Davis-Besse and other FirstEnergy news

Sep - Oct, 2003

Oct 31:  Wanted: New watchdog

Consumers' counsel's lost credibility leaves him unable to perform his duties

COLUMBUS -- "The more people learn about the efforts of Ohio Consumersí Counsel Robert S. Tongren to hide documents, the less faith anyone can have that he is living up to his role as a watchdog for utility consumers. Tongren has betrayed the publicís trust and no longer can serve effectively. He ought to resign. In destroying a $579,000 study that was to help determine how much money northern Ohio utility customers should have to pay under electricity deregulation, Tongren destroyed his credibility," editorial, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

WASHINGTON, DC -- FirstEnergy makes appeal on blackout , Tom Diemer, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Oct 30:  Watchdog's lapdog?

Ohio Consumers' Counsel Robert Tongren testifies at yesterday's Ohio Senate Public Utilities hearing (Photo by Eric Albrecht, Columbus Dispatch).
COLUMBUS -- "Jerome Solove, chairman of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel Governing Board, says there is no need to fire Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren, because Tongren engaged in no improprieties. Solove apparently has a very forgiving definition of 'impropriety.' Tongren, ostensibly the state's advocate for residential utility ratepayers, has blatantly abused the public trust. That fact is further verified every time Tongren and his staff open their mouths. . . In the public interest, Tongren has to go. And if Solove can't find the impropriety in Tongren's public-servant charade, Solove should follow him out the door," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- Tongren receives support, criticism, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- "More heat on watchdog; Discarding of report split Tongrenís office," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

COLUMBUS -- State consumer guru touts work; Fedor claims coverup in Edison deal, James Drew, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' Counsel defends utility decision; Not all legislators as easy on him as Jacobson was, Susanne Cervenka, Dayton Daily News.

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight of the Davis-Besse nuclear plant. "The missing element of the Manual Chapter 0350 process as applied at Davis-Besse is accountability for false information provided by FirstEnergy to the NRC in 2001 regarding the CRDM nozzle conditions and prior head inspections. The NRC has not publicly released its determinations on this important matter. Itís by no means academic. By letter dated April 23, 2003, FirstEnergy submitted to the NRC staff a report on safety culture prepared by its consultant. Page 15 of the report stated: 'Many personnel interviewed perceive that Senior Management has not acknowledged their accountability and responsibility for the reactor head vent. These personnel expressed disappointment and frustration that this has not taken place. Staff point out that some of the managers directly involved in the event remain in the organization and have been reassigned to other sites and positions. These reassignments are perceived as indicating that the managers have not been held accountable by the organization.' If workers at Davis-Besse do not believe there has been accountability, no reasonable member of the public should think so," David Lochbaum, Nuclear Safety Engineer, Union of Concerned Scientists, letter to Hubert Bell, Inspector General, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 200 KB pdf.
Oct 29:  Watchdog ignored concerns, probe finds

Editorial cartoon

Jeff Darcy, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct 29, 2003.

COLUMBUS -- "After denying news media requests for the consultant's documents, Tongren's office destroyed them last July after it shortened the period that it retains such records to one year from two. Until this week, Tongren had denied knowing that the records-rentention policy had been changed. Yesterday's disclosure that he not only knew about the change but also had specifically discussed destruction of the LaCapra documents came amid an inquiry by the Ohio Consumers' Counsel Governing Board. . . . State Sen. Teresa Fedor, the Senate Public Utilities Committee's ranking Democrat, dubbed Tongren's actions a "cover-up" yesterday. She said she plans to call for his resignation today during the committee's own inquiry into his actions. Three other groups -- Ohio Citizen Action, the Ohio Taxpayers Association and the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council -- have also said Tongren should go," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- Path to FirstEnergy case, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

ATHENS -- Two-party system: the utilities and the racetracks, Tom Suddes, column, Cleveland Plain Dealer. "In one of many spicy coincidences, Attorney General Jim Petro, a Greater Cleveland Republican who wants to be governor, appoints the board the consumers' counsel reports to. But the bookkeeping is double-entry. Entry One: Summit County GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff lobbies for FirstEnergy. Entry Two is an offset: Petro isn't Arshinkoff's biggest fan."

COLUMBUS -- Trashing of report defended; State officials say consultant's view of FirstEnergy was among dozens destroyed under new policy, Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press.

OAK HARBOR -- NRC worker now at utility; Inspector who failed to find Davis-Besse hole employed by FirstEnergy at same plant, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal. "'It's just further evidence FirstEnergy should not be running the plant,' [Shari Weir of Ohio Citizen Action] said."

AKRON -- FirstEnergy lowers '03 earnings estimate, Toledo Blade.
Oct 28:  Watchdog quashed anti-utility testimony

COLUMBUS -- "FirstEnergy's electric deregulation proposal was a $3.5 billion ripoff of consumers, a Boston energy consultant was prepared to testify in 2000. But the consultant, LaCapra Associates, never got the chance to air that view in court. Ohio Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren never made public the firm's dollar estimates in the case -- and then scrapped the testimony," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Oct 27:  Politicking evident as Petro intrudes into FirstEnergy investigation

COLUMBUS -- "[Attorney General Jim Petro] notified the consumers' counsel governing board late last week that he was sending his people over to interview Tongrenís staffers to find out what they knew and when they knew it about any deal with FirstEnergy. . . .It seems that Petro's latest concern might be less about the destruction of records than it is about finding a point of entry to a case thatís going to get a lot of ink, especially in vote-rich northeastern Ohio. This is an issue that resonates with consumers. Anyone riding in on a white horse to help with this potentially explosive utility case will score points, and Petro is all about piling up points for his campaign for governor in 2006," Lee Leonard, column, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' counsel again receives report; Consultant's findings were destroyed in July, Associated Press.

NEW YORK -- Standard and Poor's may still cut FirstEnergy ratings, Standard and Poor's.
Oct 26:  Tongren woes peril all sorts of 'coziness'

COLUMBUS -- "[Ohio Taxpayers' Association President Scott Pullins] professes to be concerned about the [LaCapra] report's content and destruction, but there are signs that his motives are less than pure. . . . Now, Pullins has formed an odd alliance with SBC, Ameritech's successor. Ever since he came under fire for sitting on the sidelines in the Ameritech case, Tongren has adopted a more combative persona, challenging SBC on everything from its request for a late- payment fee to its application to offer long-distance services in Ohio. SBC, which had grown accustomed to Tongren the lap dog, feared he would evolve into Tongren the watchdog. So SBC fought back - with a little help from Pullins. Pullins' group has joined Inform Ohio, an SBC-funded organization that touts the economic benefits of the company's entry into Ohio's long-distance market. Pullins won't say whether the phone company or its affiliates is giving the Ohio Taxpayers' Association or its affiliate any money, but it's clear that Pullins is doing SBC's bidding," Sandy Theis, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- "Discarded utility report surfaces; Agency will review suggestions given to watchdog counsel," Associated Press. Access fee; no link.
Oct 25:  Watchdog gets copy of missing rate study

COLUMBUS -- "Consultants' findings once thought to be destroyed turned up late yesterday at the office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren. Tongren's decision to keep the findings from the public during Ohio's deregulation debate in 1999 and 2000, and his office's destruction of them last summer after a records-policy change, prompted the launching of four inquiries in the past week. Ohio Consumers' Counsel spokeswoman Maureen Miller said the documents were discovered by the consultant, Boston-based LaCapra Associates, and delivered yesterday to the Ohio utility watchdog. The papers are expected to contain critical figures on how much LaCapra believed FirstEnergy was entitled to recover for its past investments under deregulation. Sources have said the number is between $2 billion and $4 billion -- far less than the estimated $8.7 billion that the company eventually received after negotiations with Tongren," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CINCINNATI -- Utility cost: report destroyed; Don't cut the public out, editorial, Cincinnati Enquirer.

COLUMBUS -- Consumer counsel comes under fire; State official blasted for actions, Susanne Cervenka, Dayton Daily News.
Oct 24:  Activist says Besse was close to disaster

Davis-Besse's stainless steel liner, thinned to 2/10 inch, had begun to buckle and crack.
Cracked lid liner
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Paul Gunter of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service claimed the agencyís own simulated lab tests show Davis-Besseís rusted-out reactor head could have burst and allowed radioactive steam to fill the plantís containment building at a pressure level well below at which the plant normally operates. Mr. Gunter revealed the figure while speaking on a panel at the NRCís annual Nuclear Safety Research Conference. During an interview yesterday, he told The Blade he is aware of two lab results from the same NRC test: One which revealed 1,900 psi [pounds of pressure per square inch] as the rupture point and one which showed it as 2,200 psi. Both are below the plantís normal operating pressure of 2,230 psi, he said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Tests show mishap closer than thought, John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Nuclear foes see thin margin of error; Watchdog group says Davis-Besse plant was closer to disaster than it believed, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' counsel probe widens, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

EASTLAKE -- NOPEC calls for probe of shredding; Consumer group says official should resign if report destroyed early, Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.

COLUMBUS -- "Whose watchdog? Puzzling actions lead to questions about Ohio consumersí counsel," editorial, Columbus Dispatch. "Something has to smell pretty foul for the Ohio Taxpayers Association and Ohio Citizen Action to join forces on an issue. The odor emanating from the Ohio Office of Consumersí Counsel, ostensibly the watchdog for residential utility customers, has caught the attention of both groups, who have called for the resignation of Robert S. Tongren. Legitimate questions have been raised about how well he is fulfilling his role, and Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles should step in to investigate the office." Access fee; no link.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy profit nearly cut in half from year ago, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Oct 23:  FirstEnergy 3rd-quarter earnings slide

NEW YORK -- "U.S. power company FirstEnergy Corp. on Thursday reported sharply lower third-quarter earnings, weighed down by a large impairment charge and costs for the extended outage of an Ohio nuclear power plant. FirstEnergy, based in Akron, Ohio, posted a net profit of $152.7 million, or 51 cents per share, compared with $284.8 million, or 97 cents per share, a year ago," Reuters.

AKRON -- "During today's third-quarter report, Richard Marsh, FirstEnergy's Chief Financial Officer, said that the troubled Davis-Besse nuclear plant would be 'ready to return to service before the end of the year.' To interpet Marsh's statement, it helps to see it in the context of dozens of similar previous statements, none of which came true. Marsh was later asked what the 'current Davis-Besse hedge' was, meaning how far ahead has FirstEnergy signed contracts establishing future prices and quantities of electricity independent of the short-term market, as a hedge against Davis-Besse not returning to service. Marsh replied, 'for the remainder of the year, and through the first quarter of next year,' although in 2004, 'not 100%,'" Ohio Citizen Action.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy earnings down 46 percent in third quarter, Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Consumers' Counsel under scrutiny, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Three inquiries into Ohio Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren's handling of a consultant's sensitive findings began to take shape yesterday -- even as Tongren's office continued to search for stray copies of documents it says it legally destroyed. . . . The [Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council] request sought information on private meetings that Tongren held with FirstEnergy to discuss extending stranded-cost recovery beyond 2005. The Akron-based utility asked Tuesday to replace the stranded-cost recovery, which is to expire at the end of 2005, with a 'rate stabilization charge' that consumers would pay through 2008. 'Under the circumstances, it would have been very awkward for Tongren if a report had surfaced showing FirstEnergy was only entitled to $2 billion to $4 billion in stranded costs, not the estimated $8.7 billion Tongren agreed to,' NOPEC Chairman and Eastlake Mayor Dan DiLiberto said in a release. 'The fact that his office destroyed the report before it could be made public certainly was convenient for him,'" Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
AKRON -- Time to go; The job of Consumers' Counsel starts with credibility. Robert Tongren now has too little to be effective, editorial, Akron Beacon Journal.
Photo of Sandusky Bay

An accident at Davis-Besse will touch people in this area first. The nuclear plant is the white dot on the Lake Erie shore to the upper left. Kelley's Island is in the center, just north of Sandusky and Cedar Point. To the south are Fremont, Bellevue and Norwalk. To the east are Huron, Lorain and Elyria. Lake Erie, which will be immediately contaminated, provides drinking water to 11 million people.

Oct 22:  Second study on power bills ignored, too
Consultants told PUCO that FirstEnergy should get half of its request

COLUMBUS -- "Now the company wants permission to extend the agreement three more years. By one estimate, it has raised utility bills $15 to $20 a month. . . . Shari Weir, spokeswoman for Ohio Citizen Action, a consumer organization, cried foul. 'FirstEnergy should be refunding stranded costs rather than continuing the scam,' she said. 'This comes at a time when there's no consumer advocate; he's already given away the store.' Weirís organization called for the ouster of Consumers' Counsel Robert S. Tongren after it was revealed last week that he had signed off on the FirstEnergy deal despite the findings by La Capra. . . .As in the first round of negotiations, Tongrenís office was involved in private talks with FirstEnergy that took place during the spring and summer. . . [FirstEnergy spokesman Ralph DiNicola] denied that Tongren signed off on the three-year extension. He did say that it was 'reflective of concerns' expressed by Tongren and others," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch.

COLUMBUS -- Electricity cost report partially recovered , Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer. "The discovery came as pressure mounted for [Ohio Consumers' Counsel Robert] Tongren to explain why he failed to make public LaCapra's work during the deregulation battle in 1999 and 2000, and why a records retention policy was changed in February that allowed the sought-after document to be scrapped. Senate Energy Chairman Bob Spada requested a rare Senate inquiry into Tongren's handling of LaCapra's findings, and hearings are expected next week. Spada joins Attorney General Jim Petro and Inspector General Tom Charles, who have also sought further investigation."

