WASHINGTON -- A congressional committee will
send investigators next week to the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in
Ohio, where an acid leak burned a hole in the reactor cap.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin said he
called for the review so lawmakers could get a firsthand account of
"Public confidence in the safety of nuclear energy is critically
important to our long-range energy needs," said Tauzin, R-La.
Rep. Paul Gillmor, R-Ohio, said Friday the investigators will
help lawmakers determine why the damage wasn't discovered earlier
and what should be done to keep nuclear energy safe.
In March, inspectors found leaks in reactor nozzles had allowed
boric acid to eat a hole in the 6-inch thick steel cap that covers
the plant's reactor vessel. It's the most extensive corrosion ever
found on top of a U.S. nuclear plant reactor.
"We want to make sure that whatever problems that are taking
place at Davis-Besse don't happen at other plants," said Gillmor, a
Republican whose northwest Ohio district includes the plant along
An industrywide review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of
the 68 other nuclear plants with similar designs and conditions has
reported nothing similar to what led to the corrosion at
Two staff members from the committee will visit the plant on
Tuesday and meet with NRC officials and representatives from
FirstEnergy Corp., which runs the plant located about 25 miles east
of Toledo, Ohio.
Gillmor said the committee will then decide whether it should
hold a hearing on the topic and what, if any, legislation is
needed to safeguard the nuclear industry.
A spokesman for the Senate committee that oversees NRC operations
said the panel wasn't planning its own investigation.
FirstEnergy spokesman Richard Wilkins said Friday the company
welcomes congressional investigations.
"The more people like this that go through the plant and get
their questions answered, the better," he said.
The congressional probe comes as Reps. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and
Edward Markey, D-Mass., are calling on the NRC to answer questions
about the damage.
Environmental and nuclear activists also have asked federal
regulators for an independent review of the damage at the
The NRC plans to answer Kaptur and Markey's questions by next
month and has not yet made a decision on the request for an
independent review of the plant, agency spokesman Jan Strasma said.
He said the agency was expected this week to begin an internal
review of the agency's regulatory requirements and performance
during the Davis-Besse investigation.
The plant was shut down in February for refueling and isn't
expected to be restarted until September. The NRC must first approve
the company's proposal for repairing the reactor head.