WASHINGTON - Rep. Dennis Kucinich has
asked nuclear regulators to take away the authority of FirstEnergy
Corp. to operate its Davis-Besse nuclear plant, which was damaged by
an acid leak.
His 29-page petition filed Monday with the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission accuses FirstEnergy of admittedly operating the
Davis-Besse plant in violation of NRC rules, failing to observe
safety standards and withholding information so it could continue
operating the plant, despite unsafe conditions.
A company statement said FirstEnergy acknowledged the mistakes it
has made at the plant, but said Kucinich's petition contains
inaccuracies and makes erroneous conclusions.
FirstEnergy will continue to work on repairs to Davis-Besse while
the petition is being processed, the Akron utility and NRC said. The
company plans to restart the plant by April 1.
It could take NRC staff as long as five weeks to determine if
Kucinich's petition meets the agency's filing guidelines, NRC
spokesman Scott Burnell said. If the petition proves to be valid,
the NRC then has another 120 days to make a decision on the merits
of Kucinich's arguments, he said.
NRC staff will check with Kucinich to make sure he wants the
petition filed under strict NRC guidelines, he said. But if Kucinich
instead says he wants his petition treated as a regular piece of
correspondence from a congressional representative, he could get an
answer much sooner, Burnell said.
``There have been only two situations where the NRC revoked an
operating license,'' he said. Those involved the Indian Point 1
plant in New York and Three Mile Island Unit II in Pennsylvania, he
The demand by Kucinich, D-Lakewood, comes after the agency's
inspector general issued a report accusing the NRC of allowing the
plant to continue operating, despite strong evidence that it could
have cracks in its reactor head, because it didn't want to hurt the
plant owner financially.
NRC Chairman Richard Meserve has said officials made the right
decisions based on available information.
The nuclear plant, about 25 miles east of Toledo along the Lake
Erie shoreline, has been shut down since February 2001, when it was
closed for refueling, maintenance and a safety inspection.
The NRC had asked all plants to shut down to make sure they did
not have such cracks. Davis-Besse was the last plant to shut
Last March, leaks were discovered that had allowed boric acid to
eat nearly through the 6-inch-thick steel cap that covers the
reactor vessel. A second, smaller cavity was also found. No
radiation was ever released into the environment.
According to the inspector general's report, the plant owners
told federal regulators that an early shutdown would be costly and
cause wintertime power shortages.
Kucinich alleges FirstEnergy deliberately withheld information
from the NRC, putting the public at risk.
His petition would require FirstEnergy to re-apply for an
operating license, which would make it responsible for proving the
entire plant is safe.
David Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer for the Union of
Concerned Scientists, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, said
he agreed with Kucinich's request.
``If the NRC is not going to fix its problems, then it's
important more than ever to make sure that there are no remaining or
unfixed problems at the plant, and the congressman's petition would
do that,'' he said.
Business writer Jim Mackinnon contributed to