COLUMBUS -- Lost utility report spurs query; Ohio attorney general wants to know why data on FirstEnergy deregulation case were destroyed, Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- Utility watchdog feels heat; Destroyed documents might have saved consumers billions, Dave Truman, Lake County News Herald.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy asks to extend criticized electricity fee, Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy gives PUCO proposal; Company wants to offer choice between auction-based system, rate stabilization, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Feds wary of Davis-Besse's pump-fix plan, Malia Rulon, Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Consultant outlines plan for Davis-Besse pumps, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Davis-Besse danger signs missed for 3 years as NRC inspectors failed to act, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Report: NRC made chain of mistakes at Davis-Besse, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

WASHINGTON, DC -- NRC saw acid leaks in 2000; Report on Davis-Besse plant shows agency inspector ignored problems on reactor head, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Report: NRC inspectors missed Davis-Besse warning signs, Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- NRC's oversight of Davis-Besse boric acid leakage and corrosion during the April 2000 refueling outage (Case No. 03-02S), Hubert T. Bell, Inspector General, memo to Nils Diaz, Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, dated Oct 17, 2003, 178 KB .doc.
Oct 21:  Probe of handling of utility report urged

COLUMBUS -- "Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro yesterday urged a board he controls to examine Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren's handling of closely guarded consultant's findings that were kept from the public and later scrapped. . . Petro -- who appoints members to the Consumers' Counsel Governing Board -- said through a spokeswoman he is "deeply concerned about the allegations" and has conferred with members of the board about pursuing the issue. . . [Petro spokeswoman Kim] Norris said the Ohio attorney general's office was not consulted when Tongren's office changed its records retention policy earlier this year, nor was it consulted when the office got rid of the report in July. Ohio Inspector General Tom Charles also opened an investigative file on the matter yesterday, following a request by State Sen. Bob Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- "Destruction of records questioned; Watchdog didnít keep documents in deregulation case," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch; Access fee; no link.

COLUMBUS -- The jurisidiction of the Ohio Inspector General encompasses "wrongful acts or omissions," defined as "an act or omission, committed in the course of office holding or employment, that is not in accordance with the requirements of law or such standards of proper governmental conduct as are commonly accepted in the community and thereby subverts, or tends to subvert, the process of government," Ohio Revised Code, sections 121.41 (G), 121.42.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' Counsel conducting exhaustive search beyond public records requirements, release, Office of Consumers' Counsel. "'As a result of recent public interest in these documents, we are determined to leave no stone unturned to find any items pertaining to LaCapra's preliminary electric restructuring research and analysis,' said Robert S. Tongren, Consumers' Counsel. . . .In addition, the agency has requested LaCapra to conduct a similar computer network scan in an attempt to discover any other documents related to its work for the OCC. In August 2003, the OCC made every reasonable attempt to find documents related to LaCapra in order to comply with a public records request. Under the law, a public office is required to search and retrieve records in the manner that those records are kept and accessed by the office in the normal course of its business. After completing a search in August, the agency believed that all records related to LaCapra's work were properly disposed of in accordance with the OCC's records retention schedule for case-related files."

PAINESVILLE -- FirstEnergy, Perry settle, Maggi Martin, Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Perry schools and some Lake County agencies will get a $23.7 million tax windfall over the next five years that will settle a nine-year dispute over the tax valuation of FirstEnergy's Perry nuclear power plant. . . .'It was time for an agreement,' said Lake County Commissioner Robert Aufuldish, who said the nine years of negotiations were tough on many officials and agencies and involved some compromises. 'This very well could have lasted another nine years.'

Come to think of it, why did FirstEnergy suddenly settle this lawsuit when it could have dragged it out for nine more years? One possibility: if it is looking to sell its three nuclear plants -- Davis-Besse, Perry, and Beaver Valley -- it would want to remove this lawsuit from the equation.
Oct 20:  Citizen Action wants Petro to weigh in on Tongren scandal

CLEVELAND -- "I am writing to ask you to intervene to help bring the scandal at the Ohio Consumers' Counsel to a prompt conclusion. Since the Office of Consumers' Counsel was created over a quarter-century ago, the Ohio Attorney General has carried the responsibility for appointing members of the Counsel's Governing Board, to which the Ohio Consumers' Counsel is statutorily accountable. The Attorney General is the popularly-elected official closest to the agency. It appears that neither the Consumers' Counsel nor the chair of the Governing Board understands the situation they are in, and they could benefit from your guidance," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, letter to Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro.
Oct 19:  Whose counsel?

CLEVELAND -- ". . .there's a contemptuous theme here, played once too often by the Ohio Consumers' Counsel: Don't you little folks worry your pretty heads about electricity deregulation. So it's no wonder that this consultant's report became a victim of 'systems.' Or that advocacy groups with concerns about negotiations with FirstEnergy get the brushoff. . . .The latest episodes add to a pattern that shows Tongren to be a poor advocate for Ohio's consumers. He should be replaced -- now," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- "Watchdog too cozy with utilities, some say," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch. "On many warm-weather Fridays during the past year, Ohio utility watchdog Robert S. Tongren could be found on the golf course rather than in his state office at Broad and High streets. Paid $130,445 as the consumersí counsel representing Ohioís residential utility customers, Tongren didnít work a full Friday three-fourths of the time from May 2002 to June 2003, according to a Dispatch review of his time sheets. Most Fridays, he took off all day or worked just two or three hours. But more significant than Tongrenís work habits, critics argue, are Tongrenís frequent golf partners -- officials from SBC, Columbia Gas, FirstEnergy and other utilities -- all companies that Tongren is supposed to negotiate with and sometimes fight in court on behalf of Ohio ratepayers." Access fee; no link.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' Counsel stands by its actions, statement, Robert Tongren, Ohio Consumers' Counsel.
Oct 18:  State's utilities monitor under fire

COLUMBUS -- "Ohio Citizen Action called on the board that oversees [Ohio Consumers' Counsel Robert] Tongren's office to convene an emergency meeting to fire the utility watchdog. . . Shari Weir, Cleveland-area program director of Citizen Action [said], 'The very fact that FirstEnergy had access to the research but we the public, who he represents, did not, is unbelievable.' Weir said FirstEnergy customers pay $30 a month for the stranded costs addressed in the report. Adoption of the consultant's estimate could have shaved $15 to $20 a month off that price, she said. . . .Ohio Senate Energy Chairman Bob Spada said he was disturbed at the 'horrendous difference' between the consultants' estimate and what FirstEnergy received in its settlement, and is looking into the matter. He said he has instructed his staff to try to find a copy of the report, despite claims that all copies have been destroyed," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

TOLEDO -- Shredding of report draws fire; State office paid $578,946 for FirstEnergy rate study, Jon Chavez, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- "Consumer groups seek advocateís resignation; Lawmaker seeks probe of documentsí disposal, fees passed to consumers," Lee Leonard, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' Counsel responds to Citizen Action attack, statement, Robert Tongren, Ohio Consumers' Counsel.
Oct 17: Ohio Citizen Action: Fire Ohio Consumers' Counsel Robert Tongren

CLEVELAND -- "On behalf of our 100,000 members statewide, Ohio Citizen Action calls on you [Jerome Solove, board chair, Ohio Office of Consumers' Counsel] to convene an emergency meeting of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel Board to fire Consumers' Counsel Robert Tongren. He should immediately be dismissed because he negotiated a deal to give FirstEnergy twice the stranded costs they were entitled to, and then destroyed the consultant's research that could have exposed what he had done. The Office of Consumers' Counsel has only one job -- to protect customers against excessive utility bills. The $9 billion deal violated that obligation," Shari Weir, Ohio Citizen Action.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy customers lose chance to save billions in electricity costs "The office charged with protecting Ohio utility consumers has destroyed a closely guarded consultant's report that might have saved billions of dollars for customers in FirstEnergy electric territory. Ohio Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren conceded yesterday that his office got rid of the document in late July - after his staff changed a records-retention policy that would have required it to be held a minimum of five years," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- Study of FirstEnergy deregulation costs trashed, Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- "Watchdog ignored research, OKíd deal; Northeastern Ohio customers paying FirstEnergyís costs," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

COLUMBUS -- Utility watchdog disputes groups' calls to step down, Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- Did Consumer Advocate "Sell-Out" Consumers?, Bill Cohen, Ohio Public Radio.

