Friday, January 20, 2006

CLEVELAND (AP) — The owners of an Ohio nuclear power plant, acknowledging that employees covered up serious damage at the facility, agreed to pay $28 million in fines, restitution and community service projects, the U.S. Justice Department announced yesterday.

Inspectors found an acid leak in 2002 that nearly ate through a 6-inch steel cap on the reactor vessel at the Davis-Besse plant owned by FirstEnergy Corp. Officials said it was the most extensive corrosion ever seen at a U.S. nuclear reactor.

Company and Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigations concluded that the rust hole had been growing for at least four years and that Davis-Besse’s managers had ignored the evidence because they were focused on profits rather than safety at the plant, which sits on the Lake Erie shore about 30 miles east of Toledo, Ohio.

As part of the agreement, FirstEnergy acknowledged that the government can prove that nuclear plant employees “knowingly made false representations to the NRC” as they tried to convince the commission the plant was safe to operate beyond 2001, the Justice Department said.

U.S. Attorney Greg White began a criminal investigation of the plant in November 2003.

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