Davis-Besse and other nuclear power news
Mar - Apr 2003
TOLEDO -- "Paul Blanch and Ulrich Witte, formerly of the troubled Millstone complex in Connecticut, said they believe that FirstEnergyís charges against Andrew Siemaszko will discourage other employees from coming forward - regardless of whether Mr. Siemaszko proves he is a whistleblower who was wrongfully terminated. 'It is just sending a horrible, horrible message to the employees that if they [FirstEnergy management] can get away with it, they will,' Mr. Blanch said. 'The message is out there that the utility is persecuting whistleblowers.'. . . 'I guarantee there will never be a credible witness who will step forward and speak honestly about what happened at that plant, because of this,' [Ulrich Witt] added," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
OAK HARBOR -- "As
the long-idled Davis-Besse nuclear power plant moves closer to restarting,
FirstEnergy Corp. is appointing new managers who will oversee its hoped-for
shift to normal operation. "These moves prepare us for the future," spokesman
Todd Schneider said. The company plans to have Davis-Besse ready for restart
by mid-June, he said, but the final decision is up to the NRC. Potential
problems with some of the plant's emergency reactor cooling and electrical
systems, as well a possible leak in the bottom of the reactor, must be resolved
first," John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.|
AKRON -- "FirstEnergy
restructures Davis-Besse management," Toledo Blade.
AKRON -- "Nuclear
subsidiary shakes up top ranks," Jim Mackinnon, Akron
CHICAGO, IL -- "FirstEnergy Corp. may need to modify the operating license at its Davis-Besse nuclear plant in order to perform a key test, potentially adding more time to the generator's already long and expensive repair outage, a company spokesman said Thursday. FirstEnergy needs to perform a reactor pressure test at the Toledo, Ohio-area nuclear plant before it resumes operations. But the utility may not be able to perform that test before it either replaces two Davis-Besse emergency pumps or receives a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license amendment allowing the pressure test with the old pumps," Jon Kamp, Dow Jones, article dated Apr 24.|
OAK HARBOR -- "FirstEnergy blames whistleblower for safety woes," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
AKRON -- "FirstEnergy puts blame on engineer for rust hole," John Mangels, John Funk,
Cleveland Plain Dealer.
OAK HARBOR -- "Test confirms integrity of containment building," Toledo Blade.
April 22: Harper's Index: Davis-Besse
Source: Ohio Citizen Action (Cleveland); Harper's Magazine, May issue.
Pounds of steel discovered to have been eaten away from the head of an Ohio nuclear reactor in February 2002: 70
Thickness in inches of the warped stainless steel that remained to prevent the reactor from rupturing into the air: 3/8
HOUSTON, TX -- "Texas plant leak not serious; Amount of boric acid residue much smaller than at Davis-Besse," Mark Babineck, Associated Press.
AKRON -- "[FirstEnergy spokeswoman Kristin] Baird declined to say how many months FirstEnergy had contracted for replacement power this summer. . . . At a utilities conference in Chicago last month, company treasurer Tom Navin told stock analysts that FirstEnergy has virtually completed all necessary energy purchases for 2003 and 2004 through a variety of long-term and short-term purchases made possible by soft prices and an increase in available capacity elsewhere, he said," Jon Chavez, Toledo Blade.|
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Davis-Besse snafu leaves an impression," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
WADSWORTH, TX -- "Nuke plant in Texas finds leaks in reactor," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
WADSWORTH, TX -- "Residue examined at Texas nuclear plant," Associated Press.
NEW YORK, NY -- "FirstEnergy Corp. said Thursday that it has hedged replacement power into the summer months in order to cover the expected June restart of its shuttered Davis-Besse plant near Toledo, Ohio. 'We were fully hedged through the spring and made some power purchases to cover our position in the summer months as a matter of prudence,' said company spokeswoman Kristen Baird. . . . For competitive reasons, Baird declined to say how far into the summer the company has purchased power, but as temperatures warm, power prices will rise," Dow Jones article dated April 17.|
WASHINGTON, DC -- "NRC official defends Davis-Besse decision," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Davis-Besse saga spawns reforms," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
BAY CITY, TX -- "Texas reactor's bottom appears to be leaking," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Speaking to his largest audience since taking over the agency on April 1, NRC Chairman Nils J. Diaz told 1,200 people from 15 countries here that oversight breakdowns, such as the one documented at Davis-Besse, cannot ever be tolerated again. Although the unprecedented corrosion and other identified problems did not result in a nuclear accident, they exposed weaknesses in the NRC's ability to regulate the industry, Dr. Diaz said. 'It was an enormous failure on the part of the licensee and the NRC. I want to say that loud and clear. It was an enormous failure,' he said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.|
WASHINGTON, DC -- "NRC chief says Davis-Besse didn't endanger public," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
PORT CLINTON -- "Jack Grobe, chairman of the NRC panel charged with overseeing the Davis-Besse restart process, said FirstEnergy's employee survey information on safety culture indicates in one section that as much as 20 percent of company contractors were subjected to some kind of intimidation, harassment, retaliation or discrimination in the last six months.
