The head of FirstEnergy Corp.'s nuclear operating subsidiary that
oversees the Davis-Besse, Perry and Beaver Valley nuclear plants
will step down as of Sept. 1 and retire early next year, the Akron
utility announced Thursday.
Robert Saunders, 60, who joined FirstEnergy in 2000 as president
and chief nuclear officer of the subsidiary, will be succeeded by
Gary R. Leidich, 53, the subsidiary's executive vice president, the
Saunders will continue to work with Leidich to ensure a smooth
transition until Saunders' official retirement on Feb. 1,
FirstEnergy said in a news release.
The ongoing woes at Davis-Besse, which has been shut down since
mid-February 2002, did not play a role in Saunders' decision to
retire, spokesman Todd Schneider said. Saunders took responsibility
for what happened at Davis-Besse and came up with a plan to bring
the plant back to safe and reliable service, Schneider said.``Bob
has demonstrated great leadership,'' Schneider said.
Saunders plans to retire to a farm in Virginia that he owns, he
Leidich said one of his top short-term priorities will be to get
Davis-Besse online, something that likely won't happen until
September at the earliest.
``We're coming down to the home stretch at Davis-Besse,'' he
said. Final approval rests with the Nuclear Regulatory
Davis-Besse workers in March 2002 found a large corrosion hole on
top of the reactor vessel head that covers the nuclear fuel. Since
that discovery, FirstEnergy has had to spend hundreds of millions of
dollars in repairs and to buy replacement power while getting the
plant ready to restart. The vessel head corrosion likely started at
least four years before it was discovered, according to subsequent
Leidich said his long-term goals include improving safety and
performance at FirstEnergy's three nuclear facilities, and getting
the plants to work more closely together and to better share
resources and expertise.
``Over the past few years we operated our plants fairly
independently,'' he said.
Leidich said he did not see a need to make significant management
changes within the nuclear operating company.
Leidich was hired back atFirstEnergy in June 2002 as part of a
management shakeout caused by the Davis-Besse woes.
He previously had worked five years at the Institute of Nuclear
Power Operations. He began his career in 1974 at the Cleveland
Electric Illuminating Company, and worked at the Perry nuclear plant
from 1975 to 1986. He subsequently worked at Centerior Energy from
1987 until Centerior and Ohio Edison merged in 1997 to form