In a July 27 editorial, "The Three-Mile-Island Dust-Up," The Post claimed to give the story of "what actually happened at the President's Commission." On the basis of my involvement in these events as chairman of the citizens' panel, I reject The Post's analysis as inaccurate and a disservice to its readers.
On June 26, Dr. Bruce Lundin, then director of technical staff, and his deputy Dr. Vince Johnson, explicitly stated to me that the panel's role was not the same as that of the industry panel. They acknowledged that our participation would involve access to commission information that we would have to keep confidential until completion of the report. It was agreed the panel would review for comment to staff commission materials, such as its work plan, choice of consultants and witnesses, lines of questioning, testimony and consultants' reports. I suggested that we could also comment on the industry panel's replies. The two men clearly showed agreement on these roles, even giving me a copy of the confidential work plan for "technical review."
On July 11, these men and I discussed other advisory roles, most of which The Post listed as last-minute demands. There was no sign of disagreement or of second thoughts about our earlier meeting. In the context of these other roles, I agreed the panel would reply to some general questions from the commission.
We also agreed the panel could review for comment to staff the staff's draft reports to the commission. At the "dust-up" July 24, one panelist broadened this role to include review for comment to the commission early drafts of its report. This was the only role not previously agreed to, and even this The Post misinterprets as a demand to review and critique "the commission's final report before it is sent to the president."
Only on the afternoon of July 23, when panelists were coming into the city, did I learn of disagreement within the commission staff about our functions. Their public information director, Barbara Jorgenson, told me my memo constituted a list of unacceptable last-minute demands and described my efforts as an attempt to make the advisory committee into a supercommission.
On learning of the staff's last-minute change of mind, the advisory committee at the July 24 meeting insisted the staff honor its previous agreements. We judged that the restricted role would make our contribution to the commission report little more than window dressing. The questions were clearly addressed to the industry panel and specific replies required access to data available to the industry but not to us. We judged we were being asked to partake in a charade of a superficially even-handed treatment of industry and citizens' views.
The commission staff has tried to cover up its lack of coordination and clear direction by smearing the reputation of the citizens' panel. In my view, the commission has denied itself an early opportunity to accept or refute suggestions from informed citizens whose experience of nuclear-industry practices has clear pertinence to the Three Mile Island investigation. The commission can only hurt its credibility by continued silence on its staff's deceptive and inept treatment of the public.