Companies | Article published October 4, 2002|
Inspectors hint at 10 violations for
By TOM HENRY
OAK HARBOR, Ohio - The Nuclear Regulatory
Commission yesterday specified 10 federal violations it likely will
issue against FirstEnergy Corp. for letting rust nearly eat a hole
through the reactor head at the Davis-Besse nuclear
Some of the violations contain multiple allegations of
wrongdoing. All are documented in a 33-page report written by the
NRCís augmented inspection team, the first group of inspectors the
government agency sent to Davis-Besse after the company reported the
plantís massive reactor-head problem in early
(For more Davis-Besse coverage, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse)
inspection team briefed the public about its preliminary findings in
April before returning to the nuclear plant to deepen its probe and
decide which violations should be filed. The report, provided to the
utility Tuesday, was made public yesterday.
included allegations that FirstEnergy:
Operated Davis-Besse while the plantís reactor
coolant system was leaking and that the utility failed to remove
highly corrosive boric acid crystals as they built up over time on
the plantís steel reactor head.
Failed to keep airborne boric acid from building up
on containment air cooler fins, which reduced the plantís heat
removal capability and reduced the coolerís air flow, and that it
failed to take action that would have kept air filters from clogging
Nixed a simple modification that could have
prevented the degradation by vastly improving visual access to the
reactor head, a $250,000 work order the company has admitted it
stopped as a cost-saving measure.
Has provided incomplete and inaccurate information
to the NRC on several occasions.
The severity of each
allegation is still being determined, although nearly every
violation cited in the inspection teamís report was listed as "more
No word on a fine or other enforcement action is
expected until early next year, in part because the identified
violations are still subject to more layers of
Davis-Besseís steel reactor head became so affected
by rust that several NRC officials have conceded northwest Ohio came
about as close to experiencing a nuclear mishap as anything the
nation has seen since the Three Mile Island accident near
Harrisburg, Pa., in 1979.
FirstEnergy officials have
acknowledged for months they expect fines or other enforcement
action to eventually be handed down for their neglect of the plant,
although they remain optimistic about finishing repairs and getting
NRC approval to restart the plant by early December.
Wilkins, FirstEnergy spokesman, said yesterday the latest NRC report
was "pretty consistent with our own findings" and said it should not
alter the companyís timetable.
The findings will be used as a
basis for determining the penalty, as will any violations which the
NRCís Office of Investigations might formally cite the company later
in a separate report.
Those investigators are looking for
evidence that could show whether the plantís history of neglect
resulted from anything willful or deliberate, Jan Strasma, NRC
The agency likely will hold off on the
penalty until both reports are finished, Mr. Strasma said. "We wonít
be taking piecemeal enforcement," he said.
Davis-Besse coverage, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse)
|AP Wall Street News Ľ|