BGE's contention challenged People's Counsel focuses on actions after plant shutdown


August 13, 1996|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

The state's People's Counsel yesterday chipped away at the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s assertion that it acted properly in the wake of a May 1989 shutdown of its Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.

People's Counsel Michael J. Travieso focused on BGE's readiness regarding safety tagging at the Lusby plant, which had been specified by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In a letter to the NRC in late October 1989, BGE stated that the plant's Unit 1 reactor should be restarted because safety tagging and other problems had been resolved. But a month later, an NRC inspection team found that BGE had not adequately complied with proper safety tagging, which identifies potentially hazardous equipment or materials and acts as a security measure.

"The team found substantial weakness in regards to the safety tagging issue," Travieso said. "Instead of authorizing a restart of Unit 1, they required further design and other work on the safety tagging issue."

"So the bottom line is," he continued, "you told the NRC that you had resolved the tagging issue on Oct. 27, but the NRC told you after an inspection in early November that you hadn't?"

"That's not unusual in the nuclear business," said George C. Creel, at the time BGE's top nuclear energy executive, who was assigned to Calvert Cliffs in February 1989. "It's part of a process."

"So the company had underestimated what was required by the NRC?" Travieso asked.

"It looks like it," Creel said. "I was disappointed that we couldn't resolve that one issue, even though it was one of many."

The hearings, which began their second week yesterday, are expected to eventually determine whether BGE was responsible for $460 million in costs associated with the two-year outage. If BGE loses the case, it may have to refund millions to customers.

The People's Counsel also pointed to a BGE internal memorandum in December 1989, which stated that BGE "did not expect the NRC to look into the depth they did" as proof the utility had not acted prudently to correct problems at the plant.

Travieso also criticized the utility for missing several targeted dates in June and September 1989 to restart the plant. Creel responded that problems surrounding the heater pressurizer sleeves that shut the plant down were more complex than originally believed.

"We knew we had a serious nuclear safety issue with the pressurizer sleeves," said Creel, who faced nearly six hours of cross-examination from the People's Counsel and state Public Service Commission. "The pressurizer sleeves were a potentially very scary safety issue."

Pub Date: 8/13/96

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