| Article published Thursday, September 4, 2003|
Davis-Besse flaws were well-known, lawsuit
Contractor detailed problems in
By TOM HENRY
FirstEnergy Corp. has known for years that
Davis-Besse had design flaws that made the nuclear plant vulnerable
to disaster, according to a South Carolina contractor who claims his
firm was banned from the site in the fall of 1988 after he had
documented alleged shortcomings in a progress report.
N. Keisler, president of BKE, Inc., and Nuclear Maintenance
Integration Consultants Corp., said in a lawsuit filed in Ottawa
County Common Pleas Court that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was
kept largely in the dark by FirstEnergy and one of its subsidiaries,
Toledo Edison Co., which operated Davis-Besse.
work force historically has been reluctant to come forward because
of retribution fears, according to the lawsuit. The NRC has said it
will not tolerate that kind of intimidation, and that any lingering
signs of it must be overcome before it will allow the plant to be
But the NRC has not been totally oblivious to the
problems, either, according to the lawsuit. The suit claims several
allegations Mr. Keisler has reported to the NRCís regional office
near Chicago since 1992 have gone nowhere. The matter has been
referred to the NRCís Office of Inspector General, according to a
letter by William D. Travers, the agencyís executive director for
operations, to U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio).
whole issue of safety culture is obviously the highest, most
dominant factor," Mr. Keisler told The Blade last night during an
interview in which he claimed the beleaguered plantís current state
of affairs has, in large part, been shrouded in secrecy since he
worked there from March, 1986, through October, 1988.
lawsuit demands in excess of $25,000 for each of six counts listed
against FirstEnergy, including alleged violations of state and
federal whistleblower laws, breach of contract, fraud, negligence,
and other infraction claims.
It said three members of Toledo
Edisonís senior management team - none of whom is still with
FirstEnergy - objected to a 1987 report Mr. Keisler had prepared for
the company while he was under contract. Called a preventive
maintenance program review, the report outlined shortcomings with
design issues, equipment, and labor-management relations after the
June 9, 1985, temporary loss of auxiliary feed-water incident at
Davis-Besse - at the time, the nationís closest brush with a nuclear
accident since Three Mile Island in 1979.
That 1985 event has
been surpassed by the near-hole in Davis-Besseís reactor head in
2002, the worst corrosion of its kind in U.S. nuclear history. A
liner less than three-eighths of an inch thick was all that
prevented a rupture and the formation of radioactive steam. In the
last 18 months, while the plant has endured its record-setting
outage, other design flaws have been addressed. The NRC now
acknowledges that such problems could have allowed a
He said his lawsuit is similar in concept but much
broader than one he earlier had filed in Lucas County Common Pleas
Court. He said he withdrew that one in 1994, because of various
Richard Wilkins, FirstEnergy spokesman, said
the utility is aware of the new lawsuit.
didnít try to conceal information or downplay the veracity of Mr.
Keislerís findings in the 1987 report, said Mr. Wilkins, who claimed
the contractor was terminated simply because he didnít follow
"When we got the report, it did not have things
in it we needed. That isnít to say some of the information wasnít
good ... [but] we asked for a preventive maintenance report, and
basically, we got something on how to treat world hunger," Mr.
Mr. Keisler said he managed the massive
rebuilding of Davis-Besseís reactor coolant pumps in 1986, the last
time the plant undertook that project. Those pumps circulate coolant
through the reactor during normal operations.
There are four
such pumps, each built to last 20 years. Barring an NRC order,
FirstEnergy does not plan to refurbish more than two before
restarting. Former engineer Andrew Siemaszko claimed in a U.S.
Department of Labor whistleblower complaint this year he was fired
because he insisted on having all four rebuilt.
has rejected Mr. Siemaszkoís claim. In June, the labor department
dismissed his action. Mr. Siemaszko has appealed that ruling.