Davis-Besse and other FirstEnergy news
Aging reactors a worry for regulators|
OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse plant at reduced power, Toledo Blade.
Mar 30: Davis-Besse may hit full power this week;|
FirstEnergy nuclear plant to calibrate instruments, remove rust from water
AKRON -- "When Davis-Besse hits 100 percent power, the Akron utility hopes it won't need to shut it down again until the first quarter of 2005 for scheduled maintenance, Schneider said," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
Mar 28: Nation marks 25 years of non-stop cover-up of Three Mile Island nuclear accident|
Admiral Hyman Rickover (1900 - 1986) is known as the 'Father of the Nuclear Navy,' having developed the world's first nuclear powered submarine, USS Nautilus, in 1955. In the years that followed, Rickover directed all aspects of building and operating the nuclear fleet. President Jimmy Carter, who had served under him, later said, "Outside my family, the main man who has had an influence on my life is Admiral Hyman Rickover."
COLUMBUS -- Legislative watchdogs mostly bark, little bite; Ethics officials rarely act on complaints of lobbying misdeeds
[Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles], who preceded [James] Rogers as the legislative inspector general, says he hopes the commission will crack down on the freebies and push for prosecution in the [Robert] Tongren case. 'If they need to send it (the report on Tongren) somewhere else, weíll do that,' he said. Rogers said his agency can check whether lobbyists properly report what they spend on public officials, but it canít investigate the officials unless they're legislators. Tongrenís behavior, he said, is evaluated by the Ohio Ethics Commission. Rogers said his office is examining the lobbyists' reports to see if they reported expenditures on Tongren. He said any evidence of noncompliance would be turned over to Attorney General Jim Petro. Said D. Michael Grodhaus, first assistant attorney general: 'If he brought us evidence that there were lobbyists who failed to report expenditures made for Mr. Tongren, we would certainly look at that.' But Kim Norris, Petroís communications director, said the Franklin County prosecutor would have to initiate legal action," Lee Leonard, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.
AKRON -- Consumers' voice; Utility users' new advocate must rebuild trust in watchdog agency, Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.
MILLBURY -- Report very critical of former Consumers' Counsel, Larry Limpf, Eastern Maumee Bay Press, Mar 29, 2004.
Mar 27: Second opinion|
CLEVELAND -- ". . .Tongren's shell game with the LaCapra report and his fraternizing with the utility industry deserve the Ohio Ethics Commission's full attention," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Mar 26: Ex-consumer advocate forgot his job|
CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- Davis-Besse restarted following valve repairs.
"Workers at Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station restarted the reactor at about 5 this morning, and the facility might reconnect to the regional power grid over the weekend. . . As of 8 a.m., the nuclear plant was running at 2 percent power, Wilkins said," Rick Neale, Port Clinton News Herald.
AKRON -- Akron utility looking forward; FirstEnergy CEO says company will restore its good name, ratings, Mary Ethridge, Akron Beacon Journal.
TOLEDO -- FirstEnergy complying with blackout suggestions, Toledo Blade.
Mar 25: FirstEnergy to be sold?|
CLEVELAND -- "It's not that Citizen Action wants FirstEnergy to continue to exist, said the group's program director Shari Weir. 'We want them to be sold,' Weir said. 'We don't want FirstEnergy operating the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, and a sale would take care of that.' Citizen Action doesn't think that FirstEnergy can run Davis-Besse safely, she said. . . .At least two analysts found the group's arguments 'interesting.' 'FirstEnergy, especially now that Davis-Besse is up and running, could be a very attractive franchise to several other major utilities,' said James Halloran, an analyst with National City Wealth Management. Halloran does not own FirstEnergy stock, though the bank manages about 40,000 shares in its $25.5 billion assets under management. 'The company has strong cash flow,' he said, '. . . and it has four major nuclear plants that are very attractive to several companies that have made a point of adding onto their nuclear franchises,'" John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"If ever there were a pocketbook issue, this is it. In an era of public hypersensitivity to tax increases of any sort, even when the money supports a common good, it would be incredible if FirstEnergy manages to pull off what amounts to a huge, unvoted tariff, the multibillion-dollar proceeds of which will benefit no one but FirstEnergy and its Wall Street investors. . . FirstEnergy must not be allowed to fly under the radar a second time. This is an issue demanding our full and undivided attention. Call or write the PUCO (1-800-686-7826), state legislators and the governor. Let them know, let them all know, that this time we're watching," Dan DiLiberto, Mayor, City of Eastlake, and Chairman, Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, column, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
NEW YORK, NY -- FirstEnergy CEO Anthony Alexander speaks to Morgan Stanley Global Electricity and Energy Conference
At this morning's conference, Alexander said he expects Davis-Besse to be "on the grid next week. . . barring minor equipment glitches." He also said, "We're not in any rush to get this equipment on line." [We've been keeping track.] He said he expects to complete the search process for a Chief Operating Officer "this summer." He said that among the search criteria, experience in nuclear operations was "a plus, but not required," and said that such a requirement "might have narrowed the field" of candidates.
Mar 24: Is the $3 billion rate case just a deal-sweetener for the sale of FirstEnergy?|
COLUMBUS -- Ex-consumers' counsel blasted for hiding data.
"Former Ohio Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren "deliberately concealed from the public" a consultant's findings that might have slashed electric bills in FirstEnergy territory, a state investigation has found. . . Tongren had also signed a 'joint defense agreement' with the Coalition for Choice in Electricity, agreeing not to disclose the nature of their talks. Ohio Citizen Action's Shari Weir said such an agreement works against the mission of an office representing the public's interests," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"Shari Weir, Cleveland program director of Citizen Action, which had called for Tongren's resignation, said the report confirmed what many believed. 'He compromised his position both by concealing information from the public and by being cozy with the utilities,' she said," Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.
COLUMBUS -- Watchdog 'crossed the line,' state says; Ex-consumers' counsel accused of gift abuse, wrongly destroying files.
"Shari Weir of Ohio Citizen Action, which called for Tongren's ouster last year, said he was not adequately representing consumers. 'It's impossible to be a strong advocate for ratepayers when you're golfing and dining with the utilities,'" Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.
COLUMBUS -- Inspector General's report: Consumer watchdog on Ohio utility's leash? Ex-official tied to gifts, data destruction.
"'We, the ratepayers, spend $9 million a year to fund the Office of Consumers' Counsel to serve as an advocate for us in rate cases,' said Shari Weir, Cleveland director of Ohio Citizen Action. 'We couldn't trust Rob Tongren because he was playing golf and dining with utilities and shredding reports that should have been made available to the public,'" Toledo Blade.
OAK HARBOR -- Broken valve further delays Besse power, Toledo Blade.
Mar 23: Inspector General: Destruction of report was "wrongful"|
COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy's third ultimatum: April 30, Anthony Alexander, Chief Executive Officer, FirstEnergy, to Renee Jenkins, Director of Administration, Docketing Department, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, letter dated March 16, 42 KB pdf.
"If the Commission does not approve the Plan by April 30, 2004, or if it makes any modifications to the Plan that are not accepted by the Companies in writing by that date, the Plan will be deemed to be withdrawn as of that date, unless the Companies agree to a further extension."
"Although I share the Commission's desire to ensure stable electricity rates for customers while competition is developing, the FirstEnergy plan as proposed would almost certainly eliminate existing competition from Cleveland's government aggregation program. As the Commission is aware, government aggregation is presently the only form of competition available to residential customers in the CEI service area who are unable to receive municipal service. The City's successful aggregation program has saved over 60,000 CEI customers approximately $3,800,000 since 2001."
Mar 19: "The Commission will have presided over the downfall of retail competition in the State of Ohio"|
COLUMBUS -- "The result of approving FirstEnergy's [plan] will be to grant a disguised rate increase of as much as $5 billion during the [plan] period, guaranteeing the utility a golden monopoly revenue stream. The only beneficiary of this plan is FirstEnergy itself, as it will be well positioned for a potential sale to another utility with this kind of revenue certainty. . . . This case will be the most important decision each Commissioner will make during his or her term on the PUCO. . . If the Commission approves Applicants' [plan] as proposed, NOPEC [Northern Ohio Public Energy Council] will be forced out of business. . . There will be no 'options' or 'choices' as to supplies or suppliers and no 'diversity' whatsoever, as required by Ohio law. There will be one choice and one supplier -- FirstEnergy. FirstEnergy will be the exclusive monopoly generation provider again as was the case before S.B. 3. This time around, however, FirstEnergy will have a deregulated generation monopoly -- the worst of all regulatory worlds for NOPEC's consumers. FirstEnergy will have succeeded in driving out all competition from Applicants' service territories. The Commission will have presided over the downfall of retail competition in the State of Ohio," initial brief, Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council.
Mar 18: Taft reappoints PUCO chairman|
COLUMBUS -- "[Alan] Schriber said he couldn't imagine a more intellectually challenging job. 'Clearly, there is from time to time a disagreement with those who are on the periphery of this business, but that's a part of what we do,'" Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.
Mar 17: Davis-Besse going down for repair of three valves|
OAK HARBOR -- "FirstEnergy also is examining whether human error played any role in the valve problems, company spokesman Richard Wilkins said. . . .Plants being restarted after long shutdowns can have "awakening pains," said David Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists watchdog organization. Some of those problems can't be detected until the plant is operating at significant power levels. 'The real factor is whether this should have been caught during the outage and was a procedural or operator error,' Lochbaum said. 'I don't want to rush to judgment,'" John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
COLUMBUS -- PUCO chairman reappointed to second term, Associated Press.
Mar 16: From Enron to watchdog|
TOLEDO -- "A spokeswoman for Ohio Citizen Action, the consumer group, gives the appointee [new Ohio consumers' Counsel Janine Migden] credit for 'considerable work over the years that has been in the interest of both consumers and the environment.' . . . Now it's Ms. Migden's turn. She can either follow Mr. Tongren's lead or -- as we would prefer -- she can sink her teeth hungrily into the flanks of Ohio energy providers to fight for affordable gas and electric rates for residential customers," editorial, Toledo Blade.
OAK HARBOR -- Ohio nuclear plant running again, Associated Press. "The plant was restarted early in the morning and by afternoon was running at 21 percent of full power, producing about 120 megawatts of electricity, said plant spokesman Richard Wilkins. A return to full power should take 10 to 14 days."
Mar 15: FirstEnergy says lawsuits could hurt finances|
NEW YORK -- "FirstEnergy Corp. said any legal liability it incurs for the Aug. 14 blackout, an earnings restatement, or the extended outage at its Davis-Besse nuclear plant could hurt its financial condition, a filing on Monday with U.S. regulators said," Reuters.
NEW YORK -- 10-K filing with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, FirstEnergy. " Standard & Poor's reduction of our credit ratings in December 2003 triggered cash and letter-of-credit collateral calls in addition to higher interest rates for some outstanding borrowings."
TOLEDO -- 'Total safety culture' a crucial mind-set for modern world, Michael Woods, Toledo Blade.
MORE ON FIRSTENERGY
Mar 13: NRC conference reflects the concern that Davis-Besse plant is not alone|
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Bruce Mallett, administrator of the NRC's western region, said the industry must embrace lessons from Davis-Besse and the Columbia shuttle disaster. 'Many people coming in the door now have never heard of TMI,' [the Three Mile Island meltdown 25 years ago this month] he said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Mar 12: Davis-Besse woes rated among Americaís worst|
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Former President Jimmy Carterís point man at the scene of the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979 yesterday said he ranks the near-rupture of Davis-Besseís reactor head in 2002 as 'the second most important event in the history of [U.S.] nuclear safety.' Harold Denton, the Nuclear Regulatory Commissionís nuclear reactor regulation chief in 1979, ranked the 1985 Davis-Besse shutdown because of reactor coolant as the third worst safety failure at any of the nation's 103 nuclear plants. . . .FirstEnergy got Davis-Besseís reactor running at 1:42 p.m. yesterday for the first time since it had been shut down Feb. 16, 2002," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Mar 11: Few winners in deregulation, utility executive says|
WASHINGTON, DC -- Davis-Besse faces long road back; Extra safety precautions to remain 3-5 years, regulator says, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Mar 10: FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse power output seen delayed|
SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- "FirstEnergy Corp. worked on Wednesday to restart its troubled Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio but a timetable to put electricity on the power grid was pushed back to the weekend, a plant spokesman said. . . . Plant operators were working Tuesday to trigger a nuclear fission in the reactor required to make electricity, but they had to stop in order to dilute a boron solution in the reactor, said spokesman Todd Schneider. Boron -- a chemical element that absorbs neutrons -- is used to control or stop a chain reaction in a nuclear reactor. Fission -- the splitting of atoms -- cannot occur if there is too high a concentration of boron, Schneider said, so Davis-Besse operators added more water for dilution," Reuters.
PORT CLINTON -- Safety must come first at Davis-Besse, editorial, Port Clinton News Herald.
OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse restart removes some investor doubt, John Seewer, Associated Press.
