"Nuclear Nightmare on the Great Lakes" Old, Historically troubled nuclear plant gets 20-year extension through 2037

THE BLADE — The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a 20-year extension to FirstEnergy Corp.'s Davis-Besse nuclear plant on Tuesday, ending more than five years of review for what the agency itself has described numerous times as a plant with a unique and troubled history.

The extension allows Davis-Besse to continue operating through April 22, 2037. The plant's original 40-year license expires April 22, 2017.

Sam Belcher, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. president and chief nuclear officer, said Tuesday the company is committed to operating a safe plant.

He conceded the application, filed on Aug. 30, 2010, took "a little bit longer" than expected. The time for most other applications has been two to three years.

"But I think the rigor and thoroughness of the NRC is important," he said. "We had a couple of issues that took a little longer to understand the full ramifications."

....Harold Denton, a former NRC engineer who took control of the chaotic Three Mile Island scene under orders from then-president Jimmy Carter, told a meeting of nuclear executives in 2004 that Davis-Besse has had the second and third-worst brushes with disaster.

Davis-Besse's low point was the near-rupture of the plant's original reactor head in the spring of 2002.

A coalition of anti-nuclear groups opposed to the extension called the NRC's decision an example of the agency's systematic "rubber stamp" for license extensions.

"Davis-Besse is a contrivance of regulatory neglect and corporate welfare. Without the existence of both, it would be a fading road bump in the transition to a full-employment, safe energy future," according to Terry Lodge, a Toledo attorney representing Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environmental Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Ohio Green Party.

The groups said they are seeking to invalidate license extensions through a lawsuit Beyond Nuclear has filed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington challenging the lack of a national repository for spent reactor fuel.

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