WASHINGTON -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission must soon decide whether to let Bechtel Corp. do a formal review of massive construction deficiencies at the Zimmer nuclear power plant near Cincinnati.
An anti-nuclear group that pursued an investigation of Zimmer until the NRC halted construction last month argued Thursday that Bechtel would be in a conflict-of-interest because it also is being hired to complete construction of the 97 percent-finished facility.
In a letter to NRC Regional Administrator James Keppler, the Government Accountability Project urged him to prohibit 'conflicts of interest through reliance on the same firm both to verify Zimmer's quality and complete construction of the plant.'
Project attorney Thomas Devine argued that a 'cooperative effort' by Cincinnati Gas & Electric, principal owner of the plant, and Bechtel, could 'minimize the financial consequences of the utility's own misconduct.'
The NRC must approve the selection of the San Francisco-based Bechtel before it can start a quality-control audit of the $1.7 billion reactor located on the Ohio River, 30 miles east of Cincinnati.
Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday voted 7-0 to endorse a letter from its city manager to the NRC, raising concerns about a the safety review.
City Manager Sylvester Murray sent the letter to NRC regional officials in Chicago similarly questions the utility's choice of Bechtel, a construction and high-technology giant.
The NRC, on a 3-2 vote Nov. 12, took the highly unusual step of stopping construction and ordering a lengthy investigation of some 4,200 structural deficiencies at the reactor.
Zimmer 'has been constructed without an adequate quality assurance program to govern construction and to monitor its quality, resulting in a facility which now is of indeterminate quality,' the commission declared.
About 70 percent of the plant's structural weld 'are being reworked' to make them 'acceptable,' the NRC noted.
The NRC has ordered a third-party review 'to determine measures needed to make sure that construction of the Zimmer plant can be completed in conformance with the commission's regulations.'
The independent safety audit 'could amount to little more than a chance for the rate-payers to finance Bechtel's estimate of its future construction rework program,' the Government Accountability Project contended.