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Dick Thornburgh on: Harold Denton, NRC Official
Dick Thornburgh Q: How does the press receive Harold Denton?

RT: Harold Denton came directly to the plant site to get his own assessment of what was going on there, and then came up late Friday afternoon to the capitol and we met for the first time. I was immediately taken with him. He was a very calm, cool, and collected individual, had a wonderful North Carolina drawl that kind of endeared him to all of us and he had that facility to translate some very complex technical terms into everyday language. At the same time, you had a confidence that he understood all those technical terms. So when we had our first joint press conference on Friday evening, I think it marked a turning point in the whole incident. I felt more confident and I rather imagine I looked more confident. I think the press, and I suspect the public, took to Harold and his facility to be a believable source of factual information the same way that I and my staff had. As Friday drew to a close, we felt a lot more confident of our ability to deal with this. But, as usual, there was always one more glitch. That came Friday evening as a result of a poorly worded press release out of Washington. I remember -- it was Walter Cronkite, that most believable of all Americans who led his newscast with a report that there was a possibility, however remote, of a melt-down at the nuclear facility at Three Mile Island. To a public not used to these terms or not schooled in these concepts, that was a very frightening kind of report. It was Harold in that first press conference who really laid that matter to rest. I think that he, very carefully and methodically, went through all the facts and made it clear that there really wasn't any perceivable threat of any kind of a melt-down.

I have to admit that my first reaction was somewhat skeptical when President Carter said he was sending Harold Denton. I thought, "Oh, my, here's another Washington official coming out to advise us, but, when I met him and when we discussed his take on the situation, those doubts were very quickly removed. He proved to be a genuine hero with respect to this event. He was a much needed source of information for those of us who had the ultimate responsibility for the safety of the people in the area and the quality of the environment.

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