OAK HARBOR, Ohio - The Nuclear Regulatory
Commission is investigating whether an inspector had documents
showing that the lid of the Davis-Besse nuclear reactor was badly
corroded almost two years before a rust hole was found.
The agency's Inspector General is probing what became of a
written report and seven photos prepared by the plant showing that
the reactor's steel lid was coated with reddish-brown rust from
The report was one of several documents Davis-Besse workers
reportedly handed NRC inspector Donald Jones in April 2000 during a
routine five-day audit of the plant, located east of Toledo.
The plant has been shut down since February 2002, when it was
closed for maintenance. Last March, leaks were discovered that had
allowed boric acid to eat nearly through the 6-inch-thick steel cap
that covers the reactor vessel.
The inspector, from the agency's Chicago regional office, was
double-checking the thoroughness of the plant's efforts to monitor
the lid for signs of damage.
The report shows that Davis-Besse employees did not think the
rust buildup on the lid was significant, but NRC officials have said
that if they had known of the dome's deteriorated condition, they
would have acted.
Senior NRC officials have insisted until now that the agency had
no knowledge prior to the rust hole's discovery last March that the
lid was caked with corrosion.
A message seeking comment from Jones was left at his office
The summary he submitted to the NRC on April 27, 2000, makes no
mention that he saw the report and photos describing the lid
corrosion. He wrote that there were "no significant findings
There is no sign that the report and photos ever were in the
inspection records kept by the NRC's Midwest office, or that others
knew of them, NRC spokesman Jan Strasma said.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, has asked the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission to lift Davis-Besse's operating license.
Kucinich also wants the Inspector General to determine why the
photos did not get to senior NRC staffers in Washington, who in late
2001 had to decide whether to let Davis-Besse delay a special lid
inspection for several months. The NRC, believing plant operator
FirstEnergy Corp.'s claim that the lid was corrosion-free, approved
FirstEnergy has maintained that the photos and the lid's
condition reports were "available" had the agency looked. The
company is facing an NRC criminal investigation to determine whether
it intentionally kept inaccurate and incomplete inspection
A FirstEnergy spokesman declined comment Wednesday, citing the
The NRC agreed last month to overhaul inspections because of the
situation at Davis-Besse. But its proposed budget for 2004, released
this week, cuts spending and staff for plant licensing, inspection
and incident-response teams.
The budget's focus has been shifted to ensure the nation's
nuclear power plants aren't vulnerable to terrorist attacks,
according to the 271-page budget proposal.
NRC spokeswoman Elizabeth Hayden said the agency's budget was
drafted last fall before an internal review found that NRC employees
failed to perform inspections that could have detected damage much
earlier at Davis-Besse.
While the agency can not alter its budget proposal, Congress can
make changes during the appropriation process.
ON THE NET
Nuclear Regulatory Commission: http://www.nrc.gov/
FirstEnergy Corp.: http://www.firstenergycorp.com/