FirstEnergy and Davis-Besse

Nov 30: FirstEnergy gets state's OK to defer $91M costs
Critics claim tactic bypasses rate freeze

COLUMBUS -- "The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday approved an accounting maneuver employed by Toledo Edison and other FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiaries to defer $91 million in costs until after a state-mandated freeze on customers' rates ended... Justice Paul Pfeifer cast the sole dissenting vote. 'The cap is meaningless if utilities can simply charge consumers for costs incurred during the market-development period after the expiration of the period," he wrote," Jim Provance, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' Counsel reacts to Supreme Court decision on FirstEnergy and DP&L collection of transmission charges, press release, Ohio Consumers' Counsel.

Nov 18:  Monticello reactor gets life extension, raising safety questions

Xcel Energy's nuclear plant at Monticello.
MONTICELLO, MN -- "In 2002, for example, a buildup of boric acid ate through six inches of carbon steel in an Ohio reactor's high-pressure water-cooling vessel - a fault overlooked in routine monitoring. That incident, said David Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, 'is the closest we came to disaster since Three Mile Island' in 1979. However, faulty plant oversight is rare, Lochbaum adds. Before that incident, he said the Davis-Besse nuclear plant outside Toledo, got 'all A' report cards from regulators," Mike Myers" Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Sep 20:  FirstEnergy sued for wrongful termination
Ex-worker says he tried to fix problems

The corroded part of the Davis-Besse reactor lid is seen here after it was cut out from the rest of the hull.
PORT CLINTON -- "An 18-page complaint filed Monday in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court contends that Mr. Siemaszko was made out to be a 'scapegoat' for insisting in 2000 that boric acid be removed from Davis-Besse's old reactor head before the nuclear plant resumed operation that spring. Two years later, when the plant was shut down for refueling, the massive lid had become so thinned out by acid that government researchers eventually concluded it was a statistical fluke that it held together," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Sep 18:  Utility blasted over Pennsylvania reactor; Davis-Besse operator criticized over fake data, lax oversight

The Beaver Valley nuclear complex
TOLEDO -- "FirstEnergy Corp. is in hot water with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission again over falsified inspection records, this time with its Beaver Valley nuclear complex near Shippingport, Pa... 'FirstEnergy should never have the falsified records issue again. They should have the squeakiest clean process by now,' said David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer in Washington for the Union of Concerned Scientists. 'The lessons of Davis-Besse didn't get to Beaver Valley as broadly as they needed to be," he said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Sep 17:  Reactors prone to long closings, study finds

WASHINGTON, DC -- "An analysis of nuclear reactors by a safety group has found that they are prone to costly, lengthy shutdowns for safety problems regardless of their age or the experience of their managers. The finding could have implications for companies considering building new reactors. The analysis, by David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, counted 51 times that a reactor had been closed for a year or more... The shutdown of more than a year that ended most recently was at Davis-Besse, near Toledo, Ohio, where workers found that an acid used in the plant, boron, had corroded a 70-pound chunk of steel in the reactor’s vessel head, leaving only a half-inch stainless steel liner," Matthew Wald, New York Times.

Sep 11:  Industry defends reactors' security
Nuclear firms tout post-9/11 safeguards

OAK HARBOR -- "From simulated-attack exercises to physical barriers, there's no question that security at America's 103 nuclear plants has been enhanced since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The question, as haunting images from New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania are replayed in the nation's psyche today: Has it been enough?," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Sep 6:  FirstEnergy shuts Ohio Davis-Besse reactor for work

NEW YORK, NY -- "FirstEnergy Corp. shut the 873-megawatt Davis-Besse nuclear power station in Ohio early Wednesday due to a problem with the condenser, a spokesman for the Akron, Ohio-based company said. He said operators manually shut the reactor early this morning after the condenser started to lose vacuum. The spokesman said a team was investigating the problem but he could not say how long it would take to fix the condenser and return the unit to service," Reuters.

Aug 22:  Slow Start for Revival of Nuclear Reactors

BALTIMORE, MD -- "The federal official for promoting nuclear energy, Lewis L. Strauss, said it would produce electricity 'too cheap to meter.' It has never given consumers anything like that. But with the industry now consolidated so that most reactors are in the hands of a comparatively few operators, utility executives are sharply divided over whether nuclear power offers an attractive choice as they seek to satisfy a growing demand for electricity. For them, the question comes down not so much to safety and environmental impact but to whether the potential reward is worth the financial risk. And those who already operate several reactors are prone to want more," Matthew L. Wald, New York Times.

