ASHINGTON, May 3 A nuclear plant in Ohio shut for 14
months because acid had nearly eaten through the lid of its reactor
vessel still has extensive problems in its "safety culture,"
consultants hired by the plant's owners have determined.
Much of the damage at the Davis-Besse reactor, near Toledo, has
been repaired, and the owners hope to restart it early this summer.
But in a report released on Friday by the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission, the consultants said that "accountability and ownership
for safety are not yet universally accepted in the
"An integrated and cohesive organizational safety leadership
process does not yet exist," the consultants said. "Management's
safety goals have not been consistently communicated to nor
understood by station personnel."
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which must concur before
Davis-Besse can reopen, has its own evaluation team at the plant,
seeking to measure "safety culture," as the commission refers to
factors like having everyone accept responsibility for safety and
putting it ahead of production. Among the other aspects of good
safety culture, according to nuclear experts, is the willingness of
technicians and middle managers to raise safety questions and push
them up the chain of command.
Discovery of the corrosion shocked the regulators and the nuclear
industry, but physical repair has not solved the problems faced by
the plant's owner, the First Energy Nuclear Operating Corporation.
It is now engaged in a dispute over whether it is fit to run the
plant and whether it properly disciplined an employee involved in
First Energy agreed with the commission that it would bring in
outside safety consultants.
A spokesman for First Energy, Todd Schneider, said that the
report was based on work done in March, and that the situation had
improved since then. "The report identifies some strengths and some
weaknesses," Mr. Schneider said. "That's what we wanted."
He said the company had created a Department of Organizational
Development to "improve plant culture and the safety-conscious work
But another expert on safety culture, Paul Blanch, who has worked
at several reactors as a consultant, said the report "doesn't
indicate any significant progress" from the days when managers at
Davis-Besse failed to perform adequate inspections of the reactor
vessel because they were in a hurry to restart the reactor.
The corrosion ate away six inches of steel, about 70 pounds in
all, leaving only a half-inch stainless steel liner to hold in more
than 2,000 pounds per square inch of pressure.
In February, Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio,
petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to revoke First
Energy's operating license. Among the charges Mr. Kucinich made was
that First Energy fired an engineer, Andy Siemaszko, last September
because he had raised safety issues. Mr. Siemaszko, who is pursuing
a complaint with the Department of Labor, had tried to do a thorough
inspection of the vessel head during a shutdown for refueling in
2000, but was "thwarted" by management, according to Mr. Kucinich's
First Energy responded that Mr. Siemaszko "was terminated for his
involvement in the missed opportunities to earlier prevent or
detect" the corrosion, and that his firing showed the company's
"willingness to hold people accountable for poor performance."