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Published: Thursday, 8/16/2012

Kucinich: Let NRC watchdog inspect Besse


OAK HARBOR, Ohio -- U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland) called Wednesday on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's inspector general to investigate that agency's handling of the cracked shield building at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant.

Mr. Kucinich, a persistent Davis-Besse critic, said his letter to Inspector General Hubert T. Bell was inspired by conflicts between official answers NRC staff have given about the troubled plant and information the congressman had received previously from agency engineers.

"Those public statements by the NRC spokespeople stood in sharp contrast to the open and candid assessments that I and my staff had been receiving from NRC Region III engineers," Mr. Kucinich wrote.

Workers discovered a hairline crack in the plant's outer concrete shell in October after cutting a hole for installing a new reactor head.

Further examination by inspectors revealed many more cracks near the structure's outer layer of reinforcing steel.

The NRC allowed FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Corp. to resume plant operations two months later after the reactor-head project and other maintenance were finished, then held a hearing last week to review the utility's "root cause" finding that blamed the cracks on moisture penetration and freezing during the Blizzard of 1978.

FirstEnergy and NRC have agreed to a waterproofing and monitoring program to ensure the shield building's future integrity, but critics call the cracks' explanation a "snow job" and have urged regulators to deny a 20-year license renewal for Davis-Besse when its license expires in 2017.

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