Nuclear power news
Jul - Aug 2002

Aug 31: Reactor head moved into nuclear plant

OAK HARBOR -- "Crews took out the old reactor head yesterday through a large hole cut into the reactor building's side, and moved it to another part of the plant, where it will be analyzed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said Richard Wilkins, a spokesman for FirstEnergy Corp., which owns the plant," Toledo Blade.

Aug 30: Feds investigating whether nuclear plant owner altered records

CLEVELAND -- "Federal regulators are investigating whether FirstEnergy Corp.'s nuclear division altered records and withheld information about the condition of the Davis-Besse nuclear plant, the company acknowledged yesterday. References to a number of investigations, one of them a criminal probe, surfaced yesterday in comments filed by a coalition of 14 environmental and nuclear watchdog groups with the NRC," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- "Bad reactor head removed; Replacement at Davis-Besse slated to be in today," Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- "Feds missed chance to catch rust hole at Ohio nuclear plant," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Aug 27: Toledo Edison parent stands by profit-growth forecast

AKRON -- "Despite a rocky 2002, Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. is sticking to its forecast that earnings next year will be 9 percent higher than this yearís. . . .The companyís projections for this year do not count the impact of the prolonged shutdown of its Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Oak Harbor and adjustments if a buyer is not found for an Argentinean distributor of power that was part of last yearís merger with GPU, Inc.," Toledo Blade.

Aug 25: Safety first at nuclear plants

TOLEDO -- "The NRC must impose severe penalties on FirstEnergy or any other utilities running nuclear plants in such negligent fashion. To the extent possible, those company officials who tolerated the atmosphere of neglect should feel the pain in their pocketbooks, too," editorial, Toledo Blade.

HOLLAND -- "Going nuclear is a destructive choice," letter, Terry Lodge, Toledo Blade.

Aug 22: Davis-Besse fiasco archive
Internal NRC documents now on line

CLEVELAND -- With the help of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Ohio Citizen Action has put on-line dozens of crucial internal Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents for public inspection. Primarily from October - December, 2001, these documents are essential for understanding how the Davis Besse fiasco came to be. Not for the squeamish.

Aug 21: Retaliation fears cited at Davis-Besse nuclear plant
Accountability concerns
Staff reluctant to report problems, NRC says

OAK HARBOR -- "Among the proposed violations, the NRC said Davis-Besse had inaccurate information on reports, including work orders, corrective action documents, and responses to a NRC safety bulletin. Christine Lipa, head of the reactor oversight program in the NRC's Chicago office, said the commission did not look into whether the plant intended to falsify information, but did verify that information was inaccurate," Kelly Lecker, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- "Davis-Besse staff questions bosses' safety commitment," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- "NRC official concerned about safe restart of nuclear power plant," M.R. Kropko, Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Campaigning about A-plants, but without actual power," Matthew Wald, New York Times.

Aug 20: Failing at FirstEnergy
In its own words, the utility 'gave away the margin of safety'

AKRON -- "FirstEnergy will likely face a stiff fine. Good, if it ensures the margin of safety at all nuclear facilities. Criminal investigations should proceed for the same reason. Federal regulators should clean up their act. (They were on site all the while!) FirstEnergy already has begun. It cannot get started early enough recovering from its own damning assessment," editorial, Akron Beacon Journal.

CLEVELAND -- "Agency begins reviewing reactor," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Aug 18: Error jolts rebound of nuclear industry

OAK HARBOR -- "According to documents reviewed by The Blade, [First Energy] had drafted work orders several years ago to improve visual access through inspection ports near the reactor head known as "mouse holes." But the proposed modifications were canceled by management, apparently because of the $250,000 price tag," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Aug 17: NRC told: Let new panel probe N-plant conditions

ALBANY, NY -- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission should set up an independent unit, staffed by experts, to investigate 'off-normal ... conditions' at nuclear power plants before problems occur, a representative of the New York State attorney general urged in a letter to a task force investigating the Davis-Besse plant. . . Because his state lies downwind from Ohio and 'the potential impacts of a vessel breach [are] so great,' Mr. Skinner urged the commission 'to institute better preventative regulatory measures,'" Toledo Blade.

