[ RadSafe ] Jury: Worker covered up damage at Ohio nuke plant

Clayton J Bradt cjb01 at health.state.ny.us
Wed Aug 27 08:26:52 CDT 2008

 Aug 26, 3:06 PM (ET)                                                       
 By JOHN SEEWER                                                             
 TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Jurors on Tuesday convicted a former nuclear plant     
 engineer of hiding information from government regulators about the worst  
 corrosion ever found at a U.S. reactor.                                    
 Prosecutors said Andrew Siemaszko and two other workers lied in 2001 so    
 the Davis-Besse plant along Lake Erie could delay a shutdown for a safety  
 inspection. Months later, inspectors found an acid leak that nearly ate    
 through the reactor's 6-inch-thick steel cap.                              
 Siemaszko covered up the damage to the plant's reactor vessel head and     
 lied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal jury said.          
 It's not clear how close the plant, midway between Toledo and Cleveland,   
 was to an accident.                                                        
 Siemaszko faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. He was   
 convicted on three of five counts, including concealing material           
 information from the government. The jury cleared him on two counts of     
 making false statements.                                                   
 Following the discovery of the leak, the NRC beefed up inspections and     
 training and began requiring detailed records of its discussions with      
 plant operators.                                                           
 Siemaszko's attorneys said the plant's owner set him up as a scapegoat     
 because he spoke out about safety concerns. They will consider an appeal.  
 "I'm disappointed," Siemaszko said. When asked what message the verdict    
 sends, he said: "Do not go against a big company."                         
 Siemaszko was responsible for making sure the reactor vessel head was      
 cleaned and inspected. He said he was wrongly fired and that he had told   
 supervisors the reactor needed to be cleaned. He said managers rejected    
 his requests.                                                              
 Defense attorney Billie Pirner Garde said nuclear workers will be less     
 likely to raise concerns about safety. "This makes the nuclear industry    
 less safe," she said.                                                      
 The plant's operator, Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. (FE), said Siemaszko   
 deserved to be fired and should have caught the damage.                    
 FirstEnergy paid a record $28 million in fines a year ago while avoiding   
 federal charges. It also spent $600 million making repairs and buying      
 replacement power while the plant was closed from early 2002 until 2004.   
 None of the company's senior leaders was charged in the investigation.     
 Another former worker at the Davis-Besse plant was sentenced to three      
 years' probation in May for concealing information from the government. A  
 private contractor was acquitted.                                          


Clayton J. Bradt
dutchbradt at hughes.net

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