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Published: Wednesday, 10/24/2007

Engineer says utility covered up problems

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Closing arguments are planned today in the first of two federal criminal trials stemming from the cover-up at Davis-Besse in the fall of 2001, when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission correctly picked up on signals that the Ottawa County nuclear plant was running afoul but had no idea its reactor head was about to burst.

FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, which owns and operates the facility, has paid a record $33.5 million in fines for violating a federal law that requires complete and accurate information for the NRC.

Former plant engineers David Geisen, Rodney N. Cook, and Andrew Siemaszko face up to five years in prison and separate $250,000 fines if a U.S. District Court jury convicts them on charges of lying to the government. Mr. Geisen, of Wisconsin, and Mr. Cook, a Tennessee contractor, are the subjects of the first trial, which began Oct. 1. Mr. Siemaszko will be tried later.

In yesterday's concluding testimony, a FirstEnergy supervisor testified that he immediately saw evidence of a cover-up.

Randy Rossomme, who now works in the utility's headquarters, was a quality-assurance supervisor at FirstEnergy's twin-reactor Beaver Valley nuclear complex in western Pennsylvania when the damage to Davis-Besse's reactor head was discovered in March, 2002.

He said he was taken aback by documents he examined weeks later after the utility's nuclear subsidiary named him to an internal "root cause" inspection team at Davis-Besse. "My first gut response was they lied - they, being Davis-Besse," Mr. Rossomme told the jury.

Mr. Cook, who took the stand Friday, concluded his fifth hour of testimony yesterday morning by telling the jury he did not deliberately withhold information.

The trial, with Judge David Katz presiding, has been heard by 16 people - a 12-member jury and four alternates. Ten are women and six are men.

Judge Katz said deliberations might not begin until tomorrow if closing arguments take as long as expected today.



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