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Ex-nuke worker gets probation for hiding damage

| Friday, May 2, 2008

TOLEDO, Ohio -- A judge sentenced a former nuclear plant worker on Thursday to three years' probation for concealing from the government the worst corrosion ever found at a U.S. reactor.

David Geisen, the Davis-Besse plant's former engineering design manager, had faced five years in prison after being convicted of misleading regulators into believing the plant along Lake Erie was safe.

U.S. District Judge David Katz opted for probation and a $7,500 fine. The judge noted that Geisen already had been stripped of his license to work in the nuclear industry.

"It is both an economic and a career blow," Katz said.

Prosecutors said Geisen and two other workers 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-thick steel cap. It's not clear how close the plant was to an accident.

Federal prosecutors said Geisen told regulators that an area of the plant the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission was concerned about had been inspected and that there was no reason to worry. But the inspections weren't fully completed, and Geisen knew it, prosecutors said.

Following the discovery of the leak, the NRC beefed up inspections and training and began requiring detailed records of its discussions with plant operators.

Geisen never was in a position to know how bad the leak had become at the plant, said his attorney, Richard Hibey. Geisen also had nothing to gain by delaying a shutdown, Hibey said.

Hibey asked for a sentence of probation, saying his client already has suffered a great financial loss and is struggling to start a new business and provide for his family.

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