A former nuclear plant worker found guilty Tuesday of hiding the worst corrosion ever found at a U.S. reactor. A second defendant was acquitted.
David Geisen, former engineering design manager at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, was accused of misleading regulators into believing the plant along Lake Erie was safe. He faces up to five years in prison.
Private contractor Rodney Cook was acquitted by the same federal jury.
Prosecutors said the men lied in the fall of 2001 so the plant could delay a shutdown for a safety inspection. Months later, inspectors found an acid leak that nearly ate through the reactor's 6-inch (15-centimeter)-thick steel cap. It is not clear how close the plant was to an accident.
Federal prosecutor Tom Ballantine said Geisen and Cook told regulators that an area of the plant the NRC was concerned about had been inspected and that there was no reason to worry. But the inspections were not fully completed and the pair knew it, Ballantine said.
Attorneys for Geisen and Cook said the men never were in a position to know how bad the leak had become at the plant, which is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Toledo. They added that their clients had nothing to gain by delaying a shutdown.
The plant's operator, Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., paid a record $28 million in fines a year ago while avoiding federal charges. It also spent $600 million making repairs and buying replacement power while the plant was closed from early 2002 until 2004.
None of the company's senior leaders were charged in the investigation.
Another former Davis-Besse employee, engineer Andrew Siemaszko, is to go on trial within the next month. Design engineer Prasoon Goyal entered into an agreement with the government.
Following the discovery of the leak, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission beefed up inspections and training and began requiring detailed records of its discussions with plant operators.