COLUMBUS -- Statement, Jerome Solove, Chairman, Ohio Consumers' Counsel Governing Board. "I wholeheartedly support the work and benefits that Rob Tongren and his staff at the Ohio Consumers' Counsel daily bring to Ohio's residents. . . . our Board will consider the issues raised."

TOLEDO -- Attorney seeks injunction to stop Davis-Besse restart , Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Oct 16:  FirstEnergy chief sees Davis-Besse online next month

CLEVELAND -- "[Gary Leidich, president of FirstEnergy's nuclear operating company]'s forecast is the latest among numerous predictions of a restart the company has made since it shut down Davis-Besse 20 months ago and discovered a pineapple-sized corrosion hole in its lid. . . . [Jack Grobe, chairman of the special NRC panel charged with overseeing Davis-Besse] has said previously that the company must prove it has planted the seeds of a 'safety culture' at the plant and demonstrate that it has put long-term plans in place to firmly establish a culture that then creates 'a safety-conscious work environment.' That will delay the restart into next year, possibly March, predicted Paul Blanch, a safety culture expert and former ombudsman at the Millstone nuclear plant in Connecticut, which the NRC kept shut down until its safety culture was re-created," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

SAN FRANCISCO -- FirstEnergy names manager for troubled Ohio nuke, Reuters.

AKRON -- Class-action suit targets FirstEnergy, executives; Suit filed in Akron alleges violations of securities laws, Ed Meyer, Akron Beacon Journal.
Oct 15:  Bottom of reactor found to be leak-free

OAK HARBOR -- "'We see no leaks at all,' said Lew Myers, chief operating officer of plant owner FirstEnergy's nuclear operating company. 'I feel pretty good,' Myers said in an interview, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- NRC verifies Davis-Besse nuke reactor is leakproof, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- No leaks found at Davis-Besse plant, Akron Beacon Journal.
Oct 10: NRC says poor design raised risk of meltdown
Code level exceeded Besse safety baseline

OAK HARBOR -- "The odds of a meltdown at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant were higher than people were led to believe prior to the plant’s shutdown last year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said yesterday. The NRC said the risk posed by the faulty design of the plant’s original high-pressure injection pumps is no doubt higher than the agency’s baseline "green" rating for safety significance.The agency said it needs more information from FirstEnergy Nuclear Energy Co. before it can make a final determination as to the degree of risk, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

CARROLL TWP -- Pump problem has NRC worried , Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.
Oct 9: NRC grades Davis-Besse

OAK HARBOR -- "A comprehensive federal inspection over the last 13 months of FirstEnergy Corp.'s efforts to analyze and upgrade crucial safety systems at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant agrees with the company's own findings -- crucial emergency systems were inadequate and the underlying engineering was sloppy or even missing. . . Davis-Besse engineers focused in great detail on five systems and did a less comprehensive review of 31 other systems, said Farber. They judged only one of the 31 systems adequate to support restarting the plant, he said, and only one acceptable, out of the five they looked at in detail. . . .The dismal findings, both of the equipment and the underlying engineering calculations, surprised the company, said Lew Myers, chief operating officer of FirstEnergy's nuclear division,", John Funk, Cleveland PLain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- Review plan pleases inspectors; FirstEnergy finds original safety calculations flawed at Davis-Besse, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

PORT CLINTON -- Feds: Davis-Besse safety systems on track, Jack Buehrer, Port Clinton News Herald.
Oct 8: NRC slams Davis-Besse, says problems not normal
FirstEnergy execs offer their apologies

PORT CLINTON -- "Jack Grobe, the NRC panelís chairman, told FirstEnergy its problems run deeper than the control room. 'Itís really not the operators. Itís the organization,' he said . . . He later told reporters the kind of problems Davis-Besse had with its operators during the recently concluded test would not happen twice a year at a 'normal' nuclear plant. At Davis-Besse, they happened twice in little more than a week. 'Itís important to state that, at this point, this is not a normal operating plant,' Mr. Grobe said. . . .One area resident, Joseph Korff, told the NRC he wanted to have plenty of advance notice because he wants to be in Florida when it happens. Mr. Korff, an engineer who lives half the year in Vermilion, Ohio, said he has been familiar with Davis-Besse since he started boating on Lake Erie in 1968. But he said he has little faith in FirstEnergy. . . Also last night, a letter was submitted on behalf of Kelleys Island residents who want Davis-Besse shut permanently. The letter was written to H. Peter Burg, FirstEnergy chief operating officer, and James Caldwell, the NRCís Midwest regional director, by an organization called the Kelleys Island Citizens Group. It claims to have a petition with signatures from 150 Kelleys Island residents who are opposed to the plantís restart. Its opposition stems, in part, from evacuation fears in the event of a nuclear accident," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

CAMP PERRY -- NRC focusing on Davis-Besse operators, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

PORT CLINTON -- NRC cites two errors in nuclear plant; FirstEnergy's timeline for Davis-Besse sees restart by Thanksgiving, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
["Thanksgiving"? Let's look at the record].

CAMP PERRY -- NRC still worried about Davis-Besse, Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.

NEW YORK -- Merrill Lynch ups FirstEnergy rating, Reuters.
Oct 6: Message to Peter Burg, FirstEnergy CEO:
You can listen to the voices of Three Mile Island families without having to look them in the eye

CLEVELAND -- "Dear Mr. Burg: Last Friday, families who lived through the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 invited you to meet with them to get a first-hand understanding of the human consequences of a major nuclear accident. You replied that you were "not available." Here's a second chance: Through the headline link, you can listen -- in the privacy of your office or at home tonight -- to nine sound clips of Three Mile Island neighbors. As you listen, consider this: If you can't look them in the eye and tell them Davis-Besse is safe, maybe you shouldn't restart it," Ohio Citizen Action.

