Companies | Article published July 18, 2003|
Head of FirstEnergy nuclear unit steps
By TAD VEZNER
FirstEnergy’s Nuclear Operating Co., operator
of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Oak Harbor, Ohio, will
soon have a new man at the helm.
Robert F. Saunders, 60,
current president and chief nuclear officer of FENOC, has "elected
to retire" in February, 2004, according to a FirstEnergy statement
He will be replaced by the company’s
current executive vice president, Gary Leidich, who was hired in
Mr. Leidich received both his bachelor and master
of science degrees in engineering from the University of Toledo, and
worked as an engineer for a decade before moving into management in
Independent industry analysts said they do not get the
sense that Mr. Saunders’ retirement has anything to do with recent
problems at the Davis-Besse plant - which was shut down in February,
2002 due to reactor head problems - primarily because Mr. Saunders
will continue to oversee operations for seven months.
[the retirement] were effective immediately, then that would raise
eyebrows," said one industry analyst who asked not to be identified.
"Mr. Saunders had a contract. That contract is up in February.
Agreeing is David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety
expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists - a nonprofit watchdog
group that has been closely monitoring
"Certainly Davis-Besse isn’t something you put
on your resume, but Mr. Saunders was in charge of much more than
FENOC operates three nuclear power plants,
including Davis-Besse, the Perry plant close to Cleveland, and the
Beaver Valley station outside Pittsburgh.
When Mr. Saunders
arrived at FirstEnergy in February, 2000, he did so with one key
objective: to consolidate and centralize the policies and procedures
at each of the three plants into a single, "fleet" format of
Mr. Leidich has been involved in the design of the
centralized policies at FENOC - specifically those related to
safety, his "top priority."
In that position, Mr. Leidich
visited "nearly every single one" of the 103 nuclear power plants in
the United States, as well as plants in Spain and Great Britain, in
search of effective safety and performance models.
nuclear plant is an island," Mr. Leidich said. "We all have things
to learn from each other. Other power plants have certainly learned
a lot from Davis-Besse."
Officials at the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission - the agency in charge of overseeing FirstEnergy’s power
plants - had no comment on the appointment.
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