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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 5, 1979)
monday, novcmber 5, 1979
. Human error problem persists in nuclear industry
Last week the President's commission on the
accident at Three Mile Island released its report.
And the nuclear industry breathed a sigh of relief.
The findings, officials said, were good to them.
After all, the report indicated that the industry
itself wasn't at fault, that there were no major
design errors, that nuclear plants themselves are
The report said, in essence, that the errors were
people errors -that the weaknesses were in the
humans not the hardware involved.
And the nuclear industry was happy. Now
apparently they plan to tell the world, "See,
we're really not all that bad. We're basically OK.
The report says so."
But allowing the industry to gloss over those
human errors as if they are insignificant would be
a gross injustice to the commission and to the
people of the United States.
, In an effort to eliminate the potential for
future mistakes the report recommended that the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission be abolished and
replaced with a restructured federal agent which
would be run by a single administrator.
John G. Kemeny who headed the commission's
seven-month investigation told the Christian
Science Monitor that that recommendation was
an effort to correct attitude problems at the
He said the human element in safety concerns
were almost totally ignored by both the NRC and
nuclear power industry-both of which seemed
"hypnotized" by complex equipment.
Also, the NRC when selecting safety features
for equipment prepared for large accidents rather
than smaller ones like those at Three Mile Island.
Finally, he added, federal regulators equated
regulation with safety and were fascinated with
the complexity and voluminosity of regulations at
the expense of realistic measures.
Thnp nre serious oroblems and correcting
them, of course, would do much to improve the
safety of nuclear plants. But those mistakes are
just a small part of the "human error" problem.
The report, for example, also said the power plant
operators were at fault and recommended better
training programs for them.
But still, even that would not solve the
problem. One cannot regulate the amount of
sleep an operator gets oetore coming 10 worK.
One cannot be sure that a person who is having
personal problems is not going to be thinking
more about them than about his job.
In short, the human error problem has no
solution. Even the most higly trained worker is
going to make mistakes.
The dangers associated with human error in
nuclear plants, however, are too great to risk. And
the failure of the commission to recommend a
moratorium on the construction of nuclear plants
i it. t. i i r u ii
was pernaps me oiggesi uunuiu cuui ui wciuuij.
. - - " - - -
Eleanor Roosevelt turned disappointment to strength
BOSTON-Now it is Eleanor Roosevelt's
turn to have her private life exhumed.
Someone has said that the woman we
buried was not who we thought she was,
and so 'they have disinterred her letters,
dissected their vital organs and sent them
to the cruelist coroner of all, the public.
Those who think her prose was purple
are arguing with those who think her life
was tinged with lavender. Across the table
tops and country, people are talking about
her "sexual preference" as if it were hair
color: Did she or didn't she?
Well, they say that every generation
writes its own history. Ours, it appears, is
sexual. We thrust our own obsessions back
into time and came up with JFK's promis-'
cuity, Thomas Jefferson's black mistress
and, now, Eleanor's friend Lorena Hickok.
It seems, however, that we have greater
taste for suspicions than for facts, for the
unknown for the known.
IT IS ODD in this case, especially, be
cause what we do know about Eleanor
Roosevelt is so much more vital than what
we don't know.
We know that by all accounts, including
her own, she had a miserable childhood.
Regarded coolly bv her mother, who called
her "granny," , she was told that, "In a
'family that had great beauty, you are the
ugly duckling of that family."
We "know, too, that she worshipped
and struggled to please-her father long
after that attractive, self-destructive and
unreliable man was gone.
FROM THE TIME she was ten and an
orphan, she spent a neglected childhood
with .her grandmother in a dark gloomy
house where, as a cousin recalled, "We ate
our suppers silently ."
At a very young age, then, Eleanor
knew too much about life's blows. As a
young wife, she learned more. After ten
years of marriage and six children, her hus
band fell in love with Lucy Mercer, and:
"The bottom dropped out of my particular
life, and I faced myself, my surroundings,
my world, honestly for the first time. I
really grew up that year."