Background on meeting invitation.
Oct 4:  Three Mile Island neighbors seek meeting

TOLEDO -- "Seven Pennsylvania residents who lived near the Three Mile Island nuclear plant at the time of its 1979 accident sent a letter yesterday to [Peter Burg,] FirstEnergy Corp.'s top executive, requesting a face-to-face meeting about Davis-Besse. . . The letter was signed by Deb Katz, Gene Stilp, Paula Kinney, Mary Osborn, Joyce Corradi, Helen Hocker, and Kay Pickering. Ms. Corradi told The Blade all seven still live in the area of Three Mile Island, and some are affiliated with a local grass-roots group called Concerned Mothers and Women. . . 'Pete's not available. I don't know why he'd accept an invitation for anything orchestrated by Ohio Citizen Action. That's our response,' [Ralph DiNicola, FirstEnergyís public relations director] said," Toledo Blade.
Oct 3:  Three Mile Island neighbors invite FirstEnergy chief to talk about Davis-Besse

DAUPHIN, PA -- "Neighbors who lived through the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident today invited FirstEnergy CEO Peter Burg to meet with them to discuss his decision whether to try to restart the troubled Davis-Besse plant on Lake Erie. They told Burg such a meeting would give him "a first-hand understanding of the human consequences of a major nuclear accident." Joyce Corradi of Middletown, Pennsylvania, a Harrisburg suburb, said: "Mr. Burg, Iíd be willing to bet your home is not within a mile radius of that nuclear power plant, and thereís a reason for that. Itís not safe." Nuclear safety engineer David Lochbaum at the Union of Concerned Scientists has concluded that "had the [Davis-Besse reactor] hole opened up, the accident would likely have been worse than Three Mile Island but not as bad a Chernobyl," Gene Stilp, Dauphin, PA; Joyce Corradi, Middletown, PA; Jessica Kramer, Ohio Citizen Action.

OAK HARBOR -- FirstEnergy says reactor cool-down crew erred; Performance issues disappoint regulators," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Oct 2:  Lingering safety issues are snag at Davis-Besse

LISLE, IL -- "At the conclusion of [FirstEnergy's] presentation, the chairman of the special panel overseeing Davis-Besse would not commit to a timetable to restart the reactor. The agency has not scheduled a final meeting for the company to present its restart plan, said Chairman Jack Grobe, and it is not even contemplating such a meeting at this point. Routine monthly meetings with FirstEnergy are scheduled into December, he said. . . . While Grobe said the errors [during the pressure test] posed 'minimal safety risk, nonetheless I would not have expected the type of operator problems that were observed. This goes right back to a questioning attitude and a rigorous approach,' the hallmarks of a healthy safety culture, he said. Most plants don't have two problems of that sort in a year, much less two in a week, Grobe said. 'It's troubling.' 'It doesn't give us confidence,' added James Caldwell, the NRC's Midwest regional administrator," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

LISLE, IL -- NRC expresses doubt about plant operators, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade. "'The technical problems you can fix,' [the NRCís James L. Caldwell, who oversees 24 of the nationís 103 nuclear plants] said. '[But] it goes back to fundamentals. Iím not sure that folks [at Davis-Besse] could actually identify a safety issue.'"

LISLE, IL -- Attitudes on safety play role in restart; FirstEnergy gives NRC sunny progress report, but doesn't get go-ahead, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

LISLE, IL -- NRC still not satisfied with Davis-Besse's 'safety culture', Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.
Oct 1:  Davis-Besse test has no surprises

OAK HARBOR -- "The seven-day test of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant's coolant system ended about 4 p.m. Tuesday with 'no showstoppers' that would delay restarting the plant in four to six weeks, [Todd Schneider,] a spokesman for plant owner FirstEnergy Corp. said," Akron Beacon Journal.

['Four to six weeks'. Really?]

SAN FRANCISCO -- FirstEnergy reviews nuclear safety plan for NRC, Reuters.
Sep 30:  Davis-Besse leak tests will be visual only

OAK HARBOR -- "Inspectors at the Davis-Besse nuclear reactor plan to use a 'look-but-don't wipe' procedure when they check the reactor's bottom for leaks this week. . . . But relying solely on a visual inspection, even after a week of high pressure, might not catch a really small bottom-tube leak, Jack Grobe, the chairman of the special NRC panel overseeing FirstEnergy Corp.'s efforts to repair the plant, reasoned during a technical conference last spring. Because a chemical analysis for another element in the coolant - lithium - can be detected at a parts-per-million level, Grobe argued that inspectors ought to wipe the reactor's bottom with a special tissue and then have a lab analyze it for minute, not yet visible, amounts of lithium. Lithium, he said, would reveal even the smallest leak, which might not produce enough boron to be seen during the one-week pressurization of the reactor," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

NEW YORK -- Fitch cuts FirstEnergy debt to 'BBB-' From 'BBB', Reuters.

NEW YORK -- Fitch Lowers FirstEnergy's Senior Unsecured Debt To 'BBB-'. "The primary credit concern is the continuing negative cash flow effect of the extended Davis-Besse nuclear plant outage and uncertainty regarding the timing of the plant's return to commercial operation. The outage is expected to reduce operating cash flow by nearly $500 million, comprised of replacement power and operating and maintenance costs of $234 million in 2002 and an estimated $250 million in 2003, assuming operations at the unit resume in fall of 2003. However, major work items yet to be completed include the full pressure test of Davis-Besse's reactor coolant system, evaluation of pressure test results and modification to the high pressure injection pumps. Delay of commercial operation into 2004 cannot be ruled out," Fitch Ratings.
Sep 28:  Nuclear regulatory agency lax on reactor security, congressional audit finds

WASHINGTON, DC -- "When two Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials found a security guard asleep at his post at the Indian Point 2 nuclear reactor last year, the agency decided not to issue a notice of violation because there was no terrorist attack on the plant during the half-hour or so that the guard was sleeping, a Congressional audit has found. . . . The report also says the commission did not treat the incident more seriously because no guards had been found sleeping 'more than twice during the past year.' . . . Agency officials say they cannot prove that an individual is asleep, even one who is not moving and whose eyes are closed," Matthew Wald, New York Times.
Sep 27:  FirstEnergy wants contractor's lawsuit dropped

OAK HARBOR -- "William Keisler of Leesville, S.C., filed the lawsuit in August via his Toledo lawyer Howard Whitcomb III in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court. Keisler's suit asked for in excess of $150,000, punitive damages and a court order requiring greater safety-related inspections at Davis-Besse. He claimed he was wrongfully terminated for refusing to clean up a report that contained information about violations of safety requirements at the plant in the late 1980s," Toledo Blade.

TOLEDO -- 'Ethical violation' mars suit, utility says, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse test due to end Monday night, Toledo Blade.
Sep 26:  Davis-Besse trial run encounters obstacle

OAK HARBOR -- "First Energy Corp. may have run into another obstacle in its attempt to complete Davis-Besse's week-long pressure test, the so-called 'dress rehearsal' for restarting the troubled nuclear plant. One of the plant's two auxiliary feed-water pump trains was declared inoperable shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday, because its timing was off. The company thought it had the problem fixed yesterday, but additional tests showed that it didn't. 'Theyíre looking at the situation now and retesting the equipment,' said Richard Wilkins, a company spokesman, who added he wasn't sure if the problem would cause a delay," Toledo Blade.

