Davis-Besse news

Nov - Dec, 2003

Dec 30: NRC mum on restart of nuclear generator
Davis-Besse morale on mend, utility says

OAK HARBOR -- "One key NRC official said he was taken aback by FirstEnergy’s claim it had overcome some morale problems that were cited at the plant just 10 days ago. 'That was a little bit of a surprise,' Bill Ruland, vice chairman of the NRC's oversight panel, told reporters during a break after hearing the utility claim that its so-called 'safety-conscious work environment' was now good enough to support a restart. . . . [Fred Von Ahn, the utility’s vice president for oversight] told the NRC that the latest survey was completed by a 'tired and frustrated workforce,' just a couple of weeks after 13 employees had put in 72 hours in one week and many others had worked nearly 70 hours. The norm during the 22-month outage has been 55 to 58 hours a week, he said. . . . Mr. Ruland opened the session by saying no other meetings have been scheduled yet beyond the oversight panel’s next monthly meeting on Jan. 13. 'That's it for now,' he said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse workers question bosses' commitment to safety, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- FirstEnergy hopes changes at Davis-Besse will be enough, John Seewer, Associated Press.

SAN FRANCISCO -- FirstEnergy eyes Davis-Besse plant restart soon, Leonard Anderson, Reuters.
Dec 29: NRC to meet with FirstEnergy on Davis-Besse work

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- "A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel tracking utility FirstEnergy Corp.'s steps to restart its troubled Davis-Besse nuclear power station will meet with company officials on Monday to review actions to improve safety work at the plant. . . . At a meeting Dec. 19, NRC inspectors presented results of two inspections that found certain work plans were inadequate, operators were not aware of the status of plant equipment, work control appeared disorganized, and operators were not following procedures," Reuters.

NEW YORK -- U.S. Corporate Bonds: Spreads firm, helped by equity rally. "Bonds of FirstEnergy Corp. continued to trade at wider levels following last week's rating downgrade by Standard & Poor's. S&P cut FirstEnergy's senior unsecured debt to a junk level 'BB-plus' from 'BBB-minus,' saying the power company's business risks had increased," Dena Aubin, Reuters.
Dec 27: Blackout Ohio's top story of year

COLUMBUS -- "The largest power blackout in American history, believed to have started in Ohio, topped Ohio State winning the national football championship as the state's biggest story of 2003. Those two stories led the list of the 10 most memorable of the year as ranked by Ohio Associated Press newspaper editors and broadcasters," James Hannah, Associated Press.
Dec 24: FirstEnergy has failed to generate public confidence

PORT CLINTON -- "Instead, we are unconvinced that Davis-Besse's parent company, FirstEnergy, has demonstrated that it is responsible enough to operate the plant. And while we're at it, we're unsure that the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is capable of making decisions to ensure the public's safety. . . We think it's a foregone conclusion that Davis-Besse should be allowed to restart at some point; we're just not convinced that FirstEnergy should be allowed to do it, and the NRC's recent findings make that even clearer," editorial, Port Clinton News Herald.

CLEVELAND -- Some FirstEnergy debt now in junk territory, Peter Krouse, Adelle Waldman, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

NEW YORK, NY -- Standard & Poor's lowers FirstEnergy's credit rating; Wall Street agency concerned about Davis-Besse troubles, August blackout, Associated Press.

NEW YORK, NY -- Agency lowers ratings on 2 FirstEnergy debt categories, Toledo Blade.

NEW YORK, NY -- FirstEnergy "market perform," estimates reduced, Wachovia Securities.
Dec 22: FirstEnergy CEO undergoing medical treatment

AKRON -- "FirstEnergy Corp. said today that Chairman and Chief Executive Officer H. Peter Burg will be out of the office for an extended period while undergoing treatment for leukemia. Mr. Burg plans to return to his normal schedule following release by his doctor. In Mr. Burg's absence, FirstEnergy's Board of Directors has named President and Chief Operating Officer Anthony J. Alexander, Acting Chief Executive Officer," release, full text, FirstEnergy.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy president to take over during chief's leukemia treatment, Associated Press.

NEW YORK -- FirstEnergy CEO undergoing leukemia treatment, Reuters.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy CEO takes leave, Crain's Cleveland Business.

CLEVELAND -- FirstEnergy deal must be fair, editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- Deregulation hasn't cut Ohioans' energy bills, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- Regulation rules, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Dec 21: The consequences of something going wrong

Joseph Korff
Joseph Korff
OAK HARBOR -- "My name is Joseph Korff. I live in Vermilion, Ohio, right on Lake Erie.. . I appreciate the hard work and perseverance that everybody has had to go through for this gut wrenching experience to find all of the skeletons in your closet and realize that they’re not only in someone else's house, but they’re in your house and to deal with them forthrightly. My purpose right now is to describe the worst case scenario and remind people in this room what happens in the worst case scenario by again quoting from the 2002 report by the Nuclear Energy Agency, and I’ll tie that into a very personal experience. . . .The consequences of not doing absolutely flawless work in a nuclear power plant now that they have age on them are unthinkable, and you're the ones responsible. You’re the public -- you hold the public trust. I know you take it seriously, and I can only emphasize the consequences of something going wrong. We’re going to try to help this young man with this operation for his daughter, and we hope that it doesn’t happen here," Joseph Korff, Vermilion, remarks, public meeting between U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission O350 Panel and FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, November 12, 2003.
Dec 20: Davis-Besse can't restart this year; safety issues remain, panel says

OAK HARBOR -- "There is no way the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will allow FirstEnergy Corp. to restart its Davis-Besse nuclear power plant this year. And maybe not any time soon next year," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- Regulators questioning plant safety; NRC findings push back consideration of restart. On Sunday, a shift manager gave the inspection team reason to believe he didn’t understand the plant’s operating condition. Some employees crucial to running the plant even made the inspection team believe they were confused about when they were supposed to report for duty, said [Rick Skokowski, head of the NRC’s Restart Readiness Assessment Team and] senior resident inspector at the Byron nuclear complex near Rockford, Ill. Control room and equipment operators were among those who fared poorly. Numerous violations were cited, so many that the NRC didn’t have an exact count -- although the agency pointed out that nothing posed a risk to public safety, in large part because the plant is in a nonnuclear mode. . .It found that nearly a fourth of all control room and equipment operators indicated in November that they believe FirstEnergy has put profits ahead of safety, an emphasis on production that the NRC has said is largely responsible for Davis-Besse’s problems. In March, just 6 percent felt that way, according to a breakdown of survey results released yesterday by the NRC," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- Nuclear reactor restart delayed; FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse plant to remain idle until next year. Regulators still have concerns. "[Analyst Warwick Busfield of Oppenheimer & Co. said] 'They (FirstEnergy) have been saying 'couple more months' for about a year now.' 'It's alarming that only days ago FirstEnergy believed it was ready to restart the plant,' [Shari Weir of the Cleveland-based watchdog group Ohio Citizen Action] said. 'Either they don't know how a nuclear plant is supposed to operate or they're trying to deceive the NRC and the public. Both alternatives are outrageous,'" Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

NEW YORK, NY -- Schemes, scandals top national news; Editors name mutual funds trading abuses biggest story of year. "8. Blackout whodunnit: The largest blackout in U.S. history shut power to homes and businesses from the Northeast to the upper Midwest and parts of Canada in mid-August. But even before the lights came back on, the questions began. Energy officials eventually pinned responsibility on power-line failures in Ohio that investigators said should have been contained by operators at FirstEnergy Corp.," Associated Press.
Dec 19: NRC says damaged nuclear plant not ready to reopen

OAK HARBOR -- "A two-week inspection of operations at the shuttered Davis-Besse nuclear plant revealed numerous operator errors, and government inspectors don't think the plant is ready to restart, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Friday. . . The company still hopes to restart the plant soon and does not consider the problems to be major, spokesman Todd Schneider said. . . A second inspection team that evaluated safety attitudes among workers at the plant said they found significant improvement, but a recent survey showed a decline in a number of areas. 'The team does not have reasonable assurance in the quality and consistency of future' performance by the company, Geoff Wright, leader of that inspection group, said in a report," John Seewer, Associated Press.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- NRC tells FirstEnergy Ohio nuke needs more work, Reuters.