But other data included as part of the same survey indicate the problem was much smaller, he said.
'The data appear to be conflicted,' Grobe said. If 20 percent of contractors working at the plant had experienced some sort of problem, at least some of them would have filed formal complaints with the Department of Labor, with the NRC also being informed, he said. Grobe said he was not aware of formal contractor complaints," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.|
OAK HARBOR -- "Davis-Besse safety culture is improving," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
PORT CLINTON -- "Davis-Besse may resume operations by mid-June; Local officials hope restart comes soon," Kelly Lecker, Toledo Blade.
CAMP PERRY -- "FirstEnergy eyes June restart of Davis-Besse," Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.
SAN FRANCISCO -- "FirstEnergy Corp.'s timetable to restart its idled Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio will likely be pushed back to June, the company said on Tuesday," Reuters.
NEW YORK, NY -- "Standard and Poor's Ratings Services said today that it affirmed its 'BBB' corporate credit rating on FirstEnergy Corp. and its subsidiaries. The outlook remains negative. . . 'We maintain a negative outlook on the company because of FirstEnergy's aggressive financial profile and the extended outage at the Davis Besse nuclear facility. Although the company generates free cash flows, in the absence of any significant asset sales, FirstEnergy relies on its free cash flows to implement a deleveraging plan, which has annual targets,' said Standard and Poor's credit analyst Aneesh Prabhu. . . . 'If the outage at Davis Besse is further extended and causes further delays to FirstEnergy's deleveraging plans, ratings may be lowered,' added Mr. Prabhu," Reuters.
CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- "Federal inspectors will talk Tuesday morning about findings from recent inspections at Davis-Besse of procedures created since several workers walked out of the plant unknowingly carrying minuscule radioactive particles. That meeting will be held 9 a.m. Tuesday at the plant's administration building, 5501 N. Ohio 2," Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.
NEW YORK, NY -- "The Rating Outlook is Negative. . . . The Rating Outlook Negative reflects ongoing financial pressure associated with the prolonged Davis-Besse nuclear plant outage, which has been out-of-service since February 2002. [Toledo Edison] owns a 49% interest in the 883-mW nuclear plant and the remainder is owned by affiliate Cleveland Electric Illuminating. FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company will be required to demonstrate to the NRC that it has addressed all safety/management issues at the unit, including leadership and oversight issues, before the commission will allow the plant to resume commercial operation. Management's latest estimate for restarting the plant is by the end of Spring 2003. While management has taken steps to hedge [Toledo Edison's] estimated peak energy supply needs in 2003, prolonged delay of the plant's return to commercial operation could result in additional costs, potentially affecting the continued viability of the plant," release, Fitch Ratings.|
OAK HARBOR -- "Salvaged equipment considered for Davis-Besse," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
OAK HARBOR -- "FirstEnergy says shell passes test," Toledo Blade.
AKRON -- "The plant has to pass more tests before being allowed to restart, including checking for coolant leaks at the bottom of the reactor. The company found large rust stains on the bottom of the vessel, but could not determine if the rust was caused by coolant leaks at the top of the vessel or from nozzles underneath. The coolant leak test probably won't take place before May. FirstEnergy said it wants to use a camera-equipped robot to examine the highly radioactive vessel bottom, but NRC officials have questioned whether that alone will detect any small leaks," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.|
OAK HARBOR -- "FirstEnergy Corp. acquiring spare pumps for Davis-Besse," Associated Press.
SAN FRANCISCO -- "A spokesman for Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy said the test is part of a checklist of work to be completed before the company can ask the NRC for permission to restart the plant. The spokesman said 'late April, early May' is the target to wrap up work before the company will be ready to seek NRC approval. 'It's possible the work could slip into May before completion,' said spokesman Richard Wilkins," Reuters.|
AKRON -- "Davis-Besse containment pressure test under way," release, FirstEnergy.
