Group wants D-B to stay shut down

By Brenda M. Culler

SANDUSKY -- A Toledo group is urging Sandusky residents to protest the restart of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station.

Over the weekend, members of Ohio Citizen Action went door-to-door in city neighborhoods, passing out leaflets urging residents to write letters protesting the start-up of the nuclear power plant, scheduled for sometime in the fourth quarter, according to plant officials.

Davis-Besse has been shut down since February, when it was closed for routine refueling and inspection. A 6-inch-deep crater was discovered in the cap covering the tank holding the reactor core.

The group is calling the plant unsafe and wants a group independent of Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Davis-Besse parent FirstEnergy officials to review safety and operating procedures.

"Our biggest concern is community safety," OCA Toledo Program Director Beatrice Miringu said.

But some of the information OCA members are presenting is wrong or misleading, according to Ottawa County and Davis-Besse officials.

"Problems with radiation detectors at Davis-Besse resulted in seven workers leaving the plant with radioactive particles on their clothes which they took home with them," according to the flyer. "FirstEnergy has operated this plant for 25 years, and it still doesn't have a realistic evacuation plan."

James Greer, director of Ottawa County's Emergency Management Agency, said the plan to evacuate the 10-mile radius surrounding Davis-Besse is updated every year. Those plans are written to meet federal criteria and have five pages of standard operating procedures which would be followed in the event of any emergency, Greer said.

"After having gone through Lonz Winery terrace collapse and seeing that the media, both locally and nationally, were covering the event within an hour -- if a situation were to happen at Davis-Besse, everyone around the world would know what was going on," Greer said.

Emergency responders, police organizations and school bus drivers are trained at least once a year on evacuation, Greer said.

As for the radioactive particles that escaped, Wilkins said OCA has its facts wrong.

"There was no problem with radiation detectors at the plant. The detectors did set off alarms when some contract workers passed through them," Wilkins said.

Five, not seven, contract workers left the plant with a total of 18 microscopic particles because the the particles were inside their bodies, such as their noses, where they could not be cleaned off, Wilkins said.

In April, Davis-Besse officials told the NRC that the sensors that measure the workers' whole body radiation levels had not been programmed to identify the main isotopes that made up the particles found outside the plant.

Tuesday, Wilkins said the April statement was not entirely true.

"The whole body counter was not set to monitor all of the isotopes that were involved but it was capable of monitoring some of the isotopes," Wilkins said. "Some particles were at the threshold of detectability, the point where the machine may not detect it or may detect them."

When the radiation particles escaped, more sensitive scanners had been ordered but had not yet arrived at the plant. The new, more sensitive radiation monitors are now installed.

The company has also revised its procedures "so when we come upon a situation where they set off an alarm, the process for trying to detect the cause of the alarm is more stringent," Wilkins said.

If the microscopic radioactive particles are believed to be inside a worker's body, the worker will be required to blow his or her nose in an effort to eliminate the isotopes on site, Wilkins said.

If the total radiation level of all 18 particles is added together, it equals .0006 millirems of radiation exposure per hour. By comparison, one dental X-ray exposes a person to 10-20 millirems of radiation in just seconds. A person would have to have all 18 particles on his or her body for nearly two years to receive the same level of exposure as the single dental X-ray, Wilkins said.

"I don't think the level of radiation exposure in this case is really of concern, because it should have been detected no matter how small it was," Miringu said.

OCA will keep up the campaign until the NRC and FirstEnergy agree to have an independent committee review corrective action measures at Davis-Besse, she said. On April 24, the OCA and 13 other nuclear watchdog groups asked the NRC to appoint the independent panel.

NRC Region III Spokesman Jan Strasma said the NRC has not yet decided on the matter.

OCA officials say the group has collected letters from 4,157 people from Toledo to Cleveland.

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