Davis-Besse and other nuclear power news

Jul - Aug 2003

Aug 31:  FirstEnergy delayed making repairs

CLEVELAND -- "When FirstEnergy Corp. inspected its northern Ohio electrical system in 2001, it found 10,205 common problems such as broken wires and poles. And it fixed 75 percent of them the same year. Last year, the utility found 13,038 problems and fixed only 17 per cent. The rest -- some 10,848 repairs -- were to be pushed into 2003 and 2004, accord ing to reports FirstEnergy filed in April with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. While some issues are cosmetic, others could lead to serious problems, such as outages, according to industry experts," Teresa Dixon Murray, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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."

Aug 30:  House panel will probe blackout
Ohio governor and FirstEnergy CEO among those who will testify in Washington

AKRON -- "A congressional committee next week will try to light a candle on what darkened millions of homes and businesses Aug. 14. Gov. Bob Taft, FirstEnergy Corp. Chairman and CEO H. Peter Burg and other Ohio officials, regulators and utility executives are scheduled to testify before Congress about the cause of the Great Blackout of 2003," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

[This Committee has decided to get to the bottom of it, but not by hearing from any of the utility employees, who actually know what happened. The only Ohioans they want to hear from are (1) Ohio Governor Bob Taft, who couldn't be bothered to interrupt his Canadian vacation to come back during the blackout; (2) PUCO chair Alan Schriber who, the morning after, without a shred of evidence announced that FirstEnergy's systems "performed as were designed"; (3) FirstEnergy CEO Peter Burg, the guy who, no way, cross my heart, end of story, did not do it; and two other utility executives. -- Ed.]

CLEVELAND -- [Ohio] factories lost $1 billion in blackout, Becky Gaylord, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- Eastlake plant may hold answers, Peter Krouse, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

PORT CLINTON -- Ex-contractor files suit vs. FirstEnergy, Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.

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

CLEVELAND -- "FirstEnergy has become aggressive about expansion, but a number of its senior managers stepped down or were reassigned while the company was under fire. It, like similar energy companies, has invested ever larger amounts on lobbying and political campaigns, pouring money into local and national politics and earning victories on rates and energy policy. And, documents indicate, FirstEnergy has made what many experts and elected officials regard as less than impressive efforts at spending on the things that they say the nation's electricity grid needs most: upgrading its transmission system. In the three years since deregulation legislation passed in Ohio, its spending on maintaining its high-voltage transmission lines in Ohio has remained all but flat," James Dao, Eric Lipton, New York Times.

TOLEDO -- Businesses face rate hikes, closure as utility struggles to meet demand, Gary T. Pakulski, Toledo Blade.

Aug 21:  Eastlake failure led to blackout, Michigan utility executive says

CLEVELAND -- "FirstEnergy Corp.'s loss of a generator at its Eastlake power plant began a chain of events that ended in the largest blackout in American history, according to a Michigan utility executive. FirstEnergy's automated attempts to make up for that loss of power, first from southern Ohio, then Michigan, created the sudden reverse in current that destabilized the grid, tripping off generators and power lines all the way to New York City, according to Joseph Welch, chief executive of International Transmission Co., which delivers power to eastern Michigan. . . . While individual events preceding the blackout have been known, this is the first time that an official involved in the massive power failure has publicly strung them together in a cause-and-effect relationship," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- Ohio outages caused by trees, equipment not new for utilityResearchers offer theory on blackout. Jim Krane, Liz Sidoti, Associated Press.

BEDMINSTER, NJ -- Rating Research confirms FirstEnergy's low quality 'B' reputation rating; Industry executives cited problems over 12 months ago, Jane Barr, release, Rating Research.

NEW YORK, NY -- Oversight group warned utilities on power flows. Andrew Revkin, James Glanz, New York Times.