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA -- The G-8's Risky Nuclear Embrace, Mike Hertsgaard, The Nation.

Jul 21:  Groups lambaste nuke official for alleged regulatory laxness

ROCKVILLE, MD -- "Jim Dyer, a former Midwest region chief for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, apparently has "learned nothing from the Davis-Besse debacle" by letting the nuclear industry continue to voluntarily report leaks of radioactive water at nuclear plants, according to a statement issued yesterday by more than two dozen groups and individuals. The NRC should immediately demand technical information that could lead to a national assessment of the problem, they said. The groups said they want to know if recent leaks reported in Illinois, New York, Missouri, Connecticut, Massachussetts, and Arizona were a fluke or a symptom of a bigger problem," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Jul 15:  FirstEnergy gives more documents to the NRC   Newly found papers may affect defendants

OAK HARBOR -- "FirstEnergy Corp. revealed yesterday it has stumbled upon 70-some documents that could affect the criminal prosecution of three former Davis-Besse employees. The documents were found 'several weeks ago' at the nuclear plant while an office was being moved. They were turned over to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday, said Todd Schneider, a spokesman for the utility. Some were copies of previously submitted materials. An undisclosed number were new, he said. Viktoria Mitlyng, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman, said the agency 'will be looking into the circumstances of how these documents were found as well as the content,'" Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Jun 22:  U.S. report cites problems with NRC's 'safety culture'
Government Accountability Office investigators call reactor oversight ineffective

TOLEDO -- "The report predicts new steps will be implemented in July The Nuclear Regulatory Commission still needs to change a problematic 'safety culture' at the nation's power plants, highlighted by a near-disaster in 2002 at the Davis-Besse nuclear reactor near Oak Harbor, according to the federal Government Accountability Office's preliminary findings in a recent report," Eric Lund, Toledo Blade.

Jun 16: Energy initiative supported
Ohio utility regulator proposes renewable-power program

COLUMBUS -- "As energy prices hover at record levels, Ohio should consider adopting an experimental program to use wind, the sun and other renewable resources for 4 percent of its overall power use, the state's top regulator said Thursday...Schriber and Ohio Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander said they believe the project would work. Four percent is too small a market share to lead large utilities to try to stop it, and the growth of power use over five years likely will weaken the program's market share, Migden-Ostrander said," John McCarthy, Cincinnati Enquirer.

Jun 11: Waste storage dilemma crimps nuclear future

AVILA BEACH, CA-- "the industry and its supporters in Washington still have not resolved one of the biggest issues that derailed nuclear power in the 1970s and 1980s -- what to do with the waste, which remains radioactive for thousands of years. Yucca Mountain remains bottled up by Nevada politicians. One alternative would be to recycle spent fuel rods, extracting radioactive material for reuse and reducing the amount of waste that would need to be stored. But the idea has long been blocked by fears that plutonium removed from old rods could fall into the hands of terrorists or rogue countries trying to build nuclear weapons. So Diablo and other nuclear plants must keep their waste on-site -- indefinitely," David R. Baker, San Fransisco Chronicle.

SKULL VALLEY, UT -- Trainload of debate on nuke storage, Environmental groups vow to fight a Utah tribe's plan, If approved, waste would likely roll on Denver tracks, Michael Riley, Denver Post.

May 11: PUCO accused of allowing increase during rate freeze
$77 million wrongly added to utility bills, watchdog tells court

COLUMBUS -- "While the freeze was in effect, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved $70 million in deferred costs for FirstEnergy and $7 million for Dayton Power & Light, said Kimberly W. Bojko, an attorney for the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel. More than 2 million customers were affected by what consumer attorneys described as a retroactive rate increase," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch.

COLUMBUS -- PUCO charged with aiding utility dodge freeze, T.C. Brown, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- PUCO violated law in allowing Edison fees, Ohio high court told, Jim Provance, Toledo Blade.

May 5:  FirstEnergy's investment in the Ohio Supreme Court pays off

COLUMBUS -- "When corporations announce bad news, they do it after financial markets close on a Friday. When legislators want to pass a dirty bill, they do it during a "lame duck" session after an election. When the Ohio Supreme Court issues an opinion it is ashamed of, it happens the day after a primary election.

