Davis-Besse and other nuclear power news
Jul - Aug 2003
CLEVELAND -- FirstEnergy area in N. J. was left in the dark back in July, Dave Davis, Peter Krouse, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Who's losing Iraq?, Maureen Dowd, New York Times. "Another Bush-Cheney energy crony is Anthony Alexander of Ohio's FirstEnergy Corporation, which helped trigger the blackout after failing to upgrade its transmission system properly since deregulation. He was a Bush Pioneer, having raised at least $100,000 for the campaign."
panel will probe blackout
| Aug 29: Weak
link in the power chain|
AKRON -- "If you're looking for a microcosm of the many failings in what passes for "corporate governance" in today's business world, FirstEnergy's not a bad place to start. Even before the blackout came along, FirstEnergy was a rat's nest of shoddy day-to-day management, slothful plant maintenance, environmental and workplace-safety violations, dubious financial reporting, abuse of minority shareholders, excessive executive compensation, heavy-handed government lobbying greased by copious political donations and a failed merger strategy that crippled First-Energy's balance sheet while distracting top management from the basic business," David Olive, Toronto Star.
WASHINGTON -- Agency wants new power plan, Stephen Koff, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
AKRON -- Governor, FirstEnergy chairman to testify, Tom Deimer, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Aug 28: Computers crashed just before blackout|
CLEVELAND -- "FirstEnergy Corp. could not see mounting transmission line problems in the crucial hour before the Aug. 14 blackout because its key computers were down, according to at least two municipal electric systems. . . [FirstEnergy spokesman Ralph DiNicola] repeatedly declined to say whether there were any computer problems. . . Steve Dupee, director of Oberlin Municipal Light and Power, said his office called [FirstEnergy's] Akron area center about 3:30 p.m. that Thursday, to ask why Oberlin had extremely low voltage. The municipal system is connected to FirstEnergy's grid and the city was buying most of its power that day indirectly from FirstEnergy," John Funk, Teresa Dixon Murray, Tom Breckenridge, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
AKRON -- FirstEnergy plans offering to cut debt, Associated Press.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Nukes in the dark; Blackout left emergency diesels as sole protection at nuclear power plants, Stan Goff, Counterpunch.
Aug 27: Human error likely cause of blackout, timeline says|
COLUMBUS -- "... an expert from the federal government taking part in the investigation was much more definitive about a probable cause, saying all the data pointed to mistakes by people in the event's earliest stages. The crucial missteps, a federal investigator working on the analysis said last night, appear to have occurred in the handling of an hourlong sequence of line failures and plant shutdowns preceding the full-blown blackout, which swept parts of eight states and eastern Canada starting around 4:10 p.m. on Aug. 14. 'Had all of the existing policies been followed, this would not have developed into a cascading event,' the investigator said. 'What we see are institutional breakdowns, not a breakdown of the system itself,'" Andrew Revkin, Richard Pérez-Peña, New York Times.
CLEVELAND -- Another line may have shorted out, utility says, Peter Krouse, Teresa Dixon Murray, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
NEW YORK -- North America blackout tally may never be known-experts. "In the media, the two-day blackout was widely reported as having affected 50 million people, a number based on rough population estimates for the areas pitched into the dark. That estimate may be off by up to 16 million using a crude calculation of three people per customer account. That means the 22 million customers utilities reported had been hit by the blackout translates to about 66 million people," Chris Reece, Reuters.
AKRON -- FirstEnergy finances still humming; Despite enormous blackout, troubled plant, other concerns, Akron utility is not in distress, senior vice president says, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
Aug 26: State regulators ask utilities to explain confidentiality request|
COLUMBUS -- "Utility companies were expected Tuesday to tell state regulators why they marked certain documents confidential and to justify prohibiting their release. . . The burden is on the companies, PUCO legal director Paul Duffy said Monday. . . . 'We're not seeking their permission, we're asking them for their legal argument as to why it constitutes a trade secret,' Duffy said. 'If they don't meet burden, we're not going to protect it,'" Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press.
NEW YORK, NY -- 90 seconds that left tens of millions of people in the dark, James Glanz, Richard Pérez-Peña, New York Times.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- Midwest ISO watches FirstEnergy more closely, cites communication woes, Associated Press.
