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July 25, 2002


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Local Companies | Article published July 25, 2002
Coalition wants Davis-Besse plant shut permanently
John Kiely, a structural engineer with seven years of nuclear experience, calls Davis-Besse ‘an accident wai- ting to happen’ during the news conference downtown.
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A newly formed coalition of citizen advocacy groups is calling for the closing of FirstEnergy Corp.’s troubled Davis-Besse nuclear plant.

At a news conference in downtown Toledo yesterday, coalition spokesman Steve Miller said the groups want Davis-Besse shut down permanently. He said the Citizens Campaign to Close Davis-Besse, made up of nine groups, wants other things as well: jobs for displaced Davis-Besse workers, a reduced dependence on fossil fuels, and more investment in alternative sources of energy.

The coalition also hopes to prevent spent nuclear fuel from Davis-Besse and other nuclear plants from being transported cross-country to Nevada’s Yucca Mountain for disposal.

The coalition has planned a "Rally Against Radiation" for Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. at Crane Creek State Park along State Rt. 2 in Ottawa County, just west of the nuclear plant. Both the park and the nuclear plant are along the Lake Erie shoreline, about 25 miles east of Toledo.

One-time Toledo mayoral candidate Mike Ferner, a nuclear power skeptic for years, said what happened at Davis-Besse was an "unacceptable threat" to area residents, as well as to Lake Erie. Davis-Besse operated for 25 years before it was idled Feb. 16 for refueling. It has been the focus of national attention since early March, when workers discovered the plant’s steel reactor head had become so corroded over the years that the device - an essential safeguard for the public - was in the worst shape of any in the United States. Davis-Besse’s reactor head was severely corroded by a pair of leaky nozzles that allowed boric acid from the reactor to get on top of the 17-foot-wide, 150-ton dome-shaped lid .

Numerous investigations and congressional inquiries have followed, including one in which criminal charges could be issued by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Several NRC officials have since acknowledged it was the nation’s closest brush with a nuclear accident since Three Mile Island in 1979. FirstEnergy officials have agreed they let the reactor head degrade to an unacceptable condition but have pointed out that there was not an accident at Davis-Besse. They believe the plant’s containment building, the public’s last line of defense, would have been strong enough to hold back radioactive steam that would have been created if a hole had been created in the reactor head.

One of those who spoke at the news conference questioned that. John Kiely, a structural engineer with seven years of nuclear experience, called Davis-Besse "an accident waiting to happen." He said he fears corrosion particles and other debris within the containment building could have clogged reactor coolant pumps, complicating the ability of operators to perform an emergency shutdown.

Dr. Kiely said he gained his understanding of containment structures while designing them from 1969 to 1976 for one of the world’s largest contractors, Bechtel Corp. of San Francisco. He said he worked on containment structures built at the Arkansas 1 nuclear plant in Arkansas and at the Limerick and Peach Bottom nuclear complexes in Pennsylvania.

Richard Wilkins, a FirstEnergy spokesman, said the company vows improvement. The company hopes to get NRC approval by the end of this year to restart Davis-Besse, using a reactor head from an unused plant in Midland, Mich.

"Granted, we have a problem with the reactor head," Mr. Wilkins said. "We have a problem with how we executed our boric acid corrosion plan. We did not do as good of a job as we should have. Before we restart the plant, we’re going to make sure all of those issues are addressed," he said.

In addition to the Nuclear Information & Resource Service of Washington, the groups sponsoring Saturday’s rally include Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy, the University of Toledo Campus Greens, the Northwest Ohio Green Party, the Ohio Green Party, the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, Food Not Bombs, Citizens Protecting Ohio, and the Young People’s Socialist League.

More articles on this subject »
84-ton reactor head arrives at Davis-Besse 07/19/2002
Lake Erie security zones near 2 nuke plants now permanent 07/18/2002
Managers were lax at Davis-Besse facility, exec says 07/17/2002
Watchdog claims NRC downplayed nuke plant’s risk 07/10/2002
Davis-Besse officials work to regain trust of public, regulators 07/09/2002

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