PORT CLINTON - Employees at FirstEnergy's
Davis-Besse nuclear plant are making improvements in the way they
handle safety issues, company surveys show.
But a Nuclear Regulatory Commission official said Tuesday that
while surveys show the company is making good progress at improving
the plant's ``safety culture'', the information shows
inconsistencies that trouble him. The survey results were presented
at a regular monthly meeting between FirstEnergy and the NRC held on
the grounds of Camp Perry.
In addition, FirstEnergy said it's likely Davis-Besse will be
ready for restart no sooner than mid-June, based on work and testing
that needs to be done. The NRC also has its own inspections that can
start only after repair work is completed at the plant in Oak
Jack Grobe, chairman of the NRC panel charged with overseeing the
Davis-Besse restart process, said FirstEnergy's employee survey
information on safety culture indicates in one section that as much
as 20 percent of company contractors were subjected to some kind of
intimidation, harassment, retaliation or discrimination in the last
But other data included as part of the same survey indicate the
problem was much smaller, he said.
``The data appear to be conflicted,'' Grobe said. If 20 percent
of contractors working at the plant had experienced some sort of
problem, at least some of them would have filed formal complaints
with the Department of Labor, with the NRC also being informed, he
said. Grobe said he was not aware of formal contractor
The NRC will be evaluating how well FirstEnergy measures the
Davis-Besse safety culture. The company has to show, in order to
restart the plant, that it has made significant improvements in
allowing employees to freely raise safety issues. The regulatory
agency does not have standards, numbers or thresholds when it comes
to nuclear plant safety culture, Grobe said.
A FirstEnergy survey done at the end of March of 665 employees of
the company and 377 contractors showed 98 percent of the people
surveyed said if they had a nuclear safety or quality concern, they
would raise it.
But 8 percent of the more than 1,100 people surveyed said they
had been subjected to some kind of retaliation or harassment for
raising nuclear safety, quality or compliance concerns in the
previous six months, up slightly from the same survey question taken
Fifteen percent of employees and contractors said they knew of
other workers who were harassed or retaliated against in the
previous six months for raising safety or quality concerns.
FirstEnergy officials said the employee surveys overall showed an
improving safety culture. The surveys were designed to measure the
willingness of employees to identify and report safety issues
without fear of reprisal.
Results of a separate study on Davis-Besse safety culture, done
by a contractor hired by First-Energy, will be released at an
upcoming NRC meeting. First-Energy said the consultant's report
mirrored the company-done surveys.
The company is developing ways to address the concerns employees
raised in the survey, said Lew Myers, chief operating officer for
FirstEnergy's nuclear operating company.
FirstEnergy said it is getting closer to restarting Davis-Besse,
which has been shut down since February 2002. Substantial boric acid
corrosion found in March on top of the reactor has kept the plant
closed for repairs that likely will cost FirstEnergy more than $400
Davis-Besse will do a pressure test of the reactor coolant
system, which includes the reactor, in mid to late May. It should be
ready for restart about a month after the test is completed, company
``The company is still making good progress,'' Grobe said. But he
refused to speculate on when he thinks Davis-Besse will be allowed
to make electricity again. ``We'll get to restart when we get to
restart,'' he said.