NEW YORK, NY -- NRC/Davis-Besse: Inspectors find safety issues persist, Dow Jones.

NEW YORK, NY -- FirstEnergy bonds take hit on NRC recommendation. "Robert Rubin, fixed income analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities. 'The fact that this has happened is consistent with our view that this management team is operationally incapable of running their business. The fact that there haven't been changes to us is consistent with the fact that there's a corporate governance problem at FirstEnergy," Rubin said. "Until management changes, there will be continued volatility at FirstEnergy. We have given up on even believing that this operational management team can get it done,'" Nancy Leinfuss, Reuters.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy cuts trees near lines; Utility goes beyond standard of five-year trimming. "'The wholesale destruction of trees simply because they don't feel like doing routine maintenance is an extremely bad idea,' said Shari Weir, Cleveland program director of Ohio Citizen Action. 'It shows no regard for the environment, and it's absolutely the wrong way to deal with the problem,'" Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.

TOLEDO -- Area trees may pay price for blackout, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy customers' written pleas go to PUCO. "Gov. Bob Taft will forward a pile of postcards from FirstEnergy customers to the PUCO, dismissing claims that he has a special role to play in the utility's upcoming rate battle. Taft spokesman Orest Holubec said the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is the appropriate venue for the 4,700 postcards that Ohio Citizen Action delivered Wednesday," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Dec 18: Consumer group wants Taft to get billions in refunds from FirstEnergy

COLUMBUS -- "A citizens' group planned to deluge Gov. Bob Taft yesterday with thousands of postcards asking for refunds of billions of dollars they believe they have been overcharged by FirstEnergy. The 4,700 postcards collected and delivered by Ohio Citizen Action ask Taft to use his influence to demand an investigation by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio -- controlled by Taft -- into FirstEnergy's so-called 'stranded costs,' or the money that the utility is authorized to recoup for past investments. They also ask Taft to force the PUCO to deny FirstEnergy's latest request to continue those costs -- renamed 'rate stabilization costs' -- through 2008. 'This is really an open-ended deal for FirstEnergy,' said Citizen Action's Shari Weir. 'I'd like it a lot if I were FirstEnergy,'" Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- PUCO asked to go slow on FirstEnergy, Toledo Blade.

MCLEAN, VA -- Restart of nuclear plant delayed until new year. "The NRC expects to make a decision Jan. 2, says agency spokesman Jan Strasma. . . . FirstEnergy says employee surveys show improvement in the safety culture at Davis-Besse. About 800 people work at the plant. But Ohio Citizen Action, a 100,000-member consumer group that opposes restart of Davis-Besse with FirstEnergy in charge, says a November survey by the utility contradicts that. In the survey of 780 employees and contractors, 33 said they had been 'subjected to retaliation for raising nuclear safety/quality concerns' in the previous six months, says Paul Ryder, a spokesman for the group," Gary Stoller, USA TODAY.

AKRON -- "FirstEnergy admits plant start delay." "FirstEnergy now expects the reactor, closed since February 2002 because of a corrosion problem, to be ready to run next month, spokesman Richard Wilkins said," Cleveland Plain Dealer; no link.

WALTON HILLS -- Utility to rip out hundreds of trees. "'We are not going to have lines sagging into trees anymore,' said [FirstEnergy] company spokesman Ralph DiNicola. 'There won't be any trees.' . . . Summerset Drive resident Margaret Lennard returned from work Tuesday night to see the tree service finish removing a row of trees close to her home. 'They're totally wiping them out,' she said yesterday, cringing at what she would see when she returned after the second day of cutting. 'All of them. It is absolutely destroying the property value.' 'People have 35-foot pines and suddenly they're gone,' [Walton Hills Mayor Marlene] Anielski said, questioning whether the plan is too extreme. 'People have had those trees for years and it's just devastating to have them cut down,' Patrick O'Donnell, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Dec 17: The politics of Davis-Besse:
Have the White House and the Nuclear Energy Institute cut FirstEnergy loose?
It sure looks like it.

CLEVELAND -- "FirstEnergy probably expected help from the White House on two occasions this fall: the blackout report and the grand jury. It got nothing. . . .There's a good reason why this may be happening: Vision 2020 is the top item on the nuclear power industry's agenda. Its goal is to add 50,000 megawatts of atomic power generation -- 50 new nuclear reactors -- by the year 2020. To this end, the nuclear lobby understands their biggest challenge: convincing the public that nuclear power is clean and safe. And their biggest obstacle, perched on the southern shore of Lake Erie, is an example of a nuclear plant that is manifestly not safe: Davis-Besse. Why risk fifty new reactors for the sake of one old one?" Paul Ryder, Communication Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Citizen Action urges Gov. Bob Taft to take a stand on FirstEnergy rate case. "Citizen Action today urged Governor Bob Taft to direct the Public Utilities Commission to make a full, thorough and open review of an application by FirstEnergy to extend collection of 'stranded costs' for three years. Citizen Action delivered 4,700 postcards to the governor also calling on him to arrange a refund of the billions of dollars customers are now overpaying for FirstEnergy’s stranded costs. In its October 21 filing, with the Public Utilities Commission, FirstEnergy changed the name of stranded costs, required by law to end December 31, 2005, to 'rate stabilization charge.' The renamed charge would be collected through 2008 in the name of a rate freeze, costing the average family about $30 a month," release, Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, (216) 861-5200, (216) 533-0722 (cell).
Dec 16: Nuclear reactor startup delayed
FirstEnergy must wait until new year to make power at Davis-Besse

AKRON -- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has pushed back a restart-readiness meeting from Thursday to Dec. 29, after plant owner FirstEnergy Corp. was forced to delay until later this week a crucial startup procedure. The NRC said that before a restart-readiness meeting can be held, a team of inspectors needs to do three days of around-the-clock control room observations during the heat-up process. Delays in finishing last-minute projects at Davis-Besse pushed back the heat-up, FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider said. 'We have a few more items to wrap up,' he said. 'Things are moving along quite well.' The NRC also rescheduled other Davis-Besse related meetings from Thursday to Friday," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal. CHARLOTTE, NC -- FirstEnergy downgraded by Wachovia, Wachovia Corporation.

