by Kyle Swenson
Congressional redistricting has pitted Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich head-to-head in what’s likely to be a contentious primary battle for the handsomely remodeled 9th District. Though few issues separate the two longtime Democratic leaders, there is one lingering doozy: the fate of FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Kaptur’s stomping grounds east of Toledo.
For more than a decade, the plant has cultivated a reputation as the Lindsay Lohan of nuclear reactors, with a long rap sheet focusing mostly on cracks in its foundation. The latest problems were found in November, prompting the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to force a shutdown. But after an in-house checkup by FirstEnergy showed that everything’s cool, the NRC allowed the plant to go back online — provided that FirstEnergy prepare a full report by February in order to keep the feds’ bullshit meter from going off. At the same time, FirstEnergy is in the process of seeking a 20-year lease renewal for the plant.
Both Kaptur and Kucinich have been vocal in their preference that Davis-Besse not be encouraged to bust out its Chernobyl impression. But while Kaptur is calling for close monitoring of the plant, Kucinich wants it boarded up unless a complete overhaul happens.
“The NRC should never have allowed FirstEnergy to restart Davis-Besse without knowing the cause of the cracking,” he tells Scene. “Fix it or shut it down.”
Last month, Kucinich also questioned the company’s truthfulness. “FirstEnergy tried to convince the public that the cracks were only cosmetic in nature, were few in number, and were not widely distributed,” he told a government reform committee on Capitol Hill. “None of the above was accurate. And yet FirstEnergy was eager to restart Davis-Besse, even though they will not know the cause of the cracking until February.”
Kaptur, meanwhile, is toeing a more careful line. The plant, which is the largest employer in Ottawa County, appears too important economically — and at the moment, politically — for any rash decisions. “The bottom line is to make sure the regulation is effective and robust,” says Kaptur spokesman Steve Fought. “The plant can operate safely as long as it’s effectively regulated.”
Davis-Besse is likely to remain a hot topic throughout the primary campaign, assuming it doesn’t melt before spring.