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February 04, 2003

 



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Regional News | Article published Tuesday, February 4, 2003
Revoke license of Davis-Besse, lawmaker says
Cleveland's Kucinich claims NRC can't trust FirstEnergy

By
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 plant.

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.

Due to 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.

Licensing decisions 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 1979.

"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.

In an 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 license."

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 said.

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 operations."

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."



More articles on this subject »
Psychologist to evaluate work force 01/31/2003
Besse put on notice to show job safety 01/30/2003
Whos’ minding nuclear store? 01/26/2003
2 more nuke plants show coolant leaks 01/22/2003
Moyers TV special on Davis-Besse 01/22/2003

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