TOLEDO -- FirstEnergy faces 14 suits over earnings, Jon Chavez, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- Blackout followed hours of glitches, Teresa Dixon Murray, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 25:  FirstEnergy failed us in face of Isabel

YORK, PA -- ". . . it seemed that Met-Ed had forgotten how to deliver electricity to our homes. One person left defrosted Eggos on Met-Ed's driveway. One guy was thinking of sending Met-Ed a bill for his spoiled food. Others contemplated suing or filing complaints with the Public Utility Commission. Others simply vented. In Springfield Township, someone posted a sign at the corner of Fishel Creek and Union Church roads that said, 'Welcome to Bagdad USA. Thanks for nothing Met-Ed!' First off, spelling, people. Itís Baghdad. And secondly, there are probably parts of Baghdad that have more reliable electric service than areas of southern York County. And thirdly, Met-Ed is merely a part of FirstEnergy. If that sounds kind of familiar, it should. . . The people who are doing the actual work of restoring power arenít at fault here. Theyíre doing hard work in bad conditions. The problem is that First- Energy doesnít seem to be as interested in providing electricity as it is in making tons of money. . . The companyís motto, according to the Web site, is 'Our Energy is Working for You.' Here's a revised motto: 'FirstEnergy: Keeping You in the Dark Since 2003,'" Mike Argento, column, York Daily Record.
Sep 24:  Blackout probe too secret, CEO says
Workers had to sign confidentiality pacts

ANN ARBOR, MI -- ". . . after more than a month of questioning, federal investigators seem more prone to conceal information than reveal it, [Joseph Welch, CEO of International Transmission Co.] said. At least six ITC technicians who provided data for the federal investigation had to sign non-disclosure agreements. Federal regulators initially wanted to bar local grid operators from revealing any contents of the still-pending investigation as well discussing any aspects of the blackout, Welch said. . . ITC eventually negotiated for its workers to sign only one-year non-disclosure agreements with investigators, according to Jim Frankowski, the firm's in-house attorney. But Frankowski said federal investigators had first pushed for blanket silence on the blackout. 'Their initial intent was to keep all information related to the outage confidential forever,' Frankowski said," Scott Anderson, Ann Arbor News.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- FirstEnergy sees Ohio nuke restarting soon, Leonard Anderson, Reuters. [Wanna bet?].
Sep 23:  Davis-Besse: Forget and forgive?

OAK HARBOR -- "Nuclear power is a very unforgiving technology. For example, workers in 1961 at a nuclear power reactor in Idaho made a mistake. The mistake caused a steam explosion that killed every worker at the facility. In 1986, workers at a nuclear power reactor in the Ukraine made a mistake while testing a safety system. Their mistake triggered two massive steam explosions that killed dozens of workers and created a nuclear wasteland. In 1999, workers at a Japanese factory making fuel for a nuclear reactor took some unauthorized shortcuts. Their mistake caused an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction that claimed their lives and quarantined nearly 300,000 people living nearby. So nuclear power is unforgiving, yet the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is on the brink of forgiving FirstEnergy for very serious transgressions at their Davis-Besse nuclear plant. As has been widely reported, FirstEnergy allowed acid to eat a large hole in the metal reactor vessel head. It was luck more than skill that prevented the reactor cooling water from escaping though this hole. Had an accident happened at Davis-Besse, key backup safety systems intended to protect the public were broken. The high pressure injection system pumps had a variety of problems that FirstEnergy is still fixing. The containment sump portion of the low pressure recirculation and containment spray systems was also broken and has now been fixed. So, had the hole opened up, the accident would likely have been worse than Three Mile Island but not as bad a Chernobyl," remarks at Sep 20, 2003 rally, David Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer, Union of Concerned Scientists, 134 KB pdf.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse begins delayed 7-day test, Akron Beacon Journal.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse could restart in November, Toledo Blade. [Wanna bet?].
Sep 22:  Ex-official at Besse links woes, managers
Retired admiral led plant in the mid-1980s

OAK HARBOR -- "[Retired U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Joe Williams, Jr.,] said an underlying problem for years at Davis-Besse has been a general reluctance of employees to come forth with problems they find. Part of the problem these days is a greater reliance on contractors, he said. . . "They need to rectify that right now. They need to get a staff thatís company people and can do their jobs. Go to the expense of hiring good people," Mr. Williams said. . . . FirstEnergy claimed it did not make a connection between rusty filters and a problem inside the containment building. Such filters are normally changed once a month. . . . "I would have shut the plant down. Thatís criminal. No system engineer could have possibly, possibly supported [continued operation]," Mr. Williams said.. . . "Iíll tell you one thing: If my filters had those problems, I would have ripped the insulation off that head [and looked for corrosion]," he added. Certain FirstEnergy officials "ought to go to jail," Mr. Williams said. "There have been enough deliberate acts of management in terms of denial," he said.," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Sep 19:  Stock is sold
Starting plant next for utility

NEW YORK -- ". . . the utility's idled Davis-Besse power plant is the financial wild card, and H. Peter Burg, chairman and chief executive, could not say for certain yesterday when a test of the reactor will begin, or when the plant will restart. So far, FirstEnergy has spent nearly $500 million on repairs and replacement power, and Burg said the company needs to have the plant's output next year," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 18:  Problems lengthen plantís road to restart

OAK HARBOR -- "FirstEnergy Corp.'s effort to perform the biggest test in Davis-Besse's 26-year history has been stalled temporarily by a combination of equipment problems, faulty procedures, and human performance issues, officials said yesterday. First, a valve in the emergency core flood tank opened unexpectedly Monday morning. Evidence surfaced that the crew of operators handling the situation did not respond appropriately. Among other things, they had followed a procedure with an error written into it. Then, early yesterday, a pump in the containment spray system malfunctioned, officials said. . . .The operating crew 'did not handle the situation well' and was removed from the project for remedial training that could last two weeks, [NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng] said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- New problem stalls test at Davis-Besse, Akron Beacon Journal.

OAK HARBOR -- NRC: Blame man, not machine, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

SAN FRANCISCO -- FirstEnergy CEO sees progress on Ohio nuke restart, Reuters. "[FirstEnergy CEO Peter] Burg said, 'We will have some bumps and starts. In some ways it's a positive. ... We will get a lot of things behind us.' But Burg added, 'We're on top of it.'"

TOLEDO -- Rally against the reopening of Davis-Besse set for Saturday, Sep 20, Terry Lodge, Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, Ohio Green Party, Coalition to Rebuke the Nuke, (419) 255-7552. "On Saturday, Sep 20, from noon to about 5:00 PM, there will be a rally against the reopening of Davis-Besse at Crane Creek State Park on Lake Erie, about 4 miles west of the power plant on Route 2. The event will feature speakers and music from a 100% solar-powered stage; alternative energy technology exhibits; information on what's wrong with nuclear power, and events for children and adults. Some food service will also be available, or you can bring the makings of a picnic while you learn how to take a big step toward nuclear-free Great Lakes."
Sep 17:  Problem delays Davis-Besse test

OAK HARBOR -- "A valve that unexpectedly opened on an 8,000-gallon coolant tank pushed back by at least 24 hours FirstEnergy Corp.'s critical seven-day test of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant's coolant system. The test should start sometime today, said spokesman Todd Schneider. Nothing was damaged or will need to be replaced, he said. The tank is designed to flood the reactor core with coolant during an emergency. When the main valve opened unexpectedly, a check valve prevented the tank from draining. The utility said it changed procedures and trained operators to ward off future problems," Akron Beacon Journal.

