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Prodding The Panels


By Burton F. Jablin

In the wake of last year's accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, Gov. Edward J. King, gubernatorially, set up panels and task forces to help ensure that the same kind of mishap does not occur in Massachusetts.

In May 1979 he appointed a state nuclear advisory panel, chaired by Richard Wilson, professor of Physics, to investigate nuclear power plant safety in the state.

In a report to King's cabinet-level task force on nuclear energy, made public this week, the advisory committee recommended among other things that the task force establish a state nuclear safety review committee.

The panel's 26 specific suggestions did not address what state policy should be, but rather what the governor's task force should examine, Susan D. Wiltshire, past president of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters and a member of the advisory committee, said yesterday.

The committee called for improvements in several general categories, including: licensing and training of plant operators; establishing chains of command in the event of an emergency; and creating and coordinating evacuation plans.

The panel also recommended a campaign to educate the public on nuclear issues.

Wiltshire said the advisory committee's members thought the cabinet-level task force would investigate nuclear saftey concurrently with their study. Because it did not, the panel members decided to "prod" the task force with their recommendations.

What good that prodding has done is not altogether clear. When Wiltshire and Wilson met with King Wednesday, the governor thanked them for their report but did not respond in any other way--telling them what suggestions he agreed with, for example, Wiltshire said.

Despite King's ambivalence, his task force has already implemented some of the advisory panel's suggestions, especially those regarding training of operators, Wiltshire said.

But, she added, "I have no sense of whether the suggestions that have not been done to date will be taken up or just dropped."

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