Congressman criticizes Ohio nuke plant's restart

AP News
Posted: Dec 05, 2011 6:16 PM
Congressman criticizes Ohio nuke plant's restart

A nuclear plant where cracks were found in protective concrete is being allowed to reopen despite unanswered questions about what happened, a congressman said Monday.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and operators of the Davis-Besse plant near Toledo don't know what caused the cracks or whether it's a bigger problem, said U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat who has been a longtime critic of the plant and its owner.

Commission members on Friday signed off on restarting the plant after its owner gave them reasonable assurance that the cracks don't pose a threat. Regulators said they've done their own checks and reviewed testing already completed by plant operator FirstEnergy Corp.

The plant along Lake Erie was shut down in October for installation of an 82-ton reactor head, a steel lid that sits atop the reactor vessel. Soon afterward, crews discovered a 30-foot hairline crack in the outer wall and later found numerous tiny cracks.

The building's concrete shell is designed to protect the reactor from anything that might hit it from outside such as storm debris or an airplane.

The NRC has given FirstEnergy until the end of February to find out what caused the cracks.

A watchdog group, the Union of Concerned Scientists, questioned the soundness of the concrete and asked the commission to look into whether the walls were built to adequate engineering specifications. The NRC said on Friday it was evaluating the walls and whether they meet requirements.

Akron-based FirstEnergy has not said when it plans to restart the reactor, but it has maintained that the building's walls are safe.

Since the discovery of the cracks, anti-nuclear activists have stepped up their opposition to renewing the plant's license.

Davis-Besse's license is set to expire in six years, and FirstEnergy has an application pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the operating license until 2037.

At full power, the plant makes enough electricity for around 750,000 customers, primarily in Ohio. The company's electric system has 4.5 million customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.