Visit SBN, the Smart Business Network!

  FIND A BUSINESS   OR Search By Biz Name, Location

The Plain Dealer

Discuss local news

Log On to ChatXtra Now!
Local News,
Links & More!
Enter Town or Zip:


Looking for a home?
Save Time -
FREE Online Banking!

>> Adelphia Power Link 2 Months FREE
>> Win a five piece patio set!
>> FREE Online Banking at DollarBank

Advertise With Us

More From The Plain Dealer

Ohio News

NRC questions attitudes


John Funk and John Mangels
Plain Dealer reporters

Oak Harbor

- While giving FirstEnergy measured praise for the extensive repairs it is making to its crippled Davis-Besse nuclear plant, federal regulators yesterday pressed the company to further explain how it intends to fix the attitudes of its people, from top executives to maintenance workers.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission wants to know how the company will change the culture that allowed rust to eat through the reactor lid unnoticed for six years, nearly causing the worst American nuclear plant accident since Three Mile Island in 1979.

"I am still frustrated in this area," said Jack Grobe, who chairs the NRC panel overseeing FirstEnergy's efforts to restart its plant, which has been idle since Feb. 16.

"I have great confidence in your ability" to make repairs at the plant, Grobe said during the committee's meeting with FirstEnergy and Davis-Besse officials.

"Clearly you've made management changes. But every individual in the plant has to be a leader for excellence," he said, adding that the company has not yet explained how changes in the executive suite will carry over to the plant floor.

Company officials said they are still working to refine their plans for improving how they operate the plant and promised to provide details at their next monthly meeting with the NRC.

In recent months FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. has changed or added 17 people to Davis-Besse's top management, toured industry-leading nuclear plants for ideas, brought in consultants and set up several powerful internal review panels.

"We are re-evaluating all our standards," said Lew Myers, the nuclear division's chief operating officer. "A strong management team is now present at Davis-Besse with proven leadership. We need and have to build teamwork between management, supervisors and line workers."

FirstEnergy officials said they are going well beyond the minimum repairs needed for the NRC's approval to restart the plant. Besides replacing the damaged reactor lid and inspecting and repairing electrical and other equipment that may have been harmed by corrosive boric acid leaking from the reactor, workers are:

Rebuilding the three giant air coolers that help lower the air temperature inside the containment building, which houses the 605-degree reactor. "We could probably clean the coolers and meet the (NRC's) requirements. We have an opportunity to replace them and gain a ton of (safety) margin," said Myers.

Upgrading insulation near the inlet to sump pumps that keep the reactor cool during an emergency. The NRC is concerned the inlet to the pump might clog in an accident.

Cleaning and painting the steel liner of the containment building.

Installing a permanent water barrier around the top of the reactor. When the reactor's fuel rods are periodically replaced, they must be kept submerged to stay cool. Workers must flood the area above the reactor. The improved stainless steel barrier will keep water from spilling down the side of the reactor.

"A lot of the things that we are doing are not required to be done, but we are doing them," said Howard Bergendahl, vice president of FirstEnergy's nuclear division.

Grobe questioned company officials about concerns raised in a Plain Dealer report Tuesday regarding the possibility that ground water leaking into the containment building may harbor bacteria that has corroded equipment at other plants.

"That is something that has to be evaluated," said Davis-Besse plant manager Randy Fast. He said the company has sent water samples to be tested.

Fast also said inspectors are continuing to examine a gap at the bottom of the containment building between the concrete floor and the walls of the steel liner. The concrete shrank with age, he said, and the company wants to determine if water has dripped into the gap and is corroding the liner, the final barrier for the radioactive reactor.

The gap is dry to a depth of nearly four feet, but inspectors intend to probe all the way to the bottom and will check the liner's thickness.

The NRC panel unveiled an early draft of a checklist that it and other senior NRC officials will use to determine whether Davis-Besse is fit to restart.

The company believes it will have the reactor reassembled and all other repairs completed before the end of the year. But the NRC has the final say on whether all equipment, managerial, safety and licensing issues have been resolved.

NRC panel vice chairman Bill Dean was reluctant to say whether Davis-Besse can meet a year-end deadline: "There is a lot of stuff on their plate - a lot of questions they've got to answer and a lot of things they've got to assure themselves of and we've got to assure ourselves of."

To reach these Plain Dealer reporters:, 216-999-4138, 216-999-4842

2002 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
Send This Page | Print This Page
9/11 defendant indicted 3rd time for death specifics
Administration taking heat for pollution plan
Amid mixed signals from both sides, India pulls some troops from border

More Stories | 14-Day Archive | Complete Index
Today's News | The Plain Dealer Links & Archives

About Us | User Agreement | Privacy Policy | Help/Feedback | Advertise With Us
2002 All Rights Reserved.
Place an AdAll ClassifiedsReal EstateShop for autosJobs