FirstEnergy Wants $200 Million from Its Insurer For Reactor Corrosion

August 21, 2007

Federal regulators decided against fining FirstEnergy Corp., based in Akron, Ohio, for delaying a report about an acid leak that damaged one of the company’s nuclear power plants.

Instead, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told the utility on Wednesday that it needs to improve communications with the agency.

FirstEnergy recently concluded that corrosion of a reactor lid at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo occurred so quickly that normal inspections wouldn’t have caught it. The damage found in 2002 was the most extensive corrosion at a U.S. nuclear reactor. It’s not clear how close the plant was to an accident.

The NRC said FirstEnergy waited three months, until March, to notify regulators that its new findings about the damage contradicted earlier conclusions.

The Akron-based utility’s new report said the worst of the corrosion happened in the space of four months, not the previously accepted four years. The company used that report to bolster claims that it deserves to collect $200 million from its insurer.

The NRC said the corrosion time frame was important to determine if inspection and operating standards were met.

Joseph Hagan, president of FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co., a subsidiary which oversees the power company’s nuclear fleet, said in June that the company remains fully responsible for the leak.

Regulators in 2005 fined FirstEnergy $5.45 million, and the company agreed to $28 million in civil penalties after acknowledging its role in allowing the corrosion at the power plant.

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