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  Friday, October 25, 2002

 Local News

Kucinich wants D-B answers

Staff writer

CLEVELAND -- At a hearing Thursday in Cleveland City Hall, Congressman Dennis Kucinich pressed energy company FirstEnergy and a federal regulator for answers to the well publicized problems at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station.

He received little, however, by way of answers except for much of what has already been said in monthly public meetings between the utility and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

FirstEnergy lawyer George Edgar testified on the behalf of the Akron-based power company, which owns Davis-Besse, and Jack Grobe testified for the NRC.

Also testifying before Kucinich were self-described activist and nuclear industry watchdog Paul Gunter of the Nuclear Information and Research Service in Washington and Oak Harbor lawyer Howard Whitcomb, who was a former NRC inspector and former analyst for Toledo Edison.

"This is one of many discussions," Kucinich said after the two-and-a-half hour hearing. "We have to get to the facts related to this issue."

He appeared to be equally critical of FirstEnergy and the NRC, which he said both have a role in missing the unprecedented amount of corrosion on the reactor head, found in March at the Carroll Township plant.

Just as both missed it, he said, both have to look at their shortcomings and find a way to resolve them safely before the plant returns to service, if it ever does.

He also expressed a bit of irritation at the NRC for providing him with a 2-inch stack of documents just before Thursday's hearing that his office requested in August.

The Congressman promised he would review them and return to the NRC with more questions, possibly through another public meeting.

Kucinich was one of four members of Congress who supported a request by watchdog groups for independent review of the Davis-Besse problems. That request was denied officially this week by the NRC.

Much of the discussion at Thursday's hearing revolved around why FirstEnergy didn't find the corrosion until March, despite several warning signs that should have tipped off operators.

"The inspection was not thorough, that's the simple answer," Edgar told the Congressman.

Grobe was asked to explain why it was so lax on allowing Davis-Besse to skirt a required inspection before Dec. 31, 2001 that likely would have exposed leakage problems.

The NRC has come under heavy fire for the decision to allow Davis-Besse to continue operating until February, instead of shutting it down for inspection at the end of 2001.

Originally published Friday, October 25, 2002

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