CLEVELAND -- "Potentially flawed emergency pumps continue to
bedevil engineers at the idled Davis-Besse nuclear plant, and the search
for a solution is throwing the reactor's restart timetable into doubt.
FirstEnergy Corp. says it hopes to do the work within its current
schedule, aiming to have the plant ready by May. But resolving the pump
issue could take weeks. The company has pushed back Davis-Besse's restart
date more than half a dozen times in the last year. . . . Asked about the
effect the work might have on the plant's readiness to restart,
[Davis-Besse spokesman Richard] Wilkins said, 'I don't know. I don't think
anybody knows,'" John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Davis-Besse," WTOL TV-11 News,
OAK HARBOR -- ". . . the team 'is about six months too late in getting into this thing,' [Paul Blanch, a nuclear plant veteran] said yesterday. Its assessment 'is a snapshot of where Davis-Besse is now,' he said. 'What they don't have time to say is where the plant was six months or a year ago, and where they will be once the cops go away,'" John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Bush administration said on Monday it plans to nominate Nils Diaz to head the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the nation's 103 operating nuclear power plants. Diaz, currently a member of the five-person commission, will replace Richard Meserve, who was appointed chairman during the Clinton administration, the White House said in a statement. Diaz was renominated to a second five-year term in July 2001. Before joining the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Diaz taught nuclear engineering at the University of Florida, headed the Innovative Nuclear Space Power Institute, and was a consultant for private industry, the U.S. government and several foreign governments," Reuters.
OAK HARBOR -- "Engineers determined several weeks ago during FirstEnergy's review of Davis-Besse's design documents that the high-pressure emergency pumps are vulnerable to fouling from debris. It's possible that some particles might be small enough to pass through the high-pressure pumps' filters, damage their bearings and cause the pumps to fail. There is no backup. The emergency pumps are part of a system to keep the hot, radioactive reactor core supplied with coolant in case of a rupture. Davis-Besse is the only plant in the nation whose emergency high-pressure pumps are designed this way, [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comnmission spokesman Jan] Strasma said," Associated Press.
OAK HARBOR -- "FirstEnergy Corp. has been dealt a major setback that could keep Davis-Besse idle weeks longer than anticipated, possibly well into the summer. A senior Nuclear Regulatory Commission official yesterday told The Blade that design flaws have recently been discovered in two pumps that would be used to cool Davis-Besseís reactor core in the event of a nuclear accident. Jack Grobe, NRC oversight panel chairman, said the agency questions the operability of the plantís two high-pressure injection pumps. . . . [FirstEnergy spokesman Richard] Wilkins said plans for a week-long pressure test of the reactor itself have been delayed indefinitely," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.|
CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- "Group criticizes Davis-Besse delay on fixing pumps," Associated Press.
CLEVELAND -- "Davis-Besse finds new pump problem," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
WASHINGTON, DC -- "FirstEnergy Corp.'s plan to delay rebuilding two huge reactor coolant pumps at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant is drawing heavy criticism from watchdog groups and a congressman. The pumps have a history of leaking. The delay not only poses an equipment risk, the groups say, but also shows that Davis-Besse's management -- without challenge from federal regulators -- is still putting production over safety," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.|
CHICAGO, IL -- "NRC outlines plans for post-Davis-Besse recommendations," Dow Jones.
OAK HARBOR -- "Davis-Besse pump flaw was known since 1996; Utility wants to fix only 2 of 4 devices," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Davis-Besse fitness disputed; Watchdog group alleges 2 coolant pumps are flawed, leaking," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
CLEVELAND -- "Since 1998, FirstEnergy has known about -- and covered up -- leaks in four reactor coolant pump gaskets at Davis-Besse. Proof of this comes from internal documents just unearthed by the Union of Concerned Scientists. This is no small problem: the gaskets are supposed to seal the high-pressure pipes carrying the coolant, without which the reactor core would be exposed. Not only did FirstEnergy keep this information secret, they replaced only two of the four leaking gaskets. Their plan has been, and is, to restart the reactor with two leaking gaskets. Despite the nonstop braying about a new corporate culture, FirstEnergy's recklessness and cover-ups persist to this day," Amy Ryder, Ohio Citizen Action.|
CLEVELAND -- "FirstEnergy predicting rate hike for 2006," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
AKRON -- "Electric 'rate shock' predicted; FirstEnergy official warns of boosts in 2005," Jon Chavez, Toledo Blade.