Even. when her husband died, Eleanor
knew," "he might have been happier with a
wife who was completely uncritical. That, I
was never able to be . . . Nevertheless, I
think I sometimes acted as a spur even
though spurring was not always wanted or '
welcome. I was one of those who served his
purposes." : '
SHE BECAME a great lady, then, not'
because she was a first lady, but because
'she was able through enormous will to turn
her pain into strength, to turn disappoint
ment into purpose. V
The facts, just the facts, of her life
might have defeated any of us. Add to that
list a dead child and a husband stricken
-with polio. But she used them, the way she
used them, the way she used her rigorous
disciplines of calisthenics and ice-cold
showers, to make herself stronger.
With this gutsiness, she cared about the
poor even when the press accused her of
interfering, and supported civil rights in the
days when an anti-lynch law was highly
controversial with southern Democrats.
She promoted women in government when
others disparaged them and, as a widow,
worked for human rights in the world and
the United Nations when others grew resigned.
All thisv the important facts, the fun
damental truths, are known, not suspected.
As Arthur Schlesinger once added them
up: "Her life was both ordeal and fulfill
ment. It combined vulnerability and stoi
cism, pathos and pride, frustration and
accomplishment, sadness and happiness "
That is still the best epitaph.
(c) 1979, Th Boston Globt Ntwspaptr Co.
The Washington Post Writers Group
One sentence from the Guest Opinion of Oct. 3 1
was inadvertently omitted. At the end of paragraph
three, after discussing the unhappiness of classified
.staff about the four-day Christmas layoff,, the
: opinion then should have read, "The protests
reached the Governor's office and Gov. Thone de
clared 'Energy Holiday s to cover two of the pro
jected four days of the layoff."
i Due to a typographical error, the guest opinion
of Nov. 1 contained an error. The sentence concern
ing the establishment of the Zionist community in
Palestine, said that Britain permitted the Zionist
community, which was a small majority to maintain
its military establishment. The sentence should have
read the Zionist community was a small minority.
The Daily Nebraskan apologizes for the errors.
On Oct. 30, your newspaper featured an advertisement
from the Central Intelligence Agency. That ad was written
in code. Following is a translation of what it really said:
Not everybody can work for the CIA, but you may be
one of them. Learn treachery, bribery, subversion, espion
age, torture, murder. You can participate in repeating the
overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz Gusman in
Guatamala, Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic, and
in the destruction of Chile (the oldest democracy in Latin
You can be a member of the Phoenix Program (20,000
dead under the CIA supervision from 1969-74) in
southern Vienna. Support military dictatorships in 80 of
the countries now receiving U.S. foreign aid.
You must be willing to undertake assignments within
the United States, including surveillance, mail openings,
liaison with exiled Cuhan terrorists, other matters of
extreme delicacy: since these "covert operations" far ex
ceed "intelligence gathering" as the Agency's activity,
experience as bag-man, wire-man, hit-man or other "con
tact" relationships very helpful..
Ph.D.s' needed in these fields: "My country (i.e.,
Fortune magazine's list of the 500 wealthiest corporat
ions) Right of Wrong" and "The Nuremburg Defense (i.e.,
"I was only following orders")."
Salaries are markedly superior to academic and most
business careers. Gratuities, emoluments, and sidelines are
also available; for information on the latter, see Alfred
McCoy, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia. .
Recommended reading before intellectual, psychologi
cal, security testing begins: Philip Agee, Inside the
Company, Victor Marchetti and John Marks, CIA: The
Myth and the Madness; Hie Pentagon Papers (especially
the early volumes).
The CIA is an equal opportunityaffirmative-action
employer: ask the dead and the victims in Argentina,
Chile, Iran, Indonesia, Paraguay, the Philippines, South
Africa, South Korea, Uruguay, etc., etc.
Finally, I expect next to see ads in the Daily Nebraskan
for the Mafia. Surely the same ethical standards that
ought to forbid promoting pornographic movies also
apply here: wading through such trash, one feels unclean.
Associate Professor, English and Modern Languages
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