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October 25, 2002

 



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Local Companies | Article published October 25, 2002
Kucinich vows to put nuclear plant to test
Conditions would be placed on restart

By TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER


CLEVELAND - An Ohio congressman yesterday promised to make Davis-Besse undergo "the highest threshold [of tests] that any reactor has ever faced" if FirstEnergy Corp. follows through with plans to restart the beleaguered nuclear plant east of Toledo early next year.

"This burden of proof is not only a technical burden of proof - it has become a moral burden of proof," U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland) said at the end of a two-hour congressional field briefing he hosted at Cleveland City Hall.

The event drew 100 people and was the region’s first such meeting since Davis-Besse’s unprecedented corrosion was revealed March 6.

During the briefing, a Washington attorney representing FirstEnergy acknowledged that the utility provided "incomplete and inaccurate information" to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about past inspections.

FirstEnergy did not immediately comprehend the extent of the problem because it placed production ahead of safety, George Edgar, a partner in the Washington law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, said.

"The inspection was not thorough enough is the basic answer," Mr. Edgar said, referring to an outage which preceded the latest shutdown and could have halted the corrosion before it got so bad.

In one part of the reactor, boric acid leaked out and burned off all but two-tenths of an inch of steel covering the pressurized vessel, putting northern Ohio on the cusp of a nuclear accident comparable to the one at Three Mile Island in 1979, officials have said. The reactor cap, a vital barrier against cancer-causing radiation, had started to bulge and crack.

Testimony was taken from Mr. Edgar; Jack Grobe, Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight panel chairman; Paul Gunter, Nuclear Information and Research Service spokesman, and Howard Whitcomb, a Toledo lawyer and Ottawa County resident who worked for Davis-Besse in the 1980s shortly after leaving an NRC job as a resident inspector at a South Carolina nuclear plant.

"The NRC has yet to admit its role as to how production was allowed over safety," Mr. Gunter said. "Regulation without enforcement is pointless and futile," he added.

Some people questioned a recent NRC task force report that claimed the agency’s Midwestern office was distracted by issues at other plants.

"That excuse is unacceptable," Mr. Whitcomb said. "It is time there be an independent investigation into the affairs of the NRC."

The case could have ripple-effects throughout the nuclear industry as the NRC continues to assess what went wrong at the plant and in its own regulatory framework, officials said. "Clearly, we consider this problem at Davis-Besse to be a very serious matter," Mr. Grobe said.

Mr. Kucinich said he was pleased by the testimony. "The company acknowledged it was wrong, the NRC acknowledged there were shortcomings, and now we have to see there are changes," he said. "We’re going to take this dialogue to a new level."


More articles on this subject »
Davis-Besse worker sues over suspension 10/23/2002
FirstEnergy pledges to pay down debts 10/22/2002
Citizens’ appeal rejected by NRC 10/22/2002
Utility again works on plant sales 10/18/2002
Nuclear plant studies old reactor for other leaks, source of acid 10/17/2002

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