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  Wednesday, February 26, 2003


Inspections must not be rushed for FirstEnergy

Our view

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission should stick to its detailed inspection process and not rush to meet a Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station restart date targeted by FirstEnergy.

Your view

Let us know what you think. Information about getting your opinions published appears at the bottom of this page.


Delays in the targeted restart of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station are not a bad thing.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported this week that inspections at the Ottawa County plant could delay FirstEnergy Corp.'s target for an April restart by a month or more.

In fact, the NRC has inspections planned through April and May, and these inspections must meet the approval of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel before the plant can restart.

The plant has been shut down since February 2002 when it was closed for maintenance. A month later, a leak was discovered that had allowed boric acid to eat nearly through the 6-inch-thick steel cap covering the plant's reactor vessel.

Since then, a series of revelations and concerns has eroded confidence in the plant itself, the nuclear power industry and the NRC, which is charged with regulating the industry.

This confidence must be restored and a rush to restart the facility won't do that.

Although FirstEnergy still contends that the plant will be ready in April, Brian Sheron, NRC associate director of project licensing, said, "The bottom line is, we're not working for the licensee's schedule. The licensee may be ready to start up long before the agency is willing to say they've corrected all the deficiencies which led to this ..."

An inspection for leaks at the bottom of the reactor will not be done until mid- to late March.

Inspections to make sure that Davis-Besse's management and staff have improved their safety awareness will continue through May. That's a difficult thing to measure. While the physical problems and corrections can be seen with a visual inspection, the attitude problems and attempts at improvement require interpretation as well as observation.

We hope that the NRC sticks to its guns and doesn't yield to any pressure to advance the restart before regulators are convinced that the plant is safe and will continue to be.

Originally published Wednesday, February 26, 2003

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