Mar 9: The next phase of the FirstEnergy Davis-Besse campaign|
CLEVELAND -- "Yesterday's U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission decision to allow FirstEnergy to restart the Davis-Besse nuclear plant marks the end of one phase of our campaign, and allows us to concentrate fully on another already begun: fighting FirstEnergy's $3 billion rate hike proposal now before the Public Utilities Commission. The NRC's decision was both reckless and wholly in conflict with the facts before it, which showed that the climate of intimidation and retaliation against employees raising safety problems was getting even worse. Davis-Besse is now the first U.S. nuclear plant ever given permission to restart during a grand jury investigation of safety-related crimes at the plant. The NRC decision was no surprise, however, since the federal agency has never revoked the license of a nuclear power plant operator. Knowing this, our campaign never relied on the NRC to protect the safety of Davis-Besse employees and neighbors. Our pressure on the Commission, month after month, had two limited objectives. We achieved both," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action.
NEW YORK -- Comments on FirstEnergy ratings, Standard & Poor's. "At this point, however, Standard & Poor's will not change FirstEnergy's ratings, or outlook, as financial performance still significantly lags expectations and management faces other operational hurdles."
LORAIN -- Davis-Besse nuclear plant restarting, but hold on, not so fast, editorial, Lorain Morning Journal. "How can the public be expected to put their trust and safety entirely in the hands of the clowns who created this mess in the first place?"
OAK HARBOR -- Some residents happy about Davis-Besse restart ..., Rick Neale, Fremont News Messenger.
PUT-IN-BAY -- ... but others aren't thrilled with the decision, Rick Neale, Fremont News Messenger. "Ohio Citizen Action has been one of the nation's noisiest FirstEnergy opponents since an acid-chewed cavity was discovered on the Davis-Besse reactor vessel head in March 2002. The group has drawn parallels between Davis-Besse and the 1979 Three Mile Island scare. Program director Shari Weir minced few words Monday. 'As asinine as the NRC decision is, it increases the likelihood that FirstEnergy will sell Davis-Besse -- which is a good thing,' she said."
OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse operators begin restarting plant, Rick Neale, Fremont News Messenger.
PORT CLINTON -- Ottawa County officials hail NRC's decision, Rick Neale, Fremont News Messenger. "House Minority Leader Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, called Monday the dawn of a new era."
PORT CLINTON -- Ottawa County safety official sees no change in operation, Rick Neale, Fremont News Messenger.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Ohio nuke plant gets approval to restart, Gary Stoller, USA TODAY. "'It's a bad decision but an expected decision because the NRC has never revoked the license of an operating nuclear plant,' says Shari Weir of Ohio Citizen Action, a consumer group."
WASHINGTON, DC -- Ohio nuclear plant can reopen, agency says, Matthew Wald, New York Times. "Paul Blanch, an electrical engineer and specialist in what the nuclear industry calls a 'safety-conscious work environment,' pointed out that the commission had at one point promised not to allow a restarting of the plant before the criminal issues were resolved, but was now doing so. 'If there are people there that could possibly be indicted, obviously they should not restart,' he said."
CLEVELAND -- Davis-Besse starts to power up tonight, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
CLEVELAND -- Rust hole exposed widespread flaws, John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
CLEVELAND -- Timeline of troubles at Davis-Besse, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
CLEVELAND -- Executive vows strong focus on plant safety, John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
TOLEDO -- Davis-Besse gets OK to restart, end record 2-year shutdown, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
AKRON -- Davis-Besse power plant hums to life; NRC says FirstEnergy nuclear facility can reopen after two-year shutdown; Monitoring to continue, Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal.
PORT CLINTON -- Davis-Besse fired back up, Malia Rulon, Associated Press.
CHICAGO -- Regulators clear the way for FirstEnergy to restart Ohio nuclear plant, Tim Jones, Knight Ridder.
COLUMBUS -- Veteran lawyer named Ohio consumers' counsel, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer. "[Veteran utilities lawyer Janine Migden] edged out Eric Stephens, who had been running the consumers' counsel office since Rob Tongren resigned in November, to win unanimous support of the Consumers' Counsel Governing Board. She is a partner at Hahn Loeser & Parks, and co-chairs the law firm's regulatory law section. A one-time assistant to Ohio's first consumers' counsel, Bill Spratley, she has litigated on behalf of utility companies as well as sitting on the boards of a number of Ohio consumer and environmental groups."
Mar 8: NRC approves Davis-Besse restart|
LISLE, IL -- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has approved the restart of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant, which has been shut down since February 2002 for replacement of a damaged reactor vessel head and other safety improvements. The plant near Oak Harbor, Ohio, is operated by FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company," Jan Strasma, Viktoria Mitlyng, release, Region 3, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
AKRON -- Davis-Besse restart under way, release, FirstEnergy.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Ohio nuclear plant allowed to reopen, Malia Rulon, Associated Press.