Aug 16: FirstEnergy admits mistakes
Its probe of Davis-Besse finds power generation topped safety as priority

AKRON -- "FirstEnergy's report concluded: (1) Plant management decided that taking minimum actions to meet regulatory requirements was adequate for nuclear safety; (2) The management's style was to be less involved in details of day-to-day operations; (3) Davis-Besse was allowed to be restarted and run for extended periods with degraded components; (4) Staffers' philosophy was that issues weren't serious unless proven to be; (5) As the threat of vessel-head damage increased over the years, Davis-Besse staffers were less rigorous in applying processes that would have warded off problems," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

CHICAGO -- "Davis-Besse admits it put production before safety," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CHICAGO -- "FirstEnergy admits management faults; Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station," Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.

CHICAGO -- "Safety slipped in 1990s, NRC told; FirstEnergy admits rules were ignored," Kelly Lecker, Toledo Blade.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "New York asks NRC for more vigilance," Stephen Koff, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

PORT CLINTON -- "Davis-Besse violations, reactor progress report topics for meetings Tuesday," Port Clinton News Herald.

Aug 14: Workers start to slice into Davis-Besseís shell

OAK HARBOR -- "He would not elaborate, but a spokesman for a high-profile nuclear watchdog group in Washington went so far yesterday as to say he anticipates a fine that will surpass the record $2.1 million penalty the NRC issued against the operators of the Millstone nuclear plant in Connecticut in 1997 for various problems identified there. 'Frankly, though, anything short of revoking [Davis-Besseís] license isnít enough,' said Paul Gunter, spokesman for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. . . .FirstEnergy claims to have decontaminated Davis-Besseís containment building, but several pieces of major equipment there must be shielded to contain radiation so exposure levels remain below NRC thresholds, officials have said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Aug 13: FirstEnergy expects fines
11 violations in preliminary findings

OAK HARBOR -- "Any fine would be in addition to the estimated $200 million or more that Akron-based FirstEnergy is paying to repair the crippled plant, install a new lid and buy replacement power until it is restarted. . . In the wake of Davis-Besse's corrosion, along with unexpectedly severe cracking found in nozzles in the reactor lids at several other plants that operate at high pressure, the NRC is warning that current "eyeball" inspections of the lids may not be adequate," Associated Press.

Aug 8: Group wants Davis-Besse to stay shut down

SANDUSKY -- "A Toledo group is urging Sandusky residents to protest the restart of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station. Over the weekend, members of Ohio Citizen Action went door-to-door in city neighborhoods, passing out leaflets urging residents to write letters protesting the start-up of the nuclear power plant, scheduled for sometime in the fourth quarter, according to plant officials. The group is calling the plant unsafe and wants a group independent of Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Davis-Besse parent FirstEnergy officials to review safety and operating procedures."Our biggest concern is community safety," Ohio Citizen Action Toledo Program Director Beatrice Miringu said," Brenda M. Culler, Sandusky Register.

Aug 7: Raitt gives tickets to support closing of Davis-Besse

CUYAHOGA FALLS -- "Singer Bonnie Raitt has donated a block of tickets for her Aug. 15 concert at the Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, to Ohio Citizen Action to help support the group’s campaign to keep FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant closed indefinitely. Ohio Citizen Action, the stateís largest environmental group, announced yesterday it is selling the tickets for $75 and $125, the more expensive of which will entitle ticketholders to a private reception with Ms. Raitt after the show," Toledo Blade.