OAK HARBOR -- Faulty valve to delay Davis-Besse restart, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 16:  FirstEnergy leads Zacks 'Strong Sell' list

CHICAGO -- "Earlier this month, FirstEnergy announced the commencement of a public offering of its common stock, and then said the issuance is expected to result in dilution to the company's 2003 earnings per share by about 2.5%. FirstEnergy said it now expects earnings of $2.61 to $2.81 per share on a non-GAAP basis. The result compares to its previous expectation of a range between $2.68 and $2.88. That range had also been previously lowered. In August, FirstEnergy posted second quarter non-GAAP earnings of 52 cents per share of common stock, which missed the consensus by two cents. Earnings estimates for this year and next remain below levels from three months ago, while analysts have pulled down expectations by about 7 cents and 3 cents over the past seven trading days," Zacks Investment Research.

NEW YORK, NY -- Milberg Weiss amends securities class action suit against FirstEnergy, release, Milberg Weiss.
Sep 14:  FirstEnergy's CEO generates praise for work under pressure

CLEVELAND -- "Financial analyst Dot Matthews believes bad management, and not bad luck, is the problem. She and fellow CreditSights analyst Andy DeVries have called for new management at FirstEnergy. 'The way to repair relationships with regulators, investors and Wall Street is to start from scratch . . .[Burg] and his wife have contributed more than $38,000 to politicians and political action committees on the national level since 2001, according to Political Money Line, which tracks money in politics. The Burgs aren't hard-liners, at least when it comes to personal donations: Recipients include former Akron-area Rep. Tom Sawyer and Rep. Sherrod Brown, both Democrats, and the Bush-Cheney campaign committee. At the state level, Burg has donated $21,000, mostly to Republicans, since 1999, according to Ohio Citizen Action,' Matthews said," Tom Breckenridge, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 13:   Stock sale by utility dimmed
SEC seeks more information from FirstEnergy; analysts say share price reduction costs $24 million

AKRON -- "A cloud came over FirstEnergy Corp.'s sale of 28 million shares of common stock Friday. On the eve of the sale, the Securities and Exchange Commission requested more information about the Akron-based utility's earlier restatement of earnings for 2002, possibly pushing down the offering price. Trading in FirstEnergy was delayed until nearly noon Friday," John Russell, Akron Beacon Journal.

NEW ORLEANS -- Nuclear groups keep close eye on Davis-Besse; Plant seen as anomaly in wear-and-tear issues, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

AKRON -- SEC asks FirstEnergy to provide more data; Firm reprices stock to soothe investorsí fears, Mary-Beth McLaughlin, Toledo Blade.

CLEVELAND -- FirstEnergy offers shares at $30 each, Thomas W. Gerdel, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 12:   Electrical grid's new threat: hackers
Computer-heavy monitoring systems now are vulnerable to viruses, security experts say

NEW YORK -- "Since last month's widespread blackout, utilities have accelerated plans to automate the electric grid, replacing aging monitoring systems with digital switches and other high-tech gear. But those very improvements are making the electricity supply vulnerable to a different kind of peril: computer viruses and hackers who could black out substations, cities or entire states. Researchers working for the U.S., Canadian and British governments have already found "back doors" -- ways into the digital relays and control room technology that increasingly direct electricity flow in North America," Jim Krane, Associated Press.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy sells shares to ease debt , Thomas W Gerdel, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 11:  The more they fix, the more they find wrong:
FirstEnergy admits new safety trouble at the crippled Davis-Besse nuclear plant

OAK HARBOR -- At yesterday's meeting with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, FirstEnergy revealed a new breakdown in Davis-Besse's containment air cooler that is supposed to keep other containment-area equipment from overheating. The company reported that during the August 14 blackout, there was a 'water pressure surge' and they identified 'misalignment and expansion of piping bellows assemblies.' Davis-Besse Engineering Director Jim Powers said FirstEnergy hasnít figured out how to address the problem. An NRC inspection team last fall said the company failed to 'keep airborne boric acid from building up on containment air cooler fins, which reduced the plantís heat removal capability and reduced the cooler's air flow, and that it failed to take action that would have kept air filters from clogging so often' (Toledo Blade, October 4, 2002), Ohio Citizen Action.

OAK HARBOR -- NRC tells Davis-Besse to prove safety culture, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse gearing up for 1st trial run, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- Davis-Besse test key to restart, Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.

NEW YORK -- FirstEnergy: Millions of dollars in typos, Carolyn Koo, Reuters.
Sep 10:   Nuke plant guarantees out of energy bill
Plan to help nuclear plants with loan guarantees shelved as part of Congress' energy bill

WASHINGTON, DC -- ". . . no longer are the loan guarantees an option, a senior GOP staff member involved in the discussions said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Industry officials also acknowledged Tuesday that the focus was on other kinds of help to spur new reactor construction. [Sen. Pete Domenici (New Mexico)], who is chairing the energy discussions, also has pledged not to pursue a separate provision that would require the government to purchase a certain number of power reactors that are built. Many Democrats have characterized the loan guarantees as a boondoggle for the nuclear industry that could cost taxpayers billions of dollars. And conservative Republicans, including Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., have objected in general to the government helping industry finance the building of power plants," Associated Press.
Sep 9:   Davis-Besse faces test on cooling systems

TOLEDO -- "Plant officials still must present their plans for long-term monitoring of safety culture at the plant; that presentation is set for Oct. 1, [Viktoria Mitlyng, NRC spokeswoman] said. In addition, after the pressure test Davis-Besse officials need to remove two high-pressure injection pumps and have them modified. . . .During the upcoming pressure test, which could take seven to 10 days to complete, the reactor will not be started. Instead, the plantís cooling system pumps will heat up water to 530 degrees [near normal operating temperature] and raise the pressure to 2,155 pounds per square inch," Luke Shockman, Toledo Blade.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy to sell stock under plan to cut debt; Sale of 24.8 million more shares expected to dilute 2003 earnings per share, John Russell, Akron Beacon Journal.
Sep 8:   Safety problem at nuclear plants is cited

WASHINGTON, DC -- "David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, contended that the emergency core cooling system 'is virtually certain to fail at some plants.' 'Right now you're relying on a pipe not breaking,' he said. According to Mr. Lochbaum and to data from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the problem involves 69 plants of a design called pressurized water reactors, in which the water that is used to carry off the useful heat, and to keep the fuel from over-heating, is kept at a pressure of about 2,200 pounds per square inch. If a pipe breaks and the pressure is released, the water would boil into steam because it is heated to more than 500 degrees. The steam could not cool the fuel, and the fuel would melt. . . The [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] recognized the problem at Davis-Besse, the reactor near Toledo, Ohio, where operators discovered that the vessel head had been eaten away by acid, nearly all the way through. Had the vessel ruptured, said Mr. Lochbaum and others, it would have blown insulation off the head and into the basement and the screens. The commission required the plant's owners to fix the problem before it would consider giving permission to restart," Matthew Wald, New York Times.
Sep 7:   'No clue'

