| Article published Wednesday, February 5, 2003|
Regulators question FirstEnergy
By MICHAEL WOODS
ROCKVILLE, Md. - Officials of the U.S. Nuclear
Regulatory Commission yesterday expressed concern that FirstEnergy’s
transfer of key staff from its other nuclear plants to aid the
troubled Davis-Besse plant could jeopardize safety at the other
Since the discovery of a football-sized rust hole
in Davis-Besse’s reactor vessel head last March, FirstEnergy’s
nuclear operating subsidiary has purged top management at the plant
and beefed up staff.
Two other nuclear facilities FirstEnergy
operates - the Perry nuclear plant near Painesville, Ohio, and the
Beaver Valley I and II plants at Shippingport in western
Pennsylvania - have been major sources of Davis-Besse’s new talent,
including veteran reactor operators.
FirstEnergy also has
focused more and more resources on its efforts to get Davis-Besse
back into operation. The utility is hoping to get NRC permission to
resume generating electricity at the plant 25 miles east of Toledo
by the end of the first quarter of 2003.
"In three years are
we going to worry about Perry?" NRC Commissioner Greta Discus asked
her colleagues on the NRC’s five-member governing board during a
meeting at the agency’s headquarters here.
now," replied John Grobe, who chairs a special NRC panel that is
monitoring Davis-Besse and its corrective actions.
one of the areas I really worry about," added Jim Dyer, who is chief
of the NRC regional headquarters in Chicago, which oversees the
Davis-Besse and Perry plants.
Mr. Dyer described his personal
visit to the Perry facility, which has provided a number of new
staff for Davis-Besse, for a first-hand check on the staffing
FirstEnergy does seem to have a "game plan" for
coping with the personnel drain, he said.
Asked later in the
meeting to specifically define what they "worry" about, Mr. Dyer and
Mr. Grobe said they are worried in the sense of feeling a need now
to keep a close eye on operations at Perry and Beaver
Lew Myers, FirstEnergy’s chief operating officer,
said the transfer of personnel to Davis-Besse was part of an orderly
process that would not affect safe operations at other
Mr. Dyer told the commission that his NRC
regional office is experiencing staff shortages and difficulty in
recruiting new staff, which make its job of inspecting and
regulating nuclear power plants more difficult.
FirstEnergy executives also briefed the NRC commissioners,
describing a wide range of personnel, equipment, and other changes
"We’re making solid progress," said H. Peter
Berg, chairman and chief executive officer of FirstEnergy Corp. "Let
me stress that we will only return the plant to service when we are
convinced that it will operate safely and reliably."
commission gave no clue about a possible date for allowing a
Mr. Grobe agreed that FirstEnergy is making good
progress in identifying and correcting problems at the plant, but
indicated that much additional work remained.
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