoon, early evening, the perception at the
plant was that they had it under control. It was not until Thursday drug on,
that they still -- understand that they had non-condensible gas, hydrogen, as
we came to understand it, in the primary system -- that they still did not have
complete control of the primary system.
Q: Then what happens?
RM: I think the people on Thursday were tired. They'd been up all day
Wednesday, all night Wednesday night. They had been communicating with the
plant, trying to understand what was going on. They'd been testifying to
Congress, having press conferences. By Thursday night people are literally
run-down, they're tired. Data continues to be taken about the reactor and
there are things about the reactor that aren't right, that didn't coincide with
a safe condition. It's not in a stable shut-down mode. There's still boiling
going on in the core. There should never be boiling in the core of a
pressurized water reactor. What does that mean for the fuel damage? It's
starting to soak in. They're tired, but it's starting to soak in Thursday
night that there's more to this story that we've understood yet.
Thursday I stayed at the emergency center all night and some of the others that
had been up got some sleep in the wee hours, I think, of Friday morning. As
people begin to come back with some rest, we began to see off-site release of
radioactivity increase, and so the tenor changed Friday, maybe three-four-five
o'clock in the morning Friday morning. And we began to see more excitement
over what was the condition of the reactor and what radioactivity was being
released to the environment.
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