Jurich: No, no, Davis-BesseWritten by Stacy Jurich | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We have at least 557 tons of highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel in our backyard! This fuel is stored in casks that were built below technical specifications over 15 years ago and are constantly susceptible to damage from technical, structural or operational accidents and natural disasters. Welcome to Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant, situated in Oak Harbor, about 20 miles east of Toledo on the shoreline of the Great Lakes, 20% of the world’s surface fresh water and drinking supply for 40 million people.
FirstEnergy Corporation, (mis)manager of Davis-Besse, recently applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a 20-year operating license extension. The original license was granted in 1977 and will expire in 2017. If the extension is approved Davis-Besse can operate until 2037. Beyond Nuclear, a Washington, DC based non-profit, says Besse is one of the most problem-plagued atomic reactors in the entire country. “Over its course of 34 years, Davis-Besse has suffered six (out of a total of 34 incidents so designated nationwide) “significant accident sequence precursors” between 1969 and 2005, three times more than any other American nuclear plant.”
One of the most recent and most threatening of these “accidents” occurred in 2002 when Davis-Besse’s nuclear reactor head came 3/18 of an inch away from bursting. This incident is considered “the most serious safety issue confronting the nation’s commercial nuclear power industry since Three Mile Island in 1979” and “one of the biggest cover-ups in U.S. nuclear history.” The plant had to cease operations for two years to fix the problems. The quality and care put into the repair are questionable. The U.S. Government Accountability Office published a report titled, “NRC Needs to More Aggressively and Comprehensively Resolve Issues Related to the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant Shutdown.” Additionally, NRC’s own Office of Inspector General said that FirstEnergy and the NRC had prioritized the nuclear utility company’s profits over public safety.
On top of that, earlier this year the 25-year old reactor head that replaced the damaged one in 2002 had already begun to show signs of premature aging. Despite FirstEnergy’s violations of federal regulations, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission still allowed Davis-Besse to resume operations. This is the same commission that will decide whether to grant FirstEnergy a 20-year operating license extension.
Green Party of Ohio, Ohio Sierra Club, Beyond Nuclear and Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes are hosting a Public Hearing on the re-licensing of Davis-Besse. These organizations are “calling for input from all interested parties regarding First Energy’s mismanagement of Davis-Besse, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s lack of oversight of that facility, in particular residents of any community that would be directly adversely affected by an accident at Davis-Besse.”
Each one of us has the right and ability to testify at the public hearing and the hearing will be video recorded and presented to the NRC. It is suggested to study FirstEnergy’s Environmental Impact Statement, find weaknesses and present them in comments at the hearing. The statement can be found at http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/licensing/renewal/applications/davis-besse.html.
Anita Rios of Green Party of Ohio said the NRC will not accept arguments regarding the safety of nuclear power. “This is an agency that is supposed to work for us, and it is doing everything it can to not hear from us and to make it harder for us to have input in this matter. It goes beyond discussion if nuclear is safe or not. At this point, what we’re talking about is the way this plant operates is not safe. It’s degraded; they’ve brought in a 2nd new vessel head which is unproven technology. We’re sitting here on Lake Erie hoping nothing goes wrong with that plant, but a lot has already gone wrong.”
Rios believes the main focus of the Public Hearing will be to “send a message that when you break the law and when you put people at risk you will be held accountable.” According to her, all the rules and regulations that the NRC has put in place have been ignored by Davis-Besse and ignored by the NRC itself. “That’s how NRC goes about its business, acting as if those of us that live in proximity to that plant are secondary to the operation of plant.”
The NRC and even FirstEnergy, headquartered in Akron, do not have a sincere interest in the health and safety of our backyard, only in profit. This is our community, and frankly, our lives. Let your voice be heard at the Public Hearing this Saturday, December 18 from Noon until 3:00 pm at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2272 Collingwood Blvd., Toledo, Ohio.