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  Friday, July 25, 2003

 Local News

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Davis-Besse restart pushed back

Staff writer

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse parent company FirstEnergy has revised its schedule once again, pushing the potential restart date and pricetag further from original estimates.

As far as restart, the company will say only that the beleaguered plant is expected to be ready by "fall," according to a statement released Thursday by First Energy. At a meeting two weeks ago with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight panel, however, company officials were fairly confident they could have work completed by late August or early September.

"That provides what we believe is some room in the schedule to get the plant ready for restart and still meet the guidance on the best available information we have right now,"company spokesman Ralph DiNicola said.

He was alluding to a complaint filed by watchdog group Ohio Citizen Action with the Securities Exchange Commission, which alleged FirstEnergy has misled stockholders by continually changing the startup date.

FirstEnergy officials have denied the allegations, saying they have given the best data available to stockholders and kept them informed.

With the company finally deciding to modify backup safety pump equipment rather than replace it, the start date is uncertain, DiNicola said. Also, a key leak test is scheduled for sometime in August, and more work is expected for about a month after that, if no problems are identified.

The pricetag continues to climb as well, with the $12 billion-a-year company realizing that operating and maintenance expenses were off by $30 million -- the estimate for this year jumped from $50 million to now $80 million.

The culprit is the pump modification, which wasn't in the picture at the beginning of the year. Those changes, along with continually buying replacement power for the off-line plant could push the final tally above the $500 million mark -- a far cry from initial estimates more than a year ago when problems were first discovered.

The plant has been shut down since February 2002. Initially, it started as a routine refueling outage, during which workers were looking for cracks in nozzles found at other similar nuclear plants. They found a few of those, along with a massive amount of corrosion never seen before in other facilities on the reactor head.

Originally published Friday, July 25, 2003

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