COLUMBUS -- Press Advisory for Wednesday: Press conference to urge Gov. Bob Taft to direct the Public Utilities Commission to do a full, thorough and open examination of FirstEnergy's application to collect $3 billion in extra stranded costs from 2006 through 2008; and deliver 4,500 postcards to Gov. Taft calling on him to arrange a refund of the billions of dollars in unjustified stranded costs now being collected by FirstEnergy. The press conference will be Wednesday, December 17, 10:00 AM at the Senate Minority Caucus room, State House, second floor; with Ohio Citizen Action and Ohio Sen. Bob Hagan. Photo opportunity, Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, (216) 861-5200, (216) 533-0722 cell.

CINCINNATI -- Despite bad rap, Sen. Blessing aims to be Ohio Consumers' Counsel, Cincinnati Enquirer.
Dec 15: FirstEnergy still retaliating against Davis-Besse employees who raise safety problems
Company cooked data to improve results

CLEVELAND -- "From May to November, 2003, FirstEnergy's primary goal was to prove to the public and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it now puts safety first at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant. In that period, however, Davis-Besse employees report that FirstEnergy managers committed at least 33 acts of 'retaliation for raising nuclear safety/quality concerns.' That's an average of one every six days. During the previous six-month period, October 2002 to March 2003, employees also reported at least 33 acts of retaliation; again, one every six days. In other words, FirstEnergy's own surveys show no improvement at all in the most important indicator of 'safety culture.' These startling statistics come from FirstEnergy’s most recent employee survey, which the company released on December 3, saying the results were 'positive and encouraging.' FirstEnergy obscured these survey results by manipulating the data, changing both sample characteristics and question wording. In fact, as described below, the raw data behind the survey result most prominently featured by FirstEnergy executives ("I can raise nuclear safety concerns without fear of retaliation") may show a slight increase in intimidation in the plant," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Paul Ryder, Communications Director, Ohio Citizen Action, memo to James Caldwell, Administrator, Region III, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

LISLE, IL -- Davis-Besse restart meeting postponed to December 29; Meeting on NRC inspection finding delayed until December 19, Jan Strasma, Viktoria Mitlyng, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

CLEVELAND -- Needed: a zealot at Ohio Consumers' Counsel, editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Dec 13: NRC may observe Davis-Besse test

AKRON -- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission could begin a three-day, round-the-clock observation of the Davis-Besse nuclear-plant control room Sunday. . . As of Friday, FirstEnergy's schedule calls for heating up the nuclear reactor Sunday afternoon, using coolant pumps to supply heat, not nuclear fuel. The NRC wants to see how well control-room operators do their job this time, after making two serious mistakes in a similar test in September," Akron Beacon Journal.
Dec 12: A mountain of mail on Davis-Besse

CLEVELAND -- "The latest tallies put the total amount of communication from Ohio Citizen Action members across northern Ohio on the issue of Davis Besse at a jaw-dropping 43,458. These messages, mostly handwritten letters, have gone to FirstEnergy officials (27,834), U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials (11,742), and Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (3,882)," Ohio Citizen Action.

MARBLEHEAD -- Marblehead Council refuses to back restart of Davis-Besse. "Thursday night, Village Council declined to draft a resolution supporting restart of the embattled power plant -- bucking a countywide trend. . . . 'I think we'd be premature sending any sort of message over there until FirstEnergy and the NRC come to some sort of an agreement,' Councilman Frank Zalar said," Rick Neale, Port Clinton News Herald.

NEWARK, NJ -- FirstEnergy's embattled Jersey Central Power & Light has a new leader, Tom Johnson, Newark Star-Ledger.

LISLE, IL -- FirstEnergy summoned to defend Perry plant, Toledo Blade.
Dec 11:  FirstEnergy grilled about Davis-Besse

LISLE, IL -- "If there were any doubts that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission still has questions about FirstEnergy Corp.'s ability to operate the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant safely, they were erased yesterday. At a hastily called meeting at the agency's Chicago offices, a phalanx of NRC engineers and inspectors peppered plant managers for 5½ hours with scores of questions about what has been done to improve the quality of the engineering at the facility and about new programs designed to nip problems in the bud before they become critical," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

PORT CLINTON -- County administrator sees early Davis-Besse restart. "Dr. Barry Cover told [FirstEnergy Vice President Mark Bezilla, the corporation's top on-site Davis-Besse executive] that some Davis-Besse workers look 'dead beat' from working 60- and 70-hour weeks readying the power station for restart. 'It doesn't work in my business,' Cover said. 'I don't see how it can work in yours,'" Rick Neale, Port Clinton News Herald.

ISLE, IL -- Utility touts its training for safety; NRC puts onus on data, performance, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Dec 9:  Consumers' counsel search expanded

COLUMBUS -- "Jerome Solove, chairman of the Consumers' Counsel Governing Board, said that requiring a consumer advocacy background, for example, could 'significantly narrow the field of applicants.' . . . An Ohio Citizen Action analysis released yesterday showed that FirstEnergy giving is on the rise. The electric company's employees and its political action committee gave $113,955 to Ohio campaigns in 1997-98 and, by 2001-02, were up to $315,040," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- "Watchdog vacancy: Consumer background optional for position." "The opening for the position, which pays up to $137,654 annually, will be advertised next month with a Jan. 26 application deadline. Four board members will narrow the field, selecting Tongren’s replacement by March 8, officials said yesterday. [Helen MacMurray, a board member] suggested hastening the process because of pending utility cases and what she described as failed consumer confidence in the agency. But Solove responded that it would be 'rushing the process.' The board opted to stick with the original timeline," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

CLEVELAND -- Countdown begins toward restart of idled Davis-Besse, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

LISLE, IL -- NRC oversight panel to discuss Davis-Besse corrective action program improvements, Jan Strasma, Viktoria Mitlyng, release, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 77 KB pdf. Yesterday's news release has been amended to include teleconference details and to change the time of the meeting from 9 AM to 9:30 AM CST (10:30 AM EST).
Dec 8:  Group says FirstEnergy wants return on political investments


COLUMBUS -- "Ohio Citizen Action today released a new study of FirstEnergy political contributions, saying, 'by asking for a quick OK to at least $3 billion in extra electric costs, FirstEnergy is looking to collect a dividend from lavish political investments over the years.' The study showed contributions from FirstEnergy Political Action Committees and employees totaled $113,955 from 1997-1998 to Ohio statewide and legislative candidates and Ohio statewide political party committees. From 1999-2000, FirstEnergy interests contributed a total of $289,291. During 2001-2002, FirstEnergy PACs and employees contributed $315,040. FirstEnergy also contributed $25,000 directly to Governor Bob Taft’s issue PAC in 2000 and in 2003 they gave $200,000 to Taft’s Ohioans for the Third Frontier PAC," Shari Weir, Catherine Turcer, Ohio Citizen Action.

Full text of Political giving: FirstEnergy’s high-yield investment plan, 80 KB doc

LORAIN -- FirstEnergy is the one to watch, and that's no compliment. "FirstEnergy Corp. says it's ready to reopen its troubled Davis-Besse nuclear power plant west of Sandusky by the end of this month. There's no hurry as far as we're concerned," editorial, Lorain Journal.

TOLEDO -- Ike's 'Atoms for Peace'. "However, memories of Chernobyl and the close call at Three Mile Island in 1977, and the ongoing disgrace at FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, have badly tarnished nuclear power’s reputation. The blame rests largely with a few rotten apples among the nuclear electric utilities, whose carelessness and incompetence led to those and other incidents. Individuals at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission share that blame. Their malfeasance of duty in enforcing regulations and fostering a strong safety culture at nuclear plants rank among nuclear power’s biggest problems. As Allied commander-in-chief during World War II, with a famously explosive temper, Ike never tolerated that kind of behavior. Nuclear power’s main problems today involve the people shepherding the technology. Ike would have drummed the misfeasors right out of the service. That same approach from the nuclear power industry and the NRC might do wonders to revive public confidence in atoms for peace today," editorial, Toledo Blade.

