Ohio, April 5 — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today placed the
blame for extensive corrosion discovered in the lid of a nuclear
reactor squarely on the power company that operates the reactor.
A commission report cites several missed opportunities for
officials at the company, the FirstEnergy Corporation, and its Davis-Besse plant, east of Toledo, to have
detected the corrosion as much as four years ago.
The Davis-Besse staff had information that could have resulted in
identification of the problem before it became a significant issue,
the report said. In addition, had the Davis-Besse staff properly
carried out programs required by the commission, "this problem would
have been prevented," said John A. Grobe, director of the
commission's reactor safety division.
The report, presented today to an audience of 300 area residents
assembled in the local high school, detailed a lavalike boric acid
buildup that had accumulated for so long that it had to be pried off
FirstEnergy officials did not dispute the findings and took full
responsibility for the corrosion, the worst reported case at a
nuclear power plant in United States history.
"We are clearly responsible for this condition of the reactor
head," Robert F. Saunders, president of FirstEnergy's nuclear
Mr. Saunders qualified this admission with an explanation that
FirstEnergy was a "learning organization" and would inevitably
encounter occasional problems. His remarks were interrupted
occasionally by agitated members of the audience who shouted, "Shut
Fred Cohn, 74, of Curtis, Ohio, asked officials of the nuclear
agency and FirstEnergy, "How can you people tell us you're learning,
you're learning, you're learning? Don't you think this is a pretty
expensive way to learn at our expense?"
The corrosion was detected in a routine shutdown for refueling in
February. The plant, which has not reopened since, will not reopen
for several more months at least while plant officials determine
whether to repair or replace the reactor head.
Both the nuclear agency and FirstEnergy maintained that the
public was never in danger as a result of the corrosion. The
worst-case scenario, the agency said, would have been a
"radiological mess" contained within the reactor