LISLE, ILL. - Year-end bonuses closely tied
to safety. A new way to pick the employee of the month.
Those two changes show how far FirstEnergy is striving to improve
the safety culture among employees and management at the shut-down
Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, utility executives told the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission on Thursday.
Other steps include hiring a high-profile safety consultant,
instituting new training programs, holding regular meetings between
top managers and employees, and creating safety review teams,
FirstEnergy executives said in a meeting at the NRC's regional
headquarters outside Chicago.
All of those actions are vitally important to the Akron
Before Davis-Besse can be restarted, FirstEnergy has to prove to
the NRC that the Oak Harbor plant's safety culture will prevent the
kind of blunders that allowed boric acid leaks to eat cavities into
the top of the reactor head. Plant employees wrote up 29 ``condition
reports'' documenting boric acid on the reactor head, but managers
didn't recognize the importance of the reports and didn't take
action that could have warded off the damage, said Bob Saunders,
head of FirstEnergy's nuclear operating company subsidiary.
Saunders is one of the executives whose bonuses will be more
dependent on how well Davis-Besse's safety culture improves. Half of
his bonus will now be tied to safety-related issues, with the other
half tied to stock performance and shareholder value. The bonus
formula varies among the other executives.
FirstEnergy has acknowledged that its focus on profit over safety
led to the reactor damage. In addition, surveys of Davis-Besse
employees last year showed many didn't trust plant management.
That's going to change, Saunders and other executives from the
Akron utility said.
One way to help change employee attitudes will be naming the
person who most improves safety at Davis-Besse as the employee of
the month, said Lew Myers, chief operating officer for the nuclear
``That sends a message,'' Myers said.
FirstEnergy's newly hired safety consultant, Sonja Haber, said
she is developing ways independently of plant management to measure
the safety culture at Davis-Besse. She plans to issue a final report
on her findings in March.
The utility's mismanagement, combined with lax NRC oversight,
allowed boric acid to leak for years, leading to damage that may
cost FirstEnergy more than $375 million to fix. FirstEnergy hopes to
restart the reactor by April 1 -- it's been shut down since
``I want to underscore we are totally committed to nuclear
safety,'' Saunders said.
Under Davis-Besse's old management team, the emphasis was on
meeting minimum regulatory requirements rather than higher
standards, said Myers. The company replaced many members of the
plant's management team last year after the boric acid corrosion was
The company said it has a new color-coded system, with green
being best and red worst, to measure safety culture. In order to be
ready to restart, no areas must show red, Myers said. But he also
said the company doesn't believe all of the measurements have to
show green for Davis-Besse to be ready for restart.
The NRC does not have its own standards on how to evaluate safety
culture, said Jack Grobe, an NRC official who heads a panel
evaluating the plant.
``There is subjectivity involved in this,'' he said.
The regulators will evaluate the program FirstEnergy is
developing and draw their own conclusion about the safety culture,
said NRC Regional Administrator Jim Dyer.