MCLEAN, VA -- Final inspection begins Monday for troubled plant. "We feel very strongly the NRC should not even consider restarting [the Davis-Besse nuclear plant] while the company is under criminal investigation," says Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, a consumer group that has about 100,000 members," Gary Stoller, USA TODAY.

LISLE, IL -- NRC staff to meet with Firstenergy to discuss Davis-Besse restart; NRC oversight panel to discuss Davis-Besse corrective action program improvements, Jan Strasma, Viktoria Mitlyng, release, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 71 KB pdf.

OAK HARBOR -- The future Of Davis-Besse, WTOL TV 11.
Dec 6:  Review: Tongren ordered deputy to destroy records

COLUMBUS -- "In a recent letter to Ohio Consumers' Council Governing Board members, assistant attorney general Kent Shimeall said the attorney general's office found [former Ohio Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren] had talked specifically at least four times with his deputy, Eric Stephens, about how to handle the documents and that Tongren 'actually directed their destruction.' 'Each time he spoke with Mr. Tongren, Mr. Stephens advised against the destruction of the documents because of the public's and the media's interest in the issues surrounding that [electric restructuring] litigation,' Shimeall wrote," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Dec 4:  Ohio Citizen Action wants records of FirstEnergy lobbying on Davis-Besse

CLEVELAND -- "Ohio Citizen Action today filed freedom-of-information papers with the White House and the office of Chairman Nils Diaz, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for copies of records of contacts between them and FirstEnergy representatives or Senator George Voinovich about the troubled Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. FirstEnergy needs U.S. NRC approval for something they clearly can't do: safely split atoms at Davis-Besse. After years of big contributions to politicians, it would be no surprise to see FirstEnergy's Anthony Alexander working through both the White House and Senator George Voinovich (Ohio), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, and Nuclear Safety of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Voinovich's entire political career -- from Collinwood to Columbus to Washington, DC -- has been sponsored by FirstEnergy. The public needs to know whether the NRC is making this decision under political pressure from FirstEnergy's friends," Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse awaits countdown to restart, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- NRC may decide this month if Davis-Besse plant can restart, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse ready to request restart, John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- FirstEnergy makes case to restart Davis-Besse, John Seewer, Associated Press.
Dec 3:  FirstEnergy analyst meeting in New York:
Fox declares chicken coop to be free of intimidation and retaliation

NEW YORK, NY -- At a meeting in New York this morning with financial analysts, Gary Leidich, FirstEnergy Executive Vice President, produced numbers purporting to show that the intimidation of employees at Davis-Besse had abated so much that it was safe to start the nuclear reactor. He said that employees who had a "willingness to raise concerns without fear of retaliation" had risen from 67% in Aug 2002, to 85% in March 2003, to 87% in Nov 2003. Similarly, employees who responded that the company was "effectively preventing and detecting retaliation" reportedly rose from 67% to 84% to 88%.

There are three fatal problems with these numbers:
  1. The employees were surveyed by the same management that has for years maintained the climate of intimidation at the plant. How can anyone expect employees to give straight answers under these circumstances? Last spring, after one worker was fired for raising safety problems and then attacked publicly by FirstEnergy, utility expert Ulrich Witt said, 'The message is out there that the utility is persecuting whistleblowers.'. . . 'I guarantee there will never be a credible witness who will step forward and speak honestly about what happened at that plant, because of this,' Toledo Blade, Apr 29, 2003.

  2. FirstEnergy wants the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the public to accept these numbers as true, even though it has routinely deceived both in the past, such that a federal grand jury is now meeting in Cleveland to consider criminal charges against the company.

  3. The new numbers don't show a safe plant. For example, FirstEnergy now says last spring's survey showed 85% of employees said they were willing "to raise concerns without fear of retaliation." At the time, however, the survey was reported to show that 88 Davis-Besse employees or contractors said that they had been "subjected to some kind of retaliation or harassment for raising nuclear safety, quality or compliance concerns in the previous six months," and 165 said they knew of other workers who were harassed or retaliated against, Akron Beacon Journal, Apr 16, 2003. So, unless FirstEnergy is changing the survey results, then apparently there can be an 85% response to the survey question, and widespread retaliation and harassment going on in the plant.
NEW YORK, NY -- FirstEnergy looking past the dark days, Melissa Davis, The Street.

AKRON -- Utility says earnings off mark; FirstEnergy won't meet analysts' expectations, John Russell, Akron Beacon Journal.

LISLE, IL -- Letter, James Caldwell, Region III Administrator, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to Davis-Besse neighbors (58 KB pdf).
Dec 2: Oct 7 U.S. NRC transcript
Erie Islanders have no way to evacuate

OAK HARBOR -- ". . .we strongly oppose the reactivation of nuclear power generation at Davis-Besse. Over 150 Kelleys Island residents have already signed a petition opposing the reopening of Davis-Besse. Kelleys Island is directly northeast of Davis-Besse by 16 miles. The prevailing southwest winds would blow radioactivity on us within minutes. No plan exists for evacuation of Kelleys Island inhabitants and visitors, nor is there any practical evacuation possible," Donna Lueke, reading a letter from the Kelleys Island Citizens Group to FirstEnergy CEO Peter Burg and NRC Regional Administrator James Caldwell, transcript, public meeting, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission 0350 Panel, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, evening session, 343 KB doc (also available as a 183 KB pdf file).
Transcript of afternoon session, 273 KB pdf.
Nov 29:  Wave of plant purchases spurs debate on whether Davis-Besse should be sold

CLEVELAND -- "[James Halloran, energy and utility analyst for National City Wealth Management] and others note it is almost the one-year anniversary of FirstEnergy Chief Executive Officer Peter Burg's widely reported comment to analysts that the company's spending on Davis-Besse had its limits. 'We are not going to allow Davis-Besse to become a black hole for FirstEnergy,' Burg said last Dec. 5. 'This situation cannot go on indefinitely. If we are not convinced that the plant can return to service safely, reliably and profitably, we will consider the alternatives,' including closing, selling or leasing the plant.. . . Rather than the outright sale of Davis-Besse, a joint venture might make more sense. Halloran said a partnership to run the plant with Exelon, for example, whose service areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey adjoin FirstEnergy's, would be a 'win' for both utilities and a reassurance for the NRC. 'It can make a lot of sense in terms of flexibility,' he said. 'You get someone in who can run the plant, while FirstEnergy still keeps its hand in," John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- "Nuclear plant ready to reopen, owner says," Malia Rulon, Associated Press. Access fee; no link.
Nov 28:  FirstEnergy stock price unfazed by all the jolts; Despite its troubles, money keeps rolling in; Company mismanaged, analyst says

AKRON -- "'We are highly disappointed with the company's performance,' said [Robert Rubin at New York-based Deutsche Bank], a credit analyst who covers FirstEnergy and other utilities. Rubin issued a research report on Monday that heavily criticized FirstEnergy management and has a sell recommendation on the company's bonds.. . .'Financially, the company has performed,' Rubin said Wednesday. 'Operationally, it's a disaster. That points to (FirstEnergy President and Chief Operating Officer) Tony Alexander.' 'We're going to carry the sell (recommendation on bonds) until management changes,' Rubin said. 'In my view, there is a corporate governance problem.... You need change to preserve integrity,'" Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
Nov 27:  Davis-Besse restart not on NRC agenda

