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Activist group wants nuclear plant to go non-nuclear

The Associated Press
10/1/02 2:29 AM

OAK HARBOR, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio Citizen Action has started a public campaign to convert the damaged Davis-Besse nuclear plant to coal- or gas-fired methods of producing electricity.

The activist group said on Monday that Davis-Besse would be safer and would better serve its neighbors and stockholders by "repowering" and has asked the plant's owner, FirstEngergy Corp., to study the idea.

Davis-Besse has not operated since workers fixing cracks in the reactor's lid in March discovered a large rust hole.

Within hours of learning of the proposal, FirstEnergy dismissed it as nonsensical and an ill-timed publicity stunt.

"This suggestion does not have merit," either financially or in terms of engineering, spokeswoman Ellen Raines said. "Davis-Besse was engineered and built as a nuclear plant and has been operated as a nuclear plant. We are focused on getting Davis-Besse repaired and earning the approval to get it restarted. That's the best path."

In a letter Monday, Citizen Action asked FirstEnergy Chief Executive Peter Burg to form a task force of engineers and financial analysts to study a repowering of the 25-year-old plant, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.

The lid cracks and newly discovered fissures in the lid's stainless -steel liner are just the first of a range of age-related problems that Davis-Besse and other nuclear plants around the country can expect, said Amy Ryder, director of Citizen Action's Cleveland office.

Non-nuclear methods, while not pollution-free, are "far safer means of generating electricity," she said.

The cost of such a switch, as well as the technological hurdles, could be formidable, she acknowledged. But FirstEnergy's own estimate is $281 million or more by year's end for repairs and replacement power, with no guarantee if or when federal regulators will allow the reactor to restart.

Citizen Action plans to deluge the company with letters from consumers and to talk up the switchover idea with FirstEnergy's major investors.

"They act like they are trying to contribute to a solution. But they are just adding to the controversy," said Ralph DiNicola, FirstEnergy spokesman. "It gives them an opportunity to fund-raise."

Ryder said the utility shouldn't underestimate the power of public pressure.

"This is absolutely an idea worth pursuing," she said. "If they are not examining it as an option, they're doing a disservice to their employees and the citizens of Ohio."

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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