| Article published Friday, July 25, 2003|
Davis-Besse outage costs almost
By TOM HENRY
Just shy of $450 million and
That’s the latest cost estimate for what
FirstEnergy Corp. has incurred from Davis-Besse’s 17-month outage.
And contrary to statements made to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
two weeks ago, restart does not appear imminent.
statement FirstEnergy’s headquarters in Akron issued yesterday, the
company backed off all timetables and said only that it expects to
have Davis-Besse "available for restart in the fall."
spokesmen, including public relations chief Ralph DiNicola, said
they would not be anymore specific. They conceded the plant might
not be ready until late fall, possibly December. "We’re not going to
characterize it as whether it’s early fall, middle fall, or late
fall. It’s the fall," Mr. DiNicola said.
The NRC, which has
the final say, got a more upbeat picture on July 9, when Lew Myers
told the agency’s oversight panel the scope of work had been
whittled down to a few items.
Mr. Myers, chief operating
officer of FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co., told reporters he
expected the plant to be ready by early September, if not the end of
On Wednesday, a wire service reported things had
changed: It said a backlog of work would keep the plant from being
ready until late September.
It quoted spokesman Richard
Wilkins, who confirmed in an interview with The Blade yesterday that
the plant’s crucial week-long pressure test had been pushed back
until at least late August and that about 30 days of work would
ensue after it was completed, barring any complications.
Mr. Wilkins declined in his interview with The Blade to say whether
late September is even viable. "I’m not supposed to say," he
His boss, Mr. DiNicola, said the corporate headquarters
has decided to be more vague about the timetable because it has
changed so often since the outage began Feb. 16, 2002. "We’re
providing the marketplace with the best available information we’ve
had at the time," he said, referring to U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission disclosure rules.
That contention has been
challenged by Ohio Citizen Action. It has petitioned the SEC to
investigate FirstEnergy, alleging the company has intentionally
misled stockholders about Davis-Besse’s status to preserve the
company’s stock value.
Mr. DiNicola called the allegation
The SEC acknowledged receipt of the letter, but
declined because of its confidentiality policy to say whether it
In a related matter, the Union of Concerned
Scientists has asked the NRC to withhold restart authorization until
the agency decides whether any actions by FirstEnergy warrant
FirstEnergy yesterday reaffirmed its
commitment to modifying rather than replacing Davis-Besse’s pair of
high-pressure injection pumps, the biggest-ticket items left, Mr.
DiNicola said. One of the modifications may take weeks longer than
the other, but replacing them could take months. The pumps, deemed
inoperable, are vital for getting the emergency coolant system
working in the event of an accident.
estimates its costs at $449 million since the outage began: $213
million for replacement power, $173 million for operating and
maintenance expenses, and $63 million for capital improvements, such
as a new reactor head. The company must absorb those costs, Mr.
Replacement power costs FirstEnergy $20
million to $25 million a month during peak summer months, and $15
million a month the rest of the year, the company said.
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