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Published: Friday, 11/7/2003

Utility urged to rethink Davis-Besse operations

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

More than 70 medical professionals, public officials, and clergymen yesterday became the latest to to oppose FirstEnergy Corp. s plan for restarting the utility s beleaguered Davis-Besse nuclear plant.

In a joint letter to H. Peter Burg, FirstEnergy chairman and chief executive officer, the utility was urged again to “study alternatives” to restarting the Davis-Besse plant as a nuclear-based facility.

“This option would allow the plant to resume producing electricity without the dangers posed by this troubled plant, and could benefit FirstEnergy s customers, shareholders, and workers,” the letter stated.

It reiterated the theme of a joint statement issued in the fall of 2002 by U.S. Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland), Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Sherrod Brown (D., Lorain), and Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D., Cleveland).

In that statement, the four congressmen listed some examples of nuclear plants that have been converted to other types of fuel. Ohio Citizen Action, the state s largest activist group, earlier had raised that as a possibility for FirstEnergy.

Several nurses, public officials, educators, and clergymen in Toledo and other parts of northwest Ohio signed it, including Richard Lawrence, Ada City Council member; Tamara Estep, Port Clinton City Council member; William Belinger, Swanton City Council member; Nancy and Walter Graumlich, Toledo Deanery of the Episcopal Church, and Howard F. Thomas and Gregg P. Sammons, co-rectors of St. Michael s Church.

Joy Skeel, professor of medical ethics in the Medical College of Ohio s psychiatry department, said she signed it because she is “appalled that there s been such careless disregard for human beings.” She said she was making her comments as a Perrysburg resident and former nurse, not speaking on behalf of MCO.

Davis-Besse s problems, which began in March, 2002, with the discovery of a near-hole in the plant s reactor head, have been attributed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to a combination of management problems at FirstEnergy.

Richard Wilkins, a FirstEnergy spokesman, said conversion to another form of fuel has never been considered a viable option at Davis-Besse. He said the plant s record for safety speaks for itself, even though its near-miss has been widely described by the NRC as the nation s closest brush with a nuclear accident since Three Mile Island in 1979.

“I think there are a lot of well-meaning people there” on the list, Mr. Wilkins said. “But in terms of risk to the public, I don t think they re well-informed. Nuclear power is far and away the safest form of energy production.”

For earlier stories on Davis-Besse, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse



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