CLEVELAND -- Experts doubt FirstEnergy could have quit grid, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Aug 25: First Energy's very bad week
CLEVELAND -- "A week ago, few people outside Ohio had ever heard of FirstEnergy or knew much about it. But thanks to their role in the blackout and a terrific job of working with the media by our staff, they are now known throughout the country -- and the world -- for their mismanagement and disregard for health and safety. Our website is full of these stories. When we first found out on Friday that FirstEnergy might have a pivotal role in the blackout, our mission was to profile the company for the national media, showing how closely it was tied to events at Davis-Besse. We started receiving calls from national media as early as Aug 15, and they were shocked to learn about Davis-Besse and FirstEnergy's financial troubles. We provided background and analysis to many major news outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post (excellent article quoting Shari Weir on Aug 19), ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News, CNBC (with a filmed interview with Shari), Business Week, Toronto Star, CKLW, CBC, and various Ohio media. This is a rare opportunity to get Davis-Besse closed down permanently. If you want to help make it happen, or know of others who can help, please email or call Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, (216) 861-5200. Thanks," Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
NEW YORK, NY -- In investigation of blackout, new details on timeline, Andrew Revkin, James Glanz, New York Times.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Yet another Davis-Besse problem dating back to 1977 (778 KB pdf). "Attached is a licensee event report (LER) by FirstEnergy about an original design error at Davis-Besse. Under certain conditions, emergency equipment may not have been properly powered to perform the needed safety function. According to FirstEnergy: 'This undervoltage condition is an original design deficiency that has a very low probability of occurrence because of the limited use of a single startup and/or single bus tie transformer and highly reliable grid voltages in the Midwest.' The problem was discovered on June 6th and reported to the NRC on August 5th. The grid outage affecting the Midwest did not prevent FirstEnergy from meeting the 60-day reporting deadline. The LER has a number of commitments to perform certain tasks prior to entering Mode 4. There's also a commitment to submit a Technical Specification amendment request by December 2005 (two years hence) to specify the right values for the trip setpoint and allowable value for the undervoltage protection circuits. Until this Technical Specification is approved, FirstEnergy indicates it will use administrative controls. So much for the Administrative Procedures Act and the opportunity for public to intervene (as would be possible if the Technical Specification amendment request were submitted before the plant operated), Dave Lochbaum, Nuclear Safety Engineer, Union of Concerned Scientists.
Aug 24: FirstEnergy shareholders suffer a power failure |
NEW YORK, NY -- "Seven times since 1999, a majority of shareholders voted for changes in corporate governance, and in each case FirstEnergy did not respond. This year, more than half of its voting shareholders favored rescinding the poison pill that prevents an unfriendly takeover at FirstEnergy and changing the company's staggered board structure," Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times.
WALTON HILLS -- Boom signaled power-line arc in Walton Hills, John P. Coyne, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
WALTON HILLS -- Utility workers saw line burning, Teresa Dixon Murray, Peter Krouse, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Aug 22: Blackout
Is Just Latest Woe for a Troubled Ohio Utility
Eastlake failure led to blackout, Michigan utility executive says
was reeling before blackout
FirstEnergy faced string of difficulties
Ohio Citizen Action wants investigators to protect FirstEnergy employees from "pressure, intimidation and reprisals"
Early signs of trouble missed in Ohio
it all began:
Aug 14: More confusion at FirstEnergy:|
The strange case of Lew Myers' two signatures
WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. NRC told FirstEnergy on August 7 that, before the NRC decides on a license amendment, they want the company to clear up a mystery: Why do FirstEnergy's Lew Myers' signatures appear to be different on two August 2 government filings?
| Aug 13: FirstEnergy
officials list reactor progress|
Regulators told 16 concerns addressed
OAK HARBOR -- "Three hours of briefings and questioning yesterday between federal regulators and officials from the company that operates the closed Davis-Besse nuclear plant failed to answer the question at the top of everyone’s list. When, exactly, is the plant going to reopen? 'Sometime this fall, I would guess,' said Lew Myers, chief operating officer of FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co., which manages Davis-Besse. 'Unless something breaks we don’t understand,'" George Tanber, Toledo Blade.
Complete record of FirstEnergy's restart predictions.