Aug 20:  FirstEnergy was reeling before blackout

CLEVELAND -- "'It's the cockroach theory. The fear is where there's one, there's many. And FirstEnergy has already had a scattering of cockroaches,' said analyst Jim Halloran of National City Bank in Cleveland. . . Calling for a management overhaul, utilities analyst Dot Matthews of CreditSights in New York said analysts are disappointed because FirstEnergy vowed to reduce its debt through cash flow, but hasn't. 'Their announced plan is not working,' she said. . . . Also straining FirstEnergy's finances has been the cost of the unexpected idling of its Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, shut 18 months ago after workers found a corrosion hole in the reactor's lid. To date, the idling of Davis-Besse has cost FirstEnergy a total of $500 million and costs at least another $25 million each month it remains down," Teresa Dixon Murray, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

NEW YORK, NY -- FirstEnergy's cash position declines sharply. Floyd Norris, New York Times.

CLEVELAND -- Researchers offer theory on blackout. John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Aug 19:  FirstEnergy faced string of difficulties

AKRON -- "'Historically, [FirstEnergy's] rates are 30 to 60 percent higher than in the rest of the state, and they have admitted to prioritizing profit above maintenance and safety,' said Shari Weir, head of Ohio Citizen Action, an environmental group with 100,000 members that has wrestled with the state's private utilities for some 25 years," Jonathan Finer, Washington Post.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy has friends in high places. "A study by Citizen Action showed that Ohio's four largest electric utilities spent $604,235 on campaign donations between 1997 and 1998. FirstEnergy led the list of givers ($209,970). Taft led the list of receivers ($114,258.)" Sandy Theis, Stephen Koff, Mark Naymik, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

NEWARK, NJ -- Troubled FirstEnergy faces new accusation; Shares fall as firm is cited as blackout suspect. "[FirstEnergy subsidiary] Jersey Central Power & Light, the state's second-biggest electric utility, is under investigation by state officials due to repeated blackouts at the Jersey Shore this during the July 4th weekend -- the latest in a series of outages to dog the utility since 1999. . . the events led one union official at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in New Jersey to say the problems underscore the company's reluctance to spend money to provide reliable service. 'I think they've cut back on all spending,' said Chubby Wardell, president of Unit 3 Systems Council, which represents five IBEW locals at JCP&L. Since 1987, Wardell said his union has lost one-third of the employees in New Jersey and he has been advised by management the company believes it is 20 percent overstaffed, as the company and the union head into contract negotiations next year," Tom Johnson, Newark Star-Ledger.

WANAMASSA, NJ -- An unheeded warning: Letter from Willis D. Wardell, Jr., President and Business Manager, System Council U-3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, to Peter Burg, CEO, FirstEnergy, January 17, 2003.

NEW YORK, NY -- Ohio utility cited in blackout has had a troubled summer, Floyd Norris, New York Times.

Aug 18:  Ohio Citizen Action wants investigators to protect FirstEnergy employees from "pressure, intimidation and reprisals"

Shari Weir

Cleveland TV 5 reporter Ted Hart interviews Ohio Citizen Action's Shari Weir on FirstEnergy and the blackout for Monday night's newscast (Photo by Angela Oster).

CLEVELAND -- "Understanding how the blackout was triggered will depend on open and honest reports from the workers directly involved in the events. That is why we strongly urge you to adopt investigative procedures with special care to protect FirstEnergy employees and contractors from pressure, intimidation and reprisals from the company. Unfortunately, such tactics have been the hallmark of FirstEnergy's operations, and have been well-documented. The ongoing Davis-Besse fiasco is a good example," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action letters to Spencer Abraham, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy; Herbert Dhaliwal, Minister of Natural Resources, Government of Canada; Pat Wood III, Chair, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Billy Tauzin, Chair, U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee; Alan Schriber, Chair, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio; Michehl Gent, President, North American Energy Reliability Council.

NEW YORK, NY -- Midwest utilities were warned about pushing limits of system Andrew Revkin, Matthew Wald, New York Times.

AKRON -- Company fingered in blackout investigation says they're not to blame, Associated Press.