OAK HARBOR -- "Although FirstEnergy has requested that the NRC schedule a meeting on the possible restart of the plant, the meetings will not address that issue," Port Clinton News Herald.
Nov 26:  Ohio Citizen Action to PUCO:
Don't let FirstEnergy stampede you

CLEVELAND -- "On behalf of our 100,000 dues-paying members, I am writing to ask the Public Utilities Commission to immediately halt the expedited review of FirstEnergy’s application for a 'rate stabilization plan' in Case No. 03-2144-EL-ATA and to order a full review based on the normal timelines (275 days) and processes established for rate cases. Yesterday’s decision to extend the case for two months still does not allow sufficient time for the thorough analysis of the complex issues and billions of dollars on the line in this case. . . FirstEnergy is pushing hard for speedy approval, even though rates wouldn’t be affected for two years; the dollar amount to be paid by customers has grown from millions to billions; the rate filing is a mere skeleton, leaving the door open for various rate increases that are not quantified; FirstEnergy has provided no documentation supporting its plan to continue collecting inflated rates; and neither the company nor the commission knows or will say how much FirstEnergy has collected so far in stranded costs or how much will be collected by December 31, 2005," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, letter to Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

AKRON -- Utility's rate plan to get longer study; Consumer groups have more time to review FirstEnergy's proposal. "Shari Weir, Cleveland program director of Ohio Citizen Action, said the revised timeline is still not enough. 'What's the hurry?' she said. Weir said members of her group were not attending the public hearings, calling them a sham," Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy ordered to draw up remedies for blackout issues, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Nov 25:  Utility requests Davis-Besse restart

CLEVELAND -- "A FirstEnergy spokesman said the plant should be ready for nuclear heat-up by Dec. 11 and be at full power by year's end, assuming the NRC approves. FirstEnergy officials previously have predicted, and then missed, many dates by which Davis-Besse was to have been ready. Investment analysts are watching closely to see if the utility meets this latest one. They also are following the criminal investigation, as well as whether FirstEnergy is sued by customers or punished by regulators for its major role in causing the widespread Aug. 14 blackout. Because of those uncertainties, the bond rating agency Standard & Poor's yesterday said it is keeping FirstEnergy on credit watch for a possible downgrade of its debt to 'junk' status," John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy says Davis-Besse ready; Report saying major work done kicks off nuclear plant's restart process. "Shari Weir of Ohio Citizen Action. . . said the NRC should not even consider allowing a restart until the grand jury finishes its work," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

TOLEDO -- FirstEnergy takes step to get Davis-Besse on line, Toledo Blade.

PORT CLINTON -- Local politicians lobbying for support of Davis-Besse; County, 2 townships sign resolutions, Rick Neale, Port Clinton News Herald.

CLEVELAND -- "FirstEnergy's proposal, in its present form, will over-compensate FirstEnergy, over-charge the customers, unduly delay competition, and put government aggregation programs out of business," Michael G. Konicek, City of Cleveland, testimony before the Ohio Public Utilities Commission.

COLUMBUS -- PUCO extends procedural schedule on FirstEnergy plan for end of market development period, release, Ohio Public Utilities Commission.

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Consumers' Counsel will have more time to critique FirstEnergy's rate plan, release, Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel.
Nov 24:  10,242 Ohio families write to U.S. NRC: Stop FirstEnergy from flipping the switch at Davis-Besse

CLEVELAND -- "By the end of last week, the number of Ohio families writing letters, signing petitions, or sending emails to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission passed the 10,000 mark. The messages are going to James Caldwell, Regional Administrator, who will decide whether FirstEnergy can restart the plant. On October 2, Caldwell said, 'The technical problems you can fix. [But] it goes back to fundamentals. I'm not sure that folks [at Davis-Besse] could actually identify a safety issue,' (Toledo Blade, Oct 2, 2003). Another 27,834 neighbors have sent handwritten letters, signed petitions, or sent postcards to FirstEnergy urging them to retire the Davis-Besse reactor," Ohio Citizen Action.

PORT CLINTON -- Study: Davis Besse spent fuel could create nuclear nightmare; Radiation accident could kill 25,000 people. "While much of the debate has focused on whether the plant should be allowed to restart, NewsChannel5 has obtained a copy of a study that suggests a potentially bigger risk. It focuses on the stockpiles of spent fuel. The study, conducted in 2000 at the request of the NRC, concludes in a worst-case scenario that as many as 25,000 people could die from exposure to radiation in an accident involving spent fuel. 'A radioactive cloud from Davis Besse can go right over Cleveland,' [consumer advocate Ralph] Nader said. . . 'They say that their safeguards are such that there's no risk, but we were told that about the plant, too,' said Port Clinton resident Donna Lueke," Ted Hart, News Channel 5 ABC Cleveland.

TOLEDO -- Finger points to FirstEnergy. "FirstEnergy must move swiftly to correct a corporate mindset that tolerates less than first-rate operation, a point also underscored by the near-disaster at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo. That plant has remained closed as company officials and federal regulators attempt to come to grips with the problems revealed in that incident. If a management shakeup is needed to do this, so be it," editorial, Toledo Blade.

NEW YORK -- Standard & Poors may still cut FirstEnergy corporate credit rating, Reuters.
Nov 23:  Asleep at the switch

The tallest tree in this Aug 14 photo caused the loss of FirstEnergy's Hanna-Juniper line, running from Portage County to Cuyahoga County. Other 345-kV conductors and shield wires are in the background (Nelson Tree).
Hanna Juniper line
CLEVELAND -- "The joint U.S.-Canadian government interim report on the causes of the massive blackout last August, as expected, points a finger right at Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. The company's malfunctioning computers and downed transmission lines were 'the most important causes of the blackout,' which left 50 million people in the dark. To FirstEnergy, already embarrassed by its failure to discover a potentially disastrous hole in a reactor lid at the Davis-Besse power plant, these are fighting words. . . Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham was blunt. "This blackout was largely preventable," he said. That's a lot more believable than FirstEnergy's attempts to deflect the blame," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- Beyond FirstEnergy; The Akron utility deserves its share of the blame for the Blackout of '03. It doesn't deserve all of it, editorial, Akron Beacon Journal.

COLUMBUS -- "Time to get tough; Report highlights need for mandatory rules to keep electricity on." "An independent investigation was right to slap most of the blame for the big blackout of 2003 on the Akron-based utility FirstEnergy. . . The report blistered the company’s inept maintenance, including failure to keep control-center computers from malfunctioning and not trimming trees around power lines," editorial, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

WASHINGTON, DC -- The blackout, explained, Matthew Wald, New York Times.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Hot Hand/Cold Hand, editorial, Washington Post.
Nov 22:  Grand jury subpoenas FirstEnergy
Davis-Besse nuclear plant records sought for criminal investigation

AKRON -- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission believes it has found evidence of criminal wrongdoing at FirstEnergy Corp.'s Davis-Besse nuclear plant, and as a result, a federal grand jury wants plant documents and records from the Akron utility. . . If an NRC investigation finds 'substantiated' criminal violations, it refers the matters to the U.S. Department of Justice, which then decides whether to pursue further," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

CLEVELAND -- U.S. grand jury examining reports from Davis-Besse, John Mangels, Stephen Koff, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

TOLEDO -- Grand jury investigates FirstEnergy; Criminal probe focuses on reactor-lid corrosion, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

AKRON -- Eco-group wants FirstEnergy CEO to quit. "[Peter] Burg's reign has taken the company 'to the brink of junk-bond status,' Shari Weir said.," Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal.