Aug 12: Class-action suit hits FirstEnergy
Aug 7: Patched
atoms: Feds OK restarting the nuke
Aug 6: Utility shocks
Aug 5: FirstEnergy reports loss, restated earnings, lower guidance
Aug 1: Davis-Besse
operators face NRC rebuke
|Jul 31: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission slaps FirstEnergy executives with a 'yellow finding'
LISLE, IL -- "This finding was assessed based on the best available information using the Significance Determination Process and was preliminarily determined to be a Yellow finding. The preliminary significance of the finding is based on the increased likelihood of the emergency core cooling systems to fail following a loss of coolant accident. . . This increased risk existed from the time the facility began operation in 1977 until early 2002," John Grobe, Chairman, Davis-Besse Oversight Panel, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, letter to Lew Myers, Chief Operating Officer, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, letter dated July 30 (pdf file).
COLUMBUS -- Plants replacing reactor heads; Davis-Besse’s woes are a wake-up call for the nuclear power industry, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
|Jul 29: FirstEnergy
has again postponed restart and withheld pertinent information
about the readiness of the facility
to produce electricity |
CLEVELAND -- "In the first week of July, FirstEnergy submitted a report to the NRC that identified yet another problem with a safety system that is supposed to help control the temperature of the reactor after a major accident. Valves in the hydrogen-detection equipment were corroded shut, leading plant engineers to believe the system may have failed in the event of an accident. On July 8, 2003, one week later, the NRC hosted a public meeting with FirstEnergy. The purpose of the meeting was for FirstEnergy management to update the NRC and members of the public on the progress of repairs at Davis-Besse. The meeting was attended by members of the public, the media, and financial analysts. Lew Myers, C.O.O. for FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company and his staff established at the meeting that Davis-Besse would be ready for restart by late August or early September. Neither Mr. Myers nor any member of his staff mentioned the report or the corroded valves at the meeting," Amy Ryder, Ohio Citizen Action, letter to Vivian E. Stephens, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
BOSTON -- MIT releases study on nuclear energy’s future, John Deutch, Ernest Moniz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
|Jul 28: A fable about Davis-Besse and Fukushima:|
SOMEWHERE ON THE MISSOURI RIVER -- "A Japanese company and an American company decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race. On the big day the Japanese won by a mile. Afterward, the American team became very discouraged and morally depressed. The American management decided the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found. A Management Team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action."
Jul 26: China warns Taiwan: 'No referenda or face
Jul 25: Davis-Besse
price tag may be $500 million
|Jul 24: FirstEnergy updates information on Davis-Besse |
AKRON -- "Final decisions have been made on modifications to the high-pressure injection pumps, which is expected to result in the plant's being available for restart in the fall," Ralph DiNicola, release, FirstEnergy [emphasis added].
|Jul 23: FirstEnergy delays plant restart goal to late September |
SAN FRANCISCO -- "FirstEnergy Corp. will not be ready to ask nuclear regulators to restart its troubled Davis-Besse nuclear power station in Ohio until late September, a company spokesman said Wednesday. . . . FirstEnergy must complete 18 more steps in a 31-item 'restart checklist' before the NRC can make a decision on the restart, [NRC spokesman Jan Strasma] added. The list includes an ongoing investigation of the 'safety culture' at Davis-Besse and tests of modified high-pressure pumps that would provide cooling water to the reactor in an emergency. . . . 'The NRC intends to keep any delay in the restart process as minimal as possible, if in fact the plant is ready to start up,' Strasma said," Leonard Anderson, Reuters.
|Jul 18: FirstEnergy
nuclear chief is retiring
AKRON -- "FirstEnergy Corp. yesterday said that the head of its nuclear operating company had "elected to retire." Robert Saunders, 60, president and chief nuclear officer of the division, will officially retire in February, after three years in the job, the company said. Saunders' decision to leave FirstEnergy was "absolutely not" connected to the problem-plagued Davis-Besse nuclear plant, company spokesman Todd Schneider said. If that were the case, he would have left months ago, Schneider said, when other Davis-Besse managers were disciplined or resigned," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
AKRON -- Nuclear division's president to retire, Akron Beacon Journal.
AKRON -- Head of FirstEnergy nuclear unit steps aside, Tad Vezner, Toledo Blade.