CLEVELAND -- Citizen Action asks Justice Department: Tell NRC to wait for the grand jury, Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action, letter to Gregory White, U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Ohio. "No nuclear plant has ever been given permission to restart while a grand jury investigation related to findings of possible criminal actions at that plant is still going on. . . The word 'emergency' means nothing if it does not apply to a situation where FirstEnergy managers who may be indicted for safety violations are allowed to operate a nuclear reactor on the shores of the largest freshwater system in the world. In this regard, I hope you will examine my February 25, 2004 letter to U.S. NRC Regional Administrator James Caldwell, identifying nine managers who were involved in key decisions at Davis-Besse in the 1990s and who still appear to be employed in top management at FirstEnergy, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, or its nuclear plants. In addition, of course, FirstEnergy's top executives remain, except for Peter Burg, who died in January."
AKRON -- FirstEnergy dissolves `poison pill' defense; Shareholders vote to drop anti-takeover measures, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
COLUMBUS -- Advocates call on Governor Taft to oppose restart of Davis-Besse, Erin Bowser, Sarah McKinney, release, Ohio PIRG.
COLUMBUS -- Report: Davis-Besse should not open again; NRC, FirstEnergy dispute watchdog group's findings, Greg Wright, Gannett News Service.
Mar 7: Utility-watchdog vet tops list to lead it|
COLUMBUS -- "The right-hand man to former Ohio Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren appears to be on the top of the heap to win Tongren's job Monday. . . . [Henry] Eckhart is a former chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio who represented consumer groups in that case. [Eric] Stephens 'sat in on all the settlement discussions with consumer groups, including me and my three clients, without letting us know that he had the LaCapra report, which would have strengthened our case. He was a party to the concealing of the report,' Eckhart said. 'Just because he finally told the truth when his back was up against the wall doesn't forgive all his previous acts.' [AFL-CIO Executive Director Bill] Burga backs [former Ohio House Energy Committee Chairman Bill Schuck, now director of a pro-competition phone group], who he said sponsored pro-consumer legislation over the objections of his GOP colleagues. But Shari Weir of Ohio Citizen Action said Schuck was 'no friend of consumers' when he was a lawmaker: 'I don't know that he has a track record to demonstrate that he would be willing to take on the FirstEnergys of the world,'" Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Mar 4: Davis-Besse problems blamed on lax oversight;|
NRC official warns of complacency risk
TOLEDO -- "Mr. [Edward] McGaffigan, one of three commissioners holding seats on the NRC's five-member governing board, said yesterday he believes one of the root causes at both Davis-Besse and Three Mile Island was denial. An overconfidence problem at Davis-Besse prior to that plant's 2002 shutdown mirrored the overconfidence problem before the meltdown that began March 28, 1979, at Three Mile Island's No. 2 reactor, he said," Toledo Blade.
Mar 2: Did FirstEnergy executives really deserve raises?|
PORT CLINTON -- "All in all, it wasn't FirstEnergy's best year, and rank-and-file employees felt the results, losing out on $51 million in bonus money. So, it would seem to follow that executives -- the people ultimately responsible for the company's performance -- also would feel the sting of a bad year. Not so. FirstEnergy's directors decided that the top executives deserved raises ranging from 3.1 percent to 10.3 percent and also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in incentive pay. . . . FirstEnergy spokeswoman Kristen Baird said the executives' pay was based on several factors, including what's happening in the utility industry. 'It's a competitive issue,' she told The Associated Press. 'You want to retain your best people.' Given FirstEnergy's 2003 performance, we wonder whether the executives should be retained, much less given raises and bonuses," Port Clinton News Herald.
Mar 1: Too many Davis-Besse workers?|
OAK HARBOR -- "FirstEnergy executive Lew Myers said the plant probably employs 50 percent more workers than a typical, similar facility. 'There'll be combinations of everything over the next few years,' Myers said of the Davis-Besse workforce. Davis-Besse is Ottawa County's largest employer. About 800 workers are on the payroll, FirstEnergy spokesman Richard Wilkins said. Wilkins softened Myers' comments, saying no long-term Davis-Besse employment strategies have been drafted. 'I don't even know if we've got that far, to tell you the truth,' Wilkins said. 'We're going to look at a lot of different programs across all three (FirstEnergy nuclear) plants,'" Port Clinton News Herald.