STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD BY

JERE WITT, OTTAWA COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR

TO THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON CLEAN AIR, CLIMATE CHANGE,

AND NUCLEAR SAFETY

COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS

UNITED STATES SENATE

FEBRUARY 12, 2003

 

Mr. Chairman, members of the Subcommittee, it is my pleasure to present to you a summary of Ottawa County views on the recent events, involving the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Davis Besse.

 

I am Jere Witt, Ottawa County Administrator for the past 25 years, and a member of the Davis-Besse Restart Overview Panel.

 

Ottawa County is the biggest stakeholder in this process. The residents of Ottawa County are the most affected by the plant.

 

Safe operation of the plant has and always will be my first priority.

 

It should also be noted that the Ottawa County Emergency Management Agency has demonstrated itself to be one of the best in the country. This has been done involving drills with FEMA, the NRC, and more importantly real life scenarios of tornadoes, floods, collapsed buildings, etc. The protection of the residents is their only goal.

 

My role on the Restart Overview Panel is to represent Ottawa County to insure the plant is ready to restart and operate safely.

 

I have observed the restart activities since day one, attending over sixty meetings, many all day long.

 

These meetings include:

 

A.) Restart Overview Panel monthly meetings

B.) Two tours of containment

C.) NRC public meetings

D.) Updates from NRC staff

E.) Three full day meetings with groups of employees on, safety conscious work environment

F.) Meeting with employees individually

G.) Two meetings with First Energy Board of Directors Nuclear Committee

H.) Observing many plant activities including the Restart Readiness Review Board

 

We must evaluate the value of the continued operation of Davis-Besse in terms of safety and impact to the community. Davis-Besse is the largest employer and the largest taxpayer in Ottawa County.

 

Obviously Davis-Besse and the NRC made mistakes and we must insure it never happens again.

 

I have personally been involved in the development of the plan putting together the actions required to safely and effectively operate Davis-Besse in the future.

 

There is a new commitment to safety development and it will continue to grow.

 

This commitment started with the new management team and demonstrated through their actions and involvement with the staff.

 

The Leadership in the Action program is making sure it permeates through all staff from the top to the bottom.

 

Employees are using the new systems, as evidenced by the many safety improvements being brought to light and instituted, including major ones (Emergency Sump/Decay Heat Valve Pit/Leak Detection Systems, etc.).

 

This will only help the safety culture continue to grow.

 

There is a new system in place for the resolution of open issues. Employees are trained on it and see the results.

 

Management is out in the plant observing the work and being directly involved with the staff.

 

The CEO and Board of Directors are very involved as evidence by time spent at Davis-Besse and meeting with the Restart Overview Panel.

 

The NRC 0350 process ‘has been a good one to get to where we are today We now need a better process to insure it does not happen again.

My recommendations are as follows:

 

A) The NRC should meet at least semi-annually with Ottawa County to update the status of the plant and any significant risk issues. We should be a player in any discussion of potential safety risks.

 

B) The Restart Overview Panel should continue in some format to continually review the plant operations and the NRC’s review of these operations. This panel gives an expert independent review of the plant. I am sure many plants have expert consultants that review their operations, but my experience on this panel has made me keenly aware of how much better this review is done, if they meet as a group. They have asked the toughest questions throughout the Davis-Besse incident and continuously challenged each other and the staff. I also believe the NRC should be involved at least as an observer. I truly believe that independent experts such as this acting as a group cou~1d have possibly prevented this incident.

 

C)            The NRC must be fully funded to make the necessary inspections.

 

D)            NRC employees should not be allowed to become employees of a utility for a significant time period.

 

I also have some questions:

 

A) How will the NRC change its programs to guarantee the proper inspections at Davis-Besse, to insure safe operations? What methods will you use to assess the effectiveness of these changes and will there be independent oversight of these changes?

 

B) The company has shown how it is changing the safety culture at Davis-Besse and how it will measure its effectiveness. I have not seen the plan on how the NRC will change its own safety culture and measure its effectiveness. The NRC as the regulator must demonstrate to the residents of Ottawa County how they will make necessary changes as recommended in the “Lessons Learned Report”.

 

C) I know that First Energy has dealt with the personnel issues of those involved in this incident. Ottawa County requests that the NRC deals with its own appropriately, if they have not already. This is vital to public confidence.

 

Summary

 

I will assure that Ottawa County will continue a more active role as a partner in future operations of Davis-Besse. We will challenge and demand answers from both First Energy and the NRC.

 

The systems and programs are in place to safely operate Davis-Besse and I am confident that with the proper changes made at Davis-Besse, FENOC, First Energy, and the NRC we will all continually monitor all facets into the future to protect the residents of Ottawa County.

 

A renewed stringent regulation by the NRC must be part of this process. This regulation must be ‘based on knowledge and common sense, not one influenced by political agenda’s.

 

My personal thanks to NRC staff especially (Jim Dyer, Jack Grobe, Bill Dean, Christine Lipa) for their open and candid discussion with the residents of Ottawa County and myself. They have gone above and beyond to insure we are informed.

 

I would also like to express my appreciation to First Energy especially (Peter Berg, Bob Saunders, Lew Myers) for allowing me to participate on the Restart Overview Panel. They have provided me free access to all facets of Davis-Besse.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to provide this information.