CLEVELAND -- ". . . there is no way to sift through the growing pile of reports about that day's events, much of it supplied by the once-tightknit fraternity of utility companies, without feeling that FirstEnergy was at best the victim of events that it neither understood nor could stem. At worst, Northeast Ohio's premier supplier of electricity may have allowed a dangerous situation to develop by haphazard maintenance of its power lines, then to mushroom beyond control by its failure to alert other grid users to the growing storm in its sector. Neither feeling inspires confidence in a firm of critical importance to this region's economic future," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 6:   Some question FirstEnergy's decision to cut jobs

CLEVELAND -- "FirstEnergy Corp. has shed more than 3,100 jobs in recent years while evolving into one of the country's largest investor-owned utilities. . . . No comprehensive list of cuts by job classification is available, but nearly 400 fell on union members who handle line, substation and power plant jobs in the Cleveland territory. At the same time, FirstEnergy's backlog in Ohio of common, or routine, problems, had grown to 11,000 since last year, and safety complaints more than doubled between 2001 and 2002," Tom Breckenridge, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- CEO sheds light on blackout issues; FirstEnergy's Burg talks about hearing, investigation, local reaction, Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.

AKRON -- Despite string of crises, CEO remains positive on FirstEnergy's future, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 5:  FirstEnergy details pre-outage events

WASHINGTON, DC -- "For the first time, FirstEnergy Corp. yesterday publicly released a chronology of problems that erupted before last month's blackout. FirstEnergy's defense argues that instead of pulling in power from all over the region, thus setting up disruptions, it was somewhat of an innocent bystander - with power being pulled through its territory. Craig Baker, senior vice president of regulation and public policy at AEP, said, "Clearly they've laid out a timeline of events that happened around the grid . . . I don't see the relationship in any way to the blackout." As for AEP's cutting itself off from FirstEnergy as designed after problems were detected, Baker said, "We don't know why other people's systems didn't work the way that ours did,'" Teresa Dixon Murray and John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Congress begins talks on energy bill , Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Utility releases timeline on problems , Malia Rulon, Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- FirstEnergy on defensive, John Russell, Akron Beacon Journal.

WASHINGTON, DC -- FirstEnergy defends its actions in blackout, Sabrina Eaton and Tom Diemer, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 4:  Davis-Besse flaws were well-known, lawsuit says
Contractor detailed problems in í88 report

TOLEDO -- "FirstEnergy Corp. has known for years that Davis-Besse had design flaws that made the nuclear plant vulnerable to disaster, according to a South Carolina contractor who claims his firm was banned from the site in the fall of 1988 after he had documented alleged shortcomings in a progress report. William N. Keisler, president of BKE, Inc., and Nuclear Maintenance Integration Consultants Corp., said in a lawsuit filed in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was kept largely in the dark by FirstEnergy and one of its subsidiaries, Toledo Edison Co., which operated Davis-Besse. Davis-Besseís work force historically has been reluctant to come forward because of retribution fears, according to the lawsuit. The NRC has said it will not tolerate that kind of intimidation, and that any lingering signs of it must be overcome before it will allow the plant to be restarted," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

AKRON -- Utility CEO in hot seat today; FirstEnergy's Burg praised in Akron for civic efforts, Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal. "[Wayne Brennessel, Summit County Red Cross CEO] said it has been alarming to hear and watch the national media attack FirstEnergy. 'What I've seen in the media is FirstEnergy painted as a corporate demon that descends and sucks out of the community,' he said. 'I would say it's really quite the opposite.'

WASHINGTON, DC -- Hundreds of rule violations tied to possible blackouts," Matthew Wald, New York Times.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Congress' blackout probe centers on FirstEnergy tapes, Chris Baltimore, Tom Doggett, Reuters.

WASHINGTON, DC -- FirstEnergy chief refuses all blackout blame, Associated Press.
Sep 3:  Utilities send some remarks on blackout to Congress

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The president and chief executive of [International Transmission of Ann Arbor, Michigan], Joseph L. Welch, said, 'Had Michigan been warned of the problems, a number of actions, which would have forestalled the blackout, were available.' Mr. Welch said those actions would have helped save FirstEnergy of Akron, Ohio, the utility he said was the source of the blackout. Mr. Welch, who referred to the mishmash, asked that the Energy Department listen to control-room tapes to confirm that FirstEnergy had sent no warning," Matthew Wald, Carl Hulse, New York Times.

WASHINGTON, DC -- House panel ready to hear from experts on blackout, Stephen Koff, Tom Diemer, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- C-SPAN to cover hearings; Taft among witnesses scheduled for today's session on big blackout, R.D. Heldenfels, Akron Beacon Journal.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Bright Lights: Electric utilities have given millions to lawmakers investigating the blackout, Steven Weiss, Center for Responsive Politics.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Nuclear plants warned of computer threats, Ted Bridis, Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- FirstEnergy transcripts show chaos before blackout, Chris Baltimore, Reuters.
Sep 2:  Experts point to strains on electric grid's specialists

NEW YORK, NY -- "Perhaps the biggest pressure facing system operators, many say, is an intensifying clash between their own efforts to keep the system in balance and the industry's efforts to maximize sales. The PJM [Interconnection] system operator who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the wall between the commercial side of the business and the entities responsible for running the grid was inadequate. "Things have gotten extremely intense compared to the way it was, say, 10 years ago," he said. "We're facing people out there who are strictly power marketers. They really don't care too much about the reliability. They get their bonuses based on the size of the deals they make." . . . In every area, the industry is looking to push more power on lines that cannot keep up with the flows, utility workers and independent experts say," Andrew Revkin, New York Times.

TOLEDO -- Nuclear waste may go through area sooner, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Hour's notice could have halted blackout -- Michigan governor, Chris Baltimore, Reuters.

WASHINGTON, DC -- NRC issues information notice on potential of nuclear power plant network to worm infection, release, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "The investigation also found plant computer engineering personnel were unaware of a security patch that prevented the worm from working."
Sep 1:  Reactor near to a dismal record
565-day mark is Wednesday

TOLEDO -- "The cost of the current outage is more than $500 million, and is starting to approach the $642 million price tag that it cost to build the plant in 1977. . . There is a sense of dťjŗ vu for some NRC and Davis-Besse officials when it comes to the two extended shutdowns [1985-86 and 2002-03] and the issues of plant management and regulatory oversight: During both outages, the workplace environment has been questioned. 'What was really necessary was a change in attitude, a change in management style,' Joe Williams, Jr., Toledo Edison Co.'s senior vice president of nuclear operations, was quoted as saying about the 1985 incident in the fall of 1986. 'A lot of the problems went back to Day One,'" Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.