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Published: Tuesday, 8/24/2004

FirstEnergy slashes 205 jobs at 3 nuclear sites

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

FirstEnergy Corp. is eliminating 205 salaried jobs at its three nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, including 63 at the Davis-Besse plant, as the final step of a reorganization.

The company, which owns Toledo Edison, laid off 120 workers yesterday, from engineers to maintenance and administration employees. It will cut 85 others as soon as projects they are working on are done, within the next year, the company said yesterday. None are union workers.

At Davis-Besse power plant near Oak Harbor, 35 employees were cut yesterday and 28 more will be gone when their projects are done, which will leave about 740 workers.

At the firm's nuclear plant in Perry, Ohio, 55 were let go and 35 more will be laid off later, leaving about 710 employees. At Beaver Valley nuclear plant in Shippingport, Pa., 29 were let go yesterday and 23 more will be gone later, leaving about 1,050.

The changes are the final step in the Akron utility's bid to make staff and management operate uniformly at its three nuclear plants. The moves occur a few months after FirstEnergy was able to restart Davis-Besse after a two-year shutdown because of a variety of safety problems, including a corroded reactor head.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was aware of the changes but had no specific objections.

"We don't regulate the number of employees at a nuclear plant. We focus on performance and safety," said agency spokesman Jan Strasma.

"It is the utility's responsibility to make cuts and still ensure performance and safety standards."

FirstEnergy said its reorganization started in June with the appointment of senior executives and selection of managers and supervisors.

Gary Leidich, president of the FirstEnergy subsidiary that oversees nuclear operations, said in a statement that the moves are aimed at improving performance and keeping safety as the top priority at the three plants.

The plants had different management structures, different job descriptions, and other variations that made it difficult to move someone from one plant to another.

Those let go were all full-time workers and will get severance, health benefits, job training, and placement assistance, a company spokesman said.

Mark Sadeghian, an analyst at Morningstar Inc., said he wants to see how the restructuring works but acknowledged that it might make corporate monitoring easier at the three power plants.

"Is it good to eliminate people per se? That's hard to say," he said.

"If you could no longer run [the plants] as efficiently as before, then it wouldn't be. The evidence is going to be in how they operate the plant from now on."

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128



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