| Article published Tuesday, February 4, 2003|
Revoke license of Davis-Besse, lawmaker
Cleveland's Kucinich claims NRC
can't trust FirstEnergy
BLADE STAFF WRITER
OAK HARBOR - U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich
yesterday petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to revoke
FirstEnergy Corp.'s license to operate the Davis-Besse nuclear power
The Cleveland Democrat said he did so because he
believes FirstEnergy ignored government rules and public safety by
misrepresenting facts, withholding information, and putting profits
ahead of safety in its handling of boric acid leakage that severely
damaged the plant's reactor cap.
The sharply worded, 29-page
petition claims the NRC "cannot trust FirstEnergy" and contends the
NRC is bound by its own regulations to take back the operating
license, which was issued in 1977 to Toledo Edison Co.
expire in 2017, the license has been held by a FirstEnergy Corp.
subsidiary since the fall of 1997, when the Akron-based utility was
formed from a merger that included Toledo Edison, Cleveland Electric
Illuminating Co., and Ohio Edison Co. FirstEnergy said in a
statement the petition "contains a number of inaccuracies" and
"draws erroneous conclusions."
The NRC didn't comment on the
petition's merit. Agency spokesman Beth Hayden said the filing will
go through normal processing, which allows more than five months of
review before a draft decision is issued.
ultimately rest in the hands of Sam Collins, NRC nuclear reactor
regulation director, who rejected a recommendation from agency staff
to issue an emergency shutdown order at Davis-Besse no later than
Dec. 31, 2001, because staff feared the plant's reactor-head nozzles
might have been cracked and leaking acid. Mr. Collins allowed the
plant to keep operating until Feb. 16, 2002. NRC and plant officials
later learned acid had worn a football-sized chunk out of the
reactor head, bringing northwest Ohio to the brink of the worst U.S.
nuclear accident since Three Mile Island in
"FirstEnergy ignored numerous warnings from the NRC,
ignored repeated warnings from its own monitoring systems, and lied
and hid information from the NRC," the petition says.
interview, the congressman said, "FirstEnergy has admittedly
operated the plant in violation of NRC regulations. If someone
operates a motor vehicle recklessly, they're subject to losing their
His petition does not call for a permanent shutdown
of Davis-Besse and leaves open the possibility of FirstEnergy
reapplying for the license or having another company operate the
plant. The benefit of having FirstEnergy reapply for the license
would be heightened scrutiny, the congressman
FirstEnergy took issue with Mr. Kucinich's assessment
in a statement: "From the beginning, [FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating
Co.] has taken responsibility for what happened at Davis-Besse. We
have been forthright about the mistakes at the plant, and have
provided extensive documentation concerning what caused the
corrosion problem. ... We have cooperated with reviews that have
been or are being conducted. Meanwhile, we are making the
improvements to plant operating and monitoring systems, and the
company's safety culture to assure safe, reliable
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) did not
endorse the petition, though she has called for Davis-Besse's
permanent shutdown. She said revoking the license "makes FirstEnergy
the scapegoat, as opposed to the NRC's role for allowing this to
happen. I don't think any single person or any single company should
be the scapegoat."
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