NEW YORK -- "TVA checking possible Sequoyah Tennessee nuke lid leak," Reuters.
TONOPAH, AZ -- "For decades, reactor operators have deposited their used nuclear fuel in increasingly dense pools of water located on site. The highly radioactive material remains stable as long as the water tank is full. But if the pool were to drain, as it could if a storage building were damaged by an airplane crash, a missile attack, or even a well-placed explosive, the fuel could catch fire with potentially catastrophic consequences. "This is the most consequential vulnerability of nuclear power in the country, and that is not a secret," says Bob Alvarez, a former senior advisor to the Department of Energy who worked on emergency preparedness. Spent fuel pools generally less well protected than the reactors' cores, he notes, and they are often located in unreinforced storage buildings. Yet they often contain far more radioactivity than the reactor core, since they hold the detritus from decades of nuclear energy production. "They could release 5 to 10 times more radioactivity than a nuclear reactor meltdown," Alvarez said," Michael Scherer, Mother Jones.
OAK HARBOR -- "FirstEnergy
Corp. learned from a national expert yesterday that it has made progress
toward improving Davis-Besseís work atmosphere, but that it still lacks
the kind of consistency the Nuclear Regulatory Commission might be looking
for before allowing the beleaguered nuclear plant to resume operation. "The
progress isnít necessarily consistent," Richard Wilkins, a company spokesman,
said in reference to a closed-door meeting in which preliminary results
of Dr. Sonja Haberís much-anticipated report were discussed. Dr. Haber is
a nationally recognized industrial psychologist the utility hired to give
the NRC an outside expertís view of the plantís working conditions,"
ROCKVILLE, MD -- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commissionís reluctance to enforce a shutdown order it had prepared for Davis-Besse in the fall of 2001 helps illustrate how the burden of proof for safety issues has shifted from utilities to the government under deregulation, according to a nuclear safety engineers analysis. David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists said yesterday the decision made at the NRCís headquarters here on Nov. 28, 2001, would not have happened years ago if the agency had an inkling of a serious problem emerging at a nuclear plant," Toledo Blade.
PORT CLINTON -- "The replacement head for Davis-Besse's nuclear reactor was being bolted down last night, but FirstEnergy Corp. still appears to have a slim chance of gaining authorization to restart its beleaguered plant before early summer. The utility continues to lose millions of dollars each month, especially when the weather is harsh and electricity demand is high as it has been the last two months. FirstEnergy acknowledged yesterday for the first time it lost $20 million in January and $20 million more in February, nearly twice what it normally spends during nonsummer months," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.|
OAK HARBOR -- "Davis-Besse costs still rising," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
PORT CLINTON -- "Davis-Besse replacement costs rise," John Seewer, Associated Press.
EUGENE, OR -- "Jennifer O'Donnell was another keynote speaker, and she centered
her lecture on corporate responsibility as well as her involvement
in Ohio Citizen Action.
'[O'Donnell] has spent more than 20 years kicking ass in the
trenches,' LAW treasurer Jason Klein said in his introduction of
O'Donnell. 'She's a wonderful, passionate individual.'
O'Donnell took the stage and explained to her audience that
Davis-Besse was originally shut down one year ago because of a
football-sized hole in the reactor head. There was less than half an
inch of stainless steel liner keeping the radioactive and
pressurized internal environment from blasting into the reactor
containment building, which could have damaged safety equipment, and
possibly set into motion a core melt accident. 'It's like a horror movie,' O'Donnell said," Ali Shaughnessy, Oregon Daily Emerald.|
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Dangerous targets on U.S. soil," Deirdre Fulton, New York Newsday.
AKRON -- "While anyone reading about FirstEnergy Corp.'s troubled Davis-Besse
nuclear power plant could get the impression the Akron utility is on life
support, nothing could be further from the truth. FirstEnergy just about
doubled in size in November 2001 after completing the acquisition of GPU
Inc. in New Jersey. It now has about 4.3 million customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania
and New Jersey. Busfield sees FirstEnergy making similar GPU-type acquisitions
in upcoming years, targeting businesses that distribute -- not generate
-- electricity," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
OAK HARBOR -- "The findings at the Carroll Township facility sent the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission into a tailspin, at first prompting officials to send out requests to all similarly built power plants asking for responses with inspection reports and potentials for comparable findings. . . .The findings bucked not only what the nuclear industry expected to happen to aging nuclear plants -- Davis-Besse turns 25 this year -- but emphasized that scientists are still dealing with a relatively new technology," Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.|
NEW YORK, NY -- "Pressure mounts for Pataki to deal with Indian Point," Randal Archibold, New York Times.