Jul 17: FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company President Robert Saunders to retire
Gary Leidich to head FENOC
AKRON -- "FirstEnergy Corp. today announced that Robert F. Saunders, president and chief nuclear officer of its FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) subsidiary, has elected to retire, effective February 1, 2004. FENOC Executive Vice President Gary R. Leidich will become president and chief nuclear officer, effective September 1, 2003. Until his retirement, Mr. Saunders will continue to work closely with Mr. Leidich to ensure a smooth transition, and to assist in the Davis-Besse restoration and related oversight activities," release, FirstEnergy.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Faulty monitor system reported at Davis-Besse, Toledo Blade.
OAK HARBOR -- Nuclear plant gets new resident inspector, Toledo Blade.
Jul 16: Reactor safety system broken|
Davis-Besse equipment designed to prevent blast has been inoperable since '77 opening, report says
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Equipment designed to prevent a hydrogen gas explosion similar to what happened during the Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown has been inoperable at FirstEnergy Corp.'s Davis-Besse plant since it opened in 1977, a report shows. For all those years, Davis-Besse technicians had followed procedures to turn knobs on the equipment that indicated interior valves were working, but the valves actually had frozen closed. . . . At Three Mile Island, large amounts of hydrogen were created when the Pennsylvania plants' nuclear fuel overheated on March 28, 1979, Lochbaum said. About 10 hours after the accident started, the hydrogen blew up inside the containment chamber, causing the interior pressure to jump from about three pounds per square inch to 28 pounds per square inch, he said. That's the equivalent of putting 36 tons of pressure on a containment door that is 3 feet by 6 feet, he said. But even after Three Mile Island, Davis-Besse's malfunctioning hydrogen gas-detecting equipment went undiscovered," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
OAK HARBOR -- Plant's valves closed since '77, Problems and solutions, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
OAK HARBOR -- 'Licensee Event Report 2003-005, Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Unit No. 1, Date of Occurrence: May 2. 2003,' Lew Myers, Chief Operating Officer, First Energy Nuclear Operating Company, full text, dated June 30, 2003 (488 KB pdf).
Jul 14: TIME magazine on the future of nuclear power
WASHINGTON, DC -- "What has happened in the past 12 years? Construction on a grand total of zero nuclear reactors has begun. A grand total of zero nuclear reactors have been ordered. Nine (9) nuclear reactors have permanently closed due to unfavorable economics: Yankee Rowe, Trojan, San Onofre 1, Haddam Neck, Maine Yankee, Millstone Unit 1, Big Rock Point, Zion 1 and Zion 2. Fifteen (15) nuclear reactors have been shut down for a year or longer for safety repairs: FitzPatrick, Indian Point 3, South Texas Project Units 1&2, Salem Units 1&2, Millstone Units 2&3, Crystal River, LaSalle Units 1&2, Clinton, DC Cook Units 1&2, and Davis-Besse," Dave Lochbaum, Nuclear Safety engineer, memo, Union of Concerned Scientists.
Jul 10: Pump repairs stall at hidden obstacle|
OAK HARBOR -- "The pump problem emerged in March during an intensive FirstEnergy review of Davis-Besse's design to satisfy the NRC. An analysis showed that the twin emergency pumps, which are supposed to keep the reactor's radioactive core adequately cooled in the event a pipe springs a major leak, could clog and fail due to water-borne concrete shards, paint chips and insulation blasted loose in the accident and sucked into the pumps' innards. . . .The tests showed that debris wasn't clearing from strainers as expected, and in some cases the strainers clogged more and more quickly the longer the test ran, said FirstEnergy director of support services Bob Schrauder. The phenomenon appears to have something to do with what happens to the debris as it churns in and out of the pump over and over," John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
OAK HARBOR -- Test failure pushes back Davis-Besse restart effort, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
OAK HARBOR -- Pumps key part of restart at plant; Davis-Besse officials may know timetable after tests next week, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
OAK HARBOR -- NRC picks new regulator for Davis-Besse; Jim Caldwell to help decide when nuclear plant will be restarted, Associated Press.
