via Occupy the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission)
IMPORTANT INFO FROM CONGRESSMAN KUCINICH (important for all of us even though his letter is addressed to the citizens of Ohio)
Dear Resident of Northern Ohio,
You live near the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, which is located in Oak Harbor, Ohio. The Davis-Besse plant was commissioned in 1977 and was granted a license to operate until 2017. FirstEnergy, the company that owns the plant, has recently applied for a license extension to keep the plant operating for another 20 years. This should concern every single one of us as this plant is one of the most irresponsibly operated nuclear power plants in the United States.
A group of concerned citizens and environmental organizations have filed with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), an independent trial-level adjudicatory body of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to oppose FirstEnergy’s request for an extension. These groups have argued several points. 1) We don’t need Davis-Besse. The power generated by the plant could be supplied by renewable sources of energy; 2) Davis-Besse is an older plant that cannot be safely operated for another 20 years and 3) at the very least FirstEnergy should implement cost-beneficial changes to the plant’s operation to reduce the economic consequences of catastrophic radiation release.
Unfortunately, the ASLB has limited what they will consider from these groups. Worse, the ASLB attempted to minimize public attention to tough questions posed by the consumer advocates by holding the hearing to consider oral arguments on Election Day. Such actions leave the impression that the ASLB may not be a truly independent body, but may instead be working to protect FirstEnergy from concerned citizens as opposed to protecting citizens from a profit-hungry Fortune 500 company.
The danger posed by Davis-Besse is very real. In 2002, during unrelated repairs, workers found a leak and discovered the shield around the reactor head was corroding. By chance, workers discovered that there was only 3/16th of an inch of steel remaining to protect us from a massive release of radiation. (Over 6 inches of steel had already been eaten away.)
FirstEnergy’s history of mismanagement is long. By failing to trim trees along their lines, FirstEnergy was responsible for the blackout in 2003 that The Wall Street Journal called the “biggest power failure in North America’s history.” Most recently, severe cracking was discovered in Davis-Besse’s “shield building,” which is supposed to protect the nuclear reactor from external environmental threats, such as tornado-borne projectiles. The shield building is also supposed to serve as a last line of defense in the case of a radiation leak. FirstEnergy decided that the cracks were not the result of aging concrete, but the result of the great blizzard of 1978. This is a “snow job” of convenience, as FirstEnergy’s own documents show that multiple factors, likely working in combination, are responsible for the diverse forms of cracking.
FirstEnergy’s recent whitewash of the possible reasons for the cracking in the shield building does not repair the cracks. Nor does it address the other likely factors, such as water infiltration via cracks in the dome some of which were first documented in 1976, but not revealed to the public until this year.
NRC Staff emails acquired through the Freedom of Information Act warn about the risk of the shield building failing under even small additional stresses. Those emails also acknowledge that the structure was never designed to withstand accident temperatures and pressures even when brand new, let alone severely cracked.
The NRC has rubberstamped 73 of 73 license extensions sought previously, even at the oldest and most age-degraded atomic reactors in the country. However, none of these reactors has had a safety record as dismal as Davis-Besse’s. It’s time to retire Davis-Besse. For our safety.
I remain committed to keeping you informed about this important issue and to making sure that our collective safety is not auctioned off for private profits.
Member of Congress
Occupy the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission)