OAK HARBOR - Federal officials Wednesday
heaped more blame on FirstEnergy for its safety procedures at the
Davis-Besse nuclear plant, this time for a series of events that
allowed 16 radioactive particles to leave the plant on workers'
The amount and type of radiation that escaped the plant does not
pose a public health threat, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.
And while the radiation probably exceeds levels allowed by the NRC,
it is also unlikely to be a health threat to the contaminated
At least two workers ingested microscopic radioactive particles.
Test results from four independent laboratories won't be available
for about three weeks, NRC officials said.
The NRC announced the findings Wednesday morning at the Akron
utility's damaged Davis-Besse plant.
The NRC found that First-Energy:
• Failed to identify adequately
how much radiation was in the steam generator, despite numerous
opportunities to do so.
• Failed to do timely and suitable
measurements of radiation in work areas and of radiation excreted
from the workers.
• Failed to survey adequately
workers for radioactive contamination before they left the
• Did not consider the impact of
small fuel leaks over the years, and ignored indications that the
latest fuel leaks were worse than in previous years.
• Did not reassess the
implications of an increase in radiation levels in the steam
generator nine hours before work was to start there.
All of that increased the potential for workers to be exposed to
radioactive particles in excess of NRC limits, the NRC said.
Davis-Besse has remained shut down since a safety inspection in
March found two unprecedented boric acid-created cavities on top of
the reactor's former vessel head, a large steel dome that covers the
radioactive fuel core. FirstEnergy has pushed back its hoped-for
restart date from December to early next year, though the NRC will
have to give its approval first.
The accidental release of the radioactive particles, which is not
directly related to the vessel head problem, was discovered March 22
when one of the workers arrived at the Oconee nuclear power plant in
South Carolina, setting off monitors there. Other particles were
subsequently found in Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia and Texas.
The six workers were contaminated while working in the plant's
steam generator, a massive device that typically contains high
levels of radiation. The workers, while wearing protective clothing,
did not wear devices that would have prevented them from breathing
in any radioactive particles. Davis-Besse personnel thought putting
on additional apparatus would slow their work and actually increase
their exposure to radiation, but didn't adequately measure the
amount of radiation in the generator before they started work, the
An employee also misread the amount of allowable radiation for
part of the generator work, the NRC report said.
And while the workers went through decontamination procedures
several times, some articles of clothing and shoes worn inside the
steam generator weren't screened, the NRC said. A technician also
assumed that radiation monitors were picking up evidence of ingested
radioactive particles, not particles on clothing, the NRC said.
The significance of the NRC's findings hasn't been determined.
Each finding might violate NRC requirements, the agency's report
``There are expected to be no consequences to the public,'' said
Tom Kozak, the NRC official who headed the investigations into the
release of the particles. Clothing and skin are enough to prevent
any radiation from the particles -- invisible to the naked eye --
getting inside a person, he said.
But a breathed-in particle could end up lodged deep inside a
lung, with potential health consequences depending on the size and
type of radioactive particle, said John House, an NRC official who
led one of the inspections. On the other hand, a radioactive
particle that was ingested would likely pass through a person very
quickly, he said.
FirstEnergy has put in place corrective measures, Kozak said.
Lew Myers, chief operating officer for FirstEnergy's nuclear
operating company that runs Davis-Besse, said the company had no
conflicts with the NRC's findings.
``We thought your investigation was very accurate,'' he