CLEVELAND -- Top of tree in blackout investigation is missing. "The missing portion ought to be explained, said Robert Burns, from Ohio State University's National Regulatory Research Institute. 'It's the type of thing that raises eyebrows,' he said," Peter Krouse, Teresa Dixon Murray, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- Utility praises another view; Report commissioned by FirstEnergy suggests outside factors could have caused blackout, Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal.

OAK HARBOR -- FirstEnergy focuses on startup; NRC meets with utility Dec. 3, Rick Neale, Port Clinton News Herald.
Nov 21:  Citizen Action calls for FirstEnergy Board to replace CEO Peter Burg

CLEVELAND -- "Other companies are not condemned in newspapers around the world, as yours was yesterday. Other companies do not come within 3/8-inch of warped cracking steel of contaminating the largest freshwater system in the world, as yours did last year. Other companies do not survive solely because they are able to wangle billions in customer overcharges from state regulators, as yours has for years. . . .Mr. Burg is clearly not up to the leadership demands of the job he currently holds. Whether you have verbalized it publicly or privately, I suspect you already know this. It is time to call the question. If what has happened so far is not enough to prompt you to do your duty, then there never will be enough and observers must conclude that there is no accountability in your company whatsoever," Shari Weir, Ohio Citizen Action.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- FirstEnergy unit gets subpoena for nuclear records. "FirstEnergy, in a filing by its Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. unit with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said the subpoena was issued by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division. The grand jury called for documents and records concerning the inspection and maintenance of the reactor vessel head at the Davis-Besse plant," Reuters.

CLEVELAND -- Grand jury seeks Davis-Besse documents. "Meanwhile, the public interest group Ohio Citizen Action sent a letter Friday to the FirstEnergy board insisting on the resignation of H. Peter Burg, the company's chairman and chief executive officer. The group tied Burg's performance to FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse and blackout problems. Durbin said the request is 'ridiculous, when you consider all that Pete has done for this company and the northeast Ohio region,'" M.R. Kropko, Associated Press.

CHICAGO -- Justice Department joins NRC Probe of FirstEnergy plant. "[U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Jan Strasma] said the Justice Department referral was made under a memorandum of understanding in which the commission passes on all matters where there's a 'reasonable suspicion that a criminal violation has occurred,'" Jon Kamp, Dow Jones. AKRON -- Utility plans few fast changes; No management shake-up foreseen at FirstEnergy; Expert reviews tree control. "Anthony J. Alexander, FirstEnergy's president and chief operating officer, said he does not foresee a shake-up in top management, but the company hired an expert to determine whether it needs to do more to prevent overgrown trees from causing power outages," Ed Meyer, Bob Downing, Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.

AKRON -- Energy secretary says people can sue over blackout. "FirstEnergy Corp., one eye blackened over its troubled Davis-Besse nuclear plant, got another punch to the face from the U.S.-Canadian investigation into the Aug. 14 blackout that blames much of the massive outage on the Akron utility. The release of the investigating group's interim report Wednesday, along with statements from U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, raise the question of how much liability Akron's largest publicly traded company faces over the blackout. At least one early study put the estimated economic impact of the blackout at more than $6 billion," Jim Mackinnon, Knight Ridder.

WASHINGTON, DC -- FirstEnergy under lights, Tom Diemer, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- FirstEnergy faces state order to upgrade, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

NEW YORK -- Ohio seeking penalties against FirstEnergy, Reuters.

AKRON -- Task force hearings. "Cleveland will be the site of the first public hearing on the U.S.-Canada task force's investigation into the Aug. 14 blackout. The time and location of the Dec. 4 hearing were not available from the U.S. Department of Energy," Akron Beacon Journal.

TOLEDO -- FirstEnergy rate plan draws critics; Toledo PUCO hearing attracts testimony from three politicians, Jon Chavez, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- Senator says he'd like to fill consumer post; Blessing nearing term limit, Associated Press.
Nov 20:  Blackout report blames Ohio utility

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The largest blackout in North American history was set off by a series of human and computer failures at an Ohio power company [FirstEnergy], where workers could not act to halt an escalating crisis because they did not even know it existed, a panel of government and industry officials reported on Wednesday. The report says that, even some 20 minutes before the lights went out from Detroit to New York City on Aug. 14, the blackout could have been safely contained if not for the utility's malfunctioning computers and inadequately trained control room workers," Richard Pérez-Peña, Matthew Wald, New York Times.

NEW YORK -- Origins of a blackout. "The technical and managerial ineptitude of one Ohio power company, FirstEnergy, appears to have been the primary cause of last August's vast power failure, which cut off electricity to tens of millions of people in eight states and parts of Canada," editorial, New York Times.

NEW YORK -- Rep. Eliot Engel (Bronx): Make firm pay New York for blackout, Brian Blomquist, New York Post.

AKRON -- Interim report faults Akron's FirstEnergy for failing to prevent major power outage, Bob Downing, Jim Mackinnon and Ed Meyer, Akron Beacon Journal.

WASHINGTON, DC -- FirstEnergy maintenance, computer failures faulted in report as chief culprit in blackout, Ann McFeatters, Toledo Blade.

NEW YORK -- FirstEnergy's credit hit after report. "Investors are spooked because both Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service have said they may cut the company's ratings, traders said. Moody's rates FirstEnergy "Baa2," or two steps above junk, while S&P rates FirstEnergy "BBB-," or one step above junk. S&P repeated on Thursday that it may still cut FirstEnergy's ratings, which could dramatically increase borrowing costs for the company by bringing at least one of its ratings into junk territory, traders said," Dan Wilchins, Reuters.

CLEVELAND -- FirstEnergy pins historic blackout on other causes, won't take blame, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- PUCO decisions anger consumers; Three area meetings seek public comment on FirstEnergy rate bid. "Ohio Citizen Action Cleveland Program Director Shari Weir said members of her group will not be in attendance at any of the hearings. 'This is not an honest hearing. It's a sham,' she said. 'It's being slammed through at record speed,' Weir said the PUCO needs to do a 'full and fair investigation.' She said her group intends to file such a request with the PUCO," Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.

