Kucinich Demands Investigation of Nuclear Safety Agency

For Immediate Release

Kucinich Demands Investigation of Nuclear Safety Agency

Agency Employees Change Their Tune About Davis-Besse

WASHINGTON - Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is today demanding the Inspector General of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees safety at our nation’s nuclear power plants, investigate the agency’s handling of the reopening of Davis-Besse in northern Ohio after cracks were discovered in the shield building.

Kucinich’s call comes after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a hearing in Ohio to reassure the public about the safety at Davis-Besse. Official answers from NRC employees made at that hearing differed dramatically from what NRC engineers had told Kucinich and his staff previously.

“[T]hose 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,” wrote Kucinich.

At the heart of the issue is cracking discovered in a concrete structure called a shield building. The shield building is supposed to protect the nuclear reactor from outsides threats while providing a last ditch containment structure in the event of disaster. Workers discovered cracking in the structure while replacing the nuclear reactor head. The plant was shut down while FirstEnergy studied the cracks. (Before an official “cause” was determined, the plant was restarted last December) FirstEnergy concluded in February that the cracks were the result of the “blizzard of ’78.” Activists call this convenient explanation a “Snow Job.”

“I cannot determine what caused this change in the answers of these Region III engineers, but I am concerned that it is a response to pressure from their superiors. Someone made a decision to rush Davis-Besse back into operation on December 2, 2011, which, according to NRC emails obtained through FOIA, occurred while Region III engineers were still debating the impact of the cracking.

“I am concerned that NRC officials are trying to legitimize that decision by readily accepting FirstEnergy’s purported cause, and the minor remedial actions that FirstEnergy is proposing, and actively campaigning for public acceptance of them. I note that the new Region III director paid a visit to the editorial board of the Toledo Blade, apparently to ‘sell’ FirstEnergy’s explanation and the continued viability of the Davis-Besse shield building wall.

“FirstEnergy has consistently misled the public about the nature and extent of problems at Davis-Besse, incurring the largest fine in NRC history as a result of its deceit in concealing the facts about the corrosion in the reactor head. We need a Nuclear Regulatory Commission that tells the public the truth, not one that merely repeats the soothing, but misleading, statements of the reactor’s operator. … We need to restore the NRC’s credibility as a regulator capable of objectivity.

“The people of northern Ohio need to know whether or not the shield building remains strong enough to protect them from a potential catastrophe,” wrote Kucinich.

See a signed copy of the letter here.

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