Right on schedule this Wednesday, the Court approved FirstEnergy's illegal plan to charge customers $15 to $20 extra every month in exchange for absolutely nothing. Five of the members of the Court have received a total of $125,000 in campaign contributions from people connected to FirstEnergy in the last nine years. Nearly half the money, $61,000, went to Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and Justices Terrence O'Donnell and Judith Lanzinger from an August 2004 fundraiser at the home of FirstEnergy Chief Executive Anthony Alexander.

$15 to $20 a month may not seem like much to Anthony Alexander or Thomas Moyer, but it is a lot to our members. It is a real issue to us, and gubernatorial candidates Ken Blackwell and Ted Strickland have done nothing about it. They could have joined our call for the justices to recuse themselves. They could be leading the fight for public financing of Supreme Court races. Instead, they've been too busy ... doing guess what? Raising money." Catherine Turcer, Ohio Citizen Action.

May 4: Regulators rapped over electricity plan

COLUMBUS -- "State regulators stripped customers of choice in an electricity market that's supposed to be all about choice when it reached a three-year agreement with FirstEnergy Corp., the Ohio Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The court, in a 5-2 ruling, largely upheld the Akron utility's latest rate plan that locked basic fees through 2008. But the court said the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio did not have authority under the state's 1999 electricity deregulation law to limit customers' alternatives to FirstEnergy, even if going with another supplier might have meant higher bills," Jim Provance, Toledo Blade.

CLEVELAND -- More electricity rate bids ordered, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Mar 17:  Nuclear reactors found to be leaking radioactive water

WASHINGTON, DC -- "With power cleaner than coal and cheaper than natural gas, the nuclear industry, 20 years past its last meltdown, thinks it is ready for its second act: its first new reactor orders since the 1970's. But there is a catch. The public's acceptance of new reactors depends in part on the performance of the old ones, and lately several of those have been discovered to be leaking radioactive water into the ground. Near Braceville, Ill., the Braidwood Generating Station, owned by the Exelon Corporation, has leaked tritium into underground water that has shown up in the well of a family nearby," Matthew L. Wald, New York Times.

Feb 6:  Record penalty isn't enough for FirstEnergy

OAK HARBOR — "We don't accept the premise that companies only pay for their wrongdoings through penalties. We wonder why officials higher in the FirstEnergy power structure have avoided legal consequences. The legal troubles facing Enron and others didn't stop below the executive suites. While $28 million sounds like a lot of money, such a penalty is not significant enough in this case. This might be the largest penalty in the history of the nuclear industry, but that might say more about the questionable oversight of this industry than about any sense of justice," editorial, Port Clinton News Herald. Originally published Feb. 2, 2006.

OAK HARBOR — The corporate veil, "At the very least, FirstEnergy should get absolutely no recognition for the money channeled to local and regional institutions. The company has admitted it lied and written a check as its only form of apology. No company deserves thanks for that," editorial, Toledo Blade. Originally published Feb. 4, 2006.

Feb 2: Third man arraigned over Davis-Besse woes
Three workers accused of deceiving regulators

TOLEDO -- "The third person of a trio accused of deceiving federal regulators about problems at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in the fall of 2001 was arraigned yesterday in U.S. District Court in Toledo. David Geisen of Wisconsin pleaded not guilty to five counts of making false statements to a federal agency. On Friday, Andrew Siemaszko, 51, of Texas and Rodney M. Cook, 55, of Tennessee pleaded innocent to five and four counts of the same charge, respectively. Mr. Geisen and Mr. Siemaszko were engineers at the plant near Oak Harbor, Ohio," Toledo Blade.

Jan 30:  Record Davis-Besse fine to aid area wildlife refuge, UT, others
Wetlands Project, visitor center to share $1.35M

TOLEDO -- "FirstEnergy Corp. was caught in a lie. No matter how much people speculate about what could have happened if the thinned-out layer of steel covering the Davis-Besse nuclear plant had ruptured in 2002, none of that changes the fact that the utility knowingly endangered the safety of northern Ohio residents, according to U.S. Department of Justice officials. The utility - through its willingness to accept a record $28 million fine - now acknowledges that, as a corporation, it covered up information that should have been presented to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the fall of 2001," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Jan 28:  2 ex-workers deny guilt in cover-up at Davis-Besse