COLUMBUS -- "Legislator [Louis Blessing (Cincinnati)] shows interest in replacing consumers’ counsel." ". . .Helen MacMurray, another [Office of Consumers' Counsel governing] board member, said she is unaware of anything moving forward [to replaced Robert Tongren]. 'I have not heard a single word,' MacMurray said. 'Everyone agrees that we need a strong consumer-protection advocate. I would have thought it should be done immediately.' When Tongren resigned Nov. 5, MacMurray suggested that a board search committee be formed to establish the process for picking the third consumer watchdog in the agency’s 26-year history. The board voted 5-2 to accept Tongren’s resignation, but no action was taken to set up a search committee or process for picking his successor," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.
Nov 19:  Report: Davis-Besse shutdown dodged disaster

TOLEDO -- "Northern Ohio could have experienced America’s worst nuclear accident during the Aug. 14 blackout if Davis-Besse had gone back into service last year with its severely corroded reactor head, a report issued yesterday by a nationally known watchdog group claims. . . the power loss would have resulted in a sudden upward pressure spike, which would have popped open the head and allowed radioactive steam to form in Davis-Besse’s containment structure. If the sump and the reactor pumps had clogged, as expected, a meltdown would have been inevitable, [nuclear safety engineer David Lochbaum] wrote. The region would have had two to five hours to evacuate, but that would have been complicated by inoperable warning sirens because of the power outage. 'Hundreds, perhaps thousands' would have died of radiation-induced illnesses in a few years, the report claims," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- Senator wants consumer advocate job. "A state senator [Louis Blessing (Cincinnati)], who's about to lose his job in the legislature due to term limits, says he wants to become Ohio’s official consumer advocate on utility issues. But the state’s largest consumer group says it’s a crazy idea because the legislator doesn’t have a reputation as a friend of consumers," Bill Cohen, Ohio Public Radio. Requires Realaudio.

CLEVELAND -- Special-fee information sought from FirstEnergy, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Report blames FirstEnergy for blackout; United States-Canada investigation into Aug. 14 blackout places blame on FirstEnergy failures, Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Department of Energy's Abraham: August blackout was "preventable", Reuters.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy shares down after blackout report, Connie Mabin, Associated Press.

NEW YORK -- Blackout suits against FirstEnergy face tough road, Nichola Groom, Reuters.
Nov 18:  Disaster at Davis-Besse: What might have been

What's at stake: The Great Lakes watershed, the largest freshwater system on earth and the source of 95% of freshwater in the United States. 40 million people depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water, of whom 11 million depend on Lake Erie.
Great Lakes watershed
WASHINGTON, DC -- "To outline what might have been, the Union of Concerned Scientists developed the following scenario: Davis-Besse is operating at full power on August 14, 2003, with the pineapple-sized hole in its reactor lid still undetected. On that afternoon, a cascading disturbance caused a massive blackout of the electrical grid in the United States and Canada. The blackout hit Davis-Besse and, as we speculate, hit it very hard indeed. The following accounting is fictional, but it was luck and not skill on the part of FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company or effectiveness on the part of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commisison that prevented it from being factual," David Lochbaum, Nuclear Safety Engineer, Union of Concerned Scientists, 456 KB pdf.

CLEVELAND -- "Analysts blame deregulation in blackout." "On the eve of a federal task force report that will likely implicate FirstEnergy Corp. in the August blackout, consultants hired by the utility yesterday pointed fingers everywhere but at FirstEnergy. . . FirstEnergy yesterday would not say how much it paid for the new studies and denied releasing them in time to deflect the impact of the latest task force report," John Funk, Teresa Dixon Murray, Peter Krouse, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Nov 17:  High-powered denial

CLEVELAND -- "FirstEnergy Corp. officials continue to sputter denials, but a draft report from the U.S. Department of Energy blames FirstEnergy and other utility companies for contributing to the massive blackout that struck Ohio, seven other states and Ontario on Aug. 14. According to the report, FirstEnergy failed to analyze its situation properly and make sure that it didn't affect the rest of the electrical grid after transmission lines short-circuited that day," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Nov 15:  Residents ask NRC to pull Davis-Besse license

MARBLEHEAD -- "Just offshore on Kelleys Island, about 100 residents signed a similar Davis-Besse petition that was delivered to the NRC in October, said Lori Hayes, owner of The Inn On Kelleys Island. 'Kelleys Island has a lot of interest in Davis-Besse because we are sitting ducks here,' Hayes said. 'We have, really, two strikes against us. One, we're right downwind from it. And two, we couldn't evacuate because of the ferry situation.' . . .Hayes said the Ohio Citizen Action 'watchdog' group, which has criticized the NRC and FirstEnergy, also collected petition signatures on Kelleys Island during a door-to-door campaign this summer. 'If that plant goes online in December, I'm sure it'll be on the list for terrorists,' Hayes said. 'We're still concerned, even though they say they fixed everything. They were unsafe to begin with,'" Rick Neale, Port Clinton News Herald.
Nov 13:  FirstEnergy: Davis-Besse nearly ready for restart

OAK HARBOR -- "By the end of the year, FirstEnergy Corp. intends to have its long-idled Davis-Besse nuclear plant making electricity again. . . .'I could care less what their schedule is,' said NRC oversight panel member and Davis-Besse senior resident inspector Scott Thomas. 'They can put out all the schedules they want. When we conclude that they're ready to operate the facility safely, that's when it [restart] will happen,'" John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Full list of missed restart dates.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse aims for startup soon; Nuclear plant has missed target dates before; Approval still needed, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy singled out for blame; Article on blackout report names only Akron power firm, Mary Ethridge, Akron Beacon Journal.

SAN FRANCISCO -- FirstEnergy stays with Dec restart for nuke plant, Reuters.

Nov 12:  Report on blackout is said to describe failure to react

WASHINGTON, DC -- "A report on the Aug. 14 blackout identifies specific lapses by various parties, including FirstEnergy's failure to react properly to the loss of a transmission line, people who have seen drafts of it say. . . . Participants in the inquiry said that engineers had identified the failure of FirstEnergy operators in Akron, Ohio, to react properly after nearby transmission lines failed, causing a short circuit that made the line disconnect itself from the grid. It was not the loss of the initial lines that caused the lights to go out from Detroit to New York City, because lines frequently fail without interrupting service, experts say. Instead, the report is said to indicate that it was the failure of the operators to perform a crucial step called a contingency analysis and then, if necessary, reconfigure the system. 'There's no evidence that was even part of their thought process,' one investigator said," Matthew Wald, New York Times.

OAK HARBOR -- The consequences of something going wrong, Joseph Korff, Vermilion, remarks, public meeting between U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission O350 Panel and FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company.

TOLEDO -- Utility lawyers rip bid to intervene in restart. "A Toledo attorney’s motion to have a state judge intervene in Davis-Besse restart efforts has FirstEnergy Corp. lawyers fuming," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

TOLEDO -- No fight in that dog. "Robert Tongren is gone, but the question remains: Does Ohio really need a state-paid utility watchdog? . . .Who needs a watchdog that doesn’t bark, much less bite?" editorial, Toledo Blade.
Nov 10:  Rate case puts spotlight on Consumers' Counsel

COLUMBUS -- "But, in the wake of Tongren's resignation -- and a near decade of criticism that he was too weak an advocate, Ohio Citizen Action's Shari Weir said it may be time to abolish the office. Eastlake Mayor Dan DiLiberto, chairman of the Northern Ohio Public Energy Council, said it may be time to decentralize the operation - so that consumers do not have to go to Columbus to complain," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- States with independent setups for utility customers, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Nov 8:  Consumers' watchdog in Ohio is disgraced, why waste our money?