Aug 7: Davis-Besse plant loses third overseer

OAK HARBOR -- "The FirstEnergy executive in charge of the formidable effort to restart the crippled Davis-Besse nuclear power plant has been replaced. Howard Bergendahl, who had been vice president in charge of Davis-Besse since February, "is exploring options within and outside the company," spokesman Todd Schneider said yesterday. Bergendahl had been the plant's manager the previous two years. Schneider would not say why Bergendahl left his job or whether his situation is related to the corrosion problems that have idled the reactor near Toledo for nearly half a year and will cost FirstEnergy at least $200 million. But Bergendahl is the third top executive displaced after holding a key oversight position at the plant while the corrosion occurred or was discovered," John Mangels and John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Aug 7: Reactor sales are said to endanger accident payments

WASHINGTON -- "The sale of about two dozen nuclear power reactors around the country to a small number of companies has undermined the system Congress devised to ensure compensation for people hurt by a severe nuclear accident, according to an analysis commissioned by two antinuclear groups in New York. Federal law requires reactor operators to buy $200 million in conventional insurance. It also provides for about $9.3 billion in additional coverage by requiring that after an accident, each plant pay $10 million a year, up to $88 million, to compensate victims. When the law, known as the Price-Anderson act, was approved by Congress, the idea was to spread the risk among all reactors. But as a result of recent mergers and purchases, four companies now own so many reactors that their liabilities would be more than half a billion dollars each in case of accidents," Matthew L. Wald, New York Times.

Aug 6: NRC questions own decision on Davis-Besse shutdown

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- "Government inspectors hope to decide by late September if top Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials erred by letting FirstEnergy Corp. keep operating the company’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant until Feb. 16. The regulatory agency set a deadline for a shutdown by Dec. 31, three months ahead of the plantís scheduled refueling outage. But FirstEnergy officials balked at that deadline, arguing that the slow rate of degradation would safely allow them to remain in operation until their scheduled March refueling. In the end, the NRC and FirstEnergy reached agreement on a compromise date of Feb. 16 so the utility could save money - possibly as much as $35 million - by inspecting the plant at the same time it was refueling it," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Aug 1: Area utility could lose $1.3 billion plant sale

TOLEDO -- "The sale of FirstEnergy Corp.ís Bay Shore power plant in suburban Toledo and three other Ohio power plants could be in jeopardy because of the buyerís financial difficulties. Failure of that deal could pose significant problems for FirstEnergy, which would keep operating the plants and would have to do without about $1.3 billion from the sale, funds it planned to use to pay off its sizable debts. That the purchase of the four coal-fired electric plants was threatened became evident yesterday when Fitch Ratings service said it had changed its outlook on FirstEnergy to negative from stable, in part because it was unclear whether NRG Energy, Inc., could proceed with its planned purchase from FirstEnergy, parent of Toledo Edison," Jon Chavez, Toledo Blade.

Jul 31: Fitch Ratings revises rating outlook For FirstEnergy, Cleveland Electric Illuminating and Toledo Edison to negative

NEW YORK -- "The Negative Outlook reflects the likelihood that debt reduction will be slower than previously anticipated due to difficulty in completing the proposed generation sale to NRG [Energy, Inc.], and the adverse impact of the ongoing Davis-Besse nuclear plant outage," release, Fitch Ratings.

Jul 29: Activists protest Davis-Besse nuclear plant

PORT CLINTON -- "This weekend activists from Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan held a rally to protest the reopening of the Davis-Besse nuclear plant," Karen Schaefer, Ohio Public Radio.

Jul 25: Purchase of N.J. utility perks up First Energy profits

AKRON -- "FirstEnergy estimates the cost to buy, restore and install the [Davis-Besse replacement reactor] lid to be between $55 million and $75 million -- all of which will be amortized over the remaining life of the plant. The company estimates it will spend an additional $50 million to $70 million restoring and upgrading other parts of the plant -- all of which will be charged to current operating expenses. Richard Marsh, FirstEnergy's chief financial officer, said yesterday that the company is spending $20 million this month and in August for power and will spend $10 million to $15 million on power in September and every subsequent month the plant remains idle. If Davis-Besse is not restarted this year, the company will spend between $120 million and $160 million to buy power. All of that will cost shareholders," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- "Utility reports stock increase; FirstEnergy shares rise 16 percent; 2nd-quarter results beat expectations," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

TOLEDO -- "Coalition wants Davis-Besse closed permanently," Toledo Blade.