TOLEDO -- "Two of the three people accused of covering up information about problems at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant pleaded not guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Toledo. Andrew Siemaszko, 51, of Spring, Texas, and Rodney M. Cook, 55, of Millington, Tenn., entered the pleas to charges of making false statements to a federal agency. Mr. Siemaszko has been charged with five counts. Mr. Cook has been charged with four. Conviction on any of the charges allows for a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, Magistrate Vernelis Armstrong said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Jan 27:  Ex-engineer, consultant face charges in U.S. court
Men linked to woes at Davis-Besse plant

TOLEDO -- "An appeal of Mr. Siemaszko's employment sanction is being heard by the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. Two watchdog groups, the Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, Mass., as well as Ohio Citizen Action, have been granted intervener status by that board to assist with Mr. Siemaszko's defense in the civil matter. David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists nuclear safety engineer, yesterday submitted an eight-page rebuttal to the NRC in which his group laid out a paper trail, based on publicly available documents, to support its contention that Mr. Siemaszko was rebuffed by FirstEnergy in 2000 when he tried to postpone Davis-Besse's restart to do more maintenance on the old reactor head," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

TOLEDO -- Questions for FirstEnergy, Editorial, Toledo Blade.

Jan 26:  'Work performed without deviations'
How the NRC unfairly sactioned Andrew Siemaszko

OAK HARBOR -- "In March 2002, workers discovered a large hole in the reactor vessel head at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio. In April 2005, the NRC issued an Order that would ban Andrew Siemaszko from working in the nuclear industry for five years. Siemaszko was an engineer at Davis-Besse. The NRC's Order claimed that Siemaszko falsified paperwork during the spring 2000 refueling outage at Davis-Besse and duped FirstEnergy and the NRC into believing the reactor vessel head had been completely cleaned and inspected. As detailed in the attached rebuttal prepared by UCS, the NRC's claim contradicts the abundant record on this matter. The NRC is flat-out wrong," Dave Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists. 1,244KB pdf.

Jan 24:  Questions for FirstEnergy

TOLEDO -- "THE agreement whereby FirstEnergy Corp. will pay $28 million to settle the Davis-Besse reactor corrosion case should not deter federal prosecutors from determining who else at the utility might have borne responsibility for potentially endangering the lives of thousands of northwest Ohioans... Both shareholders and customers of FirstEnergy, which include more than 300,000 in the Toledo area and 4.5 million total in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, have a right to wonder about the state of management of what is the fifth-largest investor-owned utility in the U.S.," editorial, Toledo Blade.

Jan 23:  Firstenergy admits to nuclear power plant cover-up

NEW YORK -- "FirstEnergy Corp. Friday admitted that some of its employees made false statements to US regulators about safety violations at one of its nuclear plants and said it had reached a deal with the US Department of Justice to avoid indictment of the utility. The company's nuclear operating unit, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. (FENOC), agreed to pay a $28 million penalty to the Justice Department and cooperate with criminal and administrative investigations and proceedings. The penalty is the largest ever imposed for nuclear safety violations in the United States, according to the Justice Department," Michael Erman, Planet Ark.

Jan 21:  FirstEnergy fines total $28 million
Utility admits workers misled U.S. inspectors

CLEVELAND -- "FirstEnergy Corp. avoided criminal prosecution Friday by paying $28 million in fines and admitting that its employees had misled government inspectors about the extent of damage at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in 2001. The largest fine in the history of the nuclear industry still drew outrage from FirstEnergy opponents, who called it too small... Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, said 'I'm pretty horrified, actually. It just seems not to match what the crime was... I don't even see how the fine means much to them,... they can absorb that one way or the other.' The agreement precludes FirstEnergy from passing on the cost to its customers," Dave Scott, Akron Beacon Journal.

CLEVELAND -- FirstEnergy to pay $28 million fine for lying; Davis-Besse’s punishment largest in nuclear industry, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

CLEVELAND -- Ohio nuclear plant to pay up for leak, Penalties will total $28 million, Workers had tried to cover up the extensive damage, Mark Kropko, Philadelphia Inquirer.

Jan 20:  U.S. indicts trio in Davis-Besse inquiry
Reactor head facts withheld, government says

CLEVELAND -- "On April 21, 2005, the NRC imposed a five-year ban on further employment in the nuclear industry against Mr. Siemaszko — a decision which has rankled activists in Ohio and Washington. Several of them have rallied around Mr. Siemaszko, describing him as a whistleblower who tried to reveal the plant’s problems during its 2000 outage, only to be set up as a scapegoat by FirstEnergy and the NRC. The company and the agency deny those allegations. Ohio Citizen Action, the state’s largest environmental group, as well as the Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, Mass., recently were granted intervener status on Mr. Siemaszko’s behalf for his appeal of the proposed NRC employment sanction," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

CLEVELAND -- 3 accused of lying about reactor, FirstEnergy plea is likely in probe of Davis-Besse, John Funk and Mike Tobin, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- Charges filed in acid-leak investigation at nuclear plant, Connie Mabin, Akron Beacon Journal.

