Adm. Hyman G. Rickover, head of the Navy's nuclear power program, has recommended that electric utilities form a "technically proficient" and "neutral" organization that would have responsibility for design, operation and inspection of nuclear power plants, but would be free of economic and other concerns.
He also proposed that every operating nuclear plant be assigned a government representative who would not be subject to the utility company's orders and who would have authority to shut the plant down if he thought it necessary.
The blunt-spoken admiral was enticed into talking about commercial nuclear power activities - which he indicated he doesn't like to do because he has no control over them - at a closed hearing last March before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. His testimony was made available this week.
A spokesman on Rickover's staff said the admiral has not refined the proposal for a utility organization but the purpose of it would be to have an ongoing technical group to handle nuclear power so that utilities would not have to depend on consultants and manufacturers for expertise.
Rickover said his proposals would "reassure the public" about an industry that has a "good" safety record. "They (the public) listen to everything that comes out, particularly scare stories, and when radiation is involved the stories are usually made to sound scary."
W. Donham Crawford, president of Edison Electric Institute, a national association of utility companies, was cool to the Rickover proposals.
However, he pointed out that New England has an organization somewhat similar to that proposed by the admiral. It has handled design, engineering and the process of achieving licenses for the various Yankee nuclear plants in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont.
"But I don't see a real need for such organizations when the utilities themselves are handling their own plants without difficulties," Crawford said. And he said he didn't see how it would be possible to divorce economics from the technical operation, as suggested by Rickover.
Crawford said he also was negative to the idea of having a government man in a control room with authority to close a plant down "without any responsibility for the need to supply power to the customers or for the economics of generating and supplying power."