CLEVELAND -- FirstEnergy Corp. expects to be
fined following the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's preliminary
finding that it violated 11 agency regulations at the damaged
Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station.
The corrosion in the lid of the Davis-Besse reactor was the most
extensive ever at a U.S. nuclear reactor and led to a nationwide
review of 69 similar plants.
The NRC bases the amount of fines on the severity of the
violations, the company's record, how the plant identified the
problems and whether it corrected them quickly.
The agency expects to make a final determination of Davis-Besse's
liability this fall after further review by senior agency officials.
The company expects to be fined, FirstEnergy spokesman Todd
Schneider said Monday.
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
Large fines the NRC has recently levied include $2.1 million
against the operators of the Millstone nuclear plant in Connecti-
cut in 1997 and $500,000 against D.C. Cook in Michigan in 1998.
Davis-Besse's reactor has been idle since Feb. 16 and will
probably not get NRC approval to restart before the end of the year.
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.
The NRC issued a bulletin Friday suggesting several ways
instruments can be used to detect cracking of the nozzles in the 6
1/2-inch-thick steel lids. The nozzles allow control rods to move in
and out of the reactor core.
It recommends how often such inspections should be done but stops
short of ordering them. Operators that don't intend to perform the
advanced inspections are asked to explain their reasons. All reactor
operators must respond by Sept. 9.
Giving operators an option on whether to do the inspections lets
the industry determine how it will be regulated, say critics David
Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Paul Gunter of the
Nuclear Information and Resource Service. Both groups are closely
following the Davis-Besse situation.
"It's this kind of ambiguity that doesn't foster confidence on
the part of the public," said Gunter. "It's like being in the
passenger seat with the driver not fully in control. The industry is
driving the agency."