NRC says damaged nuclear plant not ready to reopen

Associated Press, Oak Harbor, Ohio, December 19, 2003

[Posted 23/12/2003]

A two-week inspection of operations at the shuttered Davis-Besse nuclear plant revealed numerous operator errors, and government inspectors don't think the plant is ready to restart, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Friday.

None of the errors presented a safety risk but showed plant operators didn't consistently follow correct procedures, said Rick Skokowski, who is in charge of the NRC's team overseeing the plant's restart. The NRC completed its inspection Friday and announced the results at a meeting.

Skokowski said a lot of the problems inspectors found were the same as those found during a September review. He said the changes made to correct the problems didn't work.

"The consistency wasn't there," Skokowski said.

The plant along Lake Erie has been shut down for almost two years because of extensive corrosion found on the reactor vessel. The NRC would not say Friday when it might allow the plant to reopen. The plant's owner, Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., had hoped to restart the plant by the end of the year.

Lew Myers, chief operating officer of FirstEnergy's Nuclear Division, said the company was not happy with the results of the inspection.

"We're not satisfied with this performance. We're going to hold people accountable," he said.

The plant has been shut down since February 2002 when it was taken off-line for maintenance. A month later a leak was discovered that had allowed boric acid to eat nearly through the 6-inch-thick steel cap covering the plant's reactor vessel.