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Wednesday
Feb222012

Congressman Kucinich outs the truth at Davis-Besse

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH, pictured at left) has watchdogged the dangerous Davis-Besse atomic reactor not for years, but for decades. Most recently, he has played the essential role of pressuring both FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) and even the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to admit the truth about what is going on with Davis-Besse's cracked containment. With the backing of NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, Rep. Kucinich succeeded in winning a public meeting near Davis-Besse on Jan. 5th, where FENOC was forced to admit the cracking was not just in "decorative" elements of the concrete shield building, as it had deceptively held to for months, but rather was structural in nature.

On Feb. 8th, Rep. Kucinich revealed the full significance of cracking in the "outer rebar mat": NRC had concluded by Jan. 5th, if not weeks earlier, that the outer layer of steel reinforcement in Davis-Besse's concrete shield building has lost its functional effectiveness. Outrageously, at least up until Dec. 29, 2011, NRC continued to parrot FENOC's claims that the cracking impacted only "decorative" elements. And at the Jan. 5th "standing room only" public meeting attended by 300 people, including dozens of reporters, NRC failed to communicate to the public the full significance of cracking in the outer rebar mat. In fact, NRC still has not done so.

On Feb. 21st, Rep. Kucinich asked "The question for residents of Ohio is given FirstEnergy’s historical lack of credibility on issues at Davis-Besse, will anyone believe them?" He was referring to a "root cause analysis" by FENOC due by Feb. 28th about the cracking. Rep. Kucinich pointed out:

"FirstEnergy has hired highly-paid consultants to prepare its root cause report. If those consultants conclude that the cracking has occurred as a result of a slow, continuous deterioration of the concrete over the more-than-thirty-five years since it was originally poured, that would be bad for Davis-Besse and its current application to extend its operating license for an additional 20 years beyond its expiration in 2017. If those consultants conclude that the cracking occurred right after the initial drying of the poured concrete in the mid-1970’s and has not worsened since then, that would be good for Davis-Besse." Kucinich hints that the latter version of causation will likely be the finding reported by FENOC's highly-paid consultants.

Beyond Nuclear has co-led an environmental coalition challenging Davis-Besse's 20 year license extension. In fact, on Jan. 10th the coalition filed a cracked containment contention in the NRC's Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board proceeding, and has defended it ever since. If the cracking did occur right when Davis-Besse was built and hasn't worsened since, one has to wonder why it took FENOC 35 years to discover the cracking?!

On Feb. 16th, Kucinich gave FirstEnergy a "Corporation Fact Check Rating" of "Pants-on-Fire" regarding its dirty coal burners.  FENOC is also in hot water regarding nuclear fuel at its Beaver Valley nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, which could dangerously overheat in an accident; due to failure to properly inspect safety-significant structures, Beaver Valley may also have installed a defective Babcock and Wilcox-Canada replacement reactor vessel head in the aftermath of the 2002 Davis-Besse Hole-In-the-Head Fiasco. FENOC's Perry atomic reactor northeast of Cleveland is amongst the five worst in the U.S., according to NRC safety rankings. This is due to NRC findings having to do with recurring "weaknesses in the area of human performance," including an April 2011 incident in which workers risked radioactive overexposures due to poor planning and systemic mistakes.