Jul 24: FirstEnergy has 2nd worst reputation among industry executives and financial analysts
Only bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric ranked lower

BEDMINSTER, NJ -- "Rating research survey reveals Duke Energy and Southern Company are industry's reputation leaders."

"The RRC Electric Power Reputation survey included in-depth telephone interviews with senior industry executives and financial analysts who state they follow the electric power industry. Leading companies are analyzed on a series of reputation dimensions. The Reputation Rating is based on both qualitative and quantitative input emerging from the research as well as the industry expertise amongst the Rating Committee members. The interviews took place in first quarter of this year. RRC, a joint venture between The Ratrix Group and Opinion Research Corporation (NASDAQ: ORCI) provides research and opinion on reputation. RRC assigns corporate reputation ratings to the leading companies in each industry surveyed and publishes these ratings for use by interested third parties" Jane Barr, release, Rating Research LLC.

TOLEDO -- "Coalition wants Davis-Besse closed permanently," Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Jul 19: 84-ton reactor head arrives at Davis-Besse
Replacement part is critical for operations

OAK HARBOR -- "Despite its ominous look, the reactor vessel head on the truck was basically just a big chunk of steel. Because the Midland plant never opened, the head has not been used and is not radioactive. . . It will be stored on plant grounds until itís ready to be put on the reactor. Sometime in the next 21/2 months, workers will cut the containment building - the building that surrounds the reactor - to exchange reactor heads. The old reactor vessel head will be stored at the plant and, since it has radiation on it, it will have protective covering. That head will be moved to a low-level radiological waste facility. The largest one is in Barnwell, S.C., though it isnít clear where this one will go. FirstEnergy spokesman Richard Wilkins said he was not sure whether the vessel head would be cut or transported whole," Kelly Lecker, David Patch, Toledo Blade.

CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- "New reactor head arrives at D-B plant," Jennifer Funk, Port Clinton News Herald.

OAK HARBOR -- "Nuclear plant's part arrives; $55 million replacement vessel head at Davis-Besse after slow journey from Michigan with armed escort," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

Jul 18: Superload coming through

TOLEDO -- "On Thursday, July 18, the reactor head cover for the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant will pass through the Toledo area on its way to its final destination. At 9:00 a.m., the superload will enter Ohio from Michigan on U.S. 23. . . The speed of the superload and its associated escort will be very slow, even reduced to 'walking speed' as it crosses bridges on the route. Motorists will encounter extremely lengthy delays. The load itself is 18 feet wide and weighs 190,000 pounds," WTVG-13 ABC Toledo.

OAK HARBOR -- "New reactor head," Associated Press.

Jul 17: Managers were lax at Davis-Besse facility, exec says

OAK HARBOR -- "Beatrice Miringu, Toledo-area program director for Ohio Citizen Action, questioned the NRC about whether Davis-Besse was ready to move from planning the restart of the plant to implementing it, as it told the oversight panel yesterday. 'They still have many tests, many investigations and planning. They are not ready to move to implementation,' she said. Christine Lipa of the NRC said, 'Iím not sure Iím convinced theyíre at implementation either,'" Kelly Lecker, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- "NRC questions attitudes," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- "FirstEnergy to make some company changes," Port Clinton New Herald.

OAK HARBOR -- "Davis-Besse shake up," NBC 24 WNWO-Toledo.

