| Article published Thursday, May 1, 2003|
Real risks at Besse hidden, activist says
A Toledo lawyer and nuclear watchdog yesterday
accused two of his former employers of downplaying the risk caused
by Davis-Besse’s severely corroded reactor head.
Whitcomb, an Ottawa County resident who lives near the beleaguered
plant, told a University of Toledo audience that FirstEnergy Corp.
and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were just as cryptic about
Davis-Besse’s disaster potential in 2002 as Toledo Edison and the
NRC were when the plant had a temporary loss of auxiliary feedwater
problem in 1985. Toledo Edison became a FirstEnergy subsidiary in
the late 1990s.
"What’s disturbing to me is it’s all been
minimized. It’s that kind of deception and misinformation that’s
hard to accept," he told 40 people attending his guest lecture in
the University of Toledo’s law school auditorium.
Whitcomb worked for the NRC in the mid-1980s as a resident inspector
at a South Carolina plant before he was hired by Toledo Edison as a
Davis-Besse employee. He has said he resigned from Davis-Besse out
of frustration related to the management’s handling of the 1985
He worked a few years at Detroit Edison Co.’s Fermi
II nuclear plant in northern Monroe County before opening his own
general law practice in Toledo in the early 1990s.
Wilkins, a FirstEnergy spokesman, said the company has in no way
minimized the risk posed by Davis-Besse. The plant has been shut
down since Feb. 16, 2002, as a result of the near-hole and other
equipment problems. "That was more than a year ago and more than
$300 million ago," Mr. Wilkins said.
He said yesterday that
Davis-Besse’s restart has been pushed back again by "at least a
couple of months" because of recent equipment and workforce
"We didn’t put them in that position. They did," Mr.
Whitcomb said. "If they’re looking for empathy from the public, they
shouldn’t expect that."
Nils Diaz, whom President Bush
recently named as NRC chairman, told 1,200 people from 15 countries
on April 16 that Davis-Besse was an "enormous failure" in terms of
oversight. But Dr. Diaz said he believes the media has exaggerated
The comments were made at the NRC’s annual
Regulatory Information Conference, in front of the largest group Dr.
Diaz has addressed since becoming NRC chairman.