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BEACON JOURNAL
Updated Wednesday, July 2, 2003
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Posted on Wed, Jul. 02, 2003 story:PUB_DESC
No talks set about nuclear plant
Congress opts against hearing on corrosion of Davis-Besse vessel

States News Service

A hazardous incident at FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse nuclear plant is likely to be resolved without a congressional hearing.

The leak at the plant in Oak Harbor was the worst nuclear power plant incident since the near-meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania more than 25 years ago.

Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., prodded by an Ohio Republican who represents the Davis-Besse area, has pulled back from talk about conducting a public hearing at one of the subcommittees he oversees.

Tauzin is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and a subcommittee chairman -- Rep. Jim Greenwood, R-Pa. -- had said earlier this year a hearing would be in order to examine the conduct of FirstEnergy Corp.

But Energy Daily, a trade publication, has reported the hearing's narrow focus on the Akron utility was said to have been viewed as unfair, and the hearing was scrapped.

Since the Davis-Besse leak, smaller problems of a similar nature have turned up at other nuclear facilities.

Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson said Tuesday some concerns were raised about prematurely moving forward with a hearing before reviewing documents and conducting interviews. He said logistical problems and a shortage of issues to discuss were the main reasons a hearing would not be conducted in the immediate future.

There was some speculation that a hearing would occur after a May 7 letter heavily critical of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was sent out by Greenwood, who chairs the oversight and investigations subcommittee. But Tauzin is now saying the collective wisdom of the committee decided against holding a hearing.

Johnson said this decision was actually made a couple of weeks ago.

The decision relieves some pressure on FirstEnergy, which has already been in the spotlight for failing to catch the football-sized hole that left only a half-inch stainless steel liner intact to contain radioactive steam and water in the reactor. The extensive nature of the corrosion shocked NRC inspectors when they visited the plant in February 2002, it has been reported.

The Energy Daily report cited Rep. Paul Gillmor, R-Old Fort, as one of the committee members who may have influenced the decision not to hold a hearing.

It quoted Gillmor as saying that he didn't mind having the hearing as long as it looked into all the utilities that have a similar situation.

A spokesman for Gillmor on Tuesday denied that he had killed the hearing.

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