Jan 16:  Davis-Besse court cases could loom over big step

OAK HARBOR-- "That leaves open the possibility that NRC officials will be judging Davis-Besse’s suitability for continued operation at the same time state or federal judges — perhaps even other agency officials themselves — are hearing appeals on the alleged roles the company or various individuals may have had in concealing information about the gaping cavity that almost burst open with radioactive steam. The event has been described by several NRC officials as the nuclear industry’s biggest safety lapse since the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island Unit 2 nuclear plant in eastern Pennsylvania in 1979," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Jan 11:  FirstEnergy lists upgrades to nuclear unit

SHIPPINGPORT, PA -- "As anticipation builds over the outcome of a two-year criminal probe into the near-rupture of Davis-Besse's old reactor head, FirstEnergy Corp. yesterday spent three hours here updating the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on systemwide improvements being made throughout the utility's nuclear division. NRC officials said they generally were satisfied by what they heard, though they still have reservations about FirstEnergy's ability to diagnose its own problems. But unlike the recent past, the driving force for the agency's concerns isn't Davis-Besse. It is a series of performance issues that have led to increased oversight at the utility's Perry nuclear plant east of Cleveland," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

SHIPPINGPORT, PA -- Nuclear safety record mixed, Stephanie Waite, Beaver County Times and Allegheny Times.

Jan 6: 4 men barred from nuclear sites
Regulators say Davis-Besse ex-workers gave false report on reactor

AKRON -- "Even as leaking boric acid ate a hole into the top of the Davis-Besse nuclear reactor in late 2001, four FirstEnergy Corp. employees mischaracterized the reactor's condition to avoid a costly shutdown and keep the power plant operating another three months, federal regulators charge. On Thursday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it had barred the four from working in the U.S. nuclear industry for as long as five years for failing to provide complete and accurate information about the plant's safety. The NRC said the workers, who have left the Akron utility, engaged in deliberate misconduct regarding a growing rust hole atop the Davis-Besse reactor," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

OAK HARBOR -- Four former nuclear plant employees banned from industry, Dayton Daily News.

Jan 5: Davis-Besse nuclear plant probes wrap up
Four to be banned from nuclear industry

CLEVELAND -- "The last chapters of the Davis-Besse fiasco are about to be written. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today will banish four former FirstEnergy Corp. managers from the nuclear industry for their roles in convincing the NRC that the Toledo-area nuclear plant was safe and could postpone a reactor lid inspection... U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Lakewood Democrat, said Wednesday night that the action against the four is 'shameful,' because it overlooks the utility's failure to nurture a culture of safety at the plant and masks the NRC's failure as a strong regulator. 'The NRC is going to have to purchase a new gallon of white paint for this whitewash,' he said," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Older news

2005: Jan-May, Jun-Dec
2004: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr-May, Jun-Aug, Sep-Dec
2003: Jan-Feb, Mar-Apr, May-Jun, Jul-Aug, Sep-Oct, Nov-Dec
2002: Jan-Jun, Jul-Aug, Sep-Oct, Nov-Dec

As of Jul 16, 2004. . .

4,428 neighbors have sent handwritten letters and petitions urging the Public Utilities Commission to scrap FirstEnergy's pending $3 billion rate plan.

4,065 neighbors have sent handwritten letters and petitions urging their mayors to oppose FirstEnergy's demand for $3 billion in new overcharges to customers.

19,000 neighbors have sent handwritten letters and petitions pressing the U.S. NRC to stop FirstEnergy from restarting Davis-Besse.

27,834 neighbors have sent handwritten letters, member names on sign-on letters, and postcards urging FirstEnergy not to restart Davis-Besse.

4,022 neighbors have signed postcards and sign-on letters to each of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Auditor Betty Montgomery, and Attorney General Jim Petro, urging them to demand that the FirstEnergy case get at least as much scrutiny as other rate cases. Another 4,620 neighbors have sent similar messages to Gov. Bob Taft.