NRC officials who oversaw Davis-Besse are promoted
ROCKVILLE, MD -- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has promoted six people to senior management positions, including two responsible for the agency's oversight of the Davis-Besse nuclear plant during the years that an undetected rust hole grew and eventually nearly breached the reactor's lid. Sam Collins, who since 1997 has run the office of nuclear reactor regulation at the NRC's Rockville, Md., headquarters, yesterday was named the agency's deputy executive director for reactor programs. That position is one step below executive director, the NRC's chief administrative officer. Jim Dyer, since 1999 the top man at the NRC's Midwest regional office in Chicago, will succeed Collins. . .As regional administrator, it was to have been Dyer who decided whether to allow the long-idled Davis-Besse to resume making electricity. The new administrator, Jim Caldwell, will now make that call, in consultation with headquarters officials including Dyer, said NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng," John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
TOLEDO -- NRC promotion provokes criticism, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
ROCKVILLE, MD -- NRC appoints six people to senior headquarters and regional management positions, release, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- Another setback looms for Davis-Besse restart, Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.
Kucinich presses NRC to lift Davis-Besse's license|
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Even if an NRC investigation into potential criminal wrongdoing finds that FirstEnergy willfully misled the agency about the worsening condition of the reactor lid in the months before workers found the rust hole, that probably would not be enough to justify Davis-Besse's losing its license, the agency said. In his appeal, Kucinich argues that the NRC does not have enough information to reach such a conclusion. Thus, it should wait for the criminal investigation's outcome before deciding whether to yank Davis-Besse's license or allow the plant to restart, Kucinich said," John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Jul 4: Davis-Besse repairs hit another snag
PORT CLINTON -- "Engineers seeking a way to prevent a pair of emergency pumps at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant from seizing up in a crisis have run into problems that will delay a crucial test of the long-idled reactor by about two weeks. The repair method that plant owner FirstEnergy Corp. and its contractor chose is not working as intended in mockup tests, company and Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesmen said yesterday. It is still possible that FirstEnergy will have to go with a backup plan to replace the emergency pumps, rather than modifying them. . . . tests in full-scale mockups of the pumps in Huntsville, Ala., have so far shown the repairs to be less effective at clearing debris than engineers had hoped, said NRC spokesman Jan Strasma. FirstEnergy is considering variations of the fix, but it is simultaneously doing electrical and plumbing work to accommodate the installation of two bigger and entirely new pumps if necessary, said spokesman Todd Schneider," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
PORT CLINTON -- "Utility eyes September restart nod for reactor; Davis-Besse faces late August checks," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Jul 2: Nuke emergency plan isn't safe, group says
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Separately, the possibility that the long-idled Davis-Besse reactor will be restarted in August as its owner, FirstEnergy Corp., had hoped, seemed to slip yesterday. . . . The NRC will be doing pre-restart inspections at least through the final week of August. After that, the agency's special oversight panel must hold a public meeting and consult with NRC officials in the Midwest and headquarters offices before making a restart decision. 'The NRC's inspection schedule is basically consistent with our schedule, which calls for a restart in the August time-frame,' said FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider. 'It's going to be close. There may be a few weeks difference. It depends on whose calendar you're looking at,'" John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
PORT CLINTON -- NRC panel reviews Davis-Besse status; Two meetings planned Wednesday, Port Clinton News Herald.
WASHINGTON, DC -- No talks set about nuclear plant; Congress opts against hearing on corrosion of Davis-Besse vessel, Chris Collins, States News Service.
Jul 1: You can help retire the crippled Davis-Besse nuclear reactor:
Send an email to James Dyer, NRC Regional Administrator
CLEVELAND -- "James Dyer of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has the authority to keep Davis-Besse closed. He should use this authority. Davis-Besse remains the most dangerous nuclear plant in America. In February 2002, it came closer to a nuclear meltdown than any U.S. plant since Three Mile Island. Investigators discovered the cause: years of management neglect for basic maintenance, lying to regulators, ignoring employees warnings, and punishing anyone who spoke out. Fifteen months later, none of the top managers have been replaced, and the company's own investigation shows continued widespread intimidation of workers who discover safety problems," Amy Ryder, Cleveland area director, Ohio Citizen Action.
CLEVELAND -- Ohio Citizen Action calls for SEC to investigate FirstEnergy, Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.
WALL TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Union releases internal N-plant documents, Jim McElhatton, Atlantic City News-Press.
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