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E-M:/ Nuclear Plant Allowed to Restart Despite Major Safety Problems

Nuclear Plant Allowed to Restart Despite Major Safety Problems

Statement by Kate Madigan, PIRGIM Environmental Advocate


Two years ago, FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, located on the shores of Lake Erie and less than 40 miles from Michigan, was discovered to have the worst case of corrosion atop a U.S. nuclear reactor ever reported. A hole the size of a football had developed in the nuclear reactor vessel head, caused by a crack in one of the nozzles on top of the reactor. Coolant water, containing corrosive boric acid, had been leaking through the cracks and attacking the steel of the reactor head.


The hole had been forming for years, but was not reported until only a thin stainless steel liner, measuring a mere 3/8 of an inch thick, bulging and cracking from the 2000 pounds per square inch pressure, was all that separated the public from a potential nuclear disaster.


Despite an on-going grand jury investigation as to whether or not FirstEnergy hid evidence of the corrosion and damage of the reactor head, and repeated failures of FirstEnergy to prioritize safety, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has announced today that it will allow FirstEnergy to restart Davis-Besse.


PIRGIM is deeply disappointed by the NRC's decision. Clearly, it has not learned the most important lesson: that safety comes first.  To date, the NRC has implemented less than half of the recommendations proposed by the Lessons Learned Task Force to improve safety at Davis-Besse. This offers little assurance that the public has any more reason to trust their judgment that the plant is safe now, than it did two years ago, when the NRC decided that it was safe to allow FirstEnergy to postpone inspections.


Congress and the Bush Administration need to step in and hold the NRC accountable for ensuring that every decision they make is based on protecting public safety. Congress should start by more fully investigating the NRC's role in what happened at Davis-Besse two years ago.  We must ask ourselves, how many other Davis-Besse's are out there?  Congress should also mandate that the NRC immediately implement the remaining 33 recommendations made by the Lessons Learned task force to protect the safety of citizens throughout the Great Lakes region.


For more information or for a copy of our report Lessons Not Learned: How FirstEnergy and the NRC Fail to Prioritize Safety First at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, contact kmadigan@pirgim.org.



Kate Madigan

PIRGIM Environmental Advocate

1310 Turner Street, Suite B

Lansing, MI 48906

Tel: 517-485-5029