FirstEnergy should not be given permission to restart the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant.
1. No company the size of FirstEnergy could turn around its corporate culture in a two month period.
The NRC safety culture inspection teams delivered a scathing report on FirstEnergy’s safety culture on December 19, 2003. The observations of these inspectors confirmed both the comments which Davis-Besse employees and contractors have been making in company surveys, and information which we receive from people who work for FirstEnergy. Even if FirstEnergy’s financial problems were solved tomorrow, much work would need to be done on reorienting management priorities. The blackout proved to the world that FirstEnergy’s lack of safety culture is pervasive throughout the corporation, with its most dangerous manifestations at Davis-Besse.
Changing a safety culture, as reportedly has happened at Millstone and at some other corporations around the country, is like turning around an aircraft carrier: it does not happen quickly. While many plant-level managers and personnel have come and gone at Davis-Besse in the last two years, top management has remained the same. Even with the untimely death of Peter Burg, FirstEnergy’s board did not take the opportunity to reexamine its top-level personnel and employees, as it might have. Instead, the board appointed Anthony Alexander, the very person who has been in charge of operations throughout the Davis-Besse scandal and the events leading to the blackout as CEO, sending a message that they are content with business as usual.
2. FirstEnergy’s financial situation, which drives its "production over safety" mentality, is even worse than it was two years ago when the Davis-Besse problems were discovered.
In the past two years, FirstEnergy has had a series of major financial setbacks as a result of its poor corporate decision-making. These include --
No doubt, when FirstEnergy releases its fourth quarter 2003 earnings next week, it will once again try to gloss over bad news by promising to get Davis-Besse up and running and to get approval for the $3 billion rate hike. As long as this company is using the restart of Davis-Besse as a carrot for the financial markets, employees will be under extraordinary pressure to place profit over safety in their decision-making.
3. FirstEnergy has not been punished for its negligence, and possible criminal activity, in allowing Davis-Besse to come within 3/8 inch of a nuclear disaster.
If you allow FirstEnergy to restart Davis-Besse before the completion of the federal grand jury investigation and any subsequent criminal prosecutions and trials, you will be sending the message that a company can get away with covering up major safety threats and still be allowed to run a nuclear power plant. If there were ever a case where an example needed to be made that the NRC is serious about enforcing safety, Davis-Besse is it.