OAK HARBOR -- "Steven Long, NRC senior reliability and risk analyst, said in a six-page memo it was 'illogical' for the agency to let the plant keep operating until the proposed shutdown date of Dec. 31, 2001, let alone the Feb. 16, 2002, date that became its compromise with FirstEnergy Corp.," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.|
WASHINGTON, DC -- "NRC supervisor denies agency bias to FirstEnergy," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
AKRON -- "FirstEnergy confident about Davis-Besse," Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.
CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- "Davis-Besse gives industry 'black eye'; NRC still reeling after corrosion discovery," Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.
NEW YORK, NY -- "It's the bond-rating agencies that could become a thorn in the company's side, especially if the plant is not back on line by summer -- when electric utilities make a lot of money -- because they fear it could interfere with FirstEnergy's plans to pay down its debt.
Standard & Poor moved its outlook for the company to negative in April 2002 because it believed fixing the nuclear plant would take a long time. S&P's corporate rating for FirstEnergy is BBB, though certain bonds are BBB minus, the lowest investment grade. 'We understand the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can take its time,' said Aneesh Prabhu, an associate director at S&P. 'But if this outage becomes longer than April . . . particularly if it heads toward the summer months, and it affects their cash flow, we will have discussions. It could become a credit issue,'" John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.|
OAK HARBOR -- "A year after Davis-Besse corrosion found, restart is not near," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
AKRON -- "FirstEnergy still confident Davis-Besse plant can be productive; Chief financial officer thinks problems have been fixed, Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.
WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Union of Concerned Scientists stoked the fire under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission yesterday over its handling of the Davis-Besse debacle. In a scathing 29-page analysis of the NRC's decision to allow the plant to postpone crucial safety inspections in the fall of 2001, the watchdog group charged that the agency's top officials knew that granting the six-week delay was wrong, 'yet allowed it to happen anyway,'" John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.|
OAK HARBOR -- "Watchdog group says feds backed down to FirstEnergy," Associated Press.
OAK HARBOR -- "Davis-Besse plant's neighbors fear a community without it," Catherine Gabe, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
OAK HARBOR -- "The discovery a year ago that acid had eaten a hole
through steel at a nuclear plant along the shores of Lake Erie has prompted
change, though some in Congress say the changes fall short. Rep. Marcy Kaptur
says a closer look at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is needed to determine
how federal regulators did not find the problem sooner. 'Theyíre on my target
list of attention,' said Kaptur, D-Ohio. 'I will not let them out of my
sights. I think theyíre culpable. I think they need to be held accountable.'
Kapturís district along Lake Erie is home to the Davis-Besse nuclear power
plant, which has been shut down since the pineapple-size hole was discovered
in a layer of steel covering its reactor," Associated Press.|
AKRON -- "Try new power in old
nuclear plants," Jennifer O'Donnell, Ohio Citizen Action.
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Davis-Besse: One year later," analysis, Union of Concerned Scientists (585 KB pdf).
AKRON -- "It's all about cracks. Cracks in metal. Cracks in safety
procedures. Cracks in the enforcement of safety laws. And cracks in public
confidence. In the year since theDavis-Besse nuclear reactor was shut down
for repairs, thousands of hours of investigation have revealed numerous
cracks in the systems designed to keep the public safe from a nuclear disaster. The thousands of pages of investigations, studies and routine
reports now make it clear that Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp.'s rusty
old reactor at Oak Harbor was a lot closer to bursting than either
the company or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission originally
Jim MacKinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
CLEVELAND -- "A veteran government risk analyst involved in the controversial decision to delay lid inspections at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in 2001 has broken with his colleagues to charge that the decision was badly flawed. In a sternly worded memo to senior executives of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 16-year agency employee Steven Long warns that public safety will be jeopardized if they repeat their mistake of basing judgments on 'truly incomplete and unreliable' information. Long contends the NRC did not have enough information to justify letting Davis-Besse postpone the safety inspection," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.