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NRC: Ohio plant didn't check workers well enough

By JOHN SEEWER
The Associated Press
10/16/02 4:45 PM

OAK HARBOR, Ohio (AP) -- Operators of an Ohio nuclear power plant didn't adequately check five workers before they left the plant with specks of radiation on their clothes, federal inspectors said Wednesday.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it found three possible violations of federal rules while looking into the levels of exposure at the Davis-Besse plant.

The plant also did not properly assess how much radiation the workers were exposed to inside the plant's steam generator, said Tom Kozak, an NRC inspector.

Five workers accidentally carried the radioactive particles out of the plant in February. The particles were found in hotel rooms and homes in Ohio, Texas, South Carolina and Virginia, according to FirstEnergy Corp., which operates the plant.

There was no threat to the public, Kozak said.

The five workers and two others were performing maintenance during a routine shutdown at the plant near Toledo. One of the other workers was not contaminated; the second had to be decontaminated.

Although the workers had taken several showers, their shoes and underwear were not checked, Kozak said.

The plant assumed that the contamination was ingested or inhaled and not on their clothes, he said.

The Akron-based company did not dispute the NRC findings.

"We did not handle the issue as good as we could," said Lew Myers, head of the company's nuclear division.

The company said it has new equipment and a new supervisor to monitor levels of radiation inside the plant.

It also now requires all workers who go inside the generator to wear respirators, which would further limit their exposure to radiation, said company spokesman Todd Schneider.

Respirators had not been worn before because the company didn't think they were needed, Kozak said.

The NRC and FirstEnergy are awaiting tests to determine whether the radiation exposure for the workers was higher than initially thought, he said.

Regulators then will determine the significance of the problem and whether FirstEnergy should be penalized.

Kozak said FirstEnergy had thoroughly examined the exposure and plant conditions at the time and that the changes made should prevent workers from being exposed again.

The NRC also is investigating leaks that allowed boric acid to eat a 7-inch wide hole almost through the 6-inch thick steel cap that covers the Davis-Besse plant's reactor vessel. The leaks were discovered in March, during a maintenance shutdown.

FirstEnergy officials said at another meeting with the NRC on Wednesday that they were a little more than a month behind on their schedule to fix the reactor damage.

A new reactor should be installed by Dec. 8, said Mike Stevens, director of work management at Davis-Besse.

The company still hopes to restart the plant early next year.

------

On the Net:

Nuclear Regulatory Commission: www.nrc.gov

FirstEnergy Corp.: http://www.firstenergycorp.com

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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