LORAIN -- "It's up to State Attorney General Jim Petro to name a new consumers' counsel. Whoever he picks had better be a live wire when it comes to protecting the interests of consumers in utility matters before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Then again, this is a good time to re-evaluate whether Ohio even needs a Consumers' Counsel with a $9 million budget, essentially to watch over the PUCO, which also supposedly exists to watch out for consumers in utility matters. How many utility agencies do we need to take our money only to fail us? How long are we going to put up with blind, toothless watchdogs? Some state legislators are demanding that FirstEnergy consumers be paid a rebate and that a committee probe the dark side of Ohio's utilities deregulation story. That sounds good, especially the rebate," editorial, Lorain Morning Journal.
Nov 7:  Utility urged to rethink Davis-Besse operations
FirstEnergy asked to mull alternatives

TOLEDO -- "More than 70 medical professionals, public officials, and clergymen yesterday became the latest to to oppose FirstEnergy Corp.’s plan for restarting the utility’s beleaguered Davis-Besse nuclear plant. In a joint letter to H. Peter Burg, FirstEnergy chairman and chief executive officer, the utility was urged again to 'study alternatives' to restarting the Davis-Besse plant as a nuclear-based facility. . . .It reiterated the theme of a joint statement issued in the fall of 2002 by U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland), Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Sherrod Brown (D., Lorain), and Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D., Cleveland). Several nurses, public officials, educators, and clergymen in Toledo and other parts of northwest Ohio signed it, including Richard Lawrence, Ada City Council member; Tamara Estep, [former] Port Clinton City Council member; William Belinger, Swanton City Council member; Nancy and Walter Graumlich, Toledo Deanery of the Episcopal Church, and Howard F. Thomas and Gregg P. Sammons, co-rectors of St. Michael’s Church. Joy Skeel, professor of medical ethics in the Medical College of Ohio’s psychiatry department, said she signed it because she is 'appalled that there’s been such careless disregard for human beings,'" Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

CLEVELAND -- Medicos, ministers oppose nuke plant, "The utility intends to ask the NRC for permission to restart Davis-Besse soon after Thanksgiving," Cleveland Plain Dealer. Oh, really?

CLEVELAND -- Now for an advocate, "It's not in ratepayers' interests to replace [former Ohio Consumers' Counsel Robert] Tongren with another weak-kneed 'advocate' who wants to play nice with utility companies. Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, who selects the members of the governing board, must use his considerable leverage to ensure that the OCC selects a counsel committed to consumers. . . Ohioans need an advocate prepared to give utility companies their fair share and nothing more. The OCC's governing board should find such a candidate, or be prepared to follow Tongren off the plank," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- "Learning from errors; Tongren’s replacement needs to know from Day One that consumers are top priority," editorial, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.
Nov 6:  Physicians, nurses urge FirstEnergy to look at alternatives to Davis-Besse

CLEVELAND -- "The presidents of the Ohio Nurses Association and Physicians for Social Responsibility/Northeast Ohio, along with 50 more doctors and nurses from northern Ohio, today sent a letter to FirstEnergy CEO Peter Burg urging him to consider alternatives to reopening the nuclear reactor at Davis-Besse. . . In the letter to Burg, the medical professionals wrote, "As you make a series of difficult decisions in the coming months, please keep in mind that our communities -– and the Great Lakes region as a whole -– will have to live with the consequences. For the best interest of both the company and our communities, we urge you to take steps needed to insure reliable electric service and to study alternatives to restarting the nuclear reactor at Davis-Besse."," Eric Greve, Ohio Citizen Action; Jan Lanier, Director, Health Policy, Ohio Nurses Association; Cristina Nedelcu.

Full text of letter, all signers

COLUMBUS -- Brakes sought on FirstEnergy rate case. "Setting electric rates that northern Ohio residents will pay FirstEnergy Corp. over the next five years -- along with the rules competitors will have to play by -- is too important to decide in a few weeks, says the power company that supplies many Cleveland residents through Cleveland Public Power. WPS Energy Services of Wisconsin yesterday asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to extend by 60 days what it and others are calling an unusually compressed hearing schedule on FirstEnergy's 'rate stabilization plan' that could have explosive consequences," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy rate plan interveners, calls for extension increasing, Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- Tongren resigns as utility watchdog, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- "Hunt on for new utility watchdog; Consumers’ Counsel Tongren quits under fire over dumped report, power-company deal," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' Counsel Tongren resigns; Action follows scrutiny related to a deregulation settlement, Susanne Cervenka, William Hershey, Dayton Daily News.

COLUMBUS -- Utility watchdog out; Ohio consumers' counsel quits amid flak over FirstEnergy report, Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' counsel quits amid criticism, Julie McKinnon, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- Eric Stephens, Interim Ohio Consumers' Counsel, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

MCLEAN, VA -- Restarting nuclear plant worries some. "Ohio's Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. . . is gearing up to restart, perhaps by the end of this month," Gary Stoller, USA TODAY. Don't hold your breath.
Nov 5:  Ohio energy watchdog quits amid controversy

COLUMBUS -- "Ohio state utility watchdog Robert Tongren has resigned Wednesday following the destruction of a report criticizing FirstEnergy Corporation's cost estimates. Tongren resigned after speaking with top officials from the Ohio Consumers' Counsel's directors board. In a letter to the board, Tongren said he is leaving because he is worried the document controversy is hurting the office's ability to function," Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- "I am greatly concerned about the intense public attention. . . . ," Robert Tongren, Ohio Consumers' Counsel, letter to Jerome Solove, Chairman, Governing Board, Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' counsel resigns amid controversy, Tony Goins, Business First.

MADISON -- Tongren replacement only fixes part of the problem; Citizen Power says the buck stops at the PUCO and calls on the General Assembly to reign in PUCO, David Hughes, release, Citizen Power.
Nov 3:  End nuclear roulette

CLEVELAND -- "Powerful and potentially dangerous nuclear reactors should not operate on the honor system. That's why the Nuclear Regulatory Commission exists: to make sure reactors are properly maintained. Yet the honor system apparently thrived within the NRC, particularly when it came to 'good performers' like the Davis-Besse nuclear plant. . . . Congress must insist that the NRC beef up its oversight of nuclear power producers. The honor system has no place at the NRC," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- "State watchdog thought benefits justified deal with FirstEnergy." "'He intends to continue serving the residential consumers of Ohio,' [Ohio Consumers' Counsel] Tongren spokesman Ryan Lippe said," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.
Nov 2:  A pattern of contraditions

COLUMBUS -- "Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren has a pattern of saying one thing, then amending his comments when information contradicting him is about to be made public. . . . On Tuesday, he told his governing board that he shared the report only with staff of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, with FirstEnergy and with the lawyer representing industrial energy customers. On Wednesday, he told the Senate panel, 'We did use it [the report]. We used it with everybody.' No one asked him to explain the apparent contradiction," Sandy Theis, column, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Nov 1:  Watchdog or lapdog?

TOLEDO -- "If ever there were a need for a pit bull on behalf of residential ratepayers, this is the time. In what looks like a pre-emptive strike, FirstEnergy has filed a request with the PUCO that essentially would allow it to continue charging the equivalent of its stranded costs in exchange for continuing the rate freeze. The company cleverly calls its proposal a 'rate stabilization charge.' So, instead of lower rates as promised by proponents of deregulation, the choice for home customers could be charges that remain high -- or maybe go even higher. Deals like that -- which still must get by the PUCO -- raise the question of whether Ohioans even need a consumer watchdog, especially one on so short a leash," editorial, Toledo Blade.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Senate to continue probe of Davis-Besse. "Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich, who chairs a subcommittee on nuclear safety, said yesterday that he will hold another hearing before year's end to probe the NRC's oversight of Davis-Besse and examine new disclosures about the agency's actions and the severity of the reactor damage," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.