OAK HARBOR -- "Davis-Besse repairs begin; Nuclear Regulatory Commission says plant faces a thorough review before restart; FirstEnergy holds public meeting, outlines upgrades," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

Jul 16: A sharper eye on Davis-Besse

CLEVELAND -- "It is good to see the NRC erring on the side of caution and public safety. Arguably, it did neither when it allowed Davis-Besse to delay its inspection until February, even though its staff engineers wanted to shut down the reactor because they suspected cracks had formed in nozzles around the reactor lid. They were right, and the nozzles were leaking acid that damaged the lid. The NRC inspector general is investigating that puzzling decision. Meanwhile, more stringent testing of Davis-Besse is a sign that the NRC is subjecting the plant to a level of scrutiny it has long needed," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- New questions raised on Davis-Besse's safety, John Mangels and John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Jul 15: NRC panel sets hearings for work at Davis-Besse

OAK HARBOR -- "A Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight panel will hold two meetings tomorrow to review progress at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant, which was shut down for refueling when a hole was found in its reactor vessel head," Toledo Blade.

Jul 14: Memo to Peter Burg, Chairman, First Energy:
Maybe now would be a good time to dust off the Davis-Besse emergency plan and see if it makes any sense

CLEVELAND -- "Please look at the following cloud-mass simulation of the 1999 Tokaimura, Japan, nuclear power accident. You can click 'refresh' on your browser to replay it as many times as you need to," Ohio Citizen Action.

OAK HARBOR -- "Davis-Besse engineers lulled into false sense of security; Boric-acid leaks suggested less-serious problems," Kelly Lecker, Toledo Blade

Jul 12: Award-winning singer to hold fundraiser for Ohio Citizen Action

CLEVELAND -- On August 15, Bonnie Raitt is hosting a reception after her concert with Lyle Lovett to support Citizen Action's campaign to protect Ohio from the unsafe operation of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. More than a best-selling artist, respected guitarist, expressive singer, and accomplished songwriter, Bonnie Raitt has become an institution in American music. Bonnie is as known for her lifelong commitment to social activism as she is for her music. It will be a great show and a wonderful opportunity to meet Bonnie Raitt. We hope you'll join us.

Jul 6: NRC engineers wanted to shut Davis-Besse

CLEVELAND -- "Staff engineers at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last fall wanted their bosses to order the shutdown of the Davis-Besse nuclear power station by year's end. They feared there might be dangerous cracks in nozzles in the reactor's lid. They were concerned about the lack of inspection information they were getting from the plant, according to NRC documents. And they realized FirstEnergy Corp. intended to operate the reactor without a new inspection beyond the time the NRC considered prudent. But top NRC managers ultimately decided not to issue the order," John Funk, John Mangels and Stephen Koff, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Jul 4: Davis-Besse
U.S. probes reason plant stayed open
Extent of industry pressure, politics under investigation

OAK HARBOR -- "A federal probe is under way to determine whether politics or industry pressure was involved in the decision by senior Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials in December to let FirstEnergy Corp. keep operating the troubled Davis-Besse nuclear plant six more weeks until its current refueling shutdown. . . . "We want to know if the decision was based on a technical review - not on political or industry pressure," said George Mulley, NRC deputy assistant inspector general for investigations. In December, some NRC staff members argued that the agency should have issued what would have been its first emergency shutdown order for a U.S. nuclear plant since 1987," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade, also distributed by Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Dickens of a story: Ghosts of past, present, present, and future at Davis-Besse," letter to U.S. NRC officials from David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists.

Jul 3: Feds missed Davis-Besse safety mess

WASHINGTON -- "In 1990, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission signed off on Davis-Besse's plan to prevent corrosion on its nuclear reactor, despite concerns that the program had significant problems. During the next 12 years, the plant would repeatedly ignore basic corrosion-monitoring duties as well as warnings from a corrosion study that the plant's owner commissioned. Davis-Besse managers at one point allowed so much corrosion to build up on the reactor lid that workers needed crowbars to remove it," John Mangels and John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"Chances to identify corrosion," Cleveland Plain Dealer.