Article published Friday, March 29, 2002|
NUCLEAR PLANT WOES
Kaptur: Shut Down Davis-Besse
Nuke Plant Threatens Public Safety
BLADE STAFF WRITER
OAK HARBOR, Ohio -
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur last night expressed serious reservations
about the government’s ability to inspect FirstEnergy Corp.’s
beleaguered Davis-Besse nuclear power plant and said she would like
to see the facility shut down permanently.
"I have zero
confidence in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. If it’s possible to
have less than zero, that’s what I have," the Toledo Democrat fumed
during a half-hour interview with The Blade, referring to the
federal agency in charge of regulating the nuclear
She said America’s rising energy needs cannot take
precedence over public safety and that, at a minimum, the regulatory
commission should require a new reactor head for Davis-Besse before
allowing the utility to restart the plant.
"At this point,
the burden of proof falls upon the company and the NRC to regain the
public’s trust, which they don’t have," Miss Kaptur said.
to the prospect of a permanent shutdown, she said: "I think right
now that would be my preference."
Five of 69 reactor nozzles
developed cracks over a number of years, one of which allowed boric
acid to leak out and burn through the top six inches of the steel
The only thing that prevented a hole - one that would
have allowed radioactive steam to be released into the containment
structure - was a warped swath of stainless steel that is only
three-eighths of an inch thick. That is about the width of a pencil
Miss Kaptur is one of at least two Democrats from
northern Ohio who want the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reject
FirstEnergy’s anticipated proposal to fix the reactor head at a cost
of up to $10 million. The utility wants to do that so it can stick
to its timetable of getting Davis-Besse running again by late
"Any repair of the current lid is unacceptable," U.S.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland) wrote in a letter to the
commission. "There is no scientific basis that such a repair can
withstand the environment of an operating reactor."
Kaptur and Mr. Kucinich have expressed anti-nuclear views in the
Keeping Davis-Besse shut down until a new reactor cap
is installed is a project that could idle the plant until spring
2004 and cost $20 million.
The regulatory commission has not
ruled out that possibility.
FirstEnergy must convince federal
regulators that it can operate the plant safely before the
government will authorize a restart, commission spokesman Jan
"If it won’t, we’ll turn it down," he said of
any restart proposal submitted by the utility.
The issue will
be discussed at 9 a.m. April 5 at Oak Harbor High School at a public
meeting during which NRC officials will release their preliminary
inspection results. Officials said they will take questions from the
public after their presentation.
Miss Kaptur sent a letter
yesterday to commission Chairman Richard Meserve, calling for the
government agency to organize a "fact-finding session" at
Davis-Besse for members of Congress from this region, as well as
those from other parts of the country with similar nuclear
The commission likely will comply, Mr. Strasma
"Any government official who has ever wanted to see our
plant has been afforded that opportunity just by picking up a phone
and asking," said Richard Wilkins, a FirstEnergy
Both said they believe the regulatory commission
has been diligent in its role of regulating the nuclear
"Certainly, there’s a serious engineering issue at
Davis-Besse. It needs to be fully resolved and we intend to do
that," Mr. Strasma said.
Mr. Wilkins said the industry’s
safety record speaks for itself.
As for Miss Kaptur’s
preference to mothball Davis-Besse, he replied: "People who don’t
like nuclear power want nuclear power plants to be closed down
permanently. Given the amount of electricity [Davis-Besse]
generates, it doesn’t seem to be a very sound