Aug 17:  Early signs of trouble missed in Ohio
At least eight major failures in one-hour span; Akron-based company faces tough questions

CLEVELAND -- "Over a one-hour period Thursday afternoon, there were at least eight major power failures in the state's nuclear plants and transmission lines. . . .Three other utilities operating lines in Ohio isolated their systems as soon as they detected a problem, something that did not happen at First Energy, according to the chair of the Ohio Public Utility Commission. . . .First Energy also revealed last night an 'alarm screen' that should have notified officials of a developing problem was not operating. [FirstEnergy spokesman Mark] Durbin said the alarm was in the operating control room for First Energy in Akron, but he was not able to say what help it would have been, since First Energy officials were well aware the Eastlake plant and power lines had gone down," Kevin Donovan, Toronto Star.
Photo by David G. Massey, Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Blackout 'bill' $30 billion a day, News24, Cape Town, South Africa.

AKRON -- Power failure began in Ohio; Attention turns to FirstEnergy's power lines, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

NEW YORK -- Ohio lines failed before blackout, Richard Pérez-Peña, New York Times.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy provides initial assessment of status of its system, Ralph DiNicola, FirstEnergy.

The root of the problem: Three views

1. More power plants, please:

Power Ties: The lights didn't have to go out, editorial, Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2003.

2. Replace giant centralized power plants and grid with smaller networked units:

Eastern power outage unfortunate but entirely predictable, Rocky Mountain Institute, August 14, 2003.

3. Blame deregulation:

Power outage traced to dim bulb in White House, Greg Palast, August 15, 2003;
An industry trapped by a theory, Robert Kuttner, New York Times, August 16, 2003.

Aug 15:  Where it all began:
Source of power crash started in suburban Cleveland

NEW YORK, NY -- "The Ohio power company [FirstEnergy] failed to separate from the national electric grid, as it was supposed to and as Michigan did. Thus the cascade of problems was sent on to New York. 'The system is designed to isolate itself to protect that area, to have the area go down and have the rest of the system survive. And instead it spread further and longer than it should have,' said Michehl R. Gent, president and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Council. A spokesman for the Ohio power company, FirstEnergy Corp., said it had followed all proper procedures but would not comment specifically on whether it had triggered the huge blackout by failing to separate. 'If they had separated you might have seen a region in Ohio area that would have been without power, but you would not have seen it in almost a national scale, as we did,' Divan said," Brian Ross, ABC News.

PRINCETON, NJ -- Preliminary Disturbance Report: August 14, 2003 Sequence of Events, Ellen Vancko, North American Electric Reilability Council (32 KB pdf).

COLUMBUS -- PUCO Chairman Alan R. Schriber issues statement regarding blackout, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. "The good news is that the systems performed as were designed in this type of situation."

[In this statement, issued Friday morning, Schriber said he would examine the blackout events and pre-concluded that FirstEnergy's systems "performed as were designed". If ABC News is correct, Schriber's statement is both odd and wrong. -- Editor.]

NEW YORK, NY -- FirstEnergy debt faces downgrade, Akron Beacon Journal.

NEW YORK, NY -- Full text of ratings statement, Moody's Investors Service.

Aug 14: More confusion at FirstEnergy:
The strange case of Lew Myers' two signatures

Transmittal letter signature   Supplement signature

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?

  • Transmittal letter, Supplemental information declaration, maybe signed by Lew Myers, Chief Operating Officer, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, August 2, 2003 (445 KB pdf).

  • Letter to Gary Leidich, Executive Vice President, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, from William Ruyland, Director, Project Directorate III, Division of Licensing Project Management, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, August 7, 2003 (46 KB pdf).
AKRON -- Three more lawsuits filed against FirstEnergy, Akron Beacon Journal.
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

AKRON -- "FirstEnergy Corp. is the target of a class-action lawsuit (83 KB pdf) filed shortly after the Akron utility last week announced it will have to restate earnings. The lawsuit, filed late Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, claims FirstEnergy executives violated securities law and defrauded investors by misstating and misrepresenting the company's finances," Akron Beacon Journal.

Aug 7: Patched atoms: Feds OK restarting the nuke

AUSTIN -- "Among the nation's 103 commercial nuclear reactors, the twin 15-year-old nukes at the South Texas Project -- owned in part by the city of Austin -- are new kids on the pressurized-water block. So it jolted the industry when a routine inspection during an April refueling shutdown uncovered indications of metal fatigue: leaking coolant at the bottom of the massive STP Unit 1 reactor vessel. If metal fatigue occurred in a reactor of such a tender age, what might be in store for the nation's many older nuclear plants? If the recent past is any clue, the future is not promising. In March 2002, inspectors at the 25-year-old Davis-Besse plant near Toledo, Ohio, found that boric acid had nearly chomped a football-sized hole in the reactor head. One portion of the 6-inch-thick steel head was so corroded it was reduced to a mere two-tenths of an inch; that's not a lot of wiggle room between containment and Kingdom Come," William M Adler, The Austin Chronicle.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy stock gains after shock fades from earnings restatement Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

Aug 6: Utility shocks investors
FirstEnergy to restate earnings going back to 2002, says it lost $57.9 million for second quarter, will have lower profits

AKRON -- "FirstEnergy Corp. stunned investors Tuesday by announcing it will restate earnings going back to 2002, while also saying it lost $57.9 million for the second quarter and will have lower profits for the year. Shares in the Akron-based utility plunged 8.5 percent, or $2.92, to $31.33 on the news. Shares dropped as low as $30.75 before bouncing back just before the stock market closed. . . . investors were alarmed by the news. 'They should have disclosed some of these matters and some of these figures earlier,' Edward Paik at Columbia Management Group, whose holdings include FirstEnergy stock, told Bloomberg News. 'Their explanation of where the company is going wasn't very clear and investors just headed for the hills,'" Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy posts loss of $58 million Edison parent to restate earnings for prior periods, Gary Pakulski, Toledo Blade.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy reports losing $57.9 million; stock off $2.92 John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy sees red, Crain's Cleveland Business.

Aug 5: FirstEnergy reports loss, restated earnings, lower guidance

AKRON -- "In the second quarter, FirstEnergy lost $57.9 million, or 20 cents per share, compared with expected second quarter 2002 restated net income of $216 million, or 73 cents per share. FirstEnergy's earnings were affected by $63 million in costs associated with the repair of its idled Davis-Besse nuclear power plant," Associated Press.

AKRON -- Consolidated report to the financial community. "The Company has decided that it will proceed with modifications to the High Pressure Injection (HPI) pumps that should result in the [Davis-Besse] plant’s availability for restart in the fall of 2003. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will make the final determination on when the plant can return to service. The 2003 incremental operations aqnd maintenance expenses –- initially estimated at $50 million –- are now expected to be approximately $80 million. The estimated cost of replacement power remains unchanged at $15 million per month for the non-summer months and $20 to $25 million per month for July and August. On-peak replacement energy is fully hedged through the end of the fall of 2003," FirstEnergy, 115 KB pdf.

[Contradicting this on today's webcast, FirstEnergy Chief Financial Officer Richard Marsh said replacement energy was secured through "the end of the year" -- Editor]

Aug 1:  Davis-Besse operators face NRC rebuke

LISLE, IL -- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said yesterday it is preparing to cite the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant's operators with the agency's second-most severe finding for failing for decades to correct conditions in the reactor building that could have caused emergency safety systems to fail during an accident. The NRC also listed a number of management and worker problems that either the company or the agency's teams of inspectors spotted in recent weeks while observing restoration of the Toledo-area plant. The agency said the foul-ups were not of high safety significance and therefore would be classified as "green." But they have not gone unnoticed, said Grobe, as the company pushes toward asking permission for restart. "Their performance is not at a level that would meet NRC requirements," he said, "and we will continue to monitor. "Am I confident (FirstEnergy can operate the plant safely)? I am only confident in what I observe. As of now, I have observed that they haven't yet demonstrated sustained improvement in this area,"" John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR-- NRC flags Davis-Besse for another safety glitch, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR-- Ex-Davis-Besse worker contests firing, seeks whistleblower shield, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

AKRON -- Key emergency system seriously flawed, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal .

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).

How do you like the new safety culture?

"As a direct result of three drain valves being improperly left open during the system fill, approximately three inches of water deposited on the 565' elevation of the turbine building. . . . Even though the crew had been briefed and the Control Room staff knew that potential for flooding existed during the fill of the circulating water system, they took no specific actions to investigate the cause of several west condenser pit high level alarms, which occurred in a short period of time. It wasn’t until a field electrician notified the Control Room of the water on the floor in the condenser pit area, that action was taken to investigate the problem," excerpt from NRC findings.

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.
[This study is intended to give scholarly weight to the nuclear industry's drive for a new round of nuclear power plant constuction. While Deutch and Moniz are on MIT's payroll, they are both recent undersecretaries of the U.S. Department of Energy, the agency responsible for promoting nuclear power. Deutch was also the CIA Director and a Deputy Secretary of Defense -- Editor]
Jul 28: A fable about Davis-Besse and Fukushima:
The race

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 escalating tensions'

TAIPEI, TAIWAN -- "[Chen Yunlin, director of China's cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office, and his deputy Zhou Mingwei] told the United States that President Chen's intention to hold a referendum was a provocative step towards 'progressive independence for Taiwan'. This would cross China's 'red line' of tolerance and cause regional tensions, the report said. Taiwan's government is planning to hold a landmark referendum to decide whether a controversial half-completed nuclear power plant should be scrapped, coinciding with the presidential elections in March next year. . . The United States has expressed concern over the plan in view of Chinese fears that introducing referenda could eventually lead to a vote on whether the island should declare independence or reunify with China," Channel News Asia.

OAK HARBOR -- Nuclear plant shutdown cost $450M+, Associated Press.

OAK HARBOR -- FirstEnergy names replacement for retiring nuclear operations boss, Port Clinton New Herald.

WASHINGTON,DC -- Emergency plan for N.Y. nuclear station clears hurdle, Devlin Barrett, Associated Press.

Jul 25:  Davis-Besse price tag may be $500 million

AKRON -- "The cost of the extended shutdown of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant was nearly $450 million by the end of last month and will probably exceed $500 million before the plant is ready to restart this fall. That's a far cry from plant owner FirstEnergy Corp.'s early time and cost estimates. Repairs to the reactor and several emergency systems - along with normal maintenance that would have been done during routine refueling shutdowns - had cost about $236 million at the end of June. Yesterday,the company estimated an additional $22 million will be spent on plant repairs by year's end, taking the total bill to an estimated $258 million. The cost of buying replacement power came to $213 million by June 30 and is expected to run between $20 million and $25 million this month and next before settling back down to $15 million per month during the fall," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- Davis-Besse outage costs almost $450M, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

AKRON-- Davis-Besse costs continue to soar. Nuclear plant's restart pushed back. Repairs will exceed $500 million after equipment is modified, Jim MacKinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse restart pushed back, Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.

NEW YORK -- Standard and Poors comments on FirstEnergy Corp. rating, Reuters.

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.

How much credibility does today's statement by FirstEnergy have?
Check the record and decide for yourself.
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.

Questions about the Saunders resignation

  1. Why does the FirstEnergy release say he 'elected' to resign? Does that mean his other option was a forced resignation?

  2. Why did they announce Saunders' resignation 6 months early?

  3. According to sources inside the plant, earlier this month, FirstEnergy board members told managers not to miss their July 17 goal of reaching Mode 4, the stage necessary for the reactor pressure test. Today is July 17, and Davis-Besse is not at Mode 4: Is that why FirstEnergy announced Saunders' resignation today?

  4. Saunders' replacement, Gary Leidich, said last December: "the company wants the criminal investigation by the NRC completed before it asks the NRC for permission to restart Davis-Besse," (Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 5, 2002). Does Leidich intend to keep this commitment?
    -- Amy Ryder, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

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.
Jul 9:   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.
Jul 8:   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

E-mail drawing 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.