First it was June. Then September. Now FirstEnergy Corp. says it
may not make electricity at its Davis-Besse nuclear power plant
until the end of the year.
Even though it would take longer, the company now says it may
prefer to replace the acid-damaged reactor vessel head, rather than
repair it as previously proposed, the Akron utility's chairman and
chief executive officer, H. Peter Burg, said yesterday.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission would have to sign off on
whatever plan is ultimately pursued.
If the NRC lets FirstEnergy fix the damage, the plant could still
be repaired and restarted by the end of September, Burg said at the
company's annual shareholder's meeting in the John S. Knight
However, NRC staff earlier this month told FirstEnergy they would
prefer the company install a replacement vessel head.
``We want to keep all of our options open at this point in
time,'' Burg said afterward. ``We want to make sure it (replacing
the vessel head) is the appropriate route. We're not there
The company initially had hoped to have the Lake Erie shore-front
plant, about 25 miles east of Toledo, repaired and restarted by the
end of June, then pushed that back to the end of September.
The new timetable likely would increase FirstEnergy's
Davis-Besse-related expenses. The company previously estimated it
would spend as much as $120 million to repair the vessel head and
buy replacement power -- about $25 million for the repairs, with the
balance for electricity purchases. The 883-megawatt plant represents
about 7 percent of FirstEnergy's generating capacity.
But buying a new 150-ton domed steel vessel head would be much
more costly than doing the repairs, according to a Davis-Besse
executive. In addition, the subsequent delay will increase the
number of months that FirstEnergy may have to buy replacement power
at a cost of $10 million to $15 million per month.
FirstEnergy staff are now examining a possible replacement vessel
head at the never-completed Midland Nuclear Power Plant in Midland,
Mich., a company spokesman said. FirstEnergy has not yet bought the
part, the spokesman said, but does have a nonbinding purchase order
While Burg addressed Davis-Besse in his speech to shareholders,
only one person in an audience of several hundred brought up the
plant in the hourlong morning meeting.
Amy Ryder of Ohio Citizen Action asked Burg if the company will
pay for an independent panel of experts to oversee operations at the
plant. Her organization and others, including the Union of Concerned
Scientists, petitioned the NRC in April to create the four-person
oversight group, which would be funded by FirstEnergy.
``We are paying every person under the sun to get us out of the
mess we're in,'' Burg said.
The company, in a letter to the NRC last Thursday, asked the
commission to deny the groups' request, saying it is already
providing for independent oversight at the plant. The NRC has not
yet acted on the request for an independent panel.
In other action yesterday, shareholders re-elected five directors
to three-year terms and approved a new executive and director
compensation plan. Two shareholder proposals submitted by corporate
activist John Chevedden failed. Chevedden wanted FirstEnergy
directors to be elected annually and have the company adopt simple
majority rule at its shareholder meetings.
FirstEnergy stock yesterday closed up 75 cents to