In 2001, NRC told Davis-Besse and other facilities to inspect the tubes that penetrate the reactor vessel head for possible leakage by Dec. 31, 2001. According to the agency, the four former employees provided NRC with incomplete and inaccurate information about the plant's reactor vessel head in order to get the agency's permission to allow Davis-Besse to operate another 3 months before shutting down for inspection.
FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co., which operates the Davis-Besse plant in Northwest Ohio, later discovered that leakage through the tubes had caused substantial corrosion to the reactor vessel head.
"Had the NRC known that the plant was being operated with leakage through the reactor vessel head, the agency would have taken immediate action to shut down the plant," NRC Regional Administrator James Caldwell said.
The agency banned three former FirstEnergy employees from involvement in NRC-regulated activities for 5 years. They are:
- David Geisen, who was manager of design engineering;
- Dale Miller, who was regulatory affairs compliance supervisor; and
- Steven Moffitt, who was technical services director.
Prasoon Goya, a former senior design engineer at Davis-Besse, was banned from NRC-regulated activities for 1 year.
NRC in April banished Andrew Siemaszko, a former Davis-Besse system engineer, from the nuclear industry for 5 years. Siemaszko has filed an appeal with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board and the hearing is ongoing.
According to NRC, Siemaszko who was responsible for ensuring that the reactor vessel head was cleaned and inspected during a refueling and maintenance outage in 2000 indicated in plant records that the reactor vessel head had been cleaned and no damage to the head had been found.
FirstEnergy Fined in April; More Fallout Possible
For the violations of NRC regulations that led to the reactor vessel head damage, NRC in April hit FirstEnergy with a $5.45 million fine, the largest single fine ever proposed by the agency at the time. That included $450,000 for misleading NRC about the extent of the cleaning and inspection of the reactor vessel head in 2000.
FirstEnergy paid the fine on Sept. 14.
There could be even more fallout for FirstEnergy, as a criminal probe of the actions that led to the reactor vessel head damage being conducted by the Department of Justice is expected to wrap up soon.
NRC: Davis-Besse Now Operating Safely
The corrosion damage to the reactor vessel head at Davis-Besse was discovered about 3 weeks after the plant shut down in 2002, according to NRC. The plant remained shut down for more than 2 years for replacement of the reactor vessel head, improvements to other safety systems and significant changes in the plant's management, according to NRC.
After NRC conducted extensive inspections of the improvements to the safety systems and FirstEnergy's efforts to raise safety consciousness in the plant's management and staff, NRC determined that Davis-Besse could be restarted and operated safely. The NRC also required that the utility undertake annual independent assessments of important plant activities for 5 years.
"Since the plant's restart in March 2004, it has been operated safely and continues to be operated safely," Caldwell said. "FirstEnergy's performance at Davis-Besse has been closely monitored by the NRC inspection staff, including NRC resident inspectors assigned to that site."
(For more on Davis-Besse, see "Davis-Besse: A Plan for Change or a Worst-Case Scenario?")