CAMP PERRY -- FirstEnergy officials addressed controversies
Tuesday that had surfaced in recent weeks about the Davis-Besse
Nuclear Power Station -- including accusations of retribution
against two workers and a report that a critical piece of safety
equipment would not work properly during a major accident.
FirstEnergy Chief Operating Officer Lew Myers told Nuclear
Regulatory Commission officials that once he heard claims at a Jan.
30 meeting of two workers being reprimanded for bringing forth
safety issues within the last month, the company immediately began
The idea that workers don't feel comfortable reporting safety
issues has been a major focus at the plant since it shut down last
February. In March, workers found severe corrosion on the reactor
head, and one of many reports since then detailed worker apathy and
lack of attention to safety as reasons for the technical problems.
Surveys in the middle of 2002 showed some workers were not
willing to come forward with safety concerns, either because of
retribution or because they thought managers would not address the
Myers said the company's lawyer called both employees said to
have been reprimanded and left detailed messages, but neither
returned the calls.
After investigating, officials found one incident had occurred
six months ago and revolved around a worker complaining about a
colleague. The worker found the air let out of the tires of her car
in the parking lot shortly afterward.
The second incident occurred in January and involved a worker
leaving early without telling a supervisor, said FirstEnergy
spokesman Richard Wilkins. The worker was reprimanded with a letter
in his file. But the worker appealed, and a higher-level supervisor
decided in favor of the worker, removing the letter from the
personnel file, Wilkins said.
Myers said the incidents show the management is willing to deal
with issues as soon as they are brought forward.
"Bring us the allegations and we will address them," he said.
In addition, the company introduced a safety culture model for
management to measure the safety concerns of workers.
NRC oversight panel chairman Jack Grobe tentatively praised the
new model at an evening public meeting, saying it's a unique way to
measure safety in each aspect of work at the plan. He added,
however, that he still wants to see details of the program on paper
before signing off on it.
"Safety culture is difficult to measure," he said. "It's outcomes
are easy to see."
A survey conducted earlier this month of 10 percent of the
Davis-Besse population showed 95 percent believe management want
workers to report problems, and upwards of 90 percent say any issues
of retaliation they may have heard about in the last three months
were properly addressed.
Myers and FirstEnergy Director of Engineering Jim Powers also
detailed work being completed on the containment emergency sump
system -- which is used in the event of an accident. Much of the
coolant water is flushed through the sump system, and the company is
expanding its screenage from about 50 square feet to more than 1,200
A report filed in December by the company shows that while the
sump could likely have handled an accident resulting from the
reactor head damage, a major loss of coolant accident would have
been another story.
The reason, Powers said, is that when the plant was designed, the
industry assumed about 50 percent of the screen would be blocked by
debris -- including materials such as insulation or paint chips.
Those assumptions, however, have since been recalculated, leaving
the sump built at Davis-Besse's inception inadequate.
New research has shown that a violent, large scale pipe break
could blast off concrete and paint, forcing large amounts of debris
into the sump and clogging the screens.
"We met the real design basis of the plant initially," Myers
said. "But those (new) assumptions weren't in the original design."
The new sump modification the plant is currently implementing is
an industry leader, and the NRC is in the process of sending out
revised suggestions for other plants on revamping the critical
Along with work on the sump, workers also are recoating portions
of the containment building, since some of the paints used were not
able to hold up in high temperatures situations.
Originally published Wednesday, February 12, 2003