CAMP PERRY -- Projections from the current work rates predict the
Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station could be ready for start up in
Federal regulators, however, aren't saying exactly when they'll
be done with massive amounts of inspections that need to be
completed as the work is finished.
"We can't inspect the work until it's done," said Nuclear
Regulatory Commission Oversight Panel Chairman Jack Grobe during a
nearly four-hour monthly meeting Tuesday at Camp Perry. "As things
are completed, we're inspecting them, and we'll continue to do
The panel is watching over the plant's progress as it works
toward restart after being off-line for more than a year. During a
routine refueling outage, workers found large amounts of corrosion
on the reactor head and have since overhauled several systems and
Grobe said there are three areas of great importance: The bulk
work, which is much of the larger projects still ongoing; resolution
of some design issues that require intense calculations and
evaluation of the safety culture.
One of the peripheral causes pinpointed in the corrosion problem
was that workers weren't willing to come for1ward and point out
safety concerns for fear of retribution.
"Those are the three areas I see as challenge areas, and we'll
get to restart when we get there," Grobe added.
Having said that, though, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Corp.
officials are predicting completion of the last portions of its
restart checklist items by mid-June. Those predictions are based on
the best work-off rates of the last month, as the amount of work to
be done continues to decline.
Company officials, too, were armed with some good news at the
meeting, announcing a positive result to its Integrated Leak Rate
Test, finished April 9.
That test required the containment vessel to be pressurized to
search for leaks -- none of which were found, said Jim Powers,
director of FENOC's nuclear engineering.
"The organization needs to work well to communicate to reach this
milestone and execute (the test)," Powers explained of the work that
goes into the ILRT. He added that employees worked well together to
position hundreds of components, open the right valves, coordinate
10 compressors the size of trailers and pull off the test
FENOC management also came prepared with results from an internal
survey that showed for the most part, workers are more informed and
happier with the safety attitude at the plant than previously.
About 1,138 employees and contractors participated in the survey,
out of a possible population of 1,448. They answered 36 questions,
and almost all the answers were more positive than results from a
similar August 2002 survey.
"It's still not as good as we'd like to get it, but it's an
improvement," Vice President of FENOC Oversight Bill Pearce noted.
One puzzling result of the survey, however, concerned Grobe and
other oversight panel members. In one question, 77 percent of those
surveyed said they felt free of retaliation or harassment. On
another question, though, 15 percent said they were aware of
instances in the last six months where a worker was harassed or
retaliated against for reporting safety concerns.
In another question, 8 percent said they have been subjected to
problems because of raising a safety concern. Both those results are
a slight increase over the August 2002 results, despite months of
effort to combat such perceptions.
Grobe said later that out of the 15 percent statistic, 22 percent
of those were contract workers who appear to be saying they have
"That's a concern we share and something to look at," he said to
an area resident who questioned the figure.
Meanwhile, company officials "whetted" the appetite of audience
members with a few results from an independent assessment done by
Dr. Sonja Haber.
It showed work still needed to be done to ingrain a safety
culture into workers at Davis-Besse, but Myers said he saw a
Grobe responded that he was not aware of any other plant in the
United States with a methodology like Haber's for gauging safety
culture. A public meeting is expected to be scheduled in the coming
weeks to talk in detail about Haber's assessment.
"I feel it's particularly noteworthy that you folks have taken
this on with a certain amount of vigor," Grobe said. "You've earned
the right to take this on."
Originally published Wednesday, April 16, 2003