Blizzard likely OK'd as reason for Davis-Besse cracks


OAK HARBOR, Ohio -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to issue a report today that formally accepts FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Corp.'s Blizzard of '78 explanation for cracks in the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant's outer concrete shell.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland), a persistent FirstEnergy critic, issued a statement Wednesday castigating the agency for its anticipated finding.

"As I publicly predicted, FirstEnergy came up with an explanation that would support its argument for a 20-year extension of its operating license," Mr. Kucinich wrote. "But I thought they would come up with one that was not so easy to refute."

A root-cause report FirstEnergy issued in late February said the hairline cracks discovered inside the concrete structure when an opening was cut through it in October for a reactor-head replacement project formed when wind-whipped rain soaked into the concrete, then quickly froze during a sharp temperature drop as the 1978 storm advanced.

NRC spokesman Viktoria Mitlyng declined to comment on the agency's acceptance report before its official release.

"The NRC has accepted FirstEnergy's explanation despite the fact that neither FirstEnergy nor the NRC can explain how wind-driven moisture from the Blizzard of 1978 could have possibly caused damage around the entire circumference of the shield building, instead of only where the wind had 'driven' the rain into the building," Mr. Kucinich said.

A FirstEnergy spokesman said the utility stands by its root-cause findings.

FirstEnergy is in the midst of regulatory proceedings for renewal of Davis-Besse's operating license, which expires in 2017. Several anti-nuclear groups have added the shield building's cracking to their reasons why the NRC should not extend the plant's license, or do so for a period shorter than the 20 years FirstEnergy has requested.