Mass. congressman killing northwest Ohio jobs?

Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant / File photo

To Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) it's a threat to the environment. To Rep. Marcy Kaptur, (D-OH), it's a major employer. In this tough economy, you'd expect congressmen to not destroy jobs in each other's districts -- especially when those congressmen are of the same party. However, Rep. Markey may have put at risk the jobs of 800 workers in Ottawa County, Ohio -- more than 600 miles from his district.

The subject under discussion is the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant in Oak Harbor, Ohio. Its owner, First Energy Corp., employs approximately 800 people there in well paid jobs. Rep. Markey has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to consider shutting the plant down permanently.

Rep. Markey is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

On October 14, Rep. Markey wrote a letter to the NRC asking that it consider not allowing Davis Besse to restart its reactor. According to Rep. Markey, a 30 foot crack in the reactor's protective outer containment may have been caused by First Energy having cut a hole into the side of the shield building in order to install a new reactor vessel head.

This is the latest problem at the troubled nuclear power plant. In March 2002, a hole was discovered in the reactor's pressure head. Had the hole not been detected, there was a significant risk of a leak of coolant which could have harmed the reactor. The plant endured a tornado in 1998 and has also experienced coolant problems in the past.

A First Energy spokesman acknowledged that there is a crack in the wall of the building which shields the reactor. The spokesman went on to say that First Energy is working closely with the NRC to understand the nature of the problem and repair it before putting the reactor back into service. The reactor remains shut down as the NRC and First Energy examine the problem.

"It's unfortunate the Representative Markey found it necessary to make such a rash suggestion that could impact 800 jobs in northwest Ohio," said First Energy spokesperson, Jennifer Young. "The NRC has publicly stated that Davis Besse poses no safety concern."

Rep. Markey states in his letter that it's "[m]edia reports" that lead him to the conclusion that perhaps it's time that Davis Besse be put out to pasture and its 800 jobs eliminated. The letter does not cite any authoritative source or report on the condition of the reactor housing at Davis-Besse when asking for consideration of a permanent shut down.

Ms. Kaptur says that she welcomes Rep. Markey's continuing interest in Davis-Besse and invites him to come to Oak Harbor for a tour. Kaptur wants Rep. Markey to learn about Davis-Besse's role in the "future energy production needs and employment in our region."

Should Davis Besse be shut down as a safety hazard? Should Rep. Markey ask for the elimination of 800 jobs